Interaction with URCNA Report on FV (8): The Marginalization of the Sacraments

In the FV Report (p.19) we find this apparent summary of the FV position, "By virtue of their baptism, believers and their children are constituted members of Christ and participate in the fullness of His redemptive work on their behalf. All of the benefits of Christ's saving mediation are imparted to all those who are incorporated into the covenant community by means of baptism."

Thankfully, making the allegation doesn't make it true. The Joint FV Report, signed by all the noteworthy offenders, says, "Baptism apart from a growing and living faith is not saving, but rather damning." That's worth repeating, this time in bold and italics. "Baptism apart from a growing and living faith is not saving, but rather damning."

In the 2005 Summary Statement of AAPC's Position, it says (#6): "Baptism in itself does not, however, guarantee final salvation. What is offered in baptism may not be received because of unbelief." That's worth repeating, in bold and italics: "What is offered in baptism may not be received because of unbelief."

In his essay "Paedobaptism and Baptismal Efficacy" in The Federal Vision Rich Lusk writes, "Baptismal efficacy raises a red flag for many in the Reformed community. In part, this is due to the specter of ex opere operato from the Medieval Church and is very understandable. We must carefully guard against any view that would lead people to believe that simply because they have been baptized, all is well no matter how they live their lives. In this sense, baptism does not automatically guarantee salvation. We must combine the waters of baptism with a living faith."

I'll resist the impulse here to repeat with bold and italics.

Peter Leithart, in response to questions put to him by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery in May, 2005, said, "In some sense, sacraments never fail to work. A baptized person is always different after he's been baptized. I don't mean to be flippant, but the chief difference is that he's been baptized; he wears the mark of Christ, and is called to serve Him . . . I agree that the sacraments are efficacious by the blessings of Christ and the work of the Spirit, and that the sacraments are means of salvation to believers. (Italics original)."

In the statements cited above FV folk, with striking clarity, deny that the sacraments have saving power by themselves.

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