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A journey from Baptist to Confessional Lutheranism: Interview with Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor, blogger of From Geneva to Wittenberg
Andrew Taylor, blogger of From Geneva to Wittenberg
Andrew Taylor

There seems to be a trend of Baptists moving out of non-denominational churches and other credobaptist churches such as those affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The first step is an introduction to the five points of Calvinism, also known as TULIP.

These folks are hungry for understanding doctrines of which they have never heard such as Total Depravity and Limited Atonement (the T and L in the acronym TULIP). They become Reformed Baptists, or they use the historical term: Particular Baptists.

At the same time, once these Reformed Baptists begin studying Calvinism, questions pop up for them about whether Jesus died for everyone in the same manner for the elect as what the Calvinist calls a reprobate (someone who God predestined to go to Hell; a doctrine which Lutherans do not confess as true) along with wondering about how apostasy happens. Questioning, “can one actually lose their faith and if so, how?”

Also, they see quite a difference between their other Calvinistic brothers and sisters such as the Presbyterians who adhere to a different view of the Sacraments, namely Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Some proceed to study further and end up embracing what the Reformer, Martin Luther, taught, becoming Confessional Lutherans.

This interview reveals the walk of one man who traveled through these various steps: embracing the Baptist view (an Independent Free Church) to a Calvinistic Baptist, then onto studying the Sacraments as taught by Martin Luther.

Andrew Taylor, a contributing blogger of From Geneva to Wittenberg, became a confirmed Lutheran in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) after years of questioning what he was being taught and doing the necessary study of doctrine and Church history. This is the story of many confessional Lutherans. As Taylor explains:

I was baptized in the Name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in 1988 or 1989. It was a full immersion baptism. I was nine or ten years old and my father assisted in my Baptism. He was a pastor at the time so after my confession of faith in Jesus, I was baptized, but lived a mainly unrepentant and backslidden life until 2008 or so when I started digging into theology.” (Taylor)

Taylor attended church during these unrepentant years, however, never really grasped what the Bible teaches. In his words:

They [a non-denominational Bible Church] were big on the inductive studies and so forth. I learned a ton from them. I immediately latched onto the doctrines of grace (aka the 5 points of Calvinism http://doctrinesofgrace.net/ ). Then I learned much about them online. I never really questioned Baptism or eschatology or the real presence in the Lord's Supper. So, at this juncture, I was a credobaptist, 5 point, pre-trib guy. In short, I was taught credobaptism and pre-trib and thought the real presence was just a Roman Catholic thing. I was raised that way and never really studied the topics. Of course, once I started digging in and hitting those topics from multiple angles, I realized that I would have to change my views on some things.” (Taylor)

At this point, many of the Particular Baptists (commonly calling themselves Reformed Baptists) begin the transition of becoming a Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, or other Calvinistic strain of the Reformation. Andrew Taylor explains:

Our latest move to western Michigan about five years ago when I was thirty, I began studying more in earnest, as there was a lack of a solid study at the church we were attending. It's fair to say that within a year of studying, while I was still a Baptist, I was pretty convinced of paedobaptism and the Amillennial position in eschatology. I read a lot on different baptismal views as well as much of eschatological writings. But, as I said, I was a full blown Reformed guy theologically at this point despite still attending a Baptist church. I never made the jump to a truly Reformed Church.” (Taylor)

When asked about his eschatalogical views at this point, he says:

Kim Riddlebarger and Anthony Hoekema wrote some works that I found biblically faithful. In more recent years, I actually flirted some with Postmillennialism, mainly due to my respect for the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen. (Van-Tillian presuppositionalist). I will still stack Dr. Bahnsen up against anyone in the apologetics arena. I just couldn't get on-board fully with Postmillennialism.” (Taylor)

He felt at this point that to stay in a church, his Baptist church, was not in line with what he believed God's Word teaches and wanted to find a church that held to the same convictions he had. He went looking for a church to worship Christ in the way he saw was true. He elaborates:

The journey began when I came to the conclusion that I had to find a Reformed Church so I could remain true to my theological convictions. In short, I had become convinced that the sacraments were far more than memorials. As I went looking for a Reformed church in my area, I ended up running into a bunch of Lutherans on the internet that challenged my convictions and remained extremely faithful to Scripture.” (Taylor)

This is a common part of the journey into Confessional Lutheranism if not brought up as a Lutheran. There are many lifetime Lutherans who know nothing but what the Book of Concord and Martin Luther's Small Catechism teach, but a growing number of Reformed Christians know nothing about Luther's teachings on Baptismal Regeneration and that the body and blood are in the elements at the Lord's Supper which John Calvin denied in Article 21 of the Consenus Tigurinus, saying of the Lutheran view, "Wherefore it is a perverse and impious superstition to inclose him under the elements of this world." In Article 22, Calvin goes on to say, "Those who insist that the formal words of the Supper, "This is my body; this is my blood," are to be taken in what they call the precisely literal sense, we repudiate as preposterous interpreters." This is in direct opposition to Luther's writings.

The Calvinists enjoy Martin Luther and many claim him to be a Calvinist or one who agrees with John Calvin, but usually know very little of what he taught. The ignorance is due to confusion: that Luther would have taught differently had he lived longer. Martin Luther wrote against this argument in the SmalCald Articles which can be found in the Book of Concord. He considered these writings his last will and testament. In the Preface of the SmalCald Articles, Luther wrote: “For what shall I say? How shall I complain? I am still living, writing, preaching, and lecturing daily; [and] yet there are found such spiteful men, not only among the adversaries, but also false brethren that profess to be on our side, as dare to cite my writings and doctrine directly against myself, and let me look on and listen, although they know well that I teach otherwise, and as wish to adorn their venom with my labor, and under my name to [deceive and] mislead the poor people. [Good God!] Alas! what first will happen when I am dead?” (Luther)

Taylor did not just study end time views of the Church and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, but Church history. This tends to be the turning point for the new paedobaptist. There are many books, sermons, and other resources one can find which explain what the early Church believed and taught. Taylor began his search through some online debates about Baptism. He goes on to say:

Coming to Lutheranism was no small task for me, and was not something I took lightly. Lutheranism was not something I intentionally went looking for, to be honest. It took a long time for me to come around because I always judged such doctrines as baptismal regeneration to be heretical. That being said, when you approach the question of means of grace in the Sacraments, you have to ultimately determine what good the Sacraments are if they sort of do something but sort of do nothing. I found the Reformed stances on the Sacraments to be something of a via media between memorialism and effacious grace. Eventually, though, you have to get around to what exactly do the Sacraments do? That's a huge question that lies behind another huge question: What are the Sacraments? And that is where I ended up in Lutheranism.” (Taylor)

Men and women through the centuries have struggled through their theological beliefs. It takes time to read through books and talk with pastors and such to come to settle where one can say with true conviction, “I believe wholeheartedly that I can stand before God and say I believe I am honoring to Him with the doctrine I confess.” Not that Lutherans think they have everything down perfectly, but they will hold dear the Confessions written in the Book of Concord and not back down from them.

You can see the same thing with someone such as R.C. Sproul, of Ligonier, who held onto and taught the Framework Hypothesis about the age of the earth for most of his teaching career as a theologian. He has repented of this recently and now trusts a literal 6-day Creation view. We can also see Sproul's view of graven images, that he is not an iconoclast like most Presbyterians. He does not differ from the Confessional Lutheranism view in this: “When we read the second commandment, we must understand that images per se are not forbidden. Instead, what is forbidden is the construction of images for the sake of worshipping the images or the gods the images portray, as well as the veneration of images as a means of venerating the God of Scripture.” (Sproul)

As Andrew Taylor continued to wrestle through doctrine, he was seeing so much of a difference between the Reformed (non-Lutheran paedobaptist churches) and Lutheran doctrine, he went on to look deeper into Scripture. He says:

Lutheranism parroted Scripture on these things. Whereas the Reformed want to grasp onto definitions derived from Covenant Theology, the Lutherans simply read the Scriptures back to you. That sounds simplistic, and to be honest, it sounds like a case of "we believe it, but you don't." What ultimately did it for me was faithful Lutherans like Pr. Jordan Cooper of Just and Sinner and Charles Wiese who blogs at The Lamb on the Altar, pounding the written Word at me. They weren't targeting me in particular, but every time a baptism discussion would pop up in some of the Calvinist groups, I was in, there were Pr. Jordan and Charles quoting Scripture while the Calvinists were trying to argue from the unity of the covenant of grace and the Baptists were taking isolated examples from Acts. The Lutherans simply parroted Scripture back: Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21 eventually won me over.” (Taylor)

Some argue that pastors waste their time being on Facebook and other social media sites in debates. That may be true for some, but as the reader can see, Pr. Cooper and Mr. Wiese were used by God to help Taylor understand God's Word better. This left him in a dilemma. He explains:

Then the only question was: Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, or the Eastern Orthodox Church? Those were the only three Christian bodies that held to the biblical teaching in some form at least of what Baptism is and does. Ultimately, the final decision was pretty easy. I couldn't get on board with much of Rome and the East's teachings, although truth be told, I respect a lot about those two bodies. Sadly, they have a big problem with confusing the Gospel with the law and things like that. Lutheranism won the day as I still held to Total Depravity, yet rejected Limited Atonement. I found I could still be fully monergistic and believe the words of the Bible about the Sacraments: “this is my body” when Jesus spoke about us taking Communion and the truth about baptismal regeneration.” (Taylor)

Since being confirmed in the LCMS, Taylor went back to blogging, but turned his Calvinistic blog into a Lutheran-based one where he desires to pass on the knowledge he has received and speak on doctrinal issues that are controversial within Christendom. The other two contributors to his blog are Matthew Lush (Lutheran with the LCC) and Pr. Jason Harris (ordained in the LCMS in 2007 and now serves at Trinity Lutheran Church in Westville, IN). Pr. Harris and Lush both held to Calvinistic beliefs. As Harris says, "I was never officially reformed, but I attended OPC churches and bible studies regularly from around 1998 to 2003. Even when I started seminary I had Calvinist leanings, especially regarding doubts about the liturgy and sacraments. Basically I was "romophobic""

About the blog, From Geneva to Wittenberg, Taylor goes on to say:

I started the blog around 3 or 4 years ago. At the time, I was a Calvinist attending a Baptist Church. About a year and a half ago, I stopped because I wasn't sure where my theology was headed. I didn't necessarily think Reformed Theology was false, but I did see some holes in it that couldn't account for some things. So, in the interest of studying and learning and such, I shut the blog down. In fact, I thought I had deleted it. Some time later, one of my Reformed friends dug it up. So that's sort of what got me back into it. I changed it to a Lutheran blog, because by this time, I had become a Lutheran and was well on my way to being confirmed in a Lutheran (LCMS) Church. I blog because I really enjoy discussing theology. Solid theology is what drives proper Christian faith and practice. That's quite a different stance than most mainstream Christians take these days. The majority of their faith is feelings-driven and in most cases very much based on mysticism. I think Pr. Jonathan Fisk points out many of these things quite aptly in his book, Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible,which I highly recommend." (Taylor)

He says he blogs because he loves to do so and enjoys having Pr. Harris and Matthew Lush writing with him. His aim is to be a good steward of what truths God has given him by His grace and says:

God willing, I am being faithful to Christ and the historic Christian faith which has always been Creedal and Confessional. I also extended invitations to two other Lutherans that are excellent fits for the blog and they both graciously accepted. They are Pr. Jason Harris (LCMS) and Matthew Lush (LCC). They both have followed similar paths to Confessional Lutheranism as I have, so I think between the three of us, we have the knowledge of other Christian systems out there in America today. The three of us have been there and dealt with these topics and issues. We all were at one time in mainstream baptistic churches and were Calvinistic. We think the same way, so to speak. I also attend church with Pr. Jason's in-laws, so there is a connection in that regard as well.." (Taylor)

Here are a few resources for those who want to look into the differences of Lutheranism and other Christian beliefs:

Becoming Lutheran from Evangelicalism - Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller

The Gospel for Former Evangelicals: In Remembrance of Me - Pr. Jeremy Rhode of Faith Lutheran-Capistrano Beach, CA (this is a series on Issues, Etc.)

Sola Fide: Luther and Calvin" 3th Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions- Phillip Cary

Choices, Choices, Choices (on Romans 9) - Pr. Jonathan Fisk

The Lutheran Doctrine of Holy Communion - Pr. Jordan Cooper

Who Should be Baptized - Pr. Ron Hodel

Baptism in the New Testament - Charles Wiese

Spirituality of the Cross - Gene Edward Veith

A. Taylor (personal communication, January 23, 24, 2014)

Calvin, John (1549) The Consensus Tigurinus. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Lutheran Church. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://bookofconcord.org/consenus-tigurinus.php

Luther, Martin (1537) The SmalCald Articles. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Lutheran Church. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php

Sproul, R.C. (n.d.) Images vs. Idols. Ligonier Ministries, the Teaching Fellowship of R.C. Sproul. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/images-vs-idols

J. Harris (personal communication, January 24, 2014)