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Manuscript Type

Article

Abstract (For book reviews see instructions below)

This article explores Martin Luther’s understanding of faith as a means to reconcile the seeming tension between his emphasis on faith in baptism against Roman Catholicism and his de-emphasis on faith against Anabaptism. This tension is most evident in his support of infant baptism despite his belief in sola fide. It is proposed that Luther’s predestinarian understanding of the sovereignty of God influences his perception of the role of faith in baptism, which emphasizes God’s role and de-emphasizes human acts in the ceremony. Luther argues that human faith, while important for the daily application of baptism, cannot be the basis of the sacrament, and therefore, cannot be considered a prerequisite. God’s command and promise alone make baptism valid, even for infants, while human faith makes it efficacious. Hence, in Luther’s thinking, infant baptism is valid. After a descriptive presentation of Luther’s theology, some weaknesses of his position are outlined, specifically (1) that his defense of infant baptism is mainly based on philosophical argumentation, (2) that his emphasis on the validity of the sacrament consequently constitutes an ex opere operato understanding, and (3) that his emphasis on the necessity of both faith and baptism for salvation (for infants and adults) contradicts his teaching of sola fide.

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