Video: Peter Leithart and Me on Baptismal Efficacy

Today’s question:

I just finished Leithart’s The Priesthood of the Plebs. It was one of the most stimulating books I have read in a long, long time. I also have recently watched some of your videos on baptism. How does your thought relate to his? I may be misreading Leithart, but he emphasizes baptism working ex opere operato and seems to say that baptism is salvific for all those baptized. This seems to stand in contrast to your statement in “Does Baptism Save Us?” at 13:28 that not every person baptized is saved and brought into the realities you are speaking of. Perhaps I am misunderstanding one or both of you. Or perhaps you have disagreements with Leithart. Either way, I would enjoy hearing you talk about his book and how your understanding of baptism compares and contrasts with his.

See my earlier video on baptism here. Within the video, I also mention Peter Leithart’s books The Priesthood of the Plebs and The Baptized Body.

If you have any questions for me, please leave them on my Curious Cat account. If you have found these videos helpful, please tell your friends. If you would like to support my continued production of them, you can do so on my Patreon account. You can also get the audio of these videos on Soundcloud or iTunes.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Audio, Controversies, Podcasts, Questions and Answers, Sacramental Theology, The Church, The Sacraments, Theological, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Video: Peter Leithart and Me on Baptismal Efficacy

  1. Really quick follow-up, I missed your earlier video on Baptism, possibly, but I’m wondering if you wanted to fill in your view of the role of the Spirit in both the objective and subjective dimensions to baptism you talk about here. In other words, what is the connection between the Baptized and the Regenerate, or the agent of Regeneration and the act of Baptism. Another way of putting it is, what do we make of the baptism of the Spirit in Paul?

  2. cal says:

    The emphasis on going “beyond” what Leithart is precisely what is helpful in appreciating the early Anabaptist movement, which, like the early Evangelicals, had more prophetic force on the issue of Christian community. The problem that Baptists give paedobaptists is that there are so many baptized peoples who are defunct Christians. It’s a noble concern, but obviously not restrained to baptism (i.e. Billy Graham Crusades, where not a few people “prayed the prayer”, and quickly fell back into their old life).

    The problem that the Swiss Anabaptists saw was when the church was too strictly linked to a socio-political body (e.g. the city of Zurich), then the mechanisms of church discipline become defunct. Not only because baptism is given “willy-nilly” (and it was), but because the effects of discipline were potentially destabilizing. Excommunication didn’t just mean being held off from the Supper, or not being treated as part of the Christian community, but meant, potentially, being cut off from all social, economic, and political relations. Very easily the exercise of discipline becomes impossible, for it criminalizes, and thus it becomes welded to civil punishment. And, many times, becomes defunct because its exercise would be threaten to overturn the social order, the way too severe laws can become impossible to enforce once too many people fall under their gaze.

    I think your “going beyond” is the needed addition to Leithart’s sociological work. In addition, that continuing life of faith can provide the space to describe how grace is at work in the shaping of a life. We are entered into Israel, but God’s continuing guidance, and our obedience, is part of baptism’s fulfillment, lest we fall in the Wilderness like the Israelites of old (per St. Jude’s warning). Thus Leithart’s sociological approach is given berth for a discussion of grace, not as substance or even merely a static legal category or disposition, but part of a realizing, developing, movement into fullness.


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