Whereas all agree that
one is born again
only once in a
it is not tied
any single event but
occurs as o
as a Christian repents
the power of baptism. For
we shall see, Luther
alone takes shape
sacrament of penance,
where justification occurs
whenever true penance does.
Christian, his answer would surely be: "Of course I'm a born again Christian. I am baptized/'
Someone who gives such an answer does not think a decision for Christ or a conversion experience is necessary in order to be a Christian. It is enough to be baptized as an infant and then believe what you are taught, for instance, in a catechism. Hence it is not surprising that there is no revivalist tradition native to Lutheranism, much less to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, all of which teach baptismal regeneration and practice infant baptism. There are particular complexities in the story of the Reformed tradi-tion, which typically practices infant baptism but does not teach bap-tismal regeneration. But beginning with the Reformed tradition Prot-estantism has been characterized by a soteriology in which the deci-sive moment of passing from death in sin
life in Christ
not baptism but a conversion to faith that happens once in a lifetime. This is a de-parture from Luther, based on a fundamental but seldom-noticed di-vergence on the doctrine of justification. Whereas all agree that one is born again only once in a lifetime (either in baptism or in conversion) for
is a different matter: it is not tied to any single event but occurs
Christian repents and returns to the power of baptism.
For as we shall see, Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone takes shape in the context of the Catholic sacrament of pen-
where justification occurs whenever true penance does.
In this regard Luther is not quite Protestant enough to believe that justifica-tion happens only once in life. Except when theologians fail to pay attention, there is always a tight fit between theology, church practice and the shape of Christian experi-
Practice and experience fit together, for example, in that the prac-tice of teaching children what
believe results in
very different form of Christian experience from the practice of teaching them that they are not believers until they choose to be. Of course the latter also in-volves teaching children what to believe (e.g., they are taught what it means to choose to believe) and the former does not eliminate the pos-sibility of choice (for one can refuse to believe what one is taught). Nonetheless the two forms of Christian experience are quite different,
It is a regular part of Luther's pastoral advice to urge people who doubt whether they are Christians to remember their baptism and appeal to it. See Luther's
The Book of
G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress
442 (henceforth Tappert);
(St. Louis: Concordia and Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1955-1976) 12:371,35:36 and 36:60 (henceforth
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), p. 122 and 133f (hence-forth
The alien righteousness by which we are justified before God "is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant," according to the 1519 sermon "On Two Kinds of Righteousness,"
31:297. 5. See, e.g., Thomas Aquinas,
85.6 ad 3 (henceforth
For Tho-mas the justification of the ungodly is brought about by the remission of sins, which occurs in penance (ST I-II 113.1).