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My wife and I got married a couple years ago. The Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to become parents. My wife is due in February. She was raised Roman Catholic and her family is probably not going to be overly excited that we will be baptizing our child in the WELS church. Before we got married I made it clear that if/when we had children that they would have to be baptized WELS. To prepare her for this we went through the training and studies for her to become a member of our church. She has yet to express interest in becoming a member of our WELS congregation but knows it will come up soon. I am curious how I should address this when her family asks about baptism and the ensuing conversation that is guaranteed to take place. One note, my wife's family thinks they are devout Catholics, but the lack of discussion about their faith outside of church and the way my wife has always talked about church - going on Sundays is all that really matters. I have made a mental checklist of all the things that differ in our religions - i.e. being saved by grace alone, beliefs about the Pope and his duties/abilities, praying to Mary, and the one I don't want to bring up, recent and past troubles of the Catholic church. My question is how to go about bringing this up to both her, as well as being the one to bring it up to her family. I don't want to make her feel like I'm pressuring her and I don't want to make the wrong impression on her family. I truly believe raising my children in the WELS church is going to make it easier for them to be a lifelong member of the church built on a solid foundation of faith. I look forward to your feedback and appreciate this outlet. I will be asking my pastor as well but wanted to get a couple different viewpoints. I don't mind if you use my question, whether you reprint it anywhere or not, just please do not include my last name. Thanks! Answer: I am glad to hear you will be addressing this with your pastor. In many responses to questions, I encourage the questioner to consult with his/her pastor. Because you will be doing just that, my response does not need to be extensive.It sounds like you made your position clear regarding the raising of children before you and your wife married. I do not have information from you indicating that your fiancée at the time rejected that position. Rather, it seems that she agreed with that and even went so far as attending Bible Information Classes, even though she has not become a member. (And that is the subject of another conversation: discussing with her what is preventing her from joining the congregation with you.)Honest, open communication with your wife and her parents about the baptism of your child is paramount. Reminding all of the conversation(s) you had with your wife will be helpful.Perhaps what can also be helpful is an understanding of what baptism is and is not. Baptism is a means by which God brings people into the Christian Church, not merely a denomination. While baptism may also establish membership in a congregation of a denomination, the sacrament joins people to Christ and makes them members of his kingdom. Jesus, of course, commissioned his followers to baptize and to teach—to teach “them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This is where the follow- up instruction to baptism is so important. You made it clear that you wanted the instruction to be that of the Lutheran Church, citing some of the errors of the Roman Catholic faith.Finally, what you may find helpful is a recent publication from Northwestern Publishing House: A Lutheran Looks at Catholics. This book - in hard copy or eBook format - will provide a fuller picture of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and perhaps give you ideas on how to proceed in the conversations with your in-laws. I do pray for the health of your wife and your unborn child, and ask for God’s blessings on your family.Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.
Hi. I talked to you on the phone a few days ago and, as it goes, one question leads to another. Seems like Lutherans always talk about faith as if that is the only thing that justifies, but when I read Scripture it seems we are justified by a lot, like 1. grace, 2. faith, 3. the blood of Christ, 4. saved in hope, 5. baptism saves us, 6. justified by works. It's not just one but all these. Would you agree? Answer: Greetings. Your question illustrates that God, in his Word, describes our salvation from different viewpoints or angles. Let me briefly work through your list.We are justified, declared not guilty of our sins, by God’s grace entirely (Romans 3:24). We do not deserve salvation. It is a gift from God.We are justified only through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). Our works do not enter the picture of our salvation.We are justified because of Jesus’ sacrifice in our behalf (Romans 5:9).As redeemed children of God, we long for our eternal home in heaven (Romans 8:24).Being connected to Jesus Christ in faith brings into our lives the salvation he won by his holy life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. Because God can work saving faith through baptism, Scripture can say that baptism saves (1 Peter 1:21).Faith alone in Jesus Christ saves, and Christian faith is living and active (cf. James).It is clear from Scripture that salvation is God’s doing—from beginning to end. That is why we can be certain of our salvation.Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.
Pastor Timothy J. Winkel
2651 Shettler Road
Muskegon, MI 49444
Telephone: 231 777 3011