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Faith & Works
vs. Spiritual Dichotomy — Dualism
In the New Testament, the
term "spiritual" is frequently used as a synonym for the things of
God. The terms "carnal" and "flesh" refer to the things of fallen
man. Whether "spiritual" or "carnal" things are immaterial or material
not the issue. "Spiritual" things could be either material or
immaterial. Consider the following example:
As is apparent from Paul's reference to the resurrected material body as "spiritual," this term does not imply something immaterial. We see, therefore, that "spiritual" does not necessarily mean non material or abstract.
Conversely, the terms "carnal" and
"flesh" do not necessarily mean "physical." These terms simply mean the
things of fallen man. When Paul listed the "fruit
of the Spirit" in Galatians 6, he also listed the "works of the
in the same
passage. Some of the "works of the flesh" are abstract and
immaterial. For example, some of the works of the flesh Paul listed are
"idolatry, hatred, wrath, heresies, envyings." None of
physical or material. Yet they are "works of the flesh"
to Paul. The bottom line here is that "spiritual" and "carnal" are not
necessarily clearly distinguished by tangible vs. intangible, or
material vs. immaterial.
the time of the Apostles until the Reformation "baptism" was considered
by all orthodox Christians to be the point when the new birth
(regeneration) occurs. There was never any perceived conflict between
the physical act of baptism and the "not of works" passages in
Pauline theology, something frequently argued by modern Baptists.
first to propose such an alleged conflict between baptism and "works"
within Christianity was the Swiss Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli. His
hyper-Calvinistic view of the sovereignty of God was partly the reason
Zwingli invented the modern (Baptist) view, that baptism is merely an
outward identification with Christ and a physical sign of a prior
conversion. Zwingli strongly opposed the idea man has any part
whatsoever in his salvation. Man was not capable of any response to the
Gospel. Everything was of God. Hence, any act of response to the Gospel
could not in any sense determine his salvation. That ruled out baptism.
Yet, having such an extreme view of God's sovereignty cannot alone
explain Zwingli's new inovation regarding baptism, as Prof. Mark Moore,
of Ozark Christian College, explains.
"All this raises an interesting question. Zwingli was not the first theologian to have a strong view of the sovereignty of God. Augustine and Luther are two others that come immediately to mind, both of whom touched Zwingli deeply. Yet neither of these, nor any other theologian for that matter, sensed a tension like Zwingli between sovereignty and sacraments. Thus, one concludes that there was something else in Zwingli’s equation other than his view of God.
The same premise on which Gnosticism is
based became the presupposition of this new view of baptism.
Paul taught that initial salvation is "not of works." Does this concept eliminate any and all physical activity from connection with salvation? No. The supposition that Paul's "not of works" comments rule out all physical responses to the Gospel are not based on Scripture, but on the dualistic thinking of Greek philosophy that still colors Christian thinking to some extent. Paul contrasted "works of righteousness," which he explicitly excluded from salvation, with other physical acts which he stated plainly are connected to our salvation. Therefore, there are clearly physical acts that do not fall into the category of "works" as Scripture defines them. Notice in the following passage Paul distinguished between baptism and "works." Baptism is not a "work," but is seen in contrast to "works" in the following passage. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration [literally, "the bath of second birth"] and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior," (Titus 3:5-6 NKJ). The bath of second birth is baptism. It is contrasted with "works of righteousness." The former is explicitly included in salvation, the latter is explicitly excluded. Yet, both are physical acts. Another physical act was also included in initial salvation by Paul. "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:9-10 NKJ). If, "not of works" means the exclusion of all physical action, then Paul has contradicted himself in both of these passages.
Baptism is not a "work" in the sense that Paul used the term when excluding "works" from salvation. Baptism is therefore not to be excluded from connection with initial salvation based on the "not of works" passages of Scripture. Paul explicitly included baptism in our salvation process, and excluded "works of righteousness" in the very same verse (Titus 3:5).
1. Moore, Mark. Zwingli on Baptism: His Incipient Philosophical Dualism as the Geneses of Faith Only