Have you been “baptismally throttled”?


Your baptism is nothing less than grace clutching you by the throat: a grace-full throttling, by which your sin is submerged in order that ye may remain under grace. Come thus to thy baptism. Give thyself up to be drowned in baptism and killed by the mercy of thy dear God, saying: “Drown me and throttle me, dear Lord, for henceforth I will gladly die to sin with Thy Son.”

Martin Luther, as cited by Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 194.

I loved this quotation from Luther, though I wonder how in the world it fits with the conception of infant baptism that he sought to maintain? If baptism is an “invitation to be grace-fully throttled by God,” how does that fit with paedo-baptism? It seems to me that Luther’s prayer here is better suited to a theology of “believers’ baptism.”


4 thoughts on “Have you been “baptismally throttled”?

  1. Dustin

    Paedo-baptism was for “believers” according to Luther… implicit faith and all that, right? Perhaps infant baptism is a sort of divine “Ferber-method” for Luther… 🙂

  2. Cyle

    A great quote! It immediately reminded me of Luther’s overarching theologia crucis, where God’s method is to violently attend to our spiritual state in the act of baptism; a picture often antithetical to the one we paint (the ‘glory’ of baptism). Maybe this quote is directed at believers who Luther felt were under the delusions of theologia gloriae? At the least, it is clear Luther is asking believers to voluntarily submit to being “baptismally throttled”–to being subjected utterly to God’s mercy, not contingent upon any of their own terms. Maybe Luther’s theologia crucis is precisely why he believed in paedo-baptism: just as infants had nothing to do with the act (except, somehow, have faith :)) in the same way these believers knew they would be not bringing anything to the sacrament.

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