Even a Baptized Dragon

Sharing Options

One of my background assumptions in discussing regeneration is that there is a stark difference between light and darkness in the soul of a man. When a person is converted, and I mean really converted, there is a transformation that is palpable. It is all of grace, and so there is no sense in anyone taking pride in it, but it really happens in real time to real people.

One of the responses to this is that we are all of us “bad Christians,” and so that when professing Christians sin, however grievously, they should just be pointed to Christ — Christ in the Word, Christ in their baptism, Christ in the Supper. This is a move that is reluctant to draw a foundational dividing line between wicked men and good men within the boundaries of the covenant.

There is actually something attractive about this, and one of the reasons is the element of truth to it. If God were to mark iniquities, who could stand (Ps. 130:3)? If Bildad is to be believed, the Lord sees faults in the stars (Job 25:5), and so how much more with us? No man is blameless, no man is righteous, and all need salvation by Christ. In this sense, we are all bad Christians.

But we have to be careful. This must not be taken in a way that flattens moral categories for us or in us, the moral categories we need in order to function within the body in an obedient way. For example, how can we vote for elders if no man can be blameless (1 Tim. 3:2)?

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15).

But in order for the light to shine, someone has to flip the switch.

God effects and expects a moral distinction between His people and the world. And when the world starts to flood into the Church (in the form of unconverted professors of faith), this line starts to blur. The church is in the world, the way a ship is in the ocean, and that is the way it should be. But bad things start happening when the ocean gets into the ship.


Peter tells Simon — a baptized believer, remember — that he is still in bondage. “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23).

Why didn’t Peter tell Simon that we are all bad Christians? Compared to the infinite holiness of God, that would have been quite correct, but also beside the point. Scripture teaches us that there is a vertical comparison which is impossible to survive unless we are clothed in the obedience of Jesus Christ. But the Bible also shows us how to make horizontal comparisons (without ever forgetting the humility we should have learned at the point of the vertical comparison). Otherwise, there would be no way to vote for elders, choose a spouse, hire an accountant, chase a thief, or remonstrate with anyone about anything. Job was a righteous man, one who stopped his mouth, abashed, before the holiness of the God of the whirlwind. That didn’t keep him from being right in his dispute with his three counselors.

The regeneration that happens in conversion is a fundamental change, but not an exhaustive one. After Eustace was transformed from his dragon shape, no one could be mistaken about the fact that he had been undragoned. It was a fundamental and obvious change. But it was not complete and final. “To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There will still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun” (p. 112).

When we sin, we are all of us dealing with the dragon in our hearts. But there is a difference between that and being a dragon. Even a baptized dragon.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

Your comments reflect a major misconception that evangelicals and the Reformed have of orthodox Christians. Lutherans do not believe that baptism is necessary (mandatory) for salvation. Not even the Roman Catholic Church believes this. All the saints of the Old Testament, the thief on the cross, and thousand of martyrs down through the centuries have been saved without Baptism. Baptism is not the “how” of salvation! Lutherans believe that baptism is one of several possible “when”s of salvation, it is not the “how” of salvation. The “how” of salvation is and always has been the power of God’s Word/God’s declaration… Read more »