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« Learning to BE Church: An Interview with a House-Church Team, part 2 | Main | Is a White Christ Finally Fading? »

August 25, 2004

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Let me be the first to "dive in..." (Heh heh!)

This sounds like biblical thinking to me, DP, and I have a feeling some of our friends from backgrounds which value tradition equally with or above Scripture would say it sounds like traditional thinking too. It certainly helps to make sense of passages like the one you cited in your post, and balances the apparent divergence between the Peter and Paul camps on the doctrine and significance of baptism.

In the UK Anglican circles I move in it is taken for granted that the NT witness is that Baptism is the sign and seal of becoming a Christian: there is no other NT way of becoming a Christ-follower; the NT pattern would have had Billy Graham hiring the local swiming pool as well as the sports' stadium.

I remember as a young Christian poring over the Bible to find all this stuff about accepting Christ into your heart and so on and finding that there was very little support for it; on the other hand being baptised ....

It is also an important part of the case for baptising the infant children of believers, but more of that another time. Try http://www.baptism.org.uk/ for more details

To recover the authentic practice of baptism one must remember that sacramentum = oath. That made for a vital coinciding of the making of the personal commitment and the splashing around of or in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The drift to infant baptism as the norm undermined the full meaning of sacramentum until it becomes the woolly "outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" which is quite remote from a person making an oath.

I'd be interested in reading some background material on the "sacramentum=oath" assertion, David. Can you provide a link or something?

Daniel -- you must have read my mind...
I too would like to hear more from David re: sacramentum=oath.

Andii -- as far as "hiring the local swimming pool as well as the sport's stadium", I suppose the new arena they built in Athens for the Olympics would be perfect -- it has it's own high-tech pond, mid-field! ;)

I think you're going a little overboard here. I don't think anyone believes the raising of the hand has any salvific efficacy. It is the decision behind that. Even a given prayer is only the outworking of what has possibly already changed in the heart.

At the same time, the act of talking to God AND the act of public baptism contribute, in a real way, to that "conversion" of the mind and body. So yes, the two need to go together. And yes, this does make infant baptism suspect.

If you're trying to find out what the true sign of faith is, I think the scripture is quite clear. As much as we might not like to hear it, faith = action.

"Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do." (James 2:18)

Maybe we shouldn't focus so much on words we say or public rituals we participate in. Maybe we should focus on God changing our hearts and our actions.

I would think there is something about "confessing your mouth" and the action of raising the hand. Although you don't have to repeat the prayer to possess Christian status.

I tend to wonder if the "repeat after me" and the "raising of hands" is done for the "number count" or to have the satisfcation that the ministry is being effective; but then again really: "Who's counting?" However, Jesus did take on all of our sin and died for them; publically.

I know of one church that asks the new believers to come forward; then they baptize them immediately!

Just some thoughts.

M

How interesting! This is exactly the opposite perspective of my Christian tradition (churches of Christ). I have never experienced the hand raising or sinners prayer so that was all very foreign to me. The CoC has a very high view of baptism believing it to be the act of accepting God's grace and forgiveness. For a long time I wanted to downplay the importance and significance of baptism because so many in my tradition would render and un-baptized believers as unsaved. But recently I've come to a more balanced view of the sacrament. You can read some of my thoughts here.

Appreciated your thoughts, Bill. I'm with you on the "salvic efficacy" angle --- and the notion that it is the "decision behind that" which matters. Although... that raises another interesting, soteriological question: is salvation an event (i.e. something which takes place at a point-in-time), or is it a lifestyle (i.e. something which emerges, something we grow in and into)?

How bout: Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. (?) It's not our hand being raised that matters, it's God bearing witness with our faith by sending the Holy Spirit that matters. That's what seals the deal. No?

Thanks for the post. I think you've hit on a very important issue. I'm very hopeful that we will begin seeing a greater emphasis on sacrament in our evangelical churches, if nothing else because of the aesthetic concerns of the emerging churches.

"The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned." Mk.16:16.

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