Wednesday, April 19, 2006

baptism in america, pt.3

I did not plan on posting a third time about baptism. But the conversation has continued and evolved and…well, frankly I have come to a new understanding of this discussion because of one of the comments to "baptism in america pt.2". I’ll share with you a few excerpts from that comment:

“…how about this: Baptism is essential TO salvation. See what I did there? Kept salvation and baptism and essential in there, but didn't hinge salvation ON baptism, but made it seem incomplete without it.”

“I think it would be safe to say that anyone who is serious about their relationship with Christ would be serious about their repentance. They would claim it was essential TO their faith. That it would be impossible for them to follow Jesus without repentance. That without repentance, their conversion wasn't really serious. That without repentance, the words they said didn't really have any meaning. So take everything I just wrote and insert ‘Baptism’ into it. On the issue of essential FOR salvation, won't touch it with a seven hundred and seventy seven foot pole. But if you want to ask if it is essential TO salvation...well, I think He's already spoken.”

I think that changing “for” to “to” is huge. And it is not just semantics.

The phrase, “Baptism is essential for salvation”, to me, sounds an awful lot like, “Baptism is essential for saving my butt when I die”. The word “for” makes it a conversation that is really only about what happens after death. I don’t like that. I think that is a horribly inappropriate way to talk about such a beautiful and powerful thing.

But the phrase, “Baptism is essential to salvation” seems, to me, to say, “Baptism is essential to the salvation that I am continually working out with fear and trembling. Or in other words: it is essential to my life with Christ, which is my salvation.”

And I completely agree with that.

The reason I agree is because eternal life starts at the moment of conversion. The abundant life which Jesus offers is available now, not just in heaven. And exactly what is this eternal and abundant life? It is our life…if our life is one lived with Christ. But that life is not complete upon conversion or ever during our time on this planet. It requires…and even more than requires, it inspires and enables growth and maturity and development.

The point of my previous post on baptism was, let’s change the discussion about what is essential for death to what is vital for life.

See, we Americans are so obsessed with the end product that we constantly under-estimate the importance of the means.

Think about it…we actually microwave food. How telling is that? We make the decision on a daily basis to sacrifice flavor for convenience. So it’s not surprising that we do the same thing with matters of faith.

Not suprising...but unfortunate.

Let’s revisit the marriage analogy. I previously stated that getting married was not, in the secular and practical sense, essential to my wife and I being able to live together, have sex and eventually start a family. Could we still have that type relationship with out the marriage? Yes. But, it is so much more abundant and complete now. I wouldn’t skip the July 12, 2003 part of our relationship for the world. What we did on that day was much more than ceremony or ritual. And it was even more than just an act of obedience to what we thought was commanded.

Something deep and right happened that day.

Something that is essential to the way we now live.

And, you know, I am good with the comparison that the comment makes between repentance and baptism. Peter linked the two together, so I think it is fair and safe to make such a comparison.

Repentance is not something that I do because of the effect it will have on my death. It is something that I do because of the effect is has on my life with Christ.

And so it should be with baptism.

Previously I wrote, “Is it (baptism) essential? I couldn’t care less…”.

The problem is that I was relating the word “essential” to salvation as it occurs upon death, instead of the salvation that we live out every moment of every day. Because in that sense, is baptism essential? Yeah, I think so.

And I couldn’t care more about that.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that guy who left that really long comment sure sounds like a really intelligent guy.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree. He should think about writing more. I love reading what people who are smarter than me think. I'll probably read his blog more than this one.

The Anonymous Human said...

seriously guys (or girls), there need not be any comparison. I've hit a couple of snags getting my blog up and coming, so until then, I consider Bill to be a close second to my intelligence level, so stick with him. Uncle Billy will treat you right.

Anonymous said...

My only comment here, because you are all brighter than me on the subject, is that baptism happens to a baby when it is like a week old. So it is essential for salvation? Wow, I hope not. I wasn't making my own decisions at that point in my life. Baptism, to me, seems like more of a reflection on the parents' relationship with Christ than the child's. Am I making any sense here?

The Anonymous Human said...

To anonymous above...I would say that the previous comments and blogs have been referring to something other than infant baptism. I come from a Christian tradition that doesn't teach infant baptism. I believe that baptism is something that should occur when a person makes a descision to follow Christ and then obey's his word and is baptized. If you want, I can go into all the theological reasons why I believe that, but if you just want your question answered, then that should be sufficient as to why some of this didn't make sense to you and your experiences.


Anonymous said...

That makes more sense.

bill said...

to the real anonymous above (not jake pretending to be anonymous so that he could puff himself up), yes...infant baptism is a sign of the parents' relationship.

some denominations believe that it is more than that...they believe that we are born completely depraved and need to be baptized ASAP in order to ensure salvation.

i personally do not believe that, so i view infant baptism the same way you do. a public dedication of that child's life by his/her parents. their way of saying, "i want to publically set apart this child for God and do my best to raise him/her in Christ."

i think parents publically dedicating their child's life to Christ as an infant is a good thing, and if they choose to do so by sprinkling the baby with water...i'm okay with that. but i do believe that when that child comes to understand who Christ is for himself/herself and wants to allign their life with His...then i think it is right and proper for them to be baptized by their own choosing.

Dustin said...

thanks for the conversation, i'm actually talking about baptism this Sunday, this discussion has been helpful because this is always a difficult subject to teach on!