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Posts Tagged ‘baptism’

Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” In the United States, our legal system calls things “marriage” that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn’t, is “honorable”. We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, “Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?”

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn’t want to, and I’m not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God’s discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don’t see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought “us” to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I was reading Hebrews today, and this verse:

 

Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

 

made me think of something.

 

I’m not going to even start to say I know exactly what it means.  But what it made me think of was Manichaeanism.  I know that most of my readers are very intelligent scholars who know terms for ancient heresies.  And if they’re not they are the independent learners who stopped to Google the word before reading another sentence.  And if they’re not, they’re wondering why I bothered using a word that my audience doesn’t know, and hoping that I mean to tell them more about it.  I do mean to.  That ancient heresy was related to Gnosticism, but specifically it taught that salvation came by escaping the flesh.  Flesh – body – material things, they were bad.  And yeah, if you want to know about it, I find Wikipedia an exciting source of information about theology.  (I’m not kidding!)

 

The verse in Hebrews has to do with that in that it mentions our hearts sprinkled (by the blood of Christ, metaphorically) accomplishing spiritual purification: regeneration (Titus 3:5 anyone?) and forgiveness (1 John 1:9 – all these “clean” words).  But it doesn’t ONLY mention that spiritual thing; it mentions having our bodies washed.  And that’s weird.  The rest of the chapter and the one before it were talking about how under the Old Covenant things were sprinkled with mortal blood; that blood was a picture of Christ’s blood, and our things down here: temple, book, priest are pictures or shadows of the original things, the eternal things, the spiritual things.  (Things that are seen are temporal, but the unseen last – and last goes on and on because there is nothing coming after to displace it – I’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress, too.)  All of a sudden in verse 22 he says something not about sprinkling with blood, but about washing with pure water.

 

Now, I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about baptism lately, and studying it too, and discussing it even, so my brain sort of goes that way when anything like baptism is mentioned.  I’m not going to say that the author of Hebrews was talking about baptism.  I don’t know if he was.  And I’m not going to say that baptism, the kind where you’re washed with water, saves you.  (This is because I don’t really believe that, even though, um, some parts of the Bible kind of say that baptism has to do with salvation, like Mark 16 and Acts 2.)  But if we keep with the flesh and earthly things being shadows of the eternal, like Hebrews is teaching, then salvation isn’t escape from the body.  Rather, we use our bodies to picture eternal spiritual realities.  And we make it real in the flesh.

 

I liked this thought – and really for me it was only one quick thought because all the other things I added in for your sake had already been founded for me over the past few weeks – so I decided to share it.  And I know that it confused a bunch of you readers, so I’m sorry.  I can’t say that I totally get my thought anyway; it’s more like a door into lots of thoughts that, if you are ever in the same room with me, I’d be happy to discuss, especially if we are eating at the time.  I’m not a Manichaenist.  (How many syllables do you need in one name for a cult, anyway?)

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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Baptists: Thorough Reformers by John Quincy Adams is a short book demonstrating the impact on the Church and individual Christians when infant baptism is practiced.  Filled with quotes from Baptists and Paedobaptists, this is an informative resource on the question.  John Quincy Adams (yes, the president) is on the side of volitional baptism by immersion, having himself converted from the paedobaptist denomination in which he was raised.  Topics range from biblical interpretation and translation to the doctrine of sola scriptura and discussions of the need for a member of the Church to demonstrate their faith by the fruit promised in the Bible.  The author does a good job of tying together the doctrines for which Baptists are distinctively famous, including separation of church and state.  To me the most interesting aspect of reading this book was seeing how little Baptists of today understand their roots, even as recently as the founding of this country.  When Thomas Jefferson wrote his letter to the Danbury Baptists, their denomination was just beginning to surface from centuries of persecution; no wonder they were concerned that the new constitution would protect them from another round of political oppression.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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