The Company of the Fathers is starting up again! We are reading Tertullian’s Apology right now, and it is startling to realize that the Church has weathered all the same problems, hundreds of years ago. Our economy may be in the tank, but the Church has been through all this many times before. We suffer from a lack of perspective, and one of the best ways to gain a more balanced view of history (and our place in it) is to read the Church Fathers. Join us!
As a follow-up to the last post, I just learned that The Society for the Study of Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism is starting up again. Anyone interested in being on the mailing list should contact Brock Bingaman at Loyola University Chicago: BBINGAM@LUC.EDU
A poetic inscription on the Lateran Baptistery in Rome gives a wonderful series of theological metaphors for baptism. John F. Baldovin notes that the inscription is “often attributed to the mid-fifth century pope, Sixtus III.” The inscription reads:
“Here is born in Spirit-soaked fertility/ a brood destined for another City,/ begotten by God’s blowing/ and borne upon this torrent/ by the Church their virgin mother./ Reborn in these depths they reach for/ heaven’s realm,/ the born-but-once unknown by felicity./ This spring is life that floods the world,/ the wounds of Christ its awesome source,/ Sinner sink beneath this sacred surf/ that swallows age and spits out youth./ Sinner here scour away down to innocence,/ for they know no enmity who are by/ one font, one Spirit, one faith made one./ Sinner, shudder not at sin’s kind and number,/ for those born here are holy” (The Oxford History of Christian Worship, pgs. 93-94, translated by Aidan Kavanagh).
…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
The divide between Baptists and paedobaptists is a great one, and can seem to be an insurmountable one. A simple perusal of the baptism forum at puritanboard.com demonstrates that there is often much passion, even animosity, in debate over this issue. This is ironic, considering that there are few groups within the Church that are closer in their distinctives than Reformed Baptists and conservative Presbyterian and Reformed folk. It is a sad fact that some Presbyterian sessions have allowed Baptist ministers to preach from their pulpits, but refused them table fellowship. Sadder still is the case where a person baptized as an infant but who has a credible profession of faith and demonstrates the fruit of being united to Christ is refused membership in a credobaptist church unless they are rebaptized, as if the doors to the historical church should be narrower than the doors to the invisible one. This seems to indicate a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the church and her sacraments.
In his letter to the Ephesian church, St. Paul calls his audience to a life that is consistent with their holy calling, that they should be humble, be patient and understanding with one another, and do all that is in their power to maintain the unity wrought by the Holy Spirit, being bound together in peace. He give them a reason for this, for they they have the same Creator, the same hope, the same Spirit in them, the same faith, the same Lord, the same signs. Are we to believe by this that there were no differences among them? Surely not. If it were the case that they had no disagreement on anything, the admonishment to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace would be unnecessary. Paul appeals to what they do have in common to remind them that sources of disagreement pale in comparison to what truly binds them together.
What are we to make, then, of the fact that Paul states that there is “one baptism?” We have two options in light of this. We can say that one side of the church, either paedo or credo, has no baptism at all. This is the position of a certain Reformed professor of theology that I am aware of, who teaches alongside Baptists but claims that their churches are not true churches. This is also the position of those who would deny the Lord’s Supper to those who were not baptized at what they would understand to be the right time in their lives. Consider how this cuts off a limb from the Body of Christ. To claim a monopoly on “true baptism” arbitrarily denies the reality that the opposition really belongs to Christ. Our other option is to take a humble approach, and to say that while we disagree with the timing of our brothers’ baptism, we will humbly receive him as he is in truth, our brother.
I grant, that this is harder for the credobaptist than the paedo. But I hope that more of our Baptist brothers will follow the example of that godly Baptist John Piper, who holds firmly to his theological persuasion, and doesn’t fail to preach it, but also expresses a desire to admit those baptized as infants to membership in his congregation. Consider, after all, what baptism signifies. Our union to Christ, and therefore our union to one another in His body. Why would we make the timing of baptism the exact point of our division with so many? We deny the sign, and the thing signified, when we make such division. May God grant us grace to confess with our mouths that we have “one baptism,” and to actually live in light of that confession.
This Christmas, consider supporting the King’s Meadow Endurance Team. George Grant is an advocate for substantive, classical Reformed liturgy, and they have exciting plans to expand into a full liberal arts college!
Although this site continues to get steady traffic, I find myself too busy in my family and my studies to develop it as it could be. If anyone out there would like to contribute, either as a writer or an editor, let me know. The original vision was for this site to be a resource, and the more heads involved, the merrier! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I came across an exciting mission opportunity for academics. This organization sends Christian teachers into other countries, finding positions for them in secular universities. A quote on their home-page says it all:
“The university is a clear-cut fulcrum with which to move the world. Change the university and you change the world,”
declared Dr. Charles Malik, former president of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
Stephen Marshall, one of the leading Divines at the Westminster Assembly, ends his A Sermon of the Baptising of Infants thusly:
“Luther tels a Story of a gracious Virgin, who used to get the victory over Satan when he tempted her to any sinne, Satan I may not doe it; Baptizata sum, I am Baptized, and must walk accordingly: So should we argue, Let base persons live basely, noble and generous men must live nobly; let Turkes and Pagans live wickedly, the holy seed must live holily and righteously:keepe it daily in thy thoughts, what thy Baptisme ingageth thee unto, and that it if thou walk otherwise, it will rise up extreamly to aggravate thy condemnation in the last day.It was a custome in the latter end of the Primitive times,That such as were baptized, did weare a white Stole (a humane Ceremony, to signifie their purity of life which the baptized was to lead, Fulgentes animas vestis quoq candida signat.)Now there was one Elpidophorus, who after his baptism turned a persecutor;Muritta the Minister who baptized him, brought forth in publick the white Stole which Elpidophorus had worn at his Baptism, and cryed unto him;O Elpidophorus!this Stole doe I keep against thy comming to Judgement, to testifie thy Apostasie from Christ;doe thou in like manner assure thy selfe the very Font wherein thou wast baptized, the Register wherein thy Name is recorded, will rise up against thee, if thou lead not a holy life:The Covenant is holy, the Seale is holy, let these provoke thee to study to be holy, yea to draw holinesse from them.Consider what I say,And the Lord give you understanding in all things.”
Good words, regardless of your position on the Federal Vision.