I hope this is the last installment in this series. I expected it to be the most painful one, because I had originally intended to go through the Biblical examples of baptism and just what Scripture says it does, as well as early church father statements and then make a conclusion based on that.
Very quickly, however, I realized that is *way* out of my league. I'm not a theologian or an Hebrew/Greek scholar. (Yet.)
I just finished this
book. It started off mediocre, but got
better by the end. A lot of it was framed with Reformed Covenant
theology and the Heidelberg Catechism; to be expected given it's from
Westminster Press, but I was hoping to get a relatively unbiased view.
It did go through the majority of what I had intended this post to be -
and reaffirmed that it was out of my league.
also read a book on early church history, and that was actually
even more helpful, despite its coverage of many topics other than
baptism. It really opened my eyes as to how much theology was
unspecified very early on, and how some pretty smart Spirit-led people tried to hash things out. And maybe got some things wrong along the way and
got corrected later. (For example, Augustine had some really nasty things to say about women.) As someone who comes from a background of
perfectionism, to be confronted with the fact that a lot of scripture
isn't clear, uses metaphorical language, and doesn't lay out all the
rules as neatly as my rational culture demands is a lot disconcerting.
Suffice to say that there are several episodes in Acts of entire households being baptized when the head of the household converts. Were there babies involved? Highly likely. It doesn't say there were, but there's no reason to think there weren't - birth control didn't exist then. Babies happened all the time. Even more interesting - adult servants who were part of the household and maybe didn't really have a choice got baptized. I think that's even more striking than the possibility of infant baptism. Nobody says at the time or later that baptizing either the children or the possibly non-compliant servants was a bad idea or shouldn't be done.
In Colossians, baptism in the New Covenant seems to be presented as the replacement for circumcision from the Old, and the Reformed crowd especially pushes that. Comparing baptism to circumcision makes a lot of sense about what it
means, what it does, and whether one should do it.
And then there's the confusing passages on baptism - the ones I'm allowing myself to just read for their face value instead of mentally rewriting what they say. Like the end of I Peter 3 - it clearly says "baptism saves you [...] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." And Mark 16 says, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who
has disbelieved shall be condemned." Peter in Acts 2 says, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins". Acts 22 has Saul (Paul) being told to "Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name."
These are strange statements to me. Some of them I can make sense of, but not all. The context isn't as helpful as I would like. Are some of these statements partially in response to ideas of the day I don't know about? What's the original Greek say? This is why I'm a little lost right now.
Overall, I've read some fascinating eye-opening things. And they keep leading me to thinking I need to get my kid baptized.
This is going to get interesting real quick.