This Makes Me Mad

This Makes Me Mad

I was on a church's website the other day.  Large, happening place in San Antonio.  Scurried to the "We Believe" page.  Curious.  They listed eight chief parts of faith.  They didn't call them chief parts, but for my sacramental brethren, you get it.

Each part had three sentences max.  Nice, tight, commercial-snippet savvy blurbs.  Fair enough. 

But for part number 8, there were paragraphs.  And scriptures.  Three columns of scripture passages.  A variety of verses so that you would fully grasp the subject.  

This must be important.

The faith topic?  Fasting.  Yup.  Fasting.

Now, please, no hate mail.  I'm not contra-spiritual disciplines.  Quite the opposite.  

But I think we'd all agree fasting is not a matter of salvation.  Not even close.  I can be a great, God-fearing faster but know not Jesus and Satan, fix me a bed.

I guess I expected more fleshing out of Jesus instead of fasting.  Just seems bass-ackwards.  Kind of like focusing on the little overhead light instead of the 4.2 liter, super-charged power plant that takes you from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.  Now that's cool.

After simmering some, I decided to check out their click-through baptism statement.  At level two they had nice paragraphs about who and what and how.  

Nice symbolic, non-powerful understanding. "Nothing new to see here, folks.  Move along."

But then I stumbled on this and Mr. Farenheit climbed a little. 

What Is The Meaning Of Baptism?

It illustrates Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…”(1 Corinthians 15:3–4) “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)

My wonderment here flows from using a scripture passage like Colossians 2, which speaks so mysteriously about how in baptism you were buried with him, in those wonderfully passive Greek constructs, like a dead man being buried by someone because, you know, he can't crawl out of the coffin himself and do it.  How and why would one draw that conclusion — that baptism symbolizes Jesus' death and resurrection but not that it ties you to Jesus' death and resurrection?  Help me here.

Mr. F took off, though, with this one:

In the Bible we find parents bringing children to Jesus. He held them and prayed for them and told us to welcome them. But he did not baptize them, and he did not tell anyone to baptize them. 

Please.  At least treat me with some respect. "Jesus never baptized children nor told anyone to." So roll credits and tie a bow on it? 

So when Peter told the crowd "the promise is for you and for your children" then proceeded to baptize 3000 people that day, or when Paul answered the Philippian Jailer's "What must I do to be saved?" question with "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household," and scared Jailer Man that night got baptized with his entire family, so they were wrong?  Because Jesus never said (that we know of) baptize children?  C'mon.  Even though at age 8 days old, the male Jewish child would receive the sign of the convenant upon his body, and Colossians 2 compares baptism to that same circumcision rite?  "Well, Jesus never did it so neither should we."  Please.

How much better — how much truer — to at least say "There are a number of passages where entire households were baptized, and in that culture, since even the slaves belonged to the owner of the house, chances are everyone — every, last, one — of the people, of all ages, would have received this washing."  That would at least show you know your history.

Bottom line: best to stay away from passages like Colossians 2 and Romans 6, where crazy, mysterious trans-location stuff happens when water and Word are joined over a spiritually dead, "let's bury 'em" person.  

Yeah.  Avoid those.  It will make me happier.

 

10 Comments

  1. Along this same topic, from many of the same folks, we'll hear: "besides, little children can't believe."  Even *if* faith is a prerequisite for Baptism (instead of the means of God to impart faith, and the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38), Jesus Himself speaks of little children actually having faith, when He says: "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:5, emphasis mine).  So if a person wants to argue that little children can't have faith – thus making it an issue of intellect, rather than the spirit/heart/faith/gift of God… then I say – you've gotta take that up with Jesus.  Because He seems to think that children can *and do* have faith … and in fact they are the model of saving faith to us (Luke 18:17) …. that makes my blood boil!

    • Most, most excellent insight, Augie!  Thanks, bro.

    • Comment

      The faith of children is incredible. All my children demostrated faith when they were very young. When they see you coming towards them with a smile and open arms they bknow you wnat to carry them nin your arms and they respond knowing that you have something good to offer, love.

  2. It seems to me that the misunderstanding of baptism flows out of the misunderstanding of faith.  If faith is a decision, then it is a work, attributed to the decider, rather than the Author of our faith.  Yet those same folks will joyfully proclaim we are saved by grace, not by works – except for this little one you have to do to finish the job for God.  Baptism becomes the next thing you do, just to show you are cooperating.

     

    • Most definitely, Steve.  There is something deeply ingrained in us that just can’t accept that salvation is absolutely, totally not our doing.  Everything after that is sanctification, yes.  But everything before that isn’t.

  3. I have always been stunned by the constant need to add something to the work of Christ. As if my actions or faith can climb this mountain or even help Jesus along. Potentially, if we quit messing with perfection then we might see a need for Jesus again. There's a huge trend in so called "Christianity" to lower the bar of perfect to make ourselves feel better. We say things like, "Well at least I'm not as bad as…" or "I sure wish he was here. He needs this message more than me." We lower the bar so low that we don't need Jesus to be our savior because we've made ourselves a savior. And this is no gospel at all! Because what happens when we have a bad day and just can't come up with the right words or do the good things we did yesterday? Is our salvation still good? Not if it's on us! But if we can truly lean into the person and work of Jesus. If we can rest in the fact that God demands perfect, acknowledge that we are not perfect, and realize that Jesus came not to condemn the imperfect but to show them grace – then we get a little closer to understanding who God really is and what he's really like. 

  4. Aaaaaand yet another example of what happens when folks, who can’t grasp that God can and does work how He wills, talk themselves out of the amazing grace of God.

    • The challenge is Jesus definitely calls us to live out the life of following Him.  The problem is confusing “living out the life” and “being born into the life” (John 3).

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