Thinking Out Loud

December 29, 2016

The Opposite of Infant Baptism: Why Evangelicals Opt Out

This article was a link list item two weeks ago, but I found myself thinking about it somewhat continuously since, and last night it came up again at the supper table. The writer blogs at Patheos under the banner Troubler of Israel but I’m otherwise unfamiliar with his work.

I’ve quoted this in full, though you are strongly encouraged to read it at source and join the over 300 comments; just click the link in the title below. The only difference here is that I’ve placed one paragraph in bold face type which I believe deserves special attention.

The Real Reason Evangelicals Don’t Baptize Babies
by G. Shane Morris

Friends (especially those expecting children) ask me with surprising frequency why I believe in infant baptism. For a couple of years, I replied by giving what I think the best biblical reasons are. But I usually don’t take that route anymore, because I’ve realized that’s not what convinced me.

For most evangelicals, what stands in the way of baptizing infants isn’t a lack of biblical evidence, but an interpretive lens they wear when reading Scripture. That lens–shaped by revivals, rugged individualism, and a sacramental theology untethered from the church’s means of grace–makes conversion the chief article of the faith. We should expect this, since American evangelical theology was forged on the frontier, in camp meetings, to the sound of fire-and-brimstone preaching.

For Evangelicals, this is the far more familiar image which comes to mind at the mention of the term 'baptism.'

For Evangelicals, this is the far more familiar image which comes to mind at the mention of the term ‘baptism.’

The core assumption here is that you must have a conversion experience to be saved. You must turn away from a past life toward a new one, usually with tears and laments attesting your sincerity. And this view of Christianity works well in an evangelistic setting, where many have lived as open unbelievers. The problem is it’s an awkward fit when it comes to multi-generational faith.

Anyone who was raised in a Christian home and still believes in Jesus knows that there wasn’t a time when he or she transitioned from “unbelief” to “belief.” We were never “converted.” It was simply inculcated from infancy, and for as long as we can remember, we have trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, whether we were baptized as a baby or not.

But because of the baptistic emphasis on conversion, many (if not most) raised in those churches found ourselves “converting” over and over, reciting the “sinner’s prayer” at countless altar calls during our childhood and teenage years, certain that each time, we were truly sincere, but always finding ourselves back at the altar. Some of us even asked to be re-baptized upon our fresh conversions. And everyone raised in evangelical churches will know what I mean when I say “testimony envy,”–that real and perverse jealousy you feel when someone who lived a nastier pre-conversion life than you shares their story.

This is where I think the chief difficulty with infant baptism lies, at least for American evangelicals. I don’t believe baptistic evangelicals really view their children as unregenerate pagans before their “credible profession of faith.” If they did, they wouldn’t teach them to say the Lord’s Prayer or to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” I think what’s really going on is a kind of alternative sacramentalism, where a dramatic conversion experience, rather than baptism, is the rite of Christian initiation.

Thus, children raised in this setting feel the need to manufacture tearful conversions over and over to prove their sincerity. And rather than their present trust in Christ, they’re taught (implicitly or explicitly) to look back to a time, a place, and a prayer, and stake their salvation on that.

Infant baptism runs counter to this entire system. It declares visibly that God induces a change of heart and a saving faith in those too young to even speak or remember their “conversions.” It illustrates that the branches God grafts in to His Son aren’t sterile. They bud and blossom, producing new branches that have never drunk another tree’s sap. And most importantly, it matches the lived experiences of believers’ children, rather than continually imposing a system on them that was designed for first-generation converts.

Almost always, I see the lights come on after explaining this point to an evangelical friend. And in most cases, their acceptance of infant baptism isn’t far behind.

 

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March 21, 2015

Weekend Link List

Spring Retail Comic

Tony Campolo Speaks Candidly About Bart Campolo – “I really could have done a better job of nurturing my son in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ I could have spent more time listening to him and answering his questions. Sadly, what is done in time is irrevocable.” But then there’s this: “He brings to that humanist community all the zeal, and then some, that I have tried to bring to the preaching of a holistic gospel all the many, many years of my life. He pointed out that the secular humanists on campus had very little in the way of community, and he hoped that something of the sense of community that he felt as a teenager in an evangelical youth group might be evident among these University of Southern California students. He unashamedly declares that he wants the secular humanists to have something of a sense of mission, which he sees as all too absent among them.”

The First Church of TED – New York Times: “I grew up among Christian evangelicals and I recognize the cadences of missionary zeal when I hear them. TED, with its airy promises, sounds a lot like a secular religion…A great TED talk is reminiscent of a tent revival sermon. There’s the gathering of the curious and the hungry. Then a persistent human problem is introduced, one that, as the speaker gently explains, has deeper roots and wider implications than most listeners are prepared to admit. Once everyone has been confronted with this evidence of entropy, contemplated life’s fragility and the elusiveness of inner peace, a decision is called for: Will you remain complacent, or change?

We Have More Contact with Social Media, But We’re More Lonely – “Mental health providers have noticed a significant uptick in ‘skin hunger.’ This is basically the adult version of failure to thrive and the core issue is that so many of us go all day without any meaningful physical or emotional contact with others… Once I started digging I found lonely women in every demographic… I identify several ‘modern day Trojan horses.’ These are things we think are a gift, so we wheel them into the gates of our lives, but eventually they turn and attack the things we most treasure, mainly our relationships. Technology is one of these Trojan horses, but certainly not the only one.”

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? We Do! – “Never mind the outspoken Christian leaders who reject the Big Bang and human evolution; nearly 70 percent of rank-and-file evangelicals in the United States say they don’t see religion and science as being totally at odds, a new survey found… Among evangelical Christians, about 48 percent said they see science and religion as complementary to one another, while 21 percent think science and religion refer to different aspects of reality and see them as entirely independent of one another, the survey found.”

Facebook Bans Christian Organization’s Ad – All the advertisement said was, “I Am A Christian – Join the movement at: http://www.YesIAmAChristian.com”.  But Facebook replied, “Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines for language that is profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback. Ads can’t use language that insults, harasses or demeans people, or addresses their age, gender, name, race, physical condition or sexual preference.” Wait, what? Pressed for clarification a website official replied, “Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our language policies. We’ve found that people dislike ads that directly address them or their personal characteristics such as religion.”

Why The Dones are Done – Small church advocate Karl Vaters copies a list of reasons people are leaving their place of worship, then notes: “None of the things people usually leave the church over are things that actually define the church. The church is two simple things – neither of which almost anyone wants to be done with. The church is people loving Jesus and loving others. When former churchgoers say they’re done with church, they’re seldom actually done with loving Jesus or loving others. What they’re done with is the extras we’ve attached to Jesus and people – often at the expense of the two essentials.”

A Never Ending Supply of Made-Up Words – “Though I myself find most doctrinal disagreements to be a major snoozefest…I have managed to acquire over the years a small set of really interesting tidbits that for me represent the highlight of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. It’s the Calminians and the Arvinists! If you take a close look at those two words—Calminian and Arvinist—you’ll see that they are basically the two halves of the words Calvinist and Arminian that have been chopped and glued back together with their rival halves. This right here is the kind of Christian slang that moves me to the edge of the proverbial seat and makes me literally push my glasses higher on the bridge of my nose. This is linguistic gold, ladies and gentlemen.” Then, the author at The Dictionary of Christianese, pursues this in a depth greater than many doctoral theses.

For Those Who Say They Don’t Want a Funeral – “I wanted no funeral. I didn’t want people standing up to testify to what a great guy Stan was. ‘He served Christ so faithfully, for so many years.’ ‘What an example of a godly man!’ If only they knew. If they saw the laziness and self-centeredness and waywardness and mixed motives and mean-spirited thoughts, their accolades would be silenced. I didn’t want hagiography. I didn’t want people testifying to a man they thought they knew, extolling virtues that would be dwarfed by vices. Not having a funeral would avoid a sideshow. But I have changed my mind—for two reasons. One, a friend died. The family decided not to have a funeral, nothing to acknowledge him or his death.  At first I took it in stride, but then it occurred to me that something was not right with that. In not acknowledging his death, they did not acknowledge his life.”

A Defense of Infant Baptism – Kevin DeYoung: “One, the burden of proof rests on those who would deny children a sign they had received for thousands of years. If children were suddenly outside the covenant, and were disallowed from receiving any “sacramental” sign, surely such a massive change, and the controversy that would have ensued, would been recorded in the New Testament… Two, the existence of household baptisms is evidence that God still deals with households as a unit… Three, children are told to obey their parents…Children in the church are not treated as little pagans to be evangelized, but members of the covenant who owe their allegiance to Christ. Four, within two centuries of the Apostles we have clear evidence that the church was practicing infant baptism.”

One for the Road – Last week, Julie Roys’ Up For Debate radio show looked at how Lent has spread beyond its mainline roots with this opener, “Protestants observing Lent is like the English celebrating the 4th of July.” Guests on the one hour program are Bryan Litfin and Carl Trueman.

Top Image: Retail a comic by Norm Feuti (click image to link)
Lower Image: Classic Archie Christian Comic by Al Hartley (click to link)

Archie Al Hartley

 

 

January 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

When is a bargain not a bargain

I spent a lot of the week listening to Christian radio stations from around the world on DeliCast.com; so the temptation was to make the entire list this week simply links to all the wonderful stations I found. However, reason prevailed…  Each of the following will lead you back to Out of Ur, a division of Christianity Today, where you may then click through to the stories.

Paul Wilkinson writes from Canada (Motto: Home of the Polar Vortex) and blogs at Thinking Out Loud and edits Christianity 201, a daily devotional.

 

October 16, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Follow Me

Sometimes people say I don’t share enough personal stuff on my blog. Fine. Here we go.  As I compile this link list, my wife is frying fish in the kitchen. There. Is that the kind of thing you mean?  For the link list with the actual links in them, click over to the Wednesday Link List’s new owner, Leadership Today’s blog Out of Ur.

  • Ever wondered how the Catholic Church ended up with an amended Ten Commandments? Maybe there were Fourteen Commandments to begin with.
  • Think it’s bad where Malala Yousafzai is from? One writer thinks it’s just as bad in the United States where the daughters of homeschooling parents are being held captive and denied higher education.
  • Is it possible that we’ve missed a major nuance of a most-familiar story because of the placement of the chapter division?
  • Because it would be nice to know ahead of time, here’s six signs you’re dealing with a toxic person.
  • Programs, growth strategies, and ministry tools can all be helpful, but in this piece, a well-respected church blogger apologizes for seven years of misplaced emphasis.
  • The Hour of Power telecast is now airing fresh programs from their new home at Shepherd’s Grove, with pastor Bobby Schuller.
  • Facebook isn’t just posting your cat pictures, they’re also running the stats on info you provide, including your odds of getting engaged at a Christian college…
  • …But from a pastor’s viewpoint, what does a wedding ceremony look like when God isn’t invited?
  • CNN doesn’t so much interview Sarcastic Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Webber as it does ask for a guided tour of her various tattoos.
  • Stop the Presses! It’s a Justin Bieber photo album with pics of  J.B. with Pentecostal and Charismatic pastor friends.
  • Most Concise Reponse: Shane Claiborne on Texas’ capital punishment record.
  • September’s Best Object Lesson: Spiritual Warfare: What To Do When You Encounter a Lion. (Don’t miss page two!)
  • Essay of the Week: This week it’s another look at the (sometimes contentious) issue of infant baptism…
  • …while another writer suggests that errant doctrinal positions that led to the Protestant Reformation are slowly creeping back into Protestantism.
  • Most Linked-To Everywhere Else: An interview with Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell on the reigniting of his faith while working on David and Goliath.
  • From the Land of Unusual Allegories: Preaching is Basically a Hail Storm. (Are you making a dent?)
  • “Are we doing the right thing?” A prolific Canadian Christian author and mom to four boys on refusing to feel guilty in six different parenting departments.
  • Open Letter Department: Tony Jones to Marcus Borg: Jesus rose from the dead.
  • When writers Tweet older blog pieces: Michael Patton on reasons for and against the inclusion of the Apocrypha. (December, 2012)
  • And it came to pass that See You At The Pole begat Fields of Faith.
  • 25 Years Ago on this date (give or take several months) before we had the word ‘tween,’ the children’s music sounds of Prism Red.
  • Does your church dim the lights when the worship time begins? Lee Grady wishes you would leave the lighting alone.
  • If you’re in Atlanta on Thursday night, you can always catch the pairing of Ravi Zacharias with Jeff Foxworthy (and radio host Dennis Prager) but you’ll need tickets.  (Can’t wait to see if the next one is Hank Hanegraaff and Billy Ray Cyrus.)
  • When I say “Darlene Zschech” you say “Hillsong,” but more recently the word you want to remember is hope.
  • As wooden pews are slowly facing extinction in favor of chairs, this trend in church furniture has attracted the attention of The Wall Street Journal.
  • Married? Here’s a great checklist: Five Questions to Ask Your Spouse Every Week.  (Okay, I added the italics.)
  • Magic Musical Moment: Sam Robson’s acapella O Love That Will Not Let Me Go. Like that? Here’s a bonus: It is Well With My Soul.
  • Weird Video of the Week: Hosanna by Hillsong for Synthesia (Don’t think Michael W. Smith learned piano this way.)
  • Those “Get Inside Rob Bell’s Brain” mini conferences (my title, not his) must be going well, since there are two more events scheduled.
  • Last week was the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Tolerance aka the Edict of Milan. (Sorry I didn’t get you anything.)
  • Before you click the link, take a guess as to the Top 5 Bible translations in the U.S.
  • The Boy Scouts in the UK now have an alternative pledge for atheists.
  • King James Only advocates have a problem with the fact that HarperCollins publishes both the NIV and The Satanic Bible. So whatever you do, don’t show them this page.

Without giving away his age; Paul Wilkinson spent his formative years in Toronto’s Peoples Church at a time when it was Canada’s only megachurch, and attended their horse ranch, where one of the beasts once stepped on his foot. (More amazing personal details to follow…)

The upper image is from Church Funnies where it got 1,000 likes.  The lower image is from Christian Funny Pictures, where they’re trying to locate the artist.

vegan feeding 5000

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