Thursday, June 12, 2008

baptism an ongoing conduit of grace?- from L.L. Barkat

From yesterday's posting, Howe's Cave - baptism, from L.L. Barkat's new book, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places we read this from a section in the back, "Discussion Questions", from the questions for this chapter:
In what ways could the one-time event of baptism be an ongoing conduit of grace? Is it something to reach for? Why or why not? (p. 155)
This is a good question, and most Christians who believe in the rite of water baptism for today would affirm that there is indeed an ongoing role one's water baptism plays, at least one can be found with some digging from Scripture and from one's tradition.

One of my problems with alot of "baptism" passages in the New Testament is that, though water baptism might portray well something of the meaning of those passages, I think they speak of another spiritual reality which happens to Christians at conversion. A case in point for me in this is Galatians 3:27 (I add verse 26 with it as it clearly goes together) and the point of that passage can be seen only by reading the fuller immediate context.

I have to admit that for me water baptism and my own experience or reception of it meant little to me at the time, and not that much to me beyond it. This is not a reflection of what Scripture really teaches, but can be a reflection of our tradition. While most of us believe in baptism for today, do we really see any really vital meaning in it for us? I think part of the problem for us who are evangelical Protestants is that we are in the line of Christians who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and their teaching of baptismal regeneration with faith following that- in their teaching. But while I believe we have good Biblical grounds for doing so, what is its meaning for us today? Do we know? How would you respond to L.L.'s discussion questions quoted above?

My own answer is "Yes, it is, but no, I don't." Baptism in my church background and culture is admittedly weak, simply seen as a profession of our faith in Jesus before the world. That is good insofar as it goes, for indeed it is. But exactly what is being professed?

I believe it's about our identity with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection to new life so that the old Ted is gone and a new Ted in Jesus has arisen to a new life. The passage cited here refers to something which happens at conversion, which also happened in the death and resurrection of our Lord, and of which our water baptism signifies. And from that how we're to proceed by faith and live this out in our lives.

Water baptism is indeed a reminder that in Jesus we went under, under that chaos of darkness and death, are dead, and then rose up to a new life, into the sunshine of God's love and grace to us in Jesus. Henceforth we're never to live again as those who actually are now dead and buried. But instead we're to live this new life in which we're "dyed" in Jesus, in his "crimson dye" as "a worm crushed" (p 51). So in that sense water baptism for us can be a regular reminder of the reality from which we've been saved, the new reality in which we have been and are being saved, as well as the culmination of that to come.

There's no turning back for us in Jesus, for to do so is a denial not only of Jesus, but of our baptism and the truth and reality it signifies for us, a marker and special reminder of our true identity in this world. In which we do remain as those who, while in Jesus, still are "sometimes assailed by struggle and setback" (like Jacob, as L.L. points out). "In moments when [we] least expect it." (p. 52) Especially at such times our baptism can be an ongoing conduit of God's grace to us in Jesus, as we are reminded of what is really true of us, in spite of our failings and the hard knocks we are hit with in life.

What about you? How would you answer the discussion questions from L.L.'s book quoted above? (and there is more for this chapter, and for every chapter). Or, what would you like to share with us or add here?


Anonymous said...

i think it can mean much more that we realize.

we can not know at the time and then find out later in our walk and still not grasp the whole meaning because of our human minds.

we can know at the time as much as we can possibly know at the time we are baptized, and still...not know the totality of what God is bringing together in this one act as it happens or after it happens.

thought i think it would have been better for me... looking back on it, of course....if i would have been mature enough to learn more about what i was doing, or if the person doing the baptizing could have been able to make any of it any more clear to a emotionally led young girl that was just in love with Jesus. it might have been doing pretty good in the circumstances just to get a few young college people baptized in the first place. who knows...

i still think back on some of the smiling faces from that fellowship and hope that they managed to retain their Love for Jesus and faith in Him.

L.L. Barkat said...

Your comment, Ted, about the Catholic view, fascinated me. Indeed, you always amaze me with how much you just happen to know!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nice reminiscing and thinking on your part.

Yes, we're all people in process, including those who were discipling you at the time. We hardly know what we're doing, really, in this great faith that is in Jesus.

Ted M. Gossard said...

If I really know anything, I'm truly amazed, too. Seems like whatever gets imbedded in our "hard drive" comes up when we need it, with the help of the Spirit, I guess.


Rachel Mc said...

When I was baptized the second time, May 20, 2007, it wasn't with water. My pastor had a Sunday service then let people come up who felt they were ready to be baptized or those who wanted to renew their baptism. You know, I grew up catholic and all the tradition, rituals, etc..I don't think anything I learned in my catholic upbringing compared to the journey God put me one with my pastor. It was a 40+ week journey and I do believe God chose my pastor for me. When he baptized me the two of us had gone thru a lot of issues together (my issues) and we were at a stopping point in that journy and have moved to another journey. I think it doesn't matter if it is a water baptism or not. I think it matters if the person is ready and who is baptizing you. I think anyone who was baptized as an infant or young child or young teen should be baptized again. I think people should reach out to their pastors and build a relationship where he/she is your spiritual advisor.

Ted M. Gossard said...

It's good that you've learned and are learning so much from your pastor.

I would say on the basis of this passage, that it really doesn't matter that much just who is baptizing you. I also believe that God in his grace accepts our baptisms, even when we don't understand what is going on (of course very true for infants, and while I don't personally hold to infant baptism, I do believe God in his grace accepts it as viable baptism.

I found this
to be a very helpful book on water baptism, though those not trained theologically may find it somewhat challenging, though I still think anyone with some time and patience would get alot of good from it. Not recommending that you necessarily take the time to read it, but a good book on the Scriptural teaching of it. I was surprised that I could really get enthused over a book on water baptism, but I did, and I am!

I agree with you that it is good for us to reach out to our pastors for spiritual direction, and I also think it's good to have spiritual directors who are our same gender.

I think it's fine to be rebaptized again if one has a conviction about it, but I don't think one has to be rebaptized simply because they knew so little the first time around. Were they sincere or was it done in sincerity (maybe by the parents, in the case of infant baptism) and does one have faith now? Those seem to be more important questions on this for me.

I'm not sure by what you mean that it's not important whether water is used in this baptism or not. There certainly is Spirit baptism, but there is water baptism as well. Just don't know what you mean on that.

Ted M. Gossard said...

One more thing I want to add to this: I do think only a true disciple of Jesus should water baptize someone professing faith in Jesus. On the basis of Matthew 28:18-20.

Of course denominations have their own set requirements for who can actually administer water baptism, or baptize another. But they at least should be a disciple I take it by clear implication from the passage cited above.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I think that baptism does very physically present a picture of the death, burial and resurrection - not only of Christ, but also of us - to walk in newness of life. I was baptized as a child of 10 and I clearly understood that I couldn't get to heaven without accepting Jesus as Savior. It took a long time - some 16 additional years - before I understood that I needed to and could accept Him as Lord - that He had a plan and a way for me to live my life. So, I was baptized again, by choice, to publically identify with Him and the death of my old self to walk in newness of life. Now, do I do that very well - sometimes no, not at all. But I can always repent and start again. I always have that moment to point back to and realize what my commitment to Him was and what His was to me - and to remember that there is no turning back.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Well worded, Susan, and amen to that! I like your reminder to us of baptism as reminding us of our Lord's commitment to us in his death and resurrection, of course in the entire incarnation. Baptism is so relational as well as spiritual and ethical in its meaning, all in line with the new creation come in Christ Jesus. And the grace in Jesus which rights us who are wrong. With a new us in Jesus.

We need this reminder especially at certain times, for sure.