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1.13.2005    |    "Repent and be baptized"
All Christians believe (or should) that baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a necessary part of being Christian. It is, after all, a kind of invitation to the prom -- the prom being the great dance with our Savior. Through the ages, there have been controversies, great and small, over who shall be baptized, what method is correct, and what it all might mean.

Reviewing some extensive source material gathered by The Church of the threshold, one may spend hours perusing the fine points of the theology of baptism. It is easy to see how sectarian strife starts. One group insists that infant baptism is the only way, and that an unbaptized person will go to hell. Others, especially since the Reformation, claim that the only valid baptism is that of believers, and, oh, by the way, it had better be by full immersion. Just a coincidence that Roman Catholics and Anglicans often practice baptism by pouring water, not full immersion. And let's not even get started with the re-baptizers (Anabaptists).

What is truly sad is that some denominations, and some congregations within denominations, do not necessarily accept as valid a baptism done by any way other than that prescribed by themselves. Or, in the case of the Roman Church, do not consider all baptized Christians to be worthy of communion. My sense is that these are all artificial, man-made divisions. As opposed to God-made divisions. Those who might think that their church has God's full approval and that others do not should think again.

I'm no theologian, so I don't have a textbook position on the matter. I can only go to my core beliefs. I am a Baptist, but wasn't personally baptized by full immersion. I was baptized, by water, as an adult believer, and know that baptism is only effective by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, baptism is just a bath (or a shower, if that is your method). Oh, and since I'm also not a very good Calvinist, I must acknowledge that once the Holy Spirit opens the way, it's helpful if you don't refuse. In other words, God proposes and disposes, but we may still use our free will to accept, or not accept, this unearned gift.

Sidebar: volumes have been written on whether we are able to refuse the gift of salvation from God. My sense is that men are so depraved as to be able to resist almost anything good -- even as their resistance dooms them. The good news is that many hear the Good News, believe, repent, and are baptized by the Holy Spirit. Which is the only way this thing can work. We can all argue about the gritty details in heaven.

My authority is simple: the Gospel. From Mark 16:16, our Savior tells us
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
The key word is "believes." Everything else, method, time, place, stikes me as optional. I can not speak for anyone other than myself, but I believe that water itself is indeed, optional -- an outward sign of our belief and repentance.

Yes, it is Biblical. From Matthew 3:6:
Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
So, does this mean that no baptism is legitimate unless performed in the Jordan River? Then there's the literal meaning of the word "baptism", usually (but not always) taken to mean "dunking" or "immersion." Or even "drowning," which last actually abides comfortably with the notion that when we are baptized we die to sin, and are born again in Christ Jesus.

My advice to all churches would be to look to the Gospel for advice, but not to the extent that we deny the work of the Holy Spirit. God knows what is is in our hearts; He will not be fooled by outward signs, and He will not be convinced that any particular church's method of baptism is the only way that He may save us.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.