Posts Tagged ‘baptism’

At my church we’re currently hosting a cricket tournament.

Basically, a few friends were bored in the wet and cold winter months, and decided to convert the church hall (which was already carpeted) into an indoor cricket facility. One thing led to another, and suddenly we were hosting a tournament with 10 teams from all over the city and had sparked a community of over 100 people (and probably a dozen nationalities) who get together up to three times a week to hang out and play some friendly (but very competitive) cricket.

Which got me thinking about denominations.

See, although most of the matches take place on Wednesday and Thursday nights, we sometimes use Sunday as a make-up day. One of the other teams involved in the tournament is from another local church, and they are the only team which doesn’t play the Sunday games – because their pastor said they shouldn’t. On the other hand, my church is actively running a competition on Sundays.

And that is why I love the diversity of denominations in the Church.

The defining criterion for inclusion into the Church is pretty simple: if you affirm the three ecumenical creeds, you’re a Christian church. This benchmark for inclusion does two important things:

Firstly, the creeds describe the primary doctrines which define Christianity. They set the minimum requirement: if you are not willing to sign on to everything in the creeds, you’re not a Christian church.

Secondly, the creeds set the limits as to which doctrines may be considered primary. If it’s not in the creeds, it does not affect inclusion into the Church.

This is incredibly important.

The primary articles of faith give us a common understanding on which to base our discussion. If I accept the divinity of Jesus and you insist that he was merely human, we are starting from fundamentally different points, and until that division is reconciled we can go no further.

But having accepted the primary articles, the Church can tolerate disagreement on any other issues. There is space within it to discuss, to debate, and even to diverge. We don’t need to have common consensus on everything, and Christians do not need to be carbon copies.

Because we all accept the primary doctrines as a common foundation, there is diversity without division.

Infant baptism or adult?

We can agree to disagree.

Purgatory, annihilationism or universal reconciliation?

We can agree to disagree.

Transubstantiation or symbolic fellowship?

We can agree to disagree.

Young-Earth creationism, guided or Darwinian evolution?

We can agree to disagree.

I’ve prayed in ancient cathedrals, and had communion on top of a mountain.

I’ve had attended church services with incense and Latin liturgies, and also services consisting entirely of freestyle drumming.

I’ve been to churches where they use grape juice for the Eucharist, and churches where they’ll buy you a beer after the service.

I’ve experienced the inspiring beauty of monastic Taizé singing, and I’ve worshipped with electric guitars.

Within the sprawling, expansive, vibrant and all-embracing Church, there is space for the traditionalist and the radical, for the poet and the scientist, for the broken and the lost.

There is space for me.

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Note: This essay was originally posted on Spiritual Meanderings.

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Sentinel posted about original sin and how it extends even to infants a few days ago, and the general topic as of late has been original sin. I’d like to offer a quick summary of the Scriptures on original sin, and then discuss how an infant is saved. Just as infants are not automatically saved because they have not reached an age where they can reason, they also do not become believers outside of the normal means – namely that they come to faith in Jesus Christ through the Word.

What the Bible Says About Original Sin
The Bible teaches that no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The human heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). The natural man is dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1). By nature, we pass “our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). We are inclined toward evil (Gen 6:5), conceived in sin, and “brought forth in iniquity” (Psalm 51:5). All of us “like sheep have gone astray” (Isa. 53:6). Even “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before the Lord (Isa. 64:6). We are by nature not just morally tainted, but “children of wrath,” deserving of God’s punishment, even before we actually sin in our flesh (Eph. 2:3). Even on the best of days, we are divided, doing what we don’t want to do and failing to do what we know is right (Rom. 7:18-19). Because of the Fall, we are hardwired toward evil. We sinned in Adam and died through his trespass, inheriting his guilt and a corrupt nature (see Rom. 5:12-21). In other words, we all deserve hell from the moment of our conception. We are morally stillborn, including infants.

What God Has Done About Our Moral Stillbirth
But God has provided a means for salvation, For “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death[.] We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom 6:3-4). Baptism is a way that infants can come to saving faith in Jesus.

How is this possible? Does baptism in and of itself have the power to save? No, God alone saves through His Word working in and through baptism to create saving faith in the heart of the infant. The Bible records several instances of infants expressing saving faith. Think of John the Baptist, who leapt for joy while in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44). Remember also that Jesus said that “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42). Notice that He said little ones “who believe in me,” indicating that these little ones possessed genuine faith in Christ. The Greek for little ones in both of these passages is μικρων (mikron), which implies children under the age of three. Psalm 22:9-10 says, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (some argue that since this passage is prophetic it only applies to Christ, but it is still an instance of infant faith nonetheless). 2 Timothy 3:15 points out “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The word used for infancy in this passage is βρέφος (brephos), which means an unborn child, embryo, baby, or infant! God can clearly create faith in anyone’s hearts — even infants, mentally handicapped, and Alzheimer’s patients — because salvation does not depend on our own reasoning abilities. This might even offend our reason and sensibilities, but the Scriptures are clear that infants and children can and do have faith. A child is upheld in the Bible as the ultimate model for how to receive Christ as Lord, for Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The Bible is careful to show how faith is a gift of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The gift of God is precisely the faith through which salvation comes. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). “You were raised with Him through faith in the working of God” (Colossians 2:12).

Faith is a gift, created by God’s Word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Of course, God does not do the believing for us. It is we, infants and adults, who believe, just as it is we who live, and yet just as God gives and sustains our life, so God gives and sustains our faith.

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