Monday, February 25, 2013

Infant Baptism?

Somehow or other a group that believes in infant baptism sent me an email today. They claimed that they had condensed all their studies of the subject of infant baptism into a few pages and urged me to read those online.

I did read the material and must say it is completely unconvincing. Their justification for infant baptism requires that you accept replacement theology (the church replaces Israel) and the idea that the Abrahamic covenant continues to govern the church.

If the church was a continuation of the Abrahamic covenant it is strange that the Jewish believers got so bent out of shape about the fact that the Gentiles who were saved were not required to be circumcised and to live by the law of Moses (Acts 15:1-5). The apostles could have easily explained that nothing had really changed - just a new sign of the covenant, etc.

It seems to me that if covenant theology were correct there would have been no particular reason to replace circumcision with infant baptism. The Bible never mentions, orders or suggests infant baptism, but does have a great deal to say about circumcision. But, of course, the New Testament makes it very clear that believers should not submit themselves to circumcision - so these folks are looking for a different initiation into the presumed covenantal community. (Look especially at Acts 15 and the book of Galatians.)

This group answers the charge that the Bible uniformly links baptism to believing the gospel and never mentions, orders or describes the baptism of infants by saying the Bible never FORBIDS the baptism of infants. This seems to me to be extremely weak theological reasoning. Such an approach could justify almost anything.

I think they should give it up.

The New Testament clearly says that the subjects of baptism are "disciples" (Matthew 28:19-20) In Acts 2:41 it was those who "gladly received" the gospel who were baptized and it was the mark of their addition to the church - not the Abrahamic covenant. (Interesting that they were already circumcised Jews who presumably could have been grandfathered into the covenant they were already in. Besides that, the early church, being Jewish, kept on circumcising their infants, but they baptized believers.)

I cannot see how an impartial reading of the New Testament would ever suggest the baptism of infants.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Sabbath Rest

Mark 2:27-28
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

About a year and a half ago I became very busy. My normal work as a pastor is busy by itself, but I was also taking classes, serving on committees, renovating my house and going on missions trips. I was so busy that I stopped taking a day off and even worked while on vacations.

Believe it or not, that schedule became a drag after a while.

On the one hand, I was so tired all the time. The work I had to do took longer than it should have and brought me less satisfaction. Besides that, since I wasn't taking any time off, I tended to procrastinate more. Deadlines and structured work times lead to better time management, but I had neither. I could put many things off till tonight or tomorrow or next week. (As long as it wasn't something I needed to do for Sunday.)

But about a month ago I started taking Thursday off. I don't go into the office. I don't check the phone messages. I don't make appointments. I don't get the mail. Instead I go to the shooting range and participate in the pistol league. I shoot, I score, I talk shop, I ask questions. We go out to a restaurant and eat. Then I do some shopping and some non- work things.


I feel rested. And because I want to take Thursday off, I am more disciplined to get things done in my more limited work time.

God knows us better than we know ourselves. We need a Sabbath rest.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wise Man or Wise Guy?

James 3:13-15
"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic."

What do you think about the comments you can read after Internet news stories? They may reflect knowledge or ignorance, but they are almost always full of "bitter jealousy and selfish ambition." Sarcasm and slap downs are the order of the day.

True wisdom is not primarily about communicating the truth. It is about knowing when to communicate the truth, how to communicate the truth, and when to remain silent. A person who is bragging about his own intelligence and ragging on someone else's ignorance is not wise.

James 3:17-18
"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

True wisdom is characterized by meekness. It is demonstrated with reserve, patience, gentleness, kindness.

Friday, February 1, 2013

None Of The Above

I've heard several comments lately about the fact that in recent poling a large proportion are selecting "none of the above" as their religion. Last night on the radio I heard it again in an interview with a man who teaches evolution at Cornell University and is the front man for a punk rock band called "Bad Religion."

He shared his story of growing up in a non-religious home and finding existential purpose in his study of evolution. (This reminds me of Richard Dawkins' statement that evolution allows an atheist to be intellectually fulfilled.) The interviewee said that his experience was similar to those who are the "none of the above." They are disciples of Dawkins, Hitchens and Sam Harris.

So what, you may ask?

Consider the national debate about "gun violence." They are searching for the keys to this problem of mass shootings. Is it guns? Is it mental health problems? Is it security lapses? Is it violent role playing games? Is it violence in movies?

I would suggest that they consider the fact that almost all of the shooters in the random mass killings are from the "none of the above" group. They see themselves as the product of an impersonal mechanistic process. They do not believe in a transcendent God or an "afterlife." They have no objective moral reference point. They do not believe that they will be held accountable for their actions. They believe that the principle underlying their existence is "natural selection" which has also been called "survival of the fittest."

Given their worldview, they are completely unpredictable. They might do anything. What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? What matters?

They have no absolute reason to value any life. They have no fear of ultimate accountability. They have no room for respect or civility or humility - they are the epitome of evolution to date. Their thoughts are the only measure of truth.

So will they all choose to kill innocent strangers? Certainly not! But they don't have any reason WHY not! If their life becomes too difficult, if their ability to achieve fame and fortune seems limited, if they don't get a kick out of life anymore ... Why not go out in a blaze of glorious gore? Why not try to get high score fame that will be broadcast around the world?

It is not that the video games make them commit the crimes - but for them, real life has no more meaning than a video game.