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Friday, November 03, 2006
More on the nature of Baptism

A few weeks ago my family was over at King's Island Theme Park for what was apparently a Christian Day at the park. We were there also to see Chris Tomlin. As an aside, they say at these "Young Christians" weekends the shoplifting almost doubles from an ordinary day. What's with these so-called Christians these days? We won't even begin to discuss the Ted Haggard effect. The whole Republicevangelical thing is just so repulsive and can we be honest. . . . . . ok. . . . . . let's don't go there.

So back at the theme park. You see an amazing array of T-Shirts on days like these. I saw one girl wearing one that I wanted to take a picture of-- but I didn't. It said, "I Love Me." Then there was the Rebecca St. James showcase which featured a much better message and yet still kind of interesting for a t-shirt. See above-- "I am Loved." Then there was the Starbucks Triple Shot Grande Extra Vanilla Vanilla Latte I bought with the free message on the side of the cup that also plays into this conversation. Can you read it?

All of these messages drive at the same deep seated human need-- VALIDATION. We need validation. And we will do almost anything to get it. The funny thing is that nothing we do can ever quite reach it. . . . . . can it. The primary strategies for seeking validation are. .. . . .popularity. . . . . performance. . . . . purchasing. . . . . .oh yeah. . . . and t-shirts.

The self is ever seeking validation. But validation can only be received as a gift. This gets us back to the big idea of Christian Baptism. Death and Rebirth. Death to self-- raised to new life in Christ. Baptism meets the quest for self validation with this answer: Be drowned. Come and die. Forget about it! Lose yourself.

Baptism = the gift of validation. "You are my son. . . . . my daughter. . . . . my beloved. . . . . . with you I am well pleased." And those words have to be rehearsed almost every day. Those words are like water to a parched soul in search of self-worth.

And yet our focus on baptism seems to be oriented around doctrine or worse, debate. It is the fundamental fundamental of Christian faith isn't it-- because if you miss the essence of this-- you make yourself twice the child of the devil. What could be more crucial than remembering one's baptism-- how much more should we be literally pouring resource into this practice and all its creative implications.
posted by John David Walt | at 11/03/2006 08:32:00 AM



Blogger eli said...

my submission for the next t-shirt...arkansas razorback red with bright yellow lettering that says "WARNING: JD on political AND sacramental warpath!" Maybe on the back it could say "prisoners ARE taken."

i'm headed to a conference in atlanta tomorrow and won't be back until thursday...anyone going to be there?

9:50 PM EST  
Blogger gmw said...

From our earlier discussion (which I just checked back in on and enjoyed the dialogue), my point is that we need a healthy, robust, and yes, creative theology of baptism.

Along those lines, we need a meaningful covenant among those who will be set apart for teaching and leading the church in its practice of baptism (being the "fundamental fundamental" should we ask anything less?). I would submit, then, that we need a service of baptism that is clearly baptism--all the richness that it is and signifies, nothing less. And we need a service that re-enlivens our baptismal promise and covenant as members of the family of God, but that is specifically designed not to be confused with baptism. That may be a communal service at regular times in the church's life, or something we do upon entrance to the sanctuary (thank you, Matt Maher), or an attitude we take every time we (the Church) baptize another. It may be that we pastors need to be more diligent about weaving baptismal vocabulary and teaching into our sermons and prayers and communion liturgies. Hmm. I'll bet it means something of all of those things.

One more thing. Don't we remember that the primary actor in baptism is not us? It is God. If it is us, then we might be justified in trying to immerse ourselves in his grace more and more or remember it in a full physical re-enactment sense. But since we are not the primary actors (at least according to the NT), we (the Church) are performing something (initiating and incorporating someone into the people of God by his grace) that God is doing and that they are receiving.

For me, 1 baptism, as an infant. I thought about being baptized as an adult when I was considering whether or not infant baptism was valid. Upon studying, talking, and thinking on it, I came to where I am presently. But had I been baptized as an adult, I would still have considered myself as having been baptized once.

I'm not sure if this is what you meant in the last paragraph, but I don't consider doctrine to be a boogey-man. Nor do I consider debate to be such, provided that it is thoughtful, respectful and healthy, and about something that matters...like Christology in the 300s AD, for example.

10:39 PM EST  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

bishop williams......points well taken......more later

10:07 AM EST  
Blogger Marcus G said...

The whole "validate Me" debate is a major issue.

I think one of the Revelation songs plays into this. Rev 7.12 says "Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever", and it's really easy just to hear this as "blah blah blah worship words".

But what's actually happening here is that the angels and all the people of God and all the created order are saying: all the things we spend our lives chasing, wanting, seeking, desiring - and power, thanks, wisdom, strength etc are at the centre of all this validation stuff, you know - but they belong to you God.

And when we give them to God, when we stop seeking self-validation but give God the worth-ship, there is a freedom and a release and a real life that knocks the spots off all the strokes and fake and false validation that all the self worship of the world would have us follow.

Baptism (and my earlier post had a smile on its face, please) is about dying to that old life of self and rising to a new life of and with Christ. Real Christianity from that place in the end is less of me and more of Him.

2:01 PM EST  
Blogger Matt Purmort said...

JD I think the whole "validation issue" boils down to, if we are not receiving God's validation from him (notice my wording) we will look for it in just about anything else, cheezy christian t-shirt, starbucks coffe cup, ect. The problem is only God is great enough and sufficient enough to bear the weight of our idenity, because he is eternal, every thing shall cease but his love...including starbucks.

4:55 PM EST  
Blogger Jamey said...

We are baptizing John Mark the weekend of Thanksgiving at SNA. Of the 7 congregations at our church Michelle and I chose Saturday Night Alive to baptize John Mark because of their outrageous love for him. Before he was born this congregation showered him with incredible gifts. When he was born, they put photos of him up on the screen. We brought him to worship with us this past weekend and everyone loved on him. We're doing it on Thanksgiving weekend because our families on both sides are coming in town to give thanks. Their love for John Mark is amazing as well. He is so loved!

A friend of mine (who kind of lives in a Christian closet) remarked, "I don't understand why anyone would choose not to baptize their child." At the time I wrote the comment off to her naive misunderstanding to the ways of pre-Christians but now I get it. In light of the wonderful outpouring of love and validation that will so much be a part of our wet initiation ceremony for John Mark, I pity the millions of children who were born this year and will not be baptized. It makes me want to go out and evangelize!

11:06 PM EST  
Blogger eli said...

i do think "bishop williams" raises some good points and summarizes the discussion from the last post on this topic. Clear and distinct is important because the sacrament and the remembering of the sacrament have somewhat different purposes. Baptism is about what God does, with our cooperation (willingness to enter into what he desires to do). Remembrance is about us reminding (or maybe re-minding) ourselves of God's activity in our story.

If we come at this with a post-modern (which is also pre-modern) concept of no hard disconnect between mind and heart "knowing," then re-experiencing can play a vital role in our remembering (or, I guess remembering our membering into the community of faith. So the re-enactment approach should be different, distinct, and connected without confusion.

11:34 AM EST  
Blogger Michael Anthony Howard said...

Dear JD Walt,

I am considering becoming a student at Asbury in the future, so I am not a part of your community that you would know. I only noticed that you had connection with Matt Maher.

I was struck by how strong the song seemed to be a prayer for the salvation of Israel. You may not have any idea about this. I am in Kentucky and looking for an outlet to dialogue about this kind of stuff. Help if you can.


10:55 PM EST  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

michael anthony howard-- which song are you referring to? glad to make your acquaintence.


9:05 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments have nothing to do with the nature of baptism. The point about validation is good, but don't title your article "More on the Nature of Baptism".

3:43 PM EST  

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