Baptizing Babies: Re-Creation & Changing My Mind


infant-baptism-water-4Inspired by last month’s Theology Book Club, I want to spend some time on the blog reflecting on baptism. Today, I want to tell you the story of how I changed my views on baptism to be in favor of baptizing babies.

I was raised a good Bible Belt Southern Baptist. I was so immersed in this language and perspective on the Bible, that even now that I totally buy into the reasoning and Scripture behind infant baptism, it still “feels” more natural to read the Bible with my Southern Baptist eyes. I get why people would absolutely disagree with infant baptism.

Having come from the Baptist perspective (called “Believer’s Baptism”) gives me some added insight (I hope) into this discussion. It also has helped me see how people can get so insulated in the way they are raised that they can get really wrong impressions of the “other side”. I remember all the beliefs I had about those that baptized infants and now, on the other side, I see how wrong I was.

The Fateful Turn

I got all the way through college and entered a Presbyterian seminary, all while still holding to my theological roots. These Presbyterians spoke as if it was soooo obvious that infants should be baptized, and thought any other way of thinking was pretty silly and naive. I couldn’t have disagreed more.
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November Book Club: All Your Questions on Baptism, Answered


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The Promise of Baptism: An Introduction to Baptism in Scripture & the Reformed Tradition
by James Brownson

Our discussion on Calvinism this past Sunday was really great. Our exploration of Reformed Theology continues, however.

For November, in my church‘s monthly Theology Book Club, we’re going to be looking at that significant distinctive of Reformed thought: Baptism. And to wander into this potential minefield, we’re going to follow an amazing guide, Dr. James Brownson in his incredibly helpful book, The Promise of Baptism.

Seriously, this book is amazing.  It covers everything in relation to baptism. It starts with the big picture and starts to zoom in into specific biblical, historical, theological, and practical questions. Every chapter is built around a question. And this book goes through every question you may have had about baptism, and a bunch you may have never had. Some of the chapter topics:

  • Should infants be baptized?
  • Sprinkling or Immersing?
  • Can someone be saved without being baptized? What about baptized without being saved?
  • What happens to baptized infants who die before they can give a profession of faith?
  • What about baptized people that leave the faith?
  • Is “Re-Baptism” allowed?
  • Is “dedication” an appropriate substitute for infant baptism?
  • Does it need to be the parents who offer an infant to baptism, or can grandparents or close family friends?

There are 30 such chapters, so I’m only barely scratching the surface. Really, this is a great book. And it’s very charitable, meaning it doesn’t demonize any side. It clings to Scripture and recognizes there are different legitimate opinions on many of these issues. It does argue for infant baptism, but it’s topics are much bigger than that, so even if you don’t leave convinced on that point, you will have learned so much more about what the Bible and the Church tradition have to say about the essential sacrament of the Christian Church.

NOTE: Because the last Sunday of the month falls right after Thanksgiving, our discussion will be on the first Sunday of December, the 4th, at 5:30pm.

As usual, even if you don’t live in Philadelphia, feel free to join us in reading the book. I’ll try and blog about it through the month. You can use this blog or the Facebook page to offer your thoughts, questions, critiques, and concerns. Happy reading!

So pick up the book, read it, keep up with the discussion, and join us on December 4th at 5:30pm at Liberti Church.


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Today is my Baptism Birthday. I’m 21!


FOTF81CDuring the summers, when school was out, my mama and I would stay up incredibly late (like, until the sun came up) watching Nic-at-Nite and other TV shows. She would make nachos (using Doritos–don’t knock it til you tried it) and drink a Diet Coke, while I took part in the nightly dance of trying to get some of both for myself.

On one of these extremely late night/mornings, I asked, “Mama, how does someone actually get to heaven?” She answered in the usual Southern Baptist way. I don’t remember all of it, but I do know it ended with describing the act of praying the “Sinner’s Prayer”.

I said, “I want to do that!”

Mama said we could make an appointment to talk to someone at our church so they could make sure I knew what I was doing, and then I could pray that prayer and be baptized.

I ran down the hallways, incredibly excited, and woke up my daddy, only an hour or so from waking up for work. I shook him and said, “Daddy! Daddy! I’m going to get saved!”
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What is a Sacrament? (Happy Corpus Christi!)


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Today is the Church Holy Day called Corpus Christi (Wiki), Latin for “the Body of Christ”, in which the Church takes a few moments to reflect and meditate upon the gift that is the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist, or Communion). In honor of this, I thought I’d share a recent essay I wrote articulating what I believe is happening in the Sacraments. Let me know what you think!

A sacrament is any material thing that God uses to communicate himself within Creation. Yes, this is quite the broad definition for “sacrament” (little “s”). Every single way that God has ever revealed himself in this world has always been in a mediated sense. God has never been revealed in his full “Godness”. It is always through a material means, and mostly clearly in Jesus Christ.

In this sense, I can accept things like marriage and confirmation as sacraments; but I can also see a good beer, TV show, conversation, or even suffering (like the Cross) as a sacrament. Any material means by which God communicates any part of who he is a sacrament.  It has also been quite freeing for me to see all of life as inherently sacramental.

In this sense, sacramentalism becomes a primary filter through which to understand and describe reality as it is and the nature of the Creator/Creation distinction. This collapses the old unhelpfully-gnostic “transcendence/imminence” dichotomies.
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The most succinct defense of infant baptism I’ve ever read.


“It might be argued that there is not one explicit reference in the New Testament to a child being baptized. Have we any warrant then for doing it? If we require explicit texts for our practice, then there would be no warrant for women to come to the Lord’s Table. There is no single explicit reference to that in the New Testament. Our warrant is not in isolated texts or precedents, but in the Gospel itself. Christ died for men and women, adults and infants, and we acknowledge that in faith in baptism…”

— from James B. Torrance’s beautiful book Worship, Communion, and the Triune God of Grace 

Why go to church? Well, why get married? [QUOTE]


If someone asks me what is the use of going to church, what good does it do me, what do I get out of it, how do I answer these questions?

It is as though someone asks me what the use is of getting married, what good does it do me. If I answered such questions by saying, “Well, it is very useful to get married! You have someone to do the housework, the shopping, cook the meals, etc.,” it would clearly be a false view of marriage. No woman wants to be merely a housekeeper, kept because of her utility!

There is only one supreme reason for getting married—for love’s sake, for the other’s sake, for mutual love, self- giving, a longing for intimate communion, and sharing of everything.

So in Christian worship, we worship God for God’s sake; we come to Christ for Christ’s sake, motivated by love. An awareness of God’s holy love for us, revealed in Jesus Christ, awakens in us a longing for intimate communion—to know the love of the Father and to participate in the life and ministry of Christ.

Worship in the Bible is always presented to us as flowing from an awareness of who God is and what he has done: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . . I have loved you and redeemed you . . . I will be your God and you will be my people. Therefore, this is how you will worship me.”

As we have seen, worship in the Bible is an ordinance of grace, a covenantal form of response to the God of grace, prescribed by God himself. This is supremely true of the New Testament understanding of worship, as the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and his mission from the Father to the world, in a life of wonderful communion.

— from James B. Torrance’s beautiful book Worship, Communion, and the Triune God of Grace (paragraph breaks added for clarity)

So, how was Guatemala? I finally have an answer for you.


la-limonada-hands-guatemalaHow was your trip?”

This has been the question I’ve been receiving more than any other this past week and a half, since returning from my trip to Guamtemala with Lemonade International to see their work in the community of La Limonada.

And yet, I have had no answer.

Nearly every person who’s asked the question has been someone I love, who loves me, and gets me. They know that I can’t even articulate a simple answer to a casual “How ya doin’?” thrown my way. And so I’ve felt grace and understanding as I haven’t been able to answer.

At a wedding this weekend, in an attempt at capturing in one word the seemingly contradictory dimensions of my experience in Guatemala, I blurted out the word “paradoxitous”. Yes, I was trying to be funny.

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Mark’s Endings, the Church’s Beginnings, & History’s End


Having recently finished my own personal study on the Gospel of Mark, I just had a few thoughts on the ending of the book, what it meant for the early church, and what it means for us today. So, first, if you’ve never read the last chapter of Mark, let me encourage you to do so here.

You’ll see it’s really weird. There are reasons why most sermons on this part of Jesus’ story don’t often come from this book. It doesn’t have an actual Resurrection account. There seems to be some humor (the ladies ask “who’s gonna roll away the stone when we get there?” They look up and it’s rolled away and Mark adds, “it was very large”). The angels say “tell the disciples and Peter about all this”, but the women are scared and don’t say anything. And then it just ends (assuming the last part isn’t original, as we’re about to talk about). The ending seems to not carry with it the same reverence, awe, gravity, and seriousness of the moment that other Gospels seem to have. It’s almost playful. As far as Gospel accounts go, it’s definitely odd.
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“On Maundy Thursday, Narrative, & Sacrament” – Patrol Magazine


I’ve got a new article up at Patrol Magazine.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been doing a series on Holy Week all week (you can the relevant links below).  The article is about a few different things.  First, it’s about today being Maundy Thursday, the day of the Church calendar where we celebrate the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist.  It’s also about my growth in a more liturgical context for church and love for the sacraments. Lastly, it’s about what bearing this has on our “selfhood” and how we look at the rest of the world.

Maundy Thursday, Narrative, & Sacrament

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On Holy Week, Idolatry, & Suicidal Ideations


This week marks the most important week of the entire Christian calendar. It’s Holy Week; the time we meditate upon Christ’s Passion — the last week he spent in Jerusalem during the Passover preparing to be the true and perfect Passover Lamb. This is also the final week of the Lent season. For weeks now we have celebrated the angst, tension, and pain of Lent. This has been a time where we have focused on the fact that we have not yet become who we will be, and we still live in much of that old way of life. This has been a time where we look our idols in the eyes, hear their whispers and discern what they have been promising us and what we have believed they can give. Love. Security. Affirmation. Rest. We seek all these things under the sun, but all these things find their Source beyond.

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Catholicism on Torture, the State, & the Eucharist


I know, I know — this seems like a weird topic to inaugurate this series. Today, in my ongoing series “Catholics Aren’t Crazy” I wanted to put up a post on a Catholic view of Scripture, inspiration, and inerrancy. They have some amazing things to say on these topics that Evangelicals could do really well to embrace. But alas, current events have changed that plan. Tomorrow I’m posting up a potentially controversial article here on a Christian view of Torture. I’m writing it in light of the recent developments, publications, and interviews concerning the legal and ethical exoneration of the “Torture Memo” authors, John Yoo and Jay Bybee. In my research I stumbled upon the following wonderful article by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, posted on his blog on Ash Wednesday:

“May the Judgment Not Be Too Heavy Upon Us” — The Daily Dish

The article concerns Marc Thiessen, former speech writer for President Bush. Thiessen is on a tour of every news outlet it seems (I’ve seen him on like four different ones just this past week) to promote his brand new book, Courting Disaster, the point of which is pretty much as follows: Our “enhanced interrogation” techniques were moral, effective, and NOT torture; and President Obama has ended them, thereby “inviting the next attack” and putting everyone in America at risk of being slaughtered by Islamic extremists.

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Baptized in Beauty{10} (Enjoy, Pt. II)


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photo credit: David Schrott

For those that have followed this series on Beauty, you will know that we have hit three major sections so far: “Why do we long for Beauty?“, “What is Beauty?“, “What things are Beautiful?“, and now we’re in the “How do we respond to this Beauty” section. I am in the process of laying out four “stages” of an appropriate and full response to Beauty. The first stage of this response is a contemplation of the Beauty.  The second is our enjoyment of it.  The first step in that process is Praising Beauty, which we talked about last time. In this post, we talk about the next step. This also happens to be my favorite part of the process of responding to Beauty. It’s when we are joined to Beauty and are swept up in its complexity and nuances. I love this feeling, I love this experience, and I loved writing and talking about it. I hope you enjoy reading it. Once again, the full manuscript and audio of the lecture I gave on this is below. We pick up right where we left off, saying that we must praise Beauty.

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Bur praising is not enough. Seeing something beautiful and calling it such does not complete the purpose for which that beauty exists. Beauty has an attractive quality. It draws you toward it at a very deep level. The next step, after acknowledging this beauty is to allow it to suck you in. I call this “Participating” with the Beauty of that thing or person.

Practically, this looks lots of different ways. With other people, it’s a drawing near to that person. Conversing with them. Viewing more of the nuances of the Image of God in them that makes them beautiful. For art, it looks like accepting the art on its own grounds and letting it draw you in in whatever way it’s asking of you. For plays and films it’s that idea of “suspension of disbelief”, where you allow yourself to forget that you technically “know” this isn’t real, and you let yourself get sucked into this beauty. Other forms of art tend to ask us to get lost in the object itself and explore its nuances. Closing your eyes during a musical piece and hearing every note; letting the words of a poem get inside of you and change the vocabulary you use to describe its own beauty or the world around you; letting distractions fade as you stare at a painting and see every stroke, every color (anyone who has seen a piece in real-life by John Singer-Sargent or Vincent VanGogh knows this feeling most definitely). Have you ever cried because of Beauty? This is participating with it. In the contemplation stage of this process you ask yourself “what is the beauty of this thing asking of me? It’s drawing me to itself, but to what end?”

But what about God? What about Divine Beauty?  This is where His Beauty shows especially brilliantly. All other forms of beauty can only draw you near to itself. God can and does actually draw you into Himself and Himself in you. We can participate with Him in a way that every other form of beauty only faintly strives for. How? Well, He takes the first step upon changing someone by actually sending his very Spirit to dwell within His people.

But God not only let’s us participate in His Beauty spiritually, but also physically.  After He draws near to us, we do what the Bible calls “abiding” in Him, where we draw near to Him through various things the Bible calls “means of grace”. These are traditionally called sacraments.  They are physical things that we participate in and by faith He meets us there. One of the clearest examples is Baptism.  It is where we are brought into union and participation with Christ in response to his faithfulness and action toward us.  Another is Communion. Just think of the word: “Co-mmunion”. It’s where we “commune” with God. That bread and wine is a symbol, but not just that. It is in those elements that we His people are actually drawn further into God to “commune” and participate with Him in His beauty. This is why Communion is such a big deal in the Bible. God kills people – even Christians – because they misuse this beautiful thing. He will let no one lightly and trivially participate and be drawn into His Beauty.

This should lead us to a “sacramental” view of life, where God is using all things to communicate Himself to us and communicate His Grace to us. Let everything: every good-tasting piece of food, every sunset, every cool breeze, every joyful moment all be moments where God communicates Himself and His grace to you so you might participate and be joined to Him in His Beauty and we further praise Him even more. Historically, the Christians that do this well have been referred to as “mystics”. They are the ones that say seemingly crazy things. Brother Lawrence was a 17th century monk and he said: “I have at times had such delicious thoughts on the Lord I am ashamed to mention them.” John Owen, my favorite Puritan, says

O to behold the glory of Christ…Herein would I live; herein would I die; herein would I dwell in my thoughts and affections…until all things below become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way suitable for affectionate embraces.

Oh that we longed in that way for God. There is a participation in the Glory, Beauty, Majesty, Goodness, and Love of God that is at hand for those who believe and far for those who don’t. Please, I beg of you, if you are not a believer, seek the Beauty of God, for it’s only suitable response is to be drawn into into and know his intimacy in this way. He, the fountain of all good things, the One for Whom your soul was made, does not disappoint those who seek to know Him. Participate in Beauty.

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