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Baptism In Progressive Christianity


Neon Genesis
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I was raised in the Church of Christ and I was always taught to beleive that to be saved, not only did you have to believe the entire bible is the inerrant word of God and that the Church of Christ was the one true way to heaven, you also had to be baptized to be saved. Not only did you have to be baptized to be saved, but how and why you were baptized mattered. Baptism by sprinkling or being baptized as an infant didn't count. You had to be baptized fully submerged to be saved. You also had to be baptized for the remission of your sins. It couldn't just be a ritual for being accepted as a member of your congregration or whatever. Of course they would always add the disclaimer that it wasn't the water itself that saved you from your sins but the power of God yet at the same time it was still a requirement for you to be baptized in water to be saved. The notion that you would be tortured for all eternity for any reason let alone simply for not correctly following a religious ritual is ridiculous and I don't see how they can still hold onto such strict exclusive doctriens in modern times. And while I don't always agree with Dawkins on everything, I think he does have a point about baptizing children into Christianity and forcing your religion on children when they aren't old enough to understand such complex theology. If we reject the doctrine of hell as immoral and outdated, what role does baptism play in progressive Christianity? Should we reject the doctrine of baptism as an outdated exclusive ritual of dogmatic tribalism or does the ritual of baptism still have any symbolic benefit to progressive Christianity?

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I accidentally posted this in the wrong forum. Can someone please move this to the Progressive Christianity forum?

 

Done.

 

As to baptism, to my knowledge it pre-dates Christianity as a ritual. Christians have since tied it to the imagery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I think it can be a meaningful ritual -- though of course with no pretense that there's "hell" to pay for not going through with it. If it's infant baptism then it's simply a ritual that parents perform as part of a church community. If it's an adult baptism, it's a symbol of committment to the way that Jesus lived, dying to self and rising to God. Pre-Christianity, baptism was still a ritual washing away of sin.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Neon,

 

It seems to me that you certainly won't find that requirement in the 8 points of PC and for good reason. It has been the subject of much division in the churches. As suggested by others here, it has different meanings to different people and i have never heard a PC object to such a ritual or symbolism although that does not exclude that there may be some who identify as PC and still hold on to such as a requirement.

 

Joseph

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The argument against the neccesity of water baptism to secure salvation that I've heard at times in my life is that as the thief hung on the cross beside Jesus confessed his sins and accepted Jesus at hus savior before he died, jesus told him that today, he would see him in paradise. That suggests the man's 'salvation' was secured, without baptism.

Jenell

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As i feel about baptism, or any other of the rituals we may have brought out of our backgrounds, any "meaning" is what we appply to it. For some of us, such as baptism still holds some content of meaning, signficance, to certain elements of our faith. I do not beleive any ritual or ceremony or cited words have any power of any kind in themselves, and that to make any such thing an "ordinance" beyond mere human valuation is idolatry.

 

No ritual has any meaning or power in itself. I personally do not believe water baptism makes one whit of difference in our 'salvation' or anything else. I gave above a scriptural response to the question that was asked, does the bible support the idea of water baptism as neccesary to 'salvation." And, i think it is a valid and effective one.

 

But human valuation IS a real and valid reason to continue to engage in, respect, some ritual or ceremony that is meaningful to US." Where for us, personally or socially, some ritual or ceremony still holds a content of meaning that is important for us, still holds symbolic signficance in something for us, it has value and reason for observance.

 

Just as we know, rationally, all the ceremony with which we surround such life events as entering marriage, funeral services for the dead, have no power or value in anything of themselves. But they still carry signficanct content of meaning for many of us. In that sense, the are still valid.

 

I've had two baptisms in my life, the first at age 12, the second at age 50. The first was terribly dissappointing. I really beleived it was somehow really going th bring some kind of change in me, for me. I had great anticipation for its power to do so, and it was quite a let down when nothing really happened.

 

My second, however, was a very different experience. I had just entered into the greatest transformative and life-changing period of psychological crisis and spiritual awakening of my lifetime so far, and i entered into it with full understanding of it as meaningful to ME, a symbolic surrender to a transformation process I felt I have been led to by something beyond myself, even kicking and screaming in protest at times, but that i had recognized and accepted as a stage of transformation and growth I had been readies for. the event of my baptism was marked by my total surrender to that, and as a result, it was a powerful experience. As i entered the water, I felt such a total sense of surrender, of "letting go" of the old way of being, and as I emerged, it was as if a power switch was thrown, I literally felt as if there were a powerful surge of almost electric like energy within my entire physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual being.

 

I knew then, and I know now, the actual act, that ritual had no 'power' in itself in that, the power came entirely from within what it symbolized for me.

 

To Gervais, perhaps its was that baptism of the Holy Spirit that i experienced in the process of that water baptism at age 50. I know that many new gifts opened within me, quite powerfully and suddenly.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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The argument against the neccesity of water baptism to secure salvation that I've heard at times in my life is that as the thief hung on the cross beside Jesus confessed his sins and accepted Jesus at hus savior before he died, jesus told him that today, he would see him in paradise. That suggests the man's 'salvation' was secured, without baptism.

Jenell

I also like what Paul has to say about baptism in 1 Corinthians 1:
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
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Neon, again an interesting contrast between Paul and the Jesus of the gospels. In what Christians call the "Great Comission" found at the end of Matthew 28, Matthew has Jesus telling his disciples that they should baptize -- in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But Paul says that Christ didn't send him to baptize. To me, the only obvious thing I can say about it is that the "Christ" that Paul met on the road to Damascus is not the same "Jesus" that Matthew portrays in his gospel. I don't know how else to account for the discrepancy.

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I do not beleive any ritual or ceremony or cited words have any power of any kind in themselves, and that to make any such thing an "ordinance" beyond mere human valuation is idolatry.

 

There is a whole category of actions called 'speech acts' in which the saying of certain words actually does something. Examples: "I pronounce you man and wife," "I do solemnly swear I will faithfully execute the office . . .," " I baptize you in the name of the father . . ."

 

George

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George, actually, no, even those "speech acts" as you call them, do nothing of themselves. It is still only the meaning and authority WE give them that is of any effect. Consider that even children playing grown-up go through such motions and recite such "speech acts" as might be used in weddings, but nobody on whom they pronounce them are in danger of being actually married. and if the words "I baptize you in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Ghost" are "speech acts" that actually DO something, then my sister and I and many other children "playing church" which naturally often involved baptizing each other, were effectively baptized many times over by the time we entered kindergarten.

 

Jenell

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Neon, again an interesting contrast between Paul and the Jesus of the gospels. In what Christians call the "Great Comission" found at the end of Matthew 28, Matthew has Jesus telling his disciples that they should baptize -- in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But Paul says that Christ didn't send him to baptize. To me, the only obvious thing I can say about it is that the "Christ" that Paul met on the road to Damascus is not the same "Jesus" that Matthew portrays in his gospel. I don't know how else to account for the discrepancy.

 

Some things that bother me about that passage of text are that other than here, Jesus isn't given in scripture to have baptized or even instructed his disciples to baptize with water other than possibly in this one passage. A text sometimes cited to claim he did....

 

John ch 4:1 When therefore the LORD knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and BAPTIZED more disciples than John,

2 (Though Jesus himself BAPTIZED not, but his disciples,)

 

seems highly suspect, for that throughout the gospels,

1) other than that that 'great commision' statement, and this, Jesus didn't speak of water baptism or instruct hid disciples to perform it, all baptisms connected to Jesus are spiritual, not water,

 

2) as the () around the words of vs 2 here indicate, these are recognized as an expository, words added much later, as a supposed clarification of the meaning, and

 

3) although that commision is presented as being given, personally by Jesus, to his disciples, ALL His disciples, there is little evidence that any but the few specifically mentioned in tests other than the gospels, ever performed any water baptism, and no specific mentionn of any of them at all doing so within the Gospels themselves, other than this one I question here, which as already noted, is not considered 'original', or later, following Jesus' ascention. Most of His dicples just quietly diassapeared into history, and that seems strange if Jesus had Himself given them such a holy directive for action.

 

Additionally, another area of problem, as I see it, with the "Great Commission" is in the directed "target" of that command, as "the Nations," rather than "people" or even "believers." First, how would you water baptize a "Nation"? You sure can't dunk a whole Nation, and if it were to be interpreted as to baptize every person in that Nation, then it would meaning trying to dunk every person in that nation without regard to whether they had become beleivers or not.

 

Second, the relationship of Jesus and His message with/to humans was entirely personal, a one-on-one relationship, experience. Individuals are "saved" and therefore potentially submitted to baptsim, whether of water or Spirit, NOT Nations.

 

The only biblically supportable idea of God in a special relationship with any Nation/peoples was that of the Nation/peoples of Israel. Israel on that basis could be called "God's people", "God's Nation", but there can not even be such a thing as Jesus', or Christ's Nation, used in any similar sense to that of Israel's status.

 

It is otherwise recognized that any "Jesus' or Christ's Nation would be that of "the church", the spiritual, faithful church, the body of believers, as they would be found scattered among the peoples of nations everywhere. the "Nation", or people of Christ, would be created, constructed, one by one, with the conversion of new beleivers, there's nothing in that idea to support "baptizing" any existing Nations. There can be no such thing as a "Christian nation", as has been a popular idea that has arisen among some later European Christian doctrines, some have claimed that for England, many right now claim it for the United States. the simply isn't biblical or consistent with the very foundation of "Christian." as a personal one-on-one relationship with God.

 

At this point, my only possible resolution for these discrepancies and problems are that the "Great Commission" statement was added much later, as Christianity began to take form and be shaped by the common practice at the time of religion interconnected with powers and authority of state, which of course eventually worked into Christianity being formally declared the official state religion of Rome and other nations, replacing (and often incorportating) previous state religions as they had existed. Christianiy in Rome didn't actually "replaced" previous Roman pagan religion, it merely merged with and was incorporated into the Roman religion. All of the trappings we associate with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, the grand cathedrals, ornately decorated prayer chapels, magnficent art and architecture, as well as systems of pope and heirarchies of of bishops and cardinals and priests and whatnot, the pompous and elaborate dress and ritual and ceremony, were all simply incorporated from the Roman and Greek pagan religions Christianity as an idea became incorporated into.

 

jenell

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George, actually, no, even those "speech acts" as you call them, do nothing of themselves. It is still only the meaning and authority WE give them that is of any effect.

 

Jenell, it is not what "I call them," it is what they are called in the field of linguistics. Yes, they can be said capriciously with no effect, but without being said by a person in authority, one cannot become legally married, president, baptized or whatever.

George

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George, i did not mean to seem dismissive, I was in error in saying "as you call them", but it was unintended. I spoke that out of place, for not being aware that this is a proper term in linguistics. My apology. But even still, while they are granted social authority, the words themselves "do nothing", have no power of their own. It is still only the power we, as humans, have granted to their use in our social systems. What they "do" is dependent upon the human authority granted to those speaking them. That is really what I meant when I exampled children saying marriage vows or baptism statements, there is not power in the words themselves, only in the authority granted through our sociial systems.

Jenell

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  • 10 months later...

Neon,

 

It seems to me that you certainly won't find that requirement in the 8 points of PC and for good reason. It has been the subject of much division in the churches. As suggested by others here, it has different meanings to different people and i have never heard a PC object to such a ritual or symbolism although that does not exclude that there may be some who identify as PC and still hold on to such as a requirement.

 

Joseph

 

Which is why Progressive Christianity is doomed to failure since it's leadership doesn't understand the Celestial Torah meaning behind baptism as the core feature of the Messiah-Christ. But then again, neither did the Jewish leadership which also divorced the meaning of baptism from the Messiah conception, one of the reasons God sent in the John the Baptist and Jesus story to correct the Jewish spiritual error. And now PCs are making the same mistake.

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Skinker,

 

Welcome, but please note this particular section of our forum as detailed in this section guidelines is reserved for those who identify as Progressive Christians or are in general agreement with the principles of the 8 points of Progressive Christianity. Please take the time to introduce yourself in the introductions area and share a bit about yourself so we can better get to know you and gain some understanding of what you might be looking for in this community or if you fit in this particular area of our forum in which you have posted.. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

 

JosephM (as Moderator).

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