Monday, May 10, 2004

Answering a question on baptism...

Posting will be light this week—I am preparing a work-related talk that I have to give in Key West on Saturday. I’ve known about it for six months, so naturally I waited until the last week before preparing.

Just to answer a question that came up in the posts below on "who is in the covenant."

Bob asked (regarding infant baptism)
David, does the baptism of an infant wash away his or her 'original sin?, and a fresh start is given, or is it more of a dedication type thing with no real spiritual ramifications?

My answer is: neither, although closer to the first option. My understanding of original sin is not that it is Adam’s sin in our debit column, but rather that it refers to the radical change in human nature resulting from the fall. That corruption left us morally incapable of seeking God. In the sense that baptism is related to regeneration, then it is at least mitigating the results of the fall (we are reborn), but not totally, since we are never completely freed from the putrefying body of death that we carry along.

Baptism, by the way, has to be related to regeneration. That doesn't mean that baptism saves, per se, but that it is an important and normative manner in which salvific grace is bestowed.

So many people agree that salvation is by grace alone, grace being a gift from God. Yet the same people refuse to permit God to give the gift whenever He pleases, i.e. (and especially) during baptism or communion, at which time He is said to be a mere observer. If baptism is purely symbolic and/or commemorative, how do you explain passages such as (to list just a few):
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Acts 22:16)

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5)

and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Pet 3:21)

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