Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Baptism - Cleansing or Death to sin?

Ok, i'll admit that in some ways this blog post is a substitute for good Bible exegesis. But what i'm curious about is whether the symbolism of baptism has more to do with cleansing from sin, or death to the old life? If i had the time, the right thing to do would be to start looking up the Bible passages to see which it deals with most. Maybe i'll get around to it sometime. But in the mean time i thought i'd put the question out there.

The reason this is important is because it will affect how we implement the baptism ritual. Rituals are continually being modified and re-interpreted, and baptism has taken on several different forms. But whenever we change something, we need to figure out what's most important about that thing or we might change the wrong part of it.

If we think that baptism is mostly a symbolism of cleansing, then we will probably always insist on water immersion. White robes are a nice touch, too. But honestly, here in the US, being dunked underwater has more resemblance to water sports than to death and ressurection. So, if we think death to the old life is the main point, we might try something different. I read about one group of believers in Africa who were short on water and also put their focus on death and resurrection. Their solution was for the believers to dig graves and lay down in them before getting back up. If the purpose of baptism is to symbolize death and ressurrection, i'd say the African service does a better job than the traditional American immersion. But if it's really about cleansing, well, the Americans could still get a little more creative with it but at least the water is still present.

So anyway, maybe one day i'll do some actual study and get this one figured out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The real question isn't necessarily about whethere or not the method today is relevant. That question will force you to question practices of believers in desert climates like Africa.
The question we (especially with our freedom here in America) need to ask, is "How did the Early Church practice baptism in the Bible?," "When did the Early Church practice baptism in the Bible?" (as far as in the Salvation Experience), "What did the act of baptism signify in the Bible?," "What is the typical pattern of portrayal of Baptism in the Bible and what spiritual implications were at play when those patterns were not followed?", and finally "Should or goal be a Christianity that is portrayed in the NT or not?"

Good luck.