On Baptism (Part I)

In this two-part article, I offer some reflections on baptism, beginning in this post with the Bible and history and wrapping up with some musings on covenant and sacrament in the next.

Baptism in the Acts of the Apostles

Last summer I led a Bible study on the Acts of the Apostles. While I had prior experience reading and studying Acts, nothing quite engages you with a biblical book like having to teach it to a group of people. One of the themes in Acts that we regularly encountered was the issue of baptism: how does Luke explain this Christ-instituted rite associated with the Way? Without delving too much into all the particulars of baptism in the early church, the varieties of baptism that Acts presents as valid stood out in our study. In contrast to many contemporary Christian doctrinal statements on how baptism ought to occur in a specific way at a particular time, Acts describes some basic parameters for baptism—the need for baptism in water in the name of God and the efficacious influence of the Holy Spirit (the so-called “baptism of water” and “baptism of the Spirit”)—and then seems to allow for what contemporary Christians think of as different forms of baptism. Continue reading

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How I View Martin Luther

Last Friday, Conciliar Post hosted a Round Table discussion on Martin Luther. I would encourage you go click on over there and peruse the reflections on how Christians from a variety of denominations view the “first” Reformer. My response to this Round Table is as follows:

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

My perception of Luther arises from many experiences with the Luther’s legacy and his writings. I grew up in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod—attending both church and school until middle school—and learned much about Luther the Great Reformer there. Every fall we would talk about the Reformation, how Luther valorously stood up to the heresies of the Catholic Church. We would read stories about his life (mostly his post-Diet of Worms “capture” by Frederick the Wise), wait in eager anticipation for Thrivent Financial’s production of Luther, and talk about the central tenets of the Augsburg Confession. The picture of Luther painted at this stage of my life accorded with the idealizing of other great Christians, albeit with that special fervor which accompanied talking about Luther as a “Lutheran.” Continue reading

Book Review: The Radical Question, A Radical Idea (Platt)

the-radical-question-a-radical-ideaDavid Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills (New Orleans, LA) and author of New York Times Bestselling books, Radical and Radical Together, combined the concepts from his earlier books and created a short and easy-to-read edition: The Radical Question, A Radical Idea. In this version of Platt’s ‘radical’ message, he calls the Church of Jesus Christ to live a radical life of loving service and get-your-hands-dirty discipleship. If you’ve read either of Platt’s best selling book, there is not much new in this edition. However, if you haven’t read Platt before, this slim volume is an excellent introduction to his thinking. Continue reading

Book Review: The Ancient Path (Talbot)

The Ancient Path (Talbot)When you want to understanding something, you look for information. When you want to make sense of a story, you ask people to explain things from the beginning. When you want to comprehend a complex event, you consult eyewitnesses and experts. In an age of self-help, independence, internet “research”, and self-sufficiency, however, fewer people take the time to consult someone other than themselves when it comes to questions, even questions regarding something as profoundly personal as religious faith. Yet there are many who would suggest that, in a marketplace of ideas as varied and complex as the 21st century, we should be willing to consult something other than ourselves for insight into reality. One such voice is John Michael Talbot, who along with Mike Aquilina argues that contemporary Christians must return to the wisdom of the Christian past in his book, The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today (New York: Image, 2015). Continue reading

Book Review: Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament

9780800699178hThere is no shortage of literature available on the Christian New Testament. Whether you peruse Amazon or wander through your local bookstore, there is no denying that scholars, pastors, and writers aplenty have published their thoughts on the history and meaning of the New Testament. How do we make sense of all this literature? One way involves the consultation of conglomerate sources: those volumes written from a variety of perspectives by a number of scholars whose insights balance and inform one another. The Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. 771 pages), edited by Margaret Aymer, Synthia Briggs Kittredge, and David Sanchez, stands as an excellent example of a New Testament reference work worth engaging. Continue reading

Book Review: Leadership Lessons (Hawkins and Parrott)

Leadership LessonsIn Leadership Lessons: Avoiding the Pitfalls of King Saul (Thomas Nelson, 2013), Ralph K. Hawkins and Richard Leslie Parrott outline ten principles for leadership building from the life and failures of King Saul of Israel. Leadership Lessons uses the “worst practices” model of instruction, learning through the examination of the failures of others, much in the model of Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima’s classic Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership. Beginning with an explanation of why leaders should study Saul (he was quite the failed leader after all), Leadership Lessons contextualizes Saul and then traces his failures as king of Israel, from his lack of humility and isolation to his inaction and failure to make necessary changes. Especially important are chapters on Saul’s failure to love his people, his neglecting to think before he spoke, and inability to trust God as his true leader. Overall, Leadership Lessons provides leaders of all types an opportunity to profitably learn from the mistakes of Israel’s first king. Continue reading