Acts of Baptism

This post originally appeared at Conciliar Post.

As anyone even somewhat familiar with Christianity knows, various Christian denominations have different, specific approaches to baptism—that all important rite involving water and the Holy Spirit.

Depending on its theological commitments, a church may expect the person being baptized to be an adult (or, at least old enough to make a conscious decision to be baptized), to be fully immersed in water (rather than sprinkled or poured upon), to be triple immersed (rather than once), to have undergone rigorous catechesis prior to baptism, to manifest miraculous spiritual gifts (before or after), or to fulfill any number of other practices. It really depends on the church. I once spoke to someone who seemed to believe that the only true way to be baptized was to be triple immersed while wearing a white gown in the cool running water of the river near their church.

In principle, Christians taking Jesus’ command to baptize seriously should be celebrated; in practice, however, our obsession with making sure that everyone is baptized our way—the right way—poses some problems.

Some Problems with Right Way Obsession

In the first place, there is the problem of rebaptism. Many people enter a new church having already been baptized. Or at least, under the impression that they were already baptized. That is, until someone convinces them their previous baptism was invalid and they should be baptized the right way. While there are probably some circumstances where a serious discussion about rebaptism may be permissible, making rebaptism commonplace seems to oppose the very unity that the Apostle Paul calls the Church to in Ephesians 4:1-6.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. [Emphasis added]

Second, a focus on making sure that everyone has been baptized the right way potentially corrupts what baptism is. Romans 6:1-4 closely identifies the effects of baptism with the salvific work of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Orthodox Christians of all denominations confess that salvation comes through this work of Jesus and is granted to humanity by God’s grace. To then turn around and assume, as certain denominations do, that baptism must be undertaken in a highly specific manner undercuts that message of grace. It’s like saying, “Yes, Jesus graciously offers you life, but only if you do the right (baptismal) works to get there.”

Finally, a focus on making sure everyone has been baptized the right way tends to be utterly confusing for congregants. This is particularly true for those who are new to faith, on the fringes of belief, or in the process of changing churches. In some contexts, the emphasis on being baptized the right way can even lead people to question their relationship with God—or to doubt someone else’s relationship with God. Beyond the differences in how different denominations baptize, such confusion can lead people to question the value of baptism itself.

Right Way versus Big Tent

Although nothing apart from the Second Coming is likely to get Christians on the same page when it comes to baptismal practice, I think there is an approach to baptism that is scriptural and can help cut through some of the problems fostered by a right way approach to baptism. I call this perspective the big tent approach to Christian baptism.

The big tent approach to baptism recognizes the internal diversity of baptismal practices recorded within scripture and recognizes as valid differing contemporary baptismal practices when they conform to the diversity of these scriptural models. This approach fits best in a big tent approach to Christianity more generally; but it is also tenable in ecclesiastical contexts that work with the diversity of contemporary Christian instruction and practice.1 Indeed, many denominations already practice this kind of big tent thinking when it comes to baptism.

Acts of Baptism

The book of Acts serves as the best example of the big tent approach. Luke records about ten distinct narratives of baptism in Acts2 and, although there are clear theological parameters governing these baptisms, no two are precisely alike. Consider that:

  • Some baptisms occur “in the name of Jesus Christ” (8.5-13; 10.44-48; 19.1-5), others appear to be “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (8.36-38), and still others are silent on the matter of “in whom” people are baptized.
  • At least one baptism narrative is preceded by repentance of sin (2.37-41), another seems to make confession of faith central (8.36-38), another baptismal narrative is preceded by speaking tongues (10.44-48), and still others focus on the importance of belief (8.5-13; 16.13-15; 16.27-34).
  • Some water baptisms precede the baptism of the Holy Spirit (19.1-5), other times the Holy Spirit is poured out before water (9.17-19; 10.44-48), and many times water baptism is not explicitly connected to the baptism of the Spirit.
  • Finally, some passages record individual baptisms (8.36-38) while others use household language (10.44-48; 16.13-15; 16.27-34; 18.5-8) that, if nothing else, set the stage for infant baptism.

Clearly Acts records significant diversity of baptismal practice in the early church. Why then are contemporary Christians so committed to picking-and-choosing a handful of these examples (or other New Testament references to baptism) and interpreting them as the right way to baptize? A big tent approach better reflects the diversity of practice within the New Testament itself—as well as Christ’s prayer for unity among His followers.

Conclusion

The New Testament consistently portrays baptism as an essential3 part of what it means to follow Jesus—as a matter of obedience to the command of Jesus (Matt. 28.18-20), as a sign of entrance into God’s new covenantal family (Gal. 3.27; Col. 2.12; 1 Cor. 12.13), and as a seemingly salvific act of God’s grace (1 Pet. 3.21; see also Mark 16.16). What the New Testament does not portray as essential is the precise method of baptism; to the contrary, a variety of specific practices seem to be affirmed. Accordingly, Christians should baptize new believers in a manner consistent with New Testament models and recognize as valid baptisms by other Christians that fit these big tent parameters.

God’s work through baptism is a gracious gift, one we should continue to celebrate, practice, and reflect upon. In the spirit of Christian unity, however, we should adopt a big tent approach to recognizing the validity of baptism at the hands of others. For scripture itself suggests that we make our acts of baptism a little less about us and a little more about the God who is at work in His people.


Notes

1 For instance, the increasingly common practice by many denominations to recognize the seminary degrees, communion practices, or theological perspectives of other denominations.

2 Depending on how you subdivide narratives.

3 Here, of course, we must draw the distinction between essential and required. If we take Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross seriously, then we cannot expect that no one who has not been baptized belongs to the family of God. Still, exceptional theology should not undermine normative theology. Accordingly, it’s appropriate to confirm the long-standing practice that every person who is able who follows Jesus should be baptized.

300 Books for the Educated Christian Mind

As a follower of Jesus, I believe it’s important to love God with all of who we are: our hearts, souls, and minds. Much has been said about this last aspect of our humanity, most of it better than I could say it here. But as I pursue veritas with my life and mind, some of my most constant and fruitful conversation partners have been good books.

The more I learn and experience, the more I’m convinced that you cannot know where you are or who are without knowing where you come from. To those ends, I find it absolutely vital to read, to engage with the great minds and thinkers of our world. So I’ve compiled a list (I’m big into lists) of key books for the educated Christian mind.

Before diving in, a couple of caveats: first, this is a specialized list, one tailored for a particular worldview that’s interested in the life of the mind. I don’t think that everyone should read all of these books (though there are quite a few that I think everyone would benefit from engaging). Second, this is a list for American Christians. As such, at points it touches on particular viewpoints or issues that are of particular importance in the context of contemporary American Christianity. Finally, this list takes seriously the great tradition of liberal arts and broad learning. Accordingly, while clear emphasis is given to particular realms of inquiry, the hope is that by completing the list, one will have both breadth and depth on many subjects.

One final framework before the list: there are three major influences on the creation of this list. First, there are the Great Books of Western Civilization. Scholars will continue to debate the canon and it’s ongoing relevance or evolution. Here, we’re interested in learning from the greats. The second influence are the Classics of Christian Orthodoxy. These are the great books and works of the Christian Tradition, of which there is certainly some overlap with the general Western canon, but which here includes a more intentional theological bent. And finally, there are some Key Contemporary Texts. These are works that, while they may not possess the staying power of the great traditions, nonetheless are informative and indicative for particular questions or topics facing the Christian mind today.

Those frames in mind, here’s my list of 300 Books for the Educated Christian Mind.

TITLEAUTHOR
1984George Orwell
20,000 Leagues Under the SeaH.G. Wells
A Brief History of TimeStephen Hawking
A Christmas CarolCharles Dickens
A Conflict of VisionsThomas Sowell
A Farewell to ArmsErnest Hemingway
A History of the English Speaking PeoplesWinston Churchill
A Little Exercise for Young TheologiansHelmut Thielicke
A Long Obedience in the Same DirectionEugene Peterson
A Tale of Two CitiesCharles Dickens
A Wrinkle in TimeMadeleine L’Engle
Against HeresiesIrenaeus of Lyons
AgamemnonAeschylus
Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandLewis Carroll
AlmagestPtolemy
An Experiment in CriticismC.S. Lewis
Analytical PsychologyCarl Jung
Animal FarmGeorge Orwell
AnnalsTacitus
Antiquities of the JewsJosephus
Apologia Pro Vita SuaJohn Henry Cardinal Newman
ApologyJustin Martyr
ApologyPlato
As You Like ItWilliam Shakespeare
BeowulfUnknown
Beyond Good and EvilFrederich Nietzsche
BoundariesHenry Cloud and David Townsend
Brave New WorldAldous Huxley
BreviloquiumBonaventure
Brothers KaramazovFyodor Dostoyevsky
Catch-22Joseph Heller
Catching FireSuzanne Collins
Celebration of DisciplineRichard Foster
Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryRoald Dahl
Charlotte’s WebE.B. White
Christ and CultureRichard Niebuhr
Christianity: The First Three Thousand YearsDiarmaid MacCulloch
City of GodAugustine of Hippo
Cloud AtlasDavid Mitchell
CloudsAristophanes
Commentary on the Our FatherTertullian of Carthage
ConfessionsAugustine of Hippo
ConfessionsJean-Jacque Rousseau
Consolation of PhilosophyBoethius
CosmosCarl Sagan
Crime and PunishmentFyodor Dostoyevsky
Critique of Pure ReasonImmanual Kant
CritoPlato
Das CapitalKarl Marx
David CopperfieldCharles Dickens
De AnimaAristotle
Democracy in AmericaAleix de Tocqueville
DialoguePope Gregory the Great
Discourse on MethodRene Descartes
DiscoursesEpictetus
Don QuixoteMiguel De Cervantes
DuneFrank Herbert
Early History of RomeLivy
East of EdenJohn Steinbeck
Ecclesiastical HistoryEusebius of Caesarera
Ecclesiastical History of the English PeopleVenerable Bede
ElementsEuclid
Emotional IntelligenceDaniel Goleman
Ender’s GameOrson Scott Card
Epitome IVJohannus Kepler
EssaysMichelle de Montaigne
EssaysRalph Waldo Emerson
EuthyphroPlato
Faerie QueenEdmund Spencer
Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury
FaustJohann Wolfgang von Goethe
Fear and TremblingSoren Kierkegaard
Finnegans WakeRunyard Kipling
Four Hundred Chapters on LoveMaximus the Confessor
Four QuartetsT.S. Eliot
Foxes Book of MartyrsJohn Foxe
FrankensteinMary Shelley
Go Down, MosesWilliam Faulker
Good to GreatJim Collins
GorgiasPlato
Great ExpectationsCharles Dickens
Guide for the PerplexedMaimonides
Gulliver’s TravelsJonathan Swift
HamletWilliam Shakespeare
HamletWilliam Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanJ.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneJ.K. Rowling
HatchetGary Paulsen
Help, Thanks, WowAnne Lamott
HippolytusEuripides
HistoriesHerodotus
How Then Should We Live?Francis Schaeffer
How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDale Carnegie
Huckleberry FinnMark Twain
Imitation of ChristThomas a Kempis
In Cold BloodTruman Capote
In Memory of HerElizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza
In the Name of JesusHenri Nouwen
Infinite JestDavid Foster Wallace
Institutes of the Christian ReligionJohn Calvin
Intellectuals and SocietyThomas Sowell
Interior CastleTheresa of Avila
Introductory Lectures on PscyhoanalysisSigmund Frued
Jane EyreCharlotte Bronte
Jesus of NazarethPope Benedict XVI
King Jesus GospelScot McKnight
King LearWilliam Shakespeare
Les MiserablesVictor Hugo
Letter from a Birmingham JailMartin Luther King Jr
Letters and Papers from PrisonDietrich Bonhoeffer
LeviathanThomas Hobbs
Life of AntonyAthanasius of Alexandria
Life of MacrinaGregory of Nyssa
Life of MosesGregory of Nyssa
Life TogetherDietrich Bonhoeffer
Little WomenLouisa Alcott
Liturgy of the OrdinaryTish Harrison Warren
LivesPlutarch
Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding
Love WinsRob Bell
Man’s Search for MeaningViktor Frankl
Mere ChristianityC.S. Lewis
MetaphysicsAristotle
MiddlemarchGeorge Eliot
Midsummer Night’s DreamWilliam Shakespeare
Misquoting JesusBart Ehrman
Moby DickHerman Melville
MockingjaySuzanne Collins
Nicomachean EthicsAristotle
Novum OrganumFrancis Bacon
Oedipus RexSophocles
Of Mice and MenJohn Steinbeck
On Christian DoctrineAugustine of Hippo
On DutiesCicero
On Faith and WorksCardinal Cajetan
On First PrinciplesOrigen of Alexandria
On InterpretationAristotle
On MusicBoethius
On Nature and GraceAugustine of Hippo
On the Development of Christian DoctrineJohn Henry Cardinal Newman
On the Freedom of the WillErasmus of Rotterdam
On the IncarnationAthanasius of Alexandria
On the Nature of ThingsLucretius
On the Revolutions of the SpheresNicholas Copernicus
On the Unity of the Catholic ChurchCyprian of Carthage
On WritingStephen King
OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton
OthelloWilliam Shakespeare
Paradise LostJohn Milton
Peloponnesian WarThucydides
PenseesBlaise Pascal
PersepolisMarjane Satrapi
PhaedoPlato
PhaedrusPlato
Philosophy of HistoryFrederich Hegel
Pilgrim TheologyMichael Bauman
Pilgrim’s ProgressJohn Bunyan
PoemsGerard Manley Hopkins
PoemsJohn Donne
PoeticsAristotle
PoliticsAristotle
Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen
Prince CapsianC.S. Lewis
Principia MathematicaIsaac Newton
PrometheusAeschylus
ProslogiumAnselm of Canterbury
Ready Player OneErnest Cline
Relativity: The Special and the General TheoryAlbert Einstein
Rerum NovarumPope Leo XIII
Revelation of Divine LoveJulian of Norwich
Robinson CrusoeDaniel Defoe
Romeo and JulietWilliam Shakespeare
Screwtape LettersC.S. Lewis
Second Treatise of GovernmentJohn Locke
Sense and SensibilityJane Austen
SilenceShusaka Endo
Simply JesusN.T. Wright
Sir Gawain and the Green KnightUnknown
Sit, Walk, StandWatchman Nee
Slaughterhouse-FiveKurt Vonnegut
Social ContractJean Jacques Rousseau
SonatasWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Song of Fire and IceGeorge R.R. Martin
SonnetsWilliam Shakespeare
Summa TheologicaThomas Aquinas
Surprised by HopeN.T. Wright
Swiss Family RobinsonJohann David Wyss
SymposiumPlato
Tarzan of the ApesEdgar Rice Burroughs
The AeneidVirgil
The BacchaeEuripides
The Blue ParakeetScot McKnight
The Book of Common PrayerThe Church of England
The Book ThiefMarkus Zusak
The Bridge to TerebithiaKatherine Paterson
The Call of the WildJack London
The Canterbury TalesGeoffry Chaucer
The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger
The Closing of the American MindAllan Bloom
The Complete Adventures of Sherlock HolmesArthur Conan Doyle
The Cost of DiscipleshipDietrich Bonhoeffer
The Count of Monte CristoAlexandre Dumas
The CreedMichael Bauman
The Cricket in Times SquareGeorge Selden
The Cross and the Lynching TreeJames Cone
The Dark Night of the SoulSt. John of the Cross
The DaVinci CodeDan Brown
The Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireEdward Gibbon
The Diary of Anne FrankAnne Frank
The Divine ComedyDante
The Drama of ScriptureBartholomew and Goheen
The EnneadsPlotinus
The Epistle to the RomansKarl Barth
The Federalist PapersAlexander Hamilton
The Fellowship of the RingsJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Five Levels of LeadershipJohn Maxwell
The Four LovesC.S. Lewis
The Gift of FireRichard Mitchell
The GiverLois Lowry
The Gospel Comes with a House KeyRosaria Butterfield
The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck
The Great DivorceC.S. Lewis
The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great OdesJohn Keats
The Handbook of the Christian SoldierErasmus of Rotterdam
The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret Atwood
The Hiding PlaceCorrie Ten Boom
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams
The HobbitJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Horse and His BoyC.S. Lewis
The Hunger GamesSuzanne Collins
The IliadHomer
The Intellectual LifeA.G. Sertillanges
The Jungle BookRunyard Kipling
The Last BattleC.S. Lewis
The Life of Samuel JohnsonJames Boswell
The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeC.S. Lewis
The Living ChurchJohn Stott
The Long LonelinessDorothy Day
The Looming TowerLawrence Wright
The Magician’s NephewC.S. Lewis
The MartianAndy Weir
The Martyrdom of Perpetua and FelicityUnknown
The MessageEugene Peterson
The MetamorphosisFranz Kafka
The Mind of the MakerDorothy Sayers
The OdysseyHomer
The OresteiaAeschylus
The Origin of SpeciesCharles Darwin
The Phantom TollboothNorton Juster
The Politics of JesusJohn Howard Yoder
The Practice of the Presence of GodBrother Lawrence
The PrinceNiccolo Machiavelli
The Purpose Driven LifeRick Warren
The Red Badge of CourageStephen Crane
The RepublicPlato
The Resurrection of the Son of GodN.T. Wright
The Return of the KingJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Rule of Saint BenedictBenedict of Nursia
The Scandal of the Evangelical MindMark Noll
The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen Covey
The Seven Storey MountainThomas Merton
The ShiningStephen King
The Silver ChairC.S. Lewis
The Sound and the FuryWilliam Faulkner
The TempestWilliam Shakespeare
The Things They CarriedTom O’Brien
The Three MusketeersAlexandre Dumas
The Twelve CaesarsSuetonius
The Two TowersJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderC.S. Lewis
The War of the WorldsH.G. Wells
The Wealth of NationsAdam Smith
The Wind in the WillowsKenneth Grahame
Theological OrationsGregory Nazianzan
Theologico-Political TreatiseBaruch Spinoza
Three TreatisesMartin Luther
TimaeusPlato
Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyJohn Le Carre
To Kill a MockingbirdHarper Lee
Tom SawyerMark Twain
Treasure IslandRobert Louis Stevenson
Treatise of Human NatureDavid Hume
Two New SciencesGalileo
UlyssesJames Joyce
Uncle Tom’s CabinHarriet Beecher Stowe
UtopiaThomas More
Veritatis SplendorPope John Paul II
Walden PondHenry David Thoreau
War and PeaceLeo Tolstoy
Wars of the JewsJosephus
Watership DownRichard Adams
Winnie the PoohA.A. Milne
Wuthering HeightsCharlotte Bronte

Well, there it is. I’m about 76% percent of the way through, so there’s much more learning to be done. What about you: What else should be on this list? What are the great books that have formed you?

“Give Us Grace to Hold You…”

Another prayer from The Oxford Book of Prayer, this time from Fr. Gilbert Shaw:

Lord, give us grace to hold you

when all is weariness and fear

and sin abounds within, without

when love itself is tested by the doubt…

that love is false, or dead within the soul,

when every act brings new confusion, new distress,

new opportunities, new misunderstandings,

and every thought new accusation.

Lord, give us grace that we may know

that in the darkness pressing round

it is the mist of sin that hides your face,

that you are there

and you do know we love you still

and our dependence and endurance in your will

is still our gift of love.

A Prayer for Guidance

I’m currently praying through the Oxford Book of Prayer (edited by George Appleton) and came across this prayer for guidance this morning:

“In times of doubts and questionings, when our belief is perplexed by new learning, new teaching, new thought, when our faith is strained by creeds, by doctrines, by mysteries beyond our understanding, give us the faithfulness of learners and the courage of believers in you; give us boldness to examine and faith to trust all truth; patience and insight to master difficulties; stability to hold fast our tradition with enlightened interpretation to admit all fresh truth made known to us, and in times of trouble, to grasp new knowledge readily and to combine it loyally and honestly with the old; alike from stubborn rejection of new revelations, and from hasty assurance that we are wiser than our fathers. Save us and help us, we humbly ask you, O Lord.”

–Bishop George Ridding (1828-1904)

A Lament (Psalm 48)

I am depressed, O God.

I see no end to this cycle of sadness.

People tell me: “Everything will be all right,”

but it isn’t and it won’t be.

The quote Paul to me:

“All things work together for good for those who love God.”

Don’t I love you?

Wasn’t I brought up in your holy house,

O God?

Didn’t I remember your words and sing hymns to you?

Don’t I bow down to you?

Isn’t that what I’m doing now?

No one can tell me any good can come from this moment!

Let them have their say if it makes them feel better!

But I don’t want to hear it!

I know what I’ve been through.

I know that it is to have death walk the halls of my home.

What has happened cannot be prettied up.

But you, O God, can stop the aftershocks.

O God, tear through the night

to rescue the one you have left too long.

Help me, O Holy God,

out of this tomb of pain.

 

–Ann Weems

A Protestant Thinks About the Blessed Virgin Mary

Talking about Mary can feel dangerous, especially if you are a Protestant who adheres to Protestant orthodoxy. Sure, we sing about Mary at Christmas, feel her pain on Good Friday, and maybe even read a little about her in the gospels. But for most American Protestants, almost any other interaction with Mary is borderline Catholic. So we don’t talk about Mary, we don’t engage with Mary, and we don’t think about Mary. Life seems easier that way. But in truth, this approach is historically and theologically problematic.

Some Protestants are aware that there is more to the story of Mary than American Protestantism often lets on. Some might know that the Protestant reformers, for example, held views on Mary different than most Protestant churches today. Martin Luther affirmed Mary’s divine motherhood, perpetual virginity, and immaculate conception. Likewise, John Calvin affirmed the perpetual virginity and espoused (with qualifications) a view of Mary as the “mother of God.” Although these Reformers did not advocate the same robust Marian theology that Rome and the East did in the 16th century, these perspectives are nonetheless quite different than those of their spiritual descendants.

To assume—as many Protestants do—that everything the Church has always believed about Mary should be excoriated as a “Catholic corruption” is simply an error. We must take seriously the biblical and historical insights on who Mary is—and how she is to be approached. Modern Protestants cannot simply be content to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Continue reading

Orthodoxy and Relevance

Christians have long talked about life as a journey, whether as runners or pilgrims or travelers or something else. Journeys tend to involve forks in the road, decisions to make, and obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, the decisions of this journey are between light and darkness, holiness and sin, redemption and backsliding. In these instances, the follower of Christ is called to choose the path of faithfulness. Other times, however, the decisions we make along the way do not seem to be inherently good or bad—it’s not immediately clear whether one path is better than the other.

Such an image of journey has been on my mind lately as I’ve wrestled with what seems to be an increasingly common trope for contemporary Christians: the ongoing debate between orthodoxy and relevance.

Per Merriam-Webster, orthodoxy means “right belief, sound doctrine” and relevance means “the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.” Based on those definitions, you wouldn’t expect contemporary Christians to believe that orthodoxy and relevance are at odds with one another. But if you talk to many Christians, you’d be wrong. Let me explain. Continue reading

The Next Chapter: Rooftop Church

I am excited to announce that I am joining the staff at Rooftop Church as Pastor of Church-Planting, effective today!

Rooftop on a Sunday morning

Rooftop is a non-denominational, Bible-centered church committed to “making followers of Christ who make followers of Christ who make followers of Christ….” Located in Affton (a community in the St. Louis County metro area), Rooftop is a vibrant, growing church that’s devoted to reaching St. Louis with the Gospel. One unique thing about Rooftop is their commitment to “mere Christianity,” a big-tent approach to faith that focuses on essentials and living as disciples rather than dividing over nuanced doctrinal points.

Friends and regular readers of Pursuing Veritas will be familiar with our ministry at The Rock Church of Saint Louis the past three-and-a-half years, as well as our two year “church search” before that.[1] Hayley and I have learned so much over the past several years of ministry, life, and education. We have grown and benefited from so many friendships and experiences.

After many years of praying, discussing, and inquiring into church-planting, this Rooftop position came to our attention right as we were facing some uncertainty about our future plans. We firmly believe that God has whispered into our lives for such a time as this, and we are extremely excited to start this new chapter of our lives and faith journeys.

I am honored and humbled to be beginning this vocational work for the Kingdom, and I look forward to all that God will be doing in and through Rooftop in the future. And I look forward to sharing here about our experiences and adventures during this journey.

Best and Blessings, Jacob Prahlow Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer Rewritten

Papa God,

Your reign above all of creation, you are beyond our capacity to approach.

Let your power and reign come into our world, into our lives; let you plan and desire become our plans and desires; let our world become good, true, and beautiful like your paradise.

Bless us beyond our wildest imagination, Papa God; give us all that we need and more.

Hold not our wrongs against us; don’t punish us where we go astray, but empower us to live out your mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness in every aspect of our lives.

Papa God, protect and preserve us—save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil; let evil and wickedness have no place or power in our lives.

For yours, Papa God, are all good things—all power, all goodness, all praise, all majesty, all glory, and all beauty—your truly are all these things, now and forevermore.

Let it be so.

A Proposal: When the Rubber Meets the Road

This post is part of a proposal for approaching theology from the perspective of history.

When the Rubber Meets the Road

The final step of this process brings the historical insights of what the Shepherd of Hermas indicates about the teaching authority of woman into conversation with contemporary conversations about women in the church. Here, several factors play out. First, we must recognize that the Shepherd is not canonical, but it was extremely popular for large swaths of early Christians. That is, this was not some one-off work of a heretic that stands merely as something for Christians to reject; many Christians have found this work insightful and (in some sense) useful for their own lives. Second, the Shepherd comes from Rome, where we know Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were well known, indicating that Hermas’s community (at least) held the call for Grapte to teach and Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in conjunction. Continue reading