Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Infant Baptism, Infant Faith, and Infant Confession through Godparents

Here's a comment I posted on another Lutheran blog when another comment raised the issue of rejecting infant baptism:

Some people say that infants should not be baptized. But the Bible teaches otherwise. In 1 Co 10, Paul notes that everyone in Israel — infants as well as adults — were “all” under the cloud and that “all” passed through the Red sea, and that “all” were “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (vv. 1-2). Paul then twice writes that this event serves as an example that the Christian church needs to follow and learn (1 Co 10.6, 11).

It is worth emphasizing that Paul points to Israel's baptism as a nation in the Red Sea. And Paul expressly says that Israel's baptism in the Red Sea serves as an example for the Christian church to follow. So when we then think biblically about the Great Commission that Jesus gave us -- that we are to make disciples of the nations by baptizing them i.e., by baptizing the nations -- then we cannot help but draw upon the single example of a national baptism that God gives us in the Scriptures, and that is Israel's national baptism, which included the baptism of "all" who were in Israel, including the little babies.

So, too, Peter says “Repent and be baptized, everyone 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). Peter then expressly states that this promise is for the children of his hearers, as well as for Gentiles who are far off.

In response, people who say that infants should not be baptized say that Peter’s promise does not apply to babies, because babies cannot repent.

But let’s consider what the Bible actually teaches that babies can do: Infants can praise God (Ps 8.2) and can be filled with the Spirit (Lk 1.15). So, too, the Scriptures teach us that infants can fall down and worship God (2 Chronicles 20.13 with 18). Similarly, “little ones” (which is the Hebrew word translated as “children” by the NIV), “stand in the presence of God” (Dt 29.10-11), and enter into a covenant with God which “confirms you this day as his people, that he may be your God” (Dt 29.13).

So when talking about whether babies can have faith, what do we believe? God's word or human eyes?

To be sure, infants cannot do all those things by themselves. That's why we have their parents and godparents speak for them before God. The Bible teaches this as well. The Bible teaches that representatives can speak for and represent those who can't. The “whole congregation of the Lord,” which includes infants, is said to “speak” through only a few representatives (Josh 22.14-16). And “all” are said to “hear” when only the representatives hear (Josh 23.2, cf., 24.1-2). So, too, “all” are committed when representatives gather before God (2 Chr 5.2-3, cf., chs 5-7, esp., 6.3, 7.4). The Bible’s representative principle extends to generational representation as well (Dt 29.14-15). So, too, in baptism, adults speak for and represent the infant. Godparents speaking for infants is Biblical. And, thus, the Apostolic practice of baptizing "households" (Acts 16.15, 33, 18.8, 1 Co 1.16) is entirely nonproblematic for Lutherans.

The Bible makes clear that baptism is for “all,” and that the forgiveness promised in baptism is explicitly also “for our children.” The Scriptures teach us that infants can do all things that believers do – stand before God, fall down and worship God, praise God, and be members of God’s people. Just as representatives in the Bible speak for the whole assembly of God—including infants—parents and godparents can speak for their children, expressing their faith and their repentance. The form of baptism used in Lutheran churches is entirely consistent with what the Bible teaches us about God’s relationship with the infants of believing parents. All of us are saved by baptism into Jesus Christ, adult and child alike.

Finally, as for the thief on the cross. God blessed him, but it's simply and obviously wrong to draw conclusions contrary to the Scriptures from exceptional circumstances. Jesus gives us the general practice: He tells his church to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them his word. You thereby nullify the Word of God by trying to make a rule out of an exception.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Top Fifty "Conservative" Rock Recordings

Now this is a fun article from National Review Online; the "top fifty" conservative rock songs. There are several to take issue with, and several to consider. Surprising to me are the number of anti-abortion songs on the list.

One entirely bogus song on the list is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” America has been committed from its inception to the proposition that "all men are created equal." American conservatives own that proposition, since it is ours. The Confederacy rejected that proposition and, hence, whatever it was, it is not, and cannot be, conservative; nor can their modern-day sympathizers.

One song I might be tempted to add to the list is Pink Floyd's "Another brick in the wall." Here's a recording. While I'm not at all an educational radical, it does seem to me that, of necessity (which is not to commend it), every form of institutionalized education, whether governmental or private, devotes an inordinate amount of time to administrative matters of enforcing "discipline" in classrooms. I.e., rather than communicating knowledge, teachers devote time to making sure that students conform to their own standards of conduct. However necessary it may be, it's nonetheless tragic -- tragic for the teacher, for the entire class, and for the student(s) who receive the bulk of the teachers' attention.

And while I'm in a somewhat more-libertarian mindset than usual, I might also add "Little Boxes" to the list. Although I do recognize that "Little Boxes" is not a Rock song. (And, yes, I do think that Pete Seeger is one of the most annoying people in the world. But this is a classic rendition of the song.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Best T.V. Episode, Ever

Buffy the Vampire Killer was a wildly variable show overall. I didn't watch large portions of most seasons because the episodes were pretty bad. But the episode in season six, "Once More, With Feeling," was a great show. It was a musical composed by the director, Josh Weedon, that managed not only to be good music, but also advanced the story. The episode is worth watching in its entirety if you have the chance, although it is for grownups only, not for youngsters. Here is one of the show's great songs.

The second greatest T.V. show ever is also a Buffy episode, and also the creepiest, Hush. Definitely not for children either.

Psalm 2 in Acts 4

When Peter and John were released in Acts 4 by the high priest, the rulers, elders, and scribes of Israel, they returned to the disciples. Acts 4.25-26 then records the disciples reciting the beginning of Psalm 2 together:

"Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? The Kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his messiah" (Ps 2.1-2).

Back in Acts, Luke then records the disciples saying, "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel . . ." (Acts 4.27).

There's lots of interesting stuff here. First, I had always taken Psalm 2 to be a description of the response of Gentiles to the Messiah, and the extension of his reign over them.

And so it is that, certainly.

Nonetheless, note that the disciples apply Psalm 2 to what just happened to Peter and John at the hands of Israel's leaders. That's interesting for one of two reasons.

First, if Psalm 2 is about the extension of the Messiah's reign over the Gentiles, then it is signficant that the disciples are now grouping Israel with the Gentile nations. While interesting, there's nothing novel in that -- Jesus centers true Israel upon himself and his disciples.

A second possibility, however, suggests itself -- that Psalm 2 not only prophesizes Gentile opposition, but explicitly prophesizes opposition from Israel's rulers.

Consider v. 2 of Psalm 2: "The Kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his messiah."

We know that "earth" can be translated as "land." Indeed, throughout John's Revelation, it almost always should be understood as "land," as in "land of Israel."

In which case, while v. 1 of Psalm 2 discusses Gentiles, v. 2 of Psalm 2 is a prophesy of opposition to God's messiah from Israeli officialdom.

The fact that the disciples apply Psalm 2 to the actions of the high priest and other Israeli leaders lends credence to this thought, as well as the followup statement quoted by Luke. After quoting Ps 2.1-2 the disciples say:

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel . . ." (Acts 4.27)

This follows directly on the quotation of verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 2. That is, that gathered together in Jerusalem were BOTH Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles AND the PEOPLES of Israel.

"Peoples of Israel" in Acts 4.27 tracks with "people" in Ps 2.1b, and the kings and rulers of the "land" in Ps 2.2 track with Herod, the high priest, and the elders and scribes of Israel.

If correct, then Psalm 2 expressly prophesizes the opposition of official Isreal to her Messiah.

Nothing earth-shattering, to be sure, but I had never considered that those parts of Ps 2.1-2 might directly apply to Israel, even though I must have read Acts 4 who knows how many times.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Artemis Fowl" Gets Right What "How to Train Your Dragon" Gets Wrong (Spoiler Alert)

I enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon. Cute film. The one point of the movie that I needed to ignore, is what happens when Hiccup cuts the injured dragon ("Toothless") loose from being twisted up in the net. Toothless begins to attack Hiccup, but then lets him live.

It would be a shorter, less enjoyable movie if Toothless didn't show mercy to Hiccup in response to the mercy Hiccup showed the dragon, but we all know that you can't release an injured, wild animal and expect it to be grateful to you. If it doesn't run away, it will attack.

Better this from Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl:

"The troll was concussed, blinded by blood and lame. A normal person would feel a shard of remorse, but not Butler. He'd seen too many men gored by injured animals. Now was the dangerous time. It was no time for mercy, it was time to terminate with extreme prejudice."


Friday, April 09, 2010

Link to Review of New Bonhoeffer Biography

I'm unsure of how much there is new in the new biography -- I never heard the spy stuff before, but I did know about the influence of Bonhoeffer's American visit on his faith. There's a brief review here; the link was sent to me by a friend.