Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Last year, while at the Society for Classical Schooling conference in Greensboro, I resigned from their board. I couldn't afford the financial demands attending the conference placed on The Big Haus. But, lo and behold, out of the kindness of the SCL, I am going to be speaking (4 talks) at the conference again this year on their nickle. The conference is in Raleigh this year and the plenary speaker is Peter Kreeft. Do you wanna go? I recommend this event for any person who loves the Western Tradition and,via education or lifestyle, wishes to see it advanced. Look it over at the website for the Society for Classical Learning. It will be June 28-30.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Of Baptism

If salvation is the baptism in the Holy Spirit by Christ, graciously given to those who repent and believe, calling on the name of the Lord, and if it does not need water baptism to be effected, then what might water baptism be?
1] One can do it in raw obedience without a theology. "Jesus said to do it so I'm doing it."
2] It can be like John's baptism, a statement of repentance.
3] It can be a repentant someone who has come to belief and is calling on God as St. Peter said "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..." (I Peter 3:21)
4] It can be symbol of our baptism in the Holy Spirit and our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. See Acts 10 and Colossians 2:12

Hebrews 6:2 suggests that the deeper instruction for Christians includes that on baptisms plural. The variety of causes and symbols water baptism enjoys provides that possibility of plural water baptism. Why then do the Scriptures say "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" ?
When the Scriptures speak of "one baptism" it must be that baptism which all the regenerate have necessarily encountered, that of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12:13 "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free -- and all were made to drink of one Spirit."

Simon Magus believed and was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and yet St Peter told him, " You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." Acts 8:21-23

The core of the Gospel, as far as what God has asked of us in it, is to repent, believe, and call on God. Water baptism can coexist (and does in the Scripture) but only as a reference to either repentance, preparing the way for the Holy Spirit baptism (John the Baptist's) or the convicted person calling on and appealing to God for forgiveness (in other words, acting as and outwardly decorating your prayer for salvation) or as a symbolic statement of what you know has already happened (died and raised with Christ /baptized in the Holy Spirit). In each case it is not necessary to the thing it references. A man can repent, call on God, be baptized in the Holy Spirit without this referrer of water baptism. But Biblically we also can and obediently will use it to so refer. Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit you have "neither part nor lot" in the Kingdom of God and Christ. Baptism can symbolize what we believe but can't reference that alone. It doesn't effect, it represents and it must represent that which has happened or is happening.

Those that can't or won't or haven't repented and called on God should not be baptized. Even if they say that they have, and it is clearly not evident that they have been baptized of the Holy Spirit, baptizing such devalues it. Passed from death to life did you? Big whoop. It is like making baptism a currency (which represents value) and deciding that, while the gold standard is desirable it is too rare, so your parishioner "dollars" will now be backed by mud. You can get it everywhere and even make it yourself!
These "cant',won't, haven'ts" includes 14 year old Southern Baptists who know it is time to walk the aisle cuz mammy knows that Elvis did or the baby of parents trapped by the fears attendant to original sin or unconditional election and want some peace of mind, or your boyfriend who is willing to do what it takes to make you believe that this love will last.
Because of promiscuous baptism, these, and these are without number clogging our assemblies, will misunderstand (how could they not?) and think, with the rest of a superstitious world, that the magic has been done and they will never pass from death to life.

Faith Alone

Acts 11:15-18
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, `John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life."

This is St. Peter speaking of his encounter with Cornelius in the previous chapter. The connections in this tight little remark are legion.
1] What happened to them is revealed to be the superior baptism to that of water.
2] It is the same as the disciples encountered at Pentecost.
3] It was God's response to their belief.
4] This baptism of the Holy Spirit in response to faith is labeled "repentance unto life."
5] It was convincing enough a salvation that the Jews concluded that Gentiles could be saved.
6] Someone rejecting the obvious is trying to "withstand God".
7] This marvelous work of faith and grace, 'repentance unto life", occurs before they were water baptized.

Let us look at the event itself, shall we? See chapter 10"43-48 (St Peter is speaking)
"To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

As St Paul says in Romans 10, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ".
1] St Peter preaches that "belief" gains "forgiveness" in Christ
2] Since it is while telling them to believe for forgiveness that they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (in chapter 11 identified as "repentance unto life") we can declare that they believed and were saved right then.
3] Believing Jews could tell.
4] A believer obviously regenerated is the most natural claimant to water baptism. (Conversely, one could say that the most natural disqualification would be the reverse, no belief and no evidence of regeneration.)
5] Soooo, these people were saved by God's grace, who responded to them for only belief.
6] They had already been good (see 10:34-35) but good wasn't enough.
7] They had not even time, before God mercifully saved them, for even an immediate baptism let alone a lifetime of smells and bells ritualism or works righteousness. Uh.. you know,...by grace.

If someone can be given saving grace with only their faith in view, what graces are brought by the additional works, rites, ideas, theologies, sundry hoop-jumping-through? Are those folks just "more" saved? Repentance-unto-Life XPPro? Or do they get a special decoder ring?
In spite of the obvious, drop you on your head, qualities of this passage, baptism is often, still, the most offensive addition to the Gospel. It occurs in the highest of the high church sacramental followers of Baal and it frequents the bo-hunkus theology of places like the Church of Christ.

As I thought about these who get more confident when wet, and their ecstasies of bowing and scraping before the muttering of eunuch priests, I gathered that they were admitting something they knew not. Priestcraft makes up for failures of faith. If faith is all God needs to proceed to your salvation, those who belief that you must be baptized as well are not only in danger of damnation for the falseness of their gospel (see Galatians 1). They are in danger because the addition of works to faith is a measure of their faith. Like St James says of works (of righteousness not ritual), it shows your faith. But bad works show what kind of faith as well. If I abuse others, I show that I don't believe. If I practice ritual I admit my faith (which I know can bring me salvation all by itself because I read Acts 10-11) can't stand on its own feet. These are not people who merely "like a little beauty, thank you" in their services. These are people who tell you that their salvation depends on it. They don't object to belief alone saving someone. This is not, despite protests to the contrary, a theological fight. They've seen salvation happen, not only in Acts 10-11 but in people they know. They look at their own faith and realize, standing on its own, it is nowhere near what God requires of faith ("assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen"). They don't actually believe, at least, they know, not enough. A temple narrative in which they can suspend their disbelief, in which the aromas and robes beguile their senses into thinking, dear God, that they believe this malarkey. They have found what mankind can never, in his unbelief, give up, the elemental spirits of the universe.

Galatians 4:8-11 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years! I am afraid I have labored over you in vain.

Colossians 2:16-19 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

People have been suckers for it in Galatia, in Colossae, and the U.S. of A. They are, perhaps, incapable of a saving faith. But they can know and fear enough of the import of religion and the gods.

"No faith, you say? I'll call this ritual my faith. I'll tell myself the story over and over again that this action, this muttering of the Trinitarian abracadabra gets me membership in the club of Christendom. Sure it is a physical religion but we call it "incarnational living". Makes the narrative more plausible to the dim bulbs. This is what every one who is anyone has been doing for the last two millenia. All the saints, I'm tellin' you. How could it be wrong? Now you are tellin' me that there is some sort of secret society within all this information regarding Jesus that knows Him and is known by Him through faith without the doodads? Call it the "New Covenant" do they? Damn heretics!"

I Timothy 4:1
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Keeping the Pedestrian at Bay

I am middle class. Public school educated and living in Idaho. Sure, it is a university town but the type of university that builds a recreation center with a climbing wall the size of Montana. While I have friends, some of whom are minds worth knowing in the pursuit of the sublime, the TV has channel after channel of mundane entertainments with educational attempts grappling with an early high school level curriculum. It comes into my Haus on a cable to make sure that no reality show is lost while trying to reach this this far flung corner of the Empire.
What is an aspiring oracle to do?
There are cigars as an excuse to sit around. That helps. Smoke them in the library (your own library) for that extra wallop. And have a somewhat eccentric philosophy. Make sure it is eccentric so that you never run into it in general Christian conversation or in a popular, current Christian movement. Your life is to be committed to this philosophy as a direct war on the inane. Make it true for extra benefits. The habit of your mind needs to create a groove, a well worn funk riff of truth which translates that pedestrian signal into affirmation of your thought. Look on the world of the Other through eyes which citizens of the Other, while chatting with you about sundry domestic or geopolitical concerns, catch a glimpse of what's behind your half-lidded gaze and start in horror. With practice you can raise one eyebrow.
Yep, that'll do the trick.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Living in a Land of Make Believe

"Narrow is the way to life and those that find it are few."
So said the Lord Christ.
"But Christianity is one of the world's leading religions"
So said you, correcting your Lord's dark mutterings.
If you decide not to correct the Lord (as I have decided) there is some 'splainin' to do. What are all these souls cumbering the pews of Christendom actually up to?
They are, for a large part, playing make believe. It is hard for someone who truly believes to see and understand that some of the most intense defenders of that belief are just playing religion and have happened to choose the true one to play. But pretending it is true is a sight different from faith. This is how faithful young people growing up in the youth group and a Christian home walk away from it so easily when they reach college. The little girls are all done playing "daddy's little chastity princess" and the young men find more important games to play. The parents keep on playing that game until their sexual needs in conflict propels them to deny the faith if just to get out of their marriage. This is why the children play the faith, pretend Christianity is all they have ever seen. So the church and the movement ramp it up. We have to make sure that the "make believe" is permanent. We will give them an entire culture, be it indie bands or colleges or prairie muffin values.

This effort is being done not just by those who don't know Jesus Christ but make believe that they do. It is also done by those who, by real faith, have passed from death to life. Why do they do it? They don't believe what Jesus said, that is why. Even the truly believing want a movement, want to win, want to keep score against the Philistines. "Hard to find", "difficult to attain", and "few achieving" are not phrases you can build a profession of ministry around. Not with a decent salary that is. How to get people on board? Step aside Jesus, we are gonna make this puppy easy to find, almost automatic to conclude, and we will be satisfied with nothing less than millions on millions buying the Jesus Extreme t-shirt.

No insistence on a movement equals no problem with the text.
Where did Jesus tell us that he came to start a movement?

The Oracle says: My father's Christianity had absolutely nothing to do with the church we attended. I believe because I saw a Man, not a Movement, who knew God. You either know Him or you are pretending to know Him.