The pastor who baptized a murderer

Emanuel_African_Methodist_Episcopal_(AME)_Church_CorrectedDylann Roof, who was sentenced to death for murdering nine African-Americans at a Bible study, had been baptized at the age of 2 in the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, an ELCA congregation in Charleston, SC.

The pastor who baptized him, Rev. Richard Graf,  is now in the news, trying to explain the Lutheran doctrine of Baptism and how there is still hope even for this monstrous killer if he turns back to Christ.

Is his explanation adequate?  Does anything else need to be said?

 

Photo of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston [site of the shootings] by Cal Sr from Newport, NC, US [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons [Read more…]

The Eighth Day

All_Saints_fontThe Gospel reading for yesterday, commemorating the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, was Luke 2:21, the shortest text in the Lectionary.  (See our recent post on the subject.)  In the course of an excellent sermon that explored the depths of this one verse of the Bible, our pastor cited the significance of “the eighth day.”

God created the universe in six days and on the seventh, He rested.  Then on the eighth day, the creation began to unfold.  Jesus rose from the dead on the day after the Sabbath; that is, the eighth day.  Christians worship on Sunday, the eighth day, which is also the first day of a new week.  With Christ’s resurrection on the eighth day, God has initiated a new creation.  Those with faith in Christ are part of this new creation.  Thus, very early, Baptismal fonts were made in the shape of an octagon, the eight sides symbolizing the eight days.   [Read more…]

Conversion as sacrament

The-dew-638110BreakPoint editor G. Shane Morris, who now believes in infant baptism, explains why most of his fellow evangelicals don’t.  He says that the reason is not so much differences in Biblical interpretation, but rather the tendency to understand a conversion experience in sacramental terms.  Thus the sacrament of conversion replaces the sacrament of baptism as the rite of Christian initiation.  He goes on to discuss the difficulties with that.

[Read more…]

Online baptism

The Church of Scotland wants to increase membership by letting worshippers attend online.   The Presbyterian state church is also considering allowing “access to the sacraments” for people are not “physically present in the congregation.”

It isn’t clear what this would look like.  I believe this has been done for communion in other “virtual churches” by streaming the words of institution to consecrate elements in front of your computer.  I would think baptism would be harder.  Baptism wouldn’t have to be part of a church service anyway, so people could be baptized at home by a pastor or even a layperson, but my impression is that members of a virtual congregation would not like even that much human contact.  So can you baptize yourself?

You pastors, if someone were to transfer into your congregation from the Church of Scotland who had an online baptism, would you consider that a valid sacrament?

Even if you draw away from virtual sacraments, do you see any possibilities for online worship, as described here?  For shut-ins?  For other members?  For visitors?  Or does online church fall short of the Biblical exhortation to “meet together” (Hebrews 10:25 )? [Read more…]

United with him in a death and resurrection like his

The son of a dear couple in our church died suddenly.  He was 34.  His funeral was on Good Friday.  What a conjunction of thoughts and emotions!

There is nothing like a traditional Lutheran funeral service for comfort:  It is all about Christ, full of His Word and His promises, a strong staff to lean on.

One of the many Scriptural passages we meditated on made the connection between what happened to Jesus on Good Friday and Easter and, through baptism, what happens to us:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5)

So on Good Friday we can contemplate our death in Christ’s death.  And on Easter we can contemplate our resurrection in Christ’s resurrection.

So should we baptize machines?

The hype about artificial intelligence has some speculating that at some point a computer might have what we might call a soul.  So some theologians are wondering if machines advance to that point, should they be evangelized?  Should they be baptized?

Thomas D. Williams writes about this line of reasoning and why it is unlikely that machines would be able to become Christians.  In addition to “artificial intelligence” meaning something completely different from the human ability to reason, machines would not have inherited original sin so would not be in need of saving (the AI apocalypse crowd may be projecting human-style sinfulness on inanimate objects), and Jesus, according to the Athanasian Creed, came “for us men and for our salvation,” not for animals, much less for machines.  See Williams’s argument after the jump. [Read more…]