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…]

New baptisms for the transgendered?

At a baptism, the baptized person is given a name.  That’s not all that happens, but that’s what a lot of people associate with the rite.  So in the Church of England, some transgendered individuals have asked to be re-baptized, so as to have the Church affirm their new name and new identity.  So far, a sympathetic vicar decided not to repeat  the baptism but has devised a new liturgy to bestow the new name.  The Church of England is discussing how to handle this. [Read more…]

Baptists who baptize infants

A Baptist minister has stirred controversy within his tradition by baptizing an infant.  Yet it has become a common practice to baptize children 5 years old, or even younger.  This all seems to be in the context of reconsidering what baptism is, that it is more than just a symbol.  (To be sure, one might think, “well, it’s just a symbol,” so what difference does it make?  But this seems to be something more, which we Lutherans can appreciate.)

After the jump, read the account of the pastor baptizing the baby, then read  a seminary president’s response. [Read more…]

Christ’s resurrection and yours

Have a joyous Easter, everybody!

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.  (Romans 6:3-4)


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