This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity comes from Nina:
I’m a regular blog reader though I’ve never commented. Here is my ‘question that haunts’ which may belie my fundamentalist background: Is the trajectory of our human culture/world/society positive or negative? In other words, are we fighting the long defeat until Christ returns to set things right or are we participating in an ever-advancing Kingdom of The Heavens (Willard) which will someday culminate with Christ’s return?
This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity cames from Drew:
Hi Tony, The haunting question that I want to submit is this: Does anything REALLY happen to a baby’s spirit at its baptism? I am NOT a Baptist in the sense that I think it is a requirement as a Christian to be baptized as a “believer.” But I don’t think that infant baptism is magic. In fact, it makes more sense to me to have babies grow up in church and decide for themselves if they want to be baptized.
I am the youth minister at a baby-baptizing Congregational church, and my wife and I decided to not have our son baptized. In spite of this, I don’t believe that anyone should force a person to be re-baptized if he or she was baptized as an infant. So I guess that means that I think infant baptism is “valid.”
But what MAKES it valid? What happens in that infant baptism? It seems that SOMETHING has to happen, or else it really isn’t anything. And it seems that that “something” should happen in the spirit of the baby because baptism is supposed to a spiritual event. But I guess I have some doubts about this. So, does something really happen in a baby’s spirit at its baptism?
Many great comments here, deeply delving into exegesis of Paul, and even references to Melchizedek. Because the biblical ground was covered in the comments to the post, I’ll go another direction.
This question has been bugging me for a while. To preface, I consider myself a progressive (certainly ex-evangelical) Christian. My question relates to ethics in general and the Bible in particular. We all assume that there is a particular way that each of us SHOULD or SHOULD NOT act. I.e., we all harbor the notion that some acts are inherently moral or immoral. As a progressive, I don’t consider the Bible itself to be the “Word of God” or some kind of objective moral authority. I consider (as I’m sure many of your readers do) it to be a collection of writings that detail the experiences of the authors with the divine. As such, it is just as captive to subjectivity as the rest of us are.
If this is the case, however, how is it that we are to determine moral decisions? If there is no objective moral authority we can point to in order to determine an ethical system, what are we left with? (These are honest questions I have been wrestling with, as I continue to struggle between determining the possibility of access to SOME kind of objectivity, if that even exists).
Great and numerous comments ensued here. My $.02:
Questions That Haunt Christianity came back with a vengeance this week. Wow. I’m especially grateful to William Birch, who asked the question, for being so engaged in the comment section — you should go read them all.
William’s question was:
If God hates homosexuality so much, then why won’t He deliver me from it?
Many commenters took exception to the way that William posed the question. They didn’t like the “If…then…” formula, because if you reject the conditional clause at the beginning, then there’s nothing else to talk about. But everyone worked through that, since this is obviously a personal and haunting question for William (and many others).
For beginners, I’m going to agree with premises that William stated in the comment section. Even though I don’t necessarily wholeheartedly affirm these premises, they’re essential to answering the question in the way that William intends it:
With those as background, here’s my response:
After a summer vacation, the Questions That Haunt Christianity series is back. Readers pose questions – you can submit your questions here – I post the the question on Tuesday, readers comment throughout the week, and I take my crack at an answer on Friday. Nothing I’ve undertaken in my career has so sharpened my skills as a practical theologian, so I’m excited (and daunted) by a new season of QTH.
To start the new season of QTH, we’ve got a brief, but anguished and personal question, from William:
We’re just a couple weeks away from a new season of The Questions That Haunt Christianity, my ongoing series that attempts to tackle the toughest questions of the faith. I’ve got a queue of questions left over from last year, but now’s the time to submit new questions. I don’t answer in the order that questions come in. Instead, I scroll through questions and pick one that grabs my attention.
And, if you’d like to see the questions that have already been answered, check out my ebook of former questions and answers: