“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).
“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).
Baptizing the dead means that you are speaking for someone who has already made their choice in life and is now in death. We cannot make that choice for them.
Baptizing infants is about honoring the covenant with God made through Abraham about our families and made through Christ which enlivened this covenant. Further, it is about placing our children, just as they did in Scripture, into the covenant. Now only that, it’s Scriptural and has a solid foot in Christian Tradition.
Plus, Zwingli said it was okay in his refutation of the Anabaptists…
“…There were infants also under the cloud, yet no individual mention is made of them. All crossed the sea. Yet the infants could not have crossed. Therefore they crossed who did not, but were borne (carried) by those who did. …All were baptized unto Moses…therefore, not only adults, but infants also, were baptized unto Moses. For if they who were infants at the crossing of the Red Sea were not baptized, the apostle did not speak correctly in saying: All were baptized unto Moses, for they were, as I have just said, the fathers of their posterity.”
“The Hebrew children were all baptized in the cloud and in the sea, just as are ours. Paul, in the passage cited, tends in no other direction than to prove that they are as much initiated by our sacraments as we ourselves. It follows therefore, first, that in Paul’s time it was the custom of the apostles to baptize infants; second, if anyone contradicts it he vitiates the opinion of Paul.”
Which leads me to believe that Jim is really an Anabaptist…
“And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they speak of being ‘in Christ’ or of Christ being ‘in them,’ this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts – that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body. And perhaps that explains one or two things. It explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental acts like belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion. It is not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution – a biological or super- biological fact…. He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us.”
No, I’m not happy with being only to write a 1000 word max exegesis/paper, but I have to. Anyway, this is something I’d like to come back to, but for now…
In Romans 8.1-17, Paul is employing a form of rhetoric which repeats the same thought several times, albeit in different ways so that deeper explanations may be delivered. This exegasia of the dying with Christ and the hope of living with Christ is given with signs (semeia) following the forensic oration of Aristotle. In effect, 8.1-17 is the second part of a two-part repetition, with the first part being found in 7.1-6, of Paul’s initial argument stated in Romans 6.1-13, meant to establish the meaning of justification for the believer.
The Need for the Resurrection (8.1-11)
Comparison of the Spirit and the Flesh via the Law(s) (8.2-4)
The person will walk either in the Spirit or the Flesh (8.5-8)
The Spirit brings resurrection (8.9-11)
The Resurrected Life of the Believer (8.12-17)
The Flesh leads to death, the Spirit leads to life (8.12-13)
The Spirit transforms believers into children of God (8.14-16)
The New Life comes through Suffering with Christ (8.17)
At the beginning of chapter 8, Paul begins by drawing the comparison between the flesh and the Spirit. For Paul, the flesh is our human-centered weaknesses (cf 6.19) while the Spirit is the empowering force of God. The argument, however, doesn’t begin here, but in 6.1-13, in which Paul opens up his teaching on what brings justification, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our participation in it through baptism. Just as 6.1-13 is framed by the previous section on justification, and our introduction to Grace, it also serves to frame the following two chapters as they serve to supplement Paul’s argument there. Further, 6.14-23 serves as the results of the plea in 6.1-13, providing a formula Paul uses in chapters 7 and 8. Chapter 8 is not an argument to itself, but only a sub-topic to 6.1-13, just as is 7.1-6.
In speaking of Gorgias, Aristotle (Rhet 1418a 4-37) notes that the ancient orator is able to deliver several of these subtopics on any given subject, allowing them to serve as sources of arguments. Further, in his work, Topics, he goes into the use of Question and Answer (we see something like this with Paul’s use of prosopopeia throughout the book of Romans), in which an argument is presented, but subtopics are developed. All of this, however, has to follow a certain logous eikotas, which I believe we can find if we see Paul as building upon a previous argument, and dividing out the salient points. JDR Kirk writes,
“A discussion of salvation in forensic terms in chs. 3-4 has gradually morphed through ch. 5 into the participationst categories of chs. 6 and 7. By logically grounding the freedom of condemnation (8:1) on the freedom from the reign of sin and death (8:2), Paul has shown that justification and condemnation are, themselves, categories that derive their meaning from their function at the turn of the ages.”
The argument in chapter 8, then, is one which is a subtopic of the argument begun in chapter 6. In 6.1-13, baptism is seen as the entire act of dying and rising with Christ to the hope of a resurrected life (6.4-5). Or, in another way, 6.1-13 encompasses both the dying in Christ and the hope of resurrection. In chapter 7.1-16, the act of dying and what place it has in respect to the Law of Moses is explained using the role of a wife who is no longer bound to her husband upon his death. She is free to marry again and to live a new life. This is used to explain the role in which the dying of and in Christ frees the believer from the necessity of the Law which allows sin and death to reign. With the first meaning of the act of baptism explained, Paul moves into the second meaning, the resurrection.
Many Jews believed that the Spirit would signify the eschatological end of the Exile, in which God’s power would enliven the children of Israel. We see this view expounded in Isaiah 44.3, 59.21; Ezekiel 39.29; and Joel 2.28-32 in which the Spirit is promised at the end of the Age. Further, there is the notion of the Resurrection of the Righteous as the end of age found in certain sects of Judaism (2 Macc 7.14-15, 12.43) in which at the End of the Age, the pious would be resurrected to rule over the earth. Paul, deeply entrenched in the faith of the resurrection, could then clearly state that the Spirit was life as he did in 8.10, which for him connected together the resurrection and the Spirit. With this, it behooves us to say that 8.1-11 is Paul’s subtopic in which he discusses the resurrection from the common argument began in Romans 6, while 8.12-17, just as 6.14-23 and 7.7-25 does, serves to provide for the audience the actual benefit of the action just enumerated.
For Paul, the justification of the believer was the key theological dogma of the early believing community; however, it wasn’t as simple as we often make it out to be. As with other doctrines, they tend to get tired, and thus we dispose of them readily, forgetting the greatness of thought which went into producing them. For Paul, justification wasn’t just a word, but a sum total of the Christian experience in Christ. By participating in baptism, we are participating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By participating in that act, we are actively participating in the Age to Come, inaugurated by Jesus. There is, then, a necessity to baptism, in which we die and come to receive the Spirit which is life. It is not enough then to just preach about salvation or justification, or ensure the proper translation, but we must partake of the very act through baptism.
The part I found a bit amusing was his discussion of being “kicked out” of the Catholic Church, or being a “true” Catholic (and by the way, I think he is misusing the word “apostasy,” which according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church  is a “total repudiation of the Christian faith”; I doubt that’s where the Catholics he is referring to are). As many readers of this blog know, I am a revert to the Catholic Church. I grew up Catholic, left, and returned. In the time that I spent away from the Church, I actually went so far as to be ordained a Southern Baptist minister. I was “baptized” (I’ll explain those quotation marks in a bit) in Baptist Church and married in a Baptist Church.
Upon returning to the Church, however, I was surprised to find out that my marriage was invalid … yes, that’s right invalid. The Church considered it invalid in the sense that it was not sacramental. I literally could have gotten divorced and gotten a quick annulment at that point (Thankfully my wife didn’t seize on her last opportunity for freedom as we had our marriage convalidated shortly after I returned to the Church and she started the RCIA process). And why was my marriage invalid? “Lack of Canonical Form.” In other words, I had not, as a Roman Catholic, obeyed the canonical requirement of being married in a Catholic Church witnessed by a priest or deacon (or with a dispensation from the bishop of my archdiocese outside of the Church).
But, wait a second … I was an ordained Southern Baptist minister not a Roman Catholic. Well, as it turns out, a person is Roman Catholic by virtue of their baptism. I discussed this with my instructor when trained to be an advocate for annulment cases. I knew this from the Catechism (paragraph 1280) at that point: “Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship. Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated.” But, he put it a bit more eloquently; he said something to the effect: “you may have gotten wet, but you didn’t get baptized again.” Baptism is an indelible mark, and not even becoming an ordained Southern Baptist could remove it.
Now, at the same time I was a Southern Baptist minister, I was also getting my MA in Old Testament and Hebrew language and starting my doctoral program in Biblical Languages (which praise and glory to God I just finished). I get my years mixed up, but I believe I gave my first SBL presentation and wrote a peer-reviewed journal article before returning to the Church (though these did not deal with theology, I obviously dealt with theology in local church settings). It’s possible my papers and publication came a little after, but regardless of the time frame there is a sense in which I was a scholar before returning to the Catholic Church.
So, this presents an interesting situation. While I was a Southern Baptist, I was still, according to the Church, a Roman Catholic bound by canon law with with regard to my marriage, so much so that I could have had a short form annulment. And, I was also a scholar in the area of Biblical Studies and Biblical Languages. Ironically, I believe there is some real sense in which I could have been considered a Catholic biblical scholar when I was a Southern Baptist minister, at least in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Otherwise the Church holding me responsible for canon law wouldn’t make a great deal of sense. Again, baptism is indelible.
Now, would I have been a Catholic scholar faithful to the Magisterium of the Church? Of course not. Would I have been a scholar with a mandate from a bishop to teach Catholic theology? Of course not. But, a Catholic is Catholic by virtue of their baptism, not because of agreement to doctrinal formulations. Of course, the Church would hope that faithfulness to Magisterial teaching would follow upon baptism, otherwise there might not be that much point in remaining Catholic. And, there are ways of being excommunicated or even excommunicating oneself. I suppose even I could have pleaded for excommunication. But, I don’t imagine that this is where the majority of Catholics who disagree end up.
Now, am I advocating departing from the Magisterium of the Church? No. I consider myself to be faithful to the Magisterium of the church. Though I struggle with some doctrinal issues, I seek to handle them in accord with the document I cited in my previous post. I’m only saying that Catholic theology is sacramental. A Catholic can be a good scholar or a bad scholar (or great, or horrible, or aberrant, or sinful … and anywhere else on that spectrum) in relation to the Magisterium. But, he or she cannot be a non-Catholic scholar, or a fake Catholic scholar, or a “not true (in the sense of identity)” Catholic scholar in relation to the Magisterium.
At least, this is what I read into my experience as it relates to the Church’s teaching. I could be wrong.
The kingdom of God takes priority over all other allegiances. baptims is our initiation into citizenship. Whenever we confess that Jesus is Lord, we pledge allegiance to his kingdom. As citizens of the kingdom, we must resist any version of nationalism or patriotism that conflicts with our primary allegiance. We must reject any cultural pressures to abandon kingdom values. We must live as Hauerwas and Willimon have said, as “resident aliens.” The church, as outpost of the kingdom, must be an alternative to society that both critiques the present age and points the way to something better. As Paul says, we are ambassadors for Christ (2nd Cor 5:20), messengers of the kingdom until comes. (p83)
I agree – are your surprised?
The more I reflect upon baptism and the theology of it, the more I see it as my bedrock.