Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Really, who’s idea was it to poke a hole in someone’s nose and insert an earing or dangle a charm mid-way down the abdomen? Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea? Along with the trend of exposed midriffs, belly button piercing has become quite popular. People say that belly rings are hot. But people should not even see this piercing if the girl is dressed modestly (not to mention how uncomfortable it must be to have a semipermanent ring attached to your navel). Contrarily, nostril piercing is easy to see and not immodest, and yet equally as disagreeable. Imagine a metal post sticking into your nose and then sneezing. That’s not a pretty picture. Not only are body piercings objectionable, but it is also hygienically foolish.
Piercing cartilage tissue is not painful—until the hole gets dirty and full of germs, mucus, or belly button fuzz. Right after the hole has been punched, bacteria begin to grow and the battle against sickness, sores, and serious infection is waged.1 Once the scar finally heals over the pierced flesh, the hole will never close up—it will last forever.
Additionally, when a person pierces these parts of the body, he is associating himself with a cultural attitude of a rebellion—one that a Christian should not desire to adopt.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
God’s goodness, wisdom, grace, and love are demonstrated to His people in various ways, but one of the primary means through which He sanctifies His people is via the sacrament of baptism, “The central meaning of baptism is the promise that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the grace of God avails for him and is directed to him.” Baptism is a rite of the church which outwardly displays that the person is being committed to God and “does not merely signify eternal reality, but is eternal reality, because it points significantly beyond it’s own concreteness.” It is an indelible mark on people which is directly connected to a specific time when they were publicly dedicated to God. It also serves as a great reminder and assurance of the redeeming grace of Christ which is being made manifest in their lives. Commemorative and unmistakable, this milestone serves as a great exhortation to live a godly life in light of covenantal faithfulness.
Pastors and theologians throughout the ages have argued about the value and power of baptism; two of whom are Leonard Vander Zee and Karl Barth. Both men would agree that baptism is an external sign signifying the blessing of the invisible grace of God poured out upon the person receiving it. However, they differ greatly when it comes to the question about what it means to be baptized and how that affects the Christian. This distinction boils down to the fundamental idea of what each man thinks is the correct interpretation of the covenants in relation to each other and how their contrary beliefs concerning the eligibility of a person receiving baptism impacts all of life.
Vander Zee, in his book Christ, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, says, “Water is the sacramental sign, the visible word by which the Holy Spirit, through faith, brings us into the union with Christ.” Water is nothing without the working of the Holy Spirit. Mankind is not first worthy and therefore baptized, but contrarily, he is dreadfully depraved and it is only through the grace of God that man can come to the knowledge and understanding of Him and so be brought into the new covenant. Baptism is not given as a result of holy living but it is an effectual act cultivating the attitude of sanctification. In being baptized, therefore, it is not man’s place to promise to God, but instead it is appropriate for him to humbly accept what God has promised since the beginning of time and is conveyed through the waters of baptism.
Barth, backed primarily by the reformer Zwingli, thought that baptism was simply an outward sign of submission to the cross of Christ and a time for a Christian to make a personal profession of faith and a formal dedication of his life. He viewed credo baptism as an earthly, ceremonial formality, that is emblematic of and actuated by human volition. In light of many Bible verses,
he definitively states that it is important that a believer makes a personal decision to follow Christ before he is baptized. Thus he thought children should be required to meet a certain age (the age of accountability) before baptism should be proformed. The problem with this view is that the connection between the Old and New Testaments is forgotten. Throughout the first half of the Bible, God deals with the Israelites in terms of the covenants that He made with them--father and children. Why then would this paradigm change when a new covenant is established?
Along with the great church father Calvin, Vander Zee opposes Barth’s theology in believing that besides being an external symbol of the bestowing of grace on the person, infant baptism is a time when human life is united to Christ in a mysterious and undying assurance of the unmerited favor and exacting love of the Triune God and covenantally renewed. Paedo baptism, following in the Christian tradition, is steeped in the fundamental covenant theology. Appreciation for the rich symbolism of the baptism of infants is impossible unless the connections between the old and new covenants are made clear. This is where the biggest discrepancy of the two beliefs clash. Circumcision was the physical sign of the old covenants given to the male members of covenant-keeping families. After Christ came and fulfilled all that was prophesied, the tradition was modified to reflect the change that was radically wrought in the lives of all who believed. The Apostle Paul reminds the Romans that circumcision is no longer a necessary faith-binding act. Instead it is the circumcision of the heart that really counts. When a person has this symbol engraved in his heart, he is then following in the post-Jesus means of the covenant.
In a covenantal household, children are raised according to the assumption that they are part of God’s eternal plan. Parents treat their children as brothers and sisters in the Lord and nurturingly teach them about the love of God, what it means to be a Christian, and the orthopraxy involved in living for the Lord; they are “little-Christs” being shaped and molded to grow up as faithful members of the church in God’s grace. Unlike the practice of believer’s baptism, babies are not baptized because they know what is going on and acknowledge their sin, guilt, and need for a Savior. Antithetically, infant baptism is performed via the parents’ faith, and in return it becomes a crucial landmark in the person’s life symbolizing their eternal bond in the covenant of grace. Because babies are not required to give account of their faith, there are people who have been baptized and are actively reaping the inherent and gracious blessing of God’s covenant promises yet are not called as part of the invisible church.
Efficacious and transcendent, the sacrificial redemption of Jesus Christ is offered to all people. Romans 6:3-4 gives us the picture of not only being baptized into the life of the resurrection power, but also vicariously being united in the death of the Son of God, that we might know what it means to live forever with our Lord. Offered freely to all, but sovereignly believed only by God’s elect, baptism is not a black and white litmus test determining whether or not a person is one of “God’s chosen.” Rather, the miracle wrought through this symbol by the Holy Spirit is awesome and not easily comprehendible. It is like a sunrise; fantastic but not clearly discernible when the array of oranges and pinks change and the colors slowly fade into a majestic blue heaven. So it is as a person matures. As a part of God’s covenant, he will mature over time and his faith will be cultivated and strengthened. “Baptism plunges us into the waters of his vicarious human life, uniting us and identifying us with this new creation.” Baptism is an efficacious sacrament instituted by the church, made powerful through Christ, creating an everlasting bond through the covenant into the community of God’s set apart people.