Baby Dedications, Baptisms, & Initiation Rites Wednesday, Apr 30 2008 

Oh, my, why am I not in bed yet??!!

Because Marc’s (2005!!) posts at “Purgatorio” are so darn interesting and thought-provoking.

So, to set this up (of course Amy’s the only one who might actually read this…and you already know where I stand on all these issues!), I am, I suppose, a “credobaptist,” a term I only learned from that post, much like I only learned I was an “Arminian” from my dear friend Nicole (aka Burt) who is a Calvinist. I use quotes when applying such terms to me as I really don’t care for labels other than “Christian.” (Quotes there because writing about the word rather than using it.) But, distaste for labels aside, it’s silly to pretend I’m not a credobaptist or (Reformed/Orthodox [to be specific]) Arminian when those terms do pretty well encapsulate what I understand the Bible to teach. Credobaptist, apparently, means believers’ baptism as opposed to infant baptism (paedobaptism, a term I actually was familiar with!). But I don’t get the credo-part, as I’m not a big fan of creeds. Restoration Movement influence.

Anyway, I DIGRESS. I find no Scriptural evidence for infant baptism, and really don’t understand the common Calvinist (or “covenantal” which I think is exclusively Calvinist???…though I’m not sure since as I said I still really don’t understand it) belief that there is a special covenant for the children of believers — in fact I would think that within Calvinist theology the children of believers are no more (or less) likely to be elect than the children of non-believers, whereas I would think that Arminian theology would make one likely to expect that children of believers might be more likely to be part of the elect. Though truthfully I’ve never much thought about this with the Arminian hat on… Probably this just reflects my “Arminian” inability to grasp something that seems very obvious and logical to a Calvinist, much the same as many others have a “Calvinist” inability to grasp some tenet of Arminian understanding that seems obvious and logical to an Arminian.

I have wasted a lot of words, though, on late-night meanderings that were not my point at all. In a book I recently read, there was a fascinating article on church initiation rites. The comments on this blog post raised questions about baby dedications. Some were opposed because they think the baby should be baptized/sprinkled, one wrote (rather obnoxiously, I thought…is it obnoxious to say that?) that this was replacing a covenant between God and the baby with a covenant between man and they baby and God as an afterthought, or something like that. I have to confess to a little eye-rolling. But some of the posts were pretty interesting! Some were opposed, or questioning, for more interesting reasons. And, because we also don’t read about baby dedications in the Bible, is it not right to question why we do them, and whether we should do them?

Baby dedications are an initiation rite. It’s probably not what we’re thinking about when we do them, but from a sociological standpoint, I think that’s probably the real reason. The first Christians were not children. There weren’t bodies of believers with babies born into them as there are now. But as Christian communities grew and the “second generation” were born, according to the thesis of the book noted above, a need for an initiation rite was felt. The Jewish community had (and still has) this; I think this is a kind of parallel that people who believe in covenantal theology note.

Initiation rites are OK, I guess…as long as we understand what we believe is being initiated. I think…I hope…that everyone understands that “baby dedication” doesn’t save anybody. The same cannot be said of infant baptism. I was privileged to be present at an Anglican church christening at the Falls Church — the first time I’d ever seen infant baptism. I was so curious to see how they presented it. They had some literature on baptism in the bulletin that seemed very Biblical — they practiced both infant and believer’s baptism, and they made clear that infant baptism did not indicate salvation. But as each baby was sprinkled, the priest said something along the lines of “we welcome this child into the Church.” Unless he meant the physical premises of the building (?!) that sounds to me like “we now pronounced you saved/a believer.” Confusing, and I’ve been going to church all my life and am fairly familiar with the Bible and Christian theology. So, looking at it merely as an initiation rite, I prefer baby dedication because it is far less likely to confuse the parents, the parents’ family members in attendance, and the congregation at large about whether this rite has made this infant a Christian. And it’s certainly less likely to be confused with the Biblical commandment for believers to be baptized (every single recorded example of which is a believer’s baptism).

Other than an initiation rite, what are the nice things about baby dedication? Hmmm…Mom & Dad get to show off their beloved little baby to their church family. They publicly proclaim that they will raise this child in a Christian home and do their best to instill their beliefs and values — a kind of public commitment, like a wedding ceremony as one commenter noted. And, in this case “parent dedication” may in fact be the more appropriate term! In some congregations (including the Falls Church) the congregation is also asked to affirm that they will support the parents in their efforts as well — a nice sentiment, and a reminder that all members of that body whether they themselves have children or not have a responsibility to the children in their church family. It is an opportunity to teach about what baptism is (and is not) and what salvation is…especially when there may be non-believing church members in the congregation. I’m sure there are other nice things, but, gasp, it’s nearly 2 AM.

All in all, I see nothing wrong with baby dedications, though we do certainly have a responsibility to ensure we are clear about what is taking place. There is no “Go ye therefore and dedicate your babies” in Scripture, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it — there’s neither a “Thou shalt not dedicate thy babies.” There are lots of elements of our church services that aren’t specifically laid out in Scripture. But I do think these are the things we need to stop and question ourselves about, lest we forget we are the Scripture-Only people of the Reformation. And this one I must admit I’d never thought about before!

And, as a brief and hopefully thought-provoking note, the article noted above also talked about as forms of initiation rites: the sinner’s prayer, the card a new member/new believer may be asked to fill out, the experiential salvation testimony, the…guilty bench? (was that it?), and I think a couple of other things I’m too tired to remember. I found it really fascinating stuff!


Calvinism Defined in Pictures Wednesday, Apr 30 2008 

The follow-up to emerging! This one, I have to say, I don’t get a lot of it, especially the photos — I couldn’t recognize even one of them…proof that I’m not a Calvinist? I think it was mostly Calvinists reading the post (or at least responding) and they seemed to really get it and really enjoy it! The “Johns” was kinda funny. But definitely you should read the emerging one first, as the “Johns” kind of plays off that.

BTW, on this one you simply MUST read the comments, for me they were funnier than the original post. Here’s a sample:

As a semi-Pelagian living in Moscow, Idaho I bear witness of the spot on hilarity of this obsession. By the way, Ifreely chose to respond.

You just think you freely chose to respond. Actually, God ordained before the foundation of the world that you would respond as you just did.

While some people are getting serious, there’s remarkably little vitriol present and remarkably few ruffled feathers and remarkably few condemnations of brothers and sisters in Christ to hell. ; )

I was surprised by one comment from a Calvinist that another sign of Calvinism would be refusing to fill in your astrological sign on your Blogger profile. I’d say that’s a mark of conservative Christianity rather than Calvinism (though some Calvinists equate conservative Christianity with Calvinism alone) — because THAT one I could relate to more than anything at all in the original post! I too refused to fill in my astrological sign…and am continually miffed that TVGuide includes a page devoted to this. What nonsense!

In any event, read and enjoy! But where’s the Arminianism in pictures post?

Emerging Defined in Pictures Wednesday, Apr 30 2008 

I found it!

Enjoy all over again.

I recently read Why We’re Not Emergent and really enjoyed it — will have to do a review at some point…

Cats and Engineers! Tuesday, Apr 29 2008 

Too funny. Don’t watch with a full bladder.

This will be my first test to see if I can attach an actual YouTube video as opposed to linking to it elsewhere.

Yeah…so far not working.

Still not working.

Success! Woo-hoo! I am the king queen of blogging technology!

Ummmm, Amy, how did you put in that smiley face???

Another Church of Christ Adds Instruments Tuesday, Apr 29 2008 

Quail Springs Church of Christ (is it just me or is that a pretty darn cool sounding name? Quail Springs?!) has added a service with instruments. This is a really big deal in the CoC community, quite a divisive issue. The traditional CoC stance against the use of musical instruments is also the most visible split between (most) CoCs and the independent Christian churches, dating back to probably around the Civil War era. I read a great book on this history once (In Search of Christian Unity: A History of the Restoration Movement, by Henry Webb). It is, of course far too easy to oversimplify the CoC and their beliefs — because they are decidedly anti-denomination (mostly!) they have evolved quite differently. There were a myriad of different views on all sorts of issues (paid ministry staff, Sunday Schools, instruments, significance of baptism, etc. etc.) that can all still be found in different churches of Christ. If you know one, or even a handful, of churches of Christ, you certainly can’t assume all the others are just the same. There are even some CoCs which are little different from Christian churches (as I understand it there was some fluidity between the names in the early days of the Restoration Movement).

I read some of the reaction to Richland Hills’ decision to add instruments. Ouch! There was some real unpleasantness. I try to be charitable toward the beliefs of those folks who were so angered by this, as they are holding to a belief they feel very strongly about, and I feel pretty strongly about my beliefs, too, most of them anyway. But at the same time, they don’t have quite the strong Scriptural leg to stand on that accompany most other (orthodox) Christian views. Check out the article on Quail Springs for the verses cited against the use of instruments. These verses address singing, but they don’t mention instruments at all. CoCers take this to mean one shouldn’t use instruments. I think this is quite a leap. By this logic, when we read verses that mention, say, donkeys, should we assume we shouldn’t use cars or bicycles?

That is of course silly, and really I don’t mean to be patronizing. If one finds greater purity, greater focus on God, greater whatever that enhances one’s worship of God when singing without instruments, then who would try to force that person to be accompanied by an instrument? And if someone looks at Scripture and says that the Bible focuses on voices rather than on instruments (although instrumental worship certainly figures into OT praise), so therefore he/she prefers worship that also focuses on voices (and excludes instruments), doesn’t that also seem understandable? It would be very sad to see a church split over this issue, but if a church added instruments and some members found this interfered too greatly with their ability to focus on worship, would it be wrong of them to move to a new church? No, the most important aspect of church isn’t the music style, but let’s be honest, no matter how great the sermons are and how solid a Biblical stance a church has, if the music is head-banging multiple drum sets and multiple electric guitars (read: no way I’d be able to concentrate on worshipping God — I’d have a headache), you might leave for a church that has equally solid Biblical teaching but music more conducive to your worship preferences.

But while many in the CoCs now believe that a cappella worship is a preference rather than a divine edict, many also cling to the necessity of a cappella worship the way we all cling to the virgin birth or the dual nature of Christ. Some rather hateful things were actually written by some disgruntled Richland Hills folks, who produced their own “25 Theses” a la Luther. It is fascinating (if somewhat disturbing) to read the things these “hard core” folks have written. They speak of instrumental worship leading to hell, of Satan using instruments to seduce people away from the church. I couldn’t find the “25 Theses” themselves anymore, but you can check out the site these people have put up here.

Cause & Effect; I Could Never Be Your Woman Sunday, Apr 27 2008 

Woo-hoo! I just purchased something and found something! (I should be in bed…)

I had a tape of the Another Minute by Cause & Effect in the early nineties and LOVED-LOVED-LOVED it. And it was kind of one of those cool things where hardly anybody had heard of this band, so they were “mine”. “You Think You Know Her,” “Farewell to Arms,” “The Beginning of the End…” I so loved this album. But, you know, it was on a tape, and tapes don’t last forever. Been some time since I’ve even played a tape. For the last decade or so I’ve been trying to little-by-little replace my favorite 80’s (this is the rare 90’s, though I think it was all written in the late 80’s actually) tapes with CDs. But you can’t find Cause & Effect out there. So today I remembered to look it up on Amazon, and there were 9 used CDs available — now there are 8! I can’t wait to get this CD! I will be dancing around my living room just like when I got that Glass Tiger album, 1986’s The Thin Red Line. I danced around absolutely giddy, I think especially to “Closer to You…” Darn, I’m gonna have to go listen to that album!

AND, WOWEE!!!!! I searched like a decade ago for this song “I Could Never Be Your Woman” which I absolutely LOVED in 1997. I can peg the exact year because I lived in an apartment then that I only lived in for 6 months, and I can remember when this song would come on the alarm radio in the morning my night owl self would be wide awake and full of pep. I can remember thinking, “If only I could find some way to wake up to this song every day!” Now, a guy sings this song, so beats me what it’s actually about, but I don’t really care. I LOVED the music. Still love it. I just found it on YouTube!!!! I searched for this song on the internet “back in the day” as the younguns say, but the internet is way more developed now than it was then, certainly there was no YouTube. I couldn’t even find out who sang this song. Turns out it’s White Town (never heard of ’em). But…how can I buy it? Looks like you can purchase the single on Amazon, but maybe somebody I know has one of those buy and download online thingee deals? I’m listening to this song now…yeah, already like th 5th time. I just absolutely love the sound of it. Apparently the oboe line in it (which some people find creepy?!) samples some 1930’s song! Freaky!

Maybe I should think about that bed thing though…

Barry Cameron on Trends in Evangelical Christian Churches Friday, Apr 25 2008 

Check out this interesting post from Christian church minister (I was, hehe, rather surprised to see the Crossroads Christian Church website refer to him as “pastor” — historically a no-no in Christian churches; my former church, Sherwood Oaks Christian, followed tradition and only used the term “minister”) Barry Cameron. Barry also refers to the recent John MacArthur talk their church hosted — and my friend Amy attended! Look carefully in the picture, Amy, are you there?

Barry Cameron will be the 2009 Vice-President of the NACC (North American Christian Convention, a preaching/teaching-only annual convention of Christian churches and churches of Christ (the capitalization convention is important to many of my Restoration Movement brothers and sisters). ; ) I have been privileged to attend two NACCs, one in Louisville at Southeast Christian (sixth largest church in the country, woah!), and one in Tampa, at which my pastor…er…minister Tom Ellsworth was president! Pretty cool.

I’m suffering from Christian church – SBC schizophrenia….

Banana Pudding Tuesday, Apr 22 2008 

With sour cream? My mother makes it that way.

With condensed milk? Amy makes it that way.

With cream cheese? Found a recipe online that calls for using that. I bought some earlier to make a cheesecake that it looks like I’m not going to make…so I’m going to try making it that way! (Recipe also calls for the condensed milk.)

And, BTW, the Wikipedia article says two interesting things: (1) banana pudding is southern (huh? really? people don’t eat this all over the States?) and (2) banana pudding is baked.

You read correctly: baked.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Alas, Callie Tuesday, Apr 22 2008 

I was partly right (Callie bit the dust) and partly wrong (it wasn’t her husband Tyrol accidentally killing her).

I guessed pretty early on that it would probably be Assistant Girl (let’s call her AG, I can never remember the character’s name) that killed Callie. And then as Callie was really losing it, I thought, well, maybe I’ve really been led astray here and Callie will actually kill Tyrol, and geez Louise, she surely came close!

And then it was, “Callie, don’t give that baby to AG. Don’t do, Callie. Don’t give her that baby.”

That was perhaps the most horrid death I’ve ever seen portrayed on TV. Not in its physical brutality, amount of torture, bloodshed, “creativity” (people — well, Cylons — have been sucked out airlocks before on BG!). The crime shows gleely pursue more and more disgusting things to portray in their attempts to outdo each other with horrid deaths. But Callie’s death was horrific without shedding a drop of blood (other than the blow to the head that initially knocked her to the ground). I still can’t even really let myself fully imagine what that would be like — to come to the realization that your baby has been taken from you by a Cylon (or super-bad guy whom no one else realizes is a super-bad guy, in non BG terms), immediately followed by the realization that within second you are going to be dead, with absolutely no hope that you will survive, you will never see your baby again, and you will go to your death unable to tell anyone that the person who has your baby is a Cylon (super-bad guy). If Callie had time to think about it, she might have thought too that she was going to her death as the only person on the ship who knew that there are murdering traitors on the ship who could cause the death of everyone else, and not even just her baby. But how horrid to see your baby through the glass and count the seconds…

I know, I know. Callie is a character, written by some dudes in Hollywood or Vancouver or whatever, brought to life by an actress who (presumably) is walking around today in perfect health. But for me at least, the ability to empathize with a character, to put myself in his/her shoes and imagine what would that be like is what makes TV/movies/books etc. worthwhile. And, now that I think about it, it’s probably a big part of why I don’t really get into the whole internal Cylon deal. Do Cylons think and feel the same way humans do? I don’t know. I can’t empathize with them. The ones who never knew they were Cylons and presumably do think and feel the same as humans, those I can empathize with a bit more. Imagine you found out you were a Cylon!

I can remember reading Dostoevsky’s Besy (The Demons, or The Possessed), and, when a particular character died and the man who loved her is so devastated, I was crying and asking God, “Why? Why?” (!!!) And then I remembered I was reading a book and should have asked Dostoevsky “Why? Why?”

But back to BG. I found the scenes with Starbuck painful. Not painful-good but painful-unpleasant. This is not the Starbuck I loved. But…maybe it could be OK. The rebel with/without a cause who finally pushes things so far people no longer thinks she’s cool…they just think she’s nuts. We’ll see.

And a compaint…the use of the ubiquitous BG “frak”. I am so sick of this word. In my view it has become nothing more than an excuse to basically use the “f” word constantly. It is now used in every place, every context, every collocation (phrase) that the “f” word is used in in English. Except that much “f” word would make it rated R. I try not to watch a lot of R-rated movies, but there’s no absolute moratorium on it for me. But I really, really get sick of hearing the “f” word over and over and over and over again as if it were about as common and necessary as the word “the.” And on BG, as in the scene between Starbuck and her (estranged?) husband, it’s gotten pretty close to that. Enough already. I don’t want to hear “frak” all day any more than I want to hear the vulgarity it’s oh-so-obviously substituting for.

Bad News for Battlestar’s Callie? Wednesday, Apr 16 2008 

I read in the TV Guide description of this week’s BG episode that a “beloved” or somesuch character would die. Based on what I saw from the previews at the end of last week’s episode, I’m thinking it’s probably Callie. Here’s my prediction on how this will go down.

Callie overhears her husband saying he’s a Cylon (this is strongly implied in the preview — either that or they did some creative editing to make it look like that’s what will happen). Callie freaks out. Callie and Tyrol fight. He accidentally kills her (people on TV accidentally kill each other all the time, so this is not so unusual). He freaks out, wondering, was it really an accident…or was it Cylon programming?

I’ll also take this opportunity to say I like the Callie character. She said in an earlier episode she’d joined the military to pay for college, I think. She never wanted to fight in a war, much less fight for her very existence, for the remainder of her days. Does that really humanize her or what? As much as I love Star Trek: The Next Generation (no question, my favorite show when it was on, starting in season two and lasting through “All Good Things”), this type of detail in BG is what, frankly, makes ST:TNG look silly in a lot of ways. Come on, kids taking calculus at age 7 or something? Give me a break, advanced technology doesn’t make you smarter or speed up your physical/mental development. And every single person on the ship is “the best there is”? And Riker turns down like 3 commands to stay on Enterprise? (OK, that’s a different story, born out of the desire to keep Jonathan Frakes on the show, with which I fully concur!) The ST:TNG atmosphere grew out of Gene Roddenberry’s (ridiculously) optimistic view of humanity. Everyone’s the best! There’s no crime! There’s no money — we just all work 18-hour shifts every day because we’re such good, moral people! (Woah….wait, doesn’t that sound like communism? Well, Roddenberry was an atheist and his politics were pretty far to the left as I understand….)

But I digress. I like Callie because she’s just like the small-town boy or girl who can’t afford college but isn’t poor enough to qualify for lots of financial aid, so she enlists, loving her country and willing to do her duty but never really expecting she’d actually have to go to war. I can relate to her in a way I could never relate to a Riker or a Geordie LaForge or a Data. (Well, that last one was kind of obvious.)

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