Parkrun theology?

Parkrun has become a global movement. After starting in 2004 in London there are now something like 3 million runners in over 20 countries. The concept is brilliantly simple – join others at 9.30 on a Saturday morning in running 5k around an open public space. It’s a timed run, it’s free and volunteer led.

Here’s a map of parkruns in Ireland (from the Irish Parkrun website)

Parkruns ireland

I am a Parkrun novice but get to my local venue when I can. My aim is modest – try not to die and keep moving until it’s finished. The ethos is non-competitive and friendly. There are young children running with parents, dogs on leashes, and even mums running while pushing a buggy complete with baby (good for the humility to be passed out by such a pair – I should know!).

Why talk about Parkrun on a theology blog? Well, as I was ‘running’ around the course this morning it struck me that there are parallels to baptism and the community of the church.

Better explain how before you think I have lost the plot.

A Radical Levelling

At a Parkrun everyone comes as they are. The ‘uniform’ is some sort of running gear. Participants are stripped down to bare essentials. It is just each person facing the same physical challenge. The only ‘resource’ each one has is their body.

Pretty well all the trappings of the modern world are left behind (apart from those running with headphones on). Practically all markers of status, wealth, achievement and distinction become irrelevant. There is a certain vulnerability in having those ‘protective’ layers removed. Whoever you are ‘in the world’, here you are just another runner. For each person, it is just ‘the course and me’. But – and this is the genius of Parkrun – ‘me’ is able to join with others in a community of runners sharing the same task together.

In the early Church, there was a different type of ‘levelling’ experience linked to community – that of baptism. Ben Myers describes it in his wonderful little book on the Apostle’s Creed (from a 3rd Century document called the Apostolic Tradition).

When the rooster crows at dawn, they are led out to a pool of flowing water. They remove their clothes. The women let down their hair and remove their jewelry. They renounce Satan and are anointed from head to foot with oil. They are led naked into the water. Then they are asked a question: “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?”. They reply, “I believe!” And they are plunged down in the water and raised up again.

Two further questions are asked – about their belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit. Each time they are immersed after their affirmative reply. Then

When they emerge from the water they are again anointed with oil. They are clothed, blessed, and led into the assembly of believers, where for the first time they will share in the eucharistic meal. Finally they  are sent out into the world to do good works and to grow in faith.

Now, I’m not advocating that modern baptisms (or Parkruns for that matter) should be done naked! But the symbolism is powerful. Believers bring absolutely nothing of their own status and achievements to baptism. They come utterly dependent on the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

And this radical levelling is permanent. From now on there are to be NO distinctions in status and treatment of believers based on their status and wealth. James is the most outspoken but it is a consistent theme in the NT.

Wealth and status are irrelevant before God – indeed they are most likely to be severe hindrances to the Christian life. Take this warning in 1 Timothy 6: 6-10 that I’m studying at the moment.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

And this is where (the admittedly loose) parallel to a Parkrun begins to break down. For at the end of the run the hundreds of runners return to the car park (yes, some irony about driving to a run) and get into their cars.

Immediately the world’s obsession with status and achievement comes rushing back – for few things in modern Ireland proclaim those values than our licence plates numbered by year of production attached to famous brand names – whether Mercedes, Audi, BMW or whatever.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

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REFLECTIONS ON ‘LIFE IN REVERSE’: END, MIDDLE AND BEGINNING

Over the last three weekends I have attended three very different Christian services. The first was my mum’s funeral, the second our IBI Graduation Service and the third a baptism.

Their sequence is ‘life in reverse’ – from death, to celebrating a significant milestone in life together, to a sacrament welcoming a precious new life into the community of the Church.

I hadn’t planned to write about this. I’m beginning without knowing where this is going. It may make it on the blog or into ‘Trash’ on windows explorer. If you are reading this, then you know what happened!

In IBI we are always encouraging (and requiring) students to do ‘Reflective Practice’ which is a structured process critically examining events, attitudes, and feelings with the aim of developing and improving future practice. This blog post is getting close to this – not so much reflecting on my practice but on my feelings and attitudes as a Christian who believes the creeds of the Church catholic.

DEATH

First, my mum’s funeral conducted by Rev Noble McNeely in 1st Holywood Presbyterian Church, a friend and caring pastor.

I have had very little experience of death. In our technological, medicalised and commodified Western culture death is pushed to the margins of everyday life. Unless your line of work brings you into contact with death and the grieving, it likely rarely intrudes. We are busily taken-up with the frenetic business of living. Our consumer culture promises us every possible joy and pleasure that life can offer with no ‘sell-by’ date attached.

dylan

Stanley Hauerwas

As Dylan says, we can be taken up with the conceit that we are too good to die. Or, as Hauerwas likes to say, we can fool ourselves that our technology will enable us to get out of life alive. (Always wanted to get those two together theologically!)

Yet, as OT wisdom tells us, our lives are indeed like vapour, we are here one day and gone the next. Even though I was with her when she died, I’m only beginning to get used to the reality that my mum, such a strong, supportive and reliable presence for all of my life, is gone.

In the blink of an eye, you and I will follow.

I can only speak personally here and you may disagree, but it is only a Christian funeral service that can look death in the face and yet speak with hope. It would be easy to lapse into vague sentimentalism about our loved one living on with us through love or memories, but Christian hope is much more earthy and robust.

It tells us the specifics of a historical story. That Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, has looked death in the face for us. He has experienced death itself and descended to the realm of the dead. Yet, death could not hold him. As Peter proclaims in the first ever gospel sermon, the Messiah

… was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Acts 2:31-33)

Is such belief just a crutch for those who can’t bear to accept that this life is ‘all there is’? Is it ironically a similar form of conceit to that of which Dylan and Hauerwas criticise? That we are ‘too good to die’ and can ‘beat death’ after all through resurrection life? Is it a refusal to face the fact of our own mortality that we dream of immortality?

I can’t prove this of course, but I think not. Such hope depends completely on the historic events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, evidenced by the outpouring of the Spirit.

As a consequence, it seems to me that Christian hope, through being united to the resurrected Son in faith, has given, and continues to give, believers courage to face death, persecution and suffering.

But not only this, it calls Christians to make this life count, to live a life worthy of this gospel, not getting distracted by temporary distractions but focus on loving and serving others in whatever short time given to us.

And perhaps it is those who have faced death and been given a reprieve, who can see these priorities most clearly (thinking of someone in particular here, I am sure you can too). Life is an infinitely wondrous gift. Let’s not waste it.

CELEBRATING A MILESTONE

The second service was a joyous occasion. Many friends and family came. Current students baked a fantastic graduation cake and made delicious desserts.

img_5373.jpg
Cutting the cake

Students spoke of a life-transforming experience of theological study and said nice things about staff and teachers. We sang songs. We laughed. We took many photos. We dressed up in gowns and suits and dresses and formally marked significant achievements of learning together. We acknowledged the sacrifices students and their families had made. We listened to Prof Craig Blomberg preach about ‘the real world’ being God’s inaugurated kingdom that one day will be really real and the present ‘unreal’ world will be remade anew. We congratulated students on their hard work, their teachability, their desire to learn and their passion to serve – head, heart and hands.

I think modern life has too few such occasions in which to mark significant achievement. The mixture of joy and formality at graduation is appropriate. It is a public recognition of individual success but this is not to say graduation is the end of the process. Rather it is simply a milestone to celebrate on the way.

The purpose of the learning (ideally) has multiple effects: to learn about God, his Word, what previous and contemporary Christians have thought, and to know ourselves. It means learning to think critically, to write, to articulate ideas, to lead, to communicate, to work with others, and to use God-given gifts in service of his people and the wider world.

In other words, this was a service about adult Christian faith engaging the world. It was full of life, enthusiasm, progress and a vibrant sense of how the gospel (good news) is good news for all of life.

Christian faith is not just a theory to believe in that might get you to ‘heaven’ when you die. It is, rather, an experience of living in God’s story in the here and now and participating as disciples in his mission to redeem the world which he loves.

BAPTISM

The third service was back to the beginning of life. It was another joyous occasion.

It was the baptism of the long-awaited and cherished infant son of good friends. There was prayer, singing, music, Christocentric worship and afterwards much good food and much conversation.

The church leader was welcoming, relaxed, hospitable and articulated winsomely the case for infant baptism. It not does magically make the child a Christian, but welcomes him into the church community. His parents promised to raise him in the ways of Jesus, but not on their own. In Christianity it takes a community to raise a child.

The church leader likened it to teaching him to be a Man City supporter. He may be dressed in the kit, learn the songs, go to matches, learn about the team and its history … but at some point he has to decide for himself whether to be a Man City supporter or whether to support another team, or not follow football at all …

The parents’ job – and that of the church – is to embody authentic Christian faith for him to see, touch and experience for himself. I pray he does so and in doing so finds much joy in loving God and loving others.

CONCLUDING REFLECTIONS

As I reflect on these three services, from death – to adults celebrating a milestone in their lives – to welcoming new life into the world, I have been challenged and refreshed. From a Christian perspective, all three services reinforce one another.

Perhaps these are simple conclusions, but things seem simpler after the last few weeks.

  1. Life is a beautiful gift, to be celebrated with thanksgiving, beginning, middle and end.
  2. It is also short and not to be wasted. A gift is to be used well.
  3. It is to be lived in community with others. That is where true life lies. We celebrate new life together. We rejoice at milestones reached along the journey. And we comfort each other in hope at the end of life.
  4. True purpose is found in living life for others – for God, his people and the good of the world.
  5. Such a calling is anything but a life spent selfishly pursuing temporary wealth, security, pleasure and comfort. It is a call to costly self-sacrifice in whatever context we find ourselves in.
  6. Christian faith has a telos – an end – that reaches beyond death. Christian hope is founded on the eschatological future promised by God in the resurrection of the crucified Christ. Such future hope should profoundly shape our present
  7. Such hope also proclaims that death will not have the last word. That word has already been spoken by God: loving Father, incarnate, crucified and resurrected Son and the life-giving Holy Spirit.
  8. And so it is in him alone that we are called to trust, worship and follow in this unpredictable pilgrimage called life.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

 

You are what you love 5 : ‘Guard your Heart’ (how Christian baptism and marriage are subversive)

9781587433801In chapter 5 ‘Guard your heart’ of his provocative book You Are What You Love, Jamie Smith moves the focus to how to build in ‘habits of love’ into our home lives (‘liturgies of home’)

To recap: God is love; we are made in his image; we are only able to love because God first loved us; we are lovers before we are thinkers; our loves are much more the core of our being – they order and orientate our lives; but our love needs training and directing, especially in a culture of ever demanding competition for our loves.

I wondered earlier if Smith was putting too much weight on Christian liturgy reforming our loves … in this chapter he deals head on with that sort of criticism by proposing that household liturgies are vital in recalibrating our hearts.  And, he proposes, as they work well ‘household liturgies’ will “propel us back into the Liturgy of the body of Christ.”

What’s he mean by ‘household liturgies’? In brief, Christian practices that can give shape to how we order our home. He discusses two practices – baptism and marriage.

Baptism: a sign and seal of God’s loving initiative and grace; bringing us into the household (people) of God. A people where all boundaries are broken of social class, money, bloodlines etc. It signals a new social reality.

Baptism and families – Smith is Reformed and works at Calvin College. Here he takes the paedobaptist approach of how the congregation promise to love, pray, instruct and encourage the baby being baptised. The church has a solemn responsibility to be a family community.

So the ‘Christian  family’ is drastically relativised – it ‘belongs’ within – and exists for – the wider community of the church. The real sin of family life today, says Smith, is

“the idolization of the family itself, the refusal to understand marriage as directed toward the Kingdom of God.” (116)

Does this sound a bit weird to you? Perhaps it does, but I am with him 100%. The modern family is the ideal, the marketer’s target, the route to happiness and fulfilment, the self-sufficient unit of consumption, the core of the American dream of independence. It is to be alone, the means by which to inculcate values and produce good citizens ….

But a Christian view of the family releases a lot of that unrealistic burden – it takes a loving community to raise a child. So, says Smith, one of the biggest decisions Christian parents can take around faith formation is being part of a Church that lives by the gospel narrative.

A personal note here from a parent who has just become an empty nester … we have a profound sense of gratitude to the community of our local church which has been, and is, a wonderful community in which our children were raised.

Similarly with Christian marriage: it needs to speak of a radically subversive story to that of our consumer culture. The rising stats of marriage are not somehow a sign that marriage is being more deeply valued. Quite the opposite. The modern wedding industry speaks of narcissistic self-obsession. In the USA it generates c $50 billion annually. [Here in Ireland I read recently that the average cost of a wedding is   €25,000, including the honeymoon].

I’d better avoid starting a sentence here with “In my day ..” .. Smith himself has a nice ability to pen withering prose .. the boom in the marriage industry is matched by the boom in the divorce industry.

Our interest is in the spectacle of the wedding – the event in which we get to be center stage, display our love, and invite others into our romance in a way they’ll never forget … weddings are caught up in the dynamics of “mutual display”: what’s important is being seen. It’s why we spend more time fixate on the spectacular flash of the wedding event than on the long slog of sustaining a marriage.

But the implicit mythology of Wedding Inc. also reflects how we approach marriage. Indeed, the myths we load into weddings almost doom marriages to fail. Weddings are centered on the romantic ‘coupling’ of two star-crossed lovers, as if marriage were an extended exercise of staring deep into one another’s eyes – with benefits. But even then, a spouse is one who sees me, will meet my needs, will fulfil my wants, will “complete me”. Even our romantic coupling becomes a form of self-love. (120)

He refers to Banksy’s image of the modern married couple

banksyIn contrast, a properly theological view of marriage is as locating human love within God’s love; existing for him and for others – marriage as mission, marriage as witness together to God’s kingdom; marriage as a calling and vocation that involves self-giving and sacrifice.

And therefore, Christian marriages need to be recalibrated and redirected back to their calling and purpose – and this happens within the community of believers of which they are a part, and withi which the couple serve – sharing their love with others.

I like to think of  a healthy Christian marriage as ‘porous’ … allowing and welcoming others in. Not impermeable, shutting others out in a selfish hermetic community.

In the last few pages of this chapter Smith then sketches his ideas and experiences of inculcating these values within family life. He asks

What does it look like to parent lovers? What does it look like to curate a household as a formative space to direct our desires? How can a home be a place to (re)calibrat our hearts? (127)

  • Love
  • worship
  • music
  • imagination
  • Christian calendar: family rituals linked to the cycle of the Christian year
  • Fasting
  • Serving others together
  • Enacted symbolism
  • Prayer
  • Eating together
  • Thankfulness
  • Creativity – a Sabbath slow down from hyper-consumerism and technology

Obviously all of this is contextual to each family. But the point is that ‘heart formation’ is far deeper than a surface bit of religion now and then ….

All of this is to build connections to the ‘liturgy of the home’ with the liturgy of the church in which the home belongs. Without this sort of integration there will be a lack of authenticity … and ‘doing a bit of church’ on a Sunday is mere nominalism unless it is embedded in daily life liturgies that flow from the gospel story that we claim to believe ….

Comments, as ever, welcome

Ultimate purpose of being a Christian (2): death

Some follow on thoughts from the last post ..

Response in faith to the gospel, marked by conversion & baptism, is merely the beginning of a process of being conformed to the image of the Son.

This ‘conformity’ involves bringing the Christian into a personal experience of both the death and resurrection of the Son.

Being a cheerful sort of bloke, I’ll stay with death in this post.

Paul can say things like ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Gal 2. 19) and all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death‘ (Rom 6:3-4).

Col 3:2 says ‘For you died ...’

In Romans 6:5, he can say that Christians “been united with him in a death like his“.

But if Jesus was physically killed, obviously his followers ‘die’ in a different way …. don’t they? 

Maybe, but maybe not. 

If you are Christian, what did / do you ‘die’ to as part of the process of spiritual transformation?

I say did / do because there is a past tense death, yet also an active imperative to ‘keep dying’. Paul commands believers to ‘Put to death‘ whatever belongs to their old life (Col 3:5).

Put it this way – before new life is possible, there is death to the old. Death is the beginning of the Christian life. Before resurrection is crucifixion.

The call of discipleship is a call first to come and die … and then to keep dying.

Consider Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

I suspect that most of us are very comfortable about knowing the power of Christ’s resurrection – and rejoicing and giving thanks for new life and hope.

But I wonder if we are as keen to know Christ through ‘becoming like him in his death‘ and by ‘participation in his sufferings?

This sort of knowing is not only a spiritual death, Paul had no problem linking it to very real and physical suffering.  Even to the degree where he can ‘delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties’ (2 Cor.12:10).

Is Paul some kind of masochist?  No, it is because suffering points to how Christ was ‘crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power’ (2 Cor.13:4)

This is rugged uncompromising stuff. It speaks of the offence of the cross to all forms of human self-sufficiency and optimism that ‘I’m OK, You’re OK.’ The death of Christ was absolutely necessary or God becomes a moral monster. Only in Jesus’ death is atonement and forgiveness made possible.

The call to death can be, and frequently is, misunderstood.

Rather than the gateway to a joyful transformed new life (of which more in the next post), some interpret it as a call to an existence of perpetual life-denying misery. There is something truly tragic about joyless, glum, pessimistic, fearful, hopeless and death-fixated Christianity. The worst consequence of all being that it ends up damaging the weak and vulnerable under its control.

We’ve had our fair share on this island – of both Catholic and Protestant forms – and I think some research into the theology that fostered such darkness is crying out to be done.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

Dipping into baptism 11: ‘mopping up’

Time to wrap our discussion of a good recent book on the contested waters of baptism is Baptism: Three Views, edited by the late David F Wright just before he died.

The three views are:

1. Believers’ Baptism View: Bruce A. Ware

2. Infant Baptism View: Sinclair B. Ferguson

3. Dual-Practice Baptism View: Anthony N. S. Lane

Final Reflections

Here are some last reflections on the dual practice position and some concluding thoughts of where I am at after reading this book and thinking about baptism for quite a while.

First the responses to Lane’s view – what Ferguson calls the ‘Middle-Lane position’ 🙂

I didn’t find Ware or Ferguson’s responses to Lane that strong.

Ware’s charge that Lane’s use of the historical record gives it too much weight and undermines sola scriptura is not persuasive. Lane is using the historical record as a pointer to what early apostolic practice was. Scripture is still primary.

Ferguson’s criticisms amount to a belief that there was early on and should be today uniformity of practice. As Lane replies, the evidence points to a plurality of practice and suggests this diversity was tolerated from the very beginning of apostolic tradition.

So 10 thoughts of where I’m at:

1. Baptism makes most Scriptural and theological sense when connected closely with conversion. The NT pattern is faith & repentance, receiving the Spirit and baptism.

2. Baptism is effective and is part of the conversion process – it is an instrument where we receive Christ and his salvation.

3. Believer’s baptism should therefore be given due regard as the normative practice of the church – especially in light of the damage done to baptism by widespread indiscriminate infant baptism during Christendom and our increasingly post-Christendom culture.

However, having said that:

4. This is not a ‘gospel’ issue. The practice of the early church is remarkably diverse embracing and tolerating different practices without too much angst.

5. In effect I’m closest to the ‘middle-Lane’ view: I belong happily to a Presbyterian Church which practices infant baptism [we are going to have a particularly cute one baptised on Sunday].

6. In this I am not alone – increasing numbers of Christians in paedo-baptist churches are choosing not to have their babies baptised.

7. I’m not naive enough, nor is it theologically necessary, to propose that believer’s baptism should or will one day replace infant-baptism in these churches.

8. However, I would love to see the Presbyterian Church in Ireland [and other infant-baptising denominations] have a serious discussion about moving away from a default paedo-baptist position; acknowledge the considerable weight of the historical, theological and missional case for believer’s baptism; teach and encourage parents about both positions; and promote both forms of baptism on an equal footing within the life of the church community and then let parents decide what form to follow.

9. And I’d love to see Baptist churches stop insisting that someone who has been a Christian for many years, yet who has been baptised as an infant, has to be baptised as a believer before they can become a member of the church.

10.  In other words, a moving beyond mutual exclusivity to mutual toleration.

That’s where I am at, what about you?

Dipping into baptism 10: response to dual practice

Continuing our discussion of a good recent book on the contested waters of baptism is Baptism: Three Views, edited by the late David F Wright just before he died.

The three views are:

1. Believers’ Baptism View: Bruce A. Ware

2. Infant Baptism View: Sinclair B. Ferguson

3. Dual-Practice Baptism View: Anthony N. S. Lane

Response to the Dual-Practice View

So what of Bruce Ware’s and Sinclair Ferguson’s critique of Tony Lane’s Dual Practice view?  Basically, niether like Lane’s position, even though he (Lane) agrees large amounts of both views .

Why?

Ware first: he does not like Lane’s position for three reasons. One seems to have some weight to me, the other two seem to be more assertions rather than arguments:

– The claim that there is no normative NT teaching on baptism. [Ware assumes here that the Bible should and does teach a normative position.]

– His hope that a church could practice both forms of baptism is unrealistic and impractical (in Ware’s view). Such an approach actually promotes ‘no particular view of baptism’. [This is not a strong argument – others can easily counter that they have seen dual-practice work].

– Ware wishes Lane had stayed with the evidence from Acts and not given such weight to the debatable historical record. He should have stuck with sola Scriptura. [This is a stronger argument].

Ferguson also doesn’t like Lane’s position because:

– While there is evidence of diversity, this is far from being evidence for dual practice where both modes are practiced together on an equal footing.

– Historically there is silence regarding anyone proposing & defending such a dual practice position. Ferguson argues it’s stretching things to think that a rite as important as baptismal practice was left open to (who?) people to decide as they saw fit.

– While Lane’s goal of mutual acceptance is admirable, Ferguson thinks it does so at the price of theological reductionism.

In the last post on this book, I’ll finish with Lane’s final comments and throw in some of my own.

What option persuades you and has your thinking changed or been challenged through this series?

Dipping into baptism 9: the case for dual practice (2)

Continuing our discussion of a good recent book on the contested waters of baptism is Baptism: Three Views, edited by the late David F Wright just before he died.

The three views are:

1. Believers’ Baptism View: Bruce A. Ware

2. Infant Baptism View: Sinclair B. Ferguson

3. Dual-Practice Baptism View: Anthony N. S. Lane

The Dual-Practice View (2)

In this post I want to finish off Tony Lane’s case for the dual practice of baptism – ie seeing the baptism of either infants or believers as legitimate practices within the church.

Last time I mentioned he had 4 theological points to make. Actually there are 5 (unbelievable and shocking I know, but I do make mistakes 🙂

1. Two Strategies

Both views have a lot in common. They include nurture in the faith, which leads to the grown up child making a decision to be baptised. Yes they differ on the timing of baptism, but in practice whichever view is held makes very little difference in actual Christian living.

Lane argues both can be seen as legitimate adaptations of converts’ baptism of Acts. Church history supports both being practiced simultaneously. In fact he says

“diversity is the only policy for which the first four centuries of the church provide any clear evidence.”

2. The Silence of the Bible

Fact: the NT says nothing about the initation of children within a Christian home into the Christian faith. Lane argues we should respect the silence of Scripture as well as what it does say. Silence in this case opens the door for the diversity of theological understandings drawn from Scripture. In other words, does Scripture itself point to legitimate diversity (as with different forms of church govt for example?)

3. The role of diversity

Lane argues that as both practices have strengths, diversity in practice actually builds up the church rather than weakening it. Interesting argument!

4. Status of Christian Children

close to the previous point. In a fast secularising culture, baptist practice helps point to the need for real personal faith freely chosen. Infant baptist practice encourages serious responsibilities for bringing up children in the faith. Both are needed argues Lane.

5. The individual and the Corporate

Baptists place greater emphasis on the individual’s faith. Children do not receive the sacraments until they have professed faith and been baptised.

Infant baptists stress the corporate nature of the covenant of salvation.  Children are members of the church as baptised infants.

Lane’s point here is that these two different ways of looking at salvation (the individual and the corporate) give freedom to practice both modes of baptism depending on which aspect seems to the parents to be the most persuasive.

I’ll come back to responses to Lane next time.

There you have it … persuaded, apathetic, confused?

In other words, how much does this issue of baptism matter to the mission and health of the church in 21st Century Ireland?