Excursus on Baptism

The agenda of the FV school of thought is to talk about the things God talks about in the way God talks about them. I remember conversing a couple of years ago with someone of substantial theological pedigree who objected to my statement that we are joined to Christ through baptism. My interlocutor insisted that baptism was a sign and seal of the covenant and not a means by which we are united to Christ. I found this statement analogous to insisting that my minivan is a Ford and not a Windstar. What really floored him, though, was my use of the prepositional phrase, "through baptism." He seemed to think that nothing happens "through baptism" and that I should excise that formulation from my theological speech.

I tried to explain to him that I attributed no inherent power to baptism, but wanted to be faithful to the Bible's way of speaking about baptism. Paul says in Romans 6:4: "We were therefore buried with Christ through baptism (dia tou baptismatos) into death." If Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, didn't hesitate to use this language, why do we? Well, it's risky, people say. But the risk in using these formulations is the Holy Spirit's risk and we are simply not afforded the liberty to say, "The Holy Spirit should have been a little more cautious with his vocabulary."

I sometimes wonder whether the church languishes today because of our distance from biblical vocabulary and biblical locutions. Though we talk often enough about the power of the Word, we marginalize it through our hesitation to speak it.

Some might allege that I'm resorting to biblicism. My response is, "No, I'm resorting to the Bible." We don't need to discard our theological explanations of baptism; we do need to ensure that our theological explanations do not eclipse the Bible's formulations. I'm therefore appreciative of the FV school of thought for reminding us to speak about the things God does in the way God does.

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