Baptism: an historical-theological evaluation

Carson T. Clark is an Anglican seminarian pursuing Holy Orders, same as I.  We come from different backgrounds (especially cultural backgrounds), but we’re in much the same sort of life situation right now.  I think we’re even the same age.  Anyway, I’ve been following his blog for some time, and have found over the past few months that we approach Anglicanism quite differently.  Though both of us dislike the heavy use of labels when describing ‘types’ of Christians, for sake of simplicity I think it’s fair to say that he is very much an Evangelical Anglican seeking a centrist position amidst Protestant & Catholic strands of the Church, while I’m more of a Catholic Anglican.

That being said, we’ve hit upon a topic which at first developed some rankles between him and I (and, it seemed, between him and lots of other people besides myself), which has ended up in a near-convergence of our opinions: the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  We still come at things like this from different angles, perhaps, but I think it’s an excellent read on the subject.

The only addition I would make, in light of the first comment on the page, is that I utterly distrust the argument that Baptism  is done primarily out of obedience to Christ.  Yes, Christ commanded it, and yes we must obey, but that is not the point of Baptism.  If it were, then it would simply be a new Law, which I think Paul made quite clear that is absolutely the wrong idea (cf. the epistle to the Galatians).  Baptism is done for a reason – because it’s efficacious.  It does something for us.  At the very least, it’s part of ‘making disciples,’ as Jesus said in Matthew 28.  But again, if it’s just a hoop to jump through, then it’s merely law, no matter how good the symbolism is.

What Baptism does, then, is the trickier question, and I can respect a variety of opinion on that subject.  This isn’t really the purpose of Carson’s paper, though, as he’s primarily evaluating the historical development of Baptism and the theological implications of Article 27.  If you’ve got time, please read his paper.  I know I’ll most likely refer back to it in my future writings.

About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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1 Response to Baptism: an historical-theological evaluation

  1. Stephen says:

    That’s an interesting blog he has there. To be honest, I’m more intrigued by the design/layout than anything else.

    Anyhow, I really like your point about baptism just becoming a new law if we do it “because Jesus said so.” I’d say (and you’d probably agree) that communion/the Eucharist/the Lord’s Supper becomes the same thing if we only emphasize our actions as rote obedience to Jesus (hopefully with some social or emotional benefit to us) as opposed to our actions leading into encounters with God’s grace that really does something to us that we couldn’t have done. Interesting how that “Catholic” view prevents the sacraments from becoming mere “works.”

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