Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Southern Baptist Scholar's Case for Baptism

For the record, put me in the category of those who'd like to see the Saints win, but who also think it'll be the Colts.
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Nearly twelve years later, I can still remember sitting in the library at Harding University's Graduate School of Religion in Memphis. In front of me was one of the many journals I had picked up to peruse.

By the way, this is one of my favorite things to do: go to a good library, pick a dozen or more current periodicals off the shelf, and see what people are thinking about. (I know, a lot of people do something like this every day from their computers. But trust me, it's just not the same). Anyway, the point of all this is, if anything really catches your attention, you can read it. And, of all the things you don't read, at the very least you have an idea of what the current trends and topics of interest are. If you're a preacher, this is something you should do. But I digress.

Here's what was so memorable about that day. One of the periodicals I had in front of me was the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. It wasn't one of my usual picks. But I had noticed a title on the cover of the latest issue: "Baptism and Becoming a Christian in the New Testament," by Robert H. Stein. With that title, how could I resist? Besides, I already knew Stein's name from other things he'd written. Everything I had read by him was first-class. This article turned out to be no exception.

Within the previous month or two, I had heard a couple of preachers from the Churches of Christ backing away from our traditional insistence on baptism as an essential part of a person's initial response to Christ. But not Stein. He held up a balanced, fair-minded view of what the New Testament says about baptism and its connection to Christian initiation and identity. I was not pleasantly surprised; it was more like astonished, floored.

That was back in the day when, if you really liked an article, you didn't link it to something you said in your blog, or pass it around via email. You made a paper copy. Which is exactly what I did at the time. I mentioned the article to a few friends. I might have even made a few copies of my copy and passed them around. Anyway, a couple of days ago I was going through some old files when I came across the article again and wondered if, since 1998, the article had ever been posted online. It has.

Stein's article is the second one in the Spring 1998 issue of SBJT. There's other good stuff in this particular issue, too. Take a look.


Anonymous said...

It so happens that I just found and read it. He comments on the positions of the Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed and Baptists. I just wonder why he left out the CoC.


Anonymous said...

I ran across this fine article when I did my D.Min. Thesis. Very very good. Chris Smith