This afternoon I should probably immerse myself in practice or study or parenting or reading or housework (or all five) for the three hours I have left, but I’ll first reflect on the experience of baptism. At the moment, my ears are being showered with Mozart horn concerti—works I should probably dip into more often—and this music can be cleansing. Soon I’ll sprinkle in a little horn warmup between drips of writing and editing. Then I’ll need to handle a little fiscal and family stuff before being submerged in four or five lanes of metro-area traffic in the early evening.
I don’t suppose I’ve witnessed baptisms on a scale commensurate with my religious tradition—one that has always been very aware of, tied to, and committed to the practice of immersion. Let me say two “doctrino-textual” things here before describing a few experiences, the most recent of which occurred this morning:
- I take as a given that the word baptize (βαπτίζω | baptidzo) primarily indicates an immersion/submerging in water—and that the huge proportion of NT texts that use this word carry this base meaning. Long ago I decided to ignore the word “baptize” in English Bibles and simply read (even if reading aloud) “immerse” where “baptize” appears. I believe I am on solid logical, linguistic, and historical ground in doing so.
- The symbolism of going under water is compelling. Yet I imagine that, despite genuine, pure-hearted, doctrinaire protestations, the “mode” of baptism in God’s own view might not be quite as rigid as has been assumed. In making this statement I mainly mean to open the door for God’s grace in situations in which an incomplete understanding had been reached, resulting in some other “mode” such as sprinkling or pouring. I do not mean to excuse careless or facile denominational subservience in any case; neither the sprinklers nor the immersers may rightly think that because that’s the way my church does it, that’s the way it should be done.
Next part: baptism during my growing-up years at church and summer camp