Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Baptismal Covenant

We hear a lot from the progressive side of the Church that we need to uphold the Baptismal Covenant in the Church and that Baptism makes us full members of the Church with equal "rights" to all the sacraments of the Church.

Most of the reasserters that I've spoken with and blogged with and read are pretty tired of this line of thinking because it is commonly abused such that the Baptismal Covenant is operationally reduced to the last two questions:
  • Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I say that the progressives have the correct line of thinking - except for the talk of "rights." Within the Church, we have no rights. We don't want our "rights" because our only right as sinners is to live apart from God. (But that's another post).

I say that the progressives are right that we need to live out the baptismal covenant. The Baptismal Covenant is divided into two parts. The first part is the Apostles' Creed. It makes the following claims about God

  1. God the Father created Heaven and Earth
  2. God the Son was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, was crucified, died, was buried, decended to the place of the dead (hell), rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, will come again to judge the living and the dead.
  3. The Holy Spirit is also God
  4. There is a catholic church that is deserving of our trust and belief,
  5. There is a communion of saints (on earth and in heaven)
  6. Our sins can be are forgiven
  7. There is a resurrection of the body
  8. There is everlasting life.

Implied in the Apostles' Creed (and specifically stated in the Nicene Creed) is that God is a Trinity of persons in unity of being.

First, we subscribe to the orthodox faith by naming God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Part of the Covenant is to believe (the Greek is pisteuo) certain things. That doesn't mean simply that we intellectually assent to them or accept that is true. That is just surface belief. The Greek pisteuo actually denotes more than simple mental assent. It denotes trust and confidence. We don't just say that these things are true, we place our trust in them. We have confidence in them. We risk ourselves that they are true. So, if a member of the clergy denies the Virgin Birth, he is violating his Baptismal Covenant. If a member of the clergy denies the physical resurrection - either of Jesus or of us, she is violating her baptismal covenant. If a person uses names for the Holy Trinity other than "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or the older language of Holy Ghost), he is violating his baptismal covenant.

As I said earlier, one of the tasks of the deacon is to be a prophetic voice. We call the Church back to her covenant. Most often this calling back concerns reminding the Church of her responsibilities to continue to care for the sick, the lost, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and those in prison.

A Deacon is called to "interpret to the Chruch the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world." I say to the Church that the world doesn't need yet another compromise with it (as much as the World wants us to compromise with it). The World needs the faith of the Apostles and it needs Jesus Christ. When a Church forgets its covenant with God by forgetting who God Is and who Jesus Is, then the Church cannot give the faith of the Apostles to the world and it cannot give the world Jesus Christ.

The second part of the Baptismal Covenant is a series of five questions and I will explore them in the next few posts.


Phil Snyder

Update - Part 2 here

and Part 3 here

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