Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Value of Life, And Why Baptist Theology is UItimately Counterproductive to a Culture of Life

Luke 1:24-25 (ESV)
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, [25] "Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."
“To take away my reproach among people.” This is the lament of a woman that cannot conceive. At least it often is. The words have always struck me. I have always found it curious, and perhaps a bit of a shame that society no longer sees it this way much. The women who suffer it, well they suffer this lament. At least most of them I know. I imagine they feel a bit guilty or broken, and it is a cruel twist of fate that women who desire children can’t have them, when so many who can have them don’t want them. Even crueler that the women that don’t want them are too often pressured into abortions. Our society is cruel that way. And now it is easier and cheaper for a person to adopt a child from Africa or China than it is to adopt a child in their own back yard. My conspiracy theory mind says that has everything to do with the abortion industry. Then we have a government that wants to shut down religiously run adoption agencies who don’t want to subject kids to growing up with two daddies and no mommy. I have no idea why it is gay couples can’t set up their own adoption agencies. Perhaps they don’t think the mom’s will want to use their agency? That is my guess. But then why shouldn’t the mom have some choice in who she allows to adopt her child? If in principle you can’t have children, not because of an abnormal medical condition preventing what might otherwise occur, but because your plumbing wasn’t meant to be compatible with that of your partners, then I think a mother has the right to say what nature has already told you.
Yes, in a fallen world such as the one we live in, many children are raised without a mom, or without a dad. People die in this world. But I don’t think we need to intentionally complicate the life of a child. Of course we live in a free country, (At least we did at one point). If someone wants to adopt their child out to a homosexual couple, I’m not going to stand in their way. But I think that adoption agencies have every right to be governed by their own religious principles, and the gay and lesbian crowd is perfectly free to set up their own adoption agencies.
But more than that I think we should be able to make adoption a lot easier across the board. I think I’d rather see a child alive and raised by two men, than aborted. It’s shameful what we do these days. And what was once considered a curse, we c now consider a blessing. What has become of our culture, when children are no longer treasured, and considered a blessing.
In truth we have regressed a great deal. Jesus loved little children. Really it was the love Jesus had for children that taught western society to love children. It was his love that stopped infanticide. It was his love that for many years made abortion a last recourse in the effort to save the life of a mother, or illegal. Classical society saw little value in the life of a child. For that matter they tended to put little value on life in general. A society that will throw children in a trash can before or after the child would be born, soon begins to see all of life at about the same value as garbage. Our society thinks itself proud for having put an end to slavery. It should. But slavery is only viewed as evil where people are considered equal. And that equal value can that be the same value as trash. I can own trash if I want to, even if I’m trash myself. We no longer value life at all. I dare say it is but a matter of time, before we no longer think everyone has the right to be free either.
It was Christianity, with its view that life had the infinite value of the Blood of Christ shed to redeem the life of everyone, that gradually broke with the tradition of slavery. It is this that ultimately shaped the society to what it is today. The conviction that God loves each of us, no matter where we are born, or what our station in life.
But this value cannot be returned to Western society by passing laws. Christians have lost the majority needed to bring that about any way. We couldn’t do it now even if we wanted to. No, it has to be preached and lived. In other words we need to start preaching the gospel again. We need to let people know that Jesus died for their sins, that he forgave them, and redeemed them from the trash bin of life. We need to let them know he has done this for everyone. And part of this will be to again teach the love that Christ has for Children, and this cannot be done where they are refused baptism.
At this point I’ll come out and say it. Baptist theology is the enemy within. It is a peculiar conundrum. On the surface they are the “culture warriors.” But then even that, shows the problem. They’re engagement with culture is hostile. They engage the culture too often with the same means that cultural factions engage each other, with power grabs seeking dominance. It is all they have left, because losing baptism they have lost the gospel. The gospel and the sacraments cannot live long without each other. In this you can trace it right back to Calvin and Calvinism. Baptist theology, in many ways, is nothing but the natural progression of a theological track that doesn’t recognize the salvific significance of baptism, but seeks to give it some other meaning rather than that of which the Bible gives it. When baptism is first stripped of the blessings it offers, it is no longer necessary. When it is no longer necessary it is turned into law, and a thing to be feared, an oath to be taken with fear and trembling. And when this is done it is seen as an act of grace to deny a child baptism. Finally it is seen as an act of grace to deny a child a means of grace, it is seen as an act of grace to deny the child the grace of God, because it is no longer seen as grace.
This hit home for me not too long ago when discussing baptism with a mother seeking to learn about the Lutheran faith. When she had been baptized she had been taught that in baptism she took a pledge to follow a stricter rule for life. She did not want her children being subjected to such “extra” rules, to take such an oath without full knowledge of what they are doing. I could respect her for that. But I can’t respect the theology from which she came to that position.
This in fact is the end game of Baptist theology, and for that matter mormon theology, concerning baptism. Baptism becomes a pledge someone takes to lead a life holier than that of others. How can this not lead to a self righteousness? How can this not ultimately destroy the love for neighbor that the gospel gives? How can ideas such as this not completely undermine the gospel? What then is the purpose of baptism in this system, if it is not to make one self righteous, unloving of their heathen neighbors, and secure in their own works? I’d really like someone to answer that for me.
I don’t need more laws, or extra rules to live by. What purpose could those serve? Romans 3 is pretty clear that the law has done its work quite fine without the need for baptism to add more. Throw Ephesians 2 in for that matter. We are dead because of the law. All of us are dead because of the law, were killed by the law. We couldn’t live by the ten commandments. We don’t need new laws. We need to be saved from the law. And that is precisely why Jesus gave us baptism. So we could be washed in grace, and sanctified, reborn, and forgiven.
But as long as baptism is viewed as something to be feared, something extra to take on for the Lord, added rules, and not as the blessing of rebirth Jesus says it is in the 3rd chapter of John, then that grace will be denied to children, and the culture of death will continue. But when once again we return to Biblical teaching, and love children, and bring them to Jesus as he bids of us, when we regain the gospel and once again proclaim forgiveness of sins in the blood of Christ spilt for the world. We will learn an ancient way of engaging culture, the way the early church used, the way that ultimately transformed western society. Transformed it into a society that valued life.


Brigitte said...

This is where open adoptions are good, also. The birthparents can chose a couple of their liking.

Bror Erickson said...

Good Point Brigitte.
More and more I think our government is not seeing children as belonging first and foremost to a family, but to them. It is rather sad. So the government is trying more and more to throw wedges between parents and children. Take more and more control over the kids. so if they are up for adoption they want complete control of who gets the kids when it is done. Open adoption does get around that a lot.