People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.
After 2000 years, is there really anything to say about baptism that has not already been said? Probably not. But I still harbor hope within me that the church can see unity around an understanding of baptism that’s also firmly rooted in Scripture.
So I’d like to do a series on baptism in the coming posts. And, in the spirit of Will Rogers, maybe we can do a whole lot more observing than arguing.
Before launching into a study of baptism, maybe it would be helpful to think about Bible study in general. I’d like to briefly share four ideas that I’ve come to believe about how to interpret the Bible:
- I think that getting an explanation from a good teacher is a more trustworthy way of arriving at truth than my own clumsy attempt to draw conclusions from what I see. For example, when it comes to understanding the parables, I need to be more impressed with Jesus’ explanation than my own deep insights into the matter.
- At the same time, the best way to learn how to apply a truth is to see how people have lived out or failed to live out the truth. Wisdom comes from observing the mistakes and successes of those who have gone before us. When it comes to the Bible, the trick is to understand God’s purpose in placing certain characters within its pages. What’s God’s purpose in depicting Judas Iscariot’s life in Scripture? What’s his purpose in showing us the lives of early Christians in the book of Acts? Whom should we follow? From whom should we run like mad?
- In practice, I think that Scripture too often is made to serve theology, rather than the other way around. I like to think of theology as “guard rails” on the “Bible road” rather than the steering wheel in the car. When it comes to understanding the Bible, I believe that a clear verse that I can read and understand should carry more weight with me than a derived theological proposition. The latter I want to hold on to more loosely than the former.
- I distrust the person who gives me rules of interpretation that appear to be constructed for the sole purpose of leading me to adopt his own conclusions. When this happens, I feel like I’ve been had, rather than educated. Beware when something tries to persuade you with a forced interpretation.
And what do you know? By presenting these principles, it could be that I have become a violator of #4 above. You’ve gotten my principles. Now watch as I lead you unavoidably to the incontrovertible truth, a.k.a. my own opinion. No, I plead with you. Give me a chance. Over the next several posts, maybe we can look at the topic of baptism in a way that is refreshing and new for you.
By faith, you’ll just have to wait and see where I take you from here…