Our Non-Missional Christmas

This Christmas I will celebrate what has been done for me, and for my family.  For at least a brief portion of time I will cease to be concerned about the rest of the world, about my neighbor in need, and about the problems others face, and I am just going to focus on what has been done for us.  I know this flies in the face of the new missional Christmas where we all try to give as much money to feeding people as we do giving presents to each other, and to many people the Miklovic selfish Christmas seems to be the very antithesis to what Christmas should be, but I disagree.

I was born in sin, and have sinned since my earliest of days, so has my wife, and my two young children.  We have known right, and chosen wrong.  We have had God’s law revealed to us, and chosen disobedience to it.  The Miklovics without any outside intervention are a pretty hopeless bunch.   I could take Christmas and turn it into a time to pour blessing upon the world and make it a time of monastic self denial, but I am not going to. Christmas is about the redemption of the Miklovic family by our Lord who saw it fit to be born in human flesh in a manger.  Christmas, is all about undoing that curse that the Miklovics were born into because of original sin in Adam.  Christmas, the celebration of the advent of Christ was for the Miklovics and we are going to view it in that light, as something done FOR US.  You say yes, but was it not for the rest of the world too?  Of course it was, and I encourage you and the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas in the same manner, as Christ coming FOR YOU.  Yes, we will still give our traditional gift to our kids that they are required to use to serve someone else, yes we will still lead youth on food drives, and give to those in need, because that is a part of who we are... but that is not, nor will it be the focus of our Christmas.

Let me give a little more explanation.  During the mega-church or church growth movement we had a horrible streak of selfishness driving evangelicalism.  Everything in churches was to be carefully crafted to make congregants happy with the style, and comforts of modern worship.  Of course most of us are now ready to admit that this consumeristic mentality is the wrong way to go, and that people should not be drawn to the church simply to be given coffee, tips for life, and good music.  Yet how have we responded to the consumerist failure?  We have turned around and created the missional movement to curb our self absorbed appetite.  We have taken the growth model which tells vistors “we are all about you, be comfortable enjoy yourselves” and replaced it with the total opposite “it is not about you, get out of your ‘comfort zone’ and join us in mission.”  The growth movement catered to the consumer, and the missional movement caters to the wannabe superhero.  Both movements at their heart are consumeristic trying to create what people want to consume.  Neither movement offers comfort with regard to our own fallenness.  The growth movement was to capture those who remember nothing but dead fundamentalism and wanted something more joyful.  The missional movement is for those who grew annoyed with the growth movement and wanted their life to mean something and to make a difference.  In either case, both movements addressed and are addressing the desires of the consumer of the day.  (This is why people are so unfortunately infatuated with Barna polls.)  The problem is that in reaction to the growth movement, the missional movement has thrown out any notion whatsoever that Christ has done a great work FOR YOU.  It quickly forces you to reach out to others while never receiving anything yourself.  The growth mentality was all for you, yet it did not placard the Christ which died for you and the implications of that, it instead structured the church experience ‘for you’ with all the amenities of your local shopping mall.  The ‘for you’ of the growth movement is not the ‘for you’ of the gospel, yet in the rejection of the growth movement, the actual Gospel ‘for you’ has been placed on the back shelf by the missional movement.  Essentially in an effort to get out of one ditch we have fallen into the ditch on the other side of the road.

That is why my family, which is a mission minded family, will see Christmas not as a call to mission, but a call to receive with gratitude once again that Christ was incarnate FOR US.  This is not selfish, this is receiving and appreciating a gift that was given to us.  Not in the form of good coffee and a Christmas ham, but as Christ incarnate FOR US.  Enjoy the gift and the giver, certainly you will go out on mission, and certainly you will serve others and certainly your living faith will propel you into works, but take time to see that the gift is FOR YOU.


Love -- Law or Gospel?

In Wesleyan theology there is a large emphasis placed on love, and many in the Methodist movement would go so far as to say “the Gospel in one word is love.”  I could agree with that statement if what is meant is that the Gospel is that God has so loved us that Christ had our sin imputed to him and his righteousness imputed to us that we would receive the benefit of righteousness while Christ endured the curse of the law for us, and that this actually took place in history as an actual event.  In other words, I can agree that our theology should be all about love if you are speaking of the love of God for us.  However if the Gospel is that we are to love God and love others because of what Jesus did then we are greatly confusing the Gospel and the Law.

Let me be clear, we should love others and love God, and in light of the Gospel we should be driven to love, I do not intend to negate that, nonetheless the Gospel has nothing to do with our love... in fact as far as action is concerned the Gospel has nothing to do with us.  The Gospel is news of a completed work, a work that was for us, but that was not carried out by us.  This is a very important post for this blog, because in Methodism as well as most of evangelicalism we are getting this confused.  As the veil has been pulled of my eyes regarding this tragic confusion of love being the Gospel instead of law I have been liberated and able to share this liberating Gospel others.  The reality that love is law not Gospel (in the sense that we are called to love) is a reality that we need desperately to discover in the UMC.

Just to get the terms right here, the Law is what we are commanded to do by God.  The Gospel is the work God did for us in Christ.  Law, our doing... Gospel, his doing.

Romans 3:19-20 ESV  Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  (20)  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Galatians 2:15-16 ESV  We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners;  (16)  yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

The scripture is crystal clear that we will not and cannot be justified by obedience to the Law, because we have already disobeyed it, and have the propensity to continue in disobedience toward it.  To attempt justification by the law is an uphill battle that produces a life of despair and leads to an afterlife of torment.  It is essential that we understand that we will not be justified by our obedience to the Law, period.  We also must understand that the Gospel is about Christ’s fulfillment of the Law for us, both the righteousness demanded by it, and the curses required for transgression of it... for us.

Which brings us to this:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  (5)  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

First off notice that the above quote is given from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.  This is not a New Testament call to Gospel love, this is an old testament statement of Law.

Leviticus 19:17-18 ESV  "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.  (18)  You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

Again, notice this is from the Old Testament book of Leviticus, this is not some New Testament paradigm introduced by Jesus.  This is the Law.  When you read the above verses from Romans and Galatians (and there are many more similar passages) which state we will not be justified by the Law they allude to these passages from Deuteronomy and Leviticus as well as any other passage from the Law.  Moreover we find Jesus quoting these passages directly when questioned what the greatest commandments are.  Jesus affirms that love of neighbor and love of God is the summation of the Law.  Jesus calls love the great LAW, not the Gospel.

The Law of God shows us our need for grace, it is a school master leading us to the foot of the cross.  When we take our call to love and put that call in the Gospel column instead of the Law column you create a huge problem, the very commandment which was meant to drive you to the cross instead becomes something altogether different.  It loses it’s power as love, yet gains nothing because it is not Gospel.  Our command to love is the Law, it is not the Gospel, and if you look at your own life, see the lack of love toward neighbor, and the lack of loving God with your entire heart soul strength and might you should be driven to see your need of Grace, and see that in Christ we have that grace given to us.  Yet if you refuse to see love as law, your lack of love will never drive you to grace.

Current trends in almost all of evangelicalism, and the long time trend in Methodism is to confuse love as Gospel instead of Law.  The surveys all tell us that if we focus on love we will grow our churches, and that what the world wants to see is love, and that is true.  If we make our entire focus on love than we will be the most excellent of all Law based religion, but we will cease to be Christianity.  The Jew, the Muslim, and every other major faith can claim its ethic to be love without any Gospel at all.  If we view Jesus only as example and not as sacrifice, if we see him as our best example of loving, and not as the one who fulfilled love for us, then we become no different than all other religion except that we have a better example to follow.  Yet if we see love as the law, and see the Gospel as something altogether different then and only then will we see the marvelous grace which has been given to us in Christ, and actually be freed to love from gratitude instead of loving because we are duty bound to do so.

There is a reason that even the most conservative Churches (Wesley and the Methodist church was ‘conservative’) eventually become liberal in the long run and it is because of this confusion.  With love as your Gospel you eventually end up with a religion that is entirely Law.  You can find common ground with every religious institution, every social service agency, every government, and every other humanistic endeavor because essentially they are all built on the same ethic... that is to love others and the to love the God of your understanding.  Christianity is altogether different, because Christianity alone knows that love is the summation of the law that we have been completely unable to keep, and that our lack of complete love necessitates a savior, and that Christ himself fulfilled the Law, that is fulfilled love, on our behalf and we stand on his merit, not our love.

I’d love to hear a few Methodist friends weigh in on this.


Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms

The idea of this blog is to express the implications of a Methodist discovering of the reformation, and one of the things we find very common in both Lutheran and Reformed churches is the extensive use of catechisms and creeds.  In the Methodist Church, at least in our day we see creeds going the way of the dodo bird, and I know of nobody using catechisms in the UMC, and I am unaware (I have not researched) if there is such thing as a Catechism approved by and readily used in United Methodism.  If there is, I have never seen or heard of it in my 20+ years as a United Methodist.  I, along with most other conservative United Methodists have insisted on scripture memorization as paramount for our confirmands and youth, yet have spent little time on creeds, and even less on catechisms.  Many fundamentalists would celebrate that "scripture only" focus, but I think it is horribly flawed.

Scripture memorization is an important discipline, but I would contend that it is a less important discipline than catechesis or the memorization of the creeds that accurately depict the faith.  Now I can hear my fundamentalist brethren getting really bent out of shape with that statement and I can certainly understand why.  What I am essentially saying is that you would be better off to memorize a creed which is not inspired, than to memorize portions of the inspired word of God.  At the outset it seems like an absurd argument for me to make, but it is not.

The simple reality is that verses individually taken outside of their context have no meaning.  A verse without its context is just a phrase dangling in space.  However a creed or a catechism that honestly deals with the entire cannon of scripture provides an overall context which an individual verse can be understood within.  This is incredibly important to see.  Confusion around many doctrines exist because the debates always seem to float around one isolated verse being quoted against another isolated verse.  How many times have you heard someone say “this verse presents a real problem to the insert particular theological view point here.”  Yet often times if you read the entire context that contains that particular verse you will see that it actually supports the view point being argued against.  My point is that you cannot make a biblical theology with a simple list of verses.

This is why creeds and confessions are so valuable, yes you should test them against the whole cannon of scripture, and yes you should not just assume the creed writers got it perfect, but at the same time you should realize that the historic creeds and confessions have been based off of scripture in its entirety and are not easily sunk by one verse here or there.

A quick scan of the evangelical landscape will show you a lot of people who know bits and pieces of Christian teaching, and most people know a few verses, and can tell you that God loves the world or that you should not judge others... yet  the sad reality is that it is a small percentage that can actually articulate what the entirety of scripture is about.  Few can look at the whole history of redemption with Christ at the center and just see it for what it is.  Everyone is so used to regurgitating particular new testament comfort verses that they cannot show how God’s goodness was displayed even in Israel’s slaughter of the people who dwelt in the promised land.

Preachers need to take heed here as well.  When I am expositing a passage of scripture to our congregation I am always directly quoting the scripture I am presenting, and continually coming back to it throughout the message.  Yet, as I preach and pull in different events from the biblical narrative, or pull in different teachings from other portions of scripture, I am not so concerned with direct quotation and giving a chapter and verse, instead I am concerned with pulling the common theme of the passage being exposited by pulling in examples from other places in scripture.  The point is that as preachers and teachers we need to be preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God, and that means to preach it as a whole.

Catechisms, and creeds are wonderful ways of teaching the whole counsel of God without having to memorize all 1100+ chapters of the scripture, and is more profitable than only taking bits and pieces of scripture to heart.  As I teach confirmation this year I will be using the Heidleberg Catechism, though I will omit a couple of sections near the end, but I trust that it will be more profitable to the students in the long run than if I had them memorize 50 isolated scriptures which I deemed were important.


Lutherans and The Lord's Supper

I have had a running conversation with a confessional Lutheran friend regarding the Lord’s supper for two or three weeks on twitter, and because so many rabbit trails have been chased in this conversation I sensed that it is time to take it to the blog.  The conversation is fitting for this blog as it falls within the context of a Methodist dealing with doctrines of the Reformation, specifically Luther’s view of ‘Real Presence’ in the Lord’s Supper.  I would highly recommend that you follow Dawn on twitter ‘@rumor99’ and visit her website here.  Moreover you can see the Lutheran view defended at here by Todd Wilken, of Issues Etc, or an interesting and seriously humorous defense of confessional Lutheranism against Calvinism at here by Rev Fisk.

Our conversation has centered around the Lord’s Supper and whether the ‘real presence’ of the Lord is in the bread and the wine.  Now this is a friendly discussion, and I do not sense that Dawn doubts our union in Christian fellowship and as far as internet twitter dialog goes I would consider Dawn a friend who has sharpened me in many ways.  Nonetheless, as cordial as this may be, it is not a trivial issue, and in many respects the Gospel itself is a stake, especially from the Lutheran end of the argument, as they are apt to argue that “the Sacrament is the Gospel”, their verbiage not mine.  Also note that we are dealing with Confessional Lutheranism here i.e. LCMS, not ELCA, I imagine Luther himself would not recognize the ELCA as Lutheran by any stretch of the imagination.

I argue as would nearly all Protestants that the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper are not literally/physically the body and blood of our Lord, but instead are figures of his body and blood.  The Lutheran appeals to Matthew 26:26-28 and simply says “This is my body... This is my blood...” means exactly what it says in the very literal sense.  As you debate this with a Lutheran they will continually come back to the fact that Jesus said “this is...” and if you are not careful arguing from the other side you begin to sound like Bill Clinton asking ‘What is ‘is’?”  Nonetheless, the question “what is meant by is?” is indeed an appropriate question.  Yes, I can hear you Lutherans chuckling right now.

Jesus uses ‘is’ in other places in a figurative manner, I can think of Mark 3:34-35 off hand, when he affirms that his disciples are his mother and his brothers.  I would never hang an argument about the Lord’s Supper upon Mark 3:34-35, nonetheless that is a clear example of when “is” does not mean “is” in the literal sense.  There are other places as well.  Moreover we hear Lutherans appeal to the “how would a five year old understand it?” argument so as to prove that the simple reading is that Jesus is actually calling bread “His Body” in the most literal sense.  My three year old will often pick up a ‘little people’ toy and say this *is* my daddy, and this *is* my mommy and then proceed to act like they are Kristin and I, even 3 year old Joey understands the figurative sense of *is*.  Sure that is simple make believe and all kids do that, and I am not trying to use a profane argument, but the simple truth is that even a three year old knows how to use *is* figuratively.  There is ample precedent for *is* being figurative in language.  The traditional Passover Seder itself is filled with figures and metaphors, in fact the Passover meal itself is a metaphor.

The other, and maybe most silly argument you hear is: “When it comes to judgment day I would rather stand before Jesus saying I believed you when you said *is* than to stand there and be wrong and have to say to Jesus that you didn’t believe Him when he said *is*.”  That same argument can be turned completely around pretty easily.  I would not want to stand on judgment day and have to give an account for why I worshipped bread when I had a clear understanding of the different and obvious uses of the word is.

The thing is that this is not a trivial argument.  I am not willing to break fellowship with confessional Lutherans over this, and frankly I am very thankful for a lot of Lutheran’s and their theology.  At the same time given the stance I take that *is* indeed is figurative in Matt 26:26-28 I must say that confessional Lutherans are heretical with regard to the Lord’s Supper, and they too must, because of their belief, see me as heretical with regard to the Lord’s supper.  This is slightly more problematic for the Lutheran, because they believe that the sacrament indeed is the Gospel, so my stance is to say they get the Gospel wrong.  This is not to be harsh, but it is healthy for us to be honest.

The other argument that comes up is why would Paul use such grave language with regard to the Lord’s Supper if it were a mere figure?  The same question could be asked about why God was so specific in laying out various feasts, and the Passover meal, the temple, etc... if these things were all figures of the Christ to come.  They must be handled with gravity because the One that these figures represent is the Christ Himself.  Say Joey, my son, picks up a Lego man and says “this is my Daddy” and then proceeds to through it against the wall, bite its head off, or mistreat it, I would be upset.  The way he treats the figure is indicative of his regard for me.  The same is true with the Lord’s supper, the way the figure is treated evidences the disposition towards what the figure is of.  It makes perfect sense that Paul would speak with such gravity.

Hopefully I have been thorough enough as to how “is” can be figurative.  However even if ‘is’ can possibly be figurative I still must be able to give solid reason that *is* is being used figuratively in Matt 26.  It is pretty obvious that in the Lord’s supper, Jesus says this is my Body while holding the bread.  His physical body was present, yet he held the bread as he made the announcement.  Nobody sitting around that table would have thought this to be a literal statement because obviously his real body was present.  Moreover each breaking of bread during the Passover meal had significant symbolic meaning.  I will not get into the Seder meal (I am not an expert) but regardless the disciples were already looking at this bread figuratively before Jesus even said *this is*.  Moreover Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, not here in a loaf.

The only thing left to appeal to is paradox.  The Lutheran must simply say all these things are paradox, Jesus being both at the right hand of the Father and in the loaf is paradox.  Jesus being present with the disciples and yet also physically/literally present in the bread he handed to them is paradox.  To me it seems more like Luther was not ready to separate from Catholicism when it came to sacrament.

One thing I love about Lutherans is that they love to live in paradox and do not feel bound to reason everything together, whereas many a Calvinist try to systemize things so far as to subject all scripture to their reason, I do believe this is a strong point in Lutheranism.  At the same time some things are clear and shouldn’t be considered paradox, which is the case here.  We cannot subject God to our reasoning, yet He has communicated to us by His Word using language and it is reasonable that we would give some effort into knowing what the language is communicating and not rushing to put our fingers in our ears and yelling “paradox.”

I will leave this hear for now, and post a follow up, if there is significant interest in the comments.


Luther and Wesley - Strangely Warmed

In the United Methodist Church you will find many congregations named 'Aldersgate UMC' and likely if you have been around the UMC for a significant amount of time, or studied the life of John Wesley you have come across what has been deemed Wesley's 'Aldersgate Experience'.  Wesley records this in his journal:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away mysins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
I have began to ask a few pastors within the UMC if they had ever read, or been required to read 'Luther's Preface to the Romans' and have found that the vast majority have not.  Now certainly one does not have to read Luther's preface to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans, but being a 'Wesleyan' denomination that appeals frequently to Wesley for it's understanding of scripture, you would think it would be incumbent upon UMC pastors to read the document which finally gave Wesley assurance of sins forgiven.  The 'Aldersgate experience' gets mentioned frequently when talking about Wesley, yet few dare go to the source which precipitated the experience.

The emergent and missional movements have found a warm reception in the United Methodist Church, and one of the reasons they are so welcome there is because of how missional Wesley was.  The missional mindset has been in the UMC since day one, and continues in it today.  While I am not against all things missional, I do find it unfortunate that as a church we have failed to see that Wesley was missional, long before he was strangely warmed.  What I mean is this, Wesley took huge risks traveling as a missionary, setting up societies, fighting against slavery, building orphanages, among many things, before he ever happened upon someone reading Luther's preface to the Romans there on Aldersgate street.  Wesley did countless acts of piety and yet had no assurance of sin forgiven.  Wesley did countless good things but had come to the point where it all seemed meaningless and that he wondered if he was still lost.  This is where the missional movement leads its people, eventual despair.  'Missional' Christianity leads people to associate their status in the kingdom with their works in this world, and eventually when a person has a strong sense of their sin the goodness of their works is no longer a source of hope.  The missional movement thrives on Matthew 25 when Jesus speaks of sheep and goats, yet never reads the text carefully enough to see that the sheep were unconscious of their piety while the goats put their hope in theirs.  They miss the fact that the sheep and goats are separated in that passage prior to their works being evaluated, not on the basis of the work.  We could go on an on here.

Anyway, I plead with Methodists who may come across this post to pick up a copy of Luther's Preface to the Romans, or read it online here.  It is not long, and is well worth your time, and maybe you too could be strangely warmed.  Here is an excerpt.

You must get used to the idea that it is one thing to do the works of the law and quite another to fulfill it. The works of the law are every thing that a person does or can do of his own free will and by his own powers to obey the law. But because in doing such works the heart abhors the law and yet is forced to obey it, the works are a total loss and are completely useless. That is what St. Paul means in chapter 3 when he says, "No human being is justified before God through the works of the law." From this you can see that the schoolmasters [i.e., the scholastic theologians] and sophists are seducers when they teach that you can prepare yourself for grace by means of works. How can anybody prepare himself for good by means of works if he does no good work except with aversion and constraint in his heart? How can such a work please God, if it proceeds from an averse and unwilling heart?
But to fulfill the law means to do its work eagerly, lovingly and freely, without the constraint of the law; it means to live well and in a manner pleasing to God, as though there were no law or punishment. It is the Holy Spirit, however, who puts such eagerness of unconstained love into the heart, as Paul says in chapter 5. But the Spirit is given only in, with, and through faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul says in his introduction. So, too, faith comes only through the word of God, the Gospel, that preaches Christ: how he is both Son of God and man, how he died and rose for our sake. Paul says all this in chapters 3, 4 and 10.
That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law; faith it is that brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ. The Spirit, in turn, renders the heart glad and free, as the law demands. Then good works proceed from faith itself. That is what Paul means in chapter 3 when, after he has thrown out the works of the law, he sounds as though the wants to abolish the law by faith. No, he says, we uphold the law through faith, i.e. we fulfill it through faith.
Peace Friends.


Infant Baptism

Acts 11:14 ESV  "...he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'

Acts 16:14-15 ESV  One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  (15)  And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16:30-31 ESV  Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  (31)  And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Acts 18:8 ESV  Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

One of the great divisive issues in the Church of Jesus Christ is the baptism of infants.  In the United Methodist Church we firmly believe in infant baptism, and I am thankful for that.  However, while growing up in the Methodist Church infant baptism was the one doctrine that I could not come to grips with.  Whenever I would bring infant baptism into question I was always met with the "Jesus loves children" response, or with the "you don't know whether or not infants were a part of the 'households' mentioned in acts." (You can see the passages above.)  Neither of these arguments ever satisfied me.  

The fact that Jesus loves children in no way necessitates their baptism and though Jesus called the little children to come to him, he never called them to come to him for baptism.  The "Jesus loves the children" argument just rings hollow.  I have never met a baptist that would deny the love of Christ towards children, and because Christ loves children we should do all in our power to assure that children are afforded the opportunity to hear the Gospel of redemption.  Nonetheless it is not adequate reason for infant baptism.

The other argument that "There may have been infants in the 'households' mentioned in acts" is an argument from silence.  There may have been... that is true... and there may not have been.  It seems absurd to base a doctrine as important as baptism on a "might have been" type of argument.  Arguments from silence are used constantly in liberal Christianity, because you can argue anything from silence.  For instance, Jesus never spoke on homosexuality, and homosexuals existed then, therefore because Jesus never said anything it is ok.  That is an argument from silence, yet you can make the argument then that everything which Jesus never spoke about is permissible, which is a foolish stance to take.  I bring this up, not to make a point against the homosexual, but to make a point against arguing from silence.

In the setting I grew up in, these two primary arguments for infant baptism were the only arguments I heard.  While listening to friends from believer baptizing churches speak I sensed that their arguments were far stronger than the ones I had heard, therefore it was settled in my mind that infant baptism was not biblical.  So how did I ever come to the understanding that infant baptism was indeed proper, and even biblically normative?  It was not through what I heard in the UMC.  I will say that the term 'infant baptism' is not really a term I like,  I prefer 'household baptism'.  The reason for baptizing infants is not because "there might have been infants in the household", the reason for baptizing infants is that it was and is biblically normative that entire households be baptized when the head of household comes to faith in Christ.  It is difficult to refute.  We have no instances of explicit infant baptism, yet household baptism is clearly a biblical norm.  Why do I baptize infants, because I baptize households, and the infant happens to be a part of that household.

This is completely consistent with the old testament as well, when a non-Jew converted, they and their household would be ceremonially washed (baptism) and circumcised.  You cannot get through either the Old or the New Testament avoiding th reality of the household as a single unit.  How many promises of God must we read that are for you and your offspring before you will begin to see that the physical family has spiritual covenant implications.  God makes promises not only to us, but to our children as well, which by that promise makes them a part of the covenant of promise.  Does that mean our children will be automatically redeemed, no, not at all, but it does mean they are a part of a covenant family because their heads of household believe.  Did all circumcised Jews follow the Lord?  Of course not, yet they were all a part of the covenant of circumcision.  Baptism is no different.  Baptism is all about a covenant relationship with God through Christ, families enter into this covenant together.  Is the entire baptized family secure, no, salvation is by faith, not baptism, yet baptism is entry into that covenant community.  Are all members of your church saved? Probably not, but they are all members of your covenant community.

Methodists, we have good reason to baptize households, including their infants, but the reason is not 'Jesus loves kids', and it is not that "there might have been infants in the household", our reason is because it establishes those in the household as members of the covenant community of faith.

A Methodist's Discovery of the Reformation

Well, I am dusting off the blog and beginning to post again, only now with a very specific purpose in mind that will hopefully at least intrigue a couple of people.  I have grown up in the United Methodist Church, and have been employed by the United Methodist Church for the last 4 years of my life, 3 in youth ministry, and now as a Sr. Pastor in a mid-sized congregation.  Over the course of these last four years I have experienced a drastic shift in my theology as I have discovered the doctrines of the reformation.

This blog's new intention is to document some of the things I wrestle with as my belief becomes increasingly reformed, yet while I also minister in the UMC, and how I minister in the UMC in a way that does not violate my core 'reformed' beliefs.  My goals are in no way to disparage the UMC, but to offer a unique viewpoint that might be intriguing both to my Methodist and 'reformed' (Lutheran and/or Calvinistic) brothers and sisters.
Jay Miklovic