Atonement By-Passed

The Theology of the Sacraments, by D. M. Baillie. Scribners, New York, 1957. $3.00.

These kindly and facile lectures by the late D. M. Baillie on The Theology of the Sacraments have a deceptively earnest air that almost covers the gaping lacks in content. A theological study of the sacraments is much needed at this present time, but it seems incredible that a book can be offered on the subject which by-passes the events and the meaning of the events celebrated and commemorated in the sacraments.

With regard to baptism, Baillie is aware only in passing “that in New Testament thought baptism was closely connected with the death and resurrection of Christ” (p. 74), and that “in the Patristic Age circumcision was regarded as having foreshadowed baptism as the ‘seal’ of God’s people” (p–83 ftnote). Almost nothing more is said. He neglects, moreover, all mention of baptism as a sign of regeneration, its relation to regeneration, its significance in terms of the atonement, and, beyond a bare citation of the Westminster standards, any account of the significance of baptism in relation to the doctrine of the covenant. As a result, to say that baptism has from the beginning meant “incorporation into the new Israel, the Body of Christ which is the Church” (p. 79), is merely to say that it constitutes the ritual of initiation into membership without any regard for the meaning of that fact. That it involves cleansing and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is true enough, but these results are understandable only in terms of what baptism is in itself, and the manner in which we relate the covenant and regeneration to baptism will condition our concept of cleansing and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Baillie’s theological ...

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