For those of us who are credobaptists, people often ask about "rebaptism." J.D. provides an exceedingly helpful response.
What do you do about baptism if you think that you might have been "born again" after your first one?
There are several answers to this question, depending on your particular situation. If your baptism occurred as an infant, I think the answer is clear: you should be baptized again. Your infant baptism was more a symbol of your parents' faith (and thank God for their faith!) than yours. Every baptism we see in the New Testament, however, was a believer confessing his or her own faith. So be baptized "again," fulfilling the hope your parents had when they baptized you as an infant. Don't fear that you are dishonoring them. What better way to honor the hopes they expressed in your baptism than to choose for yourself to follow Jesus?
But what if you were baptized after an initial conversion experience but now suspect that your actual "regeneration" occurred later? Should you get re-baptized? There's no hard and fast answer, but here's what I'd suggest: if you know clearly that you were not saved at the point when you were baptized (i.e., you were pressured into baptism by your parents or friends, had no real grasp on salvation, had some ulterior motive, etc.), then be baptized again.
However, if your baptism depicted the beginning of a journey of faith, a journey marked by numerous "awakenings" and defining moments, let it stand, even if you wonder that perhaps your "regeneration" happened later.
Baptism is postconversion because it symbolizes a public choice to follow Jesus. Thus, to knowingly baptize people who aren't saved yet would pervert and undermine the symbol and its role in the church. But getting the technical order wrong in your own experience is not a perversion of the symbol, it's just a timing mistake--and a minor one, at that.
Baptism is not like the number sequence on a combination lock that if you get out of order will not open. So don't obsess about making sure it happened after your regeneration. If you were baptized after making a sincere, conscious confession of faith, accept that and move on, even if you sometimes suspect that your regeneration may have happened later. As Christians we continually have new experiences of grace that make us feel like everything we have experienced up to that point was only dimness.
I sent Jonathan Leeman an email after he wrote this and told him that, although I disagreed with him, I thought this was an excellent review.
My view is that some people in the Reformed movement need exactly what Tim Keller is suggesting-- more focus on fruitfulness. But, you really need to read Jonathan's excellent review. He gets Tim, disagrees with him, and does so with the kind of winsomeness often missing from some quarters.
I'll be broadcasting an interview with Tim on March 5 on The Exchange and will talk to Tim about these issues.
I was recently on a conference call with a group of ten pastors who are all members of my theological "tribe," as we're calling them nowadays. Each of us took turns updating one another, and I mentioned that I was in the process of reviewing Timothy Keller's Center Church. Would they pray for me? The conversation turned to Keller's overall ministry program. One brother said that Center Church was "one of the best two or three books" he had ever read "besides the Bible." A second brother explained that reading Keller sometimes made him want to applaud, and sometimes made him want "to throw the book out the window."
Everyone had something to say.
I don't know what church circles you travel in, but this cellular brouhaha mimicked the chatter I have heard for years concerning Keller. Many church leaders treat him as the bee's knees, a Protestant with ex cathedra potentiality. Others grimace and wince. To be clear, the wincers wince as you would with a teammate and not someone playing for the other side. But it is our disagreements with the ones closest to us that most quickly boil the pot and rattle the lid.
Center Church is Keller's magnum opus. It offers a textbook summary of this amazingly gifted pastor's philosophy of ministry. If you have been hearing or reading Keller for any length of time, you will have encountered its themes. But this book provides the most careful and comprehensive presentation of Keller's views I have encountered. You can tell he has humbly learned from his critics, and moderated his views accordingly. For instance, where Keller once used the unintentionally misleading phrase "transforming culture" in reference to the church's mission, I don't recall him using it in this book. Furthermore, I genuinely mean it as a compliment when I say that it is as easy to read as your seventh-grade science textbook. Definitions are in bold-face. The arguments proceed logically over two-columned pages. And helpful summaries and charts are placed throughout.
Still, why the range of reactions to Keller's theological vision? More than once conversations about Keller--I'm serious--have left me humming, "How do you solve a problem like Tim Keller?" as the priggish old nuns did with Fraulein Maria. Yes, I suppose that means I'm the old nun.
Nathan Finn weighs in on Lent-- yes, it is still ongoing.
Different traditions practice Lent in different ways. Some groups combine prescribed fasts (especially from meat) and mediating on the Stations of the Cross. Others take a less stringent approach, instead focusing upon voluntarily giving up some luxury (or, perhaps in the short-term, a necessity) during the Lenten season as a way to focus upon spiritual matters. For some traditions, Lent is an "ought" that should be observed by all Christians. For others, Lent is a "can" that Christians are welcome, but not required, to observe.
As a Baptist, I do not believe we should bind people's consciences by prescribing extra-biblical traditions. And like many good Christian practices, even among the most scripturally punctilious of evangelicals, Lent is most certainly an extra-biblical tradition. For that reason, I would never insist that someone observe Lent. But I do believe it is appropriate to recommend Lent, which is what I'm doing in this post. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, especially of the low church, free church type, then I would encourage you to consider celebrating Lent over the next forty days.
For my part, I choose to observe Lent is because it affords me an opportunity to disengage a bit from the culture of what Tim Suttle calls satiation--"the absolute satisfaction of every human need to the point of excess." As a relatively affluent American evangelical, at least compared to most believers in the world, I'm particularly prone to satiation. And the more I'm satiated, the easier it is for my affections to become dulled to the most important priorities--the kingdom priorities--that ought to animate my life. So, if you want to think about this way, I'm making an Edwardsean argument for my own Lenten observance. (Recognizing, of course, that Edwards himself would not have been a fan of Lent.) I want to unplug for awhile (metaphorically speaking) in order to redirect my affections towards the One whose infinite beauty and worth surpasses all the good, but fleeting pleasures of this life.
Today's clip from The Exchange features Trevin Wax discussing how to multiply leaders. Be sure to join us every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.