In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." The first phrase, "be fruitful and multiply" means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, "subdue the earth," means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations-nothing less.On this view, which is commonly tied to covenant theology, the Cultural Mandate given to Adam and Eve before the Fall applies in the same way to us today and becomes our motivation for honoring God through work in all disciplines and areas of life. The gospel then is more than simply personal salvation. Justification and redemption from sin is the important entry point for humans into new life and kingdom work, which seeks to bring redemption to bear on every aspect of creation.
If we opt for that alternative [i.e., rebaptism], however, we are put in the uncomfortable position of insisting that while baptism is not essential for salvation, it is essential for membership in a Baptist church. We must also take this view in the realization that we are giving baptism a different meaning from its biblical intent, and this weakens our appeal to the authority of the Bible for our faith and practice. Furthermore, if we change the meaning of baptism, can we really insist that others are not free to do the same, even if they choose to baptize infants? (44)It does seem that Baptists cannot logically say that both of the following are true: (1) biblical baptism is only the kind of baptism that is administered as a sign of entry into the community of faith; and (2) those who were (unbiblically) baptized as infants, but have been members of the community of faith for years, must be rebaptized before becoming members of a Baptist church. Wilson makes an excellent point that the rebaptism of (2) is not the "biblical" baptism of (1), nor can it be, by definition.I wonder if this argument would have made any different in John Piper's recently failed attempt to admit certain infant-batized Christians to membership in his Baptist church (see here and here).Here is the second quotation, which, I think, stands alone:
In this same regard it is interesting to compare our practice of baptism with our emphasis in the Lord's Supper. In baptism we have focused upon the form and letter, but in the Lord's Supper our concern is with the spirit and substance. We have held firm on the mode of immersion, but we have ignored the "one cup" and "one loaf" so vitally significant to the meaning of the Lord's Supper in the biblical account, not to mention that we also substitute grape juice for wine. Our rigidity in baptism is so different from our freedom regarding the Supper, and this marked inconsistency deserves attention. The integrity of our Christian symbols is at stake. (45)I would encourage believer-baptists and infant-baptists alike to read the entire article, if possible. Here is the bibliographic information:Wilson, G. Todd., “Why Baptists Should Not Rebaptize Christians from Other Denominations.” In Proclaiming the Baptist Vision: Baptism and the Lord's Supper, edited by Walter B. Shurden, 41-47. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1999.
KINGSTON, R.I. — There is nothing much unusual about the 197-page dissertation Marcus R. Ross submitted in December to complete his doctoral degree in geosciences here at the University of Rhode Island.His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is “impeccable,” said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser. “He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework.”But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a “young earth creationist” — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”He likened his situation to that of a socialist studying economics in a department with a supply-side bent. “People hold all sorts of opinions different from the department in which they graduate,” he said. “What’s that to anybody else?”Read the rest of the article here. It's a new wrinkle (or a wrinkle of which I have been unaware) in the creation vs. evolution debate.
And, for some, his case raises thorny philosophical and practical questions. May a secular university deny otherwise qualified students a degree because of their religion? Can a student produce intellectually honest work that contradicts deeply held beliefs? Should it be obligatory (or forbidden) for universities to consider how students will use the degrees they earn?
The modern tendency to regard Proverbs as a collection of useful but rather boring advice, Ecclesiastes as the work of a jaded humanist and the Song of Songs as a piece of erotica shows how little the Wisdom tradition is understood or appreciated nowadays, in sharp contrast to earlier times, when these three books were regarded as among the choicest in the whole Scripture. Literal interpretation has removed these books from everyday church use, and they have almost ceased to be a part of the canon for all practical purposes. (p. 160)So, what should we make of the Wisdom Literature that God gave to his people?As I have been thinking about this, I have been wondering if we Christians are too interested in a narrow conception of "truth." When modernism rolled onto the scene, claiming scientific ability to get to the bottom of every mystery in the universe, its first task was to rid the world of "superstitious" things like Christianity. So, we Christians responded in kind: we began to direct much research toward rationalistic fields such as textual criticism (trying to get the Hebrew and Greek texts as close to the originals as possible), archaeology (trying to get definitive proof that biblical events happened in just the way that biblical writers portrayed them), and apologetics (trying to use logic and reason to demonstrate the truth of Christianity, essentially beating the scientific naturalists at their own game).Now, these things are all good in themselves, and we have made tremendous advances in these fields. The problem, though, is that Christianity now tends toward being an intellectual, scientific philosophy rather than being a life built upon the fear of the Lord through the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, when we evangelize, we often (consciously or unconsciously) try merely to persuade people of a certain number of facts about God and about Jesus. When we make disciples out of our converts, we generally try to stuff them with Christian information.Of course, I would be a fool if I said that I were the first to point this out. Many have become so disillusioned with this intellectual-only approach to Christianity that they have rejected the intellectual part altogether and insisted that Christianity is totally about "relationships," both with God and with other people--these are the postmoderns and the emergents. In response, some Christians have reacted by an even greater emphasis on biblical exegesis, theology, and teaching-heavy preaching. I find myself in the latter category.But what of wisdom? In my Old Testament Survey textbook, in the section on the book of Job, John Walton writes:
An interesting contrast of focus can also be seen in modern lists of God's attributes. They often emphasize omniscience (knowing everything) instead of infinite wisdom. They tend to focus on omnipotence (being all-powerful) perhaps at the expense of sovereignty (control and maintenance). (p. 338-39)I wonder if both intellectual, modernistic Christians as well as relational, postmodern Christians need to grow in their understanding of God's wisdom. Instead of trying to evangelize and disciple so that people merely give their intellectual assent to Christian theology, or instead of trying to reduce Christianity to its lowest common denominator, we Christians should give a renewed emphasis to our study and interpretation of Wisdom Literature.I am becoming increasingly persuaded that one of our biggest needs as a Church is to seek Jesus Christ in order to gain wisdom rather than facts, virtue instead of narrow dogmatism, and the fear of the Lord instead of flawless theology. This doesn't devalue truth, but rather heightens its value because it puts truth in its right context. Furthermore, this doesn't devalue relationships, but finally gives us a framework within which we might understand what exactly our relationships should look like.So, instead of doing yet another scientific study of the book of Romans or a fuzzy reflection on Jesus' friendships in the gospels, let's read and study and pray through Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. We might not only discover why the early Church and the Old Testament Hebrews were so enamored with these books, but we also might come to know God in ways in which we find ourselves desperately lacking.