RE: [asa] Infant Baptism and Original Sin

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Fri Mar 14 2008 - 15:09:17 EDT

But Gregory, baptism did "evolve" (I should say, developed over time). The
New Testament writers attributed baptism (in a figure) to Moses bringing the
children out of Egypt (1Cor 10:2), but literally baptism was instituted in
Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai (Exod 19:10; the Living Talmud explains that
this was the origin of an ordinance had later in Hebrew tradition, whereby
people were washed in a ceremony like baptism as part of conversion to
Judaism). Baptism was later used by the Essene community as the initiation
into their sect, and in a very similar way by John the Baptist. Then in
later Biblical tradition, it was baptism by immersion for those who had
believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:38), and as one of the conditions by
which one was saved (Mark 16:16; 1Pet 3:21). That changed over time to
include infant baptism, and consequently or subsequently (since immersion of
a baby is not a good idea, or for those on their sick beds) it was expanded
to include sprinkling and pouring. This further spiritualized the idea of
being "buried with Christ" (Rom 6:4) from the earlier tradition of being in
a sense "buried" under the water. Later in Protestant tradition the concept
of baptism "descended with modification" in other varieties, including the
ideas that George has mentioned, that baptism is now considered by some an
optional ordinance for those "already saved", but not part of their actual
salvation. I haven't even touched on baptism in other cultures, including
ancient American rites.
Whatever one believes about the truth of the above statements, it can't be
said that the sociological phenomenon of "baptism" hasn't gone through
something of an evolution, if one wanted to use that term. I understand
your sensitivity to the pervasiveness of atheistic evolution in the social
sciences, but I think your argument falters. Obviously the NATURE of social
concepts "changing over time" (evolution, so to speak) is quite different
from the NATURE of biological evolution or cosmic evolution, and this is a
good point to emphasize, but you can't say it doesn't exist. And in neither
case does the atheist have a logical claim that the presence of real or
apparent evolution proves that there is no God, no basis for moral law, etc.

So I think your arguments against atheistic materialism in sociology should
be, sure cultural phenomena and ideas do change over time, evolve if you
will. But this in no way precludes a transcendent God having instituted
certain absolute moral laws at the beginning of time that were necessary for
orderly human society to have developed in the first place (this could be
the equivalent of the anthropic principle). Nor does it mean that He can't
be constantly working "in and through all things" to cause human society to
develop toward His ultimate will, through so-called "sociological secondary
causes" (this would be the equivalent of divine providence as applied to the
hard sciences). The presence of uncertainty in the development and progress
of sociological forces doesn't mean that God is not in control, and in fact
such uncertainty provides an opportunity for humans to exercise genuine
"free will" (this is the equivalent of Kenneth Miller's "random vs.
indeterminate" argument from quantum physics, as he applies it to biology).
It does not preclude God from directly interacting with human society, such
as the creation of the Christian church (in the same way that the hard
sciences don't preclude turning water to wine or the resurrection of
Christ). And certainly, the Incarnational model which views Christ's active
participation in the physical creation as central to theology could be
applied just as clearly to a sociological Incarnational model, with Christ
actively participating in human events and cultures.
You have written about the disconnect that you feel the so-called natural
scientists on this list have toward the social sciences, and their apparent
unconcern toward the influence of social evolution. But in the end, I think
the same arguments that have been developed over the centuries for
explaining the actions of God in the hard sciences and in creation are also
applicable to the social sciences as well, something like I have described
in the previous paragraph. I think you would be better served taking these
arguments from the natural sciences and applying them creatively to your
disciplines, rather than saying that the natural scientists "don't get it".
Maybe they get it more than you realize. Perhaps you also have unique
arguments from the social sciences that are favorable toward Christian
theology that no one has thought of applying to the natural sciences, which
you could share in return.
Jon Tandy

-----Original Message-----
From: Gregory Arago []
Sent: Friday, March 14, 2008 8:04 AM
To: Jon Tandy;
Subject: Re: [asa] Infant Baptism and Original Sin

While reading about the character and nature of original sin, about
'semi-biological' inheritance and the acknowledgement of biological and
social processes, a thought came to me re: yet another example of something
that doesn't evolve. It makes no sense to say that 'baptism evolves (into
being or having become).' This backs up the stress that George places on
infant baptism as touching on 'essential matters.'
It sounds a bit odd to my ears to hear 'abandonment of inherited sin' - why
so abrupt (exclusive) as 'abandon'? I agree with Jon about there being a
range of explanations for Adam and the origin of original sin. Though it may
seem self-explanatory or even obvious to speak of things that don't evolve
to natural scientists and theologians, the non-evolution of baptism and
original sin presents another example of why/where it is necessary to
question the universality of evolution. In human-social thought evolution is
a faulty, misleading (yet nonetheless rampant) explanation. Biology plays a
relatively small (though not insignificant) role.



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Received on Fri Mar 14 15:10:56 2008

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