In recent weeks I have been asked by several correspondents to defend the Presbyterian practice of baptising the infants of Christian believers. It’s not possible to answer all the issues in one blog post, but Bryan Chapell’s short book Why do we Baptise Infants? in the Basics of the Reformed Faith series is an excellent summary of the Presbyterian position, and one which I would recommend.
I do not wish to be contentious or cause unnecessary tensions with my Christian brothers and sisters who do not believe in infant baptism. I have to confess that, as a teenager, I was baptised by immersion on profession of my faith. Only in later years did my reformed ecclesiology catch up with my reformed soteriology and I came to accept infant baptism as a valid, biblical position.
Many people have genuine questions about the practice of baptising infants, and believe that only those who have personally decided to follow Jesus Christ ought to be baptised. The argument in favour of infant baptism requires an understanding of the continuity between the old and new covenants and the fact that all of God’s people, whether Jew or Gentile, are blessed in accordance with the covenant that God made with Abraham. Read more…
A recent blog post here raised a bit of discussion about the whole question of worship. So I was eager to get my hands on a new book (Christ-Centered Worship, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids) by my colleague and friend, Bryan Chapell, who is President of Covenant Theological Seminary in St Louis. Needless to say, Bryan’s insights on worship, built on solid biblical foundations, provide much-needed wisdom in this area of church life which has sparked so much controversy in recent years.
There is so much from the book that is worthy of mention, but let a few quotes suffice, and if you are interested you may actually purchase and read it for yourself. Read more…
The other Sunday evening I was preaching in Portrush on the theme “Burning Hearts” from Luke 24 and a committed Wesleyan in the congregation reproved me (in the nicest way) for failing to mention John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience in my sermon. It was an obvious and good connection that I had omitted.
So this week, while spending a few days break in Georgia, I visited Savannah where John Wesley ministered so effectively, and came across a significant monument to his memory in the historic district of this great southern city. It was also interesting to note the recurrent use of the name “Epworth” throughout this American city and district. Portadown people know the name well as Wesley’s birthplace and as the name of one of the Methodist congregations in the Portadown circuit. We continued our “march” through Georgia encouraged by the remembrance of the founder of Wesleyan Methodism.
This week I have been speaking at a conference at Covenant College which is located on the top of Lookout Mountain on the Tennessee/Georgia border. It is a stunning location, but we have had only brief views of the surrounding area because the mountain has been shrouded in cloud for most of these past three days. Hopefully the weather will improve soon.
Covenant College is a small college by American standards. It has just over 1,000 students. It has 63 full-time teaching faculty with a very comfortable student-faculty ratio of 14-1.
“Founded in 1955, Covenant is an academically rigorous institution for students who want to explore and express the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ in all things. We educate Christians to engage culture and cultures, to examine and unfold creation, and to pursue biblical justice and mercy in community.”
It has been a stimulating experience to speak to these bright and eager young people and to try to answer their questions about Ireland, the church, pastoral ministry, and my view of the state of the church in America.
Once again I have been impressed by the resources available in the US to provide such a beautiful campus and such a programme of education. None of it comes cheaply and clearly the parents of these students are making considerable sacrifices to come up with the 30K dollars needed each year to deliver such an education.
The chapel on campus holds over 800 and it has been full each morning. The Great Hall is the space used as a dining room and the quality and range of food on offer at each meal time is simply fabulous. But the topic of “Food in America” requires a more “fullsome” reflection and comment. I’m off to have my breakfast…
A delegation of high-ranking Nepali politicians and officials, including their government minister charged with overseeing their peace and reconstruction process, are visiting Ireland. This group includes those who have made the most significant contribution to the peace process in Nepal. Their study visit is designed to help them make further progress through contacts with key groups north and south of the border, and it is being facilitated by Joe Campbell, an Irish Presbyterian who works with the United Mission to Nepal.
PCI hosted a dinner for this group and we affirmed that, as a church which has had a serious interest in the development of community life in Nepal, we wish to support these influential men in their important work. The conflict in Nepal has been brutal. Over 14,000 people have lost their lives in the violence, and the leaders of the major parties are struggling to form a government. The issues surrounding victims and those whose families have been destroyed by the violence is very important. The parallels with Northern Ireland are clear. But in our conversation together we realised that both Nepal and Northern Ireland have some way to go.
That’s why men like Joe Campbell are so important. Their skills in helping people work together are increasingly valuable in our world of conflict. Working from a Christian perspective, they allow the key notes of the Gospel to inform and inspire us as we try to live with people who are different from us.
Joe was telling me about how he had taught a group of Nepali pastors some key principles about forgiveness and reconciliation. After the conference, one of the pastors asked his colleague to go with him to visit his sister. They travelled on his motorcycle for three hours and when the pastor arrived at his sister’s house he knocked the door, not knowing what kind of reception he would receive. But, as his colleague looked on, he apologised to his sister, and she responded by hugging him. The pastor’s friend prayed for both of them as they stood together on the doorstep. For Joe, this is the kind of response which inspires and encourages him in his work.
We need to pray for all those who work at different levels in Nepal. The Christian church in Nepal is growing very quickly, but it needs support and help. We are so grateful to all from this part of the world who have contributed to the welfare of our Nepali friends.