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Volume 17, Issue 3: Sharpening Iron

From Us:

Just what exactly is our obsession with the insect world, or at least with the world of creepidies generally? It doesn't seem tasteful. In fact, it seems rather distasteful. We talk about aesthetics; we make noises about beauty, and then this, this little column of text that always seems to be about bugs, or slugs, or rodents. Some believe that they have seen a contradiction, a certain divergence from the orthodox position on Christian beauty.

We have a similar objection, but not with ourselves. We have filled out a complaint and we have sent it straight to General Assembly. We have a little trouble with God. Insects, slugs, and every other thing that may seem larval or have had a larval state, were God's idea. We're not sure where He got approval, but apparently He did, and it must have been pretty open-ended. Stand in your backyard and stare at your grass. Squint your eyes a bit, and you'll realize that your lawn is pretty much always crawling around.
We had a friend once who spent a fair amount of time in the jungles of Maryland. His job was to set out cups beneath the canopy of leaves, cups that you might use to measure rainfall. But he wasn't measuring rainfall. He told us that when he held still he could hear the clatter of what he was measuring—bug poo. When enough time had passed he would take the cups off and identify the population density of the different types of insects based on how much of their stool was represented. The government wanted to know.
That's the sort of thing we complained about, the sort of thing that Christians everywhere should declare inappropriate. But then, in moments of doubt, we wonder if it might not be better to cut with the grain. God might like us better if we were more like bugs.


From You:

Dear Editor,
It was 1989 or 1990 when the movie Arachnophobia was filmed. I was 17 and attending Coast Union High school in Cambria, California. The memory of this movie is etched in my mind. You see the movie was filmed in Cambria and at my high school. I should remember how cool it was to be an extra in the locker room scene, or a football player in the practice scene—emphasis on "I should." Everyone knew that a movie was being filmed in town but no one knew the casting crew was coming to campus to look for extras, even a speaking role. I was the quarterback that year and that happened to be the role they were looking for. But football season had ended and I went back to my true calling, surfing. Besides, the role only had one line, six words. Big deal.

The air was crisp that day, the swell was up, and school was in session. Bad combination. I spent the remainder of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, period classes studying marine biology at an undisclosed surf spot in Big Sur. The surf was good, I was glad I had taken (ditched) the day off of school. But this was the one time it didn't matter that I didn't get caught, I missed more than classes.
My friend Nate was a wide receiver that year. We shared similar physical features; we might have passed for brothers. He should have been up in Big Sur with me that day. Long story short, he got the speaking role as the quarterback who put on his helmet and was bit by the spider and died. His one line was "Like the back of my hand." The thing that really hurt wasn't that he got the role; it was the $3,500.00 and the trips down to L.A. to see if he fit other roles.The spiders had caught me in their net. I'm pretty much over all of that now, 15 years later. I know "I could of been a contender, I could of been somebody." Well the spiders have come back to haunt me again. I think the film crew left a few of the bigger spiders behind. The other night my wife and I heard some clickety-clackety on the floor in the kitchen. Now imagine how big a spider has to be to be able to hear it walking across the floor from a room away. I thought it was a tarantula. And the next night, the spider's younger brother came looking for him. As if that wasn't bad enough it was really hard to learn, at three in the morning, that the potato bug wasn't in the wall, it was between the wall and my pillow. This all happened in the same month.
Like Nate Wilson, I too have contemplated the spiders in my shower. But these are so small, compared to the mammals I caught in the kitchen, that I kind of enjoy watching their progress. I know that the bathroom is the last room left to remodel. Their days are numbered, and that gives me comfort.

Chuck Anderson
Cambria, CA

Dear Editor,
"So, who's confused, Calvin or Blomberg?" I'd have to say that I am further confused. If 1 Cor. 12:13 is about water baptism, then what is the baptism of the Spirit? After reading your article, I'm left with the impression that water baptism and Spirit baptism are one in the same. But when I try to answer certain questions about both baptisms, I come across different answers.

For instance, "Who is the one doing the baptism?" The disciples are commanded to baptize (presumably with water) in Matt. 28 but John Baptist says that Jesus is the one who will baptize with the Spirit in Matt. 3. "Into what medium are we baptized?" Acts 8:36 implies water (which of course is why we are referring to it as "water baptism") while the 1 Cor. 12 passage seems to state explicitly that the medium of baptism with the Spirit is the Spirit. Water baptism is commanded while I can find no similar commands for baptism with the Spirit. In fact, the aorist tense, passive voice, and indicative mood of the word baptized in 1 Cor 12:13 convinces me that we are "acted upon" and passive in this process of "baptism with the Spirit" as opposed to participating in a sacrament, "water baptism," that we are commanded to do.
"When does this baptism take place?" Water baptism occurs when wetness has been achieved (smile), but baptism with the Spirit, which places us into the body of Christ (and there is only One body…) must occur at conversion/regeneration. If it didn't occur at conversion/regeneration, wouldn't we have to contend with two bodies (redeemed individuals who are not in the body of Christ because they have not experienced this Spirit baptism, and redeemed individuals who are)?
If I am correct about these differences between water baptism and baptism with the Spirit, then how can 1 Cor. 12:13 mean water baptism?
Very respectfully,

Dan Soltys
Sierra San Pedro

Dear Editor,
Leithart's article, "Baptism is Baptism, III" was muddled, and a bit negligent.

First, you ignored instances where baptism in the Holy Spirit occurred either before or after water baptism (Acts 10:44-47, 19:2-6). This raises the question: "Is God's covenant norm for baptism in the Holy Spirit (thus application of saving grace) that of water baptism?" Catholics and Orthodox would acknowledge God can still operate outside of the normative. "The exception does not make the rule," one EFC pastor in Pullman used to say regarding sacred pneumotology. But that can easily turn around to bite Anabaptists in the tush.
Calvin's quote on baptism's efficacy puts in question the reformed soteriology from Eph. 2:8-9, where the gift of faith is simultaneously the endued divine salvation. Yet for Calvin, faith precedes baptism: "Paul, of course, is speaking about the baptism of believers. . ." However, if "believers actually do receive the reality with the sacrament," then what they must receive (by Paul's pairing) is salvation.
Second, you ignored statements regarding the "laying on of hands" (Acts 8:17-20; 10:44-47; 11:15-16; 15:8; 19:2-6), an event either skipped or not mentioned in Acts 2. It could be that water baptism is used as the referent due not only to its clear covenant symbolism, but also because the Apostles did not separate into parts the entire event. Unlike the modern evangelical practice, upon initial expression of faith/repentance, a person was immediately to be baptized and receive the laying on of hands. The Apostles kept these together, and corrected the lack if needed (Acts 19:2-6). So, baptism in the Holy Spirit can occur before during or after water baptism. But the Apostolic norm may involve as the whole baptismal process: repentance, baptism, laying on of hands. Scripture does not present a definitive soteriology of the conversion event.
It's a provocative issue, considering all the baptized infants who later become fruitless sinners, pagans, agnostics, or atheists. Biblically, this can also bring into question the issue of eternal security on the basis of the baptized exchanging their faith/salvation for sin or unbelief ( 1 Cor. 10, Heb. 6, etc.). Too, it raises the issue of restoring it with repentance and ecclesiastical restoration of communion (Jas. 5:19-20). This depends on how you choose to view such passages, and whether you see 1 Jn 2:19 as specific to those antichrists, all similar antichrists, or any that leave the faith. Heremeneutic principles and logic do not always yield such clean and air-tight doctrine as we often pretend.
Finally, like all Calvinists, you reference Calvin for theological back-up on the orthodoxy of salvific baptism (Calvin as infallible interpreter). Your historical theology is severely truncated, and skipping 1500 years of theological history. For traditional Christian churches, baptism is a sacrament (a holy symbol by which is effected that which it symbolizes). But then Calvinists don't want to start referencing folks who believed in transubstantiation, traditional ecclesiology, and the like. You know, folks like Augustine. To what might that lead?

Malcom Kirk
Issaquah, WA

Peter Leithart replies: Mr. Soltys' criticisms assume the very distinction my article challenged. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that individuals experience a "baptism" of the Spirit separate from water baptism. The "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is Pentecost, and by the power of the Spirit water baptism effects entry into the Spirit-filled body of Christ. Mr. Kirk hasn't followed my argument, but at least he affirms my Calvinistic bona fides. Not everyone does, and Mr. Kirk would do me a service if he would forward his opinion to Greenville Theological Seminary, Office of the Inquisition.

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