Fundamentalist at my door: Are you saved?
Me: (Smiling broadly) That’s a very interesting question. I guess I would have to answer: Yes, I am ALREADY saved, as the Bible says in Romans 8:24 and Ephesians 2:5-8. But, I would also have to say that I am BEING saved as it says in 1 Corinthians 1:8. But even then I would have to say that I have the hope that I WILL BE saved as it says in Romans 5:9-10. I guess what I am saying is that like Saint Paul, or I guess you would call him the Apostle Paul, I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling – that’s Philippians 2:12 – in confident hope in the promises of Christ ala 2 Timothy 2:11-13.
Fundamentalist at my door: (Confused expression trying to smile but looking like he sat in something wet and messy…) Let me try again. Have you been born again?
Me: Oh yes. Thank you.
Fundamentalist at my door: (Looks at me suspiciously) Really? When?
Me: When I was about two weeks old.
Fundamentalist at my door: (Long confused angry looking expression): You can’t be born again at two weeks old!
Me: You can’t? Why can’t you?
Fundamentalist at my door: You can’t choose for the Lord at two weeks and you can’t have faith when you are that young. You’re just an infant. You didn’t know what was happening.
Me: Oh, I see. Is it important to be born again?
Fundamentalist at my door: It most certainly is! Jesus says that Except a man be born again he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
Me: Jesus said that?
Fundamentalist at my door: Yes He did.
Me: Well, that’s something to think about, I guess. Where did Jesus say that?
Fundamentalist at my door: In the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 3. (smiling broadly and taking on a confident, almost arrogant tone)
Me: Is that a Bible?
Fundamentalist at my door: Yes it is.
Me: Can I see it for a second?
Fundamentalist at my door: Sure. (His tone is cautious)
Me: Where did Jesus say that? (Leafing through the pages of the Bible)
Fundamentalist at my door: John 3, verse 3. Do you need help finding it?
Me: No, no… I’ll manage… (turning to the page)… lookie here, I got lucky and found it. You weren’t exactly correct in what you said.
Fundamentalist at my door: (startled) I wasn’t?
Me: No, you weren’t. You said that the verse said “Except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. It says “he cannot SEE the kingdom of God.”
Fundamentalist at my door: (takes the Bible from me) It says it somewhere… Here! Verse 5! It says “enter into the kingdom of God.”
Me: (looking to where he is pointing in the Bible) But there it doesn’t say “born again” it says “born of water and of the spirit.”
Fundamentalist at my door: That’s what born again means.
Me: So you agree with me then that being born again means baptism?
Fundamentalist at my door: Well… no… I wouldn’t exactly say that…
Me: It says it right there. “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” So Jesus is saying that unless someone is baptized, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. You just said that’s what “born again” means.
Fundamentalist at my door: Well… no… not quite… “born again” means the inner regeneration of the spirit. It is a conversion.
Me: Where does it say that? I’m looking at the same Bible you are and I don’t see that part anywhere.
Fundamentalist at my door: Well… it doesn’t exactly “say” that here but that’s what it means.
Me: Why does it mean that? It doesn’t say that. You just told me it doesn’t say that. But it does say water and Spirit, which to me sounds a lot like baptism, and it is how the church interpreted that verse for… well… since the beginning. But you are telling me it doesn’t mean what it says, but it actually means something it is not saying?
Fundamentalist at my door: (making an uncomfortable gurgling noise) Well…
Me: I’m willing to concede the inner-regeneration point because that’s what happens at baptism. We are spiritually reborn. Original sin is washed away and we receive the Holy Spirit.
Fundamentalist at my door: (Looks perplexed at me) Where did you hear that?
Me: When Peter finished preaching to the people in Acts, they ask him what they must do, and he said “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So Peter said that baptism forgives sins and the baptized person receives the Holy Spirit.
Fundamentalist at my door: (flipping through pages)
Me: Acts, chapter 2. I don’t know which verse but it’s at the end of his speech.
Fundamentalist at my door: (Finds it and reads it. Reads it some more. Reads it again) Well it doesn’t matter anyway because you were baptized as an infant and that doesn’t count.
Me: It doesn’t? Why doesn’t it?
Fundamentalist at my door: I told you before. You weren’t old enough to make a decision or have faith.
Me: Didn’t Jesus say to let the children come to him for the kingdom of God is for such as these?
Fundamentalist at my door: But he was talking about older children. Children who were old enough to go to him and that wasn’t about baptism.
Me: Okay, two things. Under the Old Covenant, what was the sign of the convenant with God?
Fundamentalist at my door: The Law.
Me: Even more basic than that. It predated the Torah. (He looked confused so I told him.) Circumcision. When was a Jewish person circumcised, as an adult?
Fundamentalist at my door: As a baby.
Me: Can you turn to Colossians 2, oh… about verse 11. Read verses 11 and 12 to me.
Fundamentalist at my door: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Me: So right there Paul links baptism with circumcision and you agree that circumcision was primarily done to children. Now, another reason for that was because most people don’t want to be circumcised, so there were very few adult converts to Judaism in the ancient world. There were people who were “God-fearers” who lived like they were Jewish, but they weren’t circumcised. So the parallel Paul makes is that circumcision in the Old Covenant equals baptism in the New Covenant. And just as a child was circumcised under the Old Covenant as an infant, a child can be baptized as an infant under the New Covenant. An adult converting to Judaism had to express faith in God and circumcised. An adult converting to Christianity has to express faith in God and Christ and be baptized. It’s the same parallel. And it’s beautiful. Infant baptism is beautiful because it declares that God chooses us even before we are able to choose for God. Now THAT’S grace!
Fundamentalist at my door: Well…
Me: Look, I don’t mean to cut you off, but I could do this all afternoon and I have to get busy doing other things. Luke 18:15 makes it clear that people brought infants to Jesus, not just older children. It says infants. And if Jesus is willing to accept them into the kingdom of God, why aren’t you? I don’t have time to mention all of the times the Bible mentions “whole households” being baptized, which at the time would have most likely included children and infants. Also, the few actual examples of baptisms we have described in the New Testament are adults because Christianity was literally just beginning and there were no “cradle Christians” yet. When people do convert, their whole households are baptized. There is no mention anywhere in the New Testament of someone reaching the age to be baptized. It is just taken for granted that those raised in the faith have received all that the faith offers, including baptism. But I will concede that there is no explicit place that says to baptize infants. But you have to concede that there is not place in the New Testament that restricts or bans the baptism of infants.
Fundamentalist at my door: But infants aren’t old enough…
Me: Stop right there. Would you agree that everything I said, I have been able to back up with Scripture?
Fundamentalist at my door: (After some hemming and hawing, grudgingly admits:) Yeah, I guess I have to admit that much.
Me: So I have made a Scriptural argument for everything I’ve said, whether you accept what I’ve said or not is not the point. Only that I could back it up with Scripture. (He agrees). And you were telling me things that you could not back up with Scripture, like that inner-conversion thing, even though you claim that you only believe what is in the Bible? Right?
Fundamentalist at my door: Well, I wouldn’t put it exactly like that, but yeah… you’re basically right.
Me: So, you asked me if I was saved, and I gave you a Scriptural response to the best of my ability. Then you asked if I was born again and I demonstrated with Scripture that I was indeed born again through baptism when I was an infant. I will tell you now that I later confirmed that when I reached an age to do so. So, you tell me, based on what I have demonstrated, were my answers correct.
Fundamentalist at me door: well, I don’t want to say yes, but I really can’t argue against what you said. I mean I want to, but you showed me what you were saying in my own Bible. The only thing you couldn’t show me was an explicit reference that points to infant baptism, though you made a good case for it. And I take your point that I can’t show you any explicit verse that bans infant baptism. I just always sort of took it on faith that that’s what the truth was.
Me: And I’m not trying to change your beliefs. I’m not even trying to say you are wrong, or wrong to believe what you believe. I’m just saying that I don’t believe what you believe, and I backed it up with the Bible, so don’t assume you know better than those who don’t share your beliefs, or don’t assume they are just wrong or “lost” because they believe some things differently than you. Can we all agree to just disagree about some things but still accept we are still in the Christian fold and doing the best we can?
Fundamentalist at my door: I think we can, brother.
Me: Amen. (shakes his hand) Can I get you drink or something before you go?