We had a very interesting discussion at PWOC last week. A few weeks ago, I asked if anyone had any questions/ topics they'd like to discuss. We had just had a conversation that day about baby dedication, and one of the ladies asked what a baby dedication is- why wouldn't you just baptize? So, needless to say, baptism was on everyone's mind.
Being an all-protestant group presents some unique challenges. At no local church (at least that I've ever been a part of) would a group have such varying backgrounds and beliefs. We are very conscious to respect everyone's faith traditions, and I think sometimes that clouds what the Bible says. We tend to focus so much on our commonalities that we avoid our differences.
I think it's important, though, to focus on our commonalities... and discuss our differences. This is a very tricky and blurred line. What is appropriate for me to "teach"? I have had to pull back my presuppositions as much as possible, and look at the Bible for what it says- not viewed through the lens that I have always looked at it with. It is so important to not dogmatically teach views that truly aren't so black-and-white in Scripture. The difficulty is when it comes to things I believe ARE black-and-white, but not everyone agrees. If I were in a local church, it would be easy. But in this setting, where it is right and appropriate to respect and allow other beliefs... not so much.
So, in beginning the conversation on Thursday, I made that caveat. Obviously, my beliefs were going to come out. But those who had different opinions shared theirs as well. I also spoke about how there are things that I believe and KNOW to be true from the Bible, and there are things that I believe, based on scriptural evidence, but the Bible is factually unclear. Those things I believe, but hold more loosely.
For the study, I had several passages that talk about baptism, we split up into groups and sought to answer:
WHAT is the purpose of baptism?
WHY get baptized?
WHO should get baptized?
WHEN should they get baptized?
HOW should they get baptized?
I was afraid these questions would be too ambiguous (my brother calls them "Guess what I'm thinking" questions) - but I was very impressed with how well everyone was able to glean and learn from their own reading. That's really one of my goals this year. I think it is SO important for Christians to be empowered to read the Word on their own, but all too often they feel that they are unable to know its meaning and instead rely solely on others.
I was also afraid they wouldn't really get into it, that it would be too boring. Anything but! We discussed this for over an hour, and almost everyone spoke up at some point! One woman said she was so glad to study it, because her pre-teen stepdaughter had been asking her just the night before about if baptism makes a person saved and if not, why do it. The woman knew what she believed, but wasn't really sure what the Bible says.
It gave me a lot of confidence that we can dive into some deeper issues this year. Everyone is yearning to learn - what a great place to be!