THINKING THROUGH A NARRATIVE SOTERIOLOGY (#2)

INTRO

Back in May 2018, I offered up a #1 in what I knew would become a series of articles on narrative soteriology (an understanding of salvation as understood through the Biblical story). In this article, I will continue, prayerfully with increased clarity, outlining a narrative perspective on how we should gain understandings of salvation.

You can read article #1 at the following link, https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/thinking-through-a-narrative-soteriology-1/

NARRATIVE THEOLOGY

In detailing Narrative Theology, I explained that, “This interpretative style not only runs against the all too popular method of “proof-texting” (which lacks context), it also stands contrary to the historical- grammatical method of interpretation, the continuous-historical method, and the redemptive-movement method. Many have seemingly missed how these interpretative methods influence their own interpretations, not to mention the various principles that are outlined through each of the methods. However, the narrative-historical method of interpretation is no easy effort, and often requires detailed explanations (akin to storytelling), rather than the easy answers and superficial responses many have developed and offered up (either by assumption or “Tradition”).”

TOTAL DEPRAVITY?

I had mentioned two particular areas of theology that I have recently come to understand, which stand in contrast to some popular teachings I may have previously agreed with. For example, I had previously held to a presupposed understanding of “Total Depravity” as 16th century reformer John Calvin would have outlined it. In article # 1, I stated “It would seem that all throughout the Scriptures, man is beset by sin (weakened not necessarily dead), oftentimes wandering in idolatry (darkness).  So, it also seems that God brings forth His light (Truth), and it shines offering those to whom it shines the opportunity to pursue, walk toward, and dwell in it. The determining factor seems to be what man sets his mind on and pursues. Those with good and honest hearts, God strengthens and draws in through the Gospel (Luke 8:15). Those steeped in idolatry and leaning upon their own understanding (cf. Proverbs 3:5), being unreasonable and set against the Truth, God rewards in keeping with their idolatry, and so they stay stuck in darkness (cf. Proverbs 4:19; Ezekiel 14:4; John 3:19-20).”

“IN ADAM”

Also, as I have studied and developed this narrative understanding, and furthermore have highlighted a metanarrative (story within the story), I noted in article #1 that, “I am becoming more and more convinced that it is improper to develop a systematic approach to New Covenant soteriology based upon what was revealed in and through Adam (as I have previously said and asserted a few times). Namely, because what is revealed through the story of Adam is the story of the Old Covenant.” I am currently working on some teaching resources in regards to proper “In Adam” teachings.

What I would like to do in this #2 article is share two recent learning points I have been blessed with and offer an update on my understanding of some of the details that come from this conversation. To preface this detailed study, I’d like to share a point I made on my social media earlier today, “I promote what I would call an “effective Christian foundation”, which is not getting caught up in the minutia/ details of repentance, confession, baptism, and maturity – but rather putting together the Biblical narrative (in context) and applying the details that seem simple enough and convict us (granted this may change per Believer). That is not to say that I won’t entertain conversation and study about the details, nor seek further conviction regarding how they apply. However, my stake and claim is found in maturity, not the rudimentary principles of conversion.”

LEARNING POINTS

At The Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) we have been going through the details of the Exodus. This past Sunday I preached about the type and antitype of being “baptized into Moses”. The Apostle Paul emphasizes that this was an example upon them whom the end/goal of the ages had come (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11). In the sermon that I preached I detailed significant factors such as “audience relevance” putting the antitype of “baptism in Moses” to be the shift of the covenant (i.e., baptism in Moses represented the Old Covenant, and “baptism in Christ” represents the New Covenant) and the correlation of water and wind/spirit in Exodus chapter 14 and John 3:5. Interestingly enough, Pastor Steve, Pastor Emiritus at BPBC made a good point after the sermon, the baptism in Moses was “in the sea, and in the cloud” (cf. 1 Cor. 10), yet the Israelites did not get wet. The water was not the distinction, rather the work of God (God with them) was the distinction. As you outline and follow with understanding the type and antitype of this baptism, it would seem to highlight more of identification with the covenant rather than the mode of the baptism. You can listen to that sermon at the following link,  http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/785921-saturate-healing-the-historical-amnesia-in-the-church

Also, as we have been studying different aspects of God’s sovereignty and man’s ability in our Saturday Bible Study at BPBC, we came upon Ephesians  2:7, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He has loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved) and has raised us up together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus”.

This seems to highlight the points I have been making in regards to the need to not only pay attention to pronouns, but also in recognizing the time of the Elect to be the first century. From Ephesians 2:7 it would seem that God did something for the “us” He raised up in that time (“showing kindness toward” them) in an effort that in ages to come (NOW), through His Church (Ephesians 3:10), He would “show the exceeding riches of His grace”. Our understanding of God’s grace comes from looking back at the kindness He showed to His elect during that time of transition until the time of reformation (AD 70). I know Tony Denton’s resources have been encouraging and challenging in regards to the “transition time” and the details of salvation. Two verses Mr. Denton brings to mind are Luke 21:22 and Hebrews 9:15, and obviously there are a host more that really challenge us to contextually put together the narrative and then apply the details.

BAPTISM

Speaking of Tony Denton, he makes some interesting points that need to be considered when gaining an understanding of baptism as it relates to the time of transition. View his video at the following link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNt8-r14sOo

I have continued my studies and conversations with preacher Holger Neubauer in regards to baptism and have finally begun to offer up some conclusive remarks. In early August 2018, I shared with Holger that through my studies I have come to see the need to develop an “effective Christian foundation” in a Believer’s life rather than dwell upon the specifics. I am outlining this “foundation” as the need to hear the Gospel, repent, confess Jesus Christ, participate in water baptism as an emblem of faith, and mature in Christ. This is built upon the estimation that our goal is to create lives that love with a pure heart, maintain a good conscience toward God and others, and possess a sincere faith (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5).

This is not me developing some new understanding. Rather, this is based upon study of a few resources, some of which I am continuing, and therefore offering up an understanding in clarity of what I see to be a rather confused and lengthy study. For example, in his series, ‘Where’s The Water’, Dr. Kelly Nelson Birks explains and details the proper parsing of the verbs in regards to the Greek word used for baptism.  Dr. Birks charges that most interpretations of “water baptism” are based upon assumptions of water. Also, Garth Wierbe, an online Biblical commentator, in an article on baptism offered up the following insight, “If the Scriptures really wanted to emphasize or limit the meaning of baptism to what we do in “water baptism” they would have used “bapto” (in the Greek) not “baptizo”.” In reference to Acts chapter 2, Mr. Wierbe notes, “What are each of them to be baptized into? Into the pardoning of sin…And when will that happen? When they change their minds based on what was just preached to them about Jesus Christ”.

This seems to be more in line with what “one baptism” we mark out as important. Baptism in Christ is not and “in and out situation”, like water baptism, but rather an immersion into something that absorbs and transforms. Matter of fact, it is because I believe baptism into Christ to be so much more than “water baptism”, I was able to agree with Church of Christ preacher Steve Baisden, in his article ‘Baptism For What?’, when he stated, “If baptism for the remission of sin is all that is involved for a baptism to be valid, why then did Paul demand the disciples to be rebaptized (cf. Acts chapter 19)? After all, they were baptized for the remission of their sins (Mark 1:4)”.

Baptism into Christ is far more than a remission of sins, far more than an obsession with water, rather baptism in Christ is belief in and immersion/identification with Christ (cf. Mark 16:15-16), or a repentance from a false belief and identification with the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 2:38). In Romans chapter 10, the Apostle Paul says if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus (this is an act of repentance and confession/ belief) and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (this is baptism/ immersion into/ identification with Christ, more than mere belief), you shall be saved”. Consider this, “For with the heart a man he believes in righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (cf. Romans 10:10) sounds a lot like the point Jesus Christ made in Matthew 15:18 (if what comes out of a man’s mouth defiles him; therefore, they must also be able to make him clean). Consider the following texts that seem to make the case for this understanding – 1 John 1:9; Matthew 10:32-33; 1 Timothy 6:12.  Furthermore, Hebrews chapter 6 seems to urge us to a maturity that is beyond foundational things (which includes but is not limited to details of baptism and the resurrection of the dead). A maturity which I believe is expounded upon by the things listed in  2 Peter chapter 1.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

A charge of “let us move on to maturity” does not necessarily limit the importance of these details nor disregard them, but rather places emphasis on the fact that these need not be the things that constantly set us in opposition. I know I will surely continue my studies in this area, and prayerfully continue to be blessed and challenged by conversations with brother Holger Neubauer.

Holger has charged that I am guilty of a “tautology”, which is an unnecessary repetition, is regards to my understanding of baptism. Sure enough this is an argument used by a Baptist to charge the need of Christian Baptism during the 1800’s. Richard Ingham, in his ‘Appeal To Friends on Christian Baptism’ remarked, “The supposition that Christ meant the baptism of the Spirit, …involves the most unnatural and improbable tautology”. You can read his statement and points at the following link, https://books.google.com/books?id=1FEqjQULJZYC&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=tautology+baptism&source=bl&ots=rUvJKZpIAu&sig=gdl7lGKljp577iPvFrTNDkS1llg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjj78iesZDdAhUynOAKHWCRAUkQ6AEwBHoECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=tautology%20baptism&f=false

Mr. Ingham and Holger have charged that this understanding of baptism (to be immersed into the teachings of Christ) that it would therefore create the unnecessary statement of “make disciples and make disciples” in Matthew 28:19-20 or “believe and believe” in Mark 16:15-16. This is not so. The Greek words used in both passages, matheteo – teach, and pisteuo – believe –  mark out mental assent, whereas the word baptize means to be fully immersed. Therefore, what Christ is ultimately saying is, Go and tell the nations the Gospel, teaching them and lead them to confess and repent, and thereby make disciples by immersing them into the faith and the works of following after Jesus Christ. No tautology.

In reference to why I place “water baptism” into my understanding of an “effective Christian foundation”, is that there are passages where simply put, water does show up. I am still looking for solid answers in those regards. In my going through various studies on baptism, noting that different “camps” have different versions of what they mark out as baptism in the Bible, it becomes a convoluted argument and many times hard to assess how important water baptism is. For example, Holger Neubauer shared a great Facebook post regarding the 7 Baptisms in the Bible, I had mentioned to him finding a previous article that listed 7 other versions of baptism, and sure enough I just finished reading through Dr. Peter S. Ruckman’s version of the 7 Baptisms in the Bible. Yikes!

I believe as I mentioned above, that our role as Christians “making known the manifold wisdom of God” and bringing “healing to the nations” through the Water of Life, is to help create and foster lives that love with a pure heart, maintain a good conscience toward God and others, and possess a sincere faith (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5). Moving forward I will continue to assert and maintain my convictions of a an effective Christian foundation – Gospel proclamation, repentance, confess, water baptism, and maturity – and not get bogged down by details, but rather teaching these things aiming for clarity and conviction, neither allowing hypotheticals to become to norm (a great insight from Holger Neubauer).
Blessings in Christ,
Michael Miano, pastor
The Blue Point Bible Church

 

“Salvation is more than a profession of faith, or a dip in a baptisty, or a moral life, or conformity to external rules of religion. It’s more than _______________________ (fill in the blank). Salvation is the supernatural transformation whereby one is renewed inwardly and thereby transformed outwardly”. – Richard Belcher, Journey in Grace

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