Major new book on baptism
Anthony is a very capable biblical scholar and historian and this book will be essential reading for those working in the area. Here is the cover blurb.
The subject of baptism continues to be of considerable interest—though it frequently appears within broader studies of sacraments, liturgy, worship, and ecumenical studies, and within confessional bounds: credobaptist or paedobaptist — yet it is rarely discussed by Evangelicals. This book, however, is neither an apologetic for credobaptism nor paedobaptism; rather Cross believes that, as practiced today, both forms are a departure from New Testament baptism, which, he maintains, was an integral part of becoming a Christian and part of the proclaimed gospel. He argues that the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 is conversion-baptism and that the baptism referred to in the various New Testament strata refers to this “one baptism” (of Spirit and water). The study sets out the case for this interpretation and contends that in key passages “baptism” is an example of synecdoche. The case is then made for a sacramental interpretation of baptism from a thoroughgoing Evangelical perspective. Cross concludes with reflections on the necessity of baptismal reform and the relevance of a return to conversion-baptism for the contemporary church in a post-Christian, post-Christendom, mission setting.
‘The challenge of this thesis … is essentially simple: we are called and challenged simply to accord the significance to baptism that it is accorded within the New Testament.’
John E. Cowell, Minister, Budleigh Salterton Baptist Church, UK, and Senior Research Fellow, Spurgeon’s College, London
‘This is a remarkably detailed, biblically focused, and ecumenically sensitive book on the sacrament of baptism. Like Beasley-Murray in his classic study on baptism, Anthony R. Cross brings new insight to the indispensable role of Christian initiation both in personal faith and the life of the church. Highly recommended!’
Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama; Chair of the Doctrine and Christian Unity Commission of the Baptist World Alliance
‘This rich theological work on such a significant subject is a gift to the whole church. It is full of good scholarship, wise in judgment, and practical in its insights. We are given a timely contribution on the meaning of Christian identity, inviting us all to reflect again on the biblical teaching, our doctrinal affirmations, our sacramental understanding, and what amounts to faithful practice in the church of Christ.’
Brian Haymes, former Principal of Northern and Bristol Baptist Colleges, and President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
‘Carefully using an impressive range of biblical, theological, and historical scholarship, Anthony R. Cross argues that baptism lost the importance that it had in the New Testament and pre-Nicene church; but that in post-Christendom baptism’s significance is re-emerging. When it embodies New Testament themes of conversion, faith, community, and ethics, baptism once again emerges as a sacrament of untold potential, enriching discipleship, and empowering mission. This mature fruit of “Baptist sacramentalism” offers gifts to Christians of all traditions. I recommend it enthusiastically.’
Alan Kreider, Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana
‘Anthony R. Cross makes a compelling case both for the inseparability of faith and baptism and of water and Spirit baptism. The evangelical insistence on justification by faith alone, he contends, should and must make room for “baptism” as a biblical term encompassing all three: faith, water baptism, and Spirit baptism. Arguably the most important book on baptism since George Beasley-Murray’s Baptism in the New Testament, extending and enriching the argument of that seminal work.’
J. Ramsey Michaels, Missouri State University
Anthony R. Cross is a Member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford.
$46 (approx £28.60)
available online in the next few weeks (if you look today you will not find it)
you ask an interesting question. The problem is that it is a very tricky question for several reasons.
1. It is not a question that the NT church or the early church (indeed any version of church until the seventeenth century) would have faced. So in the NT getting baptized is the ritual by which one becomes a Christian (obviously baptism was understood as an expression of faith in the gospel, not some magical rite). The idea, so common among evangelicals, that one could be a Christian without being baptized would never have occurred to them. It was a non-issue.
But we do face a situation in which there are some who believe the gospel and seek to follow Christ who have not been baptized. Now, of course, I think that they should get baptized but that is not your point. You are asking about their status before God now. That is a fair question and, as I say, not one that the NT considers.
The challenge is this: how can one take what the NT and the early church taught about baptism seriously (and I think that it is very clear that baptism is the means by which the Spirit incorporates us into the body of Christ) and, at the same time, recognize the reality of their faith in the gospel that the people you refer to have. That is tricky. But the solution cannot be the common evangelical one of watering down (excuse the pun) NT teaching on baptism to make it no more than a symbol of what has already happened or an optional extra.
2. You frame the question in terms of getting "saved" and I guess that how one answers it will depend on what you have in mind when you say that. If you mean will they go to hell at judgment day then I think that the answer is no.
David Pawson sees becoming a Christian as an event with four aspects: repentance, faith, baptism, receiving the Spirit. The normal Christian birth is one in which all four elements are present. However, it is the case that sometimes one or more of the elements are missing. Is such a person a Christian? The answer is not black or white. They are and they are not. If they die would they go to heaven? Of course, says Pawson, but that is no reason not to complete the birth process properly. He compares this to a car that is firing on less than four cylinders.
I find that approach quite helpful, although it also leaves me feeling somewhat awkward.
So I do not know how to answer your question. I am still struggling to know how to hold on to what the Bible teaches on this matter AND to do justice to the reality of the Christian faith of the unbaptized. I have no interest in denying the reality of their relationship with God. But nor do I wish to abandon biblical teaching to accommodate their experience as "normal."
Tricky tightrope to walk.
I understand your dilemma. Speaking for myself, I could not go for ordination in a community that took that line. But if one is immersed in that community and loves it and wishes to serve it then ...