DOCTRINE – FORGET SIN – TALK JESUS!
Priest Ian Robins - a member of our Council of Reference perhaps
challenges received wisdom with this pastorally sensitive suggestion.
an article entitled “Ordinary Theology” * Archdeacon Richard Pratt
theology is contextual: it is not possible to eliminate or suppress
our own background,
suppositions and commitments”
should be written on the hearts and minds of those who go to prepare
parents for the Baptism of a child.
representatives of the Church will have all their natural in-house
suppositions, hoping desperately that maybe at least this family will
live up to all that is implied and promised, and that they will
understand the extraordinary statements that will be made:-
Lord is adding to our number those whom he is calling”....
reject the devil”.......
follow Christ means dying to sin”.
will hope that these parents really will mean to “draw their child
by their example into the community
on the other side of the coffee table the expectant parents will have their
‘background’ and their ‘suppositions’.
Richard Pratt observes that according to the 2001
census 77% called themselves Christian, though obviously nothing like
that number attend church frequently.
He points out that the public ‘supposition’ is that being a
Christian has little to do with membership of an institution or
doctrinal assent. In
contrast, Archdeacon Gordon Kuhrt’s list of the ‘blessings of
baptism’ – “forgiveness and cleansing.....sharing in the death
and resurrection of Jesus, new birth and the gift of the Spirit” *
comes from a ‘background’ alien to the lives of those outside the
Church, and the mention of
‘sin’ in the context of a Baptism is almost certain to be
parents, probably both working and maybe not married have enough to do
to cope with each other, their
new arrival, and the
credit-crunched existence in which they are trying to build their
is better therefore to cut the doctrine and forget sin in these
potentially evangelistic encounters (time for all that later) and
concentrate on the single act of commitment
which can be made immediately meaningful – “I turn to
is not a promise for the future, but a statement of the present
moment. A dramatic move to
an historic Person is implied. If
the parents can be helped to discover and warm to Jesus enough will
have been done to enable them to make that life-changing response with
a measure of integrity.
I began preparation with a couple not entirely un-connected with their
local village church. When
I called, by appointment, the husband was doing his best to avoid me
by hiding in the conservatory. We
joined him and he began “we don’t even know whether Jesus
existed” – so that had to be our bottom line.
Countless secularised young adults are at that sort of level in
their religious thinking, and the recent research from
shows that they have the haziest notions, for example, of what
happened on Good Friday
and Easter Day.
the work that needs to be done in these vital first encounters has to
do with factual history, and the unveiling of the past and present
influence of the Lord Jesus. This
will mean demythologising the stories of the birth of Jesus, and
confidently validating the historical facts of his death and
resurrection, and then bearing testimony to what He means “to me”!
if, on the great day of the Baptism, the local church shows any signs
of being the contemporary living presence of the Risen Lord,
then the doctrines and demands of Christian discipleship will
unfold in ensuing years and the parish visitors who made those first
welcoming and tentative steps of preparation will see their hopes
fulfilled and their prayers answered.
Pratt ‘Ordinary Theology’ – Theology.SPCK March/April 2009
Gordon Kuhrt -
‘Believing in Baptism’ Mowbray