The second is a children’s book, the Adventures of Piffles the Elf, written by David Babulski. David’s wife attends our church so I had the opportunity to talk with him about the book before it was published. A young elf ventures into the world of humans. Was this the rash action of an idealistic youth or the fulfillment of ancient prophecy? Will the consequences wreck destruction upon the elves or will there be a new era of peace between the two races? This is the first book in a planned series of three; the second should be out in 2009 or 2010. While Summa Elvetica is set within a Christian worldview, Piffles has more of a new age flavor. I found it interesting to see how these different worldviews influenced the motivations of the characters.
For our main courses, she had the spicy mango chicken from the Thai menu and I had the Singapore chili prawn, two times Thai hot. The owner of the restaurant claimed to have a pineapple tree in his back yard from which he gave us a 1/4 sliced pineapple for desert. It was the finest pineapple I’ve ever had.
The waitstaff was very friendly and, since we dined early before the restaurant got busy, took the time to chat with us.
The outstanding food, service, and conversation made for a thoroughly enjoyable meal.
It is commonly held that baptism means immersion in water. One passage that supports this view is Mark 1:9-10a (NRSV):
However, this is a simple view that does not take other passages into account. For example, in Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist says this about Jesus:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water...
So, perhaps baptism means “immersion into some medium”, since we now have examples of water, fire, and the Spirit. But even this definition doesn’t fit all of the New Testament usage.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, Paul wrote:
Certainly the Israelites were not “immersed” into Moses. They passed under the cloud, not through it, and when the Israelites went through the sea it was the Egyptians who got wet.
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea...
In Luke 12:50, Jesus says:
This refers to His coming crucifixion in which He takes on the sin of the world.
I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
So baptism has an even wider meaning than just “immersion”. The circumstances are lost in the fog of almost thirty years of time past, but I remember either my Greek professor, or a teacher who was an expert in ancient semitic languages, telling me that the Greeks would make pickles by “baptizing” cucumbers. The cucumbers were immersed in vinegar until they took on the quality of the vinegar.
Fortunately, I don’t have to rely on my memory. My concordance has this note concerning the definition of baptizo:
Whether or not you agree with his conclusion concerning the meaning of Mark 16:16, the examples from secular and NT usage show that the primary idea behind baptism is “identification/union”. A piece of cloth dipped into a dye can be said to have been baptized, since the cloth takes on the color of the dye. A piece of plastic dipped into the same dye has not been baptized, since no color change occurred.
The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change.
When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g.Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved'. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!
-- Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989.
With the release of the movie The Watchmen I became interested in understanding the reasons behind the hype. A friend at church loaned me his copy of the graphic novel which I read over the next four days. The artwork was adequate, but not spectacular; the story was well plotted, the characters atypically complex, and the ending was satisfying. My overall reaction was that it was ok but I wasn’t compelled to see the movie.
Part of my reaction was to the sub-plot of the pirate tale. While it was woven well into the main story, it simply didn’t do anything for me. But this was a minor point compared to my indifference to the characters themselves. One of my earliest memories of comic books was reading Captain Atom in Charlton’s Strange Suspense Stories, certainly issue #77 and possibly #76, in 1965 when I was ten. So I have a soft spot in my heart for Captain Atom and, later, Blue Beetle. To a lesser extent I followed The Peacemaker and Judomaster.
The characters in The Watchmen were shadows of the Charlton characters. Dr. Manhattan was Captain Atom recast; Rorschach was The Question; Nite Owl was Blue Beetle; The Comedian was Peacemaker; Ozymandias was Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt; and The Silk Spectre was Nightshade. Dr. Manhattan, being a poor copy, simply soured me on the story. Instead of the atomic man who explored the mysteries of space, the most powerful man in the world was paralyzed by his philosophy. I usually enjoy exploring the effects a worldview has on people, but not with my childhood hero.
But then the superdrive in my Macbook Pro stopped reliably burning dual-layer DVDs. So on a Saturday I took it to the Apple store, they had one part available, and they would try to effect the swap that day. Since they had my laptop, I looked for something to do. So I went to the movie.
I was blown away. The graphic novel came alive. The special effects were spectacular, especially Manhattan’s “fortress of solitude” on Mars. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s what the comic imagined.” After the fact, it was obvious, and I shouldn’t have missed it when I read the novel; but that doesn’t lessen that moment of awe. I was able to put aside the distortion of my childhood heros and enjoy the story for itself.
It is a dark movie. The line between “good guys” and “bad guys” is sometimes nonexistant. This is a good thing, since it is true to life, even though we don’t like to admit it. There is graphic, disturbing, violence. There is graphic nudity, both male and female. One character declines to wear any sort of costume to show his disassociation with mere humans. There is graphic sex, voluntary and otherwise. The ending shows the futility of human knowledge. It may have been the author’s intent to show the futility of human existence, that left to ourselves we are doomed to suffering and strife.
But this is an old theme: compare with the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Fortunately, we have not been left to ourselves.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. -- 1 Cor 15:3-8
This was interesting because the church we attend, a small non-denominational community church, is considering merging with another community church, which is Baptist in everything but name. The cultures are not identical and it will be interesting to see how things progress.
Finally, the Zurich council lost all patience. On 7 March 1526, it decided that anyone found rebaptizing would be put to death by drowning. Apparently their thought was, “If the heretics want water, let them have it.” Within a year, on 5 January 1527, Felix Manz became the first Anabaptist martyr. The Zurich authorities drowned him in the Limmat, which flows through the city. Within four years the radical movement in and around Zurich were practically eradicated.
We are an elder run church - the congregation does not vote on matters pertaining to the body. They are generally elder run, but their congregation votes on five aspects of body life. In order to be eligible to vote, a person must be a member, and baptism by immersion is required for membership.
On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the Anabaptists: if a person wishes to be baptized by immersion after coming to faith in Christ, then they should be free to do so. On the other hand, baptism by immersion does not make a person “more Christian” -- a point of agreement between both parties.
I therefore have a real problem with giving the franchise to a subset of Christians. In effect, those who do not agree with this particular practice are second class citizens. This has nothing to do with the argument between infant baptism or believers baptism; or whether baptism should be via sprinkling or immersion. They can take communion but cannot vote.
When I became a believer at 23 years of age the first churches I attended were Baptist. I didn’t know any better. But for the last 17 years I have moved away from typical Baptist understanding and practice, generally becoming more Reform.
This is likely going to be one of several “deal breakers” which, if the merger is consummated as I expect it to be, will engender our exit from the church. Hier stehen wir. Wir können nicht anders.
Ellison’s parting words to writers is just as applicable to software engineers:
Six months of my life were spent in creating a dream the shape and sound and color of which had never been seen on television. The dream was called The Starlost, and between February and September of 1973 I watched it being steadily turned into a nightmare.
The late Charles Beaumont, a scenarist of unusual talents who wrote many of the most memorable Twilight Zones, said to me when I arrived in Hollywood in 1962, “Attaining success in Hollywood is like climbing a gigantic mountain of cow flop, in order to pluck the one perfect rose from the summit. And you find when you’ve made that hideous climb... you’ve lost the sense of smell.”
In the hands of the inept, the untalented, the venal and the corrupt, The Starlost became a veritable Mt. Everest of cow flop and, though I climbed the mountain, somehow I never lost sight of the dream, never lost the sense of smell, and when it got so rank I could stand it no longer, I descended hand-over-hand from the northern massif, leaving behind $93,000, the corrupters, and the eviscerated remains of my dream.
It is the writer’s obligation to his craft to go to bed angry, and to rise up angrier the next day. To fight for the words because, at final moments, that’s all a writer has to prove his right to exist as a spokesman for his times. To retain the sense of smell; to know what one smells is the corruption of truth and not the perfumes of Araby.
But is this really so? I would answer that it is language all the way down:
What counts against putting meaning first is the commonsense notion that something has to be before there can be meaning. A worldview certainly can be “expressed as a semiotic system of narrative signs.” But it has to be something else first; it is not created by the signs by which it is understood. The pretheoretical categories themselves seem to be universal: being and not-being (is and isn’t) are fundamental and carry truth value; that is, they label something that is not just linguistic. ... So while Christians recognize the symbolic nature of reality, we also realize the substantiality of that which is symbolized. A postmodern can answer, “It’s language all the way down.” A Christian ought not. [pgs. 71-72]
The “something” that “has to be” is, in the Christian worldview, “language”, “meaning”, Logos. Our worldview must be grounded in the Trinitarian nature of God, where being, meaning, and interpretation are co-eternal and cannot be separated.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Or am I missing something?