Bloggin' the 28: Baptism as naturalization in a new community

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Continuing our summer (and fall) Bloggin' the 28 project, pastor Ryan Bell applies the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of Baptism to contemporary life.

In my Bible studies to prepare people for baptism we use the metaphor of naturalization.

Baptism as NaturalizationThe scripture uses explicitly political metaphors to speak of the church. Paul, in particular does this in two key places. In his classic statement about salvation he says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).Then, just three verses later, Paul sets this salvation in explicitly political terms.“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (vs. 12).But, because of what Christ has done to break down the wall of separation through his death on the cross, he declares, “you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household” (vs. 19).

Here Paul mixes two familiar metaphors for the ekklesia – the polis and the family. He makes a simple argument: before you were aliens and outsiders, now you are included. In the political metaphor the means of going from being an alien to being a citizen is immigration and naturalization. In the familial metaphor, the means is adoption. These are two different ways of talking about baptism. Either way, it is a rite of passage into a new social reality that we call the church.

To stay with the political metaphor (because it is more provocative and therefore more helpful, I feel, at getting at the heart of the issue), what exactly does naturalization mean?

Run, don't walk, over to Ryan's blog and read the rest and comment.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at