I recently finished Everett Ferguson’s Baptism in the Early Church.  This massive tome of 860 pages thoroughly explores the theology and practice of baptism in the first five centuries of the church.  What follows is a brief summary of Ferguson’s main findings.

Origins

Baptism was a big deal to the early Christians.  It was modeled on John’s practice, as well as Jesus’ example and command.  Unlike Jewish and pagan precursors which saw ritual washings as related ritual purification, Christian baptism was intended for spiritual cleansing and moral transformation.

Ceremony

Great pomp and ceremony developed very early around the church’s practice of baptism. While traditions differed from region to region as well as over time, in general, baptism was performed in the nude, via triple immersion, with the laying on of hands, exorcisms, renunciation of the devil, anointing with oil, confession of the creed, post-baptismal eucharist, and the wearing of a white garment.  (more…)

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In the parting words of Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he admonished them with several imperatives, including “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17).

Many Christians have struggled to make sense of Paul’s admonition because it’s evident that we cannot literally pray without ceasing. At the very least, we would have to stop praying when we go to sleep at night. Even if Paul was only talking about our conscious hours, one cannot pray while they are talking to other people, concentrating on their work, etc. Many Christians, wanting to affirm the sense of “continual prayer,” have taken this verse to mean that we should continually be in “a spirit of prayer.” This is often construed along the lines of always having a prayerful attitude even when we are not praying to God (which should be a frequent affair throughout one’s day). What exactly a prayerful attitude is, is not entirely clear. Others take it to mean that we should pray about everything.

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Probably the most-cited argument against the existence of a theistic God is the logical form of the problem of evil, which argues that the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil because an all-good God would want to prevent evil and an all-powerful God could prevent evil, and yet evil exists. From this, it follows that God is not all-powerful, not all-good, or more likely does not exist at all. There could be a world in which God exists, or there could be a world in which evil exists, but there can be no world in which both God and evil exist. Since it’s empirically evident that evil exists, God does not.

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A few weeks ago, a news story broke regarding a sealing ring discovered in 1969 in Herodium – a fortress built by King Herod near Bethlehem. This ring would have been used to stamp documents and goods with an inscription. Only recently was the artefact cleaned and examined, and discovered to bear the inscription “of Pilatus.” This is a Roman name, and a rare Roman name at that. The only Romans who would have been in Israel during this time were rulers and soldiers, and the only Roman ruler who lived near the area during this timeframe is the infamous Pontius Pilate spoken of in the NT, who was prefect of Jerusalem and the man responsible for condemning Jesus to death by crucifixion. Could this be his ring, then?

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Jesus said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:24; Mk 10:25; Lk 18:25). Jesus said this after the young rich ruler refused Jesus’ call to discipleship because he was unwilling to give away all of his riches.  Jesus’ point seems to be that people with wealth tend to trust in their wealth, making it difficult for them to place their trust in Christ.

This doesn’t make much sense on a Calvinistic view of salvation, and thus serves as evidence against Calvinism.

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A 69 year old Dutch man, Emile Ratelband, is petitioning a court to legally change his age to 49. For him, it is an exercise of personal autonomy: “With this free(dom) of choice, choice of name, freeness of gender, I want to have my own age. I want to control myself.”  He told The Washington Post that “we can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”

Absurd, right?  Yes, but not given the logic of the transgender movement. If we have absolute autonomy over ourselves, such that we can deny biological reality due to our feelings, it’s not a stretch to think we have the autonomy to deny historical reality because of our feelings too. If feelings rather than biology determine one’s gender, then why can’t feelings rather than history determine one’s age?

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In 2009, archaeologist Eilat Mazar discovered 33 bullae (small clay seal impressions) in the Ophel area of Jersualem. In 2015 she announced that one of the bullae bore the impression of the seal of King Hezekiah.  Now, she has announced that one of those bullae may belong to the Biblical prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah bulla

Discovery location

If valid, this would be the first archaeological evidence of the prophet.

The bulla in question was discovered less than 10 feet from King Hezekiah’s bulla.  Given the close relationship between the two men, it would not be surprising to bullae belonging to both of them in close proximity.  But is this truly the bulla of Isaiah the prophet?

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