General Characteristics of Anglicanism

In my last blog post, I discussed the practice of infant baptism as a major characteristic of Anglicanism. I often get asked, “What are the other differences?” The other differences are in church government and in the style of the Sunday service.

  • Church Government

Our church government consists of bishops, presbyters, and deacons. In my personal opinion, I think these layers of accountability are helpful for those in authority. I would also like to point out that in the Anglican church, the position of deacon is an ordained position, unlike in Baptist churches. The position of deacon is essentially the same as the position of assistant pastor in a Baptist church.

  • The Sunday Service: What You See

The style of an Anglican service is quite formal and reverential. It mirrors a Jewish synagogue, but with the emphasis that Christ is the fulfillment of everything, and reflects the worship in Revelation. In non-denominational or Baptist churches, the pastor doesn’t look different from the rest of the men in the congregation. In an Anglican church, all those up-front wear robes. Those in the front of the church are the priest (presbyter), deacon, lay reader, crucifer, and acolyte. The lay reader is one who leads in various Scripture readings and responsive prayers. The crucifer carries a pole with a cross on it when the service begins, when the Gospel reading is read and when the service ends. The acolyte is a young boy around 10 years old, who helps the other men with their tasks.

In the middle of the stage is the altar with a cross over it. On the altar are eight candles, recalling the manora, representing that Christians are to be the light of the world, and signifying the presence of the Holy Spirit in worship, since He is often represented in Scripture by fire. The altar is where the offering plate is brought after the offering and where the elements for the Lord’s Supper are prepared.

  • The Sunday Service: What We Do

For the service, we use the Book of Common Prayer. This book contains the order of service, called the liturgy, which includes Scripturally based prayers and Psalms that we read responsively at different times throughout the service. We do not split up into different Sunday Schools. Instead, we have a Morning Prayer service, which includes the singing of Psalms, prayers, and the reading of an Old Testament passage and a New Testament passage. Following Morning Prayer is the Holy Communion service. This service includes singing of hymns, an Epistle reading and a Gospel reading, the recitation of the Nicene Creed, and a sermon. The sermon is typically taken from one of the Scripture readings of the day. We end the service with the Lord’s Supper, which is preceded by a number of prayers we read in unison.

I could have gone on in more detail, but I hope this post provides a clearer picture of the unique characteristics of Anglican worship.

 

 

Infant Baptism

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine from college who, like me, grew up as a Baptist. I was sharing with her that I am now an Anglican. She, as well as many of my friends have, asked me what are some of the differences between Anglicanism and Baptist teaching. While I want to continue to talk about the characteristics of Anglicanism in future blog posts, today I want to talk about infant baptism as a major practice. While I know for sure that not all my readers adhere to this teaching, I hope this blog post will shed some light on the subject so that even my readers who may disagree will have a better understanding of the reasoning for infant baptism.

There are no verses that explicitly say we are to baptize our babies. On the other hand, there are no verses that say that an individual who has grown up in a Christian home is to wait until a certain age to be baptized. So there is some omission on both sides. Infant baptism makes sense when we think in terms of covenants. Reading Romans 4 is important in understanding this issue. When God created the Abrahamic covenant, God established the practice of circumcision as a “seal” and “sign” of the righteousness credited to Abraham by his faith (Rom. 4:11). Scripture makes it clear that it was not the circumcision that saved Abraham, but rather his faith. However, this sign of faith was then performed on infant males to signify their being part of that covenant and of the people of God. If it was faith that saved Old Testament believers, why didn’t a boy have to wait until he expressed faith before receiving the sign? Bryan Chapell in his book “Why Do We Baptize Infants?” explains that the word “seal” in Romans 4 refers to the image of an author closing his documents with a seal to indicate the validity of what he had written.  He says, “Just as a seal is the pledge of its author that he will uphold his promises when described conditions are met, so circumcision was God’s pledge to provide all the blessings of his covenant when the condition of faith was met.” When I was first reading about infant baptism, I thought, “What in the world does circumcision have to do with baptism?” I’ll explain. Scripture calls the Abrahamic covenant an “everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:7), and Galatians 3 explains how we are the children of Abraham. Therefore, we today as Christians are part of the fulfilled Abrahamic covenant. The sign of the covenant, however, has changed. Circumcision required the shedding of blood, as many practices before Christ did. But Christ has shed His blood once and for all. He established the New Covenant, but Scripture teaches that the New Covenant does not do away with the Abrahamic covenant as it did with the old Mosaic covenant. In the New Testament, we receive the command to be baptized. Baptism has the same function as circumcision. Baptism is the sign of faith and as belonging to God. Yet with the all-fulfilling work of Christ, now all believers, not just males, could participate in the new sign, as we see women being baptized (Acts 16:15, 8:12).

With the changing of the sign, believers would naturally have wanted their children to receive that blessing as well. To go from commanding that infant males receive the sign to then forbidding children to receive the sign of the covenant would have been a radical change that most likely would have elicited much discussion and debate. Much of the epistles are devoted to refuting false teaching. Yet nowhere does Paul tell believers not to apply the sign of the covenant to their children. In addition, we see several examples of leaders of homes converting to the faith, then the members of their households receiving baptism as well (Acts 16:15 & 30-34, 18:8). In none of these instances is there a mention of babies being excluded.

Another example that, I believe, strengthens the argument for infant baptism is the beautiful picture we have of Jesus blessing the little children in Luke 18:15-17: “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Taking the words of Jesus here literally, it is hard to believe that He would forbid these “infants” from receiving the sign of the covenant.

As a final point, I think we should consider that the church has been practicing infant baptism for centuries. Recorded examples can be found as early as the second century. Believers baptism started to show up in the early stages of the Protestant Reformation, but those who practiced it were still in the minority. It was the Anabaptists in 1527, the predecessors of Baptists, who started to make believers baptism popular. Though the church has not been right about everything, longevity in the span of history should make us stop and consider the validity of a practice.

I never expected to change my firm belief that believers’ baptism was the only Biblical model for baptism, but the verses and arguments I have discussed in this post were strongly persuasive to me. However, I certainly understand the reasons for the position that does not adhere to this practice. I am thankful, that no matter which position a Christian may hold, we can still enjoy loving fellowship and unity within the body of Christ.

 

 

I Should Not Love You for What You Can Give (Sonnet)

I should not love You for what You can give.
You taught Your faithful servant Job of old,
Afflicted and with nothing how to live.
No surety is found in stores of gold.
Position does not make one virtuous.
My power fails in frail humanity.
To lust for fame and life that’s prosperous,
Is idolizing what is vanity.
With pleasure, try to live a constant high.
You’ll find it lasts but for a moment’s time.
These earthly goods cannot fulfill or tie
A soul to happiness like the Sublime.
This is the gift I ask You give to me –
Your Holy Spirit that will set me free.

Gems of Hope: Poems and Devotionals for those who have Suffered Personal Loss: A Review — the boethian acolyte

Whatever one’s worldview, whether Christian or otherwise, the problem of evil is a reality every individual must face. Sometimes, Christians can be so eager to assure each other and themselves of their hope in Christ, that they forget to express the human sympathy for the grief of loss that Jesus himself showed when he wept […]

via Gems of Hope: Poems and Devotionals for those who have Suffered Personal Loss: A Review — the boethian acolyte

Why Christians Should Read Imaginative Literature

In all honesty, the matter of why Christians should read imaginative literature burns in my soul every day. After attending Realm Makers, a Christian creative writers conference, over the weekend, the flames in my fire have been stoked, and I feel that now is a good time for me to share my thoughts. I often hear Christians say that reading fiction is a waste of time or that they just “don’t get” fantasy. In fact, I grew up being told that reading fiction was a waste of time and therefore deprived myself of reading the classics. Though I am not the first person to say these things, in this post, I will share a few reasons as to why Christians should read imaginative literature.

First, the Bible is full of imaginative literature. The book that we as believers live by show that we serve an artistic God Who loves creative writing. The psalms show God’s appreciation of poetry. The psalmists could have written basic prayers that lay out objective truth. Instead, this book is deeply expressive of human emotion and does not, by the way, always end each poem with uplifting hope, as I had been told. (For an example, see Ps. 44). The psalmists used the artistic structural formats of the day for their poems but made them creative and full of imagery that stirs the imagination and the emotions.

I would also like to mention the use of parables. Parables were fictional stories that Jesus used to present the truth. They were not sermons, and Jesus usually did not explain the meaning to His audience. He wanted them to use their imaginations. Yes, God wants us to use our imaginations, even when encountering His revealed truth.

In addition, the apostle Paul, who was raised a Jew and worked as a Pharisee before his conversion, read the pagan poets (Acts 17). I believe his example clearly contradicts the belief of some Christians that reading secular creative literature has no benefit. Because Paul was familiar with the pagan poets, he could reach his Gentile audience in a way he never could if he only read the Scriptures. The same certainly applies to us.

The second reason Christians should read imaginative literature is to develop the imagination and understand its role in the human experience. It is in imaginative literature that we get glimpses into the human soul as it processes the good and evil that we all face in this world. By peering into these soul windows, we come to better understand what it means to be a human. For example, by reading how a person loses their innocence and becomes a villain in reaction to hardships, we learn that sometimes monstrous pain creates monsters. This truth plays out just as much in real life as it does in books and movies as we sadly see people give in to bitterness.

I have personal experience with this point. After my mom passed away, I read the Harry Potter books. Ironically, although she had the best intentions, my mom never allowed me to read them growing up. These books were a profound source of comfort for me as I read about the grief and depression that Harry experienced growing up without parents. Sometimes, I felt that Harry knew how I felt more than anyone in real life. No, I may not have the kind of magic Harry did, but I often found that J.K. Rowling’s descriptions of Harry’s grief beautifully captured my own. I do, however, feel that magic in a fantasy story actually opens the door to being able to identify with a character more fully than reading a historical account of a person’s life. To explain, I may read the story of someone who grew up without parents and feel some sense of similarity between my situation and theirs yet still be inhibited by the fact that our contexts and situations were different. However, I am not, nor is anyone else I know, a wizard, though we all in a way wish we were.

My third point is connected to the comfort I found reading Harry Potter, which is that fantasy fulfills certain longings of the human soul. I must quote Tolkien as he describes certain human desires that fantasy satisfies: “The magic of Faerie is not an end in itself, its virtue is in its operations: among these are the satisfaction of certain primordial human desires. One of these desires is to survey the depths of space and time. Another… is to hold communion with other living things.” Thinking about the first desire, I will say that we all have the desire to dwell in the beauty of nature and creation around us. Don’t you feel better after spending time in the sunlight, especially in a secluded area of beautiful scenery? This desire often goes unmet in the chaos of a busy schedule and being trapped in the midst of buildings and busy streets where we hardly see any greenery. We can have this desire appeased by reading or watching fantasy in which our imaginations are taken away into a world where we bask in the beauty of the open sky and endless landscapes, where we can encounter the whimsy of pixies and the majesty of flying horses.

Also, we have a certain desire to hold communion with other living things. I believe that this desire is, for example, why humans tend to be fascinated with angels. They are real, but they are not like us. We know that in Heaven, we will be able to communicate with unique spiritual beings, the greatest one being God Himself, but what can fulfill that desire on earth? While reading a fantasy, we can obtain wisdom from an elf or wit from a dragon.

The imagination is one of the greatest gifts the Creator has given us. It is up to us to develop it and use it for His glory. Although there is much more to say on this topic, I hope this post has inspired you to pick up a fairytale and enjoy the wonders within.