I Did Not Expect This: Confessions of a Paedobaptist

I couldn’t tell you how many people told my wife and I that things would be different once we had a baby.  I reassured them that we were prepared.  My wife is one of seven and had been taking care of kids her entire life.  I was raised around kids and while all the other guys I went to high school with had part time jobs at Domino’s, I spent a few evenings a week playing Thomas the Tank Engine with a 3 year old while his mom went to the grocery store and the laundromat because her husband was in Iraq and she needed and evening to do errands.  I even had the songs memorized.  I was good.  We were prepared.  We had our gameplan.  We knew what we were doing.  However, I didn’t realize how right those people were… but not for the reasons you’re thinking.

You see, from the very beginning of our relationship, my wife and I began to call into question many of the secondary doctrinal issues we had been taught growing up.  (I’ve written about this previously and you can read that here.)  Apart from the fundamental, primary, essential, closed-handed, issues (like Jesus is God, the Bible is God’s Word, Jesus died in our place, Christianity 101 stuff), we called everything else into question and went back and looked at what our position was.  Settling ourselves on Reformed theology was like eating an elephant.  It happened one bite at a time.  Afterwards, we took a breath, sat back, and relaxed.  There were so many things we had worked through in that process and we thought for sure that there wouldn’t be any other secondary issues that needed to be dealt with any time soon.  

Complimentarianism vs Egalitarianism? Done

Single vs. Plural Eldership? Done

Cessationism vs. Continuationism? Later

Pre-Mil vs. Post-Mil vs. A-Mil? Later

Interpretation of Revelation? Later

Paedo vs. Credo Baptism? Later

It was so convenient to write later next to those last 4 because, shoot, we didn’t have to settle that stuff over night.  We had just made these huge strides and differed from the traditions of our parents in fairly significant ways.  We were young, married, childless 20-somethings with all the time in the world to figure that other stuff out.  

What I find the most interesting, though, is how little that last issue mattered to us at the time.  I had been baptized.  My wife had been baptized.  We were good.  If some people wanna baptize babies, cool.  If some people wanna baptize adults, no problem.  If some people wanna sprinkle, sweet.  If some people wanna pour, awesome.  If some people wanna dunk, great.  We were baptismal agnostics and very much okay with that position.

Until we found out we were pregnant.

All of a sudden, the decision we had been putting off (because having kids was step #157 in our 5-Year-Plan) had become priority #1.  We absorbed as much information as we could in a 9 month period.  We read blogs, we listened to debates, we listened to both sides explain their position.  Majority of our conversations were:

Did you read that article I sent you?

No, I was throwing up all morning.

Okay…well… you need to read it.

During this time, we were attending a Reformed Baptist church and were very happy there.  Loving God, loving people, and loving His Church.  Joining that church was an easy transition for us as we settled into Reformed theology.  The denomination we were raised in was credobaptistic and so shifting to a Baptist church was no sweat at all.

However, after 9 months of researching until our heads hurt, we finally came to the determination that we were paedobaptists and wanted to have our daughter baptized.  I remember discussing the decision and it’s implications on a 3 hour drive from Huntington to Morgantown in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve with our 1 1/2 month old sound asleep in the back seat.  Not long after, we met with our pastor and his wife, who were both incredibly gracious and loving during our time of transition and are still great friends today.  Though it pained us, we said goodbye to them and that church family.

487414_638223969533184_1877224497_nOver the next month, God was incredibly faithful and we found a wonderful church family.  We have become members and are both proud to announce that our daughter will be baptized this Sunday, April 14th, 2014.  Palm Sunday no less.

As we celebrate Palm Sunday by singing to, for, and about King Jesus who came to save us, we will simultaneously celebrate the sign of the covenant of God’s people given to my daughter.

People told us life would be different when we had a baby.  I can safely say I did not expect this.

Fatherly Hate

Last week, I began talking about the crash course in fatherhood I have gotten over the past three months and how that has caused me to understand God in more practical ways that I ever had before.  You can read all about it over here.  I also mentioned last week that there was a second “practical revelation” I had from God.

Prior to becoming a father, I believed hate and love to be opposites.  I, wrongly, understood love to be a good thing and hate to be a bad thing.  The problem was I called love good and hate bad without ever applying them to a direct object.  The moment my daughter was born, I loved her and it wasn’t long after that I quickly realized that if I wanted to love her well, I had to hate.  If I was going to love my daughter, I would have to hate anything that would take her away from me, hurt her, or threaten her safety in any way.

I often hear people talk about how loving Jesus was and how he accepted everyone.  Jesus didn’t hate anyone or anything.  He was all about love and acceptance and affirmation.  As a semi-professional father, I can tell you that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of love.  Love fights.  Love cares.  Love discriminates.  Love and hate go together.  They are inseparable.  Anger is hate in motion.  Anger is hate moving towards that thing that is threatening what I love with the intention of removing or destroying it.  If you don’t get angry…if you don’t hate, then you don’t really love.  Consequently, if you don’t love someone, but simply tolerate them, then you will hate nothing.

God hates.  He hates all enemies of love as the doctor hates the cancer that is killing his beloved patient.  He hates the many things that threaten the very thing he loves like a father deeply hates and is driven into a rage at the very thought of harm coming upon his child.  God hates and punishes sin because he loves and wants to protect his children.

Psalm 119

Sin destroys.  I don’t know many who would disagree with that.  The problem isn’t that we don’t recognize that sin destroys.  The problem is we don’t agree with God’s definition of sin because we don’t think that what He calls sin is really destructive.  This whole issue comes back to how much you trust God.  Do you really believe that what he calls sin really is harmful and destructive though you may not see it that way?

Because even though God puts up the fence of the Law and made sure it was set in deep with the post hole digger of grace so that we could be safe, we continually kick it down thinking escape means freedom.  We give him the finger, tell him where he can stick his “rules,” and go our own way not realizing why God put the fence up in the first place.  Good, loving, and wise parents put up a fence in their backyard to keep their kids safe and keep out weirdos.  Law abiding schools put up fences around their playgrounds to keep the kids in and keep the kidnappers out.  Caring and kind neighbors build a fence or railing around their deck to keep people from falling off of it.  If we are his sheep and he loves us, he must hate the wolves and keep them away.

Because God is teaching me that love constitutes hate, there will be a few standing rules in my house.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start.

1) “Thou Shalt Not Drink Motor Oil.” 

Aw, Dad!  You’re just trying to spoil my fun! 

No.  Drinking motor oil will kill you.  I love you and I hate all the things that might kill you. 

2) “Thou Shalt Not Drive the Wrong Way on the Interstate.”

Dad, I know you love me so I know you don’t really mean it when you give me these rules.  Love means that you’ll support whatever I choose.

No, that’s not what love means.  Love means I protect you from things that will kill you.  Driving the wrong way on the interstate will kill you even if you don’t think it will.  I’m trying to protect you.

3) “Thou Shalt Not Eat Only Junk Food.”

Dad, you don’t understand.  I have these very strong cravings and desires for junk food and not vegetables.  You’re telling me to give up my deepest desire.  I thought you loved me.

No, you don’t understand.  I do love you.  It’s because I love you that I’m telling you that attempting to satisfy that desire will cause you harm.  I love you I hate anything that might hurt you.

God gives us commands so we can live.  Again, the question that is being begged here is, “Can I really trust that God’s commands are good?  Can I really trust that his commands come from love?  Can I really trust that his commands are to protect me?”

At the most fundamental level, when we rebel against God’s commands, we are telling him we trust ourselves more than we trust Him.  He doesn’t really love us.  If he really loved us, he wouldn’t say that he hates what we’re doing.  Anyone who has been a parent for more than 5 minutes knows this isn’t true.  The fact that God loves means that God hates.

And that’s a very good thing.

All in a Way We Can Understand

For the past 3 months, I’ve been getting a first hand crash course in fatherhood.  I have learned a lot of things.  I am learning a lot of things.  I will learn a lot more things.  (I think I covered all my bases there…)  My daughter’s name is “Cecilia Jane” and together those two names mean “Blinded by God’s Grace.”  When I gave her this name, I never realized how true that phrase would ring for me.  There are countless things that God has revealed to me about Himself through parenting that I only knew in theory prior to having a child.  Over the next couple weeks I want to talk about two specifically.  They are: 1) Accommodation.  2) Hate.

I’ll deal with #1 this week and tackle #2 next week.

Prior to becoming a father, I knew in a very ethereal and obscure sense that when you love something or someone, you accommodate.  Love finds what another needs (not necessarily what they want) and aims for it.  Love goes out of the way to make sure the other gets that thing so they can feel truly loved.  I knew all this…in theory.  I knew that loving parents accommodate for their children.  I knew that loving fathers adjust and modify their tone of voice so their 2-year-old daughter or 5-year-old son won’t misunderstand.

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“…over time I’ve figured out what she does understand. Smiles. Closeness. Kisses. The sound of my voice when I’m singing to her…”

Over my first 3 months of fatherhood, as I suspected, the biggest obstacle in my relationship with my daughter is communication.  I have to constantly remind her that screaming is not an appropriate way to get what she wants…to no avail.  I’ve even tried sitting down and reasoning with her.  She has trouble focusing.  But over time I’ve figured out what she does understand.  Smiles.  Closeness.  Kisses.  The sound of my voice when I’m singing to her (even when the song is, “Cecilia Jane it’s time for you to be quiet now.  Please, please be quiet now.  I want you to stop crying.”)  I’ve realized that for my daughter to understand me, I have to make some accommodations and speak to her in a way she’s going to understand.

The great theologian of the Reformation, John Calvin, took this idea of love’s accommodation and said it’s exactly what God does for us.  Divine accommodation.  For lack of better phraseology, Calvin suggests (I believe rightly) that God, when speaking to us, speaks in “baby-talk.”  God lovingly dresses the vast complexities of his nature to us in realities we can experience.  Divine accommodation.  The grace, mercy, and love of God is on perfect display in his accommodating, adjusting, and condescending to human intellectual capacities by speaking and acting in a way that we can understand.  When we are in weakness, confusion, doubt, and fear, God compassionately accommodates and meets us where we are to communicate the good news that we are loved, that we are not alone, and that our doubts don’t worry him.  What better example than the incarnation?

Without the supreme act of accommodation that is the incarnation of Christ, God would have remained hidden from humanity.  The incarnation of the unalterable, ever existing, all knowing God is the greatest humiliation he could have suffered.  It is the greatest compliance imaginable and it was done because love accommodates.  God’s act of bending down far beneath his superiority in order to reveal Himself to His people, to teach them, and to save them, all in a manner in which they can begin to understand is the ultimate act of accommodation.

How patient and kind and good God is for choosing to speak to us and not only to speak to us, but to do so in a way we can understand.

Shouldn’t this reality fundamentally change the way I speak to my children?  My wife?  My friends?  Those who don’t yet know Christ?  Those who are experiencing doubt?

May I submit that in divinely accommodating, God has fulfilled the Golden Rule?  If that’s the case, could we then alter the commandment given?

“Do unto others…as God has done unto you.” (John 13:15, 34; John 15:10, 12; Romans 15:7; Colossians 3:13)