Book Notice: “40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” by John S. Hammett

Hammett picSome theological topics remain on the front burner of discussion and debate in theological education. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two of those topics. To address some of the most pressing theological and practical questions on these ordinances (or are they sacraments?), John Hammett, J. L. Dagg Chair and Senior Professor of Systematic Theology at Southeastern, has written 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Kregel, 2015). The 40 Questions series is edited Ben Merkle, professor of New Testament at Southeastern.

Following a helpful introduction in which he sketches the historical and recent interest in these marks of the church, Hammett organizes the book according to four main sections: general questions about baptism and the Lord’s Supper (part 1); questions about baptism (part 2); questions about the Lord’s Supper (part 3); and concluding questions about the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper for theology and the Christian life (part 4).

In part 1, Hammett explores the terminology for these sacraments/ordinances, who can administer them, and whether they can be practiced outside the church. In parts 2 and 3, after exploring introductory questions such as the origin of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the ordinances (this is a Baptist blog after all) are considered from the perspective of denominational views, theological issues, and practical issues. Hammett considers the views of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, and other traditions before asking theological questions like, “Should Infants Be Baptized?” (chs. 16–17) and practical questions like, “How Often Should the Lord’s Supper Be Observed?” (ch. 36). Finally, in part 4, he reflects on the theological and practical significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Though deeply theological, then, the book has a practical feel, as is the design of the 40 Questions series. Each chapter, which answers one key question, contains reflection questions that prompt the reader to retain and integrate what they have just read. For instance, on the much-debated topic of infant baptism, Hammett offers historical and biblical arguments for infant baptism before providing his (Baptist) rejoinders (ch. 16). Yet, instead of leaving his points as the final word, Hammett asks the reader searching questions such as, “How might churches reflect the welcoming and positive attitude of Jesus toward children (as seen in Matt. 19:13–15; Mark 10:13–16; Luke 18:15–17) in their practices? If not by infant baptism, what would be appropriate ways?” (p. 137). This approach allows the reader to come to informed, not biased, judgments.

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is also fairly and expertly balanced. After discussing the covenantal case for infant baptism (ch. 17), Hammett concludes, “Baptists think that their positive case for believer’s baptism from the teaching and example of the New Testament is sufficient to support their limitation to believers, and thus to rule infant baptism non-biblical. Nevertheless, the Baptist position is the minority position, historically and contemporarily. Thus, a consideration of the arguments offered in support of infant baptism seemed warranted” (p. 144). The balanced approach encourages readers to defend (charitably) their view while presenting other views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper in a fair-minded way. This feature, among many others, makes Hammett’s new book a sound and clear resource for pastors, teachers, students, and interested laymen in various denominations.

Teachers Needed in Seoul, South Korea

This week, the Center for Great Commission Studies advertised a call for three teachers and a chaplain in an international school in Seoul, South Korea. Here is a portion of the advert:

I am writing to you now with a request…We need strong education-minded missionaries here in Seoul…specifically an Elementary School Chaplain, an ES Physical Education teacher, an ES Reading Specialist, and an Education Technology Specialist for the coming 15-16 school year.

If you are interested in going, read the full post here.


Life and Church Lessons from White Water Rafting

In my office is a photograph of my family on vacation a few years ago. It is an action shot of three generations of our bunch white water rafting together. My wife and I, two young adult kids, and my in-laws all having the time of our lives shooting some rapids––if you believe this single snapshot in time.

Now don’t get me wrong, rafting is tons of fun. That is, if you define fun as getting soaked with ice cold water, paddling your arms off and finding yourself tossed out of the raft in the midst of class IV rapids. And, remember, I paid a lot of money for us all to do this!

But seriously, being with my family on a beautiful day, on a gorgeous river, successfully living through it and sharing the Gospel with an unsuspecting college student/river guide made it all worthwhile and something I have done again since. Plus, there are important lessons to be learned from being in a raft together going down a river. Lessons that might just apply to life and the church. Here are a few I was thinking about:

First, you have to listen to your guide. They are experts at rafting and have done this a thousand or more times. They will give you instructions before you ever begin and tell you exactly what to do while on the river. You must pay attention to them or you will not be safe. If you cannot listen, rafting (or life) will be a very difficult event.

Second, you have to paddle as a team when you on the river. Your guide will yell out orders and tell you when to paddle right or left and how often. If teamwork is not part of who you are in a raft, going down the rapids sideways, becomes your new definition of “fun.” I wonder how many churches I have known I could use that phrase to describe?

Third, sometimes you have to paddle forward and sometimes you need to back paddle to maintain control. Pace and direction are everything when it comes to navigating the rapids. Some want to just hit full bore all the time and others simply want to float along. Neither works well. There is a wise balance that makes rafting (or life) successful.

Fourth, when someone falls overboard, everyone has a job to do to get them back to safety. Some are reaching directly out with their paddles to pull them back in while others have to maintain control of the raft. I speak from fairly scary experience that this coordination is vital. I wish the church responded with such effort when they see someone “falling out.”

Fifth, it is better every now and then to pull to the bank in a calm place to catch your breath and maybe take a swim. After an especially strenuous time on the river, everyone will need a break every now and then. It is helpful to find the calm and quiet and jump in to be refreshed and reenergized for the next set of rapids.

Sixth, when you have just successfully navigated an especially rough patch of river, take time to celebrate and slap your paddles together. This paddle “high five” is a tradition on the river. Take time to celebrate and enjoy the wins. Find the joy in the midst of the journey.

Seventh, always wear a life vest. You never know when things could get rough around the bend. You might find yourself thrown every now and then. It is good to have the promise and assurance of hope that no matter how deep the water, we have help to stay afloat.

Lessons from the river, who would have ever known? I believe I will go find another paddle to slap!