Monday, September 17, 2007

John The Baptist

John McCain, Republican presidential candidate, says he is a Baptist and has been for years. McCain was “on the stump” in South Carolina when he said this. South Carolina has lots of Baptists.

McCain was raised as an Episcopalian. He has previously called himself an Episcopalian. You might expect this since he grew up in Virginia, which once required you to be one. He attended an Episcopal high school.

McCain said he and his family are members of the North Phoenix Baptist Church and have been for more than 15 years. He said "It's well known because I'm an active member of the church". However, McCain also said, in an earlier interview, his wife and two of their children were baptized in the church, but he had not been.

Therein lies the problem. The thing that makes a Baptist a Baptist is that he or she is baptized after professing faith in Christ. Episcopalians, and others, are infant baptizers. They baptize infants that are born to families that are members of the church. Baptists, on the other hand, do not baptize infants, they baptize those who make a profession of faith.

So, if McCain has only received infant baptism in the Episcopalian church, and not baptism as a believer, he is not a Baptist. He may attend a Baptist church, but he is not a Baptist and I am hard pressed to believe North Phoenix Baptist Church would list him as a member.

To make it worse, McCain does not have a proper understanding of baptism. He gave as his reason for not being baptized in the North Phoenix church the following: "I didn't find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs". That sounds quintessentially American and modern, but it is irrelevant. You do not get baptized to meet your perceived spiritual needs. You get baptized because Christ commanded it and because it shows you to be a member of the church. The church is responsible for this, as Jesus told us in Matthew 28 to baptize disciples. Since Christ commanded it, it does meet your spiritual need, even if you do not recognize it.

The website for North Phoenix says this about baptism: “In Scripture, baptism followed the decision of a person to surrender one's self to God for salvation in Jesus Christ. Through baptism, we announce our commitment to the church and our desire to live a life following the example of Jesus Christ.” They stop short of listed it as commanded or necessary, which would be a nice addition.

It appears that religion is perceived as an issue in this campaign, and all the candidates are trying to establish religious connections that are appealing. I’m not sure being a Baptist is appealing outside the South. I’m glad McCain is attending a Baptist church, but I wish his pastor would give him a little dissertation on what being a Baptist means.
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