In addition to the Bible text we have access to a vast literature of Theology describing God as a Trinity of three persons in one united being. This is a simple but also sophisticated definition. It is simple in that each of the ‘persons’ can be thought of as teaching us about a cluster of the main attributes of God. In summary the Father attributes represent the holy, creative, authoritative, protective natures of God. The Son represents the physical, human, compassionate, loving and forgiving nature of God. The Holy Spirit is the spiritual person of God who comes and lives in the Baptized to help them understand God through words of knowledge and prophecy, conviction of sin and healing power.
The Baptism Promises include belief in God, as defined by the Apostles Creed. The Apostles Creed, distilled from and interpreted in the light of the Bible is our non-negotiable Faith, the minimum one must believe in to be Baptized as a Christian. If people do not agree with or ‘like’ this summary of Christian Faith, it is often because they have never read the whole Bible, been properly instructed or had a personal experience of the Holy Spirit. My experience is that in spite of baptism as an infant and some instruction at Confirmation; it was not until i read the whole Bible in my 30s that i became a serious believing Christian. Similarly I did not understand or really ‘believe in’ the Holy Spirit or Satan as a spiritual force of evil until I had personal experience of both healing and the demonic.
2. Sin, Evil and Separation from God
So what is sin? Many of us grew up with the unhelpful idea that sin was “missing the mark” - i.e. failure. As Allan so rightly says, many modern people find this offensive. Sin is technically anything we do that is a rebellion against the teachings or Commandments God has given us. These teachings or commandments “the Law of Moses” or the New Covenant of Jesus (i.e. love God, neighbour and self / the Lord’s Prayer / the Eucharistic prayers) are simple tests of love. If you love God you do not fail to observe the Sabbath. If you love your neighbour you do not steal from her. Small failures to love can become a pattern. The Pharisees in Jesus time worked so hard to keep the Law (pride) that some eventually began to hate the Law-giver (God). When these failures to love become destructive to others (i.e. deceit) they become destructive to our souls. Our soul becomes conflicted. Our mind, will and emotions want to do something that our personal spirit (the part of us connected to God) knows is wrong. Our soul becomes polluted. This can become a big problem because God is holy and can not be in the presence of un-holiness. It would burn up in the fire of His holiness.
3. What is the meaning of Baptism?
Baptism is defined as a sacrament which we used to explain as ‘an outward visible sign (washing) of an inward spiritual grace (forgiveness and inclusion in the Heavenly Kingdom). Allan is absolutely right that it is an affirmation of human preciousness, specialness and an introduction to the love of God. But it is also much more - and we need to go a much deeper. As former Archbishop Nazir-Ali noted, people do not just need inclusion and acceptance - they need conversion and transformation.
he ‘transformation’ part of Baptism is a lifelong process. In the Reading for Baptism of Jesus Sunday (Acts 19.1-7) the Apostle Paul is explaining that the Baptism of John was a Baptism of repentance and conversion that preceded the Baptism of Jesus - a baptism of spiritual transformation through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The sad thing is that many Anglicans are never taught about the Holy Spirit - the person of God who daily guides, strengthens, convicts and heals us. It breaks my heart to see young people searching for spiritual life and experiences of the supernatural in non-Christian religions when they could have had it all in their Baptism.
The point of all this is that we need to ‘up our teaching game’ in the Anglican Church and learn to listen to each other - particularly those who have had a different experience of the divine; if we are to grow and be spiritually transformed in our Baptism. This would also help us to stay together as one Anglican Church instead of the current move toward liberalism and separation.