Thanksgiving service as an alternative to baptism
THE National Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland has recommended to the General Assembly that thanksgiving services for babies be offered as an alternative to baptism when the parents are not committed churchgoers. The aim is to prevent parents taking vows when they do not mean what they say, and to “stop insincere celebrations of the sacrament of baptism”.
Of course, a parent who is ignorant of the Christian faith, who is not a churchgoer, and whose life is not consistent with their claim to believe the teachings of the Bible, obviously is not fit to receive baptism for his or her child, whatever promises he or she may be prepared to make.
On the other hand, when parents make solemn promises, before God and men, to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), and patently fail to keep them, the Church has the duty to deal with such parents faithfully and compassionately, to instruct them, and to withold the sacrament from them in future, if there is no ammendment.
Holding thanksgiving services for babies is not the answer to the very real problem of insincere vow-taking. It is clear that many parents will opt for the thanksgiving service, which will result in a further belittling and devaluing of baptism. They will regard it also as relieving them of the obligation to prepare properly for receiving the sacrament for their children.
The basic answer is to preach the gospel in its fulness and to give clear instruction about the sacrament and the Biblical obligations of parents to their children. It is a sad fact that most of the preaching from Church of Scotland pulpits comes far short of that most basic of requirements: presenting the three Rs of ruin by the fall, redemption by Christ, and regeneration by the Spirit. The preaching of the gospel in its purity must precede the proper administration of baptism. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15,16).
Our Confession of Faith states that the “infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.” Therefore some argue that the Church should not expect a parent who does not have saving faith, even although he professes to believe the teachings of the Christian faith and leads a life that does not contradict that profession, to solemnly promise to bring up his child in that teaching and practice. It may indeed be the case that a parent who applies for baptism does have saving faith, but if he does not having such faith and yet believes the doctrines of the faith and lives according to them, the Church is not warranted to withold baptism from him. Of course, that is not to say that the Church, in giving baptism, is encouraging him to continue without saving faith. A faithful minister will make it clear to him that it is essential that he would, by grace, believe in Christ to the saving of his soul.
The Church of Scotland and worship
A REPORT from the Church of Scotlands panel on worship urges ministers to replace “cold, dull and lifeless” sermons with addresses which are brightened up by the use of modern media. The report claims that “the use of videos, video-clips, computer graphics, atmospheric lighting, contemporary music and material from the Internet can all be means of communicating the gospel without sacrificing the theological integrity of the message”.
Now, no one can be in favour of cold, dull and lifeless sermons. But the fact is that for far too long the theological integrity of the message in far too many Church of Scotland sermons has been sacrificed on the altar of unbelief. Unconverted ministers have been preaching sermons which do not convey the message of the Bible. In fact, most of these ministers have been working on the assumption that the Bible is not reliable. Therefore, apart from the oratorical gifts of the minister, these sermons must of necessity be cold, dull and lifeless.
It is suggested that each congregation conduct a “worship audit” to review ways in which worship might be developed. Presumably, however, there is no suggestion that such a review should proceed on the basis of the Regulative Principle that every part of our worship should have scriptural approval. It apppears that the changes being recommended in the report have more to do with giving pleasure to the worshippers than giving glory to God. Of course, public worship should be that in which we can delight, but the principal thing is that the worship be conducted according to the will of a holy God and to His glory. Besides, sinners are duty-bound to bow before God in sorrow for sin as they hear His Word; only repentant, believing sinners can truly delight in the preaching of the gospel and every part of the worship of God. It is the absence of a spirit of repentance that leads to such recommendations as these that services should include activities which have no authority from the Word of God and are in fact worldly.
By all means, let the Church of Scotland congregation review their form of worship. But let them do so in the light of Gods Word. Then, at some stage, organs and uninspired hymns would be eliminated from their services. But, particularly, they would cry out for the earnest preaching of a pure gospel. Who that listened, let us say, to the great preachers of the past, such as George Whitefield and John Knox and the Apostle Paul, would have complained about cold, dull and lifeless sermons? Our generation urgently needs ministers, endued with power from heaven, who will proclaim earnestly a pure gospel. And congregations themselves are in desperate need of a sense of sin, so that they would appreciate a pure gospel. K.D.M.
Princes swearing in school speech
WE were appalled to read a report that Prince Charles, in giving an address to the 11 to 13-year-old boys of Manchester Grammar School, used a “liberal sprinkling of swear words”. In a second address, this time to the older boys, he used, says the report, “a vigorous sprinkling of swear words”. He also took Gods name in vain.
We would expect a prince of the realm, especially the heir to the throne, to set a good example to young people by avoiding swear words and using language that is clean, but we are sadly disappointed. A spokesman for the Prince said that he intended to amuse and not to offend. No doubt he amused some, but we are sure that his swearing in his speech would have offended many. It is deplorable that he could not amuse his audience without resorting to bad language.
We are not surprised that the General Secretary of the Secondary Heads Association said about the incident: “For a visitor to come in and use a lot of bad language goes against the culture of what we are trying to do.” With that we agree, but must add that such language is also offensive to God. He requires that our speech be pure, and warns us that He will not hold the person guiltless that takes His name in vain (Exodus 20:7).
The danger of euthanasia
DR Jack Kevorkian, a retired pathologist, has become notorious for promoting euthanasia in the United States. He claims to have been involved in around 130 deaths over a nine-year period. In spite of being put on trial, he was never found guilty until this year. Three of the previous trials resulted in acquittals, and the other was pronounced a mistrial.
Last March, Kevorkian was found guilty of the murder of a 52-year-old man suffering from Lou Gehrigs disease. He was sentenced to between 10 and 25 years in prison. He had injected the man with a lethal cocktail of chemicals and videotaped his death. Two months later, the video was shown on television. The judge told Kevorkian, “You had the audacity to go on national television, show the world what you did and dare the legal system to stop you. Well, sir, consider yourself stopped.” Thankfully, the authority of the law has been asserted.
A newspaper used as its headline: “Mercy killing doctor jailed”. Let no one be deluded; it is not an act of mercy to send anyone into eternity. Mercy is to be shown by giving palliative care if no cure is available. Sadly, as Western society grows more and more secular and the idea of eternity seeps out of societys consciousness, the danger increases of euthanasia becoming generally acceptable. Society can only be a loser through any attempt to take out of the hand of God what properly belongs there the time to die.