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  • Writer's pictureJosh Reading


To a friend who writes about a journey to / back into Eastern Orthodoxy. At this moment I am not posting the original blog post link to allow reasonable distance for those not connected to this matter. I may in the future if needed.

Dear Friend, I have wondered whether I should respond, on one level I don't care where one finds depth in their relationship with Jesus, just that they find it. I also know that if you find solace, purpose, relationship and peace in a different community of followers of Jesus after some difficult years I am relaxed about that. However, I am not particularly relaxed about some justifications I think are either simply off base, not well informed or graceless to anything not of your new chosen ‘tribe’. In your post I see a couple of related but different topics - Inclusion of Children in the Church

- Infant Baptism

- The place of tradition in securing both our thinking and practice. and through a quick browse of comment interactions

- Reasonable expectation on believers following Christ in community.

As you have blogged on this matter and I think my response will hopefully honour yours in being reasoned and considered I will post it on my blog. These are worthy discussions to delve into deeply. I will as such post some separate posts to address these maters. If one is wondering, I believe some of the statements in the original Facebook and blog post are in many ways graceless and misguided so I most certainly do feel defensive for the wider Church, not just my own tradition. The Church is my family, and the bride of Christ, even with her issues and inadequacies. The post is not just an affirmation of a new experience or perspective but directly and indirectly an attack on an array of matters evidently not understood but talked of as if one was an authority. QUICK COMMENT ON TRADITION Having come from a movement that is historically often considered a newer Christian movement, Pentecostalism, and having taken the accusation seriously that our beliefs in several areas are ‘recent innovations’ I started reading deeper historic thinkers and Church fathers around numerous topics. On our website as a Church, although we are clear about our affiliation with Australian Christian Churches, we also make it clear, although our name is ‘Divergent’, meaning different, it’s primary posture is in relation to being part of Jesus’ kingdom and different or divergent from the world (John 18:36). Maybe some consider us to be the wonky toe, but we are still in the body. For exact clarity this is our statement “DOES DIVERGENT MEAN YOU HAVE DIFFERENT BELIEFS TO OTHER CHURCHES?

No, not at all. We celebrate the diversity of the wider Church and maintain a wholehearted commitment to the core historical doctrines as espoused by all mainstream Churches whether they be Pentecostal, Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Together we affirm the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.” (Why Divergent) I say this to ensure it is clear, whilst we have distinctions in our theology and practice that we stand firm around, our goal is not to position ourselves as uniquely separate from the wider body of Christ but deeply and historically connected to it.

Nonetheless, back to my own posture. My reading and study for many years has naturally included Roman, Eastern, traditional Protestant and more ‘unaligned’ thinkers to answer the question for myself whether my theological and practical orientations are largely just recent innovation, as is often accused by those in more defined cultural traditions or whether, as Protestants and Pentecostals actually claim, the goal has been ‘restorationist’ in posture, restoring biblical and early Church beliefs and practices.

Ironically, it has been my reading of Eastern sources that re-anchored me in a more ‘mystical’ and ‘experience’ oriented faith without throwing out the ‘mastery’ of words and ideas. I actually think the average charismatic leaning individual (if one removes the prosperity people) on a spectrum of east and west sits far closer to the east then they know and possibly why we have always agitated the reformed protestant tradition in particular. The short answer is I most certainly include tradition in my thoughts in hermeneutics and I blog specifically about tradition having it’s place among the lenses we need use to best interpret our understanding of God’s word. You can read about such here. The framing of whether that is Sola Scriptura, Prima Scriptura or not is of little interest to me. The authority rests with God himself, the word is our ultimate authority and other factors including tradition, reason, experience and illumination aide us in being as accurate as possible.

It is my primary reading of scripture, my understanding of ancient Jewish practice and history with Mikveh and my early Church reading that leads me to say in quick passing, there is not a single early Church reference before 200AD that explicitly references Infant Baptism.

The first mention is by Tertullian in about 200 AD and he overtly discourages the practice.

Nearly every reference to Baptism outside of the New Testament itself in the first couple hundred years of Christian writing sets up rigorous pre-baptism catechistic requirements of learning, confession, repentance, fasting, renunciation of sin and even the casting out of demons. It is not actually to the 4th and 5th centuries that Infant Baptism largely replaced the high expectation of pre-baptism requirements for catechumens.

I will return to this in more detail in a different post, however throw away claims about the early Church and children in connection with infant baptism are simply misguided. NEXT BLOG IN THE SERIES: Children in the life of the Church

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