Saturday, April 23, 2011

The LDS concept of baptism

A few weeks ago I was following a series of posts on a blog about baptism where the blog author (a catholic) was detailing a discussion he had with a protestant friend about the nature of baptism in Christianity. To sum up the conversation the protestant asserted that baptism was a physical act that, while symbolic, had no real saving effect. The saving effect came through faith which must be active before baptism. Essentially the protestant was asserting that salvation came through faith and that baptism was unnecessary for salvation but could be used as an outward expression of faith. The catholic (and blog author) countered that baptism in the New Testament is never used in this sense. It is always done so that the one being baptized can receive a remission of sins. In other words, the inward commitment of faith is not sufficient to receive a remission of sins and spiritual regeneration, but must be accompanied by baptism if it is to have any efficacy or force.

To prove his point the catholic offered a number of quotes from (protestant) biblical scholars about how the early Church Fathers viewed and taught about baptism. He did this to point out that even protestant scholars acknowledged that for most of the history of Christianity baptism was never considered to be only a symbolic act of faith, but was necessary for and prior to any spiritual change that may occur. The last quote he included I think summed up nicely the teachings of the early Church Fathers.
William Webster, a former Catholic turned Evangelical, in his 1995 book The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, freely admits the unanimous position of the Church Fathers as to what is called "baptismal regeneration":
"The doctrine of baptism is one of the few teachings within Roman Catholicism for which it can be said that there is a universal consent of the Fathers....From the early days of the Church, baptism was universally perceived as the means of receiving four basic gifts: the remission of sins, deliverance from death, regeneration, and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit." (Webster, page 95-96)
From this we see that historically there have been four key concepts that have been associated with the act of baptism.
  1. Remission of sins
  2. Deliverance from death
  3. Regeneration (also called being spiritually reborn)
  4. Bestowal of the Holy Spirit
For this post I will refer to these four items as the four blessings of the believers (this is not what the blog author called them, or anyone else for that matter, I am just giving them a name for easy reference for this post).

In this conversation, the protestant insisted that the four blessings did not come about because some one was baptized, but rather because (and only because) they had faith. Baptism can be used symbolically as an expression of faith, but it has no essential saving force and does not produce the four blessings. The catholic insisted that in order for any of these four blessings to be operative a baptism must be performed. Without the actual act of baptism none of the four would be manifest in the life of the believer.

So here we have one of the key differences between protestant theology and catholic theology. For protestants (maybe not for all, but this view is widespread) any physical act (i.e. baptism) cannot produce spiritual change. That is, the performance of a physical act such as baptism does not confer or give the four blessings of the believers, they can be accessed at any time through faith. They can only be accessed through an inward (spiritual) act that cannot be physically manifested. If the believer then wants to perform an outward act to reflect the inward act of faith then they can, but it is not required or necessary. But in catholic theology the four blessings cannot be received until a physical act, such as baptism is performed.

Simply put, for protestants, baptism is merely a symbolic act, an outward manifestation of an inward (spiritual) change. For catholics the physical act of baptism is necessary to produce the inward (spiritual) changes. For protestants the spiritual changes are prior to the physical manifestation or act. For catholics, the physical act is necessary and prior to the spiritual changes.

So returning to the title of my post, the LDS concept of baptism, we can ask, between these two conflicting view points where does the LDS concept of baptism stand.

If we look at we can read about the way Latter-day Saints view baptism.
"Those who keep the covenants they made at baptism are blessed by the Lord for their faithfulness. Some of the blessings include the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, the remission of sins, and the privilege of being spiritually reborn. If they continue faithfully, they are promised eternal life (see 2 Nephi 31:19–20)."
I do not know who specifically wrote that paragraph, these doctrinal statements found on are usually written by committees made up general authorities and other church scholars, but I find it interesting that we from a theological stand point we are much more closely aligned with catholic theology. And incidentally that puts us in agreement with the "universal consent of the Fathers....From the early days of the Church", as pointed out by protestant scholars.

While the LDS concept of baptism includes the four key blessings of the believers, as was taught by the early Church Fathers, the way the blessings are conferred and how they associate us with God is different. Unlike the catholic view, the conferral of these blessings does not come through a mystic connection (as in, it is not a doctrinal mystery) but they come by way of covenant. That is, we covenant to keep the commandments and to remember always Jesus Christ, and in return we are blessed with the four blessings of the believers,
  1. Remission of sins
  2. Deliverance from [eternal] death [and receiving eternal life]
  3. Regeneration [spiritual rebirth, i.e. being born of the spirit]
  4. Bestowal of the [constant companionship of the] Holy Spirit
The key here is that this is not mystical or mysterious relation but a covenant relation, which is to say, in as much as we do [blank] God will do [blank]. For us this makes God an interactive and personal God.

The purpose of baptism in LDS theology is therefore neither the forging of a mystical connection to God, nor solely a symbolic act, but is the pronouncement or demonstration of a covenant. By making this covenant we become citizens of the kingdom of God, and thus must abide by the laws of the kingdom, but in turn we benefit from the blessings that come from being members of the Church of God. Thus baptism is the naturalization process for the Kingdom of God, which means that it is a necessary act, as set forth by the laws of the kingdom, to enter into the kingdom as a member, and it is done so that we might receive the promised blessings. Blessings which are available to all people.

We see from this that the LDS concept of baptism is in agreement with what was taught by the early Church Fathers and for most of the history of Christianity. It is only a relatively recent development in Christian theology that has taught that baptism is not necessary for salvation. While there are differences in the interpretation and administration of the blessings associated with baptism the essential doctrines are the same across thousands of years of history and across very different theological systems.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What does a computer virus look like?

This post is a general education post to help people become more familiar with computer viruses and trojans. For those who have never seen an actual computer virus taking over a computer, or who have seen it but did not realize what happened to their computer, here is a short video showing how a virus can take over your computer (I did not make this).

A couple of things to note here. The first warning sign that there was a virus was when the web page he was trying to access did not come up, but instead there was a page for a completely different site that came up. That should have been the first warning sign. The second was that a web page, not owned by Microsoft, said that there was something wrong with his computer. This would be like having some random person on the street come up to you and say that there has been a recalled issued for your car, and then they ask for your keys. You wouldn't give them your keys, so why would you trust some random website to tell you that your computer is broken and they need to fix it.

Up to this point the computer does not have a virus, it is just the webpage telling him that there is a problem. The next thing that was wrong with was that the web page began scanning his computer. No webpage, even legitimate ones should ever scan your computer. Again, that would be like someone calling you on the phone and offering to fix your car over the phone. If someone did that then you should suggest they take a trip to the loony bin, and when a website tries to do the same thing with your computer then you should also close your browser and don't go any further. Up to this point your computer still does not have a virus, and still works just fine. But when you download the virus, and run it (some viruses might be able to run immediately when you download them) then you have problems.

If you get to the point where you have a virus on your computer, then even if it says there are other problems, and even if it offers to fix the problem (for a fee) then don't do it. Either you will have to fix the problem yourself, if you know how, or find someone you can trust, who can fix it. Also keep in mind that no trustworthy anti-virus software will ever ask you to pay a fee after downloading it randomly off the internet. If you did not purchase the software in the normal way (off of a trusted site, or in an actual store) then it is not legitimate, and your should never give them credit card information.