Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
Clarence B. Gruesbeck
C. Raymond Holmes
Kenneth A. Strand
The subject of baptism has a high level of consciousness in the corporate mind of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). There are only two sacraments recognized by the church. Baptism is one of them. Baptism is the focus of the mission of the church. Numbers of baptisms is the evident object of that mission. It is the rite of entrance into church membership. It is the criteria for evaluating the pastor, the local church, and the work of the corporate church. Even though baptism holds such a central place in the life of the church, it is still a point of controversy, misunderstanding, and discord. This conflict involves both the theology and the practice of baptism. These issues provide a rationale for this project, which can help resolve the conflict surrounding baptism by affecting the way we perceive baptism and the way we practice baptism.
This study views baptism as a sacrament, a means of receiving the grace of God. It does this by focusing our faith on the death, burial, and resurrection o f Christ. If baptism is conducted in the proper way, then faith unites both the candidate and the participating membership with Christ thus the grace of God is imparted. Thus it becomes a sacrament.
Second, baptism is viewed as ordination. This concept is predicated on the reception of the Holy Spirit in baptism. When the Holy Spirit comes to us it annoints or ordains us for ministry and at the same time equips us for that ministry. Baptism as ordination functions to keep before the church is mission which, in the context o f baptism as ordination, gives meaning and purpose to our discussion of the role of the laity in the work of the church.
This project also sees baptism as initiation . While we have in the past viewed baptism as the rite of entrance into the church we have not conducted baptism as a service of initiation , nor have we conducted this service in such a way as to achieve initiation .
The empirical data uncovered the startling and yet encouraging fact that a strong majority of our members hold theological views of baptism consistent with the theology developed in the project. However, the findings reveal a different picture of the practice of baptism. Our practice of baptism does not always correspond to our theology. With more attention given to this vitally important sacrament within the life of the church, the spiritual life as well as the work of the church can be greatly enhanced.
Fowler, John M., "The Theology and Practice of Baptism" (1987). Dissertation Projects DMin. 171.
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