Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Unbaptized Believer; Ancient Quiet Times

I have two items for my write-up today on The Cambridge History of Christianity: Constantine to c. 600.

1.  Augustine Casiday has a chapter in the book, "Sin and salvation: Experiences and reflections".  What intrigued me about this chapter was Casiday's discussion of believers who were not yet baptized, but were preparing for baptism (i.e., being educated in the teachings of the church).  According to Casiday, it was believed that baptism was necessary to go to heaven and that baptism opened the eyes of the initiate in a spiritual sense.  At the same time, there was also a notion that those who were preparing for baptism had some measure of grace that would enable them to live a righteous life----even before their baptism.

This topic interested me because there was a long period of time when I was a believer yet was not baptized, and I wondered certain things: Am I saved?  Do I have the Holy Spirit?  Moreover, there are debates within Christianity today about whether or not baptism is essential for salvation or a new life in Christ.

2.  Georgia Frank has a chapter, "From Antioch to Arles: Lay devotion in context".  On pages 533-534, Frank talks about how John Chrysostom (fourth century C.E.) encouraged the educated elites to have a weekly quiet time----to read Scripture, to meditate upon it, to write, and to do these sorts of things in a quiet place.

I found that interesting on account of something that a Christian once told me in a class: that evangelicals have a culture of doing a quiet time, but that may not have been feasible for a number of people in the ancient world because so many could not read.  How, then, would they know God?  But a quiet time was feasible for some: there are Psalms about meditating on God's law, the rabbis thought about Torah and did not want to be distracted while doing so, and early Christians recognized the value of a quiet time with God.  I suppose the non-literate would learn about God from the Temple, priests, the synagogue, or church (depending on what community they were in).

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