Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'd rather die first

I don't know what to make of this:
Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
1 Corinthians 15.28-29
This idea of being baptized for the dead is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament. The idea means something; it doesn't mean nothing. But what that something is... well, I sure don't know.

But some groups claim to know. One such group, a respectable cult, says that if someone -- an ancestor, say -- dies without joining their religion, then you can be baptized for the ancestor later, after they're dead, and it will be as if that ancestor did join their religion.

One day, people from this cult came to my friend's door. He asked them about this idea of joining their religion after he was dead. Yes, these "evangelists" said, his descendants could later be baptized for him, and it would be as if he had joined up with them now. He then told them that he'd prefer to join their religion after he was dead, or, more colorfully, "I'd rather die first."

But, kidding aside, I wonder if we christians, like some of these cults, put too much emphasis on what happens after we die. Jesus didn't talk all that much about that; most of what he said had to do with how to live here and now. I took another look at Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What last night, and read the part where he summarizes the gospel. He points out that becoming a Christian is more like getting married than it is like baking cookies. (Take a look at a typical gospel tract from the late 20th century -- it has 4 or 5 theological points, and a 2- or 3-step action plan.)

Of course any old cult can take a cookie recipe and tweak it -- which is part of why cults have been so successful in the past 50 years. Think "spiritual counterfeits".

What's the alternative? I'm working on it.

Meanwhile, though, I need to follow Jesus while I'm still alive, here and now.

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