Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Journal Treatise: Why I'm Not Baptized

Treatise: Why I’m Not Baptized
                        My earliest memory of any encounter with Young Earth Creation is not even a memory of the thing itself, but of my mother reminding me about it some years later. It was that long ago, and apparently didn’t make enough of an impression on me to result in a lasting recollection. Apparently I was calling a lady from the church we then attended, and apparently I had mentioned something about human evolution—what the context was, I don’t know (remember that I was well-indoctrinated in the orthodox evolutionary dogma through my dinosaur books [and after 3rd grade, an increasing interest in astronomy as well]). Apparently she had gotten upset and said (yelled?) that she wasn’t descended from no ape, or whatever. My mom probably remembers it better, it seems to have surprised her. My reaction to being told this was perplexity. What was so insulting about what I said? There was nothing I could see that would be offensive about it. Humans were descended from apes, what was the big deal? Perhaps this is why I’d quickly forgot the exchange. I, like many people today, had simply believed both sides of what I’d been told—evolutionary history and the Hebrew Scriptures—without thinking about it closely enough to realize that the two are in contradiction and can’t be simultaneously believed with any consistency.
                        The first time I actually became aware of the views of Young Earthers was between 10th and 11th grade, when I had visited the second church we attended and seen an interesting-looking book in the pastor’s office. That book was entitled “15 Reasons to Accept Genesis as History,” produced by Creation Ministries International, an organization I later discovered in 2010/11. The back inside cover had an advertisement for “Refuting Evolution,” another book, with a picture of Ken Ham holding it up. Later when I discovered Answers in Genesis in 2010, my mind flashed back to this image. I took the book (the former mentioned) and utilized it for bathroom reading. I distinctly remember the section about skin color genetics, and one part where Neanderthals were hypothesized to have had rickets (a Vitamin D deficiency that affects the bones), rather than being bow-legged creatures intermediary between a human and ape. The book was fascinating, and I found it very educational. I brought up some of the things I learned from it in conversations (the kind where you say “guess what?” and share a random fact as a matter of trivia). But strangely (in hindsight, that is), I didn’t change my views on evolution at that time. Apparently I just found it interesting, but it didn’t lead to a paradigm shift. If it had anything to do with my eventual change of mind, it took over 4 years for that seed to germinate.
                        It wasn’t until a year later that I actually had a significant shift in my beliefs about evolution, when I took Advanced Placement (AP) Biology in high school. As an interesting aside, it was to my great surprise, considering how many of the ‘smart kids’ were in my class, that I actually had the highest grade of them all. I was exempt from the final exam, and as for the AP exam, I got a 5 (on a scale of 0 to 5, for the uninitiated). So lest anyone get the idea, I understood what I was learning, and didn’t get “confused.” That’s all I mean to prove by this. It’s funny, our textbook had an interview with Richard Dawkins placed before one of the chapters; I didn’t remember who it was, but upon encountering Dawkins through my personal research in Spring 2010, I looked it up again and had another déjà vu flashback. I’d been lightly interacting with this stuff all along, skimming the surface, but barely getting affected until much later. Maybe the time wasn’t right. As Ecclesiastes says, “God makes everything perfect in its time.” It was in AP Biology, with one of the best teachers I ever had at answering random curious questions, as I’m inclined to have, that I discovered that natural selection can’t plan ahead. It may very well have been courtesy of Dawkins’s interview—otherwise it was something the teacher said, and I questioned her further. I hadn’t thought of it in depth before, but at the moment when I realized that natural selection can only deal with what’s already there, I did a quick and simple calculation: the human genome is 3 billion base pairs of DNA long. Life on earth has existed for about 3 billion years. Therefore, one base pair addition per year, on average, would have to be locked in to the genome in order to go from an original number of 0, to the 3,000,000,000+ that now exist. And that’s just the good ones that amount to something, not all the others that get weeded out from the population. And on top of that, all the other forms of life in the world would have to be accounted for as well. It was plainly obvious to me that this couldn’t happen randomly, in the time available. And here’s the silly part, in retrospect: I simply decided that since it couldn’t happen by itself, that obviously meant that God was guiding evolution! Because the thought would not have entered my mind at that point that evolution wasn’t true—that’s a ridiculous thing to accept at face value, when you’ve believed it all your life. I became a theistic evolutionist at that point, though I didn’t know that name until years later.
                        Then I went to college. I didn’t attend church during the first four years, but made it to a handful of services in the last one, because I was within walking/biking distance. I had neither bike nor car on campus the other years, and so I was stranded on campus due to lack of transportation. But for all this, I didn’t lack theological instruction for most of that time. I found much more vast knowledge through the Internet than I could have hoped to absorb through once-weekly, hour-long church services during that whole time. Sermons included. I found that Church is not a building, it is the sum total of all living believers on earth. All the commands in the Bible to be in fellowship with others and support the Church are telling us to interact with other believers, not to go to a building on such and such a day. This is not to say that “going to church” is contrary to Church, because it can be a great way to do that, but far too many people go to the building without being a part of the edifice.  Knowing this, I was encouraged despite not being able to go to sermon services regularly in person, because I wasn’t shunning the things of God in the meantime—and I was in fact consuming multiple sermon equivalents in online video and audio clips, as well as articles, throughout that whole time period. I decided it was worth it to wait until I could consistently attend church before attempting to become more involved in one. Doesn’t that make sense? I think so.
                        The reason why I’m not yet baptized is twofold, and the justification is based on practicality. One: I wasn’t as passionate about theology as I am now until 3 years ago, so the impulse to be baptized wasn’t there. Two: I was excused from needing to attend church while I was at college, because I had access to teaching online and access to people who would keep me accountable on campus, friends I met through my university’s discussion board and whom I’d made an attempt to build relationships with “In Real Life.” Because of this, I didn’t attend church, and consequently didn’t develop a connection to any church body, so as to find getting baptized therein purposeful. Because what is the purpose of baptism? An outward public display of an inward condition. It’s thus most pertinent to get baptized in a place where people know, or will know, you, for their benefit. They’ll be encouraged when they see your baptism, and they’ll also recognize you as a believer and not wonder about you. Getting “shotgun baptized” somewhere and then disappearing because you move somewhere else seems pretty pointless, accomplishing little or nothing. Hence, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity, and I know it’s not here yet. When I know where I’m going to live for a period of some years, then I’ll have the security to know to look for a church in that region and to become a member there. Baptism isn’t what saves you, so I’m not afraid. Baptism is what proclaims to everyone who sees and hears about it that you are saved. So I’m merely selecting the right audience. And that’s why I’m not yet baptized.

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