The Baptized Body – 3
“At every paedobaptism,
earthly kingdom trumps heavenly priesthood,
and the blood of the prophet Abel cries from the ground.”
Chapter 1 continued
See the Baptism links page for all articles in this series.
The Social Contract
Dr Leithart continues by pining for the Middle Ages, the days when baptism defined both religious and civil membership for every member of society, both great and small, men and women, adults and infants. He states that the Anabaptist idea that baptism was a purely religious rite was “novel and revolutionary.” Perhaps it was novel in the Middle Ages, but it wasn’t new. We must ask, what inspired it? The answer is not history or tradition but the Scriptures. I have come to understand the relationship between Church and State from other writings of Jordan and Leithart, so I don’t understand Leithart’s failure to apply those definitions here.
The domain of the Church has always been the heart and the mind and the home, the source of all behavior. The Church deals with those things which are hidden from the public eye, things which are unseen but nonetheless real. The domain of the State is those things which are seen: lawmaking, provision of food and shelter, public acts of lawlessness, wars with other states. These two domains are Priesthood and Kingdom, in that order.
Submission to God deals with the “insides” of men, and when men will not submit to God, God uses the rulers He has put in place to bring such men in submission to men who are submitted to God. If the kings become unrighteous (as all Gentile kings were before the priesthood of Christ), then God raises up prophets from the Church to speak to them and bring even these men into submission to God. If the roles of Church and State are conflated, the Church by definition cannot have this prophetic power, and this is frequently the case. If Samuel must answer to Saul, or Nathan to David, rather than directly to God as His emissary, then Samuel and Nathan have no authority and therefore nothing to say to the king. Prophets come from God’s table (where they listen) to the king’s table where they speak.
Now, when Israel received the Law of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron, she was a nation cut off from other nations. It was for the purpose of creating a Church-State, a microcosmic world. Church and State were administered by the Levite brothers and their qualified helpers. This is why it is impossible to untangle Israel’s “religious laws” from her “secular laws.” Israel was a nation whose king was God, and whose people were all to be blameless sacrifices on behalf of all nations.
Things developed when Israel desired “a king like the nations.” But Israel could not have “a king like the nations,” whose kings answered only to themselves (paying lip service to their gods). This would work fine when Israel’s king behaved like the Son of God. But Israel’s kings, like Cain, usurped the authority of their priestly brothers. When this more defined Church-State relationship was corrupted, God sent His prophets and eventually dismantled the entire nation, which leads us to my point. When Israel was finally “resurrected” under Ezra-Nehemiah and Zechariah-Haggai, the nature of the new nation was prophetic. She was now a Church whose members served as witnesses throughout the Gentile state (the oikoumene) in which they had been scattered. Adult Jews were citizens and they were prophets. But of course not all citizens were prophets, were they?
Just as the reunion of North and South as “Judaism” led to adult Jews becoming prophetic witnesses, so an even greater reunion, that of Jew and Gentile, led to the establisment of a Jew-Gentile body of prophetic witnesses, which in this case were called Christians. Citizenship still tied all men, women and children to the laws of the oikoumene, but with the coming of the Spirit, the old wineskin of circumcision was thrown away. There was no longer any need for a sign that represented the curse upon the Land and the womb, because the blessing to all nations had come.
I hope you can understand the progression, the process of maturity, here. It is beautiful. The Restoration era was a sort of halfway house between the Old Covenant and the New. The progression was 1) Church-State, 2) Church and State, 3) Churches in every State, for the purpose of 4) Every State in the Church.
So, to tie “religious membership” to civil membership is to confuse heaven and earth. To link baptism with the borders of any particular state is to say that Jesus is not the king of all nations, all states. In Israel, this would have been like limiting circumcision to the offspring of Levi. Circumcision was “statewide,” the blood border between Israel and the other nations. The “water border” was the boundary of the priestly and prophetic body within the state of Israel. These two were never conflated, as Leithart does here.
“Whatever their political allegiances, Christians who baptize babies implicitly confess that religion and society are inseparable.” (p. 8 )
And they also bind the Church to the government of the day, and define “Christian” as natural rather than supernatural, someone who is to “hear” from God rather than “speak” for God. This is not how the New Testament defines the Church. When Moses expressed his desire for all the Lord’s people to be prophets, he was not desiring that all of them should receive some special new unisex Covenant sign. He was impatient for the kind of Covenant witnesses that could only come after the pouring out of the Spirit.
Religion and society are most certainly inseparable, as the flesh of a man is inseparable from his spirit while he is alive. But each has its domain. Physical maturity and spiritual maturity are not the same thing, as witnessed in Eden.
What is the blood border today? In a sense, there is none, but in another sense, it includes all human bloods. All men everywhere are now called to repent. What is the water border? Credobaptism, the sign of repentance. All the Lord’s people are prophets, or, to put it another way, the prophets are the Lord’s people among the nations. Prophets have never known any boundaries. Conflating Church and State membership confuses the speakers with the hearers.
Based on this misunderstanding, Leithart then asserts that our modern views of baptism have been distorted by political individualism. He sees baptism as a sort of “carry all” for those under the authority of the Gospel. He misses the point that the entire world is now under the authority of the Gospel. God is no respecter of persons. All nations are under the New Covenant, men, women and children, so paedobaptism is redundant. Whatever paedobaptists hope to achieve with this rite has already been achieved in Christ for every human on the planet.
But credobaptism is by its very nature individualistic. Why is this a problem? In the same way that we differentiate between circumcision and baptism, or between citizenship and prime ministership. Circumcision and citizenship put one under the Law. It is for the purpose of instruction, a time of ethical childhood. Baptism and any kind of ministry make one a minister of the Law. The Law has done its work, and baptism or swearing-in make one a representative of that Law. We see the same process in microcosm between the time when Israel was “under the angelic sword” in Egypt, and wielding that sword in Jericho as God’s representatives. And further back, in Eden, it seems the plan was for Adam to carry the flaming sword out of the Garden into the Land as God’s representative, rather than being exiled by the sword in the hands of angels. In both cases, the process began with a single angelic sword over a “corporate flesh,” and ended with a new kind of body, a body made of individuals who all wielded an individual sword. Likewise, Israel’s “baptism” through the Red Sea was a single event, a baptism of “one natural flesh.” That is why it included their children. New Covenant baptism is for the purpose of giving every warrior a sword. The Church is a swarm of armed angels who “ev-angel-ize” with the testimony of Jesus.
Thus, to conflate citizenship with religious membership is to make a dog’s breakfast of the way in which the Church (vertical mediation) and State (horizontal mediation) have always been designed to work. It is to say that no mediator, no ambassador, no Christ, is required between heaven and earth, and every member of a Christian state is a “saint” and has prophetic authority. This is gross error. Thankfully, as Dr Leithart wistfully observes, “we are all Anabaptists now.” He writes:
“Anabaptists … aimed to uncouple religious and political affairs and undermine the foundational structure of Christendom.” (p. 8 )
I believe he has misread the situation. Whatever their other errors, the Anabaptists “uncoupled” a whoring church from a beast who desired to mix his natural seed with her supernatural sons. At every paedobaptism, earthly kingdom trumps heavenly witness, and the blood of Abel cries from the ground.