The Sign of the Cross

Question: Why do we make the sign of the cross?

signofthecross
Christ the King Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland

The sign of the cross serves as something of a liturgical barometer. Want to know where a parish falls on the scale between “low” and “high” liturgy? Look for how many people make the sign of the cross and how often. On the one side, there are congregations that shy away from the sign of the cross for fear that it’s “too Catholic.” On the other side, there are parishes in which people seem to cross themselves at every turn.

In either case, though, one has to wonder: do the people actually know what it means? If Baptists understood the full implication of the sign of the cross, would they adopt the practice? Have liturgical Christians let the sign of the cross become a mere reflex?

What is this weird hand gesture? How old is this tradition? And what does it all mean?

Short Answer: Tracing the sign of the cross is an ancient physical reminder of our connection to Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Holy Trinity, and God’s blessing.

Continue reading “The Sign of the Cross”

Subordinationism, God, and Egalitarianism

Question: What is subordinationism?

trinity-shield1A few years ago, something strange happened in the Fundamentalist world. For a few decades, Wayne Grudem and a few others have been teaching that God the Son is eternally subordinate to God the Father, a position they call Eternal Functional Subordinationism. In the summer of 2016, the debate around this position reignited centuries-old arguments over Trinitarian theology and a heresy called subordinationism.

Things get weird (or weirder), though, when Grudem and his ilk try to make a parallel claim that women are subordinate to men the same way that Christ is subordinate to the Father.

So what is subordinationism, what is EFS, and what does this have to do with the role of women?

Short Answer: The belief dates back to an ancient heresy which claims that Christ is subordinate to, and therefore inferior to, God the Father. The modern version builds on the ancient heresy while also arguing that women should be submissive to men. Continue reading “Subordinationism, God, and Egalitarianism”

The Triune God, the Holy Spirit, and Gender

Question: The pastor called the Holy Spirit “she.” What’s up with that?

Language is tricky, translation trickier still, and translating language about God is trickiest of all. Relational terms like Father and Son, describing the First and Second Persons of the Trinity respectively, describe the intimate relationship between parent and child but in ways that can, at times, limit our understanding of the Triune God. Trickier still is how we understand the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, and what pronouns to use.

Short Answer: While human language is limited and translations complicate the matter, there are linguistic reasons to refer to the Holy Spirit using feminine pronouns, and the practice was common in parts of the early Church. Continue reading “The Triune God, the Holy Spirit, and Gender”

One Baptism: Re-Baptism, the Christian Faith

Question: Ok, so the pastor is throwing water at us. Does that mean we are being re-baptized?

An ordained pastor says a prayer over the water at the Font and then sprinkles people with water? To an outside observer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism might look a lot like the asperges. So is the pastor re-baptizing the congregation?

Short Answer: By no means! Baptism follows a very particular formula (“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”). The grace poured out in that Sacrament is sufficient for a lifetime, and the Church has long held that Baptism is not something that need be repeated — nor can it be repeated. Continue reading “One Baptism: Re-Baptism, the Christian Faith”

Remember Your Baptism: Why We’re Getting Splashed

Question: Why is the Pastor throwing water at us at the beginning of the service?

Starting at the Easter Vigil, we have taken up a rite called asperges, in which the pastor and other ministers fling water from the Font into the Assembly. What’s going on here?

The Short Answer: As a way to tangibly remember our Baptism during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Continue reading “Remember Your Baptism: Why We’re Getting Splashed”