Unity views on ... Baptism
Water baptism has become an important part of the Christian practice. Some churches teach that there is no possibility of being "saved" unless baptism is experienced. There is controversy about how baptism should be experienced. There is controversy about how baptism should be administered. The religious groups that use immersion feel that anything less than the total immersion is ineffective. In the architecture of these churches, the baptismal is a central and important part, usually featured in a prominent place. The immersionists also do baptisms in outdoor, natural settings - usually at a riverbank. The washing away of sins is believed to be accomplished with the symbolic total immersion.
The non-immersionists sprinkle water onto those who are being baptized. They believe total immersion is unnecessary, reasoning that the actual act of baptism is symbolic and that the symbolism need not be carried to extremes.
This differentiation is so pronounced that in the military chaplaincy program there are two categories: immersionist and non-immersionist.
Closely associated with baptism is the Christian concept of being born again. The born-again doctrine apparently originated with the nighttime encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus came to Jesus and acknowledged that surely Jesus was a teacher who came from God. Jesus answered him,"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God".
The controversy lies within the question: What really constitutes being born again?
Nicodemus was totally baffled about the statement. He asked Jesus how this could be done. He wondered if a man could "enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Spiritual rebirth is still a matter of question.
There are teachers that teach that an individual must come to the altar, accept Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior, and be baptized (either by immersion or sprinkling) in order to be born again. Other churches teach that a profession of faith accomplishes the task. Many churches do not emphasize the concept at all.
Because Jesus Christ Himself experienced water baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, many Christians feel that it is a necessary part of the ultimate Christian experience. Do you not, however, find it interesting to note that after Jesus' experience with John, to the best of our knowledge, He Himself never employed water baptism for anyone else? From this, we must conclude that He did not feel that this kind of baptism was necessary. Herein lies the baptism alternative.
In our consideration of this subject, we need to explore the method Jesus employed instead of water. The Gospel of John gives insight. "Jesus said to them again,'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so send I you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them,'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
This has generally been accepted as the baptism of Jesus' disciples. It is called spiritual or Holy Spirit baptism. This is the alternative:
Rather than being a ritual or ceremony formally endorsed by the church and administered by it, baptism can be understood as an intrinsically personal experience that occurs within us. In its deepest sense, baptism is a prayer experience with Spirit, an ultimate dialogue between an individual and God.
There are two basic reasons for baptism. One is for the dedication of a life of spiritual ideals. This is the thought behind the baptism of children. The other reason is for cleansing or purification. With the adult, both of these purposes should be kept in mind during the prayer experience that results in spiritual baptism. As with all prayer, it is a mental process.
Let us first consider the idea of purification. This is what is implied in Jesus' comment that we need to be born of water. To be born of water is to remove from our consciousness the impurities of negation. We do this through the prayer-process called denial. Denial is the means by which we mentally, emotionally, and verbally refuse to allow anything that would impeded our spiritual growth to remain in our minds. As long as such negation remains, we cannot have the spiritual experience of true baptism.
Jesus also spoke of the necessity of being born of the spirit. This means that it is necessary to instill spiritual qualities into our consciousness to such an extent that they are automatically reflected in our lives. The way we do this is through the prayer-process called affirmation. In affirmation we declare for ourselves the establishment of great ideals. By a process known as the "law of mind action", these mind-ideals become qualities of character. Thus, the change is affected in our lives.
This means that, whatever we were previously, we have become something new. In a real sense, we are born again. We are born into a new and heightened self, which is the objective of baptism and spiritual rebirth.
This becomes your alternative to consider concerning baptism: The baptism of water was that of John. Jesus' method was spiritual baptism. "For John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit....You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you".
Spiritual Baptism, that of Jesus Christ, is a time of becoming very quiet within yourself and being at peace with God. Deny negation. Do not allow any of it to take residence in your mind. Affirm the Truth. Know that your mind is the habitat of productive goodness. Let your mind be filled with the beauty and glory of God's Spirit within you. Then you will be reborn into a new and exciting life.
This item is an excerpt from the book "Alternatives" by William L. Fisher, and reproduced with the express permission of Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO.