In the article, the Rev. Ann Fontaine argues that Christians should allow non-Christians access to the eucharist without baptism based on the inclusive precedent of the early Jewish Christians deciding to allow non-Jews to come to Jesus without being circumcised. She argues that baptism is as incomprehensible to modern-day “pagans” as circumcision was to those of Paul’s day.
This argument falls apart however, when you realize two things:
- The early Christians required prospective Gentile converts to do things that were just as incomprehensible to the pagan world of their day as circumcision. They were required to abstain from blood, from meat sacrificed to idols, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. More than that, they were required to renounce the worship of their national gods for the one god of Israel, which Judaism had never asked of the many Gentiles who attended synagogues and worshiped Israel’s god without ever converting to Judaism (like the centurion Cornelius). In a world where the Emperor was venerated as a demigod and his worship was part of the state cult, this could easily get you killed.
- How did the early Jewish Christians justify this radical practice of accepting non-Jews to table fellowship without requiring they be circumcised or observe Jewish dietary laws? They believed that the coming of Jesus had inaugurated a new order and that the prophecies that predicted a world united under the God of Israel and his Davidic king were coming true in their sight. I’ve yet to see such a compelling reason for undoing the one ritual requirement they did see fit to impose. Moreover, I don’t think the Episcopal Church in the USA and a handful of other countries has the authority to reverse this apostolic practice acting unilaterally without the rest of the Church Catholic.
[Luiz Coelho brings up a good point in the comments: if these modern-day “pagans” find baptism so baffling, wouldn’t they find eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood even more baffling?]
- affcath posted this