Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Most Recent Publication

Ecclesiology has just published (online; I think the hard-copy will take a little more time to get out) an essay of mine. Those of you with the proper permissions can likely access it. The essay deals with Barth on infant baptism, and it does two things: first, it traces the development of Barth’s doctrine through the Church Dogmatics period; and, second, it concludes by hinting at the line of thinking I intend to pursue in my dissertation. Here is the bibliographic information, and below is the abstract:
W. Travis McMaken, “Authority, Mission, and Institution: A Systematic Consideration of Matthew 28.18-20 in Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Baptism,” in Ecclesiology 53 (2009): 345-61.
ABSTRACT: Many of Barth’s most faithful and devoted interpreters have taken issue with his unapologetically non-sacramental account of baptism in CD IV/4 and his attendant rejection of infant baptism. While many questions have been raised concerning the veracity of the exegesis that Barth produces in support of his position, little attention has been paid to the way in which Matthew 28.18-20, when systematically considered, relates to his account of baptism. Taking the themes of authority, mission and institution as analytic tools, this paper examines the role played by the Matthean passage throughout the Church Dogmatics period, and considers how these themes relate to Barth’s rejection of infant baptism. It is suggested in conclusion that understanding baptism as the ‘sign of the gospel’ allows us to move beyond Barth’s rejection of infant baptism without abrogating his concern for mission.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Travis,
I am looking forward to reading this. I am a children's pastor in Seattle and am looking at our baptism classes and the theology that supports them. Keep up the good work.
David Hallgren (PTS '07)

WTM said...

Thanks, David! I'll do what I can.

Chris Donato said...

Am I reading the abstract's conclusion correctly? That Barth's rejection of baptism somehow undermines his concern for missions?

WTM said...

Chris,

Barth rejects infant baptism because he wants a "mature" church capable of and committed to its evangelical mission. But, in working out his rejection of infant baptism, he tends to exclude any but this most formal orientation toward mission. I think he could have hit the mission note a lot more strongly if he had made certain other moves with respect to baptism. That is what my dissertation will attempt to show.

Chris Donato said...

Ah, I think I misunderstood; I'm fairly ignorant of Barth studies (even if I've read a decent amount of him). Wouldn't a more sacramentarian view of baptism (whether paedo- or credo-) lend more weight to his argument vis-a-vis a "mature" church?

Do you personally think that paedobaptism undermines the impetus to proclaim the gospel, to "make disciples…," etc.?

WTM said...

I think a higher sacramentology would help Barth, but it would have to be a different sort of sacramentality than one usually finds in order to be consistent with Barth. Such a sacramentality is what I'm trying to figure out.

I don't think that paedobaptism undermines the church's evangelical commission. My dissertation will be about why I think that. How about yourself?

Chris Donato said...

That sounds like an interesting tension to live with: a sacramental view of baptism while practicing only credobaptism. I'm sure it can be done, but I'm not sure how (off the top of my head).

As a committed paedobaptist, I'm not at all offended by the question re: missio Dei. It's a good one (and it has been lighting up Inhabitatio Dei recently). I think the practice certainly can inhibit the commission, but that's if the mission of the church becomes conflated with the mission of the state (which is an extension of the deeper problem of confusing the two kingdoms). But the same could be said for credobaptism too.

The fact is, the primary means of God's growing his kingdom in this world has been through the family structure, and the practice of paedobaptism has been inextricably bound to it.

WTM said...

It's always helpful to know the backgrounds of people you're discussing theology with, and I now detect in you a hint of covenantal / Reformed theology. Is that right? I had been (apparently mistakenly) laboring under the assumption that you are a credobaptist - it now seems that neither of us are. :-)

Part of what I want to do in my dissertation is problematize traditional / covenantal Reformed accounts of paedobaptism by drawing upon Barth's rejection. Then, I'll (hopefully) go on to put paedobaptism on new and more solid footing.

Bobby Grow said...

No! I'm the credo around here ;-).

Chris Donato said...

Yes, Travis. I live and move among the Reformed, and, while I'm Anglican at heart, I'm nonetheless plenty influenced by the Dutch redemptive-historical theology of Ridderbos, et al.

I'm looking forward to following your project. It's my opinion that paedobaptist theology in general could use a fresh perspective.

Bobby, sounds like famous last words…