Is There Wiggle Room for Head Coverings and Baptism?
I recently spent 10 days with a group of evangelical missionaries on my medical mission to Haiti. One day, the topic of baptism came up. There was at least 6 differing opinions regarding the significance and meaning of baptism from the different folks who contributed to the conversation. Even more interesting, yet sad, was that these folks were from the same church and yet did not hold to the the same uniform doctrine regarding baptism.
At one point I asked if anyone thought that baptism was necessary for salvation? Interesting that now they were all in agreement that baptism had nothing to do with salvation! So despite the disparate views of baptism, an act of obedience, a sign of an inward work, etc, all agreed that it had no bearing on salvation. The discussion then lead to comments about Catholics baptizing dead babies and weird rituals that someone's Catholic grandma had told them about. I declined to put my two cents in at this point seeing the "cath bash" commence.
Christ promised to send us the Holy Spirit to lead us in all truth. Did He really grant that we could/should develop our own disparate views of important Christian doctrines? Particularly something as important as baptism? Did Jesus really truly think it would be acceptable to hold complete opposite views regarding key theological constructs? The first 1500 years of Christianity held essentially one view of the meaning and purpose of baptism. Not until the casting off of sacramental theology did we see baptism become symbolic. Or, did the early Church fathers get this doctrine wrong as it was passed on from the apostles? It then took over 1500 years for the Holy Spirit to finally crack the hard heart of man to be open to God's truth and return us to the correct interpretation?
I once asked a pastor how I should decide what to believe regarding essential doctrines. He instructed me to get 3 or 4 good Scripture commentaries and prayerfully pick one that I agree with the most. I am sorry, but I can't see that as being what Christ intended as a method of finding Truth regarding an essential doctrine. What if Christ really intended us to be born again through the waters of baptism but we insisted that it was just a symbolic act of obedience? Wouldn't that be an awfully big mistake to make? What if when Peter said "the waters of baptism doth save you," he really meant it literally and not just symbolically?
This is not a non-essential concept that we can just pray about and choose what we believe! We are talking about salvation here and I don't think there should be a particularly large amount of wiggle room, as if we were discussing whether women should wear head coverings in Church.(no offense ladies) If the Bible was intended to be our "go to" book to solve all doctrinal disagreements, why doesn't it seem to work out that way in practice?