Sancta Colloquia Episode 303 ft. W. Travis McMaken
If you’ve ever wanted to know all things Baptism, I’ve got you covered. In this episode (and the next one), Dr. W. Travis McMaken joins me to talk about his book The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth. I have to be honest and point out up front that this episode is (in my opinion) a bit different than my other episodes. It’s less casual and more formal due to the structure and flow of the questions I asked Dr. McMaken ahead of time. So, there’s a strong pedagogical feel to the episode. McMaken does the lion’s share of walking through the history of Baptism, from the early church to the Reformation, and, finally, landing squarely at the feet of one of the greats of the early to mid 20th century: Karl Barth. Thanks to McMaken’s depth of knowledge and experience as a professor, this episode is an excellent exposure to sacraments, sacramental theology, church history, and the implications our church life has for our political life. Understanding some of the traditions of Christianity can help us to revisit and review those traditions in a new light: baptism is exceptionally political. Those who say otherwise are pulling the wool over your eyes, keeping you from good activity on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized (maybe even from good work on behalf of yourself).
So, if you thought that Baptism is just that thing that happens at church where you watch and then go eat cake, you’d be a wee bit right but way more wrong. It’s the event of Baptism especially where Jesus Christ is preached, that moves not only the baptizand but also those who stand around the baptismal font (family, God-parents, fellow parishioners, etc) into their active role in the world. Baptism isn’t just about a few sprinkles of water (or about whether or not it should be “full immersion”), but about activating the person through the event of faith in the encounter with God to love their neighbor as themselves in the world. Baptism transcends the four walls of the church and the reception hall (housing that cake). The gathered community becomes the sent community; the church body gathered to hear Christ preached, who witness baptism (over and over again, because it’s not a singular historic event but one that repeats in the encounter with God in the event of faith) becomes the body of Christ in the world, thus, participating in the breakdown between the distinction between church and world. The work of the baptized, of those who have encountered God in the event of faith, become those whose actions, in the proclamation of Christ, become as divine action, especially as it pertains to radical acts of loving others materially, economically, politically, socially, with justice, peace, humility, and grace. There’s so much packed in this interview, that I’m breaking it into two parts—I really did not want to cut too much; when it comes to pedagogy, Dr. McMaken is excellent.
The episode will air in two parts. The second part will go live in two weeks (the link for that part will appear below the link for the first part in this post).
Intrigued? You should be. Listen here:
W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken), PhD, is Associate Professor of Religion and Assistant Dean of Humanities in the School of Humanities at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. He is a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). McMaken’s writing engages primarily with 20th century theology (esp. Protestant theology, with specialization in Karl Barth, Helmut Gollwitzer, and T. F. Torrance) while working constructively on the subjects of sacramentology, ecclesiology, and political theology. His blog is: http://derevth.blogspot.com/. Also, you can find his work here at Lindenwood University: https://www.lindenwood.edu/academics/academic-schools/school-of-humanities/our-programs/philosophy-and-religion/philosophy-and-religion-faculty/w-travis-mcmaken/
Susan K. Wood’s One Baptism: Ecumenical Dimensions of the Doctrine of Baptism (Liturgical Press, 2009).
Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian Theology (Fortress, 1988).
Recommended reading authored by Dr. W. Travis McMaken:
W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013).
W. Travis McMaken, Our God Loves Justice: An Introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017).
“So, You Want to Read Karl Barth?” http://derevth.blogspot.com/2007/06/so-you-want-to-read-karl-barth.html
“So, You Want to Read Helmut Gollwitzer?” http://derevth.blogspot.com/2018/03/so-you-want-to-read-helmut-gollwitzer.html
McMaken’s Recording Mediums:
Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-zJjJ64hu-f1OGp1fq43ZQ