Bored holes through our tongues
So sing a song about it
Held our breath for too long
Till we're half sick about it
Tell us what we did wrong
And you can blame us for it
Turn the clamp on our thumbs
We're so whipped out about it
Heretics -- Andrew Bird
Some of my friends already know the story of my second baptism. Or rather, my second water baptism. (There is stuff in the Bible about a believer's second baptism; after water, then the Holy Spirit. I guess this story is about my third baptism.) My parents did not baptize my brother, my sisters, and I when we were infants. Instead, we were supposed to make our own choice when we grew up. I held out the longest, I think; anyway, it was a long time, and I was baptized at age 20 in the Presbyterian church in Seattle I grew up going to (at 8th Ave S and S 200 St, across the street from where Mt. Rainier is right now; they moved it into Olympic Elementary, where I went to the first grade). There are pictures floating around of the whole thing, of Pastor Ben Lindstrom blessing me and marking the sign of the cross on my forehead. It was as good as I could imagine; I still look back on that event with a sense that it was very good indeed.
After I got to Utah, married Sarah, and settled in, Sarah and I decided that we wanted to declare our membership in Maranatha Baptist Church after some years of going there. This meant to us that we were affirming our relationships with the people there, kind of like saying that we were part of a family now.
There was just a little catch. One of the Baptist distinctives is full-immersion water baptism. What that means is that the ceremony that marked a passage into spiritual adulthood, that publicly stated my faith and commitment as a Christian, that symbolized my death and rebirth into a new life, just as Christ died and lived again, not to mention the spiritual ramifications... that wussy sprinkling of water on top of my head just wasn't making it for the Baptists. My membership of Maranatha would be inaugurated in a white robe, holding my nose, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, underwater.
Pastor Emerson came to our apartment to talk membership over with Sarah and I. I brought up the fact that I had already been baptized, so this wouldn't, couldn't mean exactly the same thing to me, and he seemed to accept that. He also wanted me to know that nevertheless, this was the Baptist way, their interpretation of the relevant Biblical sources, so it was not optional. The question then was whether or not I would accept that.
Welcome to the world of heresy and orthodoxy. Heresy means the wrong way; orthodoxy means the right way that heresy is wrong about. Sometimes, claims that violate some discipline's received wisdom are called heretical, but you will most often hear about heresy in the context of religious doctrine, where heresy means wrong belief.
Heresies, like Patripassianism and Arianism and Pelagianism and Manichaeism, are named after people, not ideas, and if you know what these people were thinking or disagreeing with in the context of their times, you are a historian. In fact, some of the theological issues involved are so abstruse that from a distance, if you don't know your history, you might not remember which idea is orthodox and which is the heretic. If I say homoiousios, for example, and say that it's a word used to say that Jesus was like God the Father, it sounds pretty innocuous. Until I tell you, you may not recognize it as one of the distinctives of a heresy that nearly split the Christian church down the middle in the 4th century.
Who orthodoxes the orthodox? How can we tell the orthodox from the heretical?