TO THE POINT
FROM the Religious News Service we glean the following gem: "New York State's Constitutional Convention, struggling to mount a drive for adjournment, reacted with appreciative chuckles to the prayer opening a recent session. Dr. Donald J. Curran, S.J., a faculty member of Canisius College, Buffalo, who also serves as convention staff aide, prayed, 'Almighty God, the time has passed for long speeches. The time has passed for rich oratory, and please, dear God, help us to get to the heart of the matter and help us to get there fast. As we try to be brief, let us recall what You said in the fifth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, and I quote, "Let your speech be yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. Whatever is in excess of this is due to the evil in the world."' The minister continued his prayer, 'That's a good quote, dear God. I shall try to set an example by stopping right here. Amen.'"
It is a fact that in religious services brevity is not always a virtue, but even seldom may it be said that protracted prayers and sermons add to the spiritual effectiveness of a given service. It is to be lamented that in some quarters there are those who would compress the work of the Spirit between the two hands of the clock. It is understandable under the circumstances just what makes them "tick."
Of even less effectiveness is that man of God who regards every opportunity to preach as an occasion for the delivery of the "full gospel." In this he "wears out the saints of the most High." Perhaps Dr. Curran was a bit facetious in addressing the great Creator. There is some suggestion of humor in his prayer, which may in a real sense violate the ethics of sober communion between man and his Maker. We must, nevertheless, applaud his point: to wit, that God might "help us to get to the heart of the matter and help us to get there fast."
E. E. C.
ADVENTISTS AND INFANT BAPTISM
STATISTICS reveal that the Southern Baptists, who, according to policy, believe in baptizing only those who know and understand what it means to be a follower of Christ, are pushing the baptismal age to a new low. Figures indicate that 1,146 children five years old and younger were baptized into the Southern Baptist churches last year. A grand total of 174,383 young people twelve years old and younger were baptized into the church.
As far as I know Adventists have no statistics to show how we stand in this matter. If we went by complaints, there is definite indication that the trend of our church is going in the same direction as the Southern Baptists. I am confident that we have not come to the five-years-or-under age level, nor should we attempt to. Nor should we hold out for a certain age, such as twelve years.
Nothing we can say here will settle this dispute. We can only appeal to our world ministry to do everything possible to adequately indoctrinate baptismal candidates. But over and above adequate indoctrination is the spiritual sensitivity on the part of the minister to ascertain whether or not the individual has a living connection with Christ. It is quite possible to baptize adults who know not Christ personally. When we do, I wonder what is the difference between this and infant baptism?
Certainly the church wants to grow, but all growth is not necessarily good growth. A cancer grows, but it is a deadly growth. If an inordinate desire for statistical achievements replaces a deep love for souls, there is great possibility of packing the pews with baptized individuals whose spiritual experience is weak or nil. The church lists may bulge with names, but spirituality is on starvation rations.
A negative, pessimistic, extremely cautious spirit is not the answer. Rather, a thorough work must be done by those whose hearts are filled with love and concern. Then spiritual growth and statistical growth will not be enemies, but colaborers.