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The Baptized Body

ISBN: 9781591280484

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What does baptism do to the baptized? Nothing? Something? In this study, Peter Leithart examines this single question of baptismal efficacy. He challenges several common but false assumptions about God, man, the church, salvation, and more that confuse discussions about baptism. He aims to offer a careful and simple discussion of all the central biblical texts that speak to us about baptism, the nature of signs and rites, the character of the church as the body of Christ, and the possibility of apostasy. In the end, he urges us to face up to the wonderful conclusion that Scripture attributes an astonishing power to the initiation rite of baptism.

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“What is at the heart of the Federal Vision? I cannot speak for all those wearing the FV logo, but in my view the Federal Vision is centrally about the issues I address in this book: Baptismal efficacy, to be sure, but more importantly and fundamentally, the nature of signs and rites, the character of the church as the body of Christ, the possibility of apostasy. At its heart, the Federal Vision is about ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church. The most important chapter in this little book is the third, ‘ ‘The Body of Christ’ Is the Body of Christ.’ As I see it, the Federal Vision’s central affirmation is this: Without qualification or hedging, the church is the body of Christ. Everything the Federal Vision says about baptism, about soteriology, about apostasy flows from that affirmation.” (Page ix)

“Popular conceptions of ‘sign’ and ‘symbol’ are erroneous in a number of respects, but in this section I discuss only one error, namely, the tendency to treat signs rationalistically, as nothing more than means of communicating ideas from one mind to another mind.” (Pages 11–12)

“The link between baptism and forgiveness of sins is not merely sequential. According to Peter, the repentant are to be baptized unto (Greek, eis) the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Spirit follows on that baptismal cleansing (cf. Ezek. 36:25–27).” (Page 29)

“Scripture—not tradition, not even the Reformed tradition—is the final rule of faith and practice.” (Page x)

“To call the sacraments ‘rites,’ therefore, is to emphasize that they actually accomplish and do things, changing status, altering personal identity, and expressing God’s favor. God recognizes the baptized person as a baptized person and a member of the body of Christ. God regards a church that celebrates the Supper as a church that has celebrated the Supper. Conceiving sacraments as rites underscores a strong view of the efficacy of sacraments, but there’s no magic of mumbo-jumbo here. As rites, sacraments are effective in the same way that words are effective. There’s magic in the sacraments in the same sense that there’s magic in the words ‘I baptize you in the Name of the Father, Son, and Spirit’ or ‘I now pronounce you man and wife.’” (Page 24)

  • Title: The Baptized Body
  • Author: Peter J. Leithart
  • Publisher: Canon Press
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Pages: 152

Peter Leithart is President of Theopolis Institute and serves as Teacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. He is the author of many books, including a two-volume commentary on Revelation (T&T Clark, 2018), God of Hope (Athanasius, 2022), On Earth As In Heaven (Lexham, 2022), and a forthcoming book on God the Creator (IVP). He writes a fortnightly column at FirstThings.com, and has published articles in many periodicals, both popular and academic.

Leithart has served in two pastorates: He was pastor of Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church (now Trinity Presbyterian Church), Birmingham, Alabama from 1989 to 1995, and was pastor of Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho, from 2003-2013. From 1998 and 2013 he taught theology and literature fulltime at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho. He received an A.B. in English and History from Hillsdale College in 1981, and a Master of Arts in Religion and a Master of Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1986 and 1987. In 1998 he received his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England.

He and his wife, Noel, have ten children and fifteen grandchildren.


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    Darren Seiple


Save during the Summer Reading Sale!


Digital list price: $13.99
Regular price: $10.99
Save $3.30 (30%)