Baptism as an Event of Taking Responsibility
A New Reading of Romans 5:12 to 6:23
For those whose context is rich with cultural and communal rites of passage, how does the church ensure that baptism is not just another ritual, but is understood to be a deliberate participation of a Christian in an event that brings decisive change into the new life that Christ brings?
In this in-depth study, Dr. Pontien Ndagijimana Batibuka explores afresh Paul’s teaching on baptism demonstrating that it encompasses both divine intervention and human action, rather than simply being about an action of Christ. Readers are invited to re-examine Romans 5:12–6:23 through a socio-religious lens rather than the christological reading that has historically prevailed. Through Dr. Batibuka’s skilful exploration of the stages of initiation in antiquity he argues the importance of Christians actively taking responsibility for their baptism, while further shedding light on the interaction of both the divine and human roles. Baptism is more than a ritual done to a passive candidate, it is an event in which the believer personally decides for, and pledges allegiance to, Jesus Christ.
Dr. Batibuka shows us how far we are removed today from the early church when one’s baptism was understood as the most important and maybe the most frightening experience of one’s life. This book should be carefully read, discussed and contextualized by African theologians to help the church recapture what it has lost: the true meaning of baptism.
Bungishabaku Katho, PhD
Dean, Graduate School at Shalom University of Bunia,
Senior Researcher, Centre de Recherche Multidisciplinaire pour le Développement de Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Pontien Batibuka adds a significant element to the debate about Christian baptism. He addresses the instrumentality of baptism in the context of process which generally concludes with the initiatory claims of Christ of baptism as a spiritual transition from death to life.
Raymond Potgieter, PhD
Senior Research Professor Systematic Theology and Apologetics,
North West University, South Africa
Paul’s understanding of baptism is much debated, including whether baptism is divine or human action. Dr. Batibuka offers a fresh approach to the question through a fourfold model of initiation drawn from the ancient world: an encounter with the divine, a break with the old way of life and attachment to the new, a public ceremony of transfer, and a commitment to a new way of life. The application of this model to Paul’s own conversion and to Romans 5–6 is thoughtful and engaging, drawing on a wide range of scholarship. It is particularly good to see Francophone scholarship well represented.
Steve Walton, PhD
Professor of New Testament,
Trinity College, Bristol, UK
In this fascinating study, Dr. Pontien Batibuka analyses Romans 5:12-6:23 as a multi-faceted account of Christian initiation. By comparing this with ancient Graeco-Roman and Jewish initiation processes, and with Paul’s own experience, Batibuka very effectively brings out four stages of Christian initiation: encounter with God, death to the old self, identification with Christ in baptism, and the move into the new, committed life. This study offers enlightening food for thought, both for those interpreting Romans and for those considering the pattern of initiation in churches today.
Peter Oakes PhD
Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis,
University of Manchester, UK
Table of Contents
- Chapter One Baptism in Romans 6 and the Idea of Taking Action
- The Research Question
- On Methodology
- Action is Not Always Physical: “Speech-Act Theory”
- Socio-Religious Approach to Romans 5:12–6:23