R. Alan Streett – Caesar and the Sacrament

Episode: Was baptism spiritual, political, or both? And to what degree was baptism seen as saving in the New Testament and early Christianity? Why? In his provocative and important new book Caesar and the Sacrament, R. Alan Streett shows that baptism was a politically subversive action that involved swearing an oath of allegiance to a new king. Co-hosted by Matt Bates.

The Book: R. Alan Streett, Caesar and the Sacrament: Baptism: A Rite of Resistance (Cascade, 2018). Foreword by Walter Brueggemann. When the earliest Christ-followers were baptized they participated in a politically subversive act. Rejecting the Empire’s claim that it had a divine right to rule the world, they pledged their allegiance to a kingdom other than Rome and a king other than Caesar (Acts 17:7). Many books explore baptism from doctrinal or theological perspectives, and focus on issues such as the correct mode of baptism, the proper candidate for baptism, who has the authority to baptize, and whether or not baptism is a symbol or means of grace. By contrast, Caesar and the Sacrament investigates the political nature of baptism. Very few contemporary Christians consider baptism’s original purpose or political significance. Only by studying baptism in its historical context, can we discover its impact on first-century believers and the adverse reaction it engendered among Roman and Jewish officials. Since baptism was initially a rite of non-violent resistance, what should its function be today? (Publisher’s description).

Guest: R. Alan Streett is Senior Research Professor of Biblical Theology at Criswell College. His other books include Subversive Meals: Eating the Lord’s Supper under Roman Domination during the First Century (Pickwick, 2013) and Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God—Here and Now! (Harvest House, 2013).

OnScript’s Review: When we recover the first-century context for Christian baptism, we discover its explosive sociopolitical power. Those who were baptized were rejecting Rome’s empire built on coercive violence, instead pledging a sacrament (oath) of allegiance to a cruciform king. Caesar and the Sacrament is a must read for those investigating salvation in early Christianity. –Matthew W. Bates, author of Gospel Allegiance, for OnScript

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