The weather is changing. The current global pandemic is also changing in ways good and bad. Most of us have been vaccinated by now and happily infection rates in our neck of the woods are dropping. Across the globe, however, things look differently, and the morphing virus continues its deadly spread. But I recently read an article in an issue of Biblical Archaeology Review which causes me to begin reflecting and thinking about other certain as well as uncertain changes ahead.
Before explaining the article, I must mention something heard and learned long ago. Change is difficult and on occasion even dreaded. The hardest part of change, though, is not what lies ahead, but what we must lose or leave behind to get there. For we mere mortals, loss of the past (grief?) is more painful than fear of the uncertain and unknown future.
Back to the article. Francesco Arduini has hypothesized that the great Antonine Plague (c. 165 – 180 C.E.) was the primary cause and origin of child baptism in early Christianity. While unknown and even opposed prior to the plague, the baptism of infants and children became acceptable and eventually even the norm shortly after the plague. Apparently the unusually high infant and child mortality rate during the plague caused church leaders to revise not only their practices and rituals, but even their theology. And, frankly, this would not be the last time! Our church has adapted, morphed, and adjusted in response to forces beyond immediate control numerous times over the past two millennia. As a beloved theology professor of mine used to quip, expect the church response to every change to be this – “as the Church has always taught…!”
So, what might we take from this? I can’t and won’t try and answer for you. But speaking for myself, I can’t and will try and never forget this – God is the one in control.