Baptism Revisited: An Anthropological Perspective

Gwen Kennedy Neville

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 1/1/1994

Issue: Baptism (Vol. 14, No 1, Winter, 1994)

Anthropology, especially the method of the ethnographer and the cultural interpreter, has a great deal to contribute to the understanding and appreciation of the church and its sacraments. It adds to, not contradicts, the insights of the theologian, the ethicist, and the pastoral counselor. All would agree that God comes to us in history, in a cultural setting, in a social milieu. The God of the Old and New Testament does not act in the abstract as an idea or a principle, but always as a personal power, in and through the lives and times of individuals, families, and communities. The author's ethnographic writings cast some small light of understanding on these human institutions, historical processes, and symbolic meanings—which are, after all, the vehicles through which we receive all holy gifts.

Download Article PDF