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Church of England ousts devil from baptism service - dumb or smart?

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A new, alternative baptism service has just been introduced by the Church of England, which is creating a few waves with its bold leap into the modern world.

Instead of asking godparents and parents “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?” the new service requires parents to “reject evil and all its many forms and all its empty promises,” according to a report by Religion News Service.

One could compare that wording to the baptism text currently used by the United Church of Christ (U.C.C.) in the U.S., “Do you renounce the powers of evil and desire the freedom of new life in Christ?” and “Do you promise to resist oppression and evil, to show love and justice, and to witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ as best you are able?”

Obviously, there’s a world of difference between the traditions of these two denominations. One, the Church of England, is a pretty close cousin to the original Roman Catholic tradition, dating back to the middle ages; the other, the U.C.C., is a relatively newer denomination, formed as recently as the 1950s.

Some critics call the Church of England’s modernization of this text part of an ongoing “dumbing down” of the church teachings (former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, for one); others applaud it, saying that it is a long-overdue recognition that “devils” and other such “mythological” symbols aren’t as common in everyday expressions of the faith as they once were….at least not in liberal Christian Protestant circles. In the evangelical world, the devil still makes a regular appearance in sermons and other worship practices.

One response to this news blog item put it pretty succinctly: “Makes sense. Sin is a private matter. Crimes should be handled by public authorities. Hell and the devil are left-overs from ancient mythology. It’s about time that we catch up with advanced knowledge and thought, even in religion. Especially in religion.”

Where do you stand? Is exorcising the devil “dumbing down” the faith – or a very smart move by church authorities to adapt to modern times?

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