Wow, so many things in the introduction alone to chew on! One that stands out for me is Willard’s paraphrase of the Great Comission. Rather than “baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, he renders it “submerge them in the Trinitarian Presence”. (pg xiii)
This is a far cry from our common understanding of the Great Comission. We normally boil it down to Jesus commanding us to perform what we would now see as a sacrament signifying one’s entry into a relationship with Jesus. Could Jesus, as Willard suggests here, have meant so much more than that?
Willard refines our understanding, and reminds us that Jesus’ ultimate goal was not to get us dunked, but for us to enter into a life that was connected with His, a life lived in the Way he has set before us. Coming from a tradition that places a high emphasis on baptism by immersion, this might be seen as a challenge to our views. However, we have to remember that following Jesus is exactly the point, not the ways we have tried to define it for the last 2000 years. Besides, even if one accepts Willard’s interpretation, it does not in my mind undermine the meaning and value of the baptismal celebration.
For me, this is a welcome perspective on the passage, and one that merits further consideration.