Footnote 10 – David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 111-112.
“We are far removed from the days when one’s baptism could be said to be the most momentous event — and perhaps the most dramatic, terrifying, and joyous experience — of one’s life. …For most of the Christians of the earliest centuries, baptism was altogether of a more radical nature. It was understood as nothing less than a total transformation of the person who submitted to it; and as a ritual event, it was certainly understood as being far more than a mere dramaturgical allegory of one’s choice of religious association. To become a Christian was to renounce a very great deal of what one had known and been to that point, in order to be joined to a new reality, the demands of which were absolute; it was to depart from one world, with an irrevocable finality, and to enter another.
“…the period of one’s preparation for baptism could not conclude until one had been taught the story of redemption: how once all men and women had labored as slaves in the household of death, prisoners of the devil, sold in bondage to Hades, languishing in ignorance of their true home; and how Christ had come to set the prisoners free and had, by his death and resurrection, invaded the kingdom of our captor and overthrown it, vanquishing the power of sin and death in us, shattering the gates of hell, and plundering the devil of his captives. For it was into this story that one’s own life was to be merged when one at last sank down into the “life-giving waters”: in the risen Christ, a new humanity had been created, free from the rule of death, into which one could be admitted by dying and rising again with Christ in baptism and by feeding upon his presence in the Eucharist.”
Atheist Delusions is an engaging polemic which is not only a trenchant critique of the pretensions of modern unbelievers, and a learned exposition of some of the history of the tension between Christianity and atheism, but is also filled with insights on many relevant topics encountered along the path of the development of this story. One need not necessarily accept all the premises advanced, nor use all of its terminology, to grasp the essential nature of the truths expounded here. A good read!