I’ve been reading through “Priesthood of the Plebs: a theology of baptism” by Peter Leithart. One section in that book sheds a bit more light on my last post “Baptism and the Real Me”. These lengthy quotes from "Priesthood of the Plebs" give the background understanding of personhood that makes room for his assertions in “The Baptized Body”. In the second quote I inserted a definition for ‘accident’ just to make sure everyone would understand. Also, the bold is my doing.
“A ‘narrative’ conception of personal identity is helpful here. At the social level, any particular baptism is, as MacIntyre implies, an event in the history of baptism, which is to say, a moment in the church’s story (1989): 100; cf. Jones 1987: 53-69). Baptism immerses a person in that history. Identities are formed at the intersection of various narratives of which one is a part (of family, community, nation and so on), so that when baptism embeds one’s story in that of the church, his identity is objectively modified. To “I am an American, or Scot, or Chinese” is added “I am a member of the Christian priesthood”; one’s “forefathers” now include not only Washington, Robert the Bruce, or Mao but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the story that once began, “my father sailed to the Cape of Amsterdam”, now begins, “my father was a wandering Aramean.” At an individual level, identity is bound up with the events of one’s life and his (selective) memory of those events. Roles acquired and significant actions done become part of my “record”, a story that marks my difference from others and traces the continuity of my life through time. Objectively, baptism makes me a priest, and this becomes an episode in the story of who I am. Subjectively, the baptismal narrative into which I am submerged may break violently against the story that, before baptism, identified me, forcing what may be a painful revaluation of my past and producing a revised self-image (Stroup 1981: 95).” (Pgs 168-169)
He goes to say, “what makes me uniquely me, is a combination of roles, stories, actions and events of my life; the individual and his world are not hermetically sealed from one another, but mutually defining. Thus, while it is true that I am a husband, it is equally important to see that I am a husband. “Husband” is not an accident [def. nonessential attribute or characteristic of something] inhering in an unmarried self but one of the roles that makes up my identity. Importantly, I am a husband because I have gone through the ceremony of marriage. Operative ceremonies, thus, by placing us in new roles, vesting us with new clothes, and imposing new sets of obligations and rules, effect an “ontological” transformation, a change in who we are, who we think we are, and who others think we are. Baptism clothes us as priests, and these clothes remake the man.” (Pgs 169-170)