Our truest identity isn’t something we create or build ourselves.
It’s a gift we receive.
We live under water.
What does baptism mean? And what do we do with it? Kevin Adams—an experienced pastor and church planter who has baptized people of all ages and spiritual origins—makes the case that baptism isn’t merely a one-time ceremony but something to be lived and affirmed throughout one’s life. In Living under Water, Adams shares stories that illustrate how baptism shapes one’s identity and enters us into an alternate narrative, one ongoing since the dawn of creation, through which we understand our truest selves with all our joy and trauma and by which we are united with a group of people unbound by race or language, continent or generation.
Foregrounding baptism in the lives of Christians means foregrounding baptism in the life of the church. Anchored in both theology and real-world experience, Adams shows how that can happen while engaging honestly with the history (and ongoing reality) of baptism’s corruptions and abuses. This book is for pastors and parishioners of any Christian tradition who long for baptism to be bigger than a set of doctrinal bullet points—nothing less than the gospel story enacted with water.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Cornelius Plantinga Introduction: Baptismal Confidence Part One: Baptismal Identity 1. The Script 2. Kiddie-Pool Piety 3. Drowning in a Coffin Part Two: Baptismal Liturgy for Life 4. Renouncing Evil 5. An Ordained Life 6. Baptismal Clothes Part Three: Baptismal Abuse 7. Identity Politics 8. Forced Baptism 9. Widow Waters 10. Race Part Four: Baptismal Hope 11. Healing Waters 12. One Baptism Epilogue: A Baptized Imagination Bibliography Index of Subjects Index of Biblical Texts
Kevin J. Adams is the founding and senior pastor of Granite Springs Church in greater Sacramento, California, and a program affiliate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Formerly the director of formation at the Newbigin House of Studies, San Francisco, he has taught at Calvin Theological Seminary, Western Theological Seminary, and William Jessup University. His other books include 150: Finding Your Story in the Psalms and The Gospel in a Handshake: Framing Worship for Mission.
“You wouldn’t necessarily think of a book on baptism as interesting—let alone fascinating. To me, this one is. . . . Living under Water is a stellar treatment of baptism. That you will learn from it is inevitable. That you will treasure it is entirely predictable.” — Cornelius Plantinga from the foreword
“I’ve been reading Kevin’s book during a time when it feels like we are coming apart at the seams in the United States, and perhaps globally as well. But as I read, I felt rooted and grounded, invited into a larger and more substantial reality than my shifting one. That’s the great gift of this book. As a long-time pastor and therapist, I would commend this as good therapy for those, like me, who sometimes feel tossed about the cultural waters.” — Chuck DeGroat professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary
“This wonderful pastoral book encourages its readers to tune a keen listening ear to the stories of baptismal formation. So many discussions of baptism focus on points of contention; this one focuses on horizons of hope and healing. It displays the virtues of imagination, generosity, and anticipation as well as theological depth and biblical rootedness. Congregations who study this book will expand their horizons for the many ways that God is seeding shalom in communities of faith through the gift of baptism.” — Leanne Van Dyk president and professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary
“This is an insightful, exciting, carefully researched, and timely analysis of the gift of baptism that will energize Christian practice. Using diverse stories from many traditions and times of the Christian church, as well as from popular culture, Living under Water provides both an invitation and a tangible pathway to embracing an everyday baptismal identity of faith in action that gets beyond limited ideas of a magical naming ceremony or an expression of only personal piety. Well suited for individual and communal study, Living under Water is essential reading for theological education and preparation for ministry at every level.” — Edwin David Aponte executive director of the Louisville Institute
“Kevin Adams gently points us to the cataclysmic event that triggers new life in our baptism. Weaving diverse stories, from the historical church all the way to The Godfather, Kevin calls us to resignify and reimagine our lives by our identities as baptized siblings of Christ. Living under Water grounds this sort of life as tangible, real, and complex. This book is a warm invitation with a high challenge to put on our baptism and live out our baptism.” — Angie Hong cofounder of Kinship Commons
“Kevin Adams’s wise and winsome book is drenched in real-life stories, dripping with theological insight, and soaked in gospel hope. I couldn’t put it down.” — Melanie C. Ross associate professor of liturgical studies at Yale Divinity School
“Living under Water is a book of depth and range. It will take you to turns in history and provide revelations on recent discussions of race and politics. Through the prism of multiple stories, it shines the light of pastoral wisdom and God’s continued grace into the lives of people who may not even know that they are longing for baptismal identity. With a gift of words, an ear for cadences, and the sight to see God’s ongoing outpouring of grace, Living under Water nourishes the garden of our hearts where ‘hearts are still restless until they find their rest in Thee.’” — Jul Medenblik president of Calvin Theological Seminary
“Rooted in Scripture, and drawing from a range of traditions, Kevin Adams has given us a sparkling and personal apologia for baptism as both the essential Christian identity and an invitation to a renewed way of life.” — Paul Weston director of the Newbigin Centre for Gospel and Western Culture, Ridley Hall, Cambridge
“I’ve read many books about the biblical background and theological meaning of baptism, but here is a book about baptism that is immersed in real life. Fueled by years of pastoral experience and grounded in deep theological understanding, Kevin Adams illustrates the meaning of baptismal identity with stories of gut-wrenching, heart-warming power.” — Leonard J. Vander Zee author of Christ, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper
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