A Crisis of Faith and Why I am an Ice Cream Presbyterian

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of some idea for a movie scene that I would love to see. If I wrote down every one of them I’d have the funniest script for a movie that probably only I would laugh at.  In all seriousness, I am so, so thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ has graciously saved me.  Yet, when it comes to a sense of humor and a perspective on observing life, well, I just ain’t right.

I realize that, in truth, a pastor’s job is demanding of his time and energy, so realistically I would never do this, but… I would love to schedule a counseling appointment with my pastor to get something off my chest.  I’d wait for the day to arrive, then meet him in his study.  I’d sit down, fidget nervously, and pretend to work up the courage to explain my “problem”, and then finally lay it on him.

“I’m having a crisis of faith”, I’d say, sounding happy to finally get it out in the open. “The other day, at breakfast, I was making toast and that’s when I realized it…”

“Go on”, he’s say empathetically.

“Pastor, I…I…I looked down at the little yellow tub and it hit me: ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter.'”

“Excuse me??”

“It looks like butter, Pastor. It even tastes just like butter. But they say it has 50% less fat and calories…and I, I…I just can’t believe that.”

It’s kind of at that point in my mental movie scene that my pastor would press a button under his desk and henchmen deacons would appear and our time would suddenly be up. The film reel of my mind starts clicking loudly as it goes off track and melts in front of the projector light.

That story also proves that I have an apparent obsession with theologizing food. You already know why I believe Calvinists eat at McDonald’s and Arminians eat at Burger King (here).  Recently I again became aware of how what we eat may indicate our theological positions. This time I thought about ice cream.

It’s no secret that Presbyterians are oft-referred to as the “frozen chosen”, so it’s only natural that they’d like ice cream. But so do Baptists. It’s an almost universal treat within Christendom.  With the exception of Seventh Day Adventists, everyone loves sundaes.  But then there is the iconic favorite, the ice cream cone.

Traditionally, ice cream cones are served in a wafer cone that, truth be told, is not the least bit conical in form.  (Call it a translation error, if you will.)  As certain denominations grew increasingly compromised in their convictions, in the name of unity many switched to the aptly-named waffle cone.

Surprisingly, there’s not much theological implication in the flavor or style of ice cream one prefers.  It’s OK to get vanilla or chocolate or swirl or whatever.  It’s OK to get soft-serve or hand-dipped.  Now, some legalistic churches would mandate you only eat hand-dipped ice cream as it requires more work on your part to scoop it out, but even the Puritans were not that strict.  Historically, the real great divide, at least between Presbyterians and Baptists, has centered around toppings; and two in particular.

For generations Presbyterians have, naturally, favored their ice cream cones to have sprinkles.  Baptists, naturally, reject this for the full-immersion, chocolate-dipped experience.  Both sides cite tradition, but neither has been openly hostile to the other for at least 150 years.  Even within their own circles Presbyterians are divided between rainbow or chocolate, “sprinkles” or “jimmies”.  Thankfully, Baptists have no such points of inner-contention within their ranks.

What concerns me is my own personal preference for sprinkles.  I very much hold to Baptist principles, but if I’m wading through a bunch of Adventists at Dairy Queen on a Saturday night my money’s on a chocolate cone with chocolate sprinkles (wafer, of course).  Sorry, but if I wanted my ice cream protected by an impenetrable casing I would store it at home in a Kevlar freezer.  Personally, I think this sort of empathy with my Presbyterian brethren helps me to have fellowship across cross denominational lines.  I have an appointment setup for next Tuesday to talk to my pastor about it.


  1. Dave Miller says

    Anthony blessed us previously with an insightful examination of why Calvinists go to McDonalds while Arminians go to Burger King. Now he’s at the ice cream parlor.

    Thought a little humor might do everyone some good.

  2. Smuschany says

    While ordinarily I prefer the simple rainbow sprinkles on my vanilla, I have to say, chocolate dipped vanilla with rainbow sprinkles on top is the best. Thus proving that this reformed baptist is truly nuts…just no nuts on my ice cream…

  3. says

    What if we were to dip the parent cones to bring them into the covenant, and sprinkle the infant cones in that. . . families order. . . What if the entire “household” gets toppings at once? Just thinking out loud and now I am ready for lunch.

  4. Dave Miller says

    I guess I’m sort of an ecumenist. Dip it then sprinkle it.

    Where are we eating today, Dan?

  5. Doug Hibbard says

    I find that my dear friend has missed a crucial aspect here: some ice cream has nuts mixed in. A preference for that is as Baptist as fried chicken!

  6. Christiane says

    Now, if you want ‘Catholic’ in one of the Eastern rites,
    you will need to triple-dip your ice-cream cone. Yes.
    Catholics of the Eastern (Byzantine) rite ‘dip’ three times, (while saying the proper blessing during each of the three immersions, of course).

  7. Jeremy Parks says

    So the Baptists go for full immersion, and don’t yet have any deep strife over the issues involved? We’ll see if we can fix that!

    What if a woman immerses it? Improper?

    And suppose someone, male or female, immerses the cone perfectly, but with an improper understanding of both the process and the reason for dipping the cone. I mean, some dip for flavor, while others dip to hold the ice cream together while they get into a hot car. Does the immersion hold, or are we obligated to peel it off and have it re-dipped?

    Do we need to make sure smaller children understand what they are getting before we order the dip cone, or do we make them wait until they are 12 years old to start getting dip cones?

    And where does this leave ice cream sandwiches???