I'm sorry to take so long in responding to your kind comments; my internet connection has been very spotty over the weekend.
As a result, I studied my Greek for two hours last night instead of blogging. Hoorah!
Okay, I'm reading the comments from the weekend, and I'm counting 19 Christians and 30 baptisms. That's a much lower number of baptisms than I expected to see. I'm going to offer a few reflections.
Christians of the Catholic tradition understand baptism to be a sacrament: when the church baptizes someone, something is Really Happening, that really matters regardless of one's subjective beliefs or feelings about it. One does not get to decide one's own baptism is invalid; well, one can, but that's not a binding judgment call in God's eyes. Baptising someone a second time? There's just no reason for it, so long as it was done with water by another baptized person using a Trinitarian formula.
Except for the practice of infant baptism, I'm comfortable with these things. I guess I believe in sacramental baptism for believers, and don't ask me what that's consistant with.
Now, Baptists believe that baptism is not a sacramental act, but rather an expression of dedication to Jesus and following his way of life. Infant baptisms are ignored. This makes sense to me. The problem with calling that first baptism "invalid," is that implies it to be a sacrament, an action that really mystically does something.
This is the problem with offering people "believer's baptism" over and over again, which is a fairly common practice in Baptist churches, at least in Kentucky. If baptism doesn't do anything, why does it matter if it was done "right" or not? If someone has already made a public profession of faith as what the church considered to be a believer (even at 5 years old, which is problematic both theologically and pastorally), why do it again?
It is not by any means scriptural for someone to be "saved" over and over again.
I have known so many people in these churches who make their faith commitment, and do it over and over again, because they're afraid of going to hell anyway. I don't know what teenagers are taught to read, or who preaches to them that they need to worry about "their salvation" constantly. So people "re-commit" and are re-baptized in the hope that it "takes." That's just horrible.
...if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.And what about the ones who wound the tender consciences of the little ones, and cause them to believe they're in a state of sin all the time, so that they learn the sheer terror of Jesus, whom they can never trust to really save them, and learn to be fearful of hell?
I welcome responses and reflections to any of the above. Or, perhaps we can chat about these questions:
Imagine you're a pastoral leader in a Christian church, responsible in some way for the guidance of souls and the policies of the congregation. How would you respond to these situations, and why would you do it that way?
- An adult says to you, "I was baptized as an infant, and now I want to do it for real."
- Another says, "I was baptized in this church when I was 8 because I made a profession of faith. I don't think it was real, but now I think I'm really saved. Should I be baptized again, so it's scriptural?"
- Another: "My daughter is 5, and she says she believes in Jesus and wants to accept him as her Savior and Lord. Can she be baptized?"
1. "Hey, your baptism was real. God's people did something on God's behalf, that joined you with Christ. Now you need to own that committment, and talk about how you can spend a lifetime following through with it. Let's work on making vows to Jesus - renewing your baptismal vows.Anybody want to play with this for a bit? I'll reflect on "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament" a little later on.
2. "You made your profession, and recieved baptism. We can talk about renewing your vows, but you need to understand that it's normal to know Jesus better and know Jesus different as you get older, and for your committment to increase and to change. The reality of that change does not invalidate your previous belief, in the same way that knowing and loving your friends better does not mean you didn't love and know them before."
I would also stop the congregational practice of baptizing people under the age of 16.