Monday, January 30, 2006

On Baptism

4 Epiphany
3 Hilary

Hey everybody!

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?
  1. An adult says to you, "I was baptized as an infant, and now I want to do it for real."
  2. 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?"
  3. 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?"
Alright, so here's what I would do.
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.

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.

3. "No."
Anybody want to play with this for a bit? I'll reflect on "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament" a little later on.


New Life said...

Nice post. If it is an outward sign of an inward grace, we play no part in terms of its validity. It is an act of God. Like most occassions of grace, we still think we play a part; we still think we have to DO something,i.e. believe, accept, etc.

Thanks for the well written and insightful post!

Anonymous said...

haha! You said "no" to a five year old? How terribly cruel!

If it were me, I would tell her parents off for giving way to the 11 years of spiritual doubt and confusion. Or maybe I would exommmunicate them.

I guess it depends on my mood.

JHearne said...

I tend to agree for the most part, Kyle, but I'm slightly troubled by refusing baptism to somebody who has a theological problem with infant baptism.

Additionally, how do we deal with the daughter thing? That's a really sticky situation. How is this not turning away a seeker, unless you are willing to say that no child seeks Christ?


naak said...

Good post, one of which I find myself unable to really make solid doctrinal statements on. I believe in the importance of baptism, though I don't see it as a mystical thing, but as symbolic. To me this does not do away with its importance or value though. And I affirm that I should have been re-baptized because I don't find my first in line with Scripture, though I understand why some see baptism as the new circumcision and as a means of bringing a new person, though a baby, into the community and body of Christ. Yet I disagree because of my view of Scripture. The hard part for me is the eight year old convert who is now older and not sure about the original baptism, whether or not salvation was genuine or not then, and telling a 5 year old, which may or may not be able to have genuine faith, that she can’t be baptized. As for the eight year old I guess from my doctrinal stand I would have to try and discover if the original conversion was real or not (by means of seeing if any fruit had ever come from the life, which is the only means for evaluation) and then from there make my assessment. If it wasn’t a real conversation then I would most likely re-baptize. I would be much like you in saying it is better, with regard to the five year old, to wait till she is older with better understanding, but I don’t know if 16 is the right number. Those are hard questions, yet good and thought provoking.

Expax said...

For infants the practice that I would choose is to annoit the child at birth. When the child desires to be baptized I would encourage the parents to put them through a class as to instruct them in the faith. Preferrably through age eight to twelve onwards.

Anonymous said...

I think I agree with Ben here.I don't know how well the term "baptism" applies to children, except to say that their parents are seperating them to God and his community. I don't see any "imputation" of grace here beyond God's blessing on his people consecrating one of there own.

But, if he/she truly is to be one of God's own, would the "baptism" be invalid? I don't know. I don't think so, but that's why I have all you smart friends to keep me in line and out of heresy.

+ Alan said...

Well, in order to be fully consistent, if one views Baptism as a Sacrament - i.e., Grace-imparting - if it actually is a means through which Justifying Grace is imparted to a person's insides - then, it really doesn't have anything to do with us. It's God's doing - God is imparting the Grace through the Sacrament that He has chosen to work through. That became a run-on sentence of high order. Ha. If one has this Sacramental view, it would follow that it wouldn't matter what age a person received it, it would still be effective.

So, if an infant is Baptized, that Grace that comes from the Sacrament is imparted to the infant. Talk about Grace that transcends works! And if this is so, would it not be good for infants to be Baptized and be "infected" by the Grace of God as early as possible? Perhaps. IF it's real.

As with other things in the Sacramental realm, for me, if it is "only a symbol" then ultimately, what's the point? "To be obedient" - aaaaaa. OK, we disagree. I have no room for gnawing on crackers and sipping grape juice with no mystical content. That one I'm well decided on.

On the exact nature of Baptism I'm not as nailed down. I lean toward the Sacramental - that whenever it's done, Real Grace is imparted - some of the essence of God's own Life is given. And with that, I lean toward being "gracious" in it's administration - to whomever comes - if parents bring an infant (if they are a part of my community) I say yes, with counselling and constant community involvement. If a child comes, I say yes, because it shows the will being drawn toward God and Baptism is not an end, it's a beginning. So, if I determine that the child sufficiently understands basically what's happening, I'll baptize them. If an adult comes - the same - if they understand - and more instruction would precede it - and it would be a necessity to me, for them to be a member of the community of which I am abbot.

In the case of re-baptism, I don't think it's necessary. I would generally say no, because of the logical implication of doing it again (that it is not Grace-imparting and anything before you "feel" it is illegitimate). But I have done it. There was counselling involved though. Perhaps there are baptisms that are "illegitimate" - maybe because of the intention of the baptized and perhaps because of the one baptizing. I don't know. If so, then one who is baptized illegitimately is not baptized and no Grace was imparted. So any "re-baptism" is not "re" but the only one.

OK, I'll hush now. Didn't plan on all that. Peace.

rawbbie said...

How important is the form of the baptism?

Expax said...

Guess it really does depend alot on your view of sacrament really. I tend to view that the sacraments as an action that is involved on multiple levels. Could it not be that the validity of the sacrament involves the free action of the entities: the creator and creation.

Like lets take a look at the Eucharist. We go up to the altar and receive it, whether it is by gazing or partaking. We make the decision to receive it. Yet God is the one who gives. Its a both and.

So I tend to go towards the idea that a baptism is valid when one is able to in an act of freewill receive it.

Who knows I may have just committed heresy by saying this. Alwell wouldn't be the first time I have been called it.

Oh the reason I am pro for annointing is to bless the child and the family in that time of great rejoicing and future expectation.

Expax said...

Oh for the form of baptism I like what the Didache has to say about it: (Section/Chapter 3)

Now about baptism, baptize this way: after first uttering all of these things, baptize "into the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy Spirit" in running water. But if you do not have running water, baptize in other water. Now if you are not able to do so in cold water, do it in warm water. Now if you don't have either, pour water three times on the head, "into the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the holy Spirit." Now before the ritual cleansing, the baptizer and the one being baptized should fast, and any others who are able. Now you will give word for the one who is being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand.

Anonymous said...

Good post - and interesting comments all.

I follow Alan in seeing Baptism as being part of the 'incarnational sacramental universe' i.e. where God takes the 'matter' of creation and works in and through it to transform and restore (because of this perspective I see many things as being 'sacramental' and not just the 'two' ordinances of baptism and eucharist - however I wouldn't just restrict myself to the 'catholic 7' as well!).

I like the phrase 'Means of Grace' when referring to the sacraments. i.e. the Divine Life centred on Father, Son and Spirit becomes fused with the stuff of creation and thus the 'sacrament' becomes the 'Gotteslebensmittel' - the agent/channel of Gods transformative Justice. However, I'm concerned not to become too 'mechanistic' in my understanding of the precise 'working' of all this - as if the 'mysteries' (as the Orthodox call them) can be completely quantified and made subserviant to logic!

But....I do see 'faith' as playing a vital part in the 'effectiveness' of the sacraments. So I would extend the description of the Sacrament to 'Means of Divine Grace effected through Faith'. The issue then becomes 'who's Faith?'. Since I take a community covenantal line when it comes to the 'ekklesia', I see 'Faith' as being both communal as well as personal, thus the sacrament becomes linked up with the faith of the community as well as the 'belief' of the individual.

This helps me understand a framework for 'infant baptism', since I then see the faith of the parents presenting the child, and the faith of the community nuturing the child as all playing a part in the transformational process by which God will 'call' this little one.

The same goes for eucharist, prayer, bible reading, singing etc...all part and parcel of the 'diet' of the child of God - grasped in faith, praticed in community, leading to transformation and restoration which overflows into the world.

'Send us out in your power to live and work to your praise and Glory'


Peter said...

#1 -- I am with you except that I would frame it this way. "God did something for you through God's people" rather than "God's people did something on God's behalf."

#2 -- I am with you, except that I am into baptizing babies and little kids.

#3 -- I would baptize the 5 year old, but not on her profession of faith. At least one parent would have to profess faith, be baptized and make vows on her behalf.

Hope England is good. If you see the ghosts of C.S. Lewis or John and/or Charles Wesley tell them hi.


Kyle said...

Thanks, Rick, I always appreciate your comments. :0)

Mike (, I think you understand well the pastoral difficulties of baptizing young kids on a so-called "profession of faith."

Josh, do you consider a community's practice of baptism to be determined by the community, or the tastes of the individual? Why not invite someone to own the vows, recieve the sprinkling of water (or hell, immersion) and move on?

Also, I don't think the issue of turning away the five year old is troubling at all. If baptism is what we use to keep a "seeker" in the community, why not offer it to everyone who visits? I maintain that it's inappropriate to baptize a child on the child's profession of faith, because a child cannot count the cost and make a committment to Jesus to order life around him and discipleship to him. If the only way to seek out Jesus and be formed in the faith is baptism, just do it when they're babies.

But that's kind of also like saying that sex is always appropriate if people love each other. Baptism is a commitment.

Naak, I'm with you in terms of avoiding a dogmatic attitude on this; we can't know, so I find it more helpful to talk about pastoral practice and forming a consistant theology.

What I want to avoid (and I'm not sure you do, or want to), is the notion that people can or should stop every five years ago and try to decide whether their original or previous decision to follow Jesus was "genuine." What makes a genuine decision? Now that is leading the soul onto a minefield, and why I would never baptize a child on profession of faith. I'll follow Father Peter's reasoning on that.

Ben, Mike: I see what you're getting at. In terms of valid baptism, I think the answer is for a community to make up its mind, and baptize for only that set of reasons.

Is it unreasonable to suggest that churches don't really know why they baptize...?

What to non-sacramentalists think makes a baptism valid or not, and why does it even matter, if it's not a mystical act, and has no effect on the heavenly realm?

Father Alan, I think you make a good point about the impartation of grace - without producing the merit of belief. I think what most people think of as justification by faith is really "justification by assent to the rightly-worded doctrinal propositions" - which is another kind of work itself, isn't?

You know, for some reason I'll still try to separate baptism from justification as such, but not from a holistic salvation. Unbaptized believers need to be "more saved" by being baptized. Baptized children: perhaps saving has begun.

Robbie, I've not heard of sacramental Christians worried about the nature of the water (immersion, sprinkling or pouring), but only the trinitarian thing (as reflected by Ben's quote from the Didache. Oddly enough, it's the people who don't think baptism "does anything" are really concerned with a "valid" baptism being scriptural enough.

Richard (tigger), thanks for stopping by and commenting. I follow your thinking on the sacraments, and you bring out an important point that I think would have to be examined: in baptism, who is acting? The Church? God? The person being baptized? For non-sacramental Christians, God is not acting. But is the Church? I think we'd need to say yes, even then. And it's because I think that the individual is/should be acting as well that I think baptism is sacramental but should be for believers.

Father Pete! Thanks for stopping in!


Peter said...

Couple of questions I have not seen addressed yet (thought perhaps I need to pay closer attention):

1) Who came up with this wacky idea of water baptism anyway, and what was the point to begin with?

2) Is there a co-relation between baptism in the new covenant and circumcision in the old?

3) What about baptism as the rite of initiation into the community of believers?

Anonymous said...

Kyle: very nice post. I really feel I got a lot out of it.

I'm not sure how I feel about baptism as a sacrament, but I do have some thoughts about sacraments as a whole. In response to Alan I'd like to ask why if something is a symbol it becomes invalid of any "mystical" content. Men buy flowers for their wives as a symbol of their love and affection, not because the flowers themselves are the content of their love. I've always taken the eucharist because it is a tangible reminder of whom I serve, not necessarily because I want God to impart his grace through it. (Of course, if he does, I'm OK with that too.)

I'm ultimately uncomfortable with talking about sacraments as if man had no involvment in the act. I think infant baptism is like marrying a comatose person. Even if the person wakes up and finds they really love their new spouse, I think the person has the right to be angry that such a solemn and serious opportunity was forever robbed of them to affirm their love in the ceremonial form of marriage.

OK. That was a weird example, but I think it gets my point across. I think I'd be nearly blind with rage if my chance to affirm my commitment to Jesus through baptism was robbed of me because people who don't share my Theology chose to subject me to the act before I had any idea of who Jesus was and WAY before the time that I knew I wanted to follow him. That makes me really uncomfortable for those who were baptized as infants.

So I guess I'm forced to say that there is such thing as an invalid baptism. This does not mean that people should get rebaptized whenever they feel a little closer to Jesus (that should be happening anyway.) We need to affirm a Jesus that loves us, a baptism that binds, and a seriousness about who does it and when. I guess that's sacramental enough for me. =)

naak said...

I like Jesse's statements (not that Jesse will agree with everything I am about to say). I don't view baptism or the Lord's Supper as any supernatural experience. When John the Baptist was baptizing, apart from Christ, no supernatural or Theological statement is made. When the disciples were baptizing during the life of Christ no supernatural or Theological statement is made. And finally when the Apostles were baptizing after the ascension of Christ I can only remember one baptism that seemed to have supernatural importance and that is when some who had been baptized by John the Baptist were re-baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (or if you believe it has to be done as Jesus commands in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Further, one of the greatest displays that baptism has nothing to do with justification is when Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was saved and spoke in tongues. Then Peter asked why this man should not be baptized and so he was.

Now in the statement above I find that baptism of water does not carry with it any supernatural power, from God or how ever you wish to state it, but I do find that the baptism that Christ gives, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, does carry with it supernatural powers, but the baptism of water and the Spirit are not one in the same, and in my view of Scripture the baptism of the Spirit precedes the baptism of water and is why I affirm to the Baptist statement of “believers baptism.”

So why is it important to the non-sacramental Christian? Because Christ commands it, it is what joins us to the body of Christ physically (though this has already happened at the point of justification, it is by the means which you display your joining to the fellowship), it precedes any service to Christ and therefore one can not adequately serve Christ prior to baptism. The same is my statement about the Lord’s Supper. When Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper I do not see that when he said “this is my body broken for you”, that the bread actually became “His flesh” because He had not become the atonement yet; the same in regard to the wine. I find it that it was symbolic then as it is now, but even if it is symbolic, that does not mean that it does not carry with it great importance. Even to the extent that God is willing to make some ill, even unto death, if they take the Lord’s Supper improperly. So I do see them both as sacraments as that they carry with them sanctifying grace, but not that they are in themselves supernatural.

Which brings me to my last point, if they are viewed as sacraments which carry with them sanctifying grace (meaning that they themselves are not of supernatural power, but simply that God blesses those who take them properly) how is it that an unbeliever could partake. We know that one who partakes in the Lord’s Supper (if God chooses) can be punished for disgracing the act if one is a non-believer. So then how can a infant, one incapable of choosing Christ, therefore has not been justified and regenerated (born again) receive anything that will sanctify it. It has not yet been set apart by God’s grace in the first place so how can it be further changed into His likeness. It has not yet been created a new being to walk in the newness of life. And so, if a infant is baptized, when enable to chose Christ, leaves the church and never follows after Christ (meaning that person would be condemned to hell) saved anyway by some act of grace imputed to them as a child? If that be the case, why is an unbeliever who receives the Lord’s Supper not given the same blessing? And what is an adult, with no conviction to follow Christ, is baptized and remains in sin; will that person escape the clutches of hell because of some emersion in water?

+ Alan said...

Hey Jesse, and everyone - Just for the record, I'm not against symbols as symbols. I like symbolism. I think it's good and helpful. Candles are a symbol of the light of the world and the Light of God. Incense is symbolic of our prayers rising up to heaven, to God. If we wear vestments, they are symbolic of putting on Christ as Teacher and Presider. And others of course.

I see your point about the flowers and wives, etc. And as I read it, I was thinking, as you said in another way, "but they are NOT my love and affection." The problem comes, for me, when something IS God's Love and Affection and we say it is merely a symbol. Speaking of robbery, we rob it of it's real effect in us I believe. That's why it matters to me. If it's a nice reminder of our Saviour, OK, that's alright I guess, but if, in fact, in a mystical way, it IS our Saviour, then we're merely remembering when we can also be participating. And that is not a matter for punnishment, as far as I'm concerned, but it is unfortunate.

As I said before, I'm much more concrete on my theology of the Eucharist than I am on Baptism, while leaning to the Sacramental, so I'll stop there. Good discussion, nobody's being ugly. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan. Thanks for your response. I didn't mean to insinuate that you were against symbols, but I also know you know that. =)

I also find it unlikely that God would withold his grace from me because I don't believe the right things about the eucharist. That's ultimately why it isn't a big deal to me. God is going to do what God is going to do with the bread and wine, and I am open and present to that. If Jesus shows up, I think Jesus shows up regardless of what I think about him. That's what wonderful (and kind of freakin' scary) about him anyway.

I like your points Naak. It seems that if we are going to be consistent with a sacramental Theology, we can say that people can "submerge" judgment on themselves by doing it wrong. Hehe. Ok, that probably wasn't as funny as I thought...

I'm enjoying this discussion and I appreciate everyone's honest opinion about it. Everyone is, indeed, being civil!

Kyle said...

Peter, good questions.

1) in my understanding, it was a jewish rite of cleansing that marked repentance, particularly among the Essenes. I think in the usage of John the Baptist, it was a rite of cleansing that marked repentance, and identification with the remnant of Israel, perhaps even an Israel reconstituted on the basis of repentance and obedience to YHWH. Naak's suggestion that baptism was somehow devoid of theological content is difficult to maintain here. It was significant that this was not mediated through the temple. In the book of Acts, it seems to be what Peter suggests in 3), "baptism as the rite of initiation into the community of believers." I think that should be normative. But Paul introduces this whole mystical thing in Romans. Don't know what to do with that. But there are definately different understandings of baptism in the gospels, acts, and paul.

2) I think that claim can be made (a connection between circumcision and baptism), but it doesn't seem to be something explicit in scripture. Or maybe it is, and you need to remind me where.

Jesse, I'm glad for your contribution. And happy birthday. :0)

Maybe the content of love is conveyed in the flowers? I think the mystical content of the sacraments are put there in Jesus and Paul. Jesus said, "this is my body," not "this is a symbol of my love." I think that might be a little different.

And you know, I hadn't really considered what it would feel like to have been baptized as an infant and believe it was a choice that had been taken away from me. But to be upset, one would have to believe that baptism must be a choice. But since I am partial to that view, I can certainly understand the practice of anabaptism. I don't criticize it, and it's the practice of baptizing people over and over, and giving them the authority to invalidate their previous conversions that feels like theological jock itch.

Naak and Alan, I think you make some good points. I don't feel the need to take any of them on, as y'all seem to be doing a good job of that.

Heh heh heh. Submerge judgment.

I'll kind of echo Jesse's sentiment: taking the Eucharist, if it has any mystical, transformative effect, probably does whether we know it or not. However, in response to some other things that have been offered up, it most certainly is not merely something we do because Jesus told us to do it for no particular reason. Even if it is somehow not a mystical consumption of and participation in the Body of Christ (which it is, whether anything happens to the bread or not) it is at least a rembembrance and renewal of the covenant.

To remember things makes them present all over again. That's kind of mystical. That's a Jewish thing, too, that's part of the point of all those festivals and the Passover in particular. To make the past present as our present context. To try to eliminate supernatural or mystical elements from these things is to buy into the assumptions of the Enlightenment. The ancient Christian writers for centuries after the New Testament would call the Eucharist the "medicine of immortality." They do take some kind of "sacramental" view for granted. It might not be the full-blown sacramentalism of the Roman Church, but it is there, and it is building on elements in the NT.



Anonymous said...

Great thread guys!

Frustratingly don't have the time or space to develop this thinking as much as I would like but....

1) Are we falling into the trap of splitting things into the natural/supernatural antithesis, and seeing bread/wine/water as clearly belonging to the 'natural' but 'sanctifying Grace' (and I would like to unpack that little phrase!) has belonging to the 'supernatural', non material, 'Spiritual' realm and thus putting 'assunder' what should never have been separated?

Thus, as we try to struggle with what actually happens when we baptise or take communion we are reduced to modernistic (pseudo)scientific categories of thought - such as using psychological ideas about memory etc...

I think Kyle has said it before (along with myriad others) that there is no such thing as mere symbol and part of becoming 'sacramental' is starting to reunite the (falsely) divided realms of natural/supernatural. God works in and through all things. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of the process and mechanism but it shouldn't suprise us that much remains a 'mystery'.

The giving of flowers to my wife is a symbol of my Love. It 'speaks' in inaudible words and does 'embody' (or 'incarnate' to use latin!) this Love - e.g if she sees the flowers when I am away she remembers my Love and feels it afresh. Now Love is one of the greatest mysteries but its reality is very obvious to those experiencing it and I would hate to reduce the flower to simple psycho-social theories concerning stimulation of hormonal neuronal responses! You see what I mean, the flower contains 'power' (only in the context of the relationship - or 'faith' to use another word) but the theory robs the object of it's power.

2) Regarding 'salvation'. I guess many may disagree with this but I see it as more life-long-present-continuous tense. There is no point (during our earthly existence) when we can claim to be saved, since that reality is actually still future to us all. But, on the basis of relationship with God through Jesus we receive a 'forward verdict' of this fact (I know, very Tom Wright isn't it!). Thus 'salvation' starts in the purpose of God before time, begins in our lives at birth and isn't 'complete' until our final resurrection into New Creation. Our present existence is akin to the 'wilderness wanderings' of Israel - where we need to appropriate our relationship with God in Christ on a daily basis ('today, do not harden your hearts...').

Thus, in fact, all of us are no more 'saved' that any new born human being - the difference is that we are conscious of the Love of God reaching out to us and inviting us into relationship with himself, a relationship which brings assurance of the New Creation which is yet to come - but only as we daily choose to respond to God. This makes best sense of those tricky passages such as in Hebrews when the writer says, 'We are the house of God (in Christ) if we hold on to the courage and hope about which we boast' (Heb 3:6b my own paraphrase).

Shock, horror - does this mean that we can fall away? My simple answer to this is, 'fall away from what?' - the point being is that unless we appropriate daily our relationship with God in Christ we loose our assurance. Does this mean that we will loose the New Creation? Well....God alone knows!

My point is that, with regards to children, we need to have a more 'life time' perspective and see 'salvation' as a daily reality which we step into throughout life. That Children are baptised, brought into the community of Faith, trained in Justice and Truth, exposed to the Love and Grace of God (as mediated by the Saints and the Sacraments), 'traditioned' by their parents who are walking daily in Faith must be seen to all be part and parcel of 'salvation' - which they must choose to own for themselves, to be sure, at the 'right' time in order to continue walking daily in assurance - but salvation none-the-less.

As for feeling 'robbed' of the opporunity for 'adult baptism'. I guess it's a case of which ekklesial culture you're part of. Within the Anglican Communion paedobaptism is so common that the oddity is to see someone coming forward for confirmation (the Anglican opportunity for a person to proclaim that they individually 'own' their walk with God in Christ) who hasn't been previously baptised!

Only within the anabaptist tradition, where baptism is made an adult, conscious, symbol and proclamation of personal faith will one feel 'left out' if they had been baptised as a child. Incidentally, is it linking up baptism with 'personal assurance' which leads some to seek rebaptism again and again when they find their assurance waxing and waning in response to the (very real and human) stops and starts of our daily walk with God?

Sorry to have wittered on for so long!


Anonymous said...


To indulge in a little Midrash...

If our lives are akin to the wilderness wanderings what, then, is our entry into life....?

a) Circumcision?
b) Passage through the Red Sea?

Both of which Paul links up with Baptism....

And the babies who came through the Sea had to be carried. It was the faith or their parents and community which 'brought' them over - and they were the only ones who were allowed to enter the land...!


Kyle said...

Man, I'm with you on the salvation thing. I don't think I can add anything to your points, so I'll just say thanks. :0)

lizcreech said...

UUUmmm, Kyle, I was 5 when I was baptised. It "took" dude. I think it depends on the person and the family, physical and spiritual, they are supported in.

Anonymous said...

The question that intrigued me most was number 3. I work at a Christian summer camp, where kids are taught at chapel time that Jesus died for them so they won't have to go to hell. He can forgive their sin if they place their trust in him, and then they can be sure that they're "on their way to heaven." What's humorous is that these kids often "get up to make this decision" multiple times in the same week! I just don't know about child conversion at all. I can hope it's sincere, but it seems silly to have a kid make such a gigantic commitment as faith at such a young age. I could be completely wrong, but I think I would give the girl a few more years. At least 'til 7 or something, 5 is too young for me.