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Baptism – Decision

04.20.2011

There’s not a lot of drama to be had here, as I already outed myself as supporting infant baptism and as having been baptized as an infant myself.*  Reviewing the first, second, and third posts in this series, I break down my supporting conclusions thusly:

Revelation

  • In Acts 16, we’re told of two separate households which were baptized in entirety, those of the Philippian jailer and of Lydia.  The text does not mention adults or believing persons, but only that the entire households were baptized.
  • Church tradition stands firmly on the side of the paedobaptists.  Thus, the credobaptist argument must not only make unsupported assumptions about the families in Acts 16, but it must also explain how the entire ancient church managed to get this practice so thoroughly wrong for over 1500 years.

 Culture

  • Due to the ensuing influence on educating rather than evangelizing children in the body, I think that paedobaptist church culture produces a more mature, less emotional/experiential faith.
  • When we transmit cultural values and worldviews (spiritual beliefs included) to our children, I argue that the ones which ‘stick’ most successfully are those that are passed down tacitly, forming the fabric of thought and life for the child rather than those which are argued explicitly and are thus ripe targets for rebellion.

Reason

  • We can never know the truth of another persons heart, due to the consciousness gap.  We therefore cannot hold baptism hostage to an elusive demonstration of proof that the believer has a true and saving faith.
  • Paul tells us, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’  If baptism is to be a sacrament that in some way symbolizes/actualizes (but does not cause) this saving faith, Luther does have a point in suggesting that paedobaptism better captures the authorship of God.
  • Faith is a communal enterprise (although we are individually held accountable).  What we believe from basic Gospel response to the fineries of systematic theology is inevitably going to be shaped and driven by the environmental factors of our community, our family, our friends, our teachers, our culture.  In our loyalty to the Enlightenment, modern Westerners don’t like to admit of the ‘unfair’ role that mere accident of birth plays in setting our hearts for or against God, and in response they/we overemphasize the intellectual, individual, and experiential nature of faith, and the shift in the church culture from paedobaptism to credobaptism mirrors that.

Now, to inject a new type of conclusion, which I’ll call…

Theology

If a sacrament is the outward manifestation of an inward reality rather than a merely symbolic reenactment of that inward reality, why couldn’t the outward manifestation precede the inward reality?  If the child baptized as an infant later comes to affirm the faith imparted to him as a child, then the outward manifestation matches the inward reality.  If that same child should grow up and reject the faith, then his parents took him for (what ultimately amounts to) an early swim, their disappointment notwithstanding.  The inward reality makes the outward manifestation significant.  I see no reason why, even without violating the free will of the believer, this conferral of meaning could not happen retroactively.

All that said, if only in the interest of marital harmony, I will likely allow any kids of mine to make their own decision about when to be baptized.  Thoughts?  Reactions?

————

* I’m not only the president; I’m a member!

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One Comment
  1. Makes sense to me. However, I’m OK with just about anyway that someone comes to Christ.

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