Friday, January 22, 2010

Baptism


"And baptism, which this [i.e. Noah's rescue] prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ... "
- 1 Peter 3.21
This Sunday, our daughter is to be baptised into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and so welcomed into the life of his church.

I grew up in a Baptist church and was not baptised until I was sixteen (many years after my faith in Christ had become explicit and personal). I'm excited that our little one is going to be baptised when she is still an infant.

I'm not going to give a defense or explanation of baptising infants just now (though I note that Andrew Errington has done so recently), though I will simply note that I have joyfully changed my mind on this matter over the last decade and heartily encourage Christian parents to have their children baptised as soon as possible.

12 comments:

梁俊豪 (Chun-ho Leung) said...

What a blessed child to have infant baptism. We struggled some times about this issue with my son beacuse my church do not accept it.

Sagart ann an Alba said...

Hear, hear!

ericdarylmeyer said...

I'm glad that Aurora is being welcomed into a mystery bigger than any of our choosing. It must be a wonderful (and heavy!) day to be a father.

byron smith said...

Eric - indeed!

And welcome to Chun-ho and Sagart. Thanks for your comments. Which denomination is your church Chun-ho?

The baptism all went well and promises were made and waters stirred. May she indeed fight bravely under Christ's banner until her life's end.

She even didn't cry when she got wet. However, I think this may have been due to the Spirit moving and relieving her of all her burdens (let the reader understand) just seconds before she was handed to the priest, so she was feeling very free and content!

梁俊豪 (Chun-ho Leung) said...

I was a minister to my own church, which is an independant church with blended with Brethen's flavor. My wife belongs to Evangelical Lutheran Church. My elder does not accept doing infant baptism at my wife's Church because it makes them hard to explain to our congregation why their minister's son being baptisted in another Church, which is not practised in ours.

ericdarylmeyer said...

Washed clean in the waters, eh?

I hope there wasn't another baptism after hers!

byron smith said...

Chun-ho: yes, I see how that could be a slightly tricky situation. Does your wife attend church with you or are you at different congregations?

Eric: no fear, she was the one and only candidate that morning!

Arni Zachariassen said...

I'm in a situation very similar to Chun-ho. I'm no minister, but I come from a Brethren background (though my theology is very eclectic now - studying theology does that to people!) and my wife is Lutheran. Since our daughter was born 15 months ago, the idea of infant baptism has become very appealing, even though it runs against my background. It probably won't happen. Most of all because we don't have a proper church family. We attend church, yes. But after we're done studying, we're leaving. And somehow it doesn't feel right to baptise her in(to) a church and community she won't even remember.
Byron, I'm interested in your background. You say you grew up baptist. What does you family say about your daughter being baptised at this age? Anyone have a problem with it? Or is it OK as long as you don't claim she's saved through the baptism?

byron smith said...

Arni - thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about being baptised in a community where you know you are leaving before too long. We'll be around here for at least another two years, but social mobility can be a real curse as well as bringing new opportunities. I guess that's where the difference between baptism in and baptism into might make a difference. Although Aurora has been baptised amongst a community that she may not remember (though we have included one Scottish godparent to preserve a link), she has been baptised into a community that is not limited to where we are now.

As for my background, the short answer is that my parents have spent the last 25 years at a Baptist church, but don't see baptism as a particularly important issue. The longer answer (ignore from here if you like) is that when I was born my family were part of a Salvation Army congregation (and they don't baptise anyone), though we switched to Baptist when I was about five or six years old. I was baptised just before I turned sixteen (and my siblings were all baptised around that age). My father had grown up in the Salvation Army (unbaptised) and my mother's family were Anglican (so she was baptised as a baby). I don't think either of them had a strong denominational loyalty and often downplayed denominational differences growing up.

When I went to university, I was quite significantly shaped theologically by and in the Christian group called the Evangelical Union (see, for example, #5 here), which is non-denominational, though a number of the primary teachers were from an evangelical Anglican tradition. When I married, my wife and I started going to an evangelical Anglican church. I have two older brothers and a little sister who each followed a similar path (being involved in the EU at university and then moving denominations at marriage), so I wasn't breaking new ground. My eldest brother is now back at a Baptist church, my middle brother at a Presbyterian church and my little sister and I are at Anglican churches. My parents were very supportive of the EU and are happy with all churches that take Jesus and the Scriptures seriously, so I don't think they were very concerned about these moves (though as lifelong teetotalers, they were mildly bemused (anxious?) when we all starting drinking a little wine in our early 20s!).

For a variety of reasons, my parents decided a few years ago to both be baptised, my father for the first time and my mother as a re-baptism (as her infant baptism was not recognised).

Seven of their ten grandchildren have been baptised as infants and I don't think they are worried about those seven or the three who have not (the children of my eldest brother, now back at a Baptist church).

Sorry for my self-indulgence; that answer grew to be a little longer than I initially thought!

Irith said...

Isn't it funny the way those of us from non-conformist traditions slowly gravitate towards the ancient practices eschewed by our elders? Just like you Byron I grew up in a Baptist church (from 13yo) and got baptised at 16. It was a profoundly spiritual experience for me and I was dedicated to the notion of adult baptism. But of course there are so many problematic verses in the New Testament alluding to infant baptism, mass household baptism and even baptism for the dead. I realised eventually that the early church's attitude to baptism had more to do with its original Jewish practice than our post-Reformation one. When we eventually decided to have our son 'dedicated' (and many evangelical denominations 'dedicate' infants now) we happened to be attending an Anglican church. We were shown the service for dedicating an infant and the baptismal service. There was very little difference between them, so we decided to make the pledges of baptism for our son. I would not be at all surprised if our son one day decided to make his own decision for adult baptism and I would support him if he chose to.

byron smith said...

Isn't it funny the way those of us from non-conformist traditions slowly gravitate towards the ancient practices eschewed by our elders?
Yes, and there are of course, those who gravitate the other way. Perhaps it is all just rebellion against our parents, decades too late? Or more positively, perhaps it is seeking to find those things that they had perhaps obscured, while assuming the things that were important to them (and so our children might take for granted the things we had reclaimed and voyage out to reclaim the things we took for granted from our parents!).

byron smith said...

PS The discussion over at Andrew Errington's blog is continuing, and contains more of my current thinking on infant baptism.