An Interesting Discussion on Baptism

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Baptism of Christ, BondoneOur friend Chaplain Mike over at InternetMonk opened up a discussion on baptism. As usual it is a spirited and interesting conversation and well worth your time to check out. Commenter Scott, from the Baptist persuasion, made a very perceptive comment. He writes:

While not precisely in line with any of the above confessions, there are three things that, over the past decade and a half and more as a Baptist, have struck me as wrong about the general credobaptist position.

1. Having raised some of my kids in the Baptist Church (and my youngest from birth) I’m struck that their is something almost schizophrenic about the way we treat kids. As toddlers, preschoolers, and young school age children, in Church and at home, we teach them that Jesus loves them and we raise them to love Jesus. At some point during elementary school, we change the story and we tell them that they have done wrong things and they need to tell Jesus that they are sorry and that they love him. For many of them, that’s a huge disconnect. Of course they love Jesus. They’ve always loved Jesus. Why is he suddenly angry with them and need them to tell him they are sorry? It’s a discontinuity that is not present in the churches that embrace children in Baptism from birth. Yes, the child needs to be raised in the faith and needs to make that faith their own one day. But there is no jump from you’re part of God’s family, now you’re not, and now you are again.

2. The view is far too centered or intellect, reason, and the capacity for verbal expression to feel like anything more than a mind game — and one that is easy to deconstruct. N.T. Wright did it well in one lecture I heard. He pointed out that we all know that we can relate to and love an infant. Moreover, that infant can relate back to us and can love us. Are we really going to say that the God who created and sustained that infant cannot relate to that infant, love that infant, and that the infant cannot relate to or be filled with love for God? Really? Because I’m not willing to say that. If anything God should be able to relate to and interact with that infant even more than I can. And every infant is a unique and fully human person. And as a person, they are no less capable of experiencing God than I am. Perhaps they are even more capable. Of course, that experience needs to grow and mature. There’s no magic in baptism. God will not coerce the will of the child as the child grows any more than God will coerce my will. But that makes the encounter and experience in Baptism no less real for an infant than for an adult.

3. If Baptism is an encounter with and experience of Christ, if it is a new birth of water and Spirit, if in it we are joined with Christ in his death, burial and Resurrection (all Scriptural statements) why would anyone deny their child that opportunity? Why would we leave our child open to the forces of darkness and evil who will not respect our child’s will like God will? In short, if Baptism actually does anything, if it’s more than just getting wet with water that has a reality independent of God, why would we deprive our children of it? On the other hand, if Baptism does nothing, if it just represents some interior reality, why do it at all? If it’s just a “symbol” in the modern, secular meaning of the term, then what’s the point? If Baptism actually accomplishes anything, then why deprive our children of it? If it accomplishes nothing, then what’s the point? The Baptist position is truly strange to me. They hold that it merely represents a spiritual truth and is otherwise meaningless. But it has to be done by immersion past the age of reason or it doesn’t count. And you have to have had a “valid” Baptism (with a lot of different variations in what makes a Baptism valid) to be a member of the Church. And that particular combination is just logically nuts. Baptism doesn’t “do” anything, but you have to have done it the “right” way.

These are some brilliant observations.

NRP weighed in on Infant Baptism in this post from 2009: Why I Baptized our Babies.

By Pat K

2 Comments

  1. larry says:

    Wow! Now there is at least an honest man examining the religious situation and not jumping to defending carte blanche the doctrine he knows. A real Berean.

    Maybe I’m jumping the gun but he’ll be a Lutheran soon. These are some of the things I use to examine too.

    As #1 is 110% accurate. I (we) observed this so many times in the church (SB) at nearly every SB church we attended. I could tell you actual/real true story one after another concerning this with the kids. We had the opportunity to even teach some classes and its shocking, refreshingly surprising the honesty kids speak. I mean they call the shots precisely as they see or understand the teaching. A few examples the good, the bad and the ugly: These are first hand accounts (I KNOW they happened)

    1. A good friend ministers son, PhD theologian, devout to the church well taught in the doctrines, Calvinistic baptist, his son at the age of 13ish (unbaptized) one day after a SS class talking heavy on persecution (by the sword, real modern accounts) says to his dad, “I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that since I’m not a Christian”. His dad replies, “It doesn’t work like that.” I asked, sincerely understanding the doctrine at the time as a baptist, “What do you mean it doesn’t work like that, it works exactly like that”.
    2. Another good friend, pastor, SB son about 11ish, a very interspective soul is terrified (cannot sleep) about the state of his soul and wants to be baptized asked why he cannot. I had begun to move to Reformed at the time. I advised, “Well what are you waiting for, even by baptist standards what else proof must you have that he needs to be baptized. What work would you have him do that you would apply to yourself? What was YOUR criteria for your own baptism?”
    3. Another good friend, laymen, we were still Calvinistic SB at this time. Their daughter, around age 14-15, wanted to become a Christian and be baptized. Our Sanhedrin, an elder, “examined her” for “signs of faith” (the Baptist heart readers – yea I know they say they deny this – BS!). Ask her this question – put yourself in the mind of a nervous teen before an authority figure and being quite frankly more honest than us adults ever pretend to be – “Do you still desire to sin”. Did you hear the question, don’t glaze past that, ask yourself that question in the present tense. She answered sheepishly and honestly, “Yes, I still have desires to sin”. It was not a brash “OH YES I LOVE IT”, but an honest heart answer. The elder tells her she is not ready to be baptized and become a Christian. Over the next four years she becomes a complete atheist/agnostic is now presently in college as such and into the darkest stuff one can imagine. A complete fall away from anything Christian. An “Angry at the church” type.
    4. Another laymen fellow member, same story as above except I don’t know what happened after an elder said the same to her as they left the area but I know she was struggling with becoming agnostic/atheistic.
    5. In a Wednesday night class I was teaching at the time (again SB reformed), mixed teens, I decided to ask anonymously the kids this question (borrowing from D James Kennedy’s “Evangelism Explosion”, because I was worried based on discussions what we were teaching this group of unbaptized kids that we were sending out to do “evangelism type” work (in country and state of course). I made 100% anonymous, gave them 3×5 cards, told them to think about it for a while, write their answer down, don’t give your name, put it in the box, “If you were to die tonight and God ask ‘why should I let you into My heaven’, what would you say?” Every single answer, including the pastor’s kids, and you have to realize this was a strong serious Calvinist SB church, doctrine was not a lazy thing here, exegesis (per se) was excruciatingly done; every single one gave a works answer and I mean a blatant one. It literally shocked me and I went to the pastor who didn’t understand my alarm. I said, “We are pretending these kids are part of the church, sending them and encouraging them to evangelize, teach about persecution and etc…but none seem to know the Gospel and they are teens not little kids.” He STILL didn’t see it.
    6. A family member who are in the ministry mind you, very young child, is given in their Christian academy an award for the “Greatest Display of The Fruits of The Spirit”. Got that, FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, ‘you’re doing them’ the award says. But cannot be baptized nor called a Christian. Same child one day asks their mother if she is (7 yrs. Old) elect and saved (scared about it – just had a SS class on the subject). Mother’s answer, “I don’t know.” Did you hear that picture of God they painted to their child, this is close family by the way, “I don’t know”.
    7. Same parent asked by my wife, “How do you teach your child the Lord’s Prayer that says, “OUR FATHER…”. Reply, “You can’t trust in that.” Did you hear that, cannot trust in the very Words of Christ (i.e. God).
    I could multiply these stories EASILY, without any effort whatsoever, and they 100% true with no hyperbole or exaggeration whatsoever. I could also go into our PCA reformed church that was allowing into membership baptist families with unbaptized children, even to communion, and how I was wondering at the time, “what is that saying to our now baptized Presbyterian children about baptism…that its optional and not that big of a deal.

    This guy nails it, it does create, at first a kind of schizophrenia among the very young and early on. If not changed, it creates at length the new agnostic/atheist. I’ve seen it happen first hand, more than once. At length it made me honestly question, if you really believe the doctrine of believers baptism, “was I baptized, did I have faith, was I elect…etc…”. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, I couldn’t help but ask these questions because we were laying them upon the kids. I’d be hellish fool and hypocrite to not ask them of my own situation. Because when the kids would honestly ask, “how do I know”, I had to give an answer, “how did I know!” Otherwise I’m stuck in the same religious limbo, strike that, hell.

    It is why with all my soul I hate and despise this false doctrine. It murders souls at the end of the day, children and adult. It is not one bit innocuous.

  2. Cary says:

    Wow, this is VERY interesting. As for point #1 I had never thought if it that way. You’re either in the church or you aren’t, unless you aren’t. Hmmm.

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