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The following reviews were published in BI Update 59

Two Books by Colin Buchanan: reviewed by Andrew Robinson

In the last edition of BI Update (Issue 58, Eastertide 2009), David Perry raises the issue of  infant baptism in the early church in ‘a patristic point to ponder.’ (p.12) His conclusion is that infant baptism, while sometimes practised due to illness, was always regarded as inferior to the baptism of instructed believers. This got me thinking again about whether there is a truly strong case for infant baptism. What better book to read, then, than Colin Buchanan’s A Case for Infant Baptism, Grove Books (W20), new edition 2009?  

The strap-line of Grove Books is ‘not the last on the subject, but often the first.’ This particular first word has gone through four previous editions dating back to 1973, and its main aim is to present a biblical case to answer those who would oppose infant baptism. It is a short book (priced £3.50), and builds up a case cumulatively. There is no ‘knockout punch’ or proof text to prove his opponents wrong, just a steady examination of the available evidence. To my mind the clinching evidence comes in chapter six, where the frequent New Testament references to whole households being baptized are highlighted.  

I therefore recommend this book highly, with only one reservation. I came to the book hoping to find a bibliography showing the evidence for widespread infant baptism in the early church. In the event, there is no bibliography, and as far as I can see the only authority quoted for the practice of infant baptism in post-apostolic times is Jeremias  - whom David Perry dismisses so crushingly!  [In Update 58 - Ed]

Around the same time, I was given An Evangelical among Liturgists to review. This latter book, also by Colin Buchanan and published by SPCK in 2009, is a collection of essays giving something of an overview of the author’s wide-ranging involvement in liturgical developments over more than forty years. There is a section on initiation in which the  author emphasizes the need for baptism to be understood as initiation into a missionary community, and therefore appropriate for practising adult believers and their children, but not appropriate for those who do not wish to participate in the missionary fellowship of the church. The chapter on confirmation argues that it is not a sacrament of initiation (or indeed a sacrament at all), and should not be made the gateway to receiving communion. This book also includes sections on revising liturgy, the eucharist and liturgical journalism. It is a book more for the specialist than the general reader, though I personally am glad to have been asked to review it, and have found the author’s thinking on initiation has helped me be clearer in my own understanding of pastoral theology and practice.  

Rev Andrew Robinson  

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