Among Baptists

I think ‘Baptismal Integrity’ is a good new name. And that is the impression I get from the articles in your publications in general - integrity and honesty in dealing with the various issues.

In reading the literature about baptism, one would be excused for thinking it is only paedobaptists who struggle with issues arising from the practice of infant baptism. I would like to see a little more integrity among Baptists (and others practising ‘Believers’ Baptism’) in admitting some of the difficulties we have with respect to the baptism of our own children. Personally I have often been puzzled and perplexed by some of the inconsistencies in our own baptismal policies.

We believe that children can come to genuine faith at a very young age, and do our best to encourage them to do so. Then we generally refuse to baptize them, even though we profess ‘believers’ baptism’. The feeling is widespread that it is better for the children to wait until they have a better understanding of the meaning of baptism before they get baptised. In most cases this comes somewhere in their teens. So there is often about a ten-year gap between coming to meaningful faith and baptism. If our children die at a young age we affirm, without hesitation, that they are with the Lord, thus confirming that they had a faith sufficient for salvation, but not, apparently, for baptism.

In the mean time we bring them up as Christians, teaching them to pray to our heavenly Father, to keep his commandments, and to bear witness to their friends of their Christian faith. In many cases they even become active in church activities and ministries, but all the while are still unbaptised. Even if a parent should give a gentle hint to a younger child concerning baptism, the child will probably notice that no other children of his or her age are being baptised, and will therefore be reticent to ask for it.

The question of Holy Communion arises. Can our children take the bread and wine when it passes by? Why not? This creates quite a dilemma for parents. Many of us eventually say to our children that as believers in Christ they can partake of the communion elements. This of course leads to the strange anomaly of unbaptised communicants, which is surprisingly common in Baptist churches.

And even more surprising is the lack of any serious discussion around such issues. Our basic assumption - that we practice biblical baptism is so deeply ingrained that few of us are even aware of the wide differences between baptism in the pages of the New Testament and the way we do it today.

God grant us all, both credo- and paedo-baptists, greater integrity in our teachings and reflections on baptism!