The symbolism of
Mr Bartley (Letters: April 1, 2010), has clearly done some significant
trawling through my blog www.crunch-chipping.blogspot.com, to find a
piece of my doctrinal understanding which he sees as inconsistent.
cites my views on infant baptism which I wrote about in 2007. I admit
fully that my views on this subject are not dogmatic. I have not yet
come to a final view. The reason for my apparent indecision actually
strengthens my assertion that (despite being a woman) I take my doctrine
from the Bible alone.
reason I neither support nor condemn Infant Baptism outright, is because
the Bible is not clear on the subject. I understand the Covenant
theology argument often favoured by evangelical Anglicans, I also
understand the Baptist argument. However, neither are completely proven
by scripture. For me this poses a problem... scripture guides my
theology, NOT reason. Therefore, if reason is all I have to make a
choice then I cannot be dogmatic.
is a symbolic act, which reminds us of dying to sin and rising in
Christ. It is the 'symbolising' of these crucial biblical doctrines that
is clear, not the timing of the event. Therefore I have to stress to Mr
Bartley that it is doctrine and reasoned argument based on Biblical
text that determines my teaching. When the Bible is unclear I am
reluctant to be dogmatic because I am not infallible and cannot fill in
the gaps which I may perceive to be there. That would be resorting to a
more Liberal approach, surely?
closing, I do not retreat from the idea that the leadership of the
church has a 'body of authoritative knowledge which it knows, teaches
and defends against error', as Mr Bartley asserts the church has done. I
fully support the idea that church leadership must teach sure truth with
authority, as long as that authoritative knowledge is based on sure
scriptural principles and nothing else.
In her remarkable letter of April 9 Gill Stanning overlooks one thing,
she is effectively denying the Sufficiency of Scripture regarding a
sacrament (Thirty-nine Articles,
6: Of the Sufficiency of Holy Scripture).
she is soon to be ordained, by her own confession, she will be unable to
inform her future parishioners as to whether their duty is to baptise
their infants or not. She
knows both sides but concludes no one can really know as the Bible is
unclear on this point.
position is completely different to the convinced Baptist or
Paedo-baptist for whom the Bible is clear and is a sufficient rule of
faith and practice.
she care to apply the precautionary principle she must in practice
become a Baptist. She cannot assure her parishioners that infant baptism
is Christ’s will.
her it might not be and so it could be an innovation, no baptism at all
and therefore best avoided. On the other hand, she must clearly believe
that it is rightly done when applied to unbaptised believers answering
for themselves. So invoking the precautionary principle, rather than
risk sacrilege, she must advise believers’ baptism and that alone.
this raises the question. If, for people like Gill Stanning, the Bible
cannot answer such basic questions — what are we to do? Either the
Bible is a sufficient rule of faith and practice and does clearly teach
us our duty regarding the sacraments or not. If not, we must have some
other rule, we must have some living voice within the Church such an
Ecumenical Council or consensus of Bishops either that or some
individual such as the Pope or the local Bishop. Is this what she wants
or should we abandon all pretence to order and simply allow everyone do
what seems right to themselves?
different was classic evangelical Anglican thinking! Those who founded
the Church Missionary Society did in the conviction that our Bible-based
principles of churchmanship are essential to our mission to disciple the
To Gill, her inability to explain the
Scriptural duty of baptism is proof of her integrity of submitting to
the Bible alone. To me it is simply proof that she is unsure of a
foundational doctrine of Christ’s religion.
no matter how much she boasts of her ability to exegete Scripture, her
lack of clarity on this basic principle of our Faith must question her
suitability for ordination — not because she is a woman but because it
would similarly raise a question in the case of a man holding similar
How refreshing to read Mrs Scanning’s integrity “The reason I
neither support nor condemn Infant Baptism outright, is because the
Bible is not clear on the subject”. Not for nothing was a seminal book
on the subject entitled “the water that divides”.
Baptismal Integrity (BI) we seek to maintain in loving tension Committee
and Council members holding views at either end of this spectrum but
united, as with Gill Scanning, in the importance of the symbolism and
however is vital is that the administration of the sacrament is
carried out with integrity, and in accordance with Canon Law. Too often
a position is so lightly held that the essentials of proper preparation
and commitment and ongoing pastoral care are totally ignored.
passing, we do strongly encourage the Ser vice of Thanksgiving for the
Gift of a Child as an alter native for the children of believers and
others alike. When you have heard teenagers thank their parents for not
having them baptized as infants, it really does more strongly
emphasise the “symbolism”.
Rector who practiced Infant Baptism once told me “the full symbolism
of baptism cannot be seen until the person has personal faith”.
Chair - Baptismal Integrity
of “Baptismal Integrity” (letters, April 23) supports Gill
Stanning’s supposed integrity and that of his own group’s similar
position. He is concerned “that [baptism] is carried out with
integrity but fails to
realise the inherent lack of integrity of his “open to both”
as explained in my reply to Gill Stanning in the same issue — those
who deny the perspicuity of Scripture on this point, deny we can be sure
infant Baptism is Scriptural. They lack integrity when they claim to
submit to Scripture but immediately practise what they don’t know to
be allowed or commanded by Scripture. As I say, integrity should require
them to apply the precautionary principle and practise Believer’s
Baptism, and that only.
importantly, integrity requires that those who take office in a Church
teach the views of that Church or resign to join a different Church
united to promote a different set of religious principles. In the last
century liberals have persistently denied we can have any authoritative
body of knowledge such as the Thirty-nine Articles, Prayer Book
Catechism or even the Nicene Faith and Ten Commandments as originally
given and understood.
have turned the gift of language on its head — instead of allowing us
to communicate and have shared beliefs and convictions as the basis of
mission they use it to obfuscate and to allow people to use shared words
to cover a multitude of incompatible beliefs. What a prostitution of the
gift of language that is!
you take the Thirty-nine Articles or the Prayer Book Catechism to be the
core doctrine of our Church they both demand the practise of infant
baptism. This is a fundamental belief of our Church. It was these shared
beliefs that united us and made us a distinctive Church. The proper- ty
and endowments of our Church were gifted in trust to promote these our
me, there is an inherent lack of integrity in taking property given in
trust to promulgate our core faith and practise and diverting it to
promote divergent private views or to directly or insidiously undermine
those core beliefs for which that property was gifted to promote. The
moral censure of doing this remains irrespective of the connivance of
liberals or their changing our laws and canons to free themselves and
their successors from the penalties for such infidelity.
Sir, Defenders of
infant baptism start from the assumption that it was the general
practice from New Testament times. Perhaps we should do better to assume
that baptism was from the outset a rite for adults. There is nothing in
the New Testament to conflict with that assumption and everything to
Consider the following: John the
Baptist’s baptism of repentance was aimed at those old enough to be
responsible for their actions. John and the crowds around him would have
found the idea of giving infants and young children a baptism of
repentance simply absurd.
John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus was
crucified and Stephen was stoned. Could the first Christian
congregations really have thrust baptism upon babies and young children?
With the threat of persecution hanging over them they would surely have
kept them out of the firing line, hope fully bringing them up to seek
baptism when mature enough to accept the implications of confessing
Christ in a hostile world.
Acts 8.12 (mass baptism of Samaritans)
tells us explicitly that “men and women were baptised” — no
mention of babes or children and Acts 9 records that Saul went to
to arrest “both men and women”. This shows that the notion that
household” baptisms included babies is a mere supposition.
The attempt to equate baptism with circumcision
— thus implying baptism’s suitability for babies — is ill-founded.
The first Christians were already circumcised. Johnthe Baptist baptised
circumcised Jews. The direct link between John’s baptism and that of
the infant Church cannot be over-emphasised. John the Baptist shows no
interest in circumcision. The word never crosses Jesus’ lips except as
part of an argument over the Sabbath in John 7:22.
says bluntly “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avail anything
but a new creature”. To say that baptism was the Christian version of
Jewish circumcision is as absurd as saying “football is the new
is time to admit there is no reliable evidence in the New Testament for
infant baptism. No wonder Gill Stanning is
Sir, I fully
appreciate there are those such as David Perry, (May 7) who cannot see
infant baptism taught in Scripture or confirmed by the literature of the
The practice or rejection of infant baptism
is fundamental to how a church does its mission, who it acknowledges as
Christians, etc. It just does not make sense for baptists to remain in a
Church whose belief and practice contradicts their Baptist Faith,
Practice and Church discipline.
The Anglican classic The History of Infant
Baptism by William Wall shows the early Christian literature is
supportive and boldly speaks of the regeneration of infants. Either Wall
is correct that regenerate is used as a synonym for baptised or the
early Church really believed our infants to be spiritually regenerate.
But if they believed the latter - why would they not have baptised such
infants as being believers?
Our Prayer Book echoes this assertion of
the early Church. Alien as this may be to the modern evangelicals it was
the belief of Luther, Calvin, Martyr, Owen and many others. It is
asserted to be the teaching of Scripture by them, the Dutch liturgy,
Synod of Dort, the French Reformed Church, etc.
The Great Commission (Matthew 28) is broad
and clear. We are to convert to discipleship the nations and then
baptise them before going on to teach them to be obedient to the faith.
Are there no babies and children in these nations? Are not children of
believers to be brought up as disciples, in nurture and admonition of
the Lord (Eph. 6:4)? So is it wrong to give baptism to such child
disciples? On the contrary! Our Lord tells us to receive them in his
name (Mall. 18:5), that of such children is the
Sir, It is all
very well for Mr Bartley (May 14) to refer to Wall’s History of Infant
Baptism (1705) but things have moved on during the past 300 years. In
Wall’s day the co-extensiveness of Church and state,underpinned by the
Clarendon Code and other repressive legislation, ensured that infant
baptism in the established church was the absolute norm. Baptism
provided a civic as well as a religious status.
in 2010 is hugely different. We now live in an open plural educated
society in which people have a personal freedom of thought, word and
action inconceivable in 1705.
The reasoning behind my letter is that if
the absence of infant baptism in New Testament and sub-apostolic times
can be demonstrated, it does two things. It creates a new perspective
from which to re-examine the content of the Gospel and its working out
in the life of the
. It also strengthens the conviction of many clergy and laypeople who
see the Service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child as being more
appropriate for an infant, with baptism following later in life when
actual faith in Christ has been kindled and nourished.
Sir; David Perry
(letters, May 21) misleads your readers into thinking my reference to
Wall on the History of Infant Baptism is to do with 300 years ago and
not the early Church. Unlike modern scholars, who use word indexes to
dip into the Church Fathers, Wall knew them and their language and that
they use the word regeneration in place of baptism.
What David Perry has to explain is whether
he accepts Wall’s interpretation that all these infants of the early
Church were baptised or whether he prefers to take all these infants as
regenerate. If David Perry prefers the latter, he must then explain why
it is inappropriate to give outward and visible sign to those whom the
early Church affirmed already had the grace signified.
Should he now retreat to the New Testament,
the Great Commission of Matthew 28 is a sufficient answer. It commands
the discipleship of all in the nations, it excludes none. Baptism is to
be given to all for all, infants and children included, are to be
brought up in nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Since he will want to read a caveat into
that text, let him answer the father of Evangelical Anglicanism. Charles
Simeon tells us “
says, ‘By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. . -‘ And
this he says of all the visible members of Christ’s body (I Cor. 12:13
- 27). And speaking of the Israelites, infants, as well as adults, he
says, ‘they were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same
spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed
them, and that rock was Christ,’ (I Cor. 10:1-4)... In another place
he speaks yet more strongly still: ‘As many of you (says he) as are
baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’ Here we see what is meant by
the expression, ‘baptized into Christ;’ it is precisely the same
expression as that before mentioned of the Israelites being ‘baptised
unto Moses;’. . . it includes all that had been initiated into his
religion by the rite of baptism; and of them universally, does the
Apostle say, They have put on Christ.’..
I will add in closing that it would have
been natural for the Jew to assume children would be included in the New
Covenant because they were in the Old. Peter on the day of Pentecost
seems to do this when he tells the Jews that the Promise is to them and
their children. If there is a discontinuity - why is this important fact
not clearly taught anywhere in Scripture? If infant baptism was an error
that crept into the early Church - where is the evidence of any dispute
resisting its introduction?
Sir, I am
fascinated by the manner in which Alan Bartley believes he can second
guess my line of argument. He asks where there is the discontinuity
between the Old Covenant and the New.
Consider the following examples: Jesus
speaks in terms of the new wine requiring new skins.
Time and again Jesus says “But I say unto
sets out clearly the radical transition made by Christians, outgrowing
the paedagogos that leads us to Christ.
Animal sacrifice is made redundant because
of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
We see the price of the discontinuity where
Jesus says “Brother will betraybrother to death and a father his
child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to
death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to
the end will be saved.”
The Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 was an
exercise in managing the discontinuity.
in Philippians: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared
to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
We turn to the Gentiles.
who ever came before me were thieves and robbers. Jn 10)
is there in abundance, making Christianity a new start for mankind
rather than the formation of a sect within Judaism.
opposing infant baptism, David Perry (Letters, June 4) again attempts to
side-step the issue.
is both continuity and discontin-uity between the two Testaments.
Showing multiple examples of discontinuity does not prove that children
are to be denied baptism as part of any discontinuity My challenge was
not to show some discontinuity. It was to show that children had
actually, clearly and unambiguously been disinherited. This David Perry
has not done.
Paul shows us that the Gospel of salvation
by faith goes back to Abraham (Rom.4:3). He tells us that the Law of
Moses, which was added due to transgression (Gal. 3:19), did not annul
the promise made to Abraham and his seed (Gen. 17:7, Gal. 3:17). While
ultimately the promise was only effectively made to the godly seed (
9:7, Gal. 3: 16), nevertheless all male infants were circumcised (Gen.
tells us that of such, children of included parents, is the
(Matt. 19:14). After
, Peter on the day of Pentecost still tells the Jew that the promise of
the Spirit is to them and their children (Acts 2:39). How can this be so
unless the gospel itself is to their children? But if the promise is
still to them, why not its sign and seal?
Since all this points to the continued
inclusion of infants and children with their parents, I take the Great
Commission (Matt. 28) at face value as commanding the discipleship of
all in the nations and hence the baptism of all, parents and infants
Alongside this continuity is discontinuity.
The types and shadows of the Law were replaced by their fulfilment in
Christ. The sign, baptism, is now given to both sexes. These and many
other things are made clear in Scripture.
New wine may need new wineskins (Malt
9:17), but what is this? Our religion is freed from
, the old Ceremonies are replaced by the simple rites of Baptism and the
Lord’s Supper – suitable for a religion for all nations, cultures
and times. Nothing necessarily repudiating infant baptism here.
David Perry’s other examples are again
beside the point. Jesus came not to destroy the Law but fulfilled it
(Mall. 5:17). No element was to fall until all had been fulfilled (v
18). What he said before
was against the human teaching of Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees that
had obscured the inspired writers (Matt. 15:9). This is not a
discontinuity between Old and New Testaments but with uninspired Rabbinic
Again, he mistakes strife between brethren
and false brethren as something new. it happened in the Old Testament
and is predicted to continue in the New and unto the end.
The gospel net is to catch good and bad
fish (Matt. 13:47), tares are to appear among the wheat (v. 25). Hence
Christ’s warnings. Again, what direct bearing does this have on the
issue of whether infants are to be denied baptism?
Sir, Readers may
feel that the correspondence between Alan Bartley and me is turning into
a dialogue of the deaf. The trouble is that Alan seeks to deduce what
the New Testament must mean in the light of the Old Testament. (A
startling corollary of this is his claim that “of such is the kingdom
of heaven” [Matt. 19.141 applies only to young children born into the
virtuous lineage of Isaac. ie Jesus could not have blessed any children
who were not Jews of the purest kind.) My approach is historical,
seeking to discover “what actually happened”.
If baptism in infancy was standard practice
from the day of Pentecost onwards, it has left no evidence to that
effect. As Jeremias says, “For the first century we have no special
(sic) evidence for the baptism of Christian children”. The alleged
inclusion of infants in
“household baptisms” must have been either speedily abandoned or,
almost certainly, never started in the first place.
Well into the second century we find a
wonderfully trusting attitude to the spiritual safety of infants
expressed by Aristides in his Apology. “And when a child has been born
to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to
die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has
passed through the world without sins.” There is no suggestion that
newborn infants were baptised or that there was any attempt at clinical
baptism when they were dying. Instead the parents and the Christian
community pract-ised “giving thanks in all things”. However, as the
century wore on,
Gospel, notoriously John 3.5, started to make its impact, particularly
in the extension of clinical baptism to the very youngest.
Everett Ferguson puts the point well when
he says: “The assumption of the general practice of infant baptism
from New Testament times has obscured the significance of the fact that,
although we know the names of many children of Christian parents in the
fourth century not baptised until their teens or later, explicit
testimony is lacking that would permit us to name the first Christian
baptised as an infant whose baptism was not a case of clinical
, Baptism in the early Church” (2009) p. 626.
The routine baptism of healthy infants was
nowhere in the frame until Christianity was firmly established as the
official religion of the
in the last quarter of the 4th century.
Having dispersed David Perry’s smokescreen of irrelevant
discontinuities (July 4) by showing evident continuity between the Old
and New Testament and again asking for clear Scriptural evidence that
God has revoked these promises to the children of believers (June 11),
David Perry prefers to return to his questionable interpretation of the
early Church evidence (June 18).
He passes over the fact that the early
Church tells us our infants are regenerate and declines to accept the
judgement of Wall, that this was their way of referring to them as being
baptised. This allows him to suggest infant baptism was an innovation of
the late fourth century when we have copious literature but none
indicating that there was any such innovation. Does he really believe
that such an innovation would not have been resisted and left some
record somewhere if this had actually happened?
Anyone familiar with the literature of the
early Church would know how sparse the very early records are and how
muddled and contradictory the later thinking was and this is why, with
our Reformers, we must return to the Scriptures as our canon or rule.
Like Cranmer we need to go back to first
principles and distinguish between the sign and the thing signified as
the one must point to the other. The questions to John (John 1:25)
clearly indicate he was doing something expected of the Messiah or his
forerunner. If he was symbolically
sprinkling with clean water then this was expected (Ezek 36:25, Isa.
52:15(AV)). Not only is such usage consistent Classical Greek, it ties
the sprinklings with blood, water and ashes of the Mosaic Law to the
otherwise mystifying reference in Hebrews (9:10). Taken this way, water
baptism points forward (Math 3:11) to that baptism in which
the gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us (Acts 10:45).
So I again come back to the Great
Commission (Math 28) and its command to convert to discipleship the
nations, that this commences with water baptism and includes the
children. Again, since Peter on the Day of Pentecost says the promise of
the baptism of the Spirit is to the believer and their children (Acts
2:38,39), it is entirely appropriate that both receive the sign of water
baptism as a pledge of this gift promised to both.
Sir, Our Lord
Jesus Christ was baptized as an adult and commands us many times
‘Follow me.’ Romans 6 tells us that baptism is essentially
identification in his death, burial and resurrection with him. If I have
been baptized as an infant it is extremely difficult to acknowledge this
and be immersed subsequently as a repentant believer. Following the
Lord’s example is to say to my parents and the Minister, ‘You were
wrong and my “baptism” is invalid.’
we are reluctant to do this, especially if we are ordained and therefore
face great sacrifice. But to deny anyone the free decision to receive
this most precious sacrament as a consenting adult is to come between
the Lord and his follower.
Sir, Mr Spearing
seems to reproach his parents for having deprived him of the opportunity
to be baptised as an adult, when he made a personal and conscious
decision to follow Christ. He and some of your previous correspondents
who insist on adult believers’ baptism are rejecting two thousand
years of church history and put the focus on individual feelings rather
than on the Church family.
we surrender our life to Christ, we experience the wonderful feeling
that somehow we have ‘come home”. Of course we want to remember and
celebrate this. If we use (re-) baptism for this purpose, we are
weakening the Church.
Also, if we desist from baptising our
children so that they can experience adult baptism, we are in effect
treating them as unregenerate, not as heirs of the promise.
We focus on our
own role in our salvation and not on God’s wonderful gift.
Traditionally and gracefully, the Church of England has welcomed
children of Christian parents into the Church, baptised them and
expected them to grow in “admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Those who do not agree with this are free
to do so but they should have the courage of their convictions and move
to another church that believes like them, ie of the Baptist persuasion.
This is imperative of anyone in leadership or in the Church’s employ.
It would be hypocritical to receive the church’s money while
undermining its cohesion and integrity. Those who take such a position
should not expect God’s blessings.
Sir, Most major
companies produce a working manual detailing what can and cannot be done
by its representatives, on threat of dismissal.
Christians the New Testament is our working manual’ regarding Baptism;
and the ‘clue’ to what we should do is in the language used.
All baptismal language is addressed to
those capable of believing it and is understandable, there is no
ambiguity. This is clear from a reading of Acts 16:31—34.
This scripture is often used to promote
Infant Baptism which it is said must have occurred within household
But the truth is that Paul and Silas spoke
the word of the Lord to the jailer and to all that were in his house: so
household baptisms were of all those who had ‘come to believe in
God’. See verse 34. This obviously rules out babies and very small
children who are not responsible for their own actions , and in their
innocence are covered by the Grace of God.
Youngman presumes his one plain text of Acts 16:31-34 settles the
argument in favour of adult believers’ baptism only (letters, July 9).
But does it? We must not take Paul’s reply out of its primary context
of answering a very specific question from a single person as to how
that single person, the jailer, can be saved (v. 30).
However, Paul gratuitously adds what is not
asked. Paul told the jailer that if he does what is required for his own
salvation, then not only will he be saved, but all his household will be
saved with him. Note this is a plain and straightforward assertion.
There is no hint of this being conditional on their also hearing and
See how naturally it was for Paul to
include the salvation of children with their parents. We have his
theological foundation for this in Romans chapter 4 where he builds on
the Promise to Abraham (Gen. 17:7 etc.) and argues the promise, being
made prior to circumcision, makes it good for all similar cases, whether
circumcised or not (v. 10).
From Abraham onwards the whole direction of
Scripture is to include the offspring with the parents. The great plus
of the New Covenant is promised to the offspring of Abraham and their
children (Acts 2:39).
Paul says the
children of believers and their unbelieving spouses that are pleased to
accept them are both sanctified and being sanctified (1
Cor. 7: 14). On the conversion of Zacchaeus, it is our Lord who calls
him a true son of Abraham and that salvation has thus come to his house
In the Great Commission, baptism is the
first step for all converted to discipleship (Matt. 28:19, an event, the
verb is in the aorist). Note that in the Greek, training follows baptism
(v. 20). As children imbibe the spirit of their parents (Eph. 6:4), the
Church treats them as converted and in obedience to Christ’s
instructions, baptises them.
So on close examination, Philip
Youngman’s best text for restricting baptism to adult believers turns
out to be the opposite. There is even the parallel of
in the same chapter. Only her heart is opened, only she hears and
attends but all her household are baptised with her (v.15). Like the
Great Commission, these presume children are included and are to be
baptised along with their parents.
Sir, On the issue
of baptism within the Anglican Church, which is generally reserved for
infants, Agnes Tse (July 9) disparages the notion of adult immersion and
equates such as “rejecting 2,000 years of Church history” suggesting
also that “re-baptism’ weakens the Church. She waxes eloquent on how
“traditionally and gracefully the Church of England has welcomed
children of Christian parents into the Church, baptized them and
expected them to grow in ‘admonition of the Lord”. This has been
given the un-Biblical term “Christening”, usually only applying to
Although I was baptized as an infant, my
parents will admit to me today that they had no such palpable Christian
faith whilst I was growing up, which could hardly then be described as
“in the love and admonition of the Lord”.
Unconnected to this I found my own personal
faith at age 15 through the Godly leadership of a local YMCA. Philip
Youngman in his letter (July 9) conversely makes the valid point that
“babies and very small children are not responsible for their own
actions”, and that their actions are “covered by the grace of
My late grandmother did not come to a close
personal faith in Jesus Christ until her mid-60s, and afterwards was
imbued with an infectious love for the Lord. However, accompanying her
newfound faith was an irresistible desire to be baptized. Having been
already ‘baptized’ or ‘sprinkled’ as a baby circa 1918, I was
duly informed by the CoW priest that I asked on her behalf that she
could not be “re-baptized”. “It’s a bit of a hot potato,” he
admitted, and my grandmother did not make the trip to
to get baptized in the River Jordan as she had hoped to. Shortly after,
she attended a baptismal service in a local
and underwent the waters of baptism by full immersion donned in a full
length gown after an appeal was made to the congregation if anyone was
wanting to go forward. This she did, feeling she was doing so in
obedience to Scripture.
If God had intended for infant baptism, He
would have demonstrated this in the most perfect example of his own dear
Son. Jesus, however was not baptized as a baby, but as an adult at age
30. Rather he was circumcised according to the Law of Moses on the
eighth day. Adult baptism does not reject Church history, it reaffirms
it by following the example of the early Jewish Church who were all
baptized as adults, probably in a ‘mikveh’ ritual bath as members
continued to be added to their number. The Gentiles, or non-Jews, in
their later Church history ended up concocting a
practice so far from its original intention that unbelieving babies were
now perceived as “Christian” after a douse of water from a
The Bible expressly states in Mark 16:16
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” It does not say
“Be baptized and then later believe.” Sincere belief must precede
the step of conscious baptism. Do we follow amended traditions or the
Word of God in the Bible?
Sir, Agnes Tse
argues that infant baptism is justified because it is an ancient
practice. But so were the doctrines of papal supremacy and
transubstantiation until rejected by the Reformation. Longevity is not
necessarily the basis for truth. Moreover, historically baptism has been
seen as conferring ‘membership’. But Christians would be justifiably
outraged if communists, socialists, conservatives or any other
organization were to make a baby a ‘member’ by placing a card around
its neck. To say to a growing child ‘You are a Catholic,’ ‘You are
an Anglican,’ or ‘You are a Methodist’ can do great harm, as we
have seen in
and elsewhere. A person growing up should be free to choose their own
memberships or affiliations. Confirmation itself should not be a formal
‘rite of passage’ as regrettably it often is. It could be a question
of human rights, even of an infant.
shows that repentance, faith, baptism in water and the Holy Spirit were
originally proximate in time and place (Matt 3:16; Acts 9:18,18; Romans
6:7; 1 John 3:9). Infant baptism undermines this sequence and may lead
us to a long struggle with sin rather than power in the victory of
Christ, who was immersed and crucified for us. Could it be tentatively
suggested that some future Parliament could bring to an end social,
political or religious ritual on a child without its consent?
views of baptism
Nevin’s letter (July 30) seems to me much too subjective and
individualistic in his view of baptism. Baptism, whether administered to
babies, teenagers or adults, is a sacrament - a sign of something real.
That reality might come before, during or after the ritual. It is not
the thing itself. Did he ever think that although he and apparently his
parents had no faith at the time of his baptism the church did, and they
were the ones faithfully administering the sacrament? Although I am an
Anglican and prefer infant baptism and believe it right only for the
babies of believing parents — they are welcoming their children into
the covenant family with the covenant sign just as the faithful people
of God under the old covenant did with circumcision.
have also been a member of a
and witnessed teenagers and adults receiving ‘believer’s’ baptism
by total immersion. (I would rather call it ‘professors’ baptism)
and it meaning no more to the receivers than the perfunctory
confirmation that so often occurs with Anglicans.
the occasions when the ‘penny drops’ several years later these folk
are not required by the Baptist Church to be re-baptised now that they
have been converted or believe. Some Pentecostal Churches apparently
will re-baptise two or three times in such circumstances. I think this
makes a mockery of the sacrament and places too much emphasis on the
Rev David Stuart-Smith,
Sir, Colin Nevin
and Mervin Spearing take me to task for daring to defend the Church’s
traditional belief in infant baptism (Letters, July 30). Colin by his
extended stories of experience, his and his grandma’s, only go to
illustrate the point I was making that these Baptists build their
theology on experience, not Scripture.
He pedantically censures our use of the
term “Christening” as unbiblical when really he dislikes the idea it
conveys. Is a word really unbiblical because it does not echo the sound
of the Greek or Hebrew original? Which is better, to coin a word like
At-one-ment or borrow a term from a foreign language that is meaningless
to the unlearned.
Perhaps he would also take issue with the
word Trinity because it too is not found in the Bible. Mervin
simplistically asserts infant baptism is just as much an error as
“papal supremacy and transubstantiation”. This is despite recent
letters arguing the opposite and all the scholars and Reformers against
him. When our Lord tells us that those who are not for him are against
him, Mervin wants children to be neutral and not indoctrinated with the
Truth of Christianity. This is so they can later choose for themselves.
In this he contradicts the Apostolic command (Ephesians 6:4). When his
philosophy leads him to contradict the clear teaching of Scripture in
this way— is there any light in him (Isaiah 8:20)? When he calls upon
the Government to step in and punish parents for obeying Scripture –
does he realise how absurd his position has become?
Sir, After all
the arguments, there remain serious concerns regarding infant baptism.
Frequently Ministers ask non-Christian parents to commit perjury by
saying ‘I turn to Christ’. The origin and reasons for infant baptism
are exemplified when some denominations permit even unbelievers to
‘sprinkle’ a dying baby to save it from ‘hell’.
is surely time for us to obey the command ‘Change your minds and be
immersed in the name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 2:38, literal Greek).
infant baptism biblical?
The Rev David
Stuart-Smith in his letter (August 6) states that, as an Anglican, he
“prefers” infant baptism, yet he finds my own stance, based purely
from Scripture, as too individualistic”.
do not choose to “prefer” adult “believer’s” baptism as such,
but the New Testament describes it as an adult responsibility and an
“individual” choice. Yes, baptism is individualistic, and rightly
so. All examples of baptism were clearly of believing adults, at least
by John the Baptist, including the perfect example of Jesus (or Yeshua)
himself at circa age 30. Confirmation may act as an addition to infant
baptism, or, by extension, a realisation of its responsibilities, when
the “penny drops”, to use Rev Stuart-Smith’s term. Perhaps Confirmation
could be compared to the Jewish tradition of “Bar Mitzvah” or
becoming a “Son of the Law” or “Torah” which in Hebrew means
“teaching”. This occurs roughly at the age of 13 or so when the
child is considered mature enough to be responsible for his own actions
in the sight of God. Yeshua’s
parents, we are told in Luke 2:41, “went to
every year at the Feast of Passover,” however Yeshua or his brothers
and sisters are not mentioned until we read in the next verse: “And
when He was twelve years old, they went up to
according to the custom of the Feast.” That “custom” at this age
is likely to have been a confirmation or Bar Mitzvah of His coming of
age, as the words in the Hebrew New Testament are “when His twelve
years were completed or ‘fulfilled’”, in other words, His twelfth
year was coming to completion, and the Biblical New Year fell at Spring
time in the Bible, as Jews were not known to celebrate Birthdays in the
way the pagans did, as it was self-glorification. His circumcision was
at eight days old, but that was not an infant baptism or
“christening”. John the Baptist, or Yochanan, as He would have been
called in Hebrew, immersed adults in the
calling them to “repent”. How can a baby repent?
In conclusion, Rev Stuart-Smith states that
re-baptism makes a mockery of the “sacrament”, another un-Biblical
term, but it is the imposition of baptising babies which makes a
“mockery” of baptism’s original intention. If babies were
“dedicated” rather than being physically “baptised” then there
would be no need for “re-baptism”, and adults as intended could
repent and publicly declare their belief in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.
Tse, on the other hand, defends her position by citing my dislike of the
term “christening” as un-Biblical, and that it doesn’t echo the
sound of tile Greek or Hebrew original.” The word “Christ” is the
transliterated English form of the Greek word “Christos”, meaning
“Messiah”, so “christening” does have Greek roots, but not
directly Hebrew roots. Yeshua, as a Jew, was never proclaimed by Peter
or any of the Disciples as “Christos” in Greek, rather they heralded
Him as “Mashiach” or “Messiah” in Hebrew, which mean
“anointed”. “Christos” would have been a foreign term to Yeshua
Himself, as would be His later adapted Greek name “lesous” which
came down via Latin to English to become “Jesus”, a name He would
never have heard in
. The Jews that wrote the New Testament would have known Him as
which clearly to them and any Hebrew speaker meant “salvation” or
“yeshuah”. How far has Yeshua’s Name come in derivation since its
first proclamation by the Angel Gabriel in
which was officially named at His circumcision on the eighth day?
(Luke 2:21.) His
Name was to be the Name above all names, yet few of His followers
actually use it. So too it is with baptism. We have replaced its
original intention and replaced it with something that is completely so
reinvented that it is almost a totally different ritual than its first
induction by Yeshua’s cousin Yochanan in the wilderness of
. To adjust the famous acronym: W.W.Y.D. -
What would Yeshua
Sir, I do hope
the continuing “who’s right?” correspondence on infant baptism
over the past three months will not have diverted attention from the
more positive and challenging message from Peter Brierley’s article
about baptismal statistics (CEN June 18).
That adult baptisms have increased by 24
per cent since 2002 (28 per cent since 2001) is enormously encouraging
to those of us who long for integrity in the administration of baptism.
The decline in infant baptisms in the same period (16 per cent) can be
viewed in different ways, but in Baptismal Integrity we believe this is
not only a sign of increased secularisation but because increasing
numbers of parents are not willing to make promises they honestly
can’t be sure they will even try to keep.
Peter points out the positive pastoral
opportunities arising when parents still choose to have their child
baptised even though this may be influenced by superstition or the
“granny syndrome” - a ‘rite of passage for parents’ as he refers
This may well be true, but here the most
important statistic of all is never sought nor given. Just how many of
the quarter of a million infants baptised in the Church of England
between 2002-2008 were seen again with their parents as part of the
ongoing worshipping community? It is all very well to try and justify
infant baptism as “an opportunity for Christian interaction with at
least two-fifths of the population” - (Peter is presumably adding
together baptisms of all denominations t0 reach this figure)- but
let’s be honest, don’t we all know the retention factor is at best
less than one per cent?
One figure not analysed in Peter’s
article relates to Thanksgivings which to us in BI remains mysteriously
low at 6,100 in 2008. There seem to be two main reasons for this:
Relatively few clergy are trained and encouraged to institute the
service as an ideal opportunity for “Christian interaction” with
parents who feel unable to make the baptism vows. Too often it is deemed
“second best” rather than a positive occasion of open hearted
welcome and gentle initiation into church life.
The lack of guidance on a formal register may mean clergy fail to
make proper records.
Our website and associated pages contain
lots of helpful advice including information
about certificates and registers.