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An Introduction to Christian Baptism

What does Gordon Kuhrt's book, aimed at those considering ordination, have to say about "baptism policies", asks John Hartley 

I started reading this book not because of any questions about what Gordon might say to prospective ordinands in the Church of England, but rather for my own benefit. The fact that I now have two children with special needs affects my view of myself as a father, and I was asking whether I should still be a pastor in God’s church? (Pray for me on this!)

I expected an evangelicalized version of Michael Ramsay’s “The Christian Priest Today”, or maybe an Anglicanized Spurgeon lecturing his students - but Gordon’s book is very different from both of these. It’s starts with the ministry of all of God’s people, emphasises the need for collaboration and teamwork, and is refreshingly down- to-earth on the practicalities of living on the job and the frailties of real people. A very helpful book, and I recommend it for the ordained as well as the ordinands.

Gordon has written on baptism in the past*, and I was curious to see what line he would suggest the prospective vicar takes on “baptism policy”. At first I was disappointed - there’s not a word on the topic in the whole book! But then I began to see the virtues in this very non-partisan treatment of ministry.

But Gordon catches his baptismal monkey very softly. After a chapter on the ministry of all Christians, the priesthood of all believers, and the gifts of God for this ministry, Gordon comes to “Baptism - the foundation of discipleship.”

“It is widely agreed today that baptism is the ‘ordination of the laity’, that is, God’s commissioning of his people to ministry and service in the world. ... The promises and blessings of baptism are vitally related to faith in Jesus Christ. ... The presbyterian James Denney rightly said ‘baptism and faith are the outside and the inside of the same thing’, and the Roman Catholic Rudolf Schnackenburg wrote ‘baptism without faith in Christ is unimaginable for the thinking of the primitive church’”(p14-16). ... Infant baptism makes sense in the context of the believing family and the Church ... the baptized infant grows up as a believer within that faith context” (p19).

By putting it like this, no serious Christian of whatever persuasion can disagree. The unwritten conclusion is obvious, but the whole approach is positive and persuasive, and must surely help the reader towards integrity in baptism. Well done, Gordon!

* Believing in Baptism, Mowbrays 1987
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