Like the indefatigable Michael Sward (24th August) and the
inimitable Colin Buchanan (17th August) I, too, made many Synod
speeches on the subject of Infant Baptism.
So perhaps I may join this debate now - always conscious that lay folk
who dare take on the Buchanan / Saward combination run the risk of being
theologically or patristically stampeded!.
In his article, Colin gave a very balanced statement of the supposed
evidence including Tertullian speaking against the practice!
In his honesty Colin includes the words “strong
possibility” “may have suggested” “likelihood” “almost
unimaginable”“do not quite say” “almost of themselves determinative”.
Is not such uncertainty in evidence by itself evidence that we can only
look to scripture? Here I think I
can agree with Colin that “ it appears reasonable to suggest that
everything that is involved in being Christian at all is symbolised in baptism”.
But that does not mean scripture requires baptism of infants who are
unable to express their opinion on the subject!
Although Michael provides fascinating history, I just cannot see that
evidence of the practice in the early church means it is necessarily
the correct interpretation of scripture.
After all scripture itself includes many examples of practices that
were definitely NOT models for today’s church!
I can, and do, rejoice when young people are baptised – however
limited may be their understanding – but where is the scriptural base for
adults speaking on behalf of the (sometimes asleep or rebelling) baby? Whilst I accept the integrity of those who argue “covenant
theology” – there is surely an alternative construction. Those circumcised
children were born into Jewish families:
there was no doubt of their heritage. The parallel for baptism breaks
down totally where neither parent is Christian. And whilst I again accept that some argue I Cor 7.14 points
to a special spiritual relationship through a believing parent, saying
they are “holy” does not mean they are born again – but in a
special position. And I can see no OT evidence that an equivalent sign was
given to girls? Proselytes were
clearly Yahweh believers.
Yes, paedobaptists will always differ from what Colin calls the “phalanx”
of the majority of other non Roman Catholic Christians. But I urge a far more
positive approach. More and more
in a secular society, I find both parents and Christian young people who are
sorry about having been baptised before they believed.
Without faith, the sign of baptism seems empty.
With faith, and being able to testify of the love of Christ personally,
dramatically reinforces the sacrament. It’s
sad that many such pass on to other denominations.
So if there are some Christian parents out there who are hesitating, let’s
be clear. Since all but ex
opere operato believers agree that baptism does NOT make a baby a
Christian, what is lost through making a powerful sign of commitment through a
well planned Thanksgiving service releasing the child for the wonderful moment
of being baptised as a believer? Boldly
go where Tertullian led!
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