The new baptism service gives
me a number of problems. Frankly
I do not feel I can use it with unchurched folk without some serious
My problem? It could be
demonstrated that this new service teaches baptismal regeneration, which is
not the doctrine of the Church of England (in the Articles of Religion). Yet, even if the new service does not conclusively teach
baptismal regeneration, I feel it is inappropriate to use such an ambiguous
service in the hearing of unschooled ears, as new people will probably be led
to understand that their child is regenerate as a consequence of bringing the
child to church and splashing him/her with water and saying lots of words.
Occasionally the New Testament blurs the distinction between the sign
(baptism) and the thing signified (new life in Christ).
Yet a sacrament speaks of and proclaims the grace of God, rather than
it being the channel to convey this grace.
The NT undoubtedly teaches that the forgiveness of sins and new life in
Christ come through faith in what Jesus has done for us (Eph 2:8).
The repentant thief on the cross was told “this day you’ll be with
me in paradise”, not “get down from the cross and be baptised.”
“What must I do to be saved?”
“Believe on the Lord Jesus...”
Often there is a reference to baptism as a sign of this new life (as in
Acts 2:37). Baptism will undoubtedly be the norm for all Christian
My main problem with the service is a blurring of the “sign of” and
the actual “reception of” the new life.
This happens throughout the new service and will often be misunderstood
by many who hear it, leading them to a false sense of peace with God.
So I argue that the new service uses NT language in a non-NT way and
context. For instance, in Romans
1-4 Paul declares that we are justified by faith in Christ’s death for us
(the means of acquiring the new life) without reference to baptism, and only
from chapter 5 does he move on to state that “we were buried with him
through baptism (the outward sign of this grace) into death in order that ...
we too may live a new life” (6:4).
By using this new service I believe we run a great risk of giving
parents the false assurance that their child is all right with God without any
further response needed from that child.
So now that adaptations we made to the service have been rejected by
our diocesan liturgist, I can only now appeal to the Bishop to allow me to
continue to use the ASB, which though not perfect does call forth faith and
commitment from the new families.
Am I alone in having such problems of conscience (and theology) with
the new service? Am I seeing it
in an unbalanced way? I would
very much appreciate feedback.