January 16, 2021

Let’s Discuss…Baptism

Baptism of Christ, Bondone

By Chaplain Mike

This past Sunday we had a baptism in our Lutheran church. Four small children received the sacrament and were introduced to the congregation as members of God’s family. This led to a discussion after worship among members of our family who have been in churches that practice only believer’s baptism.

At the risk of starting a bar fight, I thought it would be a good time to have a discussion on Internet Monk about the various views of baptism which our readers hold. In order to give us some solid material as a basis for discussion, I am including statements from some of the major traditions that set forth their position on the sacrament (or ordinance).

I ask that you remain civil and respectful in the discussion. You may be passionate about your viewpoint, and that’s ok. But let’s not be questioning another’s salvation or casting stones of judgment. This is a discussion, and I hope it will be among friends.

Photo courtesy of Don Danz, DanzFamily.com

ROMAN CATHOLIC VIEW (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

977 Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith and Baptism: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”521 Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that “we too might walk in newness of life.”522

978 “When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them. . . . Yet the grace of Baptism delivers no one from all the weakness of nature. On the contrary, we must still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil “523

979 In this battle against our inclination towards evil, who could be brave and watchful enough to escape every wound of sin? “If the Church has the power to forgive sins, then Baptism cannot be her only means of using the keys of the Kingdom of heaven received from Jesus Christ. The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives.”524

980 It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church: “Penance has rightly been called by the holy Fathers “a laborious kind of baptism.” This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn.”

ORTHODOX VIEW (An Orthodox Catechism adopted from ‘The Mystery of Faith’ by Bishop Alfeyev)

The sacrament of Baptism is the door into the Church, the Kingdom of grace. It is with Baptism that Christian life begins. Baptism is the frontier that separates the members of Christ’s Body from those who are outside it. In Baptism the human person is arrayed in Christ, following the words of St Paul which are sung as the newly-baptized is led around the baptismal font: For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ’ (Gal.3:27). In Baptism the human person dies to his sinful life and rises again to new spiritual life.

The sacrament of Baptism was instituted by Christ Himself: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt.28:19). Christ’s commandment already contains the basic elements of the baptismal rite: preliminary teaching (‘catechization’), without which the adoption of faith cannot be conscious; immersion in water (Greek baptismos, literally ‘immersion’); and the formula ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. In the early Church Baptism was accomplished through complete immersion in water. However, at an early date special pools (baptisteries) were built and into these the candidates for baptism were plunged. The practice of pouring water over the person or sprinkling him with water existed in the early Church, though not quite as a norm.

At the time of Constantine (fourth century) adult baptism was more common than the baptism of infants, the emphasis being laid on the conscious acceptance of the sacrament. Some postponed the sacrament until the end of their life in the knowledge that sins were forgiven in Baptism. The Emperor Constantine was baptized just before his death. St Gregory the Theologian, a son of a bishop, was baptized only when he reached maturity. Saints Basil the Great and John Chrysostom were baptized only after completing their higher education.

However, the practice of baptizing infants is no less ancient — the apostles baptized whole families which might well have included children (cf/ Acts 10:48). St Irenaeus of Lyons (second century) says: ‘Christ came to save those who through Him are reborn into God: infants, children, adolescents and the elderly’. Origen in the third century calls the custom of baptizing infants an ‘apostolic tradition’. The local Council of Carthage (third century) pronounced an anathema upon those who rejected the necessity of baptizing infants and newly-born children.

The sacrament of Baptism, like all other sacraments, must be received consciously. Christian faith is the prerequisite for the validity of the sacrament. If an infant is baptized, the confession of faith is solemnly pronounced by his godparents, who thereby are obliged to bring the child up in the faith and make his Baptism conscious. An infant who receives the sacrament cannot rationally understand what is happening to him, yet his soul is fully capable of receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit. ‘I believe’, writes St Symeon the New Theologian, ‘that baptized infants are sanctified and are preserved under the wing of the All-Holy Spirit and that they are lambs of the spiritual flock of Christ and chosen lambs, for they have been imprinted with the sign of the life-giving Cross and freed completely from the tyranny of the devil’. The grace of God is given to infants as a pledge of their future belief, as a seed cast into the earth: for the seed to grow into a tree and bring forth fruit, the efforts both of the godparents and of the one baptized as he grows are needed.

Immediately after Baptism or in the days that follow, the newly-baptized, irrespective of age, receives Holy Communion. In the Roman Catholic Church Chrismation (Confirmation) and First Communion take place after the child has reached the age of seven, but the Orthodox Church admits children to these sacraments as early as possible. The understanding behind this practice is that children ought not to be deprived of a living, even if not a fully conscious, contact with Christ.

The sacrament of Baptism occurs only once in a person’s life. In Baptism the human person is granted freedom from original sin and forgiveness of all his personal transgressions. However, Baptism is only the first step in the human person’s ascent towards God. If it is not accompanied by a renewal of one’s entire life and a spiritual regeneration, it might be fruitless. The grace of God, received in Baptism as a pledge or as a seed, will grow within the person and be made manifest throughout his whole life so long as he strives towards Christ, lives in the Church and fulfills God’s commandments.

LUTHERAN VIEW (Luther’s Small Catechism)

What is Baptism?
Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

Which is that word of God?
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

What does Baptism give or profit?
It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God?
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

How can water do such great things?
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

What does such baptizing with water signify?
It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?
St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

PRESBYTERIAN VIEW (Westminster Confession of Faith)

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.

II. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the Gospel, lawfully called thereunto.

III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.

IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.

V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.

VII. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.

ANGLICAN VIEW (Thirty Nine Articles)

XXVII. Of Baptism.
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.

The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

BAPTIST VIEW (London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689)

1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be to the person who is baptised – a sign of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Christ; of remission of sins; and of that person’s giving up of himself to God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

2. Those who actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects for this ordinance.

3. The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, in which the person is to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

4. Immersion – the dipping of the person in water – is necessary for the due administration of this ordinance.


  1. david carlson says

    put me with the badpists, mostly

  2. cermak_rd says

    do the xxxix articles actually pertain to the Episcopal Church (the largest variant of Anglicanism in the US)? I believe they have only ever been actually binding on Anglicans in England (part of Liz’s whole let’s get peace in the kingdom program). I’m pretty sure Article XXII, XXV, and XXVIII would not be considered particularly relevant to the modern Anglo-Catholic parish I’m familiar with in Chicagoland.

    • Episcopalians have the 39 Articles as a statement of faith…but, Episcopalians, along with Anglicans, do believe there is liberty in non-essentials (perhaps too much in the American expression of the faith), so the Table is open, as long as you believe. Someone correct me if I’m wrong…but I believe the Anglo-Catholic movement began in the early 1800’s, by a faction that believed (and still does) that Anglicanism had more of a historical connection to the Catholic Church than to the Protestants. Many Catholic practices and ideas were adopted (or re-adopted) by Anglo-Catholics during this time.

      I’m not sure, and would love to hear from Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters on this…but I would think that the overtly Calvinist Articles would be more of a sticking point for Anglo-Catholics than the ones dealing with the sacraments. Is that accurate?

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        I’ve got several Anglo-Catholic friends who take issue with some of the Articles, usually the ones relating to Holy Communion. Once upon a time, Episcopalian clergy also vowed to affirm the 39 Articles. These days many within all provinces of Anglicanism view them as important historical documents, but not necessarily binding. Many groups that have since split from TEC have re-instated them as binding, but not all. Personally, I like them. I see nothing that is disagreeable to Scripture or to a “reformed catholic” faith (note the little ‘c’ and little ‘r’).

    • The Thirty-Nine Articles are still binding upon all Anglican clergy, even if most Episcopal priests ignore them. Anglo-Catholics have always taken issue with them because the Articles contradict core Anglo-Catholic doctrines.

  3. baptised twice; once as an infant in a small Catholic church on the 8th day; and again ~20 years later in a Pentecostal church as a sign of my personal epiphany sometime in October 1974…

    don’t know what theological contortions caused by double-dipping, but i believe i remained unscathed by the 2 events symbolizing my faith community & journey as they unfolded…

    i have no problem or concerns or even a nagging sense i should revisit this. somehow i simply accept it as my personal faith journey that God has guided according to His good pleasure. i have not ever advised anyone to be rebaptized or consider one method more efficacious than another. in fact, i still have both baptism certificates tucked away somewhere in a shoebox somewhere. thank you Jesus for faithful parents & the additional opportunity to declare my own personal faith commitment later as an adult…

  4. Lookie there, I’m a Baptist. Who’s a Church of Christ.

  5. It would seem that though the language used may be slightly different the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Anglican views are more-or-less the same.

    • My thoughts exactly….different ways of explaining the same thing.

    • Josh in FW says

      They all look the same to those of us who grew up Baptist. Infant Baptism is a difficult concept to accept for someone who was so completely immersed in the Baptist way of thinking.

    • But the Presbyterian, at least, would go to pains to say that the infant is not regenerated at baptism.

    • black cat says

      My husband was raised Lutheran, and while I know he would disagree with you, I couldn’t tell you why. We were both baptized as infants (him Lutheran, me Methodist), but while I did not continue in church until an adult and chose to be rebaptized in the Christian & Missionary Alliance, he opted not to be rebaptized. Our daughter was baptized in the same denomination as me (CMA), but their child (soon to be born) may be baptized in the Presbyterian Church. There was a time when I might have died rather than accept infant baptism. However, I am now willing (thank God) to accept different traditions and acknowledge that people practicing them know the Lord.

    • Yes, while i don’t completely understand how the Presbyterian view differs, i’m sure i’ve encountered many of them who do not believe that baptism is efficacious for sin removal in the way the other groups do.

      The rest of the groups you mention though do appear to be strikingly close, if not the same.


      • For a classic Calvinist (Presbyterians are one type of Calvinist), baptism is a covenant sign. It does not regenerate, but like the blood on the lintel at Passover, it is a mark that says to God that this child is part of a Christian family. Like with Passover, it places the child under God’s special care and protection, but does not guarantee that the child is elect. Thus, all Israelites passed through the Red Sea under God’s protection, even the non-believing ones whom God later executed. Thus, Baptism is a sign of both blessing and curse, for all who are baptized “die” in the waters. But, the elect will be reborn into eternal life while those who are not elect will die the second death.

  6. Richard McNeeley says

    Being a long time baptist and a member of the First Baptist Church in Arizona, I lean slightly to the baptist tradition. I do differ in that I beleive any method of baptism is ok, it doesn’t matter if your dunked, sprinkled or splashed. It is more important that the baptism occurs in the heart, not necessarily the body.

    • david carlson says

      I agree. Of course, that makes me a bad baptist, but hey. I think the Didache does a pretty good job of explaining baptism options.

    • Adrienne says

      Yes Richard ~ I think really that is the message of the whole New Testament. The OT put the emphasis on the outward ritual. The NT on the need for a new heart. I was baptized as an infant in the RC Church but then baptized by choice as an adult and that meant so much to me.

    • The Orthodox take an in-between viewpoint. Immersion is preferred, not every method of baptism is “OK.” But, at need, the baptism may be less than immersion and still be fully and truly a baptism.

  7. From the Orthodox view above,

    “However, the practice of baptizing infants is no less ancient — the apostles baptized whole families which might well have included children (cf/ Acts 10:48). St Irenaeus of Lyons (second century) says: ‘Christ came to save those who through Him are reborn into God: infants, children, adolescents and the elderly’. Origen in the third century calls the custom of baptizing infants an ‘apostolic tradition’. The local Council of Carthage (third century) pronounced an anathema upon those who rejected the necessity of baptizing infants and newly-born children”

    This gives one food for thought.

    • black cat says

      There’s an excellent book called The Water that Divides. I believe it’s published by IVP, but I don’t recall who wrote it, and don’t want to barge past the guy fixing our a/c unit right now to find it. Anyway, it gives an excellent rundown of the differing practices of baptism thru the years. I was surprised to find out by that book that believers’ baptism was practiced more than infant baptism in the early years of the church, and especially that it was recommended by many in authority that baptism be sought out as late as possible, because any sins committed post-baptism were essentially unforgiveable. (that probably isn’t a real word. Forgive me. 🙂 ) It went on to discuss the divide between those who preached infant baptism vs. those who sought out believers’ baptism, and some of the verbal debates between the 2 camps were quite amusing. One proponent of infant baptism claimed that when adults came to be baptized, they came naked, thus inflaming ungodly passion in one another. (& of course they were not naked.) This man also claimed that unbaptized infants were suckling pagans. Not hard to see how persecution and murder occurred as a result of such wonderful dialogue. Some things never change, I guess.

      • At some point, early baptisms were done without clothes, the ideas being that you were leaving everything of the world behind. Women deacons were used to baptize the females. My source was an early church father, but I would have to look up the reference.

        • black cat says

          Thanks for the info. I didn’t know that. I did find the book, but could not find the reference, and I believe the direct quote may have been in another source, but cannot recall what it was. Such is my mind and my life right now. 🙂 On an off-topic note, I am waiting for a call from our daughter that she is headed to the hospital to have our first grandchild. So I’m using that as an excuse for the state of my mind. 🙂

        • I think you are looking for The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome

          • Thank you!

          • From the above mentioned The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome Chapter 21 – circa 215 A.D.

            21 1At the hour in which the cock crows, they shall first pray over the water. 2When they come
            to the water, the water shall be pure and flowing, that is, the water of a spring or a flowing body
            of water. 3Then they shall take off all their clothes. 4The children shall be baptized first. All of the
            children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot
            answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family.
            5After this, the men will be baptized. Finally, the women, after they have unbound their hair, and
            removed their jewelry. No one shall take any foreign object with themselves down into the water.

            No baptismal tank…

            No clothes…

            Infants baptized…

            Hmmm…. looks a little different from ALL of the traditions listed above.

          • P.S. Hippolytus process has the person being dunked three times. A mode that some churches still hold to today.

            Only dunked once… According to them… sorry not properly baptized.

          • Hippolytus’s authorship is disputed among scholars and may even be becoming a minority view. Child baptism was still not a norm in the first three centuries. Some early baptismals were even constructed in the shape of a vulva to make abundantly apparent the concept of the new birth.

      • An unparalleled account of the doctrine of baptism in the first five centuries was published by Eerdmans in 2009. It’s called “Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries” by Everett Ferguson and weighs in at over 950 pages.

  8. I’m in the Baptist camp too. I’m sorry but I totally reject the view of baptismal regeneration (in any form). Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. All the obedience we give to God (including water baptism) is merely the fruit and evidence of our salvation in Christ.

    • Those who take other positions don’t see baptism as a “work” done by the recipient but a work of God done to the person. It is all of grace.

    • I can’t speak for the others, but Presbyterians do not believe that infant baptism saves the infant. Baptism identifies him or her as belonging to the community of Christ, but a saving faith must follow.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Theologically-Correct Mark strikes again…

    • Patricia Vassalla Fitch says

      I’m with Mark, an above commenter, who asks to be put with the Baptists. ( and not mostly, but completely) I was raised as a Roman Catholic, baptized as a baby…well not really, I was sprinkled with some water, but I did not know the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour until I was twenty. It was then I received believer’s baptism, which is the entrance to the Lord’s church, I beleive, (and by church, I mean a local, visible, New Testament, called out assembly of baptized believers) We believe in immersion because baptism is a symbol, and only a symbol of a burial. One would never sprinkle dirt over a corpse, I would hope, and say they have been buried. We are identifying ourselves with Jesus Christ in in His death, burial, and resurrection, being a testimony for others to see that we are dying to the old man and rising to walk in newness of life as a new creation in Christ. I only believe in scriptual Baptism, which was first given to John, who baptized my Lord, and then which was given to the Lord’s church to perform…no matter how many people Pat Boone may think he baptizes in his swimmin’ pool.. 🙂

  9. United Methodist here. I’ll baptize infants or adults, as per my tradition.

    I thought it would be helpful to pass on what I’ve been taught which may or may not accurately reflect your understanding of your own traditions. That is that one of the ways to view the difference between infant and believers’ baptism is how one understands sacramental theology. If, in a high view of the sacraments, you view the baptism as primarily an act of God (God’s claim upon the individual) then it would make sense that one might baptize infants. If it’s God’s action, or a “means of grace,” then it’s not dependent upon a prior action by the one receiving the baptism. It’s based on God’s prior action. If, on the other hand, one views the sacraments more as ordinances (we do them because God in Scripture said we should do them) and less as a means of grace, then it makes sense to put greater emphasis on the prior action of the person. The action becomes less a sign of what God is doing through the baptism and more a sign of the commitment made by the individual.

    I have also been taught that, if the emphasis is on the commitment of the individual, rebaptisms make more sense. Commitment levels change. However, if the emphasis is on God’s claim upon the individual, rebaptism makes less sense because it implies that God’s prior baptism was insufficient…that it “didn’t take.”

    That all being said, I have baptized infants, youth, and adults. I not “rebaptized” anyone. That is not because I have denied this to anyone and I also pray I haven’t implied that I wouldn’t if that was where they felt God leading them. I think it’s because I’ve affirmed their previous baptism and have found other ways to mark a new phase in their journey of faith. I am fortunate to serve a church with Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Church of Christ, and others in attendance. We have a mix of understandings of baptism and still, by the grace of God, are able to get along.

    • Jim wrote, “I am fortunate to serve a church with Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Church of Christ, and others in attendance. We have a mix of understandings of baptism and still, by the grace of God, are able to get along.”

      Wow, that’s great, Jim! I bet a lot of people could learn from you and your congregation how to do that.

    • David Cornwell says

      Jim, my understanding of baptism is almost exactly the same as what you are here stating. I’ve never knowingly re-baptized, although I’ve used the sprinkling of water to signify calling forth the memory and affirmation of baptism. This can be very significant for the congregation.

      • David, you are one cool dude…

      • Mmmm – like us Catholics and the sprinkling of Holy Water on the congregation at times? Or when we bless ourselves with it before entering a church?


        • Hurray for aspergillum! 😀

        • David Cornwell says

          There are various ways I would do it. Normally during the Easter season. I’d use a ritual for the Reaffirmation of Baptism (in a way that cannot be mistaken for baptism) and water would be used while calling for people to remember their baptism. Sometimes people would come forward, walking past the font while the water is being sprinkled. The method for using the water might vary however. I’ve heard of several different ways of doing this.

      • It’s interesting you mention the sprinkling to recall the baptism. My late brother’s pastor did that for him, about a month before he died, because he was no longer able to take communion, since he couldn’t eat or drink by mouth anymore. It was meaningful to us to observe this, since he was seriously repentant at heart but unable to demonstrate it any other way.

    • Josh in FW says

      Helpful explanation Jim. Interesting how (some of) those who proclaim the necessity of “belief” are turning Baptism into more of a “work” and (some of) those whose traditions practice infant Baptism actually have a better understanding of Grace.

      • Josh in FW says

        more evidence that believing you are saved by grace and not works has more to do with your heart than the words you speak and the tradition you belong to.

  10. Mike, thanks for so clearly laying out the various baptismal theologies in the words of their own theological documents. Well done. By the way, I’m a Lutheran who was raised nominal Catholic, then was rebaptized as a non-denominational charismatic. It’s taken a while for me to appreciate Luther’s view of the grace of baptism. I’d like to recommend a wonderful little book on baptism by Dr. Kirsi, Stjerna, one of my profs, No Greater Jewel: Thinking about Baptism with Luther By Kirsi Stjerna. The url for the Google Book is http://fwd4.me/02Fj.

  11. Coming from the Anabaptist tradition, while closest to Baptist, we don’t neatly fit with any of these, as a person who is baptised should be an adult who has a mature understanding of his/her faith.

  12. Although the language used here is awkward, I like the meaning expressed in the Presbyterian view in section V that says, “Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.” So, if there are people in the world who have faith in Jesus but didn’t get baptized, they can still be “saved.”

    Even though I am Catholic, there have been times when I felt the Bible was saying that only people capable of expressing belief in Jesus as the Son of God and redeemer could be baptized. But, with time, I have come to understand the baptizing of children. I also understand the Catholic Church later having Confirmation so that then a conscious decision is made by the person to be a follower of Jesus. But baptism brought the child into the Church and the parents and congregation made commitments to help the child to learn and grow within the Holy Spirit.

  13. Baptism, or Mikveh as I understand it the Jewish peoples at the time of Christs time on earth practiced Mikveh or cleansing this could and did take on many forms from the ritual immersion of conversion to Judism thru the cleansing of a part of the body Hands or feet or even dishes bought from a gentile.
    The most signifigant act of immersion was probably practiced by women who are declared clean after their period. This is still practiced in the orthodox community, also often times a man would do a mikveh before entering the priesthood or before and probably after taking Nazerite vows.
    This is a practice found thruout the Old testament from the ceremonial cleansing of the priests and especially the high priest, to King Davids observation of Bathsheba. Christ’s first miracle was a brilliant use of the jars used for a mikveh alone to make a wonderfull wine, interestingly enough during the discussion with his mother we discover that he was probably observing a Nazerite tradition when he replied that his time was not yet come (to end his observation of Nazerite conditions) and yet he went against the grain and created wine from jars whose only function was to cleanse. very cool..

    Wow I have strayed off topic the point was that the modern act of Baptism is the greek interpretation of the act of cleansing and the church has missed the whole point when it’s said that you must be baptised it didn’t mean get wet it meant be cleansed of sin. When we are baptised in the name of Jesus it really means to be cleansed by Christ. Water doesn’t really have to enter into it but the spirit must. Shalom Jim.

    • That’s too Platonistic for me, Jim. Sacramental theology values how God works in and through the material of creation, not apart from it.

      • But Mike (and how did this get up to 300 comments before I read the article?),

        I’ll agree that God works in and through the material of his creation, but does that mean that it’s necessary? The example I have in mind is circumcision, which was (and is ) always necessary to the Jews, but has become symbolic to Christians. Circumcision is a matter of the heart for us. Is it possible that baptism too can be a matter of the heart?

        I do agree that hands-on practices are good, however. We’ve been talking in our church about art and worship, and this includes all the senses: smells (incense), sounds (music), visuals (paintings, stained glass, statues, etc), touch (including water baptism), and taste (Lord’s Supper). As Martha once said, “We have a very tactile religion.”

        • Bu the way, I’m a Baptist, and my suggesting such a thing makes me apostate. Don’t tell my pastor.

        • But God himself spoke of “circumcision of the heart” through Moses long before Christians wrote about it. It is one of the essential teachings of the Torah, and points out the spiritual significance of the rite even to its practitioners under the Law. It is not so much that Christians see it as “symbolic” as that we see the ritual itself fulfilled in Christ, so that the full spiritual significance of the OT rite is found in Christ and his work of making us new creatures. And some would say, on the force of passages such as Colossians 2, that baptism is the New Covenant equivalent of the Old Covenant rite, so that we still have a practice that involves the material of creation while maintaining a rich spiritual signficance.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Baptism in the NT seems to take its OT parallels not from the ritual cleansing in the Mikveh, but from the waters of the Exodus and from the waters of Creation. When I was in Messianic Judaism, we didn’t really get that. In fact, we often called the rite of baptism the “mikveh” (which technically speaking refers to the pool one is immersed into rather than the immersion or immersion rite itself). In trying to fit it into a model we see in Torah, we completely missed the more important OT connections.

      • One thing I love in our Lutheran church is the liturgy that accompanies baptism, when the pastor traces how God saved his people “through the waters” all throughout Scripture.

        • Adrienne says

          Chaplain Mike ~ I just witnessed my first Lutheran infant baptism on Sunday and I was impressed by that also. From Noah on through. Interesting. One other very touching thing to me was that after the water was sprinkled on the child’s head, the pastor bent over and kissed his head. That was very Christ-like to me.

          • Kissing the head of my baby would during the baptism would bother me. A lot. And I’m not a germ-o-phobe by any means.

    • Jim, yes, water has always been used in purificatory and lustral rites. However, the baptism by John in the River Jordan was something more than the ordinary ritual purification that the Jews were accustomed to, and then Jesus submitted Himself for baptism, even though John was unwilling to do so, and that there was no need for Him to be baptised.


      Why did He tell Nicodemus that a man must be reborn by water and the Spirit, if the invocation of the Spirit alone was all that was needed? Why, at Pentecost, did the Apostles tell the crowd to be baptised, when surely they were all willing to proclaim faith in Christ?

      These things are a mystery, yet God has chosen material means to give us grace, and we do poorly if we think we please God better by making our practices more ‘spiritual’.

      • Josh in FW says

        “These things are a mystery, yet God has chosen material means to give us grace, and we do poorly if we think we please God better by making our practices more ‘spiritual’.”

        Thank you for the above words, Martha. It has only been in the past few years that I have realized how much I have been affected by the philosophy (I forgot the technical philosophical word for it) that focuses on the separation of the material and spiritual.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says


          Christian Monist has written a lot on it. It’s a major theme of his blog.

        • You’re welcome, Josh.

          It’s that whole “Matter is not intrinsically evil” thing, as evidenced by “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good”.

          I remember this from all the readings at Holy Saturday Easter Vigil, when it starts off with the Creation account in Genesis 🙂

      • Martha, as I understand John 3, when Jesus said that a man must be reborn by water and the Spirit, he wasn’t talking there about baptism, but about natural birth (water breaking) and then spiritual birth.

        Not to say that Jesus didn’t value baptism. He began his ministry with it (Mark 1) and before he ascended into heaven he instructed to his disciples to perform it (Matthew 28).

        • The only problem with that interpretation is that it’s a pretty new interpretation. John is the theological gospel and for most of the history of the Church, John 3 has been understood to be revealing part of the reality of Baptism just as John 6 is the chapter on the Eucharist. It’s back to the problem of deciding that removed from the text by language, culture, and 20 centuries of time, I can somehow understand what it means better than those who were much closer in all three. That’s just not credible to me.

          • Thanks, Scott. I’ll take another look. I do understand John 6 to relate to the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper. In fact the verbs (took, blessed, broke, gave) concerning the bread in the Feeding of the 5000 story are the same verbs as in the Lord’s Supper. Although I think the verb connection shows up better in Mark and perhaps in the other gospels. I’ll check it out tomorrow.

          • Scott, I’m looking at John 3 again, and I believe that it’s spiritual rebirth (you must be born again) that Jesus is talking about, and the example of birth by water is incidental. It seems that the birth by water relates to verse 6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” I think what he’s saying is that a person must be born not only physically but spiritually.

            Again, not to say that baptism isn’t important, I just don’t think it’s taught in this passage.

          • Meant to say also that Jesus goes on later in John 3 to baptize with his disciples, so much that the disciples of John the Baptist start to get worried. So yes, baptism was important to Jesus, but I don’t think he was talking about that to Nicodemus.

          • I understood your interpretation. I’ve been a member of an SBC Church for the past 17 years or so (the only I’ve really a part of after my lengthy and circuitous journey to Christian faith) and have heard the interpretation you describe many times. I was just pointing out that it’s a modern interpretation. From the earliest writings all the way through to the present, a man being born of “water and the Spirit” has been understood not as contrasting natural and “spiritual” birth, but as the new birth into the Kingdom through the waters of Baptism and seal of the Spirit. Jesus is not describing two different births, but the one birth. (That also makes more ‘plain sense’ of the text to me, but I don’t tend to rely on that.) And that birth is through Baptism not divorced from it. We see that quote “born of water and the Spirit” as far back as The Shepherd of Hermas (late first century, early second century), in St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in St. Basil, and in just about every other ancient writing on Baptism. In fact, that was pretty much the universal interpretation of John 3 until fairly recently and it remains the majority Christian interpretation of the text.

            And that’s really all I was trying to point out. When I think I see something in a text, I always ask if my thought is consistent or inconsistent with the way Christians have understood the text. A new or deeper understanding or personal application does not strike me as a problem if it is consistent. When it contradicts or significantly changes the interpretation from that of most Christians over time and across cultures, that gives me pause. I do the same sort of thing with the interpretations I hear from others.

            I don’t suppose I’ve ever been a particularly good Baptist. The way I have always approached matters of faith and interpretation have never really fit in. But that’s what they get when they take in someone formed not in and by a specific religion, but shaped from childhood to explore different religions. And one of the early things I discovered is that unlike, for instance, Hinduism which embraces many paths and many understandings, Christianity is tightly interwoven with a specific historical tradition. It’s even in its sacred texts. Several times, Paul (and others) exhort those hearing him to hold to the faith which has been “handed over” or traditioned to them. (He even uses the word that is elsewhere translated ‘tradition’ or ‘traditions’ in several places, but our English bibles tend to translate the word as ‘teachings’ or something different when it is used in a positive rather than a negative light.)

            Christianity is a faith that is handed down to each successive generation and handed over to each new culture connected to specific events and specific revelation of God in Christ through the Spirit to specific people who were then given the task of handing that faith on to others. In that context, the history of interpretation and understanding matters and matters deeply.

            And the history of interpretation of John 3 is that it reveals the mystery of Baptism. And the words “born of water and the Spirit” refer to the actual material act of Baptism. Christian is also a fully embodied and material faith, but that’s another discussion.

          • Scott, thanks for taking the time for that. I wonder if a better translation would be “water WITH the spirit” instead of “AND” the spirit. That would avoid a misunderstanding of the two being contrasted, and what “water” means, whether birthing or baptismal.

            I’m probably not much of a baptist either. I joined an ABC church a little before you joined SBC, sometime in my late 30s, and though I’m very happy with the church, if it were Congregational or Lutheran or Anglican I’d be fine with it. “When” to baptize isn’t why I joined, it just came with it and I didn’t object to the rules. At the time (shortly after Gulf War ’91) I was looking into a Mennonite church. The nearest one made me feel at home, but it was 2 1/2 hours away. Really good thing we don’t talk politics in my ABC church. We’d probably split down the middle.

  14. Being a former Baptist, I got tired of people being baptized repeatedly, and even having traveling evangelists encourage people to get re-baptized.

    For a while, a traveling evangelist Bailey Smith was really pushing multiple baptisms, got his numbers up. I think he is still traveling around peddling it.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      That’s a BIG problem in revivals. I’ve talked to baptist pastors who would be rather annoyed when the evangelist would wander through because the pastor knew that he’d have to end up re-baptizing most of his youth group, a handful of deacons, etc. every time. Often, like you said, it serves to artificially inflate numbers when counting how effective a ministry is.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Experienced similar in my days in-country in Fundagelicalism. Except there it was Altar Calls and Sinner’s Prayers (TM) instead of Baptisms proper. There was an art and science to manipulating someone to doubt his salvation so you could Save His Soul (again) and put that notch on your Bible.

    • one of the worst sermons I have heard came from Bailey Smith! It was the most cruel callous thing I ever heard.

      • If this is the same Bailey Smith (former head of the Southern Baptist Convention) he caused a firestorm when he declared that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”

        But that was in 1980, and he did regret that and publicly repent. But it was a benchmark in Jewish-Christian relations and at the time frustrated those in the developing Christian Right who were trying to get their man in the White House (and Carter out of there). Although it was a setback, they dealt with Bailey Smith efficiently and Reagan got elected after all.

    • I haven’t seen this particular phenomenon so much among Southern Baptists (although I know it exists), but I definitely saw it among Independent Baptists I knew. I knew (or heard many stories of) people (especially young people) who would get saved, get baptized, then realize somewhere down the line they weren’t really saved the first time. Then after they were REALLY saved, now they needed to get baptized again because of their belief in believer’s baptism. While it may have been true for some, I think a lot of time this was the result of manipulation (intentional or not) by various pastors and evangelists. For many it may have been a genuine concern for the souls they were preaching to. For a few, it was a probably a cynical ploy to get the numbers up to prove to their “peers” how “successful” they were.

  15. I’d recommend an old Churchman article by Stott entitled something like “The Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism.” Stott was able to convince this old baptist that infant baptism as practiced by the Reformed churhces was very different than the way it was practiced in the Roman church. (Not trying to start a fight but that was important to me. ) You can find the article by googling it.

    As a baptist I hated rebaptisms. What an insult. A couple of logical arguments finally got to me as a baptist.

    1. Baptist sure do make a big deal out of making sure it happens at a proper time and a proper way for them to think it does so little.

    2. Baptists if they really believe that only credo-immersions are the only proper baptisms, and beleive that a chuch is a “gathering of baptized Christians” then they have by their own logic fallen into Landmarkism and have de-churched most of the world since most of the world in their view has an improper baptism.

    My presbyter’s exam that I had to take last month as my final step before ordination to the priesthood in two weeks had this question on it:

    “A Southern Baptist has been visiting your church and would like to join, but is having a problem with infant baptism, and would like to know how you justify baptizing babies. What would you tell her?”

    p.s. I love, absolutely love the pictures of the orthodox dunking babies. That’s how I would like to see it.

    • My husband and I having been dunked in a traditional baptistry at the age of 12 had some questions as we migrated toward the Episcopal church. We had a wonderful priest around when our oldest was born. He helped us with the theology of infant baptism – as a promise with God on behalf if the child (confirmed by the child as he is older). By the time Andrew was nine, we were not in the Episcopal church but rather in a non-denom, and Andrew opted to be baptized. That was hard for me as baptism is not the community event that it is in the Episcopal church.

      When we left the Episcopal church, the hardest thing for me was the breaking of promises I made to children and adults during their baptism and the breaking of promises that the congregation made to my children.

    • Austin…

      Seeing the Baptist church manipulate baptized believers into being re-baptized was always a bitter pill for me to swallow. I eventually decided that it was all about the numbers…”How many people did your church baptize this year?” was at times grossly exagerrated by including re-baptized folks.

      I also struggled with the idea that Baptists teach eternal security, but there was always the plea from the pulpit of “Maybe you’ve prayed the prayer before…but you didn’t understand what you were doing…you didn’t fully commit yourself..”…etc, etc. I know one lady who has been baptized 5 times in three different churches! Each time there was a celebration that she had “been saved”…yet another number to be recorded…over and over again.

      • Josh in FW says

        whoa! I was fortunate enough to not have experienced these events in the Baptist congregations I was part of.

      • John Morgan says

        I saw this re-baptism happen many times as well, it often seems to be a numbers game to me.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        As above, I saw this numbers game in action, except there it was more Altar Calls than Baptisms proper.

        But yes, it IS manipulation. Guilt Manipulation, Doubt Manipulation, all for Wretched Urgency to Save Souls. (Not people, Souls (TM). Notches on your Bible.)

    • I loved your statement about “Baptist sure do make a big deal out of making sure it happens at a proper time and a proper way for them to think” I could say the same thing about the Christian Church I grew up in, although some of them are more easy-going about it.

      I must say that I’ve gotten a great appreciation for the Orthodox since discovering iMonk and Fr. OrthoCuban/OrthoDuck. They have a very different approach to things. Looking at all the doctrines presented here theirs is the only one that isn’t basically a series of bullet points (Anglican’s are close). I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I find it very noteworthy and refreshing.

  16. In my little brain, I can’t see how someone could be “re-baptized” if they have already had a valid Christian baptism. Just like a newly-born baby cannot re-enter the womb for a “do-over” once he is breathing air, a valid baptism into Christian faith changes the soul permanently and irrevocably.

    • Baptists view baptism as the outward sign of an inward change. Without the inward change you were only getting wet before – so, prior “baptisms” aren’t really Baptism.

      • I have come to believe that there are only “wet” baptisms in the NT, no dry ones, and that whenever the apostles used the word to signify our incorporation into Christ, they always had water baptism in mind. It’s just that sometimes they stressed the spiritual significance of the rite.

        • Interesting. Does that include 1 Cor 12:13 (“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body”)?

          And Gal 3:27 (“for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”)?

          • Yes. Though the spiritual significance of baptism is highlighted it is the act of baptism that is being referred to in texts like these.

          • Does this mean that unbelievers are “clothed in Christ”?

          • Nedbrek, I don’t think the NT conceives of it that way. “The baptized” = “Christian.” That doesn’t mean, of course, that every single person who is baptized is genuine, any more than every person who professes faith is genuine. But the apostles point to baptism as the outward rite by which one is joined to Christ.

          • I’m not sure I understand, does “clothed with Christ” mean we have truly put on Christ for salvation, or that we are just part of the visible church?

          • I think what you have is that Paul is writing to churches, to people he assumes are Christians. So when he says you who were baptized have put on Christ, he is addressing them as genuine believers. It would be the same as if he said, “You who have confessed Christ have put on Christ.” in some places, Paul does qualify statements like that with words like–unless you believed in vain–but most of the time he assumes he is addressing God’s family. And remember, he didn’t always know them personally. It was the act of baptism that brought them into the church, and, presumably, into relationship with Christ.

          • Ok, so given that baptism is normative of true believers, shouldn’t we reserve it for those who have at least a passable expression?

            • I think there is more to it than that. As I said in another comment we all have to come to grips with how we are going to incorporate the children of Christians into the church.

          • Lutherans think of this in the context that we are saved by faith alone, in christ alone.

            So what would that mean as to baptism? It would mean that lutherans believe that it is not the water of baptism that saves us.

            It is the Promise that God locates in the water, Faith that trust in that Promise, and so then receives the Promised Mercy right there where God has placed it.

            Christ paid for our sins 2000 years ago. But we live now in 2011. So how does God deliver and create faith and so connect us to that Death and Resurrection of Christ? Baptism… and God’s preached word, and the Lords supper… and these things themselves are works commanded by God and done by men. We are not saved by works right?

            But… in with and under those works of men, God himself has located a Promise, which is Christ. These means are the personal application of that promise.

            consider the story of the leper naaman and elisha in II Kings to see how this works as Lutherans teach it asking these questions: was it elisha that cleaned naaman? what if naaman had washed in another water? Where was the Promise located? was it the water that cleaned Naaman? can we separate the means from the Promise? Why would we do that?

            I hope that helps.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Without the inward change you were only getting wet before – so, prior “baptisms” aren’t really Baptism.

        And there’s an art to persuading mugus that all those times before were minus the Inward Change.

        THAT”s the part about it that gets me.

  17. I’m a 3-timer:

    1. Sprinkled as a Methodist baby.

    2. Sprinkled (in the same church) as a Methodist 22-year old newly awakened to his faith.

    3. Dunked as a 26-year old in order to join a Baptist church.

    For several years I thought that number 3 was the “real” one, since immersion finally took place. Now I am pretty sure I claim number 2 because it is the one I initiated following faith in Christ.

    So that sums up my baptismal belief. Not so big on mode (sprinkle, pour, or dunk, but immersion is probably the best symbol for the church to see). But pretty big on when. If baptism is a sign of the covenant, it stands to reason that those who are in the covenant (NEW covenant in my opinion) are the ones who receive the sign.

    • John Morgan says

      Two-timer, baptized at 12 in the Methodist, so very much a believer, but re-baptized at 40 due to becoming part of a Southern Baptist church plant. The second one angered me some as in my heart the first was valid, but of course it was not immersion. Since that time I have been on a very slow journey towards the Orthodox Church and accept their view and the history as valid. Lord, have mercy on me, anyway if it was up to me understand or believe correctly enough at any in order to “cause” a baptism to valid.

      • Hi Kurt and John,

        I’m a three timer.

        Baptised as a baby in the Methodist church.
        Rebaptised as Pentecostal at age 23.
        Baptised Orthodox at age 38.

        In trying to comprehend what all this means, I think the first was a commitment by my parents to raise me with Christian values. I also like to think it meant I had in some way the presence of God in my life.
        At age 23 may have been an emotional manipulation by Pentecostals, or just a comfort during a time of spirtual awakening.
        The third one I see as my entrance into the historical Church.

  18. RyanEdward says

    How would an unbeliever know which baptism to choose from? Sometimes it can seem as though there are so many different ways of doing things in the church that one might be compelled to ask, “How do all these different ways line up with a One Way Jesus?”

  19. Wonderful overview of baptism, CM…and one I’ll be sharing with some friends. I particularly enjoyed reading the Orthodox view. I came up in ministry as a Baptist, and had it drilled into my head for years that any baptism outside the Baptist church was illegitimate. You had to “walk the aisle and pray the prayer”, then be immersed in order for your baptism to count, in the eyes of God.

    It’s amazing to find, the farther along one gets into faith, church history, examination of doctrine, etc…that most of our differences are matters of semantics. I had lunch with a UMC Bishop a while back, and we discussed the differences between Baptist and Methodist views on eternal security. He said, “Now, Baptists believe in eternal security, right? And the only way you can lose your salvation is by blaspheming the Holy Spirit, correct?” I told that as far as I knew, that was correct. He then stated, “Well, Methodists don’t believe in eternal security. We believe that you can lose your salvation. But only if you blaspheme the Holy Spirit.”

    We had a good laugh over this. Then a heavy sigh. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a voice crying in the wilderness, or at least a Rodney King with some theological common sense, to say to all of us Christians, “Can’t we all just get along?”

    BTW…A similar post on eternal security would be interesting!

    Thanks, CM! Reading IM is my third favorite thing to do in the morning, right after kissing my wife, and seeing my little girl smile at me when she wakes up!

    • Josh in FW says

      I’d love to read an IM post & discussion on eternal security. I wonder if it would evoke the same passion as the discussions on Grace.

  20. don francisco says

    I affirm the Creed….”one Lord, one faith, ONE baptism.

    • Yes, “I acknowledge ONE baptism for the remission of sins….”

      It’s very surprising to me that rebaptism seems to be not infrequent. I’m not condemning anyone at all, just saying that it’s surprising to me and that it does seem to go against the historic understanding of baptism. Those creedal statements came out in the process of a vigorous debate about rebaptism in the early centuries of the church.

      I think the key is Jim’s statement above about the emphasis on the commitment of the individual—-when baptism is understood more as something about our own perception of our state, multiple rebaptisms are possible just as many evangelicals walk the aisle to “rededicate their lives to Christ” many, many times.

      Incidentally, I was baptized at 9 by my brother-in-law (Assembly of God minister) in the St John’s River in Florida.

    • Baptists view the “one Baptism” as our Baptism into Christ, which happens at regeneration.

      • Which does illustrate well how we don’t all affirm the same Creeds since we interpret their words in radically different ways. Rarely do many modern Christians seem to mean that they affirm what the people who wrote the Creeds actually meant by their words when they say they affirm the ancient Creeds. Maybe it’s because I was raised with a lot of different spiritual and religious influences and have been a number of things other than Christian, but it’s always been obvious to me that different Christian groups are actually *different*. Some of them are almost as far removed from each other and believe such entirely different things about God, man, and the nature of things, that the divide looks to me as large as the divide between between Christianity and, for instance, Taoism or Buddhism. My thought anyway. Baptism is a good illustration of one place where Christians say the words of the Creeds while meaning entirely different things by those words.

        • Baptists have three realities represented by the word “baptism”:
          1) Washing – this is the literal meaning of the word, it could also refer to rituals

          2) Spiritual immersion – Baptists identify this with the event of regeneration and salvation (whether you can identify the moment or not, you should at least have a clear “before” and “after”). This is our “Baptism by the Spirit into Christ”.

          3) the trials of Jesus (Mark 10:38)

          I would imagine we could all agree on these definitions, but maybe not.

        • Yes, I’ve noted the same thing where we use the same words but with completely different meanings. It’s inconsistent, in my opinion, on the part of so many American Evangelicals, in the following way: evangelicals caught up heavily in political issues tend to emphasize that the US Constitution should be strictly interpreted according to the original meaning and intent of the founders of the country; reinterpreting words or phrases acording to modern ideas is a no-no and fundamentally makes for a different America than the founders intended. In contrast, those same evangelicals reinterpret words or phrases from the historic creeds according to modern (or Reformation-era) ideas—-resulting, perhaps, in a fundamentally different church than the founders intended. I have no desire here to argue the merit of the changes in meaning in interpreting the creeds—just noting that I think there’s an inconsistency, which in fairness, most evangelicals simply aren’t consciously aware of. Better education and knowledge of church history would help.

          • Jeff, would you agree with my analysis on the three meanings above?

          • I agree those are three usages of the word for baptism in the NT. However, for the specific question here of water baptism associated with regeneration and/or entry into the covenant, I’m not sure that the NT makes much of a separation between the physical act (your 1 above) and the spiritual reality (your 2 above). And although I would not argue that we should unquestioningly accept everything the early church fathers said as of equal authority with the Bible itself, my point above was simply that I think any really honest and thorough reading of the writings of nearly every one of the early church authors shows that the original understanding of water baptism was much more closely aligned with the view that baptism is a regenerating sacrament—having a differing view does put one at odds with the original intent behind the meaning of the creeds.

          • I think it is fine to be at odds with the original intent, as long as we understand why and can make a solid Biblical argument.

            In this case, I would say the fathers conflated #1 and #2. We have the advantage of history to understand what that conflation does. So, we now take special care to differentiate them.

      • So how do you know when you’re regenerate? Or that your first/second/fifth baptism was the one that ‘took’ because that time was the time you really, truly got saved?

        • There are many Biblical appeals to “examine ourselves” (2 Cor 13:5 being first). Do you have the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22)?

          Can you identify a time when you were a slave of sin, and are you now not a slave of sin. Can you read 1 John and be happy, etc.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Do you have the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22)?

            You mean Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, Tongues, and Tongues?

            (And how does this NOT eventually turn into “Everything I Do that YOU Don’t”?)

          • Gal 5:22-23 : “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

            Fruits != gifts. And I’m a cessationist anyway…

          • Okay, so what happens when you backslide (as we all do)? Must you be re-baptised, or does that prove that you weren’t really regenerate first time round?

            Because yes, I can identify a time when I was not a slave of sin – directly after my Confirmation. Then, along about fifteen or so, back tumbling down I went into the mire, and I’m struggling ever since.

          • “Backsliding” is a term that gets a lot of use. We need to differentiate normal sin (which we are all subject to) and false conversion (which is what most instances of backsliding are).

            If you sin, that is normal. Is it a struggle? Are you in the battle, even if you lose? Are you a live fish struggling upstream, or a dead fish floating downstream?

            Usually, if you can ask the question, that is a sign you are in the battle. Dead people don’t ask if they’re alive 🙂 Living people may feel like they’re dying. That’s the Enemy’s job one.

        • As someone who leans towards the Baptist understanding I would quote 1 Peter 3:21

          “21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[a] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, ”

          I read this as saying that the important part of the baptism is not the actual application of water, but the pledge that acompanies it. It is the pledge that identifies us with Christ who does the actual saving.

          One difference between a baptist and others is whether or not someone other than the one being baptized can give the pledge.

          • I would note that in the ancient world “symbol” didn’t mean what many modern people think it means. Something was “symbolic” if it represented something and shared in the same substance or essence of that which it represented. True symbols were (and I would argue are) powerful things. The closest I can come to the modern concept of symbolic would be the Greek perhaps best translated “parabolic” which means representing alongside that which is represented, not sharing in its essence. I believe (if I recall correctly) a form of that word is used twice in the NT, but nowhere a modern evangelical would expect.

            That’s one of the problems with trying to read a text across a gulf of language, culture, and time as though you can make better sense of it than those who were closer (and sometimes much closer) in all three. I’ve always found such efforts unconvincing and easily deconstructed, even when I tried to treat them as true.

  21. Chaplain Mike,

    You left out a restoration movement view (Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ). i didn’t see that it quite fit into any of the above.


    • Yes, for the sake of space I only included certain traditions. I welcome comments from other groups.

    • Coming from that background myself there isn’t anything formal to present. The movement is non-denominational, sometimes to the point of anti-denominational and some of them will get very upset if you ask them what denomination. They generally won’t acknowledge any doctrinal statement from most organizing bodies. There’s huge variation among the various branches, but believers baptism by immersion would probably be the most common summation. Pretty close to Baptists in most respects.

      • Don’t many believe in baptismal regeneration, or some other doctrine that makes baptism a requirement for salvation?

        • Yes, the standard belief (though bear in mind there are individuals and even congregations that deviate from this) is that baptism is the point at which God remits sins for the penitent adult being immersed.


        • I’d agree that its the most standard understanding, but would expect huge variation on that. It gets very weird because while most congregations place very strong emphasis on both baptism and communion they are simultaneously very non-sacramental. You get baptized and have communion every week because that’s what the Bible says to do, but not because anything actually happens. Anything else sounds too Catholic for most of them.

      • We once attended an Independent Christian Church. They more or less followed the teachings of Jack Cottrell, as laid out in “The Faith Once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today”. Baptism by immersion was necessary for membership. They specialized in rebaptisms, convincing most newcomers that there were problems with their previous baptism(s) – too young, didn’t understand what they were doing, had fallen away from the faith at some point, too long ago, wrong method, etc.

        I was baptized at age twelve, and refused to be rebaptized. An elder told me to do it so I could be a member. When I asked why I needed to be a member, he replied that if the church folded, the property would be sold and the proceeds equally divided among the members only. (A great reason to be rebaptized, yes?)

        When attending a meeting of church leadership, I asked how many people had become new believers through the church’s ministry in the past year. They told me how many baptisms they had done. I repeated the question, but instead asked about the past five years. Again they told me how many baptisms they had done. I asked how many of those baptisms represented new believers. No one knew, not even the pastor. (Most, if not all, were rebaptisms, but the statistics looked good.)

        • I don’t mean to sound as if I’m poking fun, because I’m really not, but it does seem rather odd to me that the attitude “We can never be quite sure that your previous baptism was genuine, so better do it again” co-exists with “The only valid way to be baptised is by immersion.”

          So you get repeating an act that you’re not sure of the meaning of, if there is any meaning, even if it’s done right but you’re really sure that if it’s not done this way, it’s done wrong.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            So you get repeating an act that you’re not sure of the meaning of, if there is any meaning, even if it’s done right but you’re really sure that if it’s not done this way, it’s done wrong.

            Martha, there’s a form of sheep-rustling where the whole point is to convince the mark (though guilt manipulation preaching) that his previous Salvation/Baptism/Whatever was done wrong and didn’t take. Once the doubts have been planted, you then swoop in, Save His Soul in the Correct Manner (at least until the next time), and cut that notch on your Bible for brownie points at the Bema.

          • Martha and HUG, none of their thinking made any sense to me. But it did remind me of a dentist I once visited soon after we had moved to a new city. He checked out my teeth and told me that all of my old fillings had been done incorrectly, and he should redo them at a cost of thousands of dollars. I went to a second dentist for an examination. He found one small cavity. When I asked how my existing fillings were holding up, he said they looked fine. When I told him what the other dentist had told me, he laughed and said “he must need business”.

          • “So you get repeating an act that you’re not sure of the meaning of, if there is any meaning, even if it’s done right but you’re really sure that if it’s not done this way, it’s done wrong.”

            Martha, you’ve just described the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Mass, Eucharist, Communion) as it’s understood by a lot of people.

            Hmm. We don’t even seem to know what to call it…

          • Martha,

            Part of the trouble in my fellowship (ICC/CoC) is that there is quite a debate over whether a person needs to understand the purpose for baptism in order for it to be valid. Many in the ICC/CoC think that in order to be baptized ‘for the remission of sins,’ the baptismal candidate must understand that baptism is ‘for the remission of sins.’ There are actually a spectrum of positions on this issue (perhaps there’s a difference between a person not believing it’s for ROS and a person believing it’s not for ROS), but you can see that if you joined ICC/CoC and took this debate seriously, it could give you reason to think you might need dunked again. Sadly, i went through this doubting-the-first-dunking thing myself. Lately i’ve been strangely drawn to having some sort of catachumen system, but of course that certainly wouldn’t solve everything.


  22. Interesting. I had never really fully understood the idea of infant baptism as a work of grace before. This does help to explain it a bit better.

    As an Anabaptist in a largely Lutheran/Catholic area (with a fair number of Baptists as well, I guess) I’ve grown into the realization over the past few years that infant baptism is not the casual practice we were taught it was, but rather something deeply considered and taken seriously by the parents of the child. And I’m adjusting to being the oddity, as illustrated on my older son’s last field trip when for some reason he announced to the other boys in the car that he was going to be baptized this summer and they said “Why would you do THAT? Weren’t you already baptized? That’s just WEIRD!” I had to quickly remind him that not everyone does it the same way, and that’s ok.

    • Rea,

      Good point. I will say this. The call for credo-baptism has always been greatest when infant baptism has grown casual. In other words when the church has been negligent in holding parents to their obligation to raise the child as a Christian, and when the church has practiced infant baptism as more of a social rite than a sacrament it has invited (and well deservedly) the criticism of those who insisted on credo-baptism.

    • Josh in FW says

      I love hearing about your son’s enthusiasm for his upcoming baptism

      • It’s actually not a decided on fact yet. My husband leans WAY towards the ‘informed decision’ side to the point of wanting to wait until he’s older (he’s 9). I’m torn because while he can articulate the correct responses to questions I am not sure how much is head knowledge and how much is heart knowledge. And yet I don’t want to dampen his enthusiasm because he sort of took this subject and ran with it after seeing a baptismal font (?) in a pioneer church display and we had a really good conversation about baptism, what it means, etc. At his age I was being scared into faith and then had to wait 3 more years until the ‘right’ age to be baptized…I want him to have a positive experience to look back on.

    • I am in the opposite seat…a Catholic in the Bible Belt..actually, in Jerry Falwell’s home city! So looking in from the window in that direction has been intresting to me and mine.

  23. Within the Presbyterian church, baptism is often compared to Jewish circumcision. In fact, it is viewed as the Christian transformation of circumcision. Just as the Jews applied the rite to their children who were identified as Jews thereafter (but who still needed saving faith), so for Christians and baptism.

    The passage in Acts about baptizing households is often quoted in defence of infant baptism, but I have yet to hear anyone mention its implication for the slaves in those households. In the ancient world, as I understand it, a household goes far beyond the traditional nuclear family. It included grandparents and it included slaves. Not only was it likely that their infants were included but that their slaves were included in these baptisms.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Good point! It’d be interesting to see a theology that starts with the Epistle to Philemon and then fits Romans, Galatians, etc. into it rather than the other way around. I wonder what that’d look like.

      • Dana Ames says


        you’ll probably enjoy N.T. Wright’s upcoming book on Paul (the next volume in the “Christian Origins” series). Word is that he starts the whole several-hundred-page thing with Philemon. It’s being edited now, and is scheduled to be out next year.


  24. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    One of my favorite discussions on infant baptism came from a lecture NT Wright gave. In it he talks about how a family member asked him how old their child would have to be before they knew God well enough to be baptized. Bp. Wright responded something to the effect of “Oh, about 3 minutes.” He then goes on to talk about how a baby instantly knows her parents. Indeed, a newborn infant’s eyes are designed to optimally focus at approximately the distance from the mother’s breast to the mother’s face. Would our Heavenly Father keep the little ones from knowing Him similarly? Granted, that’s an immature relationship commensurate with the immaturity of the child, and thus should grow with the child. But it’s a relationship nonetheless. I can attest that this is my experience with the faith. I’ve always known Jesus, just as I’ve always known my parents.

    Of course, there is the reality of there being lots of unregenerate people who are baptized. But limiting baptism to believers’ baptism doesn’t fix that problem. If it did, we wouldn’t see the myriads of re-baptisms among credo-baptist groups.

    • I appreciate the Presbyterian understand of the family as the fundamental unit of society (and also the church).

      The problem I see, is that baptizing everyone waters down the meaning of Baptism (sorry for the pun). It just says “I have Christian parents” – which is a blessing. However, it is very different from the proclamation that you belong to Christ.

      • Nedbrek, when do Baptist parents begin “making disciples” of their children? Only after a profession of faith?

        • It’s really a question of what is Baptism.

          Does it have salvific effect (baptismal regeneration), in which case it is vitally important (only recently has the Catholic church distanced itself from the doctrine of Limbo).

          Is it entry into a covenant? This makes some sense, although I would more agree with Doug Wilson here (a sort of super-Presbyterianism called “Federal Vision”, which includes paedocommunion).

          Or is it the reflection of God’s inward work? This seems most consistent with Scripture.

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

            Truth be told, I think Scriptural arguments can be made for all three of these. Hence the diversity of opinion among Christians. I lean more toward the second one in my own understanding, but there are elements of the other two mixed in there.

          • Covenant theology has a lot going for it, and it is definitely something I need to read up on. I would say that infant baptism logically follows from CT (rather than saying infant baptism is Biblical and therefore promotes CT).

            My main problem is that the New Covenant instituted by Jesus seems very little like the Old. Also, God’s promise to the Old cannot be undone (Romans 9-11) – our faithlessness cannot cause God to be unfaithful (Amen!)

          • Radagast says

            Just a note – Limbo was never an official doctorine….

          • I will note that “remission of sins” is only one of a list of things that Scripture says Baptism accomplishes. Although not expressly mentioned in the above Orthodox statement, though present if you read carefully (there is no single Orthodox statement on anything and the more important something is the more there always is to find), that’s another reason Orthodox generally baptize infants — to confer on them all the other benefits of baptism. The Orthodox (at least every one ancient and modern that I’ve read) would all say that no infant has had the opportunity or capacity to sin and that every infant or small child who dies goes straight to the bosom of Christ — baptized or not. They’ve never had a concept of limbo and this seems like another area where Catholicism is returning to an Orthodox perspective. (Another is in their view of the Church. We can know where the Church is by its physical presence, but not where it is not.) Baptism is not inherently “salvific” in the sense that Baptists (what I’ve been as a Christian) would mean. But to the question, “Are you saved?”, most Orthodox, for instance, would say something like, “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I trust and place my confidence in Christ that he is working to save us and if I do not turn away I will be saved.” But that’s not really a natural question to them and most would not have a ready answer. They don’t view salvation as an event, but as a process. At least that’s my take. Those who know better can correct anything I misstated.

            I’ve always been uncomfortable with the Baptist view, though it took me a while to understand why. It’s far too influenced by modern secularism. It says that God has his place and the material world has its and the two are separate. God doesn’t permeate and work in and through matter. Water is just water. Bread and wine are just ordinary bread and wine. Either can represent something about God or about our faith, but God isn’t actually present in either. It’s easy to confuse that with a neo-platonic view (matter bad, spirit good) and I notice a lot of people do that. But I think it’s really more interwoven with our default secular cultural perspective than anything else. And that fits with the historical timing and cultural setting of the rise of that perspective as well.

          • “only recently has the Catholic church distanced itself from the doctrine of Limbo”

            Technically speaking, the Catholic Church never affirmed Limbo as a doctrine.

        • right on the money chap,

          I was turning out the lights one night after reading the bible and praying with my two small children and then I asked myself? “Are these not Christian children?” If they are not then what are they?

          I don’t know who said it, i read it in an imonk post and I think the quoted, but why do some want to insist on some sort of “crisis conversion” for their children

          Why do we teach them of God’s love and take them to church incorporated in God’s family and then at 10 or 12 want to thrust them out of the kingdom and demand some act of contrition to satisfy some sadistic part of our selves? (I’ve added the sadistic part)

          • Radagast says

            Agreed. Inclusion in the Church from the beginning (and the beginning of their faith walk) should start with a sign of grace. Because they are so young they are guided by mentors (God parents/sponsore/parents) with the Church there to help strengthen them along the way. It is too easy to be distracted if one is running the race alone and sit by the side of the road.

            I like that view better than someone being placed on the road to faith at a certain age and being asked to perform, or show worthiness, of have some crisis experience to truly “feel” that commitment. That approach reminds me too much of the seed that is sown on shallow soil – growing quickly, then dying because the roots have nowhere to go.

          • I agree that feelings should have nothing to do with anything (except when they do! 🙂

            Christian children are blessed (1 Cor 7:14). They have godly parents who will train them from their youth in the way they should go.

            But Baptism is supposed to mean something, right? Christopher Hitchens was baptized, does anything think he is on a good road?

          • Baptism is linked with Confirmation (the three sacraments of Christian Initiation in the Catholic Church are baptism, confirmation, and communion). The Orthodox, indeed, still link all three together by baptism, chrismation and reception of the infant at the one time. It used to be that the order was baptism, then confirmation at around twelve years old (but could be any age between twelve to fifteen or even older), then the reception of the Eucharist because now the child/young adult was considered mature in faith, old enough to understand and to make a committment which was signified by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. The Anglicans (as I understand it) still do it that way, even if their sacramental theology has changed a bit (my nephew was confirmed in the Church of Ireland last year by his own request at the age of twelve and then received the Eucharist for the first time).

            Pope Pius X, in 1910, changed the “age of discretion” from twelve to seven (considered the age of reason, that is, you’re old enough by then to know the difference between right and wrong and to make deliberate choices) so that children now receive the Eucharist before they are confirmed; this was all part of his emphasis on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and his encouraging the laity to receive it frequently (even daily, if they could). He’s said to have even given the Eucharist to a four year old child (the anecdote is that an English woman brought her child for a blessing; she gave his age and said that in two or three years he would be making his First Communion; Pius asked the child “Who do you receive in Holy Communion?” “Jesus”, said the little boy. “Who is Jesus?” asked Pius, “Jesus is God”, replied the child, and Pius said to the mother “Bring him to me tomorrow and I will give him Holy Communion myself”).

            The point is that infant baptism is not (or should not be) the end of it; the baptised child has opportunities all along to affirm his or her faith, first in the reception of the Eucharist and then in Confirmation. Now, of course, it’s a big question how much a seven/eight/twelve/fifteen year old understands or is mature in the faith, but it’s not a question of ‘pour the water on a six-week old baby and that’s it, bob’s your uncle, nothing more required’.

            As for Christopher Hitchens, he’s on the same road as the rest of us – we all can lose our way and lose our salvation by being damn fools. He may have rejected God, but has God rejected him? We don’t know yet.

    • Isaac,

      Good point. I find it amusing that credo-baptist try to find a time when a person has adequate undertanding to be baptized. Do I understand Christ more now than when I was baptized at 9 years old, I hope so, do I understand him as well as I will in five years? Certainly not.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        Y’know, I think one issue to consider is whether the “conversion experience” of someone raised in the faith is different than that of one who could more accurately be called a “convert.” As someone that was raised in the faith, there was definitely a time when I realized I needed to take a more personal sort of responsibility in my relationship with God. But that wasn’t to negate my prior relationship; it was just a part of maturity. Interestingly, though I didn’t really think in these terms at the time, it was also around the typical age for Confirmation or Bar Mitzvah (I didn’t have Confirmation until a year or so ago, since I wasn’t in a church that did Confirmation at the age in question).

        That said, around the same time I had friends who were raised in the Church but not really raised in the faith who had what they would refer to as actual conversion experiences. Despite their time in the Church, they did not have relationship with God prior to their conversions.

        Changing directions for a bit, what to credo-baptists do with congregants who are autistic, mentally challenged, etc. whose mental/developmental illnesses or challenges prevent them from making a mature profession of faith?

        • my experience has shown that they group them in a “safe” category along with innoncents like children

          • Yes, exactly. Some might call it an “age of accountability” or “level of accountability”. Although I haven’t experienced it myself, it’s easy to imagine one baptizing these people once they reach a point where they have clearly leveled off.

        • Steve Newell says

          “Age of Accountability” has no basis in Holy Scripture. It is a rejection of the doctrine of Original Sin.

          • There are some who reject original sin and hold to AoA. They are not causally related.

            I hold to both OS and AoA. I believe that God is merciful to all children, who are so trusting (which is the truer translation of “faith”).

          • I’m on the fence on this whole issue, but not on the AoA. Utterly unbiblical, a creation of fanciful whim. Which, ironically, is the same accusation Credo’s lobby ad Pedo’s. The question ought to be, which is more unbiblical, fanciful, and the product of wishful thinking/blind traditionalism: Infant baptism or the age of accountability?

          • You won’t find a Bible verse for AoA, but it just makes sense. The formula is “believe and be baptized”. A baby cannot believe. A 3 year can say he believes, but does he even understand sin and judgment? At some point (everyone is different, that is why “level of accountability” makes more sense), you can be sure.

            Does this lead some to double dip (say at 12, and also 20)? Possibly. So be it.

          • I think this part of the thread points out something significant–all Christian traditions have had to work through how to view the spiritual condition of children and how to deal with them. Why? Because the NT gives clear examples only of first generation believers and does not specifically describe how to incorporate the second generation (children) into the church. One thing a theology of baptism does is that it reveals one’s conclusion about this issue.

          • Agreed. It’s the silence of the Bible on this point that drives me to treat this as a minor issue, which shouldn’t be divisive (but, practically, seems it must).

          • Sorry ned, but horrible logic. A newborn cannot believe and be baptized? Well that leaves room for the Presbyterian view. AoA does not just make sense. “Just makes sense” is not a strong enough position to be definitive on something where scripture is silent. The over dependence on rational cognition of soteriological concepts verges on making grace an intellectual achievement. Infant baptism can be, at the least, a beautiful picture of how God saves sinners despite themselves, not in cooperation with them.

          • Miguel,

            God didn’t hold anyone under 20 accountable for the unbelief Israel displayed in the wilderness. The over 20’s were sentenced to die in the desert. The under 20’s were allowed into the promise land. Why the distinction? Isn’t AoA at least good candidate for explaining the distinction God made between ages?


          • Wow. I’ve actually never heard that one before, and I’ve read books debating this. Hey it’s possible! Probably reading too much into the incident, but certainly possible. Working from implication isn’t necessarily wrong, but can’t ever be conclusive I suppose. But it’s a stretch, especially since few proponents of AoA would dare set it so high. By age 20 an individual has long been capable of coming to faith, and many do before that age.

          • So is “age of accountability” anything like the “age of reason” in the Catholic tradition?

            “Age of Reason
            The name given to that period of human life at which persons are deemed to begin to be morally responsible. This, as a rule, happens at the age of seven, or thereabouts, though the use of reason requisite for moral discernment may come before, or may be delayed until notably after, that time.”

          • Miguel,

            Well, i think there’s different ways to interpret how AoA might factor into that event.

            One possibility is that we might say, as you say, that 20yro just is the age of accountability for everyone and that’s why God set that as the bar between the accountable and unaccountable in this incident.

            Another might be that AoA is not the same number for everyone, but generally speaking 20yro is the latest anyone blooms into AoA (or anyone present in the nation of Israel at that time). So rather than give Moses a roster of each individual who had already reached AoA and who hadn’t, God made the organizational task easy by just throwing ’20yro’ out there.

            The latter possibility at least lends opportunity for further developments usually held by AoA-advocates. For instance, perhaps AoA can differ between cultures. And the above could be true, yet AoA still typically be well under 20 even if there are rare cases of late blooming. Etc.


          • Miguel,

            i also meant to say, i tend to favor an AoA view since i’m a credo-baptist and reject just about every version of OS i’ve encountered (though i’m intrigued by the Orthodox view). And yet i have conflicting gut feelings about a general level for AoA. When i start thinking too deeply about the cultural practices of ancient cultures where people typically got married between 12-15 (true of even parts of America even just 200 years ago), i start to think maybe AoA is pretty low (perhaps at puberty). When i start to think too deeply about my own experience of feeling accountable for myself–really recognizing myself as having a sort of autonomy, my gut feeling is that perhaps AoA is actually pretty high (certainly no lower than legal adulthood, and likely higher). If the latter is true, then lots of churches practice infant baptism. They just do it at age 10 instead of 10weeks.

            i was baptized at 14 completely as a result of my own emotional struggles and issues and battles with what to believe and stand for–had no pressure from family or friends about it. i was dunked again later at age 19 or 20 because enough seminary instructors had more or less made it seem like baptism had to be done so flawlessly for it to “take,” that i started to doubt my own. i’ve since come to believe the one at 14 was the real deal.

            Given that belief plus the above two conflicting leanings i expressed, my conclusion has been that AoA just plain isn’t the same for everyone, perhaps not even in the same narrow range.


          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            So is “age of accountability” anything like the “age of reason” in the Catholic tradition? — Martha

            Probably the same thing, but We Can’t Call It By That Romish Papist Word.

        • Dana Ames says

          our experiences are similar.

          I was raised by devout Christian (RC) parents and never wanted to be anything else but a Christian. I remember talking with another Catholic teen a couple of years *after* our Confirmation about how we even at age 13/14 didn’t understand and realize the gravity of our responsibility and commitment 😉 Around this time, I went forward at a Billy Graham movie, and having worked through their little course on the Book of John, I said, “I already believe this!” and didn’t feel any need to move away from Rome.

          However, a few years later, having accepted the interpretation of scripture that, among other things, denies the validity of infant baptism, in college I chose to be re-baptized by immersion as a sign to the Lord -and to other Christians, truth be told – of my “real commitment”; being good and loving mankind, I’m sure God accepted it as a sort of prayer in that spirit. I wasn’t disavowing my baptism as an infant, or my Confirmation, but rather re-affirming them. To the Protestants I was hanging around with at the time (mostly Baptists and Restorationists) it was my “point of salvation”; very few of them understood that I didn’t have a “crisis conversion”, that I had been on the road with Jesus my whole life.

          Growing older, I came to the belief in “one baptism for the remission of sins,” as stated in the Nicene Creed. On entry into Orthodoxy, my priest wanted to re-baptize me, mainly so I wouldn’t feel I had “missed out” on something important. Apparently this has been a problem with people coming from other Christian traditions, and especially so because nowadays Baptism is practiced in so many different ways and you can’t be sure someone has been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with one immersion for each Person (Orthodox way). However, since I had a pre-Vatican II RC baptism – with the Apostles’ Creed professed, not the Nicene, with the Filioque problem, and with three pourings, one for each Person of the Trinity – the bishop gave permission for me to be received by Chrismation only.


          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I remember talking with another Catholic teen a couple of years *after* our Confirmation about how we even at age 13/14 didn’t understand and realize the gravity of our responsibility and commitment.

            That holds in a lot of areas. When I re-read some SF or fantasy novel I read in high school or college, I’m amazed how much depth of story I missed back then.

          • “That holds in a lot of areas. When I re-read some SF or fantasy novel I read in high school or college, I’m amazed how much depth of story I missed back then.”

            Know what you mean. I just watched The Graduate (twice!) after a 35-year hiatus. It’s a lot better now.

        • Steve Newell says

          There are two issues with Baptism: It is a means of grace and what form should it take?

          As a Lutheran, I strong support the position that Holy Scripture clearly teaches that Holy Baptism is a mean of Grace that God works though to save the individual. Baptism is commanded as part of making a disciple, prior to teaching the faith. In Jesus’ command, we baptize then teach. Peter states that Baptism is washing away of sin in 1 Peter 3.

          The Bible is not clear on the form. The word for Baptism is in Greek means to wash. It doesn’t indicate a from. What I do find most interesting is that some Christians who state that only full immersion baptism is scriptural don’t use wine in Holy Communion, they use grape juice.

  25. A friend of mine at work is pregnant with her 1st child. She is a non-denominational Christian. They do not baptize infants. But she thinks she might want to baptize her baby.

    I put together a blog post that had an excellent sermon on Holy Baptism and why Lutherans believe in Baptizing infants.

    It’s well worth the listen:


    I hope you will give it a go.

  26. Radagast says

    A few notes here about the Catholic view. A baptism made outside the tradition is considered valid as long as it includes water (immersion, sprinkling, pouring) and the formula ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Being baptised in Jesus name alone is not considered valid.

    We baptise only once (if the baptism is valid).

    Part of the reason we baptiize is to negate original sin. This differs a bit from our orthodox brothers who do not accept the Augustian view of Original sin.

    • Quote:”A baptism made outside the tradition is considered valid as long as it includes water (immersion, sprinkling, pouring) and the formula ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Being baptised in Jesus name alone is not considered valid.”

      I’ve often wondered why various ‘churches’ are dogmatically adamant….as per the above….as to just WHAT constitutes ‘valid’ baptism……even though there is a four to one ratio AGAINST that position IN SCRIPTURE.

      Quote:”Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
      Act 8:16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

      Act 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

      1Co 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

      Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

      Note: ONLY THE LAST….uses the ‘magic formula. The other FOUR…do NOT! One uses “The name of Jesus Christ’…..TWO use….”The name of the LORD Jesus, and the fourth uses ” the Name of the Lord Jesus….AND…by the Spirit of our God.”

      Do we think the Apostles were SO DENSE….that they ‘forgot’ how Jesus had instructed them? OR…is it just possible….that God is far less obsessed with either the medium….OR…the ‘formula’….but, rather, with each individual’s heart?

      And, yet….many of these SAME ‘CHURCHES’…..in the COMPLETE ABSENCE of Scriptural warrant….except the thinnest of surmises and extrapolations…..ABSOLUTELY INSIST on PEDOBAPTISM.

      So….in ONE CASE….they READ INTO Scripture….arguably imagined ‘possibilities’…..and then dogmatize/mandate such a practice…..but, in the OTHER CASE, they ‘run’ with ONE verse….and completely IGNORE the four verses that, if not absolutely contradicting their position, at the very least, render it an issue of permission or license….and NOT an ironclad ‘formla’ that MUST be adhered to to be ‘VALID’.

      Enquiring minds want to know…..EYE want to know…..why? It defies logic, and, without straying into the realm of ‘cognitive dissonance’…..I don’t believe the contradictions can be harmonized…..or reasonably explained.



      • Walt, you raise some good questions. I would like to hear answers too. The command in the Great Commission is clear, but the practice in other places seems to indicate that sometimes baptism was done only “in Jesus’ name”—in other words perhaps Matt 28 is not setting out an actual formula that must be repeated each time? Or is it that the Church now insists on “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to reflect the creeds and confessions and certain errors they may have corrected during the Church’s history?

        • Do you think any of the verses in question must be understood as instructing apostles/readers about what was *said* at a baptism? i tend to think to think they describe what was *done* not what was *said,* and that whether or not it was *said* is incidental. For instance, should we understand Colossians 3:17 to mean that i have to constantly repeat “in the name of Jesus Christ” audibly with every action i ever do? Surely not.


  27. What does God give in Baptism? And who is it for?

    Acts 2:38,39

    • Acts 2:38-40:
      Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

      With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
      The key phrases being “Those who accepted his message were baptized” and “all whom God will call”.

      • nedbrek, I was going to say that “Of course only those who accepted his message were baptised; can you conceive of anyone saying ‘I don’t believe a word of it, but I’ll be immersed just for a laugh?'”

        And then I remembered St. Genesius, patron saint of actors:

        “Saint Genesius of Rome (died c. 286 or c. 303) Genesius was an actor who worked in a series of plays that mocked Christianity. One day while performing in a work that made fun of Baptism he received sudden wisdom from God, realized the truth of Christianity, and had a conversion experience on stage. He announced his new faith, and refused to renounce it, even when ordered to do so by emperor Diocletian.

        …At the start of the play Genesius lay down on the stage as if sick. Two other actors asked what ailed him. Genesius said he felt a great weight that he wanted removed. Hence, two other actors, dressed as a priest and exorcist, were called in. They asked what the protagonist wanted. He replied, “A baptism.” Thereupon, he said, he saw a vision of angels bearing a book with all his sins inscribed. The actor portraying the priest asked him: “My child, why did you send for me?”

        At this point, Genesius claimed to actually see angels and asked to be baptized himself onstage. Enraged, Diocletian had him turned over to Plautia, prefect of the praetorium, who tortured him in an effort to force him to sacrifice to the pagan gods. When Genesius persisted in his faith, he was beheaded.”

        So, um, yeah 🙂

      • But you left out another key phrase. Peter said to believe AND be baptized for the remission of sins. Baptism is included in the exhortation and the crowd responded to both aspects

        • Ah, or is it “believe for the remission of sins” (and be baptized as an outward proclamation of this inward effect).

          • I realize that’s how it is interpreted, Nedbrek, but the syntax certainly gets my attention.

          • Is their an alternative interpretation that doesn’t lead to baptismal regeneration? I thought we were agreed against BR?

          • I’m still working through that as a Lutheran-in-progress. It is striking what the Bible says baptism accomplishes when you take passages at face value. And then there is the Nicene Creed with it’s confession of “one baptism for the remission of sins.”

    • You act as if ‘believing’ is something that we are capable of on our own. It isn’t. Faith is a gift, the Bible clearly tells us. 1st Peter tells us that “baptism now saves you…”

      And, the promise is to you and your children over the age of 12. No…wait a minute…there was no agae stipulation.

      And let’s do a little theology here. if the L:ord commands us to baptize as he did in Matthew 28, don’t you think that he will be there, in it, for us? Or, do you think that the Lord was (is) into empty religious rituals?

  28. I was baptized in a Catholic church as an infant. I grew up in a non-denominational church. At the age of 12, my friend got rebaptized and encouraged me to do the same. After praying about it for some time, I felt God telling me that it was not necessary, that my infant baptism was pefectly acceptable. Now, having had 2 kids, my husband, who agrees that infant baptism is OK, preferred for us to not baptize our babies b/c, though our denomination allows it, it’s not widely practiced or accepted by laity. But honestly, I’ve always regretted the decision. I’ve grown to believe that Christian parents should baptize their babies. It makes the most sense to me, based on tradition and on how I view the purpose of it. It is both a sign of inclusion in the community and a sign of God’s grace. So now I have to regret not baptizing yet another child in the next few months, to stay consistent. I look forward to the day when my children are baptized.

  29. Born and raised in an actively practicing Catholic family, it is hard to talk about my baptism separate from my confirmation in 8th grade. It was, for me, that point of becoming an “adult” in the church, repeating the baptismal vows again for myself (which, by the way, we did every time there was a new baptism in the church…) and publicly asserting my relationship with God and the church, and receiving a new name.

    I really do feel that my experience of the sacrament of Confirmation is the point where I’ve best been able to relate in conversation to my credo-bap friends about their own baptism experiences, even if our theologies will never mesh up.

  30. The common practice in the Pentecostal church I grew up in was for parents to dedicate their children (as infants) to the Lord, rather than baptize them. “Dedication” meant you took the child up front and the pastor prayed a prayer over them. Essentially, apart from the fact that no water was involved, the dedication was an equivalent of infant baptism. Parents in that denomination only understood baptism as involving believers (so infants were excluded), but couldn’t just sit back and wait until the child grew up to somehow bring them into the grace of God and the church. Even though I know that theologically there are differences to some extent, to me the “dedication as an infant followed by believer’s baptism when older” serves the same purpose as “baptism as an infant followed by confirmation when older”.

    • I concur! Dedication is equivalent to infant baptism if there is no baptismal regeneration. Credobaptist ought to teach it that way. A good way to dedicate infants might be to use a presbyterian or anglican liturgy and just alter the parts about water. They should at least do something to signify the child belongs to the congregation as a member, even if he/she hasn’t been adopted into the true church through regeneration yet. Honestly, the lack of focus on the significants of new life and the spiritual responsibility of the family and congregation to raise them in the fear of God is going to drive many away from the rationalism of the Baptistic position, myself included. Our children need to belong, and we should be responsible to catechize them in the teaching of the church.

      Consider this… how many youth grow up and leave the faith when they go to college? Might I suggest that they are rejecting a false caricature of the faith? They were not baptized as babies, and were not taught the true meaning of the faith through catechism. Credobaptist churches that actually catechize their children are such a minority that they do not functionally count in debating this issue. Churches that baptize their infants tend to follow through with teaching them, leading up to confirmation. I agree with your sentiment 100%.

  31. Twice baptized here. First time in the Presbyterian church, sprinkled as an infant, then went through confirmation as a teenager. Second time as an adult in a Baptist church by immersion. I have always held much more to the Presbyterian view than the Baptist, and the second baptism was for me more a matter of obedience to the community I was in at the time than a necessary sacrament.

    Because there seem to have been a variety of approches to baptism through church history and because scripture lacks an absolute prescriptive for a particular approach, I prefer the views that allow for a variety of appoaches and tend to be wary of views that definitively exclude certain forms of baptism. To me, the external form is just not the theological hill to die on.

    • I concur. And I am also double dipped! I have my certificate from the catholic church I was born into, and followed up in a Calvary Chapel that I was raised in. Maybe I have been saved since I was an infant! But either way I’m covered :p It may be that some will want to be dual baptized just in case either view is correct or necessary.

  32. Many Evangelical non Baptist denominations in Canada practice adult baptism by immersion, but do not require it for membership. The Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Associated Gospel Churches are two that come to mind. Both require “believer’s baptism”, that is a baptism after the age of accountability. So in that sense they are like the baptist, except for item 4.

  33. Darrell Pursiful at http://www.pursiful.com has an excellent series on why Baptists (and he is one) should be open to other forms of Baptism. Go to his site and search on “Prelude to a Baptism Series”.

    John Piper is the best known proponent of Baptists being more open to other forms of Baptism.

    • david carlson says

      I think the insistence on immersion as being the only true method of baptism (i.e. if you were sprinkled it’s just not good enough) is a good example of what I would call pharisaical fundamentalism – ignore the intent, focus on the “rule”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And full-immerson Baptism is also THE primary tribal marking for Baptists — it’s even in their name!

        Just like Sabbath-keeping instead of Sunday-keeping is the tribal mark of the Seventh-Day Adventists. And married clergy became a tribal mark of Protestants in general.

    • By the way I didn’t intentionally link to the site. WordPress automatically made it into a link.

    • I like his phase “strangely recommended”.

      My thinking on this is that we (as Baptists) tend to forget the proclamation aspect of God’s working. That is, He does things just to “make a statement” (sometimes literally). You see this in the prophets, where they marry a prostitute or walk around naked for a year.

      Even salvation via the “foolishness of preaching” is very much a proclamational thing.

      In this light, Baptism as proclamation (and similarly, communion as proclamation) can hopefully make more sense to people.

    • John Piper is open on an issue? …Only because he is a disciple of Jonathan Edwards, who I hear also struggled with the issue.

  34. Not surprisingly the primary progeny of the radical reformation were left out. So here is the Mennonite confession on baptism:

    We believe that the baptism of believers with water is a sign of their cleansing from sin. Baptism is also a pledge before the church of their covenant with God to walk in the way of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers are baptized into Christ and his body by the Spirit, water, and blood.

    Baptism is a testimony to God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and the continuing work of the Spirit in the lives of believers. Through the Spirit we repent and turn toward God in faith. The baptism of the Holy Spirit enables believers to walk in newness of life, to live in community with Christ and the church, to offer Christ’s healing and forgiveness to those in need, to witness boldly to the good news of Christ, and to hope in the sharing of Christ’s future glory.

    Baptism by water is a sign that a person has repented, received forgiveness, renounced evil, and died to sin, through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Thus cleansed, believers are incorporated into Christ’s body on earth, the church. Baptism by water is also a pledge to serve Christ and to minister as a member of his body according to the gifts given to each one. Jesus himself requested water baptism at the beginning of his ministry and sent his followers to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is done in obedience to Jesus’ command and as a public commitment to identify with Jesus Christ, not only in his baptism by water, but in his life in the Spirit and in his death in suffering love.

    The baptism of blood, or baptism of suffering, is the offering of one’s life, even to death. Jesus understood the giving of his life through the shedding of his blood for others as a baptism. He also spoke about his disciples’ suffering and death as a baptism. Those who accept water baptism commit themselves to follow Jesus in giving their lives for others, in loving their enemies, and in renouncing violence, even when it means their own suffering or death.

    Christian baptism is for those who confess their sins, repent, accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and commit themselves to follow Christ in obedience as members of his body, both giving and receiving care and counsel in the church. Baptism is for those who are of the age of accountability and who freely request baptism on the basis of their response to Jesus Christ in faith.

    • Blake, do you see this as substantially different from the modern Baptist position (minus the dedication to non-violence)?

      • Yes I do. The dedication to nonviolence is no small or trivial addition and is too often glossed over in ecumenical settings. Nonviolence plays a very large role in how Anabaptists do and think about anything in their faith.

        If we are speaking to a North American context Mennonites are also more committed historically and currently to believer’s baptism practiced by maturer people than Baptists. Mennonites tend not to allow children under the age of 16 to be baptized while most North American Baptists will baptize anyone old enough that can parrot a few words. Globally, Baptist and Mennonite practices of baptism with regard to the maturity of the believer is much more similar.

        The confession also represents the close ties Anabaptists have traditionally placed on faith being complemented by works. This states much more strongly the expectation of the participation of the individual in the life of the church than the Baptist confession does. Anabaptists emphasize the community aspect of the local congregation in practice and confession more while Baptists tend to focus more on the individual in the local congregation. All these things are features of the confession, but unless one is familiar with the history and practice of Anabaptists one may not see anything special about the confession as written.

        • I have to gloss over it, because I don’t think a Biblical case can be made for it. The anabaptists could make a good case for nonviolence, because the close ties between Church and State in their time made military service immediately applicable to theological divisions.

          The irony is that the original anabaptists who wanted a more radical break with tradition are now represented by those who cannot look past their own traditions 🙂

          • How many Mennonite bible scholars and theologians have you read? I’ve come to a point where I can’t see how so many Christians don’t see a call throughout scripture to be nonviolent. The original Anabaptists didn’t want a radical break just for the sake of breaking with tradition. Their break was informed by their reading of scripture and early church fathers as much as it was by rejection of certain parts of their Christian context. What group of Christians do you know of look past their own traditions? The high liturgical churches do little without considering their actions in light of their tradition and even Baptists still always manage to look and act Baptist however little respect they have officially for their own tradition.

          • Honestly, none. I did not mean to imply they are the only ones that can be ironic 🙂 God must love irony, He’s created so much of it 🙂

            The problem is that “the governor does not bear the sword in vain”, similarly, the orders given to soldiers are to not exploit people – not to quit. If the government is to bear the sword, shouldn’t there be Christians there as salt and light?

          • I recommend reading The Politics of Jesus and What Would You Do? both by John Howard Yoder. Classic Mennonite biblical defenses of pacifism can be found in Millard Lind’s Yahweh is a Warrior and The Love of Enemy and Nonretaliation in the New Testament edited by Willard Swartley. As far as Christian mission to soldiers the early church didn’t seem to think so until about the time of Constantine. See It’s Not Lawful for Me to Fight: Early Christian Attitudes Toward War, Violence, and the State by Jean-Michel Hornus.

          • Thanks! None of these are at my library. But Google books seems to have enough to get started with…

        • Coming from the ‘Anabaptist’ (ie: Mennonite) tradition myself….I find it ironic that they’re probably the ONLY group that was equally persecuted….by BOTH the RCC…..AND…..the various ‘reform groups…..many having weights tied to them….and being thrown into rivers….with comments like…”You want to be RE-baptized”, here you go….or somesuch.

          In Canada, at least…..the ‘pacifism’ has been largely watered down…perhaps by the infusion of so many people into their churches from a plethora of other faith traditions, although I suspect that the old German folk still adhere to it.


          • Yes, we recently watched a portion of the “Radical Reformation” (IIRC). It had me in tears. It’s amazing how the reformers could not see their actions in the light of the original martyrs.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            It’s amazing how the reformers could not see their actions in the light of the original martyrs.

            The Utter Certainty of Utter Righteousness. When you and you alone are the only True Believers, the only Correct Theology, God’s Will on Earth…

            Utter Righteousness plus Absolute Power is a REAL dangerous combination. That’s what fueled both the Khmer Rouge and the Taliban.

          • Sure, but the difference is that the Koran orders a connection between religious authority and state. Similarly, the Khmer Rouge was founded on atheism.

          • Well, I’ll tell from living among them, that there is nothing “pacifist” about many of those Mennonite children. In fact, some of those tend to be the biggest bullies in school. I know, my son is in frequent tears….

            And pacifism turns into a very nasty passive-aggresive, shun the outsider culture.

          • Louis, it’s not the pacifism that leads to the “shun the outsider culture,” it’s the centuries of sectarianism to escape persecution and what that does to families and communities. They’re only just beginning to recognize and deal with those problems. This problem in combination with the pacifism is what has embedded in them the nasty passive-aggressiveness.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Louis, Blake:

            My father, grandmother, and stepmother came from small-town Pennsylvania Dutch culture. My writing partner not only came from it, he lives in it every day and has told me about the “nasty passive-aggressiveness” that permeates that culture. And I got enough of it from my grandmother and stepmother (stepmother being the one-eighty rebel of her family) to last me a lifetime. Being on the receiving end of nasty passive-aggressiveness for a long time really messes up your ability to trust anyone. Especially when it comes camouflaged as Loving Concern and wielding Guilt Manipulation.

    • Thanks, Blake. I kind of subsumed Anabaptist traditions under the Baptists. Your comment helps us see some distinctions.

    • thanks Blake. I love “Those who accept water baptism commit themselves to follow Jesus in giving their lives for others, in loving their enemies, and in renouncing violence, even when it means their own suffering or death.” – I like the idea of baptism as “casting your lot with him”. To me this is where the experience of baptism is most important. peace.

  35. Dear God! The discussion of the year and I’ve missed it!
    My 2 cents: We need more protestants who are willing to embrace a dual view. I do not believe positions on this issue ought to divide absolutely, except possibly in the case of baptismal regeneration. But Presbyterians and Baptists ought to walk hand in hand on this one. Consider this: At least two denominations require their ministers to teach and allow both views: The Evangelical Covenant Church and the Church of the Nazarene. I believe models like this can serve as a safe haven for those struggling with this issue.

    HOWEVER: In light of Paschal’s wager, wouldn’t it bet better to just baptize the infant anyways, just in case?

    • Are you saying a local church has both policies? How does that work?

      • I believe those denominations require their minister to teach and explain both views. This is healthy, because most churches teach one view and slander/misrepresent the other. This causes un-Christlike hostility and prejudice between traditions. But by explaining both, we gain accurate insight into how other Christ followers might understand this differently, and an opportunity to fellowship and worship together without full theological alignment as a prerequisite. I am not a member of either denomination, but I imagine the members are allowed to choose for themselves whether or not to baptize or dedicate their children, and adults can similarly make up their own mind, even if it’s to negate their parents pedobaptist position. It’s a powerful example, imo, of “in essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.” But if the children are not baptized, I believe they are at least dedicated. Who knows, maybe it’s all done in the same service. What a symbol of unity is that! Our unity is in Christ, and not traditional/theological/ecclesiastical uniformity.

        • Interesting. Ideally pedo-/credo- baptism would not be divisive. I am still not certain the practice you suggest isn’t double minded in some way…

          • Double minded? …or, practical ecumenicism. Idealogical conformity is important to the faith, to a point. At some point we have to decide which issues are not worth splitting over. Rituals and modes are on the top of that list, imo. Creedal statements are the last to go. But by all means, experiment with your liturgy and polity.

    • David Cornwell says

      When I was a pastor in Methodist churches we always had a variety of background and people who believed only in adult baptism. We always managed to get along with each other.

      • Sure, it’s a question of what you teach. I’m used to people either saying:
        1) It’s a sign of a covenant, so we will be baptizing babies next week
        2) It’s a sign of belief, so we will be baptizing professing believers next week

        I’m not sure how you can have both…

        • ALL traditions are credo-baptist. Adult converts who have never been baptized receive baptism in every tradition I know of. Not all traditions, however, are paedobaptist. That’s where the issues between traditions truly lie, theologically.

          • ..and I stipulate again, it comes down to which is more un-Biblical: Infant baptism or the age of accountability? Jury is still out on that one for me. I’m inclined to submit to my ecclesiastical authority on this one as my own reason is insufficient to arrive at a definite conviction. I know, that sounds Catholic…

          • I don’t really care for the term “unbiblical” because it can sound pejorative in a discussion like this. I don’t find evidence of an age of accountability in the Bible–I’ll say it like that. However, in my opinion, there is plenty of at least indirect support for a practice of incorporating the children of believing parents into the church.

            You can probably tell by the way I said those words that my conclusions are not fully formed on this issue. I have come to accept the validity and even desirability of infant baptism in addition to convert baptism, but as to how I understand its exact meaning and significance…well, I’m still working on that.

          • I am fully with you on the fence here. However, a I have a growing suspicion that God really doesn’t care which approach it taken. If one approach is absolutely wrong, think of what that could mean for a large percentage of Christians. I’m starting to feel it may be nothing more than preference, since infant baptism and AoA are equally difficult to find scriptural support for. But my preference is certainly moving in one direction!

        • David Cornwell says

          I taught both as best I knew how. When talking to individuals I explained the position of the church (my position also) but if they differed with me, that was ok. I baptized an new believer (a adult in his 20’s) on a river in Kentucky once. Later I baptized his newborn baby.

          (When we were walking down to the river, someone started a gospel hymn. A group of beer drinking fishermen heard this commotion, got up and left)!

  36. For those of us in traditions that practice infant baptism, I think we should consider that the present course of things may push credo-baptist and us closer to each other. As our society becomes more secular we will no doubt encounter more folks who were not baptized as infants even if they are coming from “Christian” parents.

    So in our traditions adult baptisms may become the norm and infant baptisms the exception.

  37. MelissaTheRagamuffin says

    Quakers don’t practice water baptism. We don’t believe it was meant to be an ongoing tradition, or the Scripture would give more clear instruction on how to carry it out. Plus, more Christians have murdered other Christians over the form of baptism than anything else. We say, “Nuts to that!”

  38. I enjoyed stumbling onto this blog via a Google search. Very thoughtful articles. And since I’m chiming in I’d like to recommend a book, “Understanding Four Views of Baptism” (Ed. J. Armstrong). It includes only Protestant “views”, i.e. Reformed, Lutheran, Baptist and the view of my fellowship….the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. Each view is presented and then critiqued by each of the other three. The tone is positive and helpful in identifying arguments in the classic sense of the term vs. being a bunch of dueling polemics. All the writers are scholarly but have a winsome style…a serious layperson can get into it.

  39. Just curious. has anyone who has been baptized as an infant felt like they have missed out on “the experience” of baptism. Not to down infant bap. – just curious.

    • Brian, opposite for me. I have come to appreciate my infant baptism more and to downplay my later spiritual awakening and subsequent rebaptism. I used to interpret the second as my “real” baptism and the first as meaningless ritual. Now I view the first as God’s pledge of grace to me in Christ and the second as me finally starting to get it through my thick head that God loves me and has my eternal welfare in mind.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        That’s been my experience also. When I was a teenager, the church I attended did not consider my infant baptism valid, so I was rebaptized. As I’ve gotten to understand baptismal theology better and as I’ve better reflected on my walk with the Lord over the years, I’ve come to see my initial baptism as an infant as the one that brought me into the Family, so to speak.

      • yes…amen…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Now I view the first as God’s pledge of grace to me in Christ and the second as me finally starting to get it through my thick head…


        (This from a somewhat-spacy type from a family with a lot of clueless types.)

    • I was baptised at three weeks old and have always valued this. A comment above resonated with me – it feels like I’ve been on the road with Jesus all my life. Even though I’ve taken detours sometimes!

      • ditto. Never understood the sudden conversion, “struck down on the road to Damascus” sort of converstion, because it is not something I have ever experienced. I was baptized as an infant and grew into faith, little by little, as my understand and intellect matured.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Unfortunately, Evangelicals (especially the Altar Call Revival types) have tunnel-visioned on the “struck down on the road to Damascus” as The ONLY Conversion/Salvation Experience. Not everybody gets struck down on the Damascus Road — I sure didn’t.

          My church (RCC) holds that both types of Salvation Experience are valid — both the Damascus Roads and gradual growth through catechism. The difference is, the first type is dramatic and abrupt while the second is low-key without any moment you can point to and say “This Is It.” So those who only acknowledge The Moment don’t count the second as valid, and the One-Upmanship begins.

          Tunnel vision on the Damascus Road experience leads to a lot of bad side effects. Invalidating anyone who didn’t have a similar experience. Expectation of “Can You Top This?” Constant Spiritual Highs instead of just living a life. Obsession on the exact mechanics (including KNOWING and demanding from others the Month/Day/Year/Hour/Minute/Second You Got Saved). Getting Saved again and again and again in Altar Call after Altar Call after Altar Call because of (often-manipulated) doubt.

    • I am very glad that I was baptized as an infant. It put God’s grace…ahead of ‘my faith’. And that is how it is.

      And that baptism was not a one time event that I have moved away from over the years…but rather, it is like a ship that has carried me in God’s promises all throughout my life.

    • Rob Burke says

      Realizing Gods promise in baptism is like a rock that assures me at all times. When in doubt, when suffering, when there is no more wind in the sails, I look to scripture and Gods promise that his forgiveness was for me when He baptised me.

    • “Just curious. has anyone who has been baptized as an infant felt like they have missed out on “the experience” of baptism.”

      I don’t feel as though I have missed out on any “baptismal experience”. A sacrament is something that happens in space and time, and yet transcends it. I was baptized as an infant, but my baptism didn’t stop there. Baptism is the imparting of God’s grace to humanity; it is the union with Christ’s death and resurrection. As a Christian, I am called, by virtue of my union with Christ, to die to myself daily and live in Christ (or rather, let Christ live in me). Thus I daily plunge myself into my baptismal waters, dying to self and rising to Christ, praying that the grace given me will keep me steadfast in Christ for all eternity. If that isn’t the “experience of baptism”, I don’t know what is.

      • My wife always says the thing she appreciates most about what we are learning of Lutheran baptism is the presentation of baptism as a constant reminder of God’s grace toward us and our need to die and rise daily with Christ. In our past evangelical churches, baptism was never spoken of again after one “took the step of obedience.”

        • Its that whole “objective means of Grace” thing we have going for us.

          Doubting your salvation? Look to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
          Doubting when you “were saved”? Look to Baptism.
          Doubting that God still loves you? Look to the Eucharist.
          Doubting that God doesn’t speak to you today? Look to His Word.
          Doubting all of the above? Look to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

        • CM: That is so true. I am just now being exposed to Lutheran teaching about baptism in the church we are attending. Its certainly rattling my brain.

        • Get’s mentioned all the time in our Baptist church as a reminder.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        Oh, that’s really nice, Tim! I know that I often find myself flipping to the baptismal vows in our liturgy and pondering how those vows are ongoing. I was attending a Catholic mass with an old girlfriend once, and the priest gave a sermon on how our baptism is ongoing, even though most in the congregation wouldn’t have remembered their baptisms (most being baptized as infants). As he was speaking, he had an acolyte fill a bowl with holy water and follow him around as he sprinkled the congregation anew with the water and a hyssop branch.

    • Not at all. As I said above, I was baptized in a Catholic church as an infant. I grew up in a non-denominational church. At the age of 12, my friend got rebaptized and encouraged me to do the same. After praying about it for some time, I felt God telling me (yup, I’m one of “those”) that it was not necessary, that my infant baptism was perfectly acceptable. I have always felt God’s presence in my life, have always known He was God and in control. I am grateful for my upbringing for guiding me in that, but His presence has always been there and my knowledge of and relationship with Him has matured as I have grown up. I believe it began with my baptism.

      Now, having had 2 kids, my husband, who agrees that infant baptism is OK, preferred for us to not baptize our babies b/c, though our denomination allows it, it’s not widely practiced or accepted by laity. But honestly, I’ve always regretted the decision. I’ve grown to believe that Christian parents should baptize their babies. It makes the most sense to me, based on tradition and on how I view the purpose of it. It is both a sign of inclusion in the community and a sign of God’s grace. So now I have to regret not baptizing yet another child in the next few months, to stay consistent. I look forward to the day when my children are baptized, but I’m still disappointed. I worry that I won’t be able to relate to their experience. But I don’t view that as a negative for me, but for them, for I think it would have been more appropriate for them to be baptized as infants, b/c we were and are faithful Christians.

      Do I think all infants everywhere should be baptized? No. Again, it’s about being part of a specific and active (in their faith) family and community. But I am grateful that I was.

  40. Franklin Jones says

    Baptism comes in many forms. When we wash one another’s feet, as Christ commanded, this is a kind of baptism for the foot. When Christ recommends us to receive enemas in the Essene Gospel of Peace, this too is a kind of baptism for the GI tract, since we are not to be like the Pharisees who wash only the outside. Holy water baptises whatever part of the body has sinned, as in the old joke about gargling.

    And then there is the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead, which is necessary in order that they may be married in the afterlife. (This explains those icons in which Christ raises up a man and woman from the grave, one in each hand–he is introducing them to one another.)

  41. cermak_rd says

    what of the joke going on now with the debaptisms? Will they change over time and become less of a joke and more of a real ritual that repudiates a decision either the person themselves made or their parents made? Will churches come to recognize the intent behind the action, that is that the person no longer wishes to be bound by or associated with religion x, that it’s a formal act of defection.

  42. The Quakers have been mentioned already, but I should also mention that the Salvation Army doesn’t practice baptism either. We do have other ceremonies that mark membership in the earthly organisation (which is, of course, a different thing to membership in the Church.)

    A recent statement on the issue:

    1. Only those who confess Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord may be considered for soldiership in The Salvation Army.
    2. Such a confession is confirmed by the gracious presence of God the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and includes the call to discipleship.
    3. In accepting the call to discipleship Salvationists promise to continue to be responsive to the Holy Spirit and to seek to grow in grace.
    4. They also express publicly their desire to fulfil membership of Christ’s Church on earth as soldiers of The Salvation Army.
    5. The Salvation Army rejoices in the truth that all who are in Christ are baptised into the one body by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
    6. It believes , in accordance with scripture, that “there is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all in all” (Ephesians 4:5-6).
    7. The swearing-in of a soldier of The Salvation Army beneath the trinitarian sign of the Army’s flag acknowledges this truth.
    8. It is a public response and witness to a life-changing encounter with Christ which has already taken place, as is the water baptism practised by other Christians.
    9. The Salvation Army acknowledges that there are many worthy ways of publicly witnessing to having been baptised into Christ’s body by the Holy Spirit and expressing a desire to be His disciple.
    10. The swearing-in of a soldier should be followed by a lifetime of obedient faith in Christ.

  43. What many object to in infant Baptism (or baptism in general as a Sacrament), is the graciousness of it.

    “I had to DO something (my decision), so shlould you!”

    • Perhaps in your experience, Steve….but I guess we all see things through the lenses of our own perceptions and experience. In more than 6 decades of life….through involvement in a huge variety of non-rc churches in Canada….I have yet to see or hear that viewpoint either expressed or hinted at.

      It has ALWAYS been expressed both as an understanding of the exclusivity of understanding and believing IN THE WORD….as well as an understanding that one must have some level of growth/maturity to make such a move….ie; belief. Everyone is different….and their understanding is appropriate to their maturity, growth, and understanding….some can do so at 5 or 6….others perhaps quite a bit older.

      What we (those who hold to the credo-baptist perspective) are in agreement on….is that an infant can neither express ‘faith’…..or…..’reject’ it.


      • Walt, others have commented with eloquence on this thread that infants are certainly capable of expressing faith. Certainly not in the sense of verbal expression. Certainly not in the sense of having a cognitive understanding that can be put into language. But is that a full enough definition of “faith” or “trust”?

      • Well, Walt, you may never have heard it expressed that way, but why wouldn’t people be joyful and happy about a God that acts for them in Baptism, unless they just didn’t believe it.

        And infants certainly are born rejecting faith (in God), as we all do. Rejecting God is our default position, “In sin my mother conceived me.”

        Put God is the One who gives faith, as a gift (the Bible says) so He can give that gift in any amount, to whomever He pleases, regardless of age.

        Did not John the Baptist leep for joy at Jesus’ presence when they were both still in the womb?

        • “Did not John the Baptist leep for joy at Jesus’ presence when they were both still in the womb?”

          Oh, wow, good point. That had never occurred to me before. You just blew my mind a little bit.

        • I agree that God gives faith to whomever He will. The problem is that in infant baptism, we are presuming on God – that He will give faith in this instance.

          • Well, Lutherans do not presume on God’s grace and faith. We believe it. We hope for it. We know it is sure… but we don’t presume on it and take it for granted. People can walk away from their Baptisms, so then what good is it?

        • Absolutely. If we can be sinners without being old enough to know it, surely we can receive God’s grace before we’re capable of asking for it.

          I don’t know how that fits into a discussion on baptism (my tradition doesn’t practice baptism at all) but it seems relevant.

  44. While not precisely in line with any of the above confessions, there are three things that, over the past decade and a half and more as a Baptist, have struck me as wrong about the general credobaptist position.

    1. Having raised some of my kids in the Baptist Church (and my youngest from birth) I’m struck that their is something almost schizophrenic about the way we treat kids. As toddlers, preschoolers, and young school age children, in Church and at home, we teach them that Jesus loves them and we raise them to love Jesus. At some point during elementary school, we change the story and we tell them that they have done wrong things and they need to tell Jesus that they are sorry and that they love him. For many of them, that’s a huge disconnect. Of course they love Jesus. They’ve always loved Jesus. Why is he suddenly angry with them and need them to tell him they are sorry? It’s a discontinuity that is not present in the churches that embrace children in Baptism from birth. Yes, the child needs to be raised in the faith and needs to make that faith their own one day. But there is no jump from you’re part of God’s family, now you’re not, and now you are again.

    2. The view is far too centered or intellect, reason, and the capacity for verbal expression to feel like anything more than a mind game — and one that is easy to deconstruct. N.T. Wright did it well in one lecture I heard. He pointed out that we all know that we can relate to and love an infant. Moreover, that infant can relate back to us and can love us. Are we really going to say that the God who created and sustained that infant cannot relate to that infant, love that infant, and that the infant cannot relate to or be filled with love for God? Really? Because I’m not willing to say that. If anything God should be able to relate to and interact with that infant even more than I can. And every infant is a unique and fully human person. And as a person, they are no less capable of experiencing God than I am. Perhaps they are even more capable. Of course, that experience needs to grow and mature. There’s no magic in baptism. God will not coerce the will of the child as the child grows any more than God will coerce my will. But that makes the encounter and experience in Baptism no less real for an infant than for an adult.

    3. If Baptism is an encounter with and experience of Christ, if it is a new birth of water and Spirit, if in it we are joined with Christ in his death, burial and Resurrection (all Scriptural statements) why would anyone deny their child that opportunity? Why would we leave our child open to the forces of darkness and evil who will not respect our child’s will like God will? In short, if Baptism actually does anything, if it’s more than just getting wet with water that has a reality independent of God, why would we deprive our children of it? On the other hand, if Baptism does nothing, if it just represents some interior reality, why do it at all? If it’s just a “symbol” in the modern, secular meaning of the term, then what’s the point? If Baptism actually accomplishes anything, then why deprive our children of it? If it accomplishes nothing, then what’s the point? The Baptist position is truly strange to me. They hold that it merely represents a spiritual truth and is otherwise meaningless. But it has to be done by immersion past the age of reason or it doesn’t count. And you have to have had a “valid” Baptism (with a lot of different variations in what makes a Baptism valid) to be a member of the Church. And that particular combination is just logically nuts. Baptism doesn’t “do” anything, but you have to have done it the “right” way.

  45. I have a question for our Baptist friends and those who practice only believer’s baptism. And please remember, I was with you for a quarter of a century in my pastoral ministry. Lately, as I have seen my views changing and developing, I have begun to question the common Baptist assertion that baptism is a “step of obedience” for the Christian. Can you help me understand the Scriptural support for that? Because as I’ve thought about this recently, I’m not coming up with much.

    • Perhaps….a ‘step of obedience’ in that one was instructed by Jesus to be ‘baptized’….although some hold that He was primarily referring to ‘Spirit-Baptism’….of which the water was a symbol.

      However….since the broader context of your question seems to involve and imply the subject of much of this discussion….that of credo-baptism versus pedo-baptism….it does seem obvious, for the most part, that what we see in Scripture….is….FAITH/BELIEF….followed (in obedience?) by Baptism.

      Contrary to our RCC friends….and others who hold that baptism itself is ‘salvific’….we have the example of Peter preaching to Cornelius’ household….and friends…..who were preached to by Peter….and IN THE MIDST OF HIS MESSAGE….obviously came to ‘faith’ in Jesus Christ….and were IMMEDIATELY SPIRIT-BAPTIZED’…..by God. Water Baptism ran a distant second…..and came after….since it was recognized that these Gentiles had ‘received the Holy Spirit’ “IN THE SAME WAY’, or…AS WELL AS….. the Disciples themselves had at Pentecost.

      I don’t think anyone can make a valid claim that they weren’t ALREADY IN the ‘household of faith’….born-again….regenerated….in the ‘church’….having been FILLED with the Holy Spirit of God…..or that God filled them with His Spirit just as He’d done for His Disciples…..but they weren’t regenerated UNTIL LATER…when they were ‘water-baptized’.

      I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for….but it seemed to me to be a logical extension of your question, given the topic at hand.

      • Thanks, Walt. What I see in the examples you gave is that first of all, they are examples of convert baptism, which is the prominent form in the NT. And though there may have been a brief span of time between the “spiritual” experience and the rite, the two things are still all of one piece and happen together. Baptism is the entrance rite, not a subsequent step of obedience that may take place at this point or later. It is the one action that marks the beginning of the Christian life, incorporation into Christ, the reception of the Spirit, entrance into the church. As in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    • One more Mike says

      I was raised in the Independent Christian Church. I “converted” to the SBC 20+ years ago, the church my wife was raised in and the church we raised our children in. The ICC’s baptise immediately on confession of faith (or the overwhelmingness of guilt, fear and sorrow). SBC’s (in my experience) put off baptism until there’s enough candidates to have picnic on the grounds and the rivers warm enough not to cause cardiac arrest. ICC’s have “communion” every sunday and (again, in my experience) SBC’ers have “the lords supper” whenever the minister remembers they haven’t done it in a while. I consider (one mans opinion) that the SBC plays fast and loose with the sacraments and the ICC’s beat you over the head with them.

      But both denominations (IME) practice “baby dedications” and make them very BIG deals, lacking only a “baptism” to complete the cycle. My friends who are RCC and Presbyterians go to classes to prepare themselves for the baptism of their infants and I’m always angry when I haven’t been invited to their baptisms, confirmations and first communions!! I’ve come to believe that there is room for both and all baptismal traditions, especially since the paedobaptists involve everyone in the family in the education and upbringing of children in the faith. Credobaptists rely on the personal revelation and spiritual experience to drive believers to baptism. What if that never really happens? Re-baptisms, constant “seeking” and just blowing the whole damned circus are some of the results.

      I was baptised as a young teen in the ICC and will not join a tradition that would require me to be rebaptised. I don’t want to belong to a tradition that would demand that of anyone, whether paedo- or credo-. While I believe strongly in the sacraments and can’t live with them being sloughed off, thus my happy exile in the P-EW, how they are celebrated is much less a deal breaker for me. Sacramentalism and sacred spaces are becoming very important to me and the lack of these in evangelicalism is why I’m no longer trying to sort out the clown show under the big top.

  46. Just for full disclosure I ran the gambit of S. Baptist (Calvinistic/reformed per se), then Reformed, now Lutheran.

    Too often with confessions of faith we glaze past the wording and conclude, incorrectly, “not that much of difference, eeehh pretty much the same”. A couple of things on that: (1) if that were actually true and we don’t commune together, that would be the worst sin of all and true 100% sectarianism. (2) In reality that’s not reading the confessions very closely, each of them because if one did one would at least realize if taken seriously, i.e. the one one finds oneself believing and confession to be the truth means “I must confess against the others as counterfit and heresy”. (3) However, there can be confusion in the words because its all about examining the doctrine not just the words, because even heresy uses the terms grace, faith, gospel, baptism, christ and spirit but mean of these words “a different kind”. (4) We must recognize that any counterfit doctrine is sourced from the devil and done for our destruction. These are, without affirming which is right and which is wrong, at least the principles in approaching a fair examination of all of them.

    So sometimes the doctrine that is actually believed and taught, in order to “ferret it out” is best approached by asking on the personal level about the subject, e.g. baptism. In this way often a more honest assessment and stark and essential contrast may be more clearly seen.

    One should ask according to what one has been taught, simple questions with very simple answers:

    What makes a Baptism a baptism without which it is not nor ever can be a baptism?

    What, if anything, is given in Baptism?

    What is not given in Baptism?

    Whose work is truly baptism?

    Whose actually doing the baptizing?

    What do you seek in baptism?

    Answers to such questions as these mainly serve to give an honest of “what do YOU actually believe about baptism” so that we can at last see that X is the difference between A, B and C on the subject and now as we can clearly see this is not a non-essential issue but an essential issue upon which we cannot concur nor commune as one Christian faith and someone is decidedly betrayed by a counterfeit doctrine, whoever that is. I mean it’s your soul, my soul, the soul’s of your family at risk here, we ought not enter into this lightly at all on any account, not even the confession we presently adhere to as truth whatever it may be.

  47. My mother was baptized as an infant but never as an adult. She was a missionary for more than 40 years in a multi-denominational context. In all that time, no one questioned this or demanded anything further. She served faithfully and still at 84 has a deep faith.

    In retirement she attends a nondenominational church that requires baptism by immersion. So for her to be a member, they required her at almost age 80 to undergo baptism by immersion. I attended this and it was all done quite faithfully and correctly. There was only one problem in her case. Turns out she was a bit embarrassed by it and really didn’t want the rest of the family to know she had been required to undergo baptism at this late stage in life and service. I belive she felt that it reflected some deficiency in her faith, a barrier to belonging and acceptance as she was. In short, I think it made her feel inferior.

    I was rebaptized myself as an adult, but it wasn’t as traumatic for me. The whole situation with my mother has made me rethink and question further the rigid positions of some. When we strive to meet a particular group’s doctrinal and sacramental requirements without really considering the person, no matter how well intentioned it is, we’ve gone off the tracks.

    • I find your story very disturbing. Anyone else with me?

      • Yes, forcing people to be rebaptized is contrary to the spirit (lower case). The whole point is to make a proclamation. If one’s whole life has been the proclamation, what are you doing?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Yes. All too often, credobaptists in this situation infer that until she was properly baptized (credo, not paedo, and immersed, not sprinkled or poured) She Wasn’t Really Saved. (Like God can’t do anything unless He does it Our way.)

      • One more Mike says

        Disturbing? Let me see if I can remain calm while I post this. First, John, excellent post, your mother has just been a blessing to me also.

        Now, here’s what I have for those, and the many others like them, who “required” her rebaptism: Will they ban those who aren’t rebaptised from sharing at the table? Will they withhold some “benefits” of membership? Will the “pastor” not visit her in the hospital? Will they not cash checks or accept the EFT’s of those not re-baptised (I guarantee that’s not going to happen, but I’m making a point here)? If none of these things is going to happen, then I (one mans opinion) would tell those “requiring” rebaptism to pound sand and leave me alone about it.

        It’s unconscionable for me to think that this church would withhold membership to a saint, which is what John’s mother is (sorry to be slinging that word around Martha), however well intentioned they think they are. I feel so bad for Johns mother. How can “christians” make a woman who’s “christian credibility” far out strips their’s make her feel deficient and unacceptable as she is? How do they look at themselves in the mirror?

        I have to stop now. I need a drink (another reason I’m no longer an SBC). And I’m going to toast Johns mother.

        • The Guy from Knoxville says

          One More Mike…….. I could not agree more!!! This is one of the bigger resons that I have and want nothing more to do with the SBC and it’s churches and others like them. I dislike their positions on baptism and re-baptizing as well as communion…….. as one person said above – they play fast and loose with the sacraments and totally dislike that aspect in SBC churches. To be sure there are other things, music, worshp, sacred spaces, authoritarian pastors/staff and on it could go and other posts/discussions have recently covered the authoritarian issues which, by the way, need another post or two down the road Chaplin Mike (hint).

          One last thing One More Mike – I like a drink on occasion so I’m in there with you on that – not a drunkard (boy that’s an old term!) but an occasional drink is nice, tasty and relaxing and after reading John’s post it’s easy to see why one would need a drink.

      • Definitely with you. I find it disturbing and incredibly uncharitable.

        • One wonders if there was any thought about the health risks of conducting an immersion on an 80 year old woman or whether doctrinal correctness was the only consideration.

        • I can’t really lay blame in the caseof her church, though, because I’m not sure she ever made her reservations or discomfort known to the ones doing the baptism. I think she would have viewed that in itself as somehow unfaithful or disobedient, so she went along. It’s a complicated situation. I don’t want to point fingers but do think it’s a illustration of how things can go wrong.

          • The Guy from Knoxville says

            Further on this – a story from my wife’s background……. she came from the church of Christ (restoration movement) background with, pretty much in the real hard old line COCs, water or baptismal regeneration which I don’t buy into and many (most?) here wouldn’t either and we’ve talked extensivly about it and that can be another post later. Back to the story – my wife’s oldest sister’s husband was raised in the baptist church – his father was a baptist preacher and his mother baptist as well and both baptised in the baptist tradition. In later years after his father passed his mother started attending the COC that he and my wife’s sister attended and he persuaded his mother to be rebaptised in their COC which she did and afterwards it was clear that he did not consider that she was a christian until after she was baptised in the COC. She was elderly and was not completely of clear mind all the time but at that particular time agreed to do this. I knew it wasn’t right as did my wife but we were not in a position to say so and only God himself knows what her husband (this man’s father) would have said about it – indeed were he alive it would not have happened!

            Long story short – this should not have happend and seems to point to the idea the many have of COC and other restoration movement churches that one must be put in the baptistry, creek, river etc and baptised their way or one is simply lost and hell bound! I was told as much by this same mans son (my wife’s nephew) in a heated discussion not long after my wife and I married. The night he called he talked with my wife and by the time it was over she was in the kitchen floor in tears and needless to say he got a call back and was told he was not welcome in our home again by the time our discussion was over though in later years before he passed things had been somewhat rectified or straightened out to some degree. One statement he did make to me was that scripture said the one must “believe and be baptised…….” – my reply……. I believe and I have been baptised…. his reply – silence……. gave new meaning to silence is golden.

            So much for long story short – but bottom line is – I’ve been down this road too many times and I’ve come to the point that I much prefer the sacramental approach on baptism and communion and most churches that take that position seem to have many other things in a more correct order than my SBC and COC brethern do. By the way, my wife and I do attend a COC at this time but one that is very progressive in COC circles (conservative by all others) and teaches salvation by grace through faith in Christ and that with baptism constitutes coming under the cleansing of Christ’s blood and in some ways they are, dare I say, sacramental in that sense whether it’s realized/accepted or not and I can live with it and I can tell you a great many other COCs around this area and around the state know about the COC we attend and we are not at all liked by most of them for the positions and teaching that we have. Also, this COC we attend accepted my baptism and did not require or request of me to be rebaptised to attend or place memebership in that local congregation. Of course, as a church organist, things musically are not as I would like but there seems a growing number of COCs around the country that are changing their position on that….. another story for another post.

          • The Guy from Knoxville says

            Clarification – in my post above I said about our COC being “sacramental in that sense” I ment sacramental in a sense regarding baptism and communion realized/accepted or not…… it certainly comes across that way at times and I quite enjoy that aspect of this particular COC though even they in their progressiveness would object but I think it applies to some degree. Generally speaking though COCs would not be considered sacramental.

      • Yes, absolutely it is extremely disturbing because it denies the Cross everywhere.

        It begs the question does it not, was the first a baptism? Let’s say the first was adult and by the prescribed method, then a second occures, then a third, or in the case of my wife a fourth (in her baptist days). Which one was it? What were the first one’s. Do you ever objectively know you’ve actually SEEN a baptism, since faith itself is invisible and works can be imitated by anyone for entire life spans.

        It brings up the issue of what IS baptism and what it is not. Is it based on faith, i.e. a baptism is a baptism only when there is faith. Or is it a baptism based on the name and Word of God, i.e. is it a baptism regardless of faith’s existence rooted in the name of God and His Word. Baptism based upon faith faith in faith as opposed to the name and Word of God. Yet the Word is clear salvation is where the name of God is (e.g. Psalm 54:1), and to water is given the name of God.

        The later is the reality. Even if the baptized has zero faith and is utterly hypocritcal. The abuse of a thing does not disprove its reality but confirmes it. Gold is still gold and valuable even if a pimp and harlot wear it. All men crucified Christ and turned from Him at the moment of His crucifixion, but it did not falsify that he was in fact the God-man being murdered on a Roman Cross, in fact it verified (it’s why He was crucified). In fact such despicable acts as rebaptism “in the name of faith” are a rank denial of the real baptism “in the name and Word of God”. The VERY ACT of (re)baptizing in the name faith in fact is affirming its denial of the initial baptism in the name and Word of God. It does to wash away the reality of the first that it says “was nothing”.

        It matters very little that entire world could be baptized and none believe it, it does not remove one tiny bit the reality of baptism which is rooted not in world, not faith, not in one’s confession (man’s recipricating word) but sola scriptura, the Word and name of God alone.

        • Larry, it is better to view Baptism as a proclamation. It is saying “I am obedient to Jesus’ command to believe and be baptized”. If there are prior dunkings, this proclamation includes “In the past, I wrongly attained to Baptism, for which I repent.” There can be no Baptism without belief.

          • Nedbrek,

            Yes it is a proclaimation, of the name of God and not the proclamaition of faith. There’s no getting around that fact and where the name of God is there is salvation. But you at least answer it according to baptist doctrine, where there is no faith there is no baptism. Thus, the name of God and Word of God is not, in such doctrine, the sine quo non of baptism but the faith of the person. This is of course faith in the creature faith and not nude Word nor name of God. Thus, since there is no baptism when there is no faith, according to the doctrine, it is utter nonsense to say, “In the past, I wrongly attained to Baptism, for which I repent”, because it was not a baptism since no faith was there (according to the doctrine) and thus no baptism that existed that was wrong “attained to” but just a mere water bath differeing little from a normal bath save that it was public.

            Further, if faith is sine quo non of baptism, upon which it is or is not a baptism, the pastor cannot rightly say nor proclaim, “I baptize you in the name of….”. He must say, “based on your confession of faith which is invisible to me, I think I am baptizing you secondarily in the name of….”.

            This I agree gets to the nuts and bolts of the issue. One makes it a law to do the other a Gospel given. Which is why the question is asked, ‘is anything given in baptism”. Now one can argue this side or that side as to which is true, but what we cannot disagree about is that these are in fact two opposing doctrines, opposing in the sense that one is of Christ and one is in opposition of Christ and not indifferent things. Thus, we now see why these things are not matters of indifference but of essence upon which one can in no way commune with and call the other the truth of the Christian faith.

            The essence of baptism is explicit in Scripture, the name of God, that’s why the proclamation of baptism, the sine quo non of its being baptism is the name of the holy Trinity, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…”. If this is not there in the baptism, say for example Mormom baptism, then we say point blank, “it is not a baptism”. Faith is irrelevant to the existence of baptism, that’s to get it backwards. For it is the name and Word of God that creates, not faith, faith is a creature created by God. Thus, to baptize in the name or on the essence of faith, a creature, is the violation of the first commandment, idolatry, “I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of bondage, you shall have no other gods beside Me.” To make baptism based upon faith, its essence upon which it is or is not, is to worship the creature, even the good creature faith itself.

          • Larry, I believe you have misrepresented my position, which leads to more conflict between our positions than should be necessary.

            Baptism is not a proclamation of our works. It is the proclamation (our recognition) of what God has done.

            The alternative is to say that the gift of salvation can be given and lost.

      • ya, it is a disheartening story. (i won’t go so far as to say it’s disturbing)
        if this woman felt this way something was definitely amiss in the way baptism was conveyed to her. i’m sure there was a better way to encourage her to be baptized if the people were determined to be so adamant, holding firm to their doctrines.that’s what happens when we follow ‘the letter of the law’ and not the spirit of the law. i blame it on our denominational isolationism.

      • I have heard this story many times… Many churches do not accept the baptism of other churches.

        My mother knew someone who had to rebaptized in order to become a member, because she had only been dunked once and not three times.

        My wife had to be rebaptized because she had been sprinkled (as an adult) and not dunked.

        • The Guy from Knoxville says

          Michael – precisely my issue with many/most SBC churches! When you take that position then you are basically baptizing into the “baptist church” that is the “local congregation” rather than into Christ and I have such major issues with that that I could not even consider saying one thing further about it….. it’s just wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  48. arkhusker says

    I have heard the argument that there are no specific instances of infant baptism in the scripture. This raises a couple of questions in my mind.

    1. Where is an instance of ‘infant dedication’ in the Holy Scriptures?

    2. Was there anyone in the NT that was re-baptized (particularly for lack of faith or commitment)?

    • 1. Samuel comes to mind.

      • arkhusker says

        So, it (infant dedication) doesn’t seem to be the normal practice, especially in the NT and isn’t commanded by Christ. Shouldn’t that be enough to give us pause. Even if ‘entire households’ and ‘all nations’ didn’t include infants baptism itself is still a commanded act, while ‘baby dedication is not’.

  49. Two camps seem to emerge from this discussion.

    Baptism is: My “dedication”, my “confession of faith”, my “pronouncement”, my”obedience”.
    God’s gift for me.

    I have yet to see a scripture that says baptism is our doing. All the scripture verses point to something being done to us. We are passive recipients of this gift.

    • Rob, what is a proclamation besides our acknowledgment of what God has done for us?

      From the other angle, can we be sure the gift is given?

      • The bible does not say anything about your “acknowledgement” in the matter.

        I am sure the gift is given because the gift giver cannot lie and His promises are true.

        • Rob, how do account for the baptism of rank unbelievers?

          • Yep. All people are liars, if we believe Jesus’ own words.

            The guy who looks like a real committed Christian, may not even be one. (“but we did this, that, and the other thing, all in your name!” and He said depart from me…) And the one who appears not to be a believer, may be a child of the Living God. (“when did we do that?” “When you did it to the least of mine you did it to me.” – they weren’t even aware of their good deeds)

        • Bingo Rob! Men are liars not God. That men deny God’s gift does not falsify His gift in the least but merely proves His gift and the very fact that men are liars. Men can lie about their faith and their fruits of faith, but God cannot lie about what He gives in the least!

    • “Baptism is: My “dedication”, my “confession of faith”, my “pronouncement”, my”obedience”

      If I have to rely on that stuff, I am toast.

  50. Coptic church is quite different…

    Baptism is a Holy Sacrament by which we are born again by being immersed in water three times in the name of the Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    The Sacrament of Baptism has the first rank among the Seven Holy Sacraments, as it is the door by which the believer enters the church and has the right to partake in the rest of the Sacraments.

    • I’ve heard Catholics say they are born again via baptism… Is the Coptic view not comparable to the Catholic or Orthodox view?

      • I was talking more about the dunking three times.

        • Catholics pour water over the head three separate times.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Depends. Catholics do it by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. I understand immersion was the earliest version, and pouring and sprinkling came from out of the logistics of large-scale baptisms — faster, simpler, and less messy in large numbers.

            Last Easter Vigil at St Boniface, the catechumens stood knee-deep in water and got poured.

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