Wednesday, 11 May 2011
A few years ago, while moving some stuff out of storage, I found a red, felt banner with white, felt lettering that said, "JAMES IS A CHILD OF GOD". Underneath, it said "JANUARY 25 1987". Also on the banner, in white felt, is a dove, representing the holy spirit, and coming from the dove, drops of water which representsbaptism. I got this when I was baptized at a mere 6 months of age in a Lutheran church.
When I was in the 2nd grade, my family started going to a United Methodist church, where they also believe in pedobaptism (child's baptism or infant baptism). We didn't talk much about baptism in my church because, normally, if you weren't baptized as a baby, you were baptized around the time of confirmation. It was rare to see an adult being baptized.
I always saw something special when parents would take their babies to get baptized. There was normally a glow to what was going on. It kept a smile on my face, that's for sure, but as I was getting older, I began to question the theology behind pedobaptism. Is it ok for a baby to get baptized in the name of Christ since the baby doesn't really know what it means to follow Christ? Since it takes a personal choice to follow Christ, shouldn't it be a personal choice to be baptized?
It took me awhile to gather my thoughts to come up with what is now, my stance on baptism.
The first thing I thought about is baptism is a sacrament- meaning, it is a gift from God to man. A "grace", if you will. I don't believe that a person has the right to deny God's grace (in any form) to anybody. No one deserves the grace of God. It's gifted to us. Surely, it can't be deserved, then it could be gifted to those who don't understand it, right?
I think so. Who fully understands the commitment made to Christ when one first decides to be a Christian? In addition, if one doesn't fully understand what it means to be a Christian, then one doesn't fully understand his baptism. If an
average person accepting Christ does not understand his baptism in full, what difference would it make if he was baptized as a baby? A choice? I'm not so sure. Many people choose to accept Christ and become baptized, only to later apostatize.
In the UMC, we baptize infants knowing full well that they may step away from the Church when they get older, just like anybody could. However, the Church realizes that the responsibility of living the faith isn't on the individual who was baptized alone, but on the family who had the individual baptized, as well as the Church. When we baptize, we make an oath to the Church that we will help raise the child to know God, to know Christ, to know the Church, and to be supportive. If the Church follows through with this oath, the chance that those who were baptized would later apostatize is really slim. Also, because a baby doesn't make the choice to be baptized, it becomes a choice later, during confirmation. It is during confirmation when one confirms his or her baptism. One has the choice to say, "Yes! I am a believer and I believe in my baptism!"
In short, my pastor baptizes no one. My church baptizes no one. Baptism is a gift from God. The pastor is simply the tool God uses to baptize. Because it is God who baptizes, who am I to have the right to deny that grace to anyone, including an infant? I know in my baptism, I g
ot a full measure of God's grace. I know that because I remember it; not mentally, but spiritually and emotionally. I see my baptism present in my life. My sins are washed away. I've emerged from the waters into a covenant with God... and it's been like that my entire life. That banner I got from my baptism... I keep it in my room because it's a great reminder.
What are your thoughts on pedobaptism (baptism of infants) and credobaptism (believer's baptism)?