18 May 2011


Funny what jumps out for people in the sermon. last week I made a throwaway comment about how people used to get quite exercised that the grand kids hadn't been baptized. I remember a Grandma in the Maritimes wondering loudly "why that baby hadn't been done yet?". I thought my comment was a fairly uncontroversial example of how times have changed; and how little people really seem to care about the forms these days. Turns out that it hit a nerve for more than one person. So... do children need to be "done" so they can saved? Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't have much to say about baptising babies. Jesus was baptised as an adult (but he may have been a special case.) All the other people baptised in the Bible are adults (but baby baptisers point to Acts chapter 16 where people were baptised "with their household" or "with their family"). Jesus' command to "baptise all nations" in Matthew chapter 28 doesn't say what will happen to those who aren't baptised.
There is no explicit statement in the Bible that un-baptised people of any age will not be saved. (On the other hand, there is no explicit statement that they will be saved.) All Christians believe that baptism is a real sign of grace that Christ commanded us to use. All Christians agree that baptism should not be despised; but they differ on when it's appropriate to baptise and whether it is entirely essential for salvation. Baptists and Mennonites and Pentecostals firmly believe that one should not baptise children and that baptism is only effective when it is consciously and willingly embraced by a consenting adult. The attitude that all children must be baptised came out of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions but it has had a strong influence on the Protestant Churches that baptise infants. (Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, the United Church et al) Baptism is the sign and seal of membership In Christ's church. Because the Catholic and Orthodox traditions have such a high view of the Church they insist that there is no salvation outside the church: baptism is required. I was baptised as an adult (mainly because of my parents laziness not because they cared one way or the other) and I was glad to be able to make that decision for myself. My personal view is that the hard-line views for or against infant baptism are both a little disrespectful of God's Freedom and Grace. I don't think God is waiting for us to do something with water and words before God can choose to love and cherish a child forever. On the other hand, I don't think we should despise the God given opportunity to raise children in a faith community, baptising them as a sign that they are already part of the family.
This is important stuff. At 10 am next Wednesday, May 25th, I'll have the coffee on at the church office and I'll be glad to dig into this in detail with whoever shows up.
Thanks for asking the questions.