Friday, February 20, 2009

Turning It Around

Over the years, I've had many friends who are Christian, but not Lutheran, and generally, this means we have a different view of baptism. Usually, it means that they have an objection to one of two things, or both: 1). That a child is baptized without first declaring their faith. 2). (which is a variant) that the child did not have a choice in the matter.

Sometimes they state that there is nothing in the Bible that specifically says to baptize infants. Often, we as Lutherans point to Christ's "Suffer not the little children to come unto me" with the Greek word for children meaning "infant." Also, it says to baptize nations, Acts records entire households being baptized, and of course, Paul's declaring baptism to be the new circumcision, with circumcision being on the 8th day of life.

Lutherans also point to the verse "No man can come to the Spirit unless the Holy Spirit draws Him" and other such verses that shape our doctrine that we do not choose Christ, Christ chooses us. We cannot come to faith through our own understanding but only through the Holy Spirit. One way we receive the Holy Spirit is through baptism, and there is proof in the Bible that infants can have the Holy Spirit and faith - John the Baptist danced in Elizabeth's womb when Mary, newly pregnant with the Messiah, came near.

I don't ever remember seeing a place in the Bible where a child comes to a particular age and chooses his faith or direction in that faith. Just as we cannot choose our status as sinners, those of us brought up in the faith cannot choose our status as believers, either. The Bible is full of examples of this.

Some that come to mind for me are:

Noah's children -- Even though they are clearly grown at this point, it never says that they are welcome on the ark because of their own faith, but because of Noah's.

Descendants of Abraham -- Isaac did not offer to be a sacrifice or to be the one to procure the line of Abraham into a great nation. In fact, when Sarah took it into her own hands to help along God's promise of giving him an heir, God rejected it. Joseph surely didn't choose to be sent to Egypt, yet God used him mightily. The children of Israel were God's people not because they were worthy of it and constantly choosing to be loyal - God chose them, and He was the one continually keeping that covenant alive.

When God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, he led them through the Red Sea...baptizing them as His own as they walked through it. Yet, He didn't say, those of you who want to come, come forth. He led them through, young and old, weak and strong, those with faith and those who didn't. He brought them through the desert and to the Promised Land.

Infants and grownups alike made this journey, infants and grownups alike celebrated the Passover and other feasts, and the instruction from Scripture was to tell the children why they do this as they ask and to raise them to know God.

Samuel didn't chose to serve in the tabernacle or to be a prophet. Hannah decided his life for him before he was even conceived, and God took him as his prophet. David didn't choose to be king, but he faithfully served God. No prince to follow would choose either.

I'm just going through and listing things that come to mind, and looking at the Bible, a first born son was presented soon after he was born and the atoning sacrifice made for him. All boys were circumcised on the 8th day. They were brought into the covenant, not choosing to participate in it...and Paul clearly states that baptism is the new circumcision.

Basically, in this argument, we are often put on the defensive. When the world says "prove to me that we are to baptize infants" we need to say "prove to me that we are not supposed to." Because it isn't there. It just isn't. There are words that often embrace infants - nations, households, families, children...these are to be included in baptism. The Jewish faith includes infants in the covenant. Yet Evangelicals state " have to confess your faith before you engage in this symbolic act." We need to say "but where does it say that in Scripture?" and "Where does it say that it is merely symbolic?"

I'd love to find out what is the argument and the history behind excluding infants and young children from being one in the death and resurrection of Christ, to find why they don't need it, why they wouldn't want us to give that to them, when they welcome God's gifts that sustain their lives, which flow through us their parents, in every other way.


Jeff said...

That's well-written. Thanks.

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

Wonderful! I will be referring readers to this post. You did a great job explaining our LCMS beliefs. Thanks!

Susan said...

My pastor keeps pointing out the verse from Acts 2, and saying, "How can anybody say this doesn't say to baptize children?"

and be baptized every one of you
in the name of Jesus
for the forgiveness of sins,
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,
for the promise is to you and TO YOUR CHILDREN.

Does that mean "your grown-up children" or "for when your children grow up" or what? How can that NOT be a verse about infant baptism? (Unless you really really really have your mind made up that you reject infant baptism?)

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Nicely done. I face a lot of this from Methodists and Baptists.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

If baptism is only symbolic, what difference does it make who is baptized? You're right; none of this "accepting Jesus" stuff is Scriptural.

Joy said...

One of the most compelling points of scripture for me (sorry I'm too lazy to look it up) is that baptism REPLACES circumcision. You think an 8-day-old boy chose circumcision? You think, given the option, he'd have wanted it? No... his parents brought him forth because it was the means which YHWH had granted to be His people. God has given us a new way to stay in His graces, regardless of age or gender or mental capacity to make a decision. Thanks be to God for this most precious gift!

Joy said...

oops, now I see you included that--sorry! (Can you tell you struck a chord with me? :)

It is highly egotistical to think that, after 2 millenia immediately following Christ of practicing infant baptism, this new way is somehow the right one.

Also, consider David's own words: Surely I was sinful from birth, from the time my mother conceived me. I can't even choose to be a sinner, any more than I could choose the circumstances of my earthly birth. It's who I am.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lora! Going to have to remember this next time. . .

letters to elijah said...

Good Read! If you didn't say I would have thought you were reformed :)

Lora said...

LOL. Well, there are similarities, especially with baptism. Now, Holy Communion....whole 'nother story.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Barb the Evil Genius said...

One of my Evangelical friends from college was baptized as a baby but "feels" she wants to do it again "as an expression of her own faith." Sob.

Christopher said...

"If baptism is only symbolic, what difference does it make who is baptized? You're right; none of this "accepting Jesus" stuff is Scriptural."

hahaha! That's awesome, Barb. Stellar point. Thank you for that brain-candy.

Thursday's Child said...

Great one! I think I'll be linking to it too.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


I struggled through the rebaptism issue for several years, and came close several times to doing so. The altar call, thankfully, always stood in my way.

I never doubted that my baptism was valid, but I did resent that my parents made that decision for me. Then my Baptist pastor gave a sermon on the text that compares baptism and circumcision and said "that is why you shouldn't baptize babies." I didn't follow his logic.

But a greater thinking through of the fact that it is God that does the saving through baptism, not me is what did it. Don't know if that will help your friend, or the fact that if she is in Evangelical circles, the fact that she will be told repeatedly, and possibly kept from things because she's "not really baptized."

Amazing how much emotional baggage they still tie on something that is "merely symbolic of something that already has happened."

Anonymous said...

and be baptized every one of you
in the name of Jesus
for the forgiveness of sins,
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,
for the promise is to you and TO YOUR CHILDREN."

How can this possibly be used to say you should baptise children, especially infants?

Surely when whoever says "Repent, and be baptized every one of you" they can not be talking to the infants. Do you think an infant has the ability to comprehend the language and understand the rquests made upon them? or even more importantly the effects of their decision to do as told?

Further this quote could be better used to argue against infant baptism with the "and to your children" comment.

how many infants do you know that have children?
more importantly and less rediculous then that though is that by the parent being baptized then the parents children "shall receive the gift of the holy spirit". So if the child has already received the gift of the holy spirit through their parents baptism, then why baptize children?

Minnesota said...

Hi, RPW,

I'm new to your blog, and I have an honest question for you. Say you have your child baptized and they go on to live a very corrupt life, cheating, lying and stealing. Then they die, still in their sin. Do you think that because they were baptized as an infant they will still go to heaven? And when, if repentance is not preached along with baptism, did this child have a chance to repent? Thanks in advance for taking your time to answer!


orrologion said...

I think the mindset is similar, though not the same as, the reasons given for not communing children. While one may not agree that children should be communed, it is a window into the pattern of thought that is also behind being against infant baptism.

It is also a topic that allows one to consider the role Tradition plays in one's faith and practice.