What’s the deal with infant baptism?

Kia Ora! First of all, it’s good to be back from our trip to the States where we were able to introduce our daughter, Emersyn (Emmy), to family and friends for the first time.

Last night, as most of you reading this will know, we had the privilege and honour to baptise our 7 month old daughter, Emmy. If you were there you know that Hamish did an awesome job of explaining the history behind the divide between what is called “believer’s baptism” and infant baptism. Hope Presbyterian church (especially at the Hornby site), in recent years has adopted a dominant culture of believer’s baptism – that is adults and youth group aged people who have decided on their own to follow Christ. They show that they can, have, and will continue to repent from their sins and therefore they are able to make the public declaration of faith in Christ Jesus through baptism (usually done by full immersion under water). It must be close to 20 years since the last infant baptism was done in Hornby (I think it was Nathan Ferguson), that is until last night.

Hamish explained the theology behind infant baptism – the brunt of which states that God’s grace is extended to each of us, not of our own accord, but by his, before we can even comprehend or accept it. Thus, the tradition of infant baptism in the church honours God’s grace and the place of belonging for children in the Kingdom of God.

In an adult baptism the choice to become part of the Kingdom of God seems to rest on the individual choosing to be baptised. But an infant baptism really emphasizes the fact that before we even know what’s going on God loved us; grace is a free gift given to us without any choice on our part being made.

 

My wife, Joce, and I agree with this, and the way Hamish presented it. And because he emphasized that the purpose of infant baptism is to acknowledge GOD’S ROLE, he explained that OUR decision to have Emmy baptised is secondary to God’s choosing of her. Therefore, we weren’t really asked for our reasons for wanting to do this. So allow me to do that now.

 

***Please use this forum for share thoughts and questions you may have. Discussion around such things are important for the life of the church.***

 

We see infant baptism ultimately as a sign of covenant. We are the people of God and live under the new covenant issued in Christ Jesus. That covenant extends to Emmy through us as her parents (although Hamish argued that God’s love and grace (and covenant, I suppose) is extended to children regardless of their parents’ faith). The Old Testament sign of the covenant people of God was circumcision. This was obviously only for the men. The women were included through birth and marriage without anything extra being done. In the New Testament, and for the church, the sign of the covenant people of God is baptism. Just as Jewish children were circumcised, Christian children were baptised into the family of God.

And that’s the key for us. Being baptised represents a belonging to the Kingdom of God.

Emersyn is a complete miracle for us. We were literally told there was ZERO chance for us to be able to conceive naturally. And just 2 months before we were going to start IVF we found out we were having a baby naturally. Emmy will grow up knowing just how much of a role God played in her existence and in her every day life. AND she will grow up knowing that she belongs in the Kingdom of God! And she will belong until the day she decides differently; until she denies or rejects Christ outright. WHICH, hopefully, through the support of you (the church), the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit, the instruction of the Scriptures, and through us, as faithful parents that will NEVER happen.

But one of the biggest differences for me between infant baptism and adult is that (and this really only applies to Christian familes) by not having your child baptised because of a desire to see them make their own decision, we’re basically saying they DO NOT belong in the Kingdom until THEY decide they do. Whereas an infant baptism affirms that they are a part of the Kingdom until THEY decide they aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong! I am all for a believer’s baptism too! Its’ only because of the unique history of Hope Presbyterian Church in Hornby that I feel I need to explain in full our theology on the matter. I guess they way I see it is that adult baptisms are primarily for people who are not brought up in the faith. Once they encounter Christ, repent, and decide to follow him wholeheartedly, then they are baptised to show that. But I do understand why some Christian parents would hold off on infant baptism in the hope that their child will grow up to choose to love God and follow Jesus. So, I’m not saying that adult baptisms are “wrong” by any means.

 

The bottom line is that I believe God chose our daughter, Emersyn, before we or she knew anything about it, and this was our way of acknowledging and honouring God’s love, grace, providence, and sovereignty! Emmy’s baptism is about her belonging to God and that’s why we had it done last night at the Living Room.

Thank you to all of you who were there – those who came to support Emersyn, and those who came to learn more about what was happening and why we had it done this way.

 

Blessings!

 

-jono

 

questions for group discussion:

what are your views on baptism, and how did they develop?

 

Reformed theology on baptism says that children are believers and belong to the family of God because their parents are believers and belong. Baptist theology, on the other hand, essentially says the opposite – children are not believers and do not belong to God’s family until they decide to believe and be baptised (which is why in some churches children are pressured at a young age to “decide” to be baptised). What are you thoughts on the two views?

 

Another issue that commonly comes up in the debate AGAINST adult baptism (which, again, is NOT what I am doing. I’m just providing some points of discussion in opposition to a view that has had virtually no opposition in 20+ years here) is: At what age is it acceptable for a person to make a sound decision to be baptised? Studies show that our brains are not fully developed until well in our 20s, yet it’s fully acceptable for teenagers to be baptised under the “believer’s baptism” umbrella. Where would you draw a line? 10 years? 13? 5? At what point do you consider it acceptable to be a true believer?

 

Do you feel that it’s acceptable to be baptised more than once?

  4 comments for “What’s the deal with infant baptism?

  1. Cameron
    May 22, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    I though it might be interesting to raise a counter argument, for the sake of discussion, you said ” we’re basically saying they DO NOT belong in the Kingdom until THEY decide they do. Whereas an infant baptism affirms that they are a part of the Kingdom until THEY decide they aren’t.” but Acts 2:38 seems to argue that faith is a prerequisite for baptism. Paul uses body of Christ imagery to talk about the church, but is he merely using it as an analogy or attesting to something deeper. Because if it’s just a metaphor then isn’t baptism an outward act of an inward change that has already occurred in the believer? I’ll end here because otherwise this will become an essay stating both sides.

    • jonathanbarb
      May 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      hey, thanks for your comment. it’s certainly something a lot of people would argue. I think that’s absolutely true for adults, especially pagans who knew nothing of God before hand. They would need to show repentance, which would then lead to baptism making it, as you said, an outward action due to an inward change. But that’s for people who don’t have the faith. As for my house (and Joshua’s too, lol), we will serve the Lord. that means we’re already believers and there’s no reason to NOT include our child. Therefore, under covenant theology, it’s perfectly acceptable, I believe, for a child of believers to be baptised into the faith, family, and kingdom.

  2. Christine
    May 22, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    I loved Hamish’s explanation of appropriating the water’s of Baptism to allow full immersion for confirmation. Coming form a church where infant baptism is the more usual route my husband and I had been torn as to whether to have a baptism or a dedication – mainly as I had always been told it was a one off deal and I felt that I had missed out by not being able to have a full immersion baptism when I confessed my faith.

  3. Ross McKerras
    June 25, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Good for you, Jono and Joce, for having the courage to do that, and then presenting such a clear and brief explanation. I feel it’s important for our church to allow divergent views on such issues.

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