I don’t do “infant baptism” but I have definitely baptised infants…

What’s the difference?  There is more than one way of thinking about baptism, and this is often forgotten.

Many people think of baptism as a form of naming ceremony for children.  The word “Christening” is often used in this context.  This is a bit confusing because the original meaning of the word “Christen” was to “Make Christian”.  Adults would take on a new name as a sign that they had begun a new life. 

Many Christians think in terms of “believers baptism”.  This is rooted in the words of Jesus in Mark 16:16.  Peter calls people to “repent and be baptised” on the Day of Pentecost, and there is an implied link between belief or repentance in most of the biblical passages that refer to baptism.

I am not arguing against “believers baptism”.  I think it makes sense as a model.  It certainly helps us to understand baptism in relation to individual belief and has been hugely helpful for many people.

What I do want to suggest is that there are other alternatives.  There are other ways of understanding baptism which are equally helpful but reflect different biblical themes.

New Testament texts about baptism also refer to “households“, the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, inclusion in the Body of Christ, or acceptance by the Church community.  These texts reflect a more corporate understanding of baptism, which implies membership of the living community of Christ.

I tend to think in these terms.  I don’t feel the need for confirmation as a way of “making promises for yourself” – as if baptism is not complete until this has been done.  Baptism is a sign of God’s grace through which a person is welcomed into the Christian community.  It is the community which promises to nurture the faith of the member, not the member who must prove their worthiness.

There is no recognised term for this.  I don’t do “infant baptism” or “believers baptism”.  I do like the idea of “pilgrim baptism” but I may be alone in this… 

Either way, I think those of us who baptise infants need to be more positive about why we do this and more confident in the communal theology of baptism that it demonstrates.  

“For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”  (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Categories: BibleWorship

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