Happy Baptism birthday to me

I didn’t grow up a Lutheran, so I don’t have the Baptismal sponsors or the Baptism anniversaries that lifelong Lutherans generally do.  But not too long ago, I discovered my Baptismal certificate.  It happened on April 10, 1960.  You non-Lutherans will appreciate that it was not an infant baptism.  I was 9.  It was a believer’s baptism.  I remember the fervency of my faith, though I suspect I did not have all that much more theological understanding than an infant.  It was by immersion.  I remember it vividly and it was a true religious experience for me at that young age.  I remember the exultation I felt, the sense of being clean, the sense of being Christ’s.  Such feelings, of course, aren’t necessary, but it’s nice to be able to actually “remember my baptism.”

Why are traditions that don’t put all that much emphasis on Baptism actually doing anything such sticklers about its mode?  When I became a Lutheran, my having been baptized in this way was considered quite valid.

At any rate, who else can remember his or her baptism?  What other Lutherans were baptized as adults?  Those of you in churches that don’t baptized infants, how old does someone have to be before he or she can offer a profession of faith and be baptized?  Those of you who only practice “adult” baptism must remember when this happened to you.  What was it like, and what did it mean to you?  Just church membership, just obeying a law, or was there a sense of the gospel, of dying and rising with Christ?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Kathy

    I did not grow up in a Christian household, but started going to a Baptist church with an elderly neighbor when I was 9. What I recall most vividly was not liking or thinking that people should have to participate in an altar call to be a Christian, to be part of the church. One spring, when I was 11 or 12 we had a “revival.” I remember sitting with my Sunday school class at a special class before the regular service; I decided that the group was intimate enough that I could go forward and profess my faith during this class/service. However, after doing that, I was told that I’d need to come forward again during the altar call at the regular service that morning. That was very upsetting for a young kid who was coming alone, without family, to church.

    I was baptized by immersion some time later. Like Dr. Veith, I would say that I didn’t have much theological understanding. The baptismal area was one of those window-like areas, above and behind the altar; rather cool to watch if you’ve never seen it before. What I remember most was my parents, grandparents, and aunts all came to the service. I do find it comforting to be able to remember my baptism and to share it with others.

  • nativetxn

    I was baptized at age 11-remember it as a very meaningful step in my life. about 12 years later I became a Lutheran, but my Christian walk began with my baptism. My dad was an unbeliever at the time(has since been baptized himself) so my believing mother was the only one who came, besides my younger sister was baptized also.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ the Old Adam

    I was three months old. Don’t remember a thing. But I have since learned the great promises that God made to me when He Baptized me that morning. And I return to those promises quite often when I begin to look around, or at myself, and see the mess that I can see with my eyes.

    Happy RE- Birthday, Gene!

  • Tom Hering

    I remember my adult re-baptism when I attended a Baptist church for a couple of years, in the early ’90s. Yech.

  • Heidi

    My husband was baptized as an adult in the Lutheran church before we were married. I think for both of us it signaled his desire to be part of and share my church and faith. I grew up in a church that practiced believers baptism until my parents divorced and I was introduced into the Lutheran church; I was baptized as an infant, however, into the LCMs church per my grandparents request.
    As for whether there is an age for believer’s baptism…. I know of no one from my childhood non Lutheran churches who was baptized at age 9. In fact I know of someone who was turned down at age 10 because the elders did not think she was able to make such a decision (scandal!). Decades ago it was age 16-18; too much before was too young, too much later and everyone wondered what you were up to. Now, I believe 12-15 is the “appropriate” or even expected age that my hometown’s churches are baptizing. But don’t worry if it took you longer to come to baptism, because it’s all about your personal journey through life ;)

  • Joe

    Happy Baptismal birthday!

    I don’t remember mine, but my wife was baptized after we were married and it was a great day! She was in an Assemblies of God Church when we met and wanted to be baptized but did not feel comfortable with all of the goofy ceremony that came with it in that Church. After we married, we started working on finding a church as a family, I grew up Lutheran and she grew up whatever way the wind was blowing her dad at the moment. We spent a lot of time studying the doctrines of various churches and the differences between the various Lutheran denominations. Ultimately, we became LCMS Lutherans.

  • Scott L.

    I remember my baptism into the LCMS congregation my stepfather was a member of when I was almost 7. My mother remarried a couple of months prior & joined the congregation on the same day. I remember standing & leaning over the baptismal font, & my aunt, who served as my godmother, saying later that she was glad I was tall enough to do that because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to pick me up. I remember the day as one of the most significant early steps in my faith walk, not for what I did — or my parents in bringing me to the font — but for God claiming me as His own. I fondly remember our children’s baptisms, both of them as infants, & marveling at God’s grace upon them at those moments.

    A close friend of mine from college (both of us attended a Concordia together) was a DCE & camp director when he & his wife were pregnant with their 1st child. They were moving away from the Lutheran understanding of baptism toward “believer’s baptism”, & were not intending on baptizing the child as an infant; in the process he lost his job as director at the Lutheran camp he served. He asked me & some other friends from college to study baptism with him, & while unable to convince him of the biblical support for infant baptism, I came to the understanding that infant baptism was the greatest picture of how God works to bring us to faith. Just as the infant is helpless to come to the font under his or her own power, we are carried on the arms of the Holy Spirit by God’s grace to His salvation & riches of new life in Christ!

  • Robin

    I was baptized at 14 and then at 27 because I had a huge crisis and thought I wasn’t a Christian when baptized at 14. It was a horrible experience really and the despair returned two years after my last baptism. As I have said before, during that despair, I heard Dr. Rosenbladt and the gospel given that day was a significant point in my life. So, I was not rebaptized a third time and I refuse to again.

  • Abby

    After I read C. S. Lewis’ book, “Pilgrims Regress,” I had a strong attraction to being baptized again. (Lifelong Lutheran, baptized as infant.) But I kept remembering the creed, “one baptism for the remission of sins.” I decided that even though I didn’t remember my baptism I didn’t need to do it again. I already had/have it. God did not do a partial or incomplete work just because I was a baby. He gives what He promises.

  • sg

    I don’t understand the re-baptism thing.

  • Steve Billingsley

    I was baptized as a 16 year old (I was definitely an adult convert, no grey area there). It was an amazing, life-changing experience for me. It was in a United Methodist Church that had a baptismal pool (stop and ponder that for a moment) and when I came up out of the water – the congregation stood and applauded and the pastor embraced me as I broke down in tears. I will never forget it. November 3, 1983.

    I love infant baptism and am not a “re-baptizer” theologically speaking…but baptism of adult converts can be an incredibly moving experience for everyone involved.

    Happy baptism birthday, Dr. Veith!

  • Gene Veith

    Some churches require you to be re-baptized when you join their congregations. If you were to join a Baptist church, you would have to be re-baptized if you were only baptized as an infant, or if you were baptized even as an adult but not by total immersion, and sometimes even if you were immersed in another baptist church (perhaps one the congregation was not in fellowship with–I’m not totally sure how that works, so maybe someone could explain). The forebears of the Baptists were called “ana-baptists” during the Reformation, meaning “re-baptizing”). They do not believe in any kind of baptismal regeneration, and yet they are sticklers on baptism, as evident in their very name. I believe that’s because they see baptism not in terms of God’s work (as Lutherans do, as Gospel), but as what human beings have to do in order to be obedient to God (as Law), so you’d better do it right. (I intend no disrespect to Baptists or to any other theological perspectives, and invite those of non-Lutheran persuasions to explain these practices better than I am doing, as well as to share their own memories of when they were baptized.)

  • Darren A. Jones

    Happy baptismal birthday, Dr. Veith.

    I was baptized in a small holiness denomination (some might classify it as a cult) called the Kingdom. We practiced only believers’ baptism by full immersion, and the “normal” age was somewhere around 8-10. Those who joined the church were required to be re-baptized before taking Communion (even those who had been baptized as adults by immersion).
    I can remember the wonderful feeling of coming up out of the water, knowing that I was washed clean of my sin.
    I remember the Kingdom’s beliefs on baptism being explained to me as follows: when you were saved, God covered over your sin like scribbling over words on a chalkboard. Baptism was washing the board. It was definitely God’s work, not ours. At least, that’s the way I saw it as a child.
    My children have all been baptized as infants/young children in a continuing Anglican church. And as much as I theologically agree with our decision to bring them to the font early, I feel sorry that they will miss watching the water closing over their heads and then being raised to new life in Christ. (Yes, I kept my eyes open for my baptismal plunge :) )

  • sg

    @12

    I was baptised as an adult, aged 15, in an SBC baptist church, and I remember clearly the pastor always said when people joined the church, “We do not re-baptise people.” If a person had ever been baptised at any time in his life, even as an infant, in any regular Christian church like Methodist or Roman Catholic (not Mormon etc.) then they only need make profession of faith and letter of transfer in order to join. Was my pastor back then a renegade? I mean, he sure never seemed like one.

  • sg

    I agree that adult baptism is something one does not forget, but how about confirmation for those who went through that process? Is that similarly memorable for those of you who confirmed your baptism?

  • sg

    Okay, I googled baptist church rebaptism and found this very interesting and thoughtful article criticizing the practice of re-baptising in baptist churches.
    http://westmainbaptist.com/broben/the-problem-of-rebaptism-in-sbc-churches

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Baptized at 3 months, so no memories. Recently discovered that my wife had been baptized the same day(and year), 250 km away….

  • Robin

    My second baptism was not a good experience because I felt pressure. That baptism signified that I was saying that I was “serious” this time. But, what if I soon lacked that same fortitude or seriousness? Would I have to get baptized over and over? I felt nervous afterwards because I then began to second guess my motives. Was I really a Christian or did I just want to get rid of my despair? I began to panic after a while because I thought that I needed to be baptized again. (three years later) I realized that I might have become that hampster on the wheel.

  • helen

    We had an interesting addition to our Easter Vigil this year: five baptisms (one adult, four children old enough to remember it) and a couple of adult confirmations to follow.

  • Rich

    I was baptized as an infant in the LCMS church in which I was raised and confirmed, so I don’t “remember” it. During my high school and young adult years, I went through a period of doubt about the power of baptism, fueled by discussions with many friends who were from “believer-baptism” churches. I had a much easier time understanding the sacramental power of the Lord’s Supper, but Baptism took much longer to sink in. Still, the words of the Small Catechism that I had not-so-enthusiastically memorized stuck with me: “For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” I thank God that this stayed with me, because this truth later blossomed through sound Bible teaching which led to seminary and a call into the ministerium of the LCMS. I may not “remember” the actual pouring of water, but in understanding baptism, it has become the backbone of who I am in Christ and my daily life as a Christian. It is what I weave into every Bible study and sermon possible (which is actually quite easy). I had the privilege of baptizing my two infant children as a pastor, which was a tremendous joy and blessing. That indeed, I do remember!

  • Tony

    Happy Born-Again Day!!!
    (I get to celebrate my Baptismal birthday this June…because I finally tracked down when it is!!)

  • Cattail

    I was baptized as an adult, age 23. It was definitely a profound experience, but my attitude was, why didn’t this happen a long time ago? My parents called themselves “agnostics,” so I wasn’t baptized as an infant, and I always regretted that–something was missing all the time I was growing up.

    On the other hand, ever since I’ve had a special love for all those going through adult baptism. Also, when I was teaching Sunday School and Wednesday School, I tried to remind the children of their baptism in every class.

  • fjsteve

    I was 7 years old when I was baptized in the Southern Baptist Church. Prayed the sinner’s prayer at a revival during Vacation Bible School, walked the aisle the following Sunday–where I nervously offered the pastor my left hand rather than my right–and baptized shortly thereafter. Being prone to emotionality even as a youngster, I was full of tears during my profession but the only emotion I felt during my baptism in front of the whole congregation was petrifying fear.

    Following the sense of relief and cleansing of my sins, I met with an elderly neighbor who promptly informed me of all of the things I would have to stop doing.

  • helen

    fjsteve @ 23
    I met with an elderly neighbor who promptly informed me of all of the things I would have to stop doing.
    Note to Lutherans: “Don’t take fjs fishing unless you bring another Baptist along?” :)

  • fjsteve

    helen,

    Don’t worry, I’m no longer affiliated with SBC or adhere to Baptist-specific theology…

    …not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • The Jones

    I was baptized in the 5th grade. I remember this because I had an awesome (to a fifth grader) watch that I had gotten at Christmas that had a Marvin the Martian Looney Tune whose actual arms and hands pointed to what time it was on the clock face. As I went out with the group into the water of the open lake in which our church was conducting the baptism ,with everybody watching from the shore, I suddenly realized in horror that I was wearing my watch AND IT WASN’T WATERPROOF.

    My mind raced, it was an immersion baptism. Why? Because we love Jesus, that’s why. (End sarcastic Christian joke) But unfortunately, this method of the sacrament precluded the possibility of me continuing to hold my hand above the water to save my beloved possession from its imminent death. I went underwater, I came back up, I looked at my watch, and waited. A second passed. Nothing. Just wait another, maybe that one was a fluke. Nope. Nothing Sure enough, my treasured watch was not ticking.

    Unfortunately, this care for my watch meant that all the supposed-to-be-inspiring pictures of my emergence from the water and into a new life as a publicly professing Christian involve me staring intently at my wrist, trying to check the time. I feel like this is some great metaphor for putting away your past life and placing your trust in Christ, but honestly I’m still mad at myself for not leaving that darn watch with my shoes on the beach.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    Maybe we should all get rebaptized…whether we need it or not….

    I couldn’t help but think of Ray Stevens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K16fG1sDagU&list=PLA15993240110278E&index=1

  • Abby

    Saddler @27 Some churches could use a squirrel being turned loose! :)

  • helen

    I’m sure glad I came back to wish you a Happy Baptismal Birthday, Dr Veith!
    It would have been a shame to miss the squirrel revival!!

  • George A. Marquart

    On 31 March of this year I celebrated the 76th anniversary of my Baptism. I have a Certificate of Baptism issued by the Estonian Government. This was the government, later referred to by the Soviets as the “Bourgeois Republic”, which existed before they occupied the country in 1940. Years ago, many European governments issued Baptismal Certificates, as opposed to these being issued by the church in which you were baptized.

    Beginning in 1979, and off and on until 1997, I was a member of a congregation known as “The Protestant Chaplaincy of Moscow”. Clergy for it were supplied by 5 leading Protestant denominations from the U.S.A., including Lutherans (ELCA) and the Baptists. As part of their agreement to serve the congregations, the Baptists had to agree to perform infant Baptism when asked to do so. All of the Baptist clergy complied. Over the time of my membership, I think there were 3 or 4 Baptist clergy, who served 3 or 4 year terms. I always thought this was a little hypocritical, but then I realized that should any of those people baptized as infants ever want to become Baptists, they would simply re-baptize them. I don’t agree with the Baptist doctrine of Baptism to begin with, but this seemed downright dishonest to me.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • mikeb

    KK-

    My wife and I were baptized on the same day, too, but as twenty-something “infants” in an LCMS congregation. We’re on our third congregation now and what joy to see our children baptized and raised “in the way they should go.”

    Some years later I got to assist the baptist pastor who baptized my father. He need someone to help “catch”–needless to say, I got wetter at his baptism than my own.

  • Becky F.

    My nephew was just baptized in November at 7 years old in the non-denom church where my sister and her husband attend. About a year before, when he was 6, he expressed faith during Sunday school and was led through the sinner’s prayer by his teacher, and then expressed a desire to be baptized. He was deemed “not ready” by their pastor because as a 6 year old boy (big surprise!) he kept bringing up his favorite video games during the talks with the pastor over what the “faith and obedience” part of baptism means. The Lutherans in the family were a little outraged that their pastor made him wait for a whole year, being that the Ethiopian Eunuch didn’t even have to wait a day. Also, he was a little afraid to put his head underwater. And the pastor wanted to see if other people also wanted to be baptized so that they could do a bunch of them at one time and make filling the baptistry really worth it.
    My nephew had to write a short little testimony thing to read right before he was baptized (which made sure to include the words “faith and obedience”, and according to my mother, who actually attended his baptism (we didn’t, being that my husband is a LCMS pastor and I didn’t want to bring our children there by myself), apparently they made a point to mention that baptism does not forgive sins, etc, but it is done out of faith and obedience. It was also a communion Sunday, and they apparently also made a point to mention that the Lord’s Supper is done for the same reason, but it does not forgive sins or do anything but it is a remembrance.

  • Pingback: Washed by the water: Thoughts on getting baptized as a believer | JL DESIGNS


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