This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity comes from Gary, a Lutheran pastor:
This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity cames from Drew:
Hi Tony, The haunting question that I want to submit is this: Does anything REALLY happen to a baby’s spirit at its baptism? I am NOT a Baptist in the sense that I think it is a requirement as a Christian to be baptized as a “believer.” But I don’t think that infant baptism is magic. In fact, it makes more sense to me to have babies grow up in church and decide for themselves if they want to be baptized.
I am the youth minister at a baby-baptizing Congregational church, and my wife and I decided to not have our son baptized. In spite of this, I don’t believe that anyone should force a person to be re-baptized if he or she was baptized as an infant. So I guess that means that I think infant baptism is “valid.”
But what MAKES it valid? What happens in that infant baptism? It seems that SOMETHING has to happen, or else it really isn’t anything. And it seems that that “something” should happen in the spirit of the baby because baptism is supposed to a spiritual event. But I guess I have some doubts about this. So, does something really happen in a baby’s spirit at its baptism?
Many great comments here, deeply delving into exegesis of Paul, and even references to Melchizedek. Because the biblical ground was covered in the comments to the post, I’ll go another direction.
I am a young pastor in Chicago with the Evangelical Covenant. I just read your book A Better Atonement and I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve struggled with the doctrine of Original Sin for a long while, but I’ve been thinking about how this, if at all, changes my view of baptism. I don’t believe that original sin is necessary for baptism but as I try to formulate my sacramentology I thought I’d ask if you had any thoughts.
Sam, it’s no surprise that this question comes from a working pastor. Unlike so many of the questions we’ve tackled in this series, this is not a theoretical question of systematic theology, but a practical question of pastoral theology. Like you, I watched many families who were negligibly connected to the congregation show up with their six-week old infant, sit through a baptism class, and proceed to the front of the sanctuary on Sunday. There they sat, awkward as can be in the front row. Meanwhile, the congregation dutifully smiled and laughed when the baby cried because the deacons forgot to warm up the water. I watched all this as a pastor, knowing full well that we’d never see that family again. They were getting their kid baptized because that’s what grandpa and grandma wanted.