Open Thread on Baptism

Joey, “The Charismanglican” recently made some comments and asked some questions in regards to baptism, especially Credo vs Paedo Baptism.  I think that perhaps it takes that particular post a bit off topic but I thought it a thread we might like to discuss and even though I do not currently have time to give a detailed response, I at least wanted to see if his comments would elicit any reactions.
Being soon to baptize my own children and having been raised a Credo Baptist, I think it would be fun to chat.
January 19, 2010 at 12:47 e

A slight change of direction. Let me give some background only to make sense of what I’m going to say at the end…which has everything to do with those personal experiences attributed to Christianity.

I come from a background where baptism is chosen by the baptized as an initiation into Christianity.

Now I’m in the Episcopal church, which baptizes infants.

I have a strong appreciation of catholic theology regarding the baptism of infants, but other theological hang-ups leave me unwilling to baptize my kids without their own desire. These stem from a stubborn belief that grace is big enough to not worry about their discipleship and a strong belief that baptism is an act of political allegiance…which can only be taken willingly.

I don’t want this to become a referendum on baptism and hijack this excellent post…all this was preface for this part:

My son Kyler just turned 12 and was telling me that he wanted to be baptized. I asked him if he understood what baptism is and talked to him about death, burial and resurrection. To be fair, I gave him as many reasons not to get baptized as reasons to get baptized. Counting the cost.

In particular, I told him this:

One day you will wonder why you got baptized. You will look out at the world and think to yourself: “I’m not sure God exists. I’m not sure that I’m willing to follow Jesus past this point.”

And that is when I and the rest of the Church will say to you, “It doesn’t matter. You are no longer your own. You made a promise and you are bound to keep it no matter how you feel. That’s the faith you signed up for…to die to yourself and to live by things unseen (or in this case, unfelt).”

This attitude of mine is probably a reaction (overreaction?) to the emotionalism of my youth…which never served me well in times of depression or serious paradigm shifts.

It’s time to see Christianity as something more like adoption or marriage or citizenship (metaphors that are scriptural). To break an adoption or a marriage or citizenship, it takes more than a vague feeling that you made a commitment that you no longer want to keep, or that you’re not sure you fit in.

No, it takes an act of will that says: “I’m not going to keep my promises anymore.”

Of course, there are reasons that certain promises can be broken. However, the very nature of all these promises (especially, in my experience, getting married or having children), are that you have NO idea what you’re getting into when you make them.

It is no small thing to break a promise. Especially in a Jewish religion such as Christianity. YHWH is a promise-making God.

He also added this:

Writing that out made me realize something funny…

Before someone is baptized, I see their feelings as fairly important in the equation. They are an individual, so to speak.

After someone is baptized, I see their feelings as secondary or tertiary. They are interdependent, so to speak.

It appears I believe that crucifying yourself high individualism might be a significant political meaning of baptism in this age.



  1. Thanks for opening this sort of discussion.

    First I want to apologize for the long comment in the other thread. The point of my comment was dealing with the emotional versus the volitional aspects of our faith…which would have been on topic. I’m afraid I gave enough background to get the train on a different set of rails…so sorry.

    The influence of a more ‘catholic’ view of paedo baptism is already evident in my comment: viewing baptism as a form of grace, comparing it to adoption (which, we can assume for the child, is not chosen).

    I’m also influenced by a great book called Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp. There is a lot of evidence that baptism came after catechesis and that paedo-baptism was an Constantinian innovation (I’m being too simple).

    Stanley Hauerwas said that if all the Christians stopped having children Christianity would continue because it grows not through child-bearing but witness. Of course, he’s an Anglican now.

    Finally I would want to point out that the credo-baptist tradition I came to faith in still saw baptism as a grace and as covenantal. We saw it (like the catholic tradition) as initiation into the covenant. What differs is that we saw circumcision not as initiation into the Hebrew covenant, but as the ‘sign’ of that covenant. Because of Jesus’ deconstruction of the place of family within covenant relationship with YHWH, I’m hung up on the idea that we should be paleo-theological on this.

    Of course, I have a massive amount of church history and practice against me. But then, the same goes for non-violence, and yet I see it as something essential getting lost.

    In short, I see baptism with a similar lens as non-violence…something that we lost when the church stopped understanding itself as a different citizenship then the earthly city.

    PHEW. This stuff is important to me. I have four children and am intent on them understanding the difference between church and world. Ready to listen and learn from my younger, smarter brothers 🙂


  2. I also have hang-ups about baptizing infants, though I understand the case for it. I suspect the divide lies in whether one sees baptism as something you do (the Protestant definition of baptism as an intentional public statement of faith,) or something which is done to you (the Catholic/Orthodox definition of baptism as the conferring of God’s covenant of grace.) In the first case baptism is, as the Charismanglican wrote above, a political act which makes a statement in the public sphere. In the second case it is, as the charismanglican also wrote above, a cultural act which bonds one in a personal relationship of trust (in other words, makes one part of a family.) This sounds like an either/or, but in both cases the end is the same: one is bonded to the Church.

    Instead of seeing them as variants of the same practice, I would argue that they’re actually two different practices that look similar. Credobaptism is a statement of the individual’s intention to be loyal to the Church. Pedobaptism is a statement of the Church’s intention to be loyal to the individual. With this in mind, one might argue for practicing both. First the Church promises to be unconditionally trustworthy to the individual, later the individual — having come of age and consciously assented — confirms and reciprocates.

    (I should mention I recently read Williams’ Tokens of Trust, which has apparently affected me more than I thought.)


    1. To all and sundry,

      Fr. Matt – I look forward to reading your sermons

      For both Jordan and Joey in their own ways,

      Rather than mention anything about nature and grace I want to make a point as this is something I needed to work though to become comfortable with paedo baptism, to which I was at first resistant.

      I am raising my children as Christians. Now that is by no means generally a controversial statement. But I want to draw attention to two words in that sentence. “I” and “am.” There is nothing that my daughters can do about this reality. In time they can rebel if they want but they will be rebelling against a choice that I made on their behalf concerning which they had absolutely zero, zilch, no say. Indeed, I will go beyond this. If I chose not to raise them as Christians my family would most certainly step in and encourage them to go to church and do what was in their authority to introduce them as young as possible to Jesus Christ and his Church.

      This seems to me to be something unaccounted for by your statements Joey. You may have given your children advice and admonition about baptism and discipleship but it’s already too late for that. Having already raised them as Christians, even any “choice” to enter into the Sacrament of Baptism will be predicated on a life of non-choice in matters of their Christian faith. So that even a choice not to be baptized is in reference to a reality in their own life over which they had no control.

      In this life, there is far more that shapes us that we cannot master than that which we can, so that it becomes dangerous to assume that we are “selves” in any late modern sense (yes I’m going there). And I know you don’t intend to promote a notion of the human being as a “cogito,” a thinking ‘thing;’ but it seems instructive to notice that the rise of the solo, rights-bearing, genetically complete, free choosing individual coincided with the increasing rejection of the social and catholic practice of Baptism.

      And I’ll readily admit it…Rowan Williams certainly solidified my own thinking on this matter. See especially in his “On Christian Theology,” chapters 13 and 14 – “The Nature of a Sacrament” and “Sacraments of the New Society”


  3. I need to read that book, for sure.

    I’m going to disagree a bit. Credo-baptism MUST be understood as something which is done to you AND as the means of conferring God’s grace. That’s not where the disagreement (for me) lies.

    Baptism should not be seen as a public statement of my own faith or any statement primarily. It should rather be seen as being united with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

    So the political ‘act’ is not getting it done, but allowing it to be done to you. Receiving.

    It’s a different politic, one of a grace economy. One of submission and patience. Dying to self.

    My hang up is how can an infant do this? I’m not yet catholic enough to fear that God won’t confer grace on unbaptized children (or even others). If they’re going to be a part of the Church, they’re going to have to give their fiat mihi. Why baptize until then?


  4. Fr. Matt – great sermons. Very powerful and what a great way to contextualize the gospel while drawing on the scriptures and the saints at Le Chambon. It’s true that having my children baptized would certainly cure a strange contradiction in their upbringing. I tell them that when someone takes our basketball we give it away. I tell them that when someone hits us we don’t hit back. Because we’re Christians. But then I tell them that I don’t want them eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ until they’re baptized. In other words…we’re Christians, but you’re not really Christians yet. It’s a contradiction that eats at me. I’m learning to love and trust tradition…but my experience and scriptural understanding seem at odds with the tradition. My baptism was much like the men in Acts chapter two: what do I do? Repent and be baptized. Pray for me? Thanks for giving me your wisdom.

    Hunt – I see that line…that place where I trust Church tradition a helluva lot more and let down the last vestiges of ‘choice’. I’m with you almost all the way. I should definitely read the Archbishop on these things.


  5. Sitting across the pond I think one thing that strikes me is just how individualistic American culture is and so I would see Joey’s statement “baptism is an act of political allegiance…which can only be taken willingly” as symptomatic of such individualism. Of course it is too easy to paint with broad brush strokes and I hope no offense is taken. I am English by birth, not by choice. The Queen is my sovereign because of who she is not by my choice. I am a brother not because I chose to have a sister. My name was chosen by my parents. My existence was not determined by me but by others….you get the point. The very nature of personhood is dependence, the food on your table is there because of others. The car on your drive was made by others, you are healthy because of the education and training of others. Choice is then, somewhat overrated. Jesus is king whether we like it or not, the choice is then do we seek to serve him and love others? But as Leithart has pointed out:

    the question “Should we baptize babies?” is of a piece with the question “Should we talk to babies?” Paedobaptism is neither more nor less odd and miraculous that talking to a newborn. In fact, that is just what paedobaptism is: God speaking in water to a newborn child.

    Let me take this a further step. If the child cannot understand what a parent is saying, is it rational for the parent to speak to him or her? Baptist parents as well as others speak to their infants, and do not expect the child to understand or to talk back for many months. They see nothing irrational in this. They speak to their children, that is, they employ symbols, not because they think the infant understands all that is being said or because they expect an immediate response. They speak to their children so that the child will learn to understand and talk back. So too, we baptize babies not because they can fully understand what is happening to them, nor because we expect them to undergo some kind of immediate moral transformation. We baptize them, and consistently remind them of their baptism and its implications, so that they will come to understanding and mature faith.


  6. I don’t know what kind of Baptists you have across the pond, Richard, but there is a strict “No speaking to babies rule” here.

    Great points, all. But be patient with an american brother, because I don’t think it’s that simple.

    You said: “Choice is then, somewhat overrated. Jesus is king whether we like it or not, the choice is then do we seek to serve him and love others?”

    So is the choice to seek to serve him and love others somewhat overrated, too?

    You see, I agree with you on nearly all points. Who we are is not determined by choice (or the capitalized “Choice”, since that is the very definition of freedom according to liberal democracy) primarily. I understand that our choices are in a world of symbols that we inherit. I get it.

    But when you talk about seeking to serve him and love others…to me baptism is seen as part of that.

    We don’t expect babies to turn the other cheek or give alms. We expect them to follow us in doing those things when it is in their power to do so. I could put a dollar bill in my baby’s hand and give it to a beggar, and that would be good teaching. But I wouldn’t say my baby is giving alms.

    In a sense, baptizing our children says that they belong to us.

    But in some sense they don’t belong to us at all. They are as strange to us as the person on the street. While we can love them, persuade them and influence them, we cannot control them. Christianity comes through witness.

    And, while I would talk to the person on the street, I wouldn’t baptize them…unless they asked.


  7. Charismanglican,

    Certainly fair points.

    How does Confirmation fit into your picture of discipleship and commitment? Keeping in mind that for Anglicans it is an Episcopal and therefore pneumatological event?


  8. Charismanglican, I’ll get back to you as I need to get off to our evening service. But there is definitely a distinction between the child of a believer and the adult on the street. More later. Remind me if I forget to get back to you, this week will be busy.


  9. I’m not exactly sure how confirmation fits. And I’m new enough to the Episcopal church to be embarrassingly deficient on it’s doctrine in this regard. So please read my foolishness and then educate me.

    I’m not sure the primitive church had confirmation. I’m under the impression that it arose after the lines between church and empire got blurry, when everyone is already a Christian so the only people to baptize are infants.

    If I’m at all right, confirmation arose to deal with a set of problems that might never have been. There was a time where disciples would have to go through a three-year catechism before being baptized, to participate or even to be there during eucharist (after the ministry of the Word). Wouldn’t this render confirmation unnecessary?

    By contrast, those of us in the church now feel we have to baptize our infants right away. Waiting three years to help them ‘count the cost’ of discipleship is nowhere on the radar for us.

    Of course, you could say that the earliest Christians did no such thing. They were baptized upon confession of faith. Then again, the examples we have of this are either Jews (who had long training in Torah communities) or we have an example of a ‘righteous’ Gentile who’s already speaking in tongues.

    So the long catechism arose in a persecuted church. It’s not necessarily normative, but arose because Christians needed to root out infiltrators and people who they couldn’t rely on.

    And catechism arose (?) in a church in a position of power, where it was assumed that most people were Christians.

    So what should the Church be doing now, in our present context (keeping in mind Scripture, Tradition, reason and experience)? She seems to be at a frightening ebb of faithfulness. The hand doesn’t say to the foot ‘I don’t need you’ because the hand and the foot don’t even know each other exist! (I’m exaggerating)

    Babies get baptized at St. Alban’s that will never see the church again. Nobody’s keeping their baptismal vow. The body of Christ is ‘dismembered’ into various ‘christianities’. It seems that anyone in america can self-identify as ‘christian’ without any visible signs that they have anything to do with the body of Christ. And I have no idea what it would take for someone in the Episcopal church to be called a heretic. As long as you’re nice you can pretty much believe or disbelieve anything you want.

    Maybe, at a time like this, a ‘counting the cost’ is even more appropriate. When we’re in danger not from persecution without, but from being indistinguishable from the world.

    Even if I was convinced that infants should be baptized (the earliest writings I have seen are permissive but not prescriptive) I still think we should retain some type of discipleship that means something.

    I’m all for “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You”. Just today I was astounded that God so graciously and generously invites us to his table. It’s amazing. But what we are welcoming people to is a terrible discipline – dying to yourself to follow a crucified messiah. A kingdom that is enmity to the world.

    I love the Church. I’m just praying that God would re-member her, and then perhaps cure her amnesia.

    And I’m not sure, given the politics of all this, that we should retain infant baptism.


  10. I just can’t decide which side of the argument to be on. I got baptized when I was 9, and I thought I understood my faith and I made the right confessions, but I am convinced now that I didn’t understand what it meant to be a Christian at all. Does that baptism still “count?” I think it does.

    When I was confirmed into the Episcopal church, I had a lot better idea of what I was getting into, but the elements of a free will political act, AND a freely conferred grace were both present. The sacrament was conferred on me (by a bishop no less), and at the same time I was recieved by my community as a member, (both things I could not do by myself), AND at the same time I made a public (and extremely political) baptismal vow before God and man. Don’t know where I’m going with this but…


  11. I swear…I have a Hauerwas quote for every situation. He’s just quotable.

    He said that the reason Christians get married in the church is so that we can hold them accountable to the promises they made when they didn’t know what they were promising.

    It’s funny but true…so many good things in life are like that. Marrying, having children, adopting, etc.

    That was the thrust of what I told my son Kyler…that submitting to baptism is a promise that we would hold him to.

    Because there’s no way James or anyone can possibly know what they’re signing up for. I didn’t. I still don’t. Who knows what kind of trouble discipleship to Christ will get us into?

    People need to understand that baptism is a funeral. They need to count the cost. But still, there’s no way you can know until you walk down that path.

    So of course James’ and my own baptism count. That’s grace. But if we hadn’t assented at all…it’s problematic.

    I know that my ‘fiat mihi’ was a promise worth keeping. But although I can pray the difficult prayer to let God do what he wants to with my children…I can’t pray ‘fiat mihi’ FOR them, can I?


  12. Responding to the charismanglican: you’re right. There is something of each practice in the other, and I suspect many people’s views fall between the two extremes. Nevertheless, it’s clear where the emphasis lies for Protestants (especially Evangelicals) on the one side, and Catholics and Orthodox on the other. Of course, I’m not a theologian, so don’t take anything I say too seriously. The main thrust of my first post wasn’t to make an argument, but to point out that the matter isn’t necessarily an either/or. I don’t think the Episcopal Church needs to choose between Protestant and Catholic models.

    In addition, I should probably outline my own experience with baptism (it seems personal experience plays a pretty big role for at least a couple of you.) As far back as I can remember, I was vaguely aware that I had been christened in a Catholic church as a infant. This fact held no import for me; I was aware of it in the same way I was aware of which hospital I had been born in. I was baptized again in my teens, while attending a non-denominational Evangelical church (for whom the christening meant nothing.) I did it largely because I felt I was supposed to; that was what good Christians did. I was ambivalent and uncomfortable with it. Then, a couple of years ago, I discovered that I had been christened in an Episcopal church, not a Catholic church. I had assumed it was Catholic because my family is Catholic on my Dad’s side (Mexican) and on my maternal Grandmother’s side (Irish.) It turned out my maternal Grandfather’s family was Episcopalian, and that was the church my mother attended growing up. This may be why I’m ready to value both variants of baptism. I like knowing that I was baptized as an infant. I also like knowing that I chose to be baptized, complicated as my feelings about it were (and are.)

    To clarify my views let me turn again to the language of Tokens of Trust, in Christ God reveals himself as trustworthy. He’s taking the role of the father in the parable of prodigal son, saying “You can trust me. I will always be available to you, even if you betray me.” The Church, as the body of Christ, is saying exactly this in pedobaptism, promising that it will behave in this way to the individual. But in credobaptism, the emphasis is placed on the individual’s choice to accept that promise, that offer of grace. The one being baptized is consciously taking the role of the prodigal son returning from his self-imposed exile. Based on this formulation, I would have to favor credobaptism if forced to choose, but I also see tremendous value in the practice of pedobaptism, even if the one baptized falls away in adulthood.


  13. I’m not sure what I think of this:

    “baptism is an act of political allegiance…which can only be taken willingly.”

    I suppose a political allegiance is a willful act… like pledging allegiance to a flag. But certainly some significantly events of political affiliation are done unwillingly. I was born a U.S. citizen, long before I had any willful orientation concerning the matter. Might the political implications of baptism be preserved in this understanding, without needing to require willingness?


  14. In infant baptisms, parents make a declaration of “political allegiance.” The notion that the person baptized must make his/her own profession arguably reflects Western individualism.

    I baptize both children of believers and older persons who profess their own faith. The best concise rationale for infant baptism that I have come across is this (author unknown): “The Baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God’s love claims people before they are able to respond in faith.” In other words, it’s about grace.


  15. How far do we want to take this ‘Western individualism’ critique? Only in regards to children? Can we start making professions of allegiance for other adults?

    My kids were born to citizens of heaven. What are the rules of that kingdom? In the u.s.america they would be citizens. But what are the rules of THAT kingdom? Scripture, experience and reason tell me something at odds with tradition. I want to reconcile it.

    The idea that God’s love claims people before they can respond in faith is not a concise solution. The same argument can be made the other way if baptism is seen as a faithful response: “There’s no need to baptize children. God’s love has already claimed them. All is grace.”

    I’m aching here. Let’s be honest: I WANT to baptize my children. I love being in the liturgical church, even in it’s most distressed wing (TEC). But can I do so against my own conscience? Against what seems right?

    Help a brother out.

    I know you’re all trying. And thanks. But just what would it take for me to be at peace about this?


  16. I’m just giving a knee-jerk reaction here, because (trust me) I have my own issues to work out. Nonetheless, I am reading the posts and can’t help but thinking about the fact that I have (and so have the rest of the parents here) already made a decision for my children regarding faith. I choose to take them to church, I choose to share the Christian narrative, I pray for and with them. I (emphasis here, I) have given them their faith, so why would I not also be the one to have them baptized? It isn’t a question I have been able to come to an answer about. I have not baptized my infant daughter for reasons that are totally different than those expressed. I have not had my young children baptized, because /1/ our dean likes the theological implication of “believer’s baptism” over and against infant baptism, and /2/ our family is predominantly ultra-conservative, Republican, low-church protestant. It is not worth the trouble that it would cause. We are already nearly social pariahs in our family for being Episcopal – if we baptized the baby, we might be disowned, literally.
    Is the question here, really about personal conversion experiences? A lot of folks seem to tie the notion of believer’s baptism to the happenstance of a “conversion.” What if I think my kids are Christian, because I am Christian?


  17. I get it Charismanglican, I finally got around to my weekly blog reading and you’ve been hashing it out with ole’ Hauerwas and Halden. I’m still a bit busy to offer fuller reply but I can say this, I almost always, oddly enough, disagree with Halden. Except perhaps on drinking and non-violence.


  18. There is, I think, a point at which one has to give over their worries and trust that God will make the best of us. In this case, that means you can only do your best for your kids, and will have to trust that, regardless of your actions, they are held in God’s providence.

    Keep in mind that, no matter what you do, your children will surprise you. Could your parents, when you were children, have predicted you becoming the kind of people you are now?


  19. In my mind this is a question about faithful witness.

    Something I’m realizing about my kids is that I can’t control them. I can set the boundaries, discipline them, lead the way by example, speak the truth to them, etc. But in some way who they are is inviolable.

    For that reason, they are ‘other’. I need the same patience, gentleness, non-violent love for my kids as I have with any ‘stranger’…maybe more, because whatever benefit they have from living with me is at least balanced by how much I mess up that witness.

    So, Jordan, there’s no way I can predict how my children will turn out. The patience to accept that is definitely part of faithful witness.

    And it’s precisely at that point where the struggle lies: what part (if any) does infant baptism play in that faithful witness?


  20. I also might add… should have added before, really: when in doubt, wait to baptize. There’s no sense in contorting yourself into a theological position and acting against conscience. I’m sure you already know that, but I think it’s an important thing to keep in mind. And it’s important for advocates of infant baptism to keep in mind that our templates for baptism are largely of adult rites… that is, adult baptism is the norm upon which infant baptism is modeled. You can’t go wrong baptizing a consenting adult.


  21. It’s been a year. My kids are getting baptized. I’m just as conflicted about paedobaptism as ever.

    In their theology class (we homeschool) we spent about a year going through the Nicene Creed almost word by word. They have it memorized and, I dare say, understand it in the wider context of the Bible, the kingdom of God, and the history and belief of the Church better than most adults.

    Then we spent quite a bit of time going through the catechism from the BCP.

    Not too long ago we studied baptism itself, including John’s baptism, Jesus’ baptism, the great commission, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-5 and I Peter 3:21 (passages they also have memorized) and some church history.

    At the end of our unit on baptism I told them that if they wanted to be baptized they should just let me know, and that (at this point) I trust that the Holy Spirit is working in their lives enough for them to make that decision and to let us know. I think they got tired of not being allowed to eat and drink the bread/cup at church that tipped the scales for them, so they insisted recently that they be baptized in February. Interestingly, it was the younger of the three, our eight-year-old, who really led the other two (11 & 13) to insist on doing it as soon as possible. I would have been happy to wait until Easter.

    And they’re being immersed. I’m baptizing the two younger, and Father Dick is baptizing the oldest. My father-in-law (not an Episcopalian) will give the homily.

    So, you see, I just cannot shake my belief that baptism should be by immersion and follow confession/belief. If it weren’t for that sticking point I would assuredly drop whatever hesitation I have about calling myself an Episcopalian or exploring (eventually) ordination as such. I guess I tend to be like church somewhere in the second/third centuries where candidates for baptism had to endure three years of catechesis until the Church “let” them be baptized and take communion. Otherwise I struggle to understand how Christianity is spread by witness rather than by birth. If I believe that baptism is an efficacious and essential sacrament, and if I believe that the kingdom advances through non-violent witness, I simply cannot square that with infant baptism.

    Interestingly, I WANT to shed my preoccupation with believers’ baptism, because it separates me from the greater part of the Christian tradition. I desire unity above almost everything, and it plays no small part in what I believe about baptism (“one faith, one church, and one baptism”). I retain, against my own will, more faith in a smaller segment of the Church and in my own reasonable interpretation of the scriptures than I do in the collective will/interpretation of the greater part of Christianity. It’s a real conundrum for me, and I think the only thing that keeps me sane in all of it is an indefatigable belief in God’s grace.


    1. What’s funny about the conversation that sprung up on FB, and running over most of these comments again, is that I can’t say I’ve got anything ‘new’ to add to this conversation. This last comment, Joey, is something I’ve got no qualms with, it’s all gold as far as I’m concerned and truly a model for how to raise children in the faith. I hope to take a similar approach.

      One of the reasons I’m not very passionate about this is that I don’t have a strong position that baptism must be done according to one or the other model since I have no anxiety over the unbaptized eternally speaking since this Word has already been given. And both have extended history in practice and Scripture and both have convincing, and frankly overlapping arguments. I would say that no one must be baptized as a ‘confessing adult’ nor as a child, but only that the Eucharist is reserved only for the baptized; I’ve heard it said that Baptism is our ‘inclusive’ sacrament and the Eucharist our ‘intimate’ one – the speculative details about ‘will’ and ‘choice’ I take to be rather inconsequential next to the corporate shape of commitment and discipleship. I should say that if one chooses infant baptism, the burden for confirmation to be done well is much stronger.


  22. Joey (Charismanglican), I’m sympathetic with you. I’m a lifelong credobaptist, but I’ve largely converted to paedobaptism via exclusively philosophical channels, rather than theological/biblical channels. Hermeneutics, anthropology, and phenomenology all have pushed me toward paedobaptism, and the Reformed tradition simply gave me some theological teeth to add to it after the fact.

    But I think the best position would be paedo-communion, but credo-baptist.

    A sketchy version might look like this:
    (1) Postfoundationalism— Our predispositions and presuppositions come first, and reason and rationality second, working within that prior presuppositional framework. (Wittgenstein, Rorty, Derrida, etc.)

    (2) Postliberalism— Christianity isn’t a segmented partition of our lives (the “private” sphere), but the holistic framework within which we live. (Lindbeck, Hauerwas, Milbank, etc.)

    (3) Virtue Ethics— Our practices and habituations shape and mold our character and beliefs. The opposite is true as well (character and beliefs inform our practices), but often this alternative dynamic of practices-shaping-beliefs is neglected or rejected. (Aristotle, Aquinas, MacIntyre, J.K.A. Smith, etc.)

    If we are raising our children in a Christian manner, then we will be raising them according to the Christian narrative. Thus, one would never reach an age where they would have a “confession of faith,” because believing in God would be akin to believing in gravity — it’s not something to “believe” in, it’s just the way it is. We would never have a “hands-off” approach and “wait until they were ready” to “share the gospel” with them — we raise them unto the Lord from day one. This is the postfoundationalist part.

    One of the ways we inculcate the Christian narrative into our being is living out the Christian mythos in our life and practices. Thus the Eucharist is a site of formation and discipleship. By taking the bread and cup, it forms us in pre-cognitive ways, shaping what Charles Taylor calls our “social imaginary” (in contrast with a cognitive “social theory”). It affects the heart via the body. Thus, it cultivates the soil for Christian discipleship.

    So, I would be affirmative of paedocommunion for those reasons of practices-shaping-belief. And I would be affirmative of paedobaptism insofar as if a child is raised in a robust Christian home and Christian community (the church) then there will never be a point of “conversion” for the child. There is biblical precedent for this, such as in the Old Testament commandments to plaster the homes with scripture, and always be inculcating children in the ways of the Lord. And in the New Testament, John the Baptist was regenerated in the womb. While some people use the Acts passages (where “entire homes were baptized” on account of the father’s belief) to say something like “there might’ve been infants there too!”, a better account might suggest that these passages corroborate these more anthropological insights noted above.

    Okay, this went from sketchy to long, so I’ll stop. I think credo-baptism is better (or I guess more appropriately, rather than “belief-baptism” something like “older-baptism”, since epistemically-speaking “belief” comes in very young childhood), because the person can be a participant in the practice, which further connects them into the Christian narrative personally (“buried in the likeness of His death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection”), and further habituates their character. This could come at any age, but I could see a denomination coming up with an appropriate age, such as a “confirmation”-type thing.


  23. So, just re-reading over Joey’s recent comment above, I’d note the following points:

    ” I just cannot shake my belief that baptism should be by immersion and follow confession/belief.”

    I think this is completely legit. Baptism should follow belief; I would simply suggest that “belief” is formed for children simultaneously to developing cognitive faculties as such. So, I would be fine with paedobaptism in this respect, and I think covenant theology from the Reformed tradition packs a little punch to this.

    I also think immersion is the best protocol to follow (“buried in the likeness of his death, raised in the likeness of his resurrection”). But I’ve also heard of baptisms in India or wherever, where water is scarce: they dig a grave, a person lies down in it, and they drape a white sheet over the grave and sprinkle a bit of water on it. This would seem fine to me, and by extension would justify sprinkling infants to me (along with the correlate point above).

    “I guess I tend to be like church somewhere in the second/third centuries where candidates for baptism had to endure three years of catechesis until the Church “let” them be baptized and take communion.”

    I think this is legit as well. For people in these instances, they weren’t raised in a Christian home, and thus were not epistemically shaped with Christianity as their simple presuppositional default. So, it is appropriate that they might be “born-again” in this respect, and re-shaped and re-formed in a Christian community and “family.”

    So, I hope my account will address Joey’s concern about the Kingdom simply advancing through birth. It would be both/and, not either/or.

    Some of this thinking gelled for me upon conversing with my Baptist father-in-law. They adopted two babies years ago, and the kids are now ages 10 and 8. He has extremely successfully raised them in a Christian home with a Christian holistic “worldview”, where they believe in God as a “postfoundationalist presupposition.” But since he is a Baptist, he is anxiously awaiting when they will “make a confession of faith,” so they can be baptized and what-not. But why would they? “In Him we live and move and have our being.”


  24. As an Anglican priest working in a culture of infant baptism without commitment, where there is still a legal right to baptism regardless of attendance at worship and where the folk memory is predominantly superstitious (the result of centuries of a perverse and severe Augustianism) I would happily never baptise an infant ever again and I think in this post-Christian society we need a serious rethink. It only ever makes sense as part of household baptism where the parents are baptised/confirmed communicant believers. The theory is lovely but try with living with the practice in the UK and it soon loses its appeal.


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