Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Some Baptism Musings-This comments on this Amy Welborn post on liturgical music was a bit of an eye-opener. An interesting discussion broke out on Amazing Grace and how it didn't fit Catholic theology. Commenter Christine sums it up nicely
My problem with "Amazing Grace" is its decidedly "decision theology" which makes more sense in a church body like the Baptists who only practice adult baptism. Catholics receive the gift of faith in baptism, although to be sure this involves a life-long growth in faith and nurture. For a Baptist Christian baptism is simply a public witness of the decision to follow Christ, involving no sacramental grace. To sing "the hour I first believed", to me, negates that baptismal gift given to us.
Catholic doctrine does state that saving grace is imparted in baptism, even to someone too young to express such a faith. The Catholics are not alone in that theology; a quick review of other infant-baptizing churches find the Episcopal, Presbyterian (PCUSA) and Missouri Synod Lutheran doctrines in basic agreement that baptism imparts salvation. That runs counter to what appears to be the pattern in the New Testament, where people believed, then were baptized. As I try to learn from the Bible, these four questions come to my mind as I struggle with the topic.
1-Does the belief in the saving power of baptism lessen the desire for a personal relationship with Christ?
While there are people with a strong evangelical spirit within infant-baptizing churches, the idea that one is saved upon being baptized as a tyke can take away the desire to know and follow Jesus. If you're salvation is already covered, why go through the struggle of a restrictive walk with the Lord? It seems that the adult-baptizing churches seem to have a stronger drive to seek God. Secondly, that view of the saving power of baptism can seem to lean to a very permissive view of sin; since we're all saved, it doesn't really matter what we do. God's forgiven us, so who am I to judge someone who sins? Even disbelief in Jesus, the one who we were baptized into, is OK.
2-Since the custom of Catholic and traditional Protestant churches is to baptism every child in the congregation, is it assumed that everyone who is a part of the denomination is saved?
That comes close to that. If it is a formality that all children of the church are baptized, then all are saved, with the exception of a few people who fell through the baptismal cracks. Few pastors will have the guts to tell degenerate parents that they're not good enough to get their kid baptized. I remember this case from last October where a homosexual couple had quadruplets via artificial inseminating a women with one of the guy's sperm, then brought them up for Catholic baptism. This quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia would back up such a view "Should a priest baptize the child of non-Catholic parents if they themselves desire it? He certainly can do so if there is reason to hope that the child will be brought up a Catholic (Conc. Prov, Balt., I, decr, x). " Thus, baptism is open to anyone who walks in the door, whether their parents have an earnest desire to follow God or not.
3-Does such a belief lead towards a universalist theology?
If anyone can be baptized, regardless of their faith, how much does it mean? If it becomes a pro-forma event, and everyone who gets baptized is deemed saved, it's not much of a leap to assume that everyone, whether they get baptized or not, is saved.
4-Does the belief in the saving power of baptism lessen the desire for orthodoxy or orthopraxy?
It seems that way. If we're all saved, what we believe or how we believe is immaterial in the big picture. It might not be the prime cause of the liberalism in the Episcopal Church, but that attitude seems to be part of the package
5-Is infant baptism cocky Calvinism in that we assume that all the children of the church are members of the elect?
Infant baptism plays well with Calvinist theory; we're chosen and there ain't nothing we can do about it. However, if baptism equals salvation, we assume that we're in Lake Woebegone (good Lutheran territory, after all) and all our children are spiritual above average. It seems a bit cocky to me. Just a long rant that's been on my heart the last few days. Feel free to point out where I'm wrong.

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