2015: Advent Religion: Splash

by on December 21, 2015

I’ve said that adult baptism was a defining characteristic of these churches. Let’s look at that a bit more.

The opposite of adult baptism is infant baptism, christening. This was such anathema that I still have trouble looking at it straight on, and I can’t tel how much of that is my actual beliefs versus trained horror. Infant baptism wasn’t just incorrect, like having a fixed liturgy, or a sin, like worshipping saints. Infant baptism involved doing something dreadfully wrong to a small, helpless person who would never be able to undo it. It was sickening.

This possibly seems like a strange revulsion given our enthusiasm for baptising adults, but it does make sense. The whole point about adult baptism is that it’s something you choose. It’s your public profession of faith, your passage into the church, and your spiritual transition into the life of Christ. It is unrepeatable. Baptism was sacramental in a way communion wasn’t, quite; baptism did things to your soul.

It is also an adulthood ceremony. Baptism is the precondition for full church membership, for being permitted to teach, for being acknowledged as a fellow Christian and not only the child of one. Outside convert or Christian from birth, you have to get baptised before you are wholly a part of the tribe.

But it’s a sacrament. It does things to your soul. When you’ve been baptised, you are a part of the world- and time-spanning Church Universal, whether you like it or not. A baptism cannot be renounced or done over. An adult can make that decision, to come in or stay out. An infant does not have the capacity to decide. Participating in a sacrament is a Good Thing. Forcing a sacrament on someone unable to consent is a Bad Thing. So we would marry and bury the cultural Christians who asked us to, but we would never christen their children. It was a fundamental point of doctrine to refuse that request.

One Response to “Splash”

  • In the Catholic church, it’s the sacrament of Confirmation that marks the passage into adulthood. Infants are baptised because, if only the baptised are saved, then you want to make sure your baby is on the list. Though that’s interesting, because in my experience the Catholic church is much less vehement than evangelicals when it comes to salvation through Christ alone.

    But yes, Confirmation serves the purpose filled by adult baptism. When people are baptised as adults in the Catholic church they’ll be confirmed at the same time in a 2-for-1 deal.

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