… In Newness of Life


This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “The Rite of Baptism.”

river baptism

I would have a better idea what to do with my desire to be baptized again if I had a better sense of how it fit into my idea of baptism.

For all the long-held beliefs I’ve been questioning and challenging lately, I’m still pretty traditionally Southern Baptist when it comes to baptism.

I believe that baptism is an outward confession of an inward decision. It’s a ritual acknowledgment of a new relationship with Christ.

Baptism is the wedding. The wedding doesn’t make you married; you don’t have to have a wedding to be married. But usually the two go together, and it’s a way of letting other people share in the celebration of the union and a way of publicly avowing your marriage.

I know people believe, but don’t understand myself, that baptism is actually a necessary step in salvation.

I know people believe, but don’t understand myself, that there can be a purpose to infant baptism.

I know people believe, but don’t understand myself, that there is a power in the act itself of baptism.

There are a lot of beliefs that other Christians have that I don’t agree with, but that I can at least understand. But with Baptism, my understanding is surprisingly limited.

There are a couple of areas where I’m slightly nontraditional. I don’t believe that a baptism has to be performed by anyone in particular. I believe I have as much authority to baptize someone as the head of the local First Baptist Church. On a somewhat related note, I am curious whether baptism is part of the conveyance of that authority. I believe in the priesthood of the believer, and I’m suspicious that baptism may be the ceremony announcing that priesthood.

I would like to be baptized again. If baptism is a declaration, I would like to make a new declaration. I would like to be baptized in a river, by someone with no recognized ordination, in a service not affiliated with any particular organized church. I would like a baptism that is purely about my relationship with Christ, without requiring the blessing of, or joining into, any other organization. Just me and Him.

But if baptism is the wedding, then it would be a lie to say we just got married when we’ve been married for decades.

What about you? What do you believe about baptism? What role does baptism play? Why?

4 Responses

  1. People who are married often renew their vows – either after weathering a hard time and coming back together, or, more frequently, just to celebrate having been together for some length of time. Why would baptism be any different, if it is just a symbolic ceremony?

    Our house is a little divided on the baptism issue – but we both agree that baptism is important, and that it can be done in any water deep enough to go under, and by any Christian. Our current church supports this for the most part – which is nice – and children (not infants) are often baptized by their fathers, which I think is neat.

  2. I’ll try to keep this short, because this is a topic I’m very interested in and have often thought about.

    I believe baptism is the ordinary means of regeneration. That forgives it sin. That it unites one with Christ. That indwells one with the Holy Spirit.

    The best I can tell, this is what pretty much all orthodox Christians believed about it until the 16th Century. Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans and some Anglicans/Episcopalians still hold to this.

    My Christianity is sacramental and incarnational. Christ came in a very physical body and thus sanctified matter. He carried a very physical cross up a physical hill and shed physical blood to redeem us. He was then raised in that same physical body and is the savior of people with bodies which are destined to be raised and not only their souls.

    This is why I don’t think it’s strange that he takes water and wine and bread and oil and does real spiritual good with them. None of these things are magic (no more than the mud and spit he used to make a blind man see), but they are effective because it is Christ through the Holy Spirit who makes them so.

    As for how many times one can be baptized, I believe, as the Creed says in “one baptism of the forgiveness of sins.” It is a unique event that can not be repeated.

    I could say a lot more about this (like who can do it; short answer: technically anyone as it it Christ who ultimately baptizes), but I think I’ll leave it at that unless you want to sit down over some coffee or something sometime. 🙂

  3. Deedee — Yeah, I had the thought of vow renewals, but I’m not entirely sure what I think of those, either. It’s one thing after like a separation or something, making a formal recommittal, but growing up once-saved-always-saved, I’m not sure I believe you can have a spiritual equivalent of that. Still pondering. Yeah, I definitely like the idea of father’s baptizing their children.

    Jason — Definitely, I’d love the long version over coffee. I love that you’ve given it so much thought. I’ve scratched the surface a little more with eucharist/communion/Lord’s supper, but have pretty much taken baptism for granted until recently.

  4. Check out my blog and you might find the articles on baptism, refreshing.

    Graham

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