Bad History and Theology

There’s a weird trend in the UK these days. Lots of secularists are demanding to be taken off the rolls of the Church of England. And some con artists are selling them “de-Baptism certificates” to formalize their rejection of baptism.

Diogenes claims this is a resurrection of Anabaptist theology of baptism. Not in any way. The Anabaptists (the word means “re-Baptizer,” and was given to them by opponents) read the Bible, took it for their only rule of faith and practice, and saw that Jesus was clear about baptism:

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Teaching must precede baptism.

In Mark 16:16, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Faith must precede baptism.

The Anabaptists saw that Jesus stipulated that teaching and faith must come first–then someone can be baptized. They concluded that someone who was baptized without being taught and without having responded in faith was merely taking a bath. They weren’t baptized. So they couldn’t have “re-baptized” anyone. Nor did they “un-baptize” anyone. They baptized those who confessed Jesus Christ.

3 thoughts on “Bad History and Theology

  1. I don’t consider the Catholic doctrine on baptism to be bad theology- obviously given my affiliation. In Catholic sacramental theology, baptism leaves a permanent mark on ones soul. It means one has been marked out for Christ. It is the beginning of one’s salvation. The appearance of a divide between faith and baptism is just that- an appearance. Infant baptism presupposes that the child is being raised in an environment of faith, so his conversion- absolutely necessary as an ongoing process throughout his lifetime- may not be so sharp as one who coming from among the”gentes”, the nations.

    Though, on the other hand, I myself can testify to the power of infant baptism. In my days of apostasy from Christianity it was baptism which connected my awe at the heritage of Christian civilization- its piety, beauty and appetite for the transcendent and truth- to my own self. I was traveling through Europe at the time. I realized this was not just simply “the past”, but my past. And not my even my ethnic or cultural past- but, in baptism- my own spiritual heritage were I to claim it. I then began to experience baptism as a calling of Christ himself.

    Now, regardless of all this, the article you are referencing is foolish, and slanderous against the Anabaptists, whose theology was, despite my disagreement, profoundly oriented towards Christ. It has no point of connection to what the mentioned atheists are doing. One is an interpretation of faith, the other its explicit abandonment or refusal!

  2. @Jordan… Do you think you’ve looked at all sides of baptism, infant or otherwise, as it might relate to the Word of God? In other words, do you feel you have a well-formulated biblical theology of baptism? I anticipate some conflict with Romans 6, as the union with Christ mentioned taught by Paul is one created by faith rather than ceremony.

    I appreciate the feeling of connection you express, but have questions about your attributing them to your infant baptism. Are there not perhaps other attributions to investigate, ones that may be less affirming of your doctrine but just as valid, just as meaningful?

    Just curious.

  3. I maintain that there is no essential conflict between believer’s baptism and infant baptism- unless one wants to say that there is no such thing as a Christian child. As I noted above, infant baptism presupposes that the child is being raised in an environment of faith and that what was enacted in baptism- union with Christ- is brought into fruition through the guidance of his or her parents.

    Faith can be a fickle thing. How many people do I know who, baptized in adolescence, are now quite apathetic or ambiguous to Christian faith! Likewise with those baptized at birth. How many of these turn back and say “I never really believed” or “my faith was not complete”. Should baptism be performed again, were these people to return? If the link between faith and baptism is absolutely fixed, so that they must always appear to be together, rather than being free to work through one another, then is baptism not opened to being a repeatable act? If I lose faith, then I regain it, should I be baptized again, seeing how baptism is totally subjugated to my state of faith?

    That is, if we say baptism is only valid in faith and by faith, and therefore can only be an explicit act of faith on the part of the individual, then what does baptism actually contribute to the Christian life? Is baptism not then a superfluous “ceremony” with nothing to contribute apart from whatever faith supplies it? I think the language given to baptism and the emphasis upon it suggest a stronger conception of it in the minds of the New Testament authors. We have to ask, how can St. Peter see baptism as prefigured by the Ark of Noah, which is in the first place a corporate rather than individual image, and understand it as a saving pledge to God?

    Paul says that all of us who are baptized are baptized into the death of Christ, and that in him our old self is crucified. Yet it is clear that dying to sin in baptism does not by any means exclude the endurance of sin in our lives. We must constantly go back to this fact of Christ, constantly purify ourselves of sin, constantly renew our faith. This is the very thing which Paul is exhorting in Romans 6. This is why ceremony is not in conflict with grace or faith, because it itself a summons to faith, yet more than this, its very ground is the common faith of the Church. Baptism is no guarantee for faith, nor does it preserve it from corruption.

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