Today is the 6th anniversary of my Baptism. I was 15 years old when I chose to declare my faith before a community of people in a public rite of initiation.
The practice of only baptising those who can be reasonably trusted to understand the meaning of their confession is the most controversial aspect of the so-called “Baptist” church.
Why is this? And why does it matter to me, now?
The most common objection, particularly from laymen in the past, has been “well what happens if my baby dies?”
It is implied that this act of baptism has some transforming effect upon the recipient. It is the sign of salvation, and so being baptised equates to salvation. No?
More sophisticated arguments build upon this and will speak of “covenant sign” which is to say that the children of believers are included in the same covenant as their parents, thus they ought to receive the sign of this covenant which signifies that they are of the new covenant community, and thus included in the full life of the church.
Functionally, of course, the result is the same: A person is given full access to the church and her life without limit or cost.
This is why the rejection of pedobaptism matters. It matters because of what it says about the life of faith.
It matters to me because at the core of my faith journey is this one action which is fully mine, insofar as I chose to enter the waters, and yet fully God’s since he is the one who gave me the faith and created the church community which held me through the waters.
This glorious synthesis of Divine and Human action, where both occur without contradiction, is surely a testimony to the essence of life in the church. The church is the community which exists by God’s power under his headship, yet remains a fully human community which must use wisdom, experience and searching prayer to discern the will of God.
Credobaptism, or Baptism on condition of belief, is the building block of a church where every member can minister in some sense or another. Every member has undergone the humbling rite of telling out their testimony and being submerged under water. Every member knows why they did it. Every member wanted to be part of the church and to participate in its life.
And the fact that I made the choice to undergo Baptism, stands witness to every other choice I make. It reminds me that each action I take on this earth, in this physical existence, matters to the glory of God. My testimony to him isn’t an intellectual assent or family tradition, but one marked by an event in time which I fully acknowledged and participated in.
That event marks the grace bestowed upon me, and the promise I made to turn from evil and onto the ways of God.
That event marks me as a part of something bigger than I’d ever dreamed.
I am thankful.