Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Q & A on Baptism

The following is my recent email correspondance with Jenny, a member of our congregation. First her question, then my reply:

Q: I have SO got myself in a pickle. I am in a discussion
about baptism with 2 people that think only people who
accept Jesus should be baptized. That when you are
baptized it is just an outwardly display, a public
aknowledgment of accepting Christ as your Saviour.
They also say that the Holy Spirit does not enter your
heart at the time of Baptism. That when John the
Baptist was baptizing he referanced Jesus when saying
that one comes to baptize you with the Holy Spirit,
and because of Jesus we no longer "need" baptism. It
is good to do, once you are at the "age of consent"
(which they are looking up now) but if a baby dies b4
being baptized they will go to heaven. Likewise if a
man confesses to God and becomes a believer then dies
b4 being baptized they can "quarantee" that they will
go to heaven. Can you help?????? I have been on IM
with my sister but she is running after 5 little ones
and I was hoping you could give me some pastoral feedback.

A: Jenny,

Relax. You probably won't convince them anyway, so don't plan on "winning" the argument. I would simply give an explanation of what you believe and not go much further. But here's some ammunition anyway:

Often, when we Lutherans discuss Baptism with our Evangelical/Baptist type friends, we end up trying to point to this verse or that verse which says "Thou Shalt Baptize infants" or "Thou Shalt not." But the reality is there is no such passage for either side (though each side will see hints of its own positition in various passages).

What is a bigger question, what Scripture DOES address, and which ends up determining the answer to infant baptism is not, "should I baptize infants", but, "what is baptism?". Those who view baptism as an act of man's will, or a commitment that we make to God will only naturally agree with the "adults only" position. But those of us (Lutherans), who rightly see Baptism as the gracious action of God ON someone, that is, a pure and free gift - we will see that it makes sense that infants can receive gifts (haven't you ever been to a baby shower?).

But an even deeper question is this: How are we saved? If God saves us by his action - "Grace Alone" - well, that fits a lot better with the infant baptism position - in fact it's a beautiful reminder that even we adults contrinbute as little to our salvation as that baby does. THEY say, even if they don't admit it, that salvation depends, at least in part, on man's work. Oh, they will often give lipservice to "grace alone", but then they will take with one hand what they give with the other, by saying, "BUT - you have to accept", or "BUT - you have to decide". etc...

Finally, I would direct you to an article written by a friend of Pastor Poppe's, Charles Gottshchalk. Charles used to be an non-denominational (Baptist) type Christian - (went to Bob Jones U. etc..) who DIDN'T believe in infant baptism - but became a Lutheran through his studies of scripture and the Lutheran confessions. He writes one of the best, most concise and thorough defenses of infant baptism I have seen in quite a while. Here's the link:

Hope this all helps!

(Correspondence shared here by permission, of course...)

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