Friday, May 27, 2011

The Baptism Problem

(I've meant to write on this for some time, since my original posts on baptism. A recent post on Internet Monk makes this a good a time as any.)
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" Matthew 28:19
This is Jesus' direct command for us to baptize people. Apparently a tiny minority of people believe that baptism is no longer necessary, but the vast majority of Christians believe baptism is for today.

However, there is much disagreement about the how (or mode) and why of baptism. I have little concern for the mode (because of the why).

I am going to group everyone into one of two categories by "why":
  1. Paedo-baptists (literally "child baptizers"): those who teach some form of baptism for children (especially infants), for whatever reason
  2. Credo-baptists (literally "creed baptizers"): those who teach only those who can declare allegiance to some creed should be baptized
Interestingly, the New Testament only gives examples of adult converts to Christianity. There are no teachings for what to do about children. This makes it very hard to determine the best doctrine.

Tradition is certainly on the side of paedo-baptists. By about 400, paedo-baptism was the norm. This continued until the radical reformers (anabaptists), who were disliked even by the other reformers (Calvin and Luther).

An interesting note from Wikipedia:
'Although there is some modern controversy about the form of baptism, there is overwhelming evidence, and an impressive consensus, that the early Christian baptism was by immersion, and only for those old enough to make a profession of faith.' (North, 'A History of the Church: From Pentecost to present', 1983), p. 26

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