Scary stories from a lovely place

Slice o’ Opinion Pie Sunday: Baptism

(Today’s inaugural Slice o’ Opinion Pie post is written by Ellie Cook who is from the northern most parts of the UK. As well as being clever enough to earn a masters degree in theology she is also the best and fastest knitter I know, likes tea and has uncannily long hair. When I first met Ellie I thought she told good stories and had a weird but cool accent.)

Baptism is one of those issues that gets everyone going. It’s also one that a person could hold a variety of views on – it might seem like there’s just two views, but actually there are always more, lurking beneath the surface, like a shark in a baptismal pool, if you will excuse the appropriate, if bizarre, illustration.

As it happens, my day job involves working for a non-denominational/inter-denominational organisation, and baptism happens to be one of the (many) ‘secondary issues’ that we do not have a policy on. Therefore, whilst that gives me the delightful freedom of being able to think what I like about it, I feel it necessary to say now that whatever I am about to say on the subject is not necessarily representative of the policies of them. Okay?

Good. Then let’s begin.

I got baptised on St Patrick’s Day, 1985 (that’s March 17th, for the non-Irish amongst you), 13 days before my first birthday. As it so happens, the man who baptised me is the father of one of the students I now work with – which just goes to show that the world is smaller than you think, the Christian world even smaller than that, and the conservative evangelical world is just teeny-tiny-wee.

I got confirmed on a date that I do not recall – sometime in the summer months of 1998, when I was 14, and approximately one year before I became a Christian. Yes. I lied when I renounced evil and all that jazz. Shocking, isn’t it?

I’ve been to churches that are into to baby-baptising and I’ve been to churches that are very definitely not. Right now I don’t actually know my current church’s policy or views – we meet in a café-bar (so there’s no obvious font or paddling pool to give me any clues) – and so clearly it’s not top of my list of church-picking criteria, and yet I’m sure it is important, so let’s look at some facts:

The two core views – from which all the other divisions and disagreements come are basically this:
* sprinkling babies, before they’ve gained the capacity to understand or believe or, you know, say no (little tip here: if you’re going down the infant baptism route, do it before they can speak, because a small child loudly objecting to having holy water sprinkled on them makes for a pretty awkward moment.)
* dunking grown ups (or at least, people of an age where they are able to make a decision for themselves – how old you think that is, is one of those other areas where people don’t get on).

The problem that takes us on from these two views generally stems from the reason why you think what you think. For example: some folks think that if you baptise a baby that gives them a free pass into heaven, whilst others think it’s all about covenant relationships, with baptism being like a new testament, all-inclusive, (and clearly less painful) alternative to circumcision – basically a sign that you’re ‘in the family’. Some people think that believer’s baptism is what saves you, some think it’s just a symbol, some think we should do it because Jesus says so, and others that its purpose is as a testimony that the baptised one really does believe.

Confused? Yeah well, me too. Which leads to the next question – where do I stand?

Well. I’m… not sure.

I think, in general I’m more of a fan of believer’s baptism. I think of it as a mixture of symbolic of what God has done and testimony that one believes. But that’s kind of it, and I’m pretty vague about it – as you may have gathered.

But I am sure about some stuff. If I ever have kids of my own, I’ll have them dedicated, not baptised. I want them to be able to make that decision for themselves. (Although I say this with awareness of the fact that these potential children will also have an, as yet, faceless, nameless father, who might disagree – so, maybe don’t hold me to this one.) I get pretty wound up by churches who insist that people who have been baptised (as infants) and confirmed must also get themselves dunked if they want to become members. I also get pretty confused by certain denominations who require that even when one is baptised as an adult, one must still get confirmed – explain to me if you can why you need to confirm the promises made on your behalf when you actually made them yourself, perhaps only five minutes ago.

When my sister asked me to be godmother to her youngest daughter (who they haven’t actually organised a baptism for yet, despite the fact that she’s now 15 months old) I said yes. I explained that whilst I wasn’t really in agreement with infant baptism, I think the important roles of a godparent are to love her, pray for her, and tell her all about Jesus, so that in God’s great mercy he might make her his. Oh, and to buy her cool presents. But I was going to do all of that anyway.

Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

Dipping or sprinkling – which side do you fall?


8 comments on “Slice o’ Opinion Pie Sunday: Baptism

  1. Pingback: On being five years old. | surrounded by clouds

  2. Sarah
    January 9, 2011

    Love it. I think I would come down on the same side as you for the reasons you said. I’m not necessarily against infant baptism – as long as no one thinks that a baby being baptised is guarnteed heaven because of said baptism (the eternal fate of children who die is another huge question though!).

    • kimlovesjozi
      January 12, 2011

      Hi Sarah, thanks for reading. I had a look at your blog, cool title. Can I just add to your comment that just as baptising an infant doesn’t guarantee salvation, neither does baptising an adult.

      PS Would you like to write a post on your huge question?!

  3. Bec
    January 10, 2011

    Personally I’m on the other side of the fence. I didn’t have an opinion a few years back but then my husband has done a good job of making me agree to go for infant baptism (which I’d still like to be a dunking not a sprinkle).
    I too didn’t really take my confirmation as seriously as I should have, but if I hadn’t been baptised as an infant it would have happened a week before my confirmation in a pretty uneventful event down at the local pool and wouldn’t have made much difference.
    One of the arguments that has me is in instances like Acts 16:25-33 where the jailer and his whole family were baptised. It does say the whole family believed and were baptised, but I think that in today’s culture we’re way too individualistic, everything is about the individual, and I don’t think that’s the way it’s meant to be. Yes, it’s up to the individual to to have a real relationship with Christ but we’re a body of believers, a family, and we need to be bringing all our family into the body. Joshua 24:15 – “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
    I feel like baptism as an infant is more of a way of bring the child into the church, showing that they are part of the body, even if it’s not a voluntary part yet, rather then just the parent standing up and giving the child to God.

    • kimlovesjozi
      January 12, 2011

      I agree with you Mcevoy. Really wish I could sit down with you and Tim and talk about this stuff. You guys are cool.

      PS Would you really dunk babies?

      • Bec
        January 13, 2011

        you’re cool too my dear, it’s been great having some other peoples opinions to read and I spent way more time then I probably should have yesterday reading all the links you put in your latest post… but you’re right, it would be nice to chat about.
        Totally would dunk a baby… not hold them under like they tend to do for an adult when dunked… but babies get dunked in baths and pools all the time, baptism means immersion so I’d go for an immersion.

      • kimlovesjozi
        January 14, 2011

        Silas got dunked in the bath once, didn’t hold him under obviously, but when he came up he was pretty unimpressed – wild screaming and all that. I’m not sure how that would go down in church?

  4. Pingback: A baptism of silence « Kimlovesjozi

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This entry was posted on January 9, 2011 by in Being a christian, Slice o' Opinion Pie and tagged , , , , , , .
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