Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Baptismal Regeneration 9 -- Believer's/Adult Baptism is the Norm

One scholar who has shaped my thinking is Roman Catholic theologian Aidan Kavanaugh. In his book The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation, he argues that the theological norm for baptismal practice is believer's or adult baptism. He does not argue that infant baptism is invalid, nor does he argue that because believer's or adult baptism is the theological norm it necessarily follows that believer's/adult baptism is the numerical norm.

Kavanaugh's point is that infant baptism must be defined in light of believer's/adult baptism -- not the other way around.

In contemporary Anglican baptismal liturgies, the one being baptized professes the Apostles' Creed, answers a set of questions designed to clarify that she is trusting Christ as Lord and Savior. In addition, the one being baptized has sponsors who vouch for her, and the whole congregation commits to see the baptizee grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. The liturgies for infant baptism look exactly the same except that sponsors and parents make these promises on behalf of the baby or young child. This is done to set infant/child baptism within the norm of believer's/adult baptism. The baptism of the infant/child brings him into the fellowship of the church where he is discipled into the commitments made on his behalf.

If done rightly, this model undercuts indiscriminate baptism (Only parents living as disciples are free to bring their children to the baptistry). It is also sets infant/child baptism within the framework of discipleship. It is not the point at which the child is once and for all saved. It is the inauguration of a journey in the bosom of the Church intended to raise the infant/child as a disciple of Jesus.

Baptism as a movement into a life of discipleship in the fellowship of the church is the norm for understanding baptism. This norm must shape one's understanding and practice of paedo-Baptism.

More to come ....

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