Monday, December 18, 2006

Why I Am a Nazarene: Reason Number 3, We Baptize Infants

Peadobaptism is a touchy subject with some Christians. Nazarenes handle it with finesse. We decided a long time ago as Wesleyans and Holiness peoples came together that we weren't going to risk splintering the church along certain lines. Therefore, we both baptize infants and we dedicate. I am a Nazarene because we value children, even infants, enough to allow them the grace of baptism.

Baptism is not merely a symbol, if we believed that, we would not be Wesleyan. Baptism, because it is a sacrament, is a means of grace. It is a sacred event by which God bestows his grace to both the catechumen and the congregation. The Church of the Nazarene recognizes that God's grace is even given to infants.

But why do we insist that it's okay to baptize infants, they don't even understand it? Many, even Nazarenes, insist that the catechumen understand baptism before receiving it. It is as though God's grace must be understood by the receiver before God can give it (and who in their right mind would put this limitation on a free God?). Who is to say any adult understands baptism? Most don't know what a sacrament is, yet God gives his grace freely through the sacred event of baptism. Requiring a person have faith before they are baptised is to miss the point of baptism as a means of grace. Baptism calls us to faith. Requiring the faith to which baptism calls us before we are baptised would be to set up a new works-righteousness, and really nobody wants that.

When we understand that baptism calls us to the faith that God gives us, we begin to see that to deny infants the waters of baptism would be to deny God from giving his grace and faith even to an infant. I am a Nazarene because we love children/infants enough to understand that God graces them as much as, if not more than, he graces us.


mfisteach said...

WOW--great thoughts. I do; however, especially like the idea of parents "dedicating" their child in the presence of a body of believers. It reminds us of our responsibility, as a corporate group, that we have a vital investment in the spiritual growth of the children we come into contact with. I know I don't tell you enough how amazingly insightful your thoughts are----but they really are amazingly insightful.

Eric said...

Good thoughts brother. I would suggest that baptism necessarily include dedication. Thus one cannot be baptized without being dedicated.

Anyway, I was intrigued recently by the church records I found here in Toronto. I was looking at the Dedication log and it had a column for date of birth and date of dedication. There were a couple of entries where "children" who were 12+ years old were dedicated, but no record of baptism. How can even a believer baptist suggest that 12 is too young?

Also, how do you pastors categorize your infant baptisms on your annual report. The baptism category stipulates "not infants" and the other choice if I remember is dedication. Do you really lump your baptisms and dedications together? Isn't baptism, baptism?

Eric said...

Sorry for a repeat response, but I didn't want to be too long winded.

I will be posting a theological wrestling I've been having lately following Baptism of the Lord (we are celebrating 1/14).

It discusses our creedal confession of "baptism for the remission of sins" and the forgotten half of the definition of sacrament "a means of grace by which we receive the [inward grace]" How do you understand baptism to remit our sins?

Evan and Julia said...

This is where I would be particularly Wesleyan. I believe there is something particularly salvific in the waters of Baptism (not as a matter of words righteousnes, but as a matter of mystery). I do not distinguish between "believer's Baptism" and infant Baptism. I would say that one is the other. Wesley himself would say that there is something that happens in baptism (in the receiving of that inward grace) that points to faith and salvation. I have a more complete article on Paedobaptism I can send you if you would like.

All in all, I go further than I think most Nazarenes (particularly the Holiness wing) would go. I do believe that something salvifically mystical happens when we receive God's grace in the waters of Baptism.