October 31, 2014

Rebaptism: How Did We Get Here?

LINK: John H at Confessing Evangelical is one of six Lutherans in the UK. He comments on some of my advocacy of Wright’s “consensus” position on baptism. In my response to him I reference the document “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” from the WCC. I know, but it’s really excellent.

Just a friendly warning that I am not going to allow a free for all on infant baptism vs believer’s baptism. The post is on rebaptism.

There is one rebaptism in the Bible (Acts 19), and plenty of contention among Christians about exactly what is going on there. Unless Paul’s cryptic mention of “baptism for the dead” is a kind of rebaptism, then the Bible doesn’t speak directly to the topic.

Christians have demonstrated their inability to agree on the meaning of baptism for at least half a millenium. Jesus didn’t invent baptism, and unlike the Lord’s Supper, the Jewish roots of baptism are unclear. Ritual washings, Essene baptisms, Jewish convert baptisms- no one is really confident as to where John received his baptism- including the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. No one is sure what the disciples understood baptism to mean as they performed it during the ministry of Jesus. There is little agreement on why Jesus was baptized, and no agreement on the mode.

Baptism scholars like David Wright do offer up a consensus that has been helpful to me*: the earliest Christians baptized adult converts, almost certainly by immersion, relatively soon after a profession of faith.

The baptism of infants developed quickly, but was not universally normative. Catechetical instruction before baptism changed the way the church treated those coming to profess faith. The mode of baptism quickly became dependent on less water. The recognizable contours of the “Catholic” view of baptism were solidified by the time of Constantine.

The reformation brought all the issues related to the sacraments to the forefront, and from Luther, to Calvin, to Smyth and Helwys and Alexander Campbell, there was an inevitable rattempt to return to primitive ideas on Baptism among evangelicals and radical reformers. The Anabaptist and Baptist reclaiming of Believer’s baptism was a major break with all of catholic and reformation Christendom. These movements went beyond the moderate reformers and even beyond evangelicals like Wesley to declare that Baptism was for those who were able to declare their profession of faith and enter into membership in the visible church by their own choice.

For much of Anabaptist and Baptist history, a high view of baptism prevailed, precisely for the purpose of preserving the distinctives and the seriousness of believer’s baptism. Baptism was reserved for those able to make an “adult” profession of faith and to knowledgeably enter into the covenant of church membership. Baptism was a one time matter, not to be repeated.

But at the same time, the Baptist movement had to rebaptize. The cost of reclaiming believer’s baptism had been high, and paid in blood and suffering many times. The first generation of Anabaptists had all been rebaptized by necessity. This acceptance of the possibility of rebaptism put Baptists on a constant collision course with those believers who affirmed the baptisms they had experienced in their own traditions as true and obedient baptisms. From the outset, Baptists were rejecting infant baptisms and requiring rebaptism.

So the seeds were sown, from the beginning, of the situation which faces evangelicals and Baptists today in regard to rebaptism, but the difference is significant. Initially, rebaptism was a way of preserving the meaning and importance of baptism. Today, rebaptism is most often a witness to the decreasing meaning of baptism among Baptists and evangelicals.

Today’s rebaptism crisis exists because Baptists have largely evacuated their previous convictions on theology and the importance of the local congregation, and have replaced those standards with a complete surrender to personal experience and the wisdom of the church growth movement. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper create major issues for the agenda of today’s evangelical churches, and the inevitable response is going to be 1) a misreading of any doctrinal distinctives regarding baptism and 2) a subordination of the meaning and practice baptism to Christian experience and church growth.

The evacuation of theology and the triumph of the church growth mentality have left Baptists with few resources to understand what is meant by “one baptism” in Ephesians. Baptism has become an extension of denominational identity (“Baptist” baptism) and the servant of whatever religious experience the individual wants to report as re-conversion or appropriate for baptism.

Baptism’s place and purpose in the Christian life are narrow and not subjective. It is not open for reinterpretation as a witness to the distinction between Pentecostals and Baptists. It does not represent denominational distinctives, but the heart of the Gospel. Baptists who insist on rebaptism because a denomination speaks in tongues or believes in the possibility of apostasy are twisting baptism to have a meaning it does not have. It is a local church ordinance, but it witnesses to the oneness of all Christians in being joined to Christ.

Baptism is not available to bear witness to recommitments or other experiences. It witnesses to the inauguration of a person’s entrance into the new creation.

Further problems with rebaptism arise because of a lack of practical theology of the Christian life, in particular the normal experiences of growth and sanctification. Baptists and other evangelicals have become so confused about the Gospel that millions of Christians come for rebaptism when they have simply experienced normal growth, repentance, sanctification or other experiences that are part of the Christian life.

Christian leaders and preachers bear a huge responsibility for failing- or refusing- to discern the proper response to rebaptism situations. It takes a mature leader to lay aside ego and look at what is Biblically appropriate, rather than what will generate more baptisms.

When Christians request rebaptism, a pastor runs a risk in refusing to acquiesce to that request, but the integrity of baptism is not negotiable. The meaning of baptism and the issues that lead to rebaptism need to be addressed by a teaching pastor with clarity and conviction. How many pastors could begin to differentiate between the views of baptism found among Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Campbellites and Presbyterians?

Will Baptists embrace the high view of baptism of their ancestors, and reject the baptism of children, a practice that is responsible for more requests for rebaptism than any other? Will they reject baptism as the property of a denomination and practice Christian baptism? Will they teach and practice a Biblical theology of growth and sanctification, or will they continue to leave untaught Christians requesting rebaptism in order to “get it right this time?”

Baptism and rebaptism are part of the recovery of meaningful church membership that must happen if evangelicalism is to regain its sanity and its ability to produce disciples of Jesus. Believer’s baptism cannot eliminate the possibility of rebaptism, but such rebaptism is not necessary where believer’s baptism has occured! And believer’s baptism should not be repeated for anything other than the most convincing of reasons.

(*I am sure that many IM readers will want to turn this discussion into a debate on the merits of infant baptism vs believer’s baptism. I am not inclined to go in that direction. Many commenters may not be aware that a scholarly consensus on the historical relationship of believer’s baptism and infant baptism has existed for some time. Read David Wright, What Has Infant Baptism Done To Baptism? Wright is a paedobaptist and the acknowledged historical authority in Christianity on the history of baptism.

That consensus is that the earliest baptisms were the baptisms of adult converts, and the question of baptizing children arose and eventually became standard in various places in the first two centuries of Christian history.

This does not settle the “What does the Bible support?” question, but it does say that both positions have a place in Christian history and there is no real discussion about what was being done in the first decades of the Christian movement.

It may, however, provide a place of understanding where some congregations might consider the merits of John Piper’s suggestion that churches practicing believer’s baptism could receive infant baptized Christians into some form of fellowship that did not require the rejection of what that person considers a valid baptism that they do not believe should be rejected.)

Comments

  1. Great post. Baptism is becoming increasingly important to me as a sort of marker for entering into the Church…especially in counter-distinction to other allegiances. I think evangelicals have downplayed baptism because the role of baptism as a sign of being “in” was replaced by the sinner’s prayer, which now acts as THE sacrament in some groups.

  2. It difficult to come to a concensus when you have the view of “anybody could be right” and “everybody could be wrong.”

    I also reject the notion that the disciples did not understand what baptism meant. Acts 2:38 (NAB)

    “Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.”

  3. Giovanni:

    You seriously left the wrong impression. I did not say the disciples didn’t understand the meaning of baptism.

    I said:

    >No one is sure what the disciples understood baptism to mean as they performed it during the ministry of Jesus.

    Meaning we don’t know what particular roots/source of meaning the disciples were looking at. There were several washings/baptisms in Jewish culture at the time, and we don’t know what the disciples precisely understood the Baptism of Jesus to be. Something new? John’s baptism? Essene baptism? Phariasaic washings?

    I am aware that the apostles spoke about Baptism in the new testament, but that is a different matter than what they thought during the ministry of Jesus. They didn’t understand the cross, the Rez or many things at that time.

    sincerely

    MS

  4. This is a very timely discussion for me. Three years ago my husband and I adopted two boys ages 7 and 10. We have four grown children by birth. Our boys were abandoned in a Baptist Childrens Home/reform school at the ages of 8 and 3 and a half after being neglected and abused by their mother. They were taken to church each Sunday by different sets of house parents and the older boy asked to be baptized when his friend and he decided they didn’t want to go to hell. No one had prayed with my son or explained the importance of receiving Christ as the Lord. Just last week after a conversation and investigation of Scripture lasting about two hours, my son desired to pray to commit his life to Christ. Although he had been baptized while at the BCH, it was not a believer’s baptism for him and did not mark committing his life to Christ,but rather a sort of fire insurance policy. Now he desires to have his Dad (my husband) baptizes him. Had he already been baptized into a covenant family I believe that I would discourage re-baptism. But because he had no counsel or guidance and did not know what he was doing and it was not in the context of a covenant relationship, I am leaning toward encouraging him in his desire to be baptized. My son is now nearly 14 and understands what it means to be a believer. He has described his commitment–“something moved in me when I said that I desired to serve God and after I prayed I felt relieved, whole and light. Please prayerfully advise me how to counsel our son. His experience as a child at the home had more to do with his desire for the certificate given at baptism as an insurance policy against hell. Thank you. (He is a gentle boy and now I am wondering about all the times he has taken the Lord’s Supper-even with us-because we thought he was committed to Christ, confusing his gentleness with faith.)

  5. Dear J.E. Harden,

    I would trust God, in His loving mercy, to understand about taking communion. In the Eastern Orthodox, the children partake of communion at baptism, and they tend to baptize very young.

    As far as I am concerned, fire insurance is a pretty good starting reason. It shouldn’t stay there, though. It sounds like your son is growing like Jesus did.

  6. Come on. Baptism is so yesterday. Today is “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”! Next, we will admit catechumins with a good, public profession of faith in the correct presidential candidate. I can see it now: “Do you renounce the democrats [republicans],and all their works and all their ways?” and “Do you believe in [insert candidate here] almighty, maker of freedom and prosperity?”

  7. I have been a pastor for nearly 30 yrs in non-denominational churches which all practiced believer’s baptism. And I will confess that I have not always handled the practice of baptism/rebaptism well. Why? Because I had no tradition to guide me, few mentors who took the sacraments seriously, and my own experience of being baptized in an SBC church because all I knew was that my own infant baptism hadn’t represented my choice of faith. (I don’t think the pastor even questioned whether or not I’d been baptized before.) I had only a “personal experience” of Christ, my Bible, and, as a pastor, churches filled with religious consumers who were looking for ways to tangibly express coming to faith, coming back to faith, or some other such significant faith-step. For us, baptism represented “me, expressing my experience,” not “the church, welcoming a member into the family.” The whole issue you’ve raised speaks to the radical individualism and autonomy of the individual that permeates our thinking, and, on the other hand, an eviscerated church that cannot speak with authority on such issues because it has too long said that theology does not matter. What else would you expect from a generation of church leaders, many of whom who came to faith under groups like Campus Crusade? It’s about me and Jesus, man!

  8. Steve Newell says:

    Is “re-baptism” biblical? In Ephesians 4:5-6, Paul writes that there is one baptism. Is a baptism is performed in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit a valid baptism?

  9. When I was a Baptist minister (now I am an Anglican Priest) I and those I worked with did not consider baptizing someone who had received paedo-baptism re-baptism. We believed the paedo-baptism was not really baptism so the person in question was not being re-baptized — he/she was being baptized.

    The real re-baptism problem comes, as you have discussed, when people have multi-conversions or make multiple decisions for Christ and then get baptized each time in response.

    The baptist practice of baptizing those who have received paedo-baptism, while I now disagree with the practice, has integrity as a practice.

    Getting baptized every time someone “gets saved” is goofy and undermines the meaning and nature of the sacrament of baptism.

  10. Don’t all traditions who practice baptism have believer’s baptism? If an adult converts to Christ without ever having been baptized, won’t all traditions take them through baptism as the entrance rite of the church?

    The real question raised by this subject is what to do with the children of believers, the second generation “Christian.” In 1Cor 7, Paul indicates that the children of believers are somehow “holy”–set apart in a special way because they are part of the Christian family. Those traditions that baptize infants are recognizing this “holy” status (each with their own understanding of what that means, of course).

    If one of those children subsequently “receives Christ,” undergoing a later conscious experience of conversion, I do not think it is proper to re-baptize them, for their earlier baptism already recognized them as set apart to God and part of the church family.

    Perhaps we need a “home-coming” ritual rather than an “entrance” ritual to mark their return.

  11. We aren’t going to debate infant baptism in this thread, but one need not baptize an infant- and you ought to specify which of the 4 major approaches you have in mind- to believe Paul’s statement that the children of a believing parent are somehow “holy.” All kinds of unbaptized things are holy in the Bible.

  12. Who cares if you as a pastor or you as a believer rebaptizes or gets rebaptized? Whats the big deal. If one wants to get rebaptized then go for it. If one is asked to rebaptize a person why not just go with it?…..unless the reason for it is scewed. I think this is a fairly dumb issue. Now, onto more pompous issues my friends.

  13. Michael, you’re right. What I said reflects my own trying to come to grips with the relationship between infant baptism and believer’s baptism, and to help myself and others come to some common ground on this contentious issue. If differing groups can come to agreement that: (1) believer’s baptism is the proper entrance ritual for adult converts who have never been baptized, (2) infant baptism does serve a purpose in somehow marking out the special status of the children of believers as members of the community, and (3) that such children, when they later come into full realization of their faith need not be baptized again but welcomed back into the life of the church, then perhaps we will be more unified across the lines in at least some of this debate.

    This is where I am anyway.

  14. Michael,

    While what Giovanni points out is true, that Peter linked baptism with repentance and forgiveness of sins (in that specific case), Jesus on the other hand in the Great Commission links baptism, not with repentance or forgiveness, but with making disciples.

    When does the process of making disciples begin? With adult converts, obviously with conversion. But with children? With children of believers, at birth. I can see why there is both infant baptism and believer baptism. Some churches can view discipleship to begin at birth, with families and churches starting the process early. This is why they can baptize at birth. Others can view it starting at birth, but baptize at conversion. I personally hold that neither infant baptism nor believer baptism are unbiblical, but both are allowable traditions by Scripture.

    As to re-baptism, I urge people to consider Piper’s stance of allowing these not-unbiblical infant baptisms to stand. If somebody has been raised in a Christian family and paedobaptist church and later joins a Baptist church, I see no reason to re-baptize. Our church (baptistic, Reformed in slant) has allowed infant baptisms to stand on occasion. In my experience, many Baptists oppose infant baptism not because it is a biblically not-quite-correct practice by Presbyterians, but because it is seen as a leftover doctrine of Rome that must be reacted against.

  15. Playing devil’s advocate:

    Isn’t infant baptism basically the equivellent of what some evangelical churches do when they *dedicate* infants? The parents basically get up and promise to raise the kid in a certain way – in which case there still needs to be a ceremony/symbolic act of some kind when the child is an adult and decides to continue in the Christian path.

  16. Only two, maybe three things. I do understand where Christians of some traditions would “rebaptize” someone if they had once been baptized as infants. Not debating that – but as Fr. Peter said up there, that at least makes sense in the context of a belief that sees infant baptism as invalid. OK, there’s that.

    Of course I’m Catholic and I see it as a Sacrament, through and by which a pathway is opened up and the Holy Spirit actually effects a metaphysical change in us. So, performed “correctly” (as it was given to us to be performed by Jesus) it’s valid. Water, in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – Amen. And a Priest is only the “ordinary” member of the Body who baptizes someone. Technically, in Catholic thinking, anyone can baptize anyone else and it’s valid. Even if it’s done when it’s not normally called for by just anyone, it’s still valid if done properly and with the intention of doing what the Church does when baptizing. Just throwing that in there for extra interest. :)

    The “One Baptism” thing in the Creed – and someone sort of said this above – is, as I see it, not referring to “one instance of baptism” but rather to one KIND of baptism – that there is only ONE baptism that is true and effective. So it doesn’t really seem, if that is the case, to apply in speaking of rebaptism.

    The rebaptism in the New Testament thing – Michael, you mentioned this once, but I’m thinking that was a pretty clear case of Christian baptism following “John’s baptism,” which was, I suppose, the last of the Jewish baptisms. Even the baptism that Jesus received was a sort of “Jewish baptism” – a commissioning, a manifestation to those around Him, etc. – but certainly not the same baptism we have all received when we were initiated into Him. So, in the context of this discussion, this really wasn’t a case of Christian rebaptism.

    The only case in which the Catholic Church calls for someone to be baptized “again” is when the first baptism is considered invalid, i.e., not a baptism at all. Maybe this is when someone is baptized with saaaay, coca-cola or something, or in the Name of Jesus only, or with no water. There may also be cases in which there is what’s called a “provisional baptism” (I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s called) in which there isn’t sufficient record of a person’s former baptism in another Christian church and the person can’t remember how it was done. In that case, the person (who’s probably converting to Catholicism) would be provisionally baptized again just to make sure.

    Otherwise, the Catholic Church recognizes all baptisms (as I described before) as valid, done in whatever tradition, by whomever, wherever. While I was “on sojourn” and a pastor in another tradition, I baptized all my children. When they all came into the Catholic Church this year, I simply wrote a letter stating this to the Bishop – no problem. OK, as usual, too long. Oh well. Peace.

  17. Aliasmoi:

    I am not familiar with “infant dedications” outside of the SBC, except I know that Nazarenes still have infant baptism on paper, but almost no one does them. Instead, they do dedications.

    In the SBC, parents/families are dedicated along with the children.

    But none of these are very similar to either the Catholic, Lutheran, Presby or Anglican/Methodist version of infant baptism except in very superficial ways.

  18. Michael,
    For a Lutheran it is hard to even come to grips with anything in this post. I know you don’t want it to turn into an infant vrs. believers baptism debate. (BTW, we baptize the infants understanding that they have faith, even if they can’t express it yet. So they are all believers baptisms for Lutherans. I suppose these are the dichotomies we Lutherans have a hard time seeing, which in turn makes it hard for us to see where others are coming from.) All right I said my piece on that.
    In your previous post there was something you said to the effect that rebaptism seems to be a rejection of your previous baptism, that it didn’t take, God didn’t follow through on his promises. That is the crux of the issue where Lutherans are concerned. Behind a statement like that is the idea that God is acting in baptism, not the believer. (Watch it, you might betray a Lutheran view, as if we had a monopoly on it). To me rebaptism is precisely that, calling God a liar, a promise breaker. I can see why those who believe it is the believers act to God, would rebaptize themselves though. God doesn’t break promises, believers do. We never live up to our Holy Calling. we sin, and sin plenty. This is why we Lutherans believe we have to daily drown the Old Adam within us, so that we can walk in the newness of life with Christ. We do this by returning to our baptism, recalling the promises God made to us there, and the new life he gave us. But Lutherans loath making promises to God, we try to make our yes a yes and our no a no, but promises and pledges we know will only add to our sin when we break them, and we will break them. Better to make no vow at all than to break that vow.
    John the Baptist prophesied that the one who came after Him would baptize us with fire and the Holy Spirit. I can’t help but to think Jesus has done just that when he sanctified us in the washing of water and the word.

  19. Whether the child in question was an infant or an older child who was able to verbalize their desire to be baptized, there is something else I heard N.T. Wright say which I believe speaks to what it says about our perception of both the child and God when we rebaptize. It’s been a long time since I listened to it, so I’ll have to paraphrase. Also, it was not a theological argument by Wright, at least not directly. (I would argue it was in fact, deeply theological, but certainly not in a systematic way.)

    In essence Wright said this. As parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives, we all know we can relate to an infant. And the infant, in turn, relates to us. In fact, it is one of the most powerful relationships a human being can experience. If we can relate so intimately to the child, who are we then to say that the personal, relational God who created that child in His image cannot relate to that child? Is it not arrogant to say that an infant cannot be filled with the love and grace of God? Yes, that infant may need ever more love and grace as he or she grows. Nevertheless, we risk diminishing God, devaluing the true humanity of the child, or both when we speak incautiously on such things.

    Of course, I’ve never been a pure modern rationalist even when I was decidedly pursuing paths other than the Christian path. The mystical does not offend me and I do not feel compelled to assert that nothing actually happens in Christian practice as so many seem wont to do.

  20. We SBC types are fond of saying there is nothing magical or transformational in the waters of Baptism; that it is instead a public display of our profession of Christ as savior. If we truly believe that, then why do we get so wrapped up in “getting it right”?

    Based on Christ’s words to the thief on the cross beside Him, it would seem to me that Baptism (whether it’s the first or fifth time) has about as much to do with salvation as wedding cake does with consummating a marriage.

    When SBC churches and the convention as a whole stop the annual reporting of the body count on baptisms, then perhaps the desire to do them again and again, just to be sure that we’re sure that we’re sure, will diminish.

  21. Michael,
    Would you mind much by adding some info on the resolution of the Donatist controversy. I am not an expert here at all, but I seem to recall that the D’s insisted on rebaptism of the lapsed and for those baptized by “heretics”. I think Cyprian was in agreement with them. But didn’t the final resolution (one of the early counsels) side with the opponents of rebaptism? And, if so, is this not relevant to today’s discussion? Feel free to correct the gaps in my historical understanding.
    It has always troubled me that even among reformed baptists there was very little sympathy for honoring the baptisms of those who had been brought up with “covenant baptism” but in virtually all other issues were in agreement.

    Thanks,
    Mort

  22. Ed,

    Without counting baptisms, how would the SBC churches know whether they were evangelizing or not?

  23. I’ve always viewed this in light of the likeness of marriage used in Scripture. Returning to your first love and all. With Christ as in marriage, if you are seperated and return to your first love, you do not remarry. If divorced then it is a bit of sticky situation, but remarriage is in order for legal purposes. Although there are hints at some early disciples being rebaptized consistantly there is little to explain why.

  24. Dan:

    >Although there are hints at some early disciples being rebaptized consistantly there is little to explain why.

    What are you referring to?

    MS

  25. Anna – church attendance number? Church membership numbers? Number of obnoxious Chick tracks handed out?

  26. Stephen Yates says:

    I endured this as a youth – almost all my friends (whom I had served and worshipped with for years) became convicted that they didn’t understand before and do now, therefore they need to be baptized as a TRUE believer. My gut instinct is to let them (after all, if they truly didn’t believe before as opposed to simply not having a full understanding of the gospel, they were not Christians). Yet as I think about it, were they not Christians? Or was their conversion simply very slow? Reminds me of the “when did justification occur” ghost hunt. Anyway, I think simply living a life where you are visibly becoming more like Jesus is a better sign of conversion than re-baptism anyway.

  27. Stephen: I was converted at age 15, and within 3 years all of the people who had witnessed to me in our church had been rebaptized.

  28. If you didn’t believe in perseverance of the saints, wouldn’t you need to be rebaptized every time you made another decision for Christ (or rededicated yourself, or whatever)?

    If you did believe in perseverance, why would you want to?

  29. My family is dealing with this as well. My sister, a pediatrician in a small town in the South has been attanding a church there for quite some time(not a Baptist church). She likes it a lot, but in order for her to join as a member they insist that she has to be submersed.

    She was already baptized as a believer in her home church, but she was “poured on”.

    The pastor will not budge on this issue, even though he admitted to her that he views her first baptism as “valid” he still insists that if she wants to be a member she has to be dunked.

    She is my older sister, and she is a responsible adult, and she can make her own decisions, but I’ll be honest with you it really rubs me the wrong way.

    I am all about believer’s baptism (I was raised a Mennonite and I pastor a Mennonite church) but this doesn’t seem right to me.

    I agree with imonk on this. Thank you for posting this and giving your thoughts on it.

  30. Dave,

    Just because I do not believe in perseverance of the saints, does not mean that I believe in rebaptism.

    I believe that it is very difficult for someone to fall away, and even more difficult for them to come back. Now, if someone completely renounces their faith, they are in effect saying that Christ’s sacrifice has no meaning for me, my original baptism has no meaning for me. Under those circumstances, if that person came back to faith, I might consider rebaptism, but not in the case of someone who has made a rededication.

  31. Cyoder,

    Our circumstances are very similar as our family is facing the same situation. If you would like some resources that I have compiled on the issue, go to Eclectic Christian and leave a comment with your contact information.

    Michael Bell

  32. My Presbyterian Church is odd on this issue. Our pastor, who has now been there for two years, believes in infant baptism. However, the majority of the congregation is baptisitic in their views. Most of the young people wait until summer camp and are baptized in the lake. There are a few of us who still have our children baptized. Its hard to believe, but with these two different views, daggers are rarely drawn.

  33. Dan: Nor do most Presbyterians and other mainlines (except for the Disciples.) I deeply appreciate that.

  34. The Swiss Brethren in Zurich, also known as the Anabaptists, had a big problem with the fact that the children who were being baptized were also being put on the city’s tax rolls at the same time.

    Infant baptism during the Middle Ages often served a civil purpose as well. The fact that the Zurich city council was so inflexible about the policy caused alarm to the young men who would come to be known as the Swiss Brethren.

    It is truly a blessing that we can discuss this issue in peace and civility, and that is largely due to the American milieu that we live in.

    500 years ago many were killed, tortured, or driven from their hometowns because they held different beliefs on this subject than those in power.

    This has been good,
    Thank you, imonk

  35. Thanks Chip. Feel free to remind us anytime of the history of the Anabaptist movement. It’s a silent history that too many of us don’t know at all. We ought to have a high view of Baptism because believer’s baptism was a costly confession. And I join you in being thankful that such times are past. We need to put them behind us, but not forget what they meant.

  36. Mike,

    To follow up on what Chip said…

    “500 years ago many were killed, tortured, or driven from their hometowns because they held different beliefs on this subject than those in power.”

    If you read just about any history of the Anabaptist movement, you will find that not only did they baptize as believers, but that they were overwhelmingly sprinklers and not dunkers.

    The irony is that I have heard people say that one of the reasons that baptists feel so strongly about baptism as a believer by immersion is that their spiritual ancestors died defending the practice. In fact they died defending a practice (sprinkled as a believer) that Baptists of today are saying is not valid.

    In once sense the descendants of those who were persecuted for their beliefs are now turning around and persecuting (by denying membership etc) those who have the same beliefs and practices as those persecuted 500 years ago.

  37. The title of your post asks the question, “How did we get here?”

    You may have provided a basis for the answer to this question in your second paragraph: “Christians have demonstrated their inability to agree on the meaning of baptism for at least half a millennium.” This would be the time of the Reformation.

    Thus, perhaps, when the authority of the Catholic Church was cast aside so was any ability to decide the question of rebaptism.

  38. Certainly. When I tell my students there’s no need to do their own work, just copy the notes that I put on the board, there’s usually little overt disagreement.

  39. It seems to me that Biblical baptism is into Christ, and not into any human organization. Therefore the deciding issue in the ‘Should I be re-baptized?’ issue is whether we feel our earlier understanding of the Christ into whom we’re baptized was valid. If we feel we were baptized into a false Christ, I suppose we should think about re-baptism. But there’s no Biblical basis, is there, for being re-baptized as a sign of merely changing denomanination allegiance within the body of Christ? Surely the matter is one of personal conscience. And yet seeing we are baptized into the body of Christ- 1 Cor.10- it should only be an issue if we consider we are currently not a member of the body of Christ.