June 27, 2017

Rebaptism: What Is It?

Since I have some break time ahead of me, I’m going to do several (3?) posts on Rebaptism. I know there are several angles to this subject, varying according to your own denominational preference. I am going to be writing from my position as an evangelical, a Southern Baptist and a lifelong minister to youth.

It will be impossible for me to write these posts without using illustrations, and yes, those illustrations will be related to real events that I’ve experienced. If that gets close to home with people who know me, I assure you I’m not taking aim at you at all.

I’m going to write about rebaptism, an issue that has deeply affected and weakened my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, and an issue that touches every Christian communion I am aware of in some way.

Rebaptism is a very emotional issue. One reason we don’t talk about it is how quickly it becomes an occasion for disagreement and division. I have seen many tears and heard many angry words over this subject. Just thinking about it and remembering what I have experienced has brought strong emotions back to me, even as I wrote.

Baptism stands at the entrance to the Christian experience. Christians may differ on exactly where that doorway occurs in relation to faith or forgiveness, and they may quibble about how directly that doorway leads into full communion in the church, but all Christians place baptism at the beginning of the Christian life, and assume that those who walk through it are, in some way, a part of the visible people of God.

In baptism, all Christians believe divine promises are heard. All Christians believe that baptism is, in various and very diverse ways, related to faith. All Christians believe that when the Church baptizes, it speaks a word from God to the one baptized, and a word to all Christians and all other persons who know the one baptized.

Amidst all the diverse and differing beliefs regarding baptism, there is a great common belief: This person is a part of God’s people, and is the recipient of God’s great promises in the Gospel.

I say all of this to make one point: For anyone to reject baptism- either their own or another’s- is a powerful and serious statement. It is powerfully divisive.

To reject one’s own baptism is to say something deeply revealing about what one believes about baptism, but more importantly, it is to say something revealing regarding the Gospel itself.

Rebaptism and the rejection of baptism that precedes it are full of ironies.

For example, my own Southern Baptist tradition does not believe in baptismal regeneration nor in the efficacy of baptism being tied to a particular congregation, yet Southern Baptists reject the baptisms of Roman Catholics- whether as adult believers or as infants- while the Roman Catholic church, which does believe the waters of baptism remove sin and that their church is the one and only true church, accepts the baptisms of Southern Baptists as valid.

It is Roman Catholics and most mainline Protestants who will refuse to rebaptize, while evangelicals often will rebaptize the same person multiple times over a period of a few years. Rebaptism by request for sentimental reasons- “My wife is being baptized and I want to be rebaptized with her”- is now commonplace.

Evangelicals will justify their own rebaptisms glibly, as if nothing were at stake at all in saying “I was baptized when I was 12, but I didn’t know what I was doing.” In fact, such a statement, while obviously meaningful as a description of an individual’s journey, has deep implications for the church and the Gospel.

In my own tradition, churches frequently refuse to accept other evangelicals baptized on their profession of faith, including other Baptists, without rebaptism. Such a posture has enormous implications regarding baptism, the Gospel and the church.

Those being rebaptized are seldom asked about their previous baptism, discipleship or Christian experience. Those who baptized and received them as Christians are left to assume they were wrong.

But most evangelicals seem clueless as to the seriousness of the issue of rebaptism. Submerged in the clamor for church growth, baptism has become a generator of statistics, and in that role rebaptism is seen as a blessing.

Only a few critics have the courage to point out that many “growing, evangelistic” churches are baptizing a percentage of their own members 2 and 3 times, while they are rebaptizing other Christians and acting as if these are conversions when they are not.

What does rebaptism look like among evangelicals today?

It looks like this:

A growing church requires anyone not immersed in a Southern Baptist Church to be rebaptized.

An evangelistic crusade at a church-related college results in over 200 decisions. Almost 2/3rds initially indicate that they are not Christians. Many will be rebaptized, even though they came to a Christian school after professing faith in Christ at their home churches for years. A local church will rebaptize many of these students who were baptized in their home churches.

After a revival, several of the deacons of a Baptist church- and the pastor’s wife and children- are rebaptized. The deacons continue serving as deacons.

A Baptist woman marries a Pentecostal man. The pastor who marries them says it would be a good idea of the man were rebaptized.

A woman is saved in a Baptist church. Her husband and children all ask to be rebaptized with her.

The entire youth group returns from summer camp and the youth minister asks the pastor that all the students be rebaptized. These are all the children of church leaders, and all were baptized in the past. The pastor baptizes them all at the next worship service.

A young adult woman asks her pastor to rebaptize her because, after a recent Beth Moore conference, she’s much more serious about her faith and wants to say that she’s starting over as a Christian.

A pastor tells the congregation that he is rebaptizing a man because, the man “just wants to be sure” that he’s a Christian.

A girl at a Christian school is rebaptized for the 4th time in 2 years. A teacher asks the pastor why, and he says “I don’t want to discourage her in her walk with Christ.”

A woman tells her pastor that she has not been living as a Christian the past few years, and now she wants to be resaved and rebaptized.

A man immersed in believer’s baptism in a Presbyterian church is told that in order to join a Baptist church he’s visiting, he must be rebaptized because Presbyterians believe in infant baptism.

There could be a hundred more examples. These are sufficient to get us started.

This is what rebaptism looks like. In my next post, I’ll look at where rebaptism comes from in evangelical belief, and what rebaptism has done to the Christians and churches where it is routinely practiced.

[Note: I know that many of my readers have probably been rebaptized. I’m not trying to start an argument with you. I am sure some of the pastors reading this post have rebaptized in cases where it seemed their best judgment to do so. I am not questioning your judgment. I am simply addressing a topic that I believe is a serious problem, and one that is rarely ever discussed.]

Comments

  1. My wife was required to be rebaptized when we applied to be members at an SBC church. She had been baptized by sprinkling (in a public park, after giving her testimony) But it wasn’t immersion, so into the pool she went. (The fact that it was a United Methodist church was not an issue)

    In the end we agreed, as an act of obedience to the elders

    Basic opinion – modern day pharisee’ism

  2. I was initially baptized when I was 10 years old. I believed as much as a 10 year old girl could believe. But, when I was 17, I was concerned (convicted?) that I wasn’t really a Christian, so I went forward again and was rebaptized. Now, as a 41 year old, I see that it was unnecessary. At 17, I understood and believed more deeply than I was able at 10, but I was not at all a non-believer. My decision at 17 was really a rededication to living a Christian life. The problem, as I see it, is that a counselor spent about 20 minutes with me after my going up the aisle. I really think that, if we had had a good, long conversation, she could have helped me see that I didn’t need to be rebaptized. It seems to me that a lot of rebaptism stuff happens because we aren’t communicating well . People don’t understand the purpose of baptism. They don’t really understand where they are in their own walk with Jesus. Great post, Michael.

    Catherine

  3. I heard of a man who was baptised as an infant. And then, as a teen, in order to become a member of his local church, was rebaptised into that denomination. And then, in order to serve as a youth pastor in another denomination, was rebaptised a third time as an adult. He was baptised three times, never of his own choosing. It seems so odd to my Anglican ears to rebaptise.

  4. Although I was not officially raised any religion, I went to Catholic School through 10th grade. Going to Catholic School was the only consistent religious instruction I received right up until I was 12, and my mother got involved with a Church of God.

    I got baptized in the YMCA swimming pool when I was 12. At that time, I regarded it as more as a correction of something that *should* have happened when I was an infant than a public profession of faith. Also, I didn’t need my parents’ permission to do it. If I’d wanted to be baptized in the Catholic Church at the age of 12, I would have needed my parents’ permission.

    Now, as an adult, I reject the idea of infant baptism as contrary to scripture. If someone was baptized as an infant, I would say they need to be baptized again. However, although I do not believe that I was mature enough to realize the implications of what I was doing when I was baptized, I have never been rebaptized – eventhough some have suggested it to me.

    I have come to believe, and have encouraged my own son in this direction, that nobody under the age of 18 should be baptized. My understanding of baptism, based on my study of the Bible, is that it is like getting married. You are publically proclaiming that you’re going to live for Jesus Christ for the rest of your life. I don’t think a child is capable of making that sort of committment. It is also a formal joining of the Body of Christ. I don’t know of any church that confers full church membership on any person under 18 years old. But, they’ll baptize a five or six year old. Quakers (who don’t practice water baptism at all) don’t confer full membership until the age of 25.

  5. Do the re-baptizers think they should try to come up with some kind of scriptural mandate for this practice?

    If we find’s our faith/life/commitment lacking, (we all do that regularly if we are living, breathing human beings), then we simply repent, confess, receive forgiveness, (go to communion, not baptism) and go on from there. It’s a regular, frequent thing, and we are not meant to despair over it, but keep looking to Christ, not the strength of our commitment.

  6. Aliasmoi, I agree and disagree with your views. I think from a solely doctrinal standpoint it would be best to wait until the kid is “of age” to be baptized. But, with real people involved, I would have a hard time comforting the parent of that unbaptized kid who just got killed, because I advised them to wait until he was 18.

    Maybe this is where new believer classes and catechism training might come into play. Assuming the church isn’t simply into numbers (a big assumption on my part), then a solid training program with a realistic evaluation of the person’s understanding of the gospel would separate those who are ready vs. those too young or whatever. Refusal to baptize? Could it happen? Not in the structure as it now exists.

    What about mentally handicapped people? How is that issue handled?

  7. I was baptized as an infant in the United Methodist Church. After confirmation was done, I walked away from the faith (in practice). In college, I learned what it was to trust Jesus for my salvation and did do (and do so to this day). I was discipled in the EFCA, and the people at the particular church I joined were not necessarily repaptizers, but very committed to believer’s baptism. So much so, in fact, that I was convinced that I needed to be baptized as a believer, so I was rebaptized.

    Fast forward a few years. I have studied scripture and prayed, I have known men and women of the Christian faith of many and varied traditions. I have come to see that both sides of the credo- and paedo- argument have strong scriptural backing. I am no longer so dogmatic about the issue, though I remain credo- to this day.

    But having gone through all that, I now regard my original baptism as valid, and do not see rebaptism as something necessary or commanded from the scriptures. Others will disagree with me, I’m sure, and that’s ok. Like I said, I’m not dogmatic about it. Without minimizing the importance and the deep meaning of baptism in the Christian life, I’d rather spend my energies seeing people becoming disciples of Jesus who seek to live as He lived, trusting Him for salvation. The other stuff is important, but not as important as salvation and Christian community.

    That said, I would probably choose not to serve with a group who told me I needed to get baptized again. If they cannot accept my baptism and profession of faith as valid, then there are deeper issues.

  8. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, and rebaptized Protestant at age 7. Despite the occasional opportunity—like going to the Jordan River in Israel, where a pastor offered to rebaptize me at the place where Jesus was baptized (though it actually wasn’t; that’s in Jordan)—I haven’t been baptized since.

    I’ve since come to the conclusion that since baptism is a sacrament, it doesn’t count so much whether I see it as valid as whether God sees it as valid. And if He considers my first baptism valid, that’s the one that counts. Because I did grow up to become a Christian after all.

    But interestingly, it came up a few years ago that one of my students’ parents decided to pick my brain on the issue. He’s Catholic; his wife is Baptist; they regularly went to her church, and her church was pressuring him to be rebaptized. He didn’t wanna. “Do you think I need to?” he asked.

    “No,” I said, “because the first baptism obviously took.”

    “Thank you,” he said. “I don’t see why they’re making such a big deal about it.”

    “Well, now I’m gonna turn that around,” I said. “Why are you making such a big deal about it? What harm does it do you if—for the sake of the weaker Christians at your wife’s church—you go ahead and get rebaptized? After all, when Jesus got baptized, it wasn’t for repentance; it was as our example.”

    And under that circumstance I think rebaptism is valid. Not so much because “I understand now, when once I didn’t.” In a properly growing Christian life, we’re always gonna learn things that we didn’t know before, and our relationship with Jesus is always gonna change shape and depth. But every time you have an epiphany, it doesn’t mean you require another dunking. It means the first baptism takes on the shape and depth of your current relationship.

  9. [By the way: My tradition, Pentecostalism, interprets the incident of Paul “rebaptizing” the Ephesians in Acts 19 (in reference to your illustration) as being baptized in the Holy Spirit, not in water. But that’s debatable, of course. It’s entirely possible that they simultaneously experienced both water (v5) and Spirit (v6) baptism.]

  10. It’s been my experience that SBC (the church in which I grew up) rebaptize due in part to the annual revival. Due to many factors including culture change as well as christians walling themselves off from “the world,” etc., it became rare to have more than a few unchurched people at the annual revival. Still it would seem as if God weren’t doing a work if many didn’t walk the aisles. Thus evangelists began the unsavory practice of guilting people down the aisles. The more the culture changed, the more evagelists had to guilt people to see God at work. I don’t see early Baptists “examining” their initial salvation experience as we regularly do now to see if it were genuine. Yet that examination makes the practice of having a later “just to be sure” salvation experience fairly common. I grew up in a fairly sizable church, and have some contact with the youth which which I matured. I know that more of them have two for the price of one or three for the price of one salvations than had only one salvation time. All of this despite there is little or no Biblical support and all from a people who claim to be “people of the Book.”

  11. Dave, you apparently believe if you die without being baptized you’re not saved. I don’t believe that.

  12. Michael, one conclusion I draw from your examples is that evangelical churches, which by and large reject liturgy and ceremony, don’t have enough tangible rites by which to express turning points in the process of spiritual formation. So they fall back on the one they accept and redefine it to fit the situation.

  13. To K.W. Leslie

    I am married to a Southern Baptist (I am Catholic) her name curiously is Leslie. Though I have never been approached about weather I should be rebaptized. If was ever asked I would not do it. The simple reason is that if I were to do it, I would be saying to people at her church that I do not recognize my own baptism, not only that but even if I do recognize it, I think so little of it that I can choose to be baptized again.

    Another reason is that I would be violating the Creed, “We confess (I confess) one baptism for the remission of sins.”

    I can see what you are saying and I have thought about these things specialy when it comes to children. I will baptize my children as infants my wife knows this and she has no problem with it. I know that if she continues to attend her church in the future there will be questions about our kids being baptised. I told her that if they so choose (the kids) they can go ahead and do it.

  14. Good point, Mike!

  15. Even the word “rebaptism” makes me roll my eyes. And it shows up on spell check, as well.

  16. urban otter says:

    “What about mentally handicapped people? How is that issue handled?”

    Excellent question, I’d like to know myself.

    Unless baptism is available to anyone regardless of intellectual competence, there has to be some minimum standard met.

    How mentally competent must a person be to qualify for a believer’s baptism? Who gets to judge?

    Exactly *what* must a person believe to be baptized and how thoroughly must he understand the implications? Who gets to judge?

    Standards vary, clearly, otherwise there wouldn’t be rebaptisms within the same denomination. How are these rebaptisms squared with the “one baptism” spoken of in Scripture? I genuinely curious.

  17. Giovanni: Point well made. If you recognize your own baptism, which was administered in a valid Christian church, others have no business in telling you it wasn’t valid.

    However, I might still get rebaptized for their sake. I’m just reminded of Jesus asking Peter about taxes, and after pointing out how the tax was unfair, He commented, “But lest we give offense, go catch a fish, find a coin in its mouth, and pay our taxes.” I may not see rebaptism as any way necessary—since there is, as you said, only one baptism—but if my lack of it got in the way of my relationship and ministry to fellow Christians, I might do it lest I give offense. I might be right, and preach it till I’m blue in the mouth, but being right doesn’t further the Kingdom any.

  18. (Although repeating baptism is not necessary, continually living a life of repentence is. This may be better expressed by Baptists through their other traditions, such as calls for rededication. But we all need repentance (or rededication) – and forgiveness, not just the really “bad” or “back-slidden” ones. The following quote says it better than I can:)

    “If you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism, which not only signifies such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it. For therein are given grace, the Spirit, and power to suppress the old man, so that the new man may come forth and become strong.

    “Therefore our Baptism abides forever; and even though some one should fall from it and sin, nevertheless we always have access thereto, that we may again subdue the old man. But we need not again be sprinkled with water; for though we were put under the water a hundred times, it would nevertheless be only one Baptism, although the operation and signification continue and remain. Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practise what we began before, but abandoned.” – Martin Luther, from the Large Catechism.

  19. I agree that this is a much-needed conversation. I grew up in a tradition that did not baptize infants. I was baptized when I was 16, even though I had been “saved” as a small child and loved the Lord all my life (even through rebellion and anger at God). When I was received into the Eastern Orthodox church, I was not baptized again, since the belief is that baptism is a mystical sacrament; that whole “one baptism” thing. Although, I wish I could have been baptized Orthodox. Their baptisms are so cool.

    All my children have been baptized into the Orthodox faith as infants. And they are full members of the faith, since they are baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit through chrismation (annointed with oil) and receive communion all on the same day. (As far as I know, the EO is the only church that does this.) The issue of the mentally handicapped was a huge “selling point” for me in regards to infant baptism. It’s not an intellectual sacrament, but a mystical one. I think it’s part of the difference in belief about what baptism “does” in the various branches of the Christian faith.

    Interestingly perhaps, my husband was baptized into the Catholic faith as an infant and during his brief stay in the evangelical church (with me before we were married) he did receive some pressure to be “rebaptized.” He refused, saying that baptism isn’t a magic pill that somehow guarantees his salvation and anyhow, it seemed to have done its work, since he was still a Christian. To be rebaptized would have denied the reality of God’s work in his life up to that point and the obvious “ownership” that God had on him.

    Even though this comment is plenty long already, I just have to add that when I recently attended a baptism service at an evangelical church, a man was being rebaptized who said that he had been baptized when he was younger and had, at least from his testimony, never strayed from the faith. He was being rebaptized to somehow… um… affirm his faith? Or something? I thought, why? Obviously, his first baptism “took.” But the pastor at this church made sure that we all knew that baptism, like communion, was simply a symbol, nothing more, nothing less. Alrighty then. Reason #856 why I am no longer an evangelical.

  20. One reason it is so easy for evangelicals to re-baptize is that baptism itself doesn’t really mean much to us (in general). In a church I was previously attending, baptism was really an option, for membership, discipleship, and even leadership. We had a church elder in his 70s come forward to be re-baptized. Why? It seemed like the thing to do. We had another woman who was baptized at least three times. It seemed she felt like she needed a spiritual shot in the arm from time to time. I’ve seen others give gobbledygook testimonies before being re-baptized, testimonies that said nothing about Christ, and then the pastor went ahead and baptized them anyways.

    I was baptized as an infant in a Lutheran church. As young adult, I was clueless about what the gospel meant. I came to renewed faith in Christ through Campus Crusade, and all of the people around me, who were full of faith like I had never seen, were baptists (with a little b). So I naturally went ahead and was re-baptized.

    I now look at infant baptism as valid, which is a minority, but acceptable, viewpoint in my denomination, the Evangelical Free Church.

  21. “All Christians”? No, some Christians dismiss baptism as unimportant. After I asked Jesus into my heart, the youth pastor said baptism was unnecessary. I had been baptized as a baby, but my United Methodist churches preached a social gospel. I heard evangelistic-style messages at youth retreats, but these were to rededicate my life to Jesus. I had never dedicated my life to Him in the first place.

    When I wanted to receive “believer’s baptism” after I came back to Jesus from serious backsliding, the United Methodist pastor I pestered finally said he would not do it. I think he was forbidden by UMC rules. Never mind that what he preached probably went against UMC rules, too.

    So I went to my UMC’s janitor’s Apostolic Sabbath Holiness church. They baptized me. They were an odd bunch. But they baptized me.

  22. I’ve had the opposite experience. After my conversion, it took four churches two years to baptize me the first time! I’ll stay at one. It’s enough to last not only a lifetime, but an eternity.

    The examples you gave show how meaningless baptism has become to so many churches. “Rebaptism is a very emotional issue.” As should be baptism in the first place.

  23. No, Aliasmoi, I don’t believe that baptism saves a person. Rather than get into a long discussion about public professions of faith and how baptism has historically acted to fulfill that “obligation”, lets talk about a real story.

    My 19 yr old son suffers from severe anxiety, he has said his prayer and turned his heart over to Jesus. It seems genuine to me. He refuses to be baptized, he’s too scared. Those of us raised in the ole time religion know how hard it would be for me if he died this morning, wondering if he really had made that decision without a public profession. All of my theology books would probably not comfort his mom.

    So here it is: If a person is mentally incapable of undergoing a public baptism, what is the alternative? If a “normal” person refuses to be baptized, what then? What role does the public profession play in all this? Is it a public profession if you go forward with 500 people and get mass baptized, or is it simply an herd thing?

    Sorry for the questions, but I think it is difficult to decouple baptism from profession.

  24. Why does it have to be public? Why can’t it be with just a few family/close friends he is comfortable with?

    Both Quakers and the Salvation Army believe that what they call “John’s Baptism” was for a time only, and that when the New Testament says “believe and be baptized” that it’s referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Sal. Army lays hands and prays for it. Quakers seem to believe that it just happens when you become convinced, or that the becoming convinced is, itself, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    Just thought I’d disturb you day with that.

  25. I appreciate that you are posting about this and am looking forward to the upcoming posts. I think that much of the confusion about baptism in the SBC (and also in the other credobaptist, evangelical denoms) is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of salvation and the gospel.

    Most southern baptists would believe that salvation begins with a very obvious, life altering experience. Any baptism that happens before this experience is considered false. In highschool, my youth pastor used to say, “You’re just taking a bath” if you haven’t had this life altering experience.

    Young children see that their friends and/or older siblings are getting to swim in church, so they want to as well. Of course parents are not going to deny their children the chance to get baptized, especially if they misunderstand baptism. A few years later, they are unsure whether or not they had a real “life-altering” experience at that time, so their youth pastor baptizes them again. For the rest of his or her life, this person is constantly called to question his salvation experience because it wasn’t quite life-changing enough.

    I am a youth pastor at a western canadian baptist church, but I minister also to the youth from the local mennonite brethren church. We had a youth who had clearly come to know christ (from a background of cultural Catholicism). She attended the mennonite church whose pastor refused to baptize her, because she could not recount a specific time that she had had some sort of life-altering experience.

    All of that to say that the whole baptism confusion is completely mixed up in a misunderstanding of salvation and the gospel and the nature of Christianity as a whole.

  26. If the Scriptures mean anything to the rebaptisers, how can they disregard Ephesians 4:5 – One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.

    The sacraments of initiation are a one-time deal, to treat them as anything else is to cheapen them. Those who rebaptise show that they have little trust in what Our Lord left behind as sacramental signs for us, and little faith in the power of baptism.

    O, Ye of little faith…

  27. I think about this often, especially since I’m not quite in keeping with the SBC perspective of baptism (and ordinance that has no particular efficacy). My daughter wants to be baptized and I think about when I give my consent.
    I was baptized as an infant (Catholic) and re-baptized as a 10 year-old in a Conservative Baptist Church. And now I wonder if the baptism as an infant had the efficacy that brought me to the faith I acknowledged later to that Baptist church. Mabye that first baptism was legitimate. Hmmm.

  28. Nicholas Anton says:

    Two fundamental doctrines to which the practice of re-baptism are linked are;

    1) The doctrine of Eternal Security.
    2) The doctrine of baptism.
    (Is baptism the door to eternal life, or is it the confession of eternal life?)

    I believe, for reasons which I will not address here, both in Eternal Security, as well as in the confessional nature of baptism. As in Christian marriage, the “I do’s” (Faith) initiate the marriage (not the preacher’s pronouncements [that is another topic]), the wedding ring’s (Baptism) are the confession of that union.

    I, like the New Testament church and early church, believe in the permanency of the marriage bond (Rom. 7:1-4), as well as in the permanency of Eternal Life (Jhn. 10:28). As infidelity and divorce in the marriage do not sever the marriage bond, but violate it, likewise, infidelity does not sever the union with Christ.

    Because baptism is a/the confession of Faith implemented by Christ of one’s faith that already exists, which not only expresses the union, but the permanency of that union, re-baptism is anathema.

    On the other hand, if the initial so called baptism took place before faith, it can not be called a legitimate baptism. Therefore, to baptize such on their confession of faith is not in fact re-baptism, but simply baptism.

    On the other hand, to re-baptize those who have already been baptized on their confession of faith, is contrary to the teachings of Christ and his Apostles.

  29. Lucy,

    Thank you. I share some of your experience having been baptized after a profession. I have since become convinced that the prefigurement of Christian baptism is circumcision (that’s my reasoning, I don’t intend to say it’s Lucy’s). So, I have not hesitated to have my children baptized into the covenant. I do not consider that an “essential” in the sense that someone dying without baptism is necessarily lost, so I don’t get too worked up about it. My wife (then fiancee) was baptized at age 32. She did not come from a covenant family, so I had no problem with it at all (as strangers seeking citizenship in Israel (old covenant) would have had males of any age circumsized).

    Michael A

  30. Maybe rebaptism is an emotional “experience” that people confuse with something more significant.

    The first time is sufficient and significant.

    Seems like maybe some folks today go to church for “a great experience” (like getting baptized) rather than to worship, learn and grow in Christ.

    Just a thought.

    Mil

  31. My wife and my younger son are both among the ‘rebaptized’. She was first baptized within the Roman Catholic Church and he within the Lutheran Church. My own journey is complicated, but I have been only baptized once, though I would say my own process of conversion really reached fruition some decades later. Even though I’m in the SBC, I don’t think I actually believe much of anything they have to say about baptism. And the strange juxtaposition as something that is treated as both very important that it be done ‘right’ but also as something which doesn’t actually mean much of anything is bizarre.

    One thing that has stuck in my head is something I heard N.T. Wright say once. He said he was sometimes asked why we are baptized once, but take the Eucharist often. His response? You are born once, but you eat every day. There’s much to digest in that simple statement.

  32. I have some questions for those who strongly support rebaptisms, with the assumption that you tend to think of baptism as a sign, and Not a something life changing in itself.

    If it is only a sign, why the emphasis on it? Being baptized doesn’t make a person a Christian any more than wearing a ceramic cross on the outside of your clothes does. Your actions will always speak louder than your words.

    Why baptism, when a more effective sign would be either sharing your testimony or having other, mature Christians tell of your life and that it shows that you are a Christian?

  33. Aliasmoi, your points are well taken. Thinking about all of this, it could be that my bias is cultural, being raised in the SBC tradition where baptism is equated with public confession. But, there is nothing really scriptural about that coupling, is there?

    To poke more holes in my logic: what about Philip and the Ethiopian? Paul and the jailer? These were private baptisms. I assume they weren’t rebaptized.

    So, yeah, you disturbed my day. In a good way.

  34. K.W. Leslie – “I may not see rebaptism as any way necessary—since there is, as you said, only one baptism—but if my lack of it got in the way of my relationship and ministry to fellow Christians, I might do it lest I give offense. I might be right, and preach it till I’m blue in the mouth, but being right doesn’t further the Kingdom any.”

    I’d like to respond to your post. I was baptised as an infant (Presbyterian), stopped attending church as a child after the death of a parent and joined the Church as an adult by Profession of Faith. I am currently attending an Evangelical Church that would require me to be re-baptised by immersion to become a member. I don’t feel that I need to be re-baptised and if I was it would be only because the denomination wanted me to do it. I would be doing it for them not for God. I would have to stand up there and give a testimony saying that I am doing this in obedience to the elders of this church. I would find this very difficult to do.

  35. KM:

    There are lots of people like you in SBC churches. Thousands.

  36. I was rebaptized at Calvary Chapel after being baptized as an infant in the Presbyterian Church. Then in college, shortly after the rebaptism, I came in contact with some Campbellite (both Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ) Christians who believed not only that you had to be baptized to be saved, but that you had to believe that you had to be baptized to be saved WHEN you were baptized in order for the baptism to be valid. (I don’t know if that is their official doctrine or not, but that is how the college students reported it to me.) I decided to read the Reformers. I was surprised to discover a Grace Alone position that put a lot more weight on Scriptures that linked baptism to salvation (e.g. Acts 2:38) than I had done. (“Concerning Rebaptism” by Martin Luther was especially good.) My Calvary Chapel friends just tried to explain the verses away. I still think the Campbellites are guilty of legalism here, but I’m glad they pressed the verses on me.

    I think my friend who was baptized next to me in the ocean was properly baptized. But I see my rebaptism as a non-event now. The first one took.

  37. I found this conversation very interesting. Ran accross it while reading up some stuff on Apologetics. I really like the conversation going on, and I know some may have said this in the past, but it is important to define baptism. This is the root of the issue. If baptism is not clearly defined, there can be no rebaptism. As mentioned in this essay, there are many different views of baptism, flooding from denomination to denomination,etc… Thus, the exhaustive clarity of rebaptism is only made through your view of baptism. Scripture can be misinterpreted to fit almost anything in life, and therefore a deeper look at the context of scripture and the motives behind certain passages is required. I have read muchado about baptism relating to membership. Growing up as part of the IMB(SBC’s mission board) I understand the Baptist theology behind this. However, I wish to consider myself a deep thinker. Every thinker knows that in order to get an answer, you must ask the right question. So in all reality, the question of “What is rebaptism? or is rebaptism necessary?” all comes down to where we come from, theologically speaking. And I would much rather go to the scriptures than base my entire argument off the bat with my baptist background, to which I dont refer to very often, but in some cases it might be necessary. I hope I havent left anyone thinking how ridiculous of a mind I may have, but my idea here is to challenge you to find the biblical foundation for truth, which is Christ, and what are their teachings on rebaptism. I think its pretty obvious there is no need for the theological argument for rebaptism, seeing as redemption is Gods game, and not ours.

  38. I have a huge issue with the baptism = public profession of faith view. I have a good friend that is a regular attender of an SBC church. The guy can’t talk in front of a large crowd. It’s just not in him. If you talk to him one on one, he gives a credible profession of faith. The pastor requires his “testimony” before the congregation prior to baptism. My good friend is scared to death to speak before the congregation, and therefore is denied baptism. That is a sad commentary, especially when he is welcomed with open arms to the communion table.

  39. My very godly grandmother was raised in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — her mother was a member. They went to services about once a quarter. Her mother would have loved to have had a Book of Mormon, but her father wouldn’t spend the money for it. So, the only thing they had was the Bible! (God’s protection!)My grandmother was baptized (by immersion) at the age of 12 in the RLDS.

    After she married my grandfather, who was Baptist, she began studying the Bible more deeply, because she wanted to know what the difference was between what she believed, and what the Baptists believed. She found little difference — little difference in what SHE believed, because she had had so little exposure to the actual teachings of HER CHURCH. She joined the small rural Baptist church (who were, evidently, somewhat lax on the subject, or were just unaware of the circumstances of her baptism)…she was active in the Baptist Women and was a state officer, taught Sunday School, led women’s Bible Studies in her home for over 20 years…

    And yet, to the day she died at the age of 93 she was never rebaptized. I asked her about it one time. She said that different pastors had broached the subject with her, but she just couldn’t do it. She said, “When I was baptized, it was because I loved Jesus, and I KNEW I was saved. To be rebaptized would make a mockery of that.”

    I have yet to meet a pastor of a SBC or similar denomination who, when I tell this story to, believe that her baptism was “valid”. I believe they are so very wrong.

  40. Rebaptism is a very serious issue as explained in the intro and shouldnt be taken lightly. It really at its core is about whether you believe Christ or not, that “you must be baptized for the remission of your sins” with water and he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Its serious yet it is so simple. Our Lords words dont confuse, the message is very clear to those who have their ears open. He doesnt consider infant baptism as necessary for a baby who has no sin, no need to be saved because the child is innocent. The infant/child god forbid something terrible happens before he or she is of age to know right from wrong will not be judged and sent to eternal damnation. They will be with the Lord! So it goes without saying, once one attains to the age of accountability, they must be baptized as one of the steps to being saved.

    – First one must hear the word
    – One must believe the word
    – One must be baptized with water via immersion
    – One must repent of their earthly ways and sins
    – Finally, one must fellowship, walk and live according to Gods plan.

    I have a friend who when she was a teenager got baptized at an encampment at Yosemite back in the 70’s. I hadnt seen her for 20 years or so when she and her family showed up at church one evening to our surprise. She and her husband were down on their luck with 3 kids in their early teens. He was out of work, she had no work skills all this time and they were really hurting. During the next couple months Sue was confering with a few of the members as well as myself during a bible study and she brought up the question, “should i be rebaptized, i think i want to get rebaptized because i just think i need it”. I listened to Sue’s total recall of her original baptism and realized she gave her heart to Christ and that she understood her position with Christ before and after being saved. She was to my understanding fully saved as a teenager. Why did she want to be rebaptized? I explained to her that she has been going through a very tough period but that the Lord is still with her, she just isnt seieng him because she lacked the original focus and faith she posessed as a young adult. We explained that God never leaves his children and that her baptism is the same today as it was 25 years ago. All she needed was a little encouragement and some daily dosages of the word and she would be on track again with her Lord. Sue and her family are living and walking a life that makes our Lord proud!

  41. I am in a similar situation as KM. After being baptized as an infant in the Christian Reformed Church (an act that I was taught to believe was my initiation into the family of God and covenant akin to circumcision between God and my parents– not as salvific). Later as a teen I made a public profession of faith (no water involved) and became quite involved in the church. I have loved and served Christ for many years now.

    Part 2: My husband has been offered a job as a pastor in a Mennonite Brethren Church and I would have to be rebaptized before he could be ordained there and before I could be a member.

    + I want to be a member of the church where my husband is serving and do not want to cause a big deal that will distract from his ministry there.
    + I have, over the years, come to believe that baptism is probably more Biblically a believer’s act and thus adulthood is a more appropriate time for this important symbol of sacrament.
    – I do believe that baptism is a symbol of a heart attitude, turning towards God and confessing His lordship. Thus, I believe that is just what I did in my profession of faith though there was no water involved.
    – I don’t believe that any baptism (original or ‘re’) should be taken lightly or redefined (i.e. as a ‘recommitment’ or sign of solidarity with a particular tradition)

    I guess I want to know your opinions on how to humbly and honestly approach a baptism that really won’t mean anything to me theologically?