It’s taken me a few weeks to make something I wanted to publish out of this, so you’ll have to forgive the use of some now rather outdated references. Sorry about that.
About five years ago I went to Bristol for the annual Methodist Youth Conference. I only ever went the once, but apparently it’s quite a highly respected body if you move in certain circles. From what I can gather that’s mostly people who, for all their talk of ecumenism, are quite precious about denominational preservation. One issue that historically divides denominations is that of baptism and thus, perhaps unsurprisingly, it featured quite prominently on the youth conference agenda.
Recently Thomas has been stirring up interdenominational debate on Dan’s housemate James’s blog; Catholic and Loving It. One of the things he’s been asking is whether or not he should get baptised, and James has (quite rightly) been encouraging him. When I first started thinking about this post, I was ready to point out that while Jesus instructs his disciples to
baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he never says
you must be baptised in the same way that he says
you must be born again. Since that time I posted a long passage from Hebrews, including chapter 10, verse 22 which makes the importance of baptism quite clear.
Ultimately, it is the question of whether I should be baptised that bothers me more. This can be argued two ways:
- My infant baptism wasn’t biblical and therefore doesn’t count. I should do it again.
- I was baptised as an infant and therefore do not need to do it again. It may even be wrong to do so.
This was the issue debated by Methodist Youth Conference. From memory, the argument mainly came from the line in the Nicene Creed stating
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, placing a great deal of emphasis on the word
one. To argue such a hard line from only a non-biblical source, particularly one so vague, seems a little odd. The Nicene Creed however, was written at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, possibly predating the canonisation of scripture. The question of how the Biblical canon was drawn up is something that has always interested me, now more than ever after reading Manifesto for a Revolution, and one to which I have never been able to find a satisfactory answer.
Assuming that we take the Bible to be the only authority on the matter, then I don’t believe second baptism is ever expressly forbidden, though it is quite obvious that it shouldn’t be necessary. If though, as is hinted at several times (1,2,3), it is not possible to be saved unless we have confessed and been baptised in water and the spirit in that order, then I have a problem. I do need to be baptised, and it wouldn’t be for the second time, as the first didn’t really count.
Both the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Westminster Confession of Faith, two confessions from fairly close to the time of the reformation, retain infant baptism as a sacrament of the church. By my interpretation their sole reason for doing so is that the child of one that is saved by grace is presumed saved, much as a child of Adam is presumed fallen—a principle which I don’t believe can be said to stand up either biblically or evidentially.
So after all that I’m no closer to an answer, though I do know that should I ever have children they won’t be baptised as babies.