Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Practical Theology of Baptism

Today my Romans class reached Romans 6:4 and we ended up spending most of the class discussing the practical theology of baptism. I consider myself very wesleyan when it comes to the topic (in contrast to Wesley-an). Of course I don't expect anyone to agree with me but here were my positions:
  • Baptism is normative (although not essential for salvation... Salvationists and Friends can still go to heaven). Baptism does not "save" you, nor does it cleanse "original sin."
  • Baptism is a means of grace, but the specifics of the grace dispensed varies somewhat depending on the point when a person is being baptized (e.g., infant versus child versus adult, etc).
  • The earliest church probably baptized primarily by immersion, but the word baptizo does not necessarily mean "to immerse." It's not a point to fight over, although immersion probably has the strongest symbolism of death to our former self.
  • There are advantages both to infant and believer's baptism. The advantage for infant baptism is the strong claim on the child for Christ by the community from the very beginning. It does not "save" the child, who will need to confess faith subsequently and receive the Holy Spirit. But it strongly affirms inclusion in the community of faith and makes faith the assumption of the future.
  • The advantage of believer's baptism is the power of conscious, individual choice. It strongly affirms the individual faith decision for Christ, although it suggests the person is in a kind of limbo up to that point (the child is a stranger in the church's midst).
  • Rebaptism is not ideal or necessary, but is a pastoral call--would rebaptism significantly invigorate the person spiritually.


TorreyS said...

Not sure Peter, the apostle, would agree with this non-salvational baptism; cf. 1 Pet 3:21: 21ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, (21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you, NRSV). Too bad I am staying so short in Fishers, IN., the week before SBL. Would have been nice to discuss this 'sozei' over a cup of coffee! :)

Ken Schenck said...

I've always taken that as a metonymy of sorts. Perhaps coffee at SBL. :-)