Saturday, August 2, 2008
On July 27, Christ Community welcomed three young ladies into the body of Christ.It was an exciting day for everyone. To many in our neighborhood the baptism of such young girls doesn't make any sense. The reason for this misunderstanding is complex, involving many different issues. Perhaps the most significant is the misunderstanding of the rite of baptism itself. To many people today, baptism is viewed as a testimony of ones faith. It is this testimony that provides the basis for entrance into the Church. However such a conception of Baptism is no where found in Scripture. It is a false conclusion drawn by inference from the fact that in the Acts of the Apostles, many believed and then were baptized. Scripture and Tradition agree that Baptism is into the body of Christ. Even the Anabaptist will agree on this point, but they assert that a persons belief must precede baptism, making it primarily a human work, a testimony. This infants and young children are ineligible for entry into the body of Christ. In fact, excluded also are mentally handicapped, as well as the physically handicapped if they cannot communicate their testimony of faith.
In Matthew 28, Jesus' commissions his Apostles, to go, make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that He commanded. In the original Greek, the operative verb is "make disciples." Going, baptizing, and teaching are verbal clauses that modify the main verb, that is, stating the way or manner in which disciples are to be made- going, baptizing and teaching. Regardless of word order, everyone must understand that baptism is essential to disciple making. Therefore to deny baptism to infants or young children of Christian parents, means that children cannot really be disciples until they are adults. Such a thought is antithetical to much that Jesus did and taught. He bid the disciples to let the little children come to him. He said that unless we become like children ourselves we cannot be his disciples. Which leads us to the fundamental difference between the vast majority of Christians, through out the past centuries, and the modern practice of "believers baptism" only.
Scripture and Tradition hold that God works through material things. The apostles, anointed people with oil for healing, they prayed over handkerchiefs and sent them out, and they baptized entire house holds into the household of God. Baptism is not a human testimony, but God's testimony. It is His welcome of a person into his family. It is the administration of His grace, for salvation. As parents, given the responsibility of raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we have to recognize that we are the ones charged with making disciples of our children while they are in our care. We will be remiss if we do not make available to them every grace toward this end. Let the little children come. Forbid them not.
Posted by Fr. Bob Lemmon at 9:28 AM