Friday, March 09, 2007

infant baptism

In this article, Dr. Ray Pritchard shares the story of witnessing his first infant baptism recently. Its a very thoughtful article written from the perspective of someone who doesn't believe that infants should be baptized.

In the article, he gives three objections that many folks have toward infant baptism:
1) There is no example of infant baptism in the New Testament.
2) There is no command to baptize babies in the New Testament.
3) Many people who have been baptized as infants believe they are going to heaven because a priest or a pastor sprinkled some water on their forehead when they were a few weeks old.
While I am part of a denomination that practices infant baptism, I can especially relate to his third objection, and think about it nearly every time I perform an infant baptism. I explain that this is not a guarrantee or means of salvation, but I often worry that people believe it is anyway.


JD said...


I have always looked to Psalm 51 as a call to infant baptism and the belief in original sin as defined by St. Augustine. I also look at infant baptism as a way to remind all those involved in the child's life that this child is also a part of the church family and their example is important in the spiritual formation of that child. Their example can have a lasting effect on the child and possibly their relationship with God, but if nothing else, to be the reminder, as Dr. Pritchard says, that baptism does not ensure salvation.

One thing I really disagree with on this is the premise that everything that we do within the Christian church is based in the New Testament. I truly believe that our faith, and teachings there of, are BIBLICALLY based and not just NT. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. To show us that the law is a group of guidelines that help us understand what God expects of His people, and are important, but to focus on such is wrong. So to say that baptism is not in the NT, and thus, should not occur, is like saying that the OT is a great story for those before, and the 3,000 years of history that was the main reason for Christ coming to begin with was unimportant.

Anyway, my 2 cents on baptism of infants.


Jason Woolever said...

hey JD! good insights man

Ray Pritchard said...

Hi Jason,

Thanks for your kind words. As you could tell, I was moved by the service of infant baptism I witnessed even though it did not reflect my own background or convictions.

And I appreciate the comment by JC because it does illustrate that part of the debate comes down to some fundamental questions of biblical interpretation. I certainly would never want to say that the Old Testament was unimportant. I even wrote about that issue on my blog the day before my infant baptism post.

Thanks again for your encouragement. Perhaps we can meet in person when I'm Pontiac in a couple of weeks.



Jason Woolever said...

hey Ray, i thought you did a great job of honoring the tradition even though it wasn't your own. i'm gonna try and swing by and say hi after the services your speaking at at PBC. Thanks for your ministry.

JD said...

Dr. Pritchard,
I will head back to your blog and check out the comments on the OT. I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to respond to posts like this. I know it means a great deal to me to know that you are willing to carry on conversations outside of your blog.

It is also good to see that we can, and hopefully more people can, help those that are misinformed or uninformed about infant baptism and the need for personal profession of faith for salvation and not just the infant baptism. To me, those adults that get baptized, that had no up bringing in a Godly home, are the powerful sign of the Holy Spirit alive in the world today.


PS: I meant "infant" baptism, not baptism in general. :)

Keith Taylor said...


Even though I am a lifelong UM, I have always thought infant baptism was kinda dumb and to me it robs the later youth or adult of the baptism experience. For one, children don't need baptism. Is there anyone that truly believes that if a child dies he or she will be damned due to original sin?

I for one am most greatful that my parents did not baptize me as an infant. I was 21 when I was baptized and I look back to that Sunday morning fondly. I would hate to think that experience for me was reduced to a confirmation lecture read from the UM hymnal. I am glad that I was baptized as an adult. Baptism and Communion are the only two sacraments that the UMC practices. I'd hate to think that I couldn't remember one of the two.

Jason Woolever said...

that's one hang up i have with it too, keith.

JD said...


I think infant baptism comes down to tradition and your interpretation of Psalm 51:5

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." NIV

Or your ideas and understandings of St. Augustine's teachings regarding the fall and "original sin" received from Adam and Eve's disobedience. This is one that we probably will not know the answer to until we go to heaven, but I think part of the Weslyan understanding of us having a sinful, depraved nature and God's Prevenient grace:

"Hence we may, Secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are put Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm, 'We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.' But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is 'every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually?' Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still.” from John Wesley's Sermon 44 entitled "Original Sin"

There is so much more to go into, and I am not sure if that is what Jason intended, especially since there have been a great many posts about this in the Methoblogosphere the last 6 month. I also may be a little off on Wesley's sermon. His sermons, at times for me, are a little hard to understand because of the old English (at least to me). Some may all together believe that it is wrong to baptize a child, and others not. I do not think, in the eyes of God that it hurts in anyway since ultimate salvation comes from a personal acceptance of Jesus. Sometimes that is accompanied by baptism in adults, sometimes it is not. How one gets there is often discussed, but usually never relevant. The fact that you are there and have accepted Christ is the beauty of His grace.

Good discussion though and I am glad that Jason brought it up.