The 3 Different Views Of Baptism

Following on from my previous post about how I was technically rebaptised (read it here) I now present part 2 of this series. I think it would be most helpful to define our terms and so that is what this post will be about. It is likely that this will be the most technical of this series. There are three main views represented by various churches on the subject of baptism. They are:

  1. Paedobaptism
  2. Credobaptism
  3. Non-baptism

I will lay each of these three out and have a brief look at the denominations that hold to each view.

Paedobaptism

baptism 2Paedobaptism refers to the practice of baptising children and infants. More or less by definition, this must happen before the child is aware of what is happening and is too young to profess faith. This camp can further be split into two groups, those who hold to the idea that paedobaptism has salvific merit (that is, plays a part in bringing the child to faith) as apposed to those who believe that the baptism is purely symbolic.

Paedobaptism is held by the majority of mainline protestant churches as well as the Roman Catholic Church. I include the Catholics because it is from them that the historically reformation type churches, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian etc. get their theology of baptism, one way or another. Many Credobaptist would say that the reformers, when reforming the church, never went quite far enough with this doctrine.

Below are some of the main Paedobaptist churches, I have also stated exactly what effect they believe baptism has on the infant.

-Lutherans – They believe that baptism is a means of grace, used by God in the process of brining the child to faith. The baptism itself does not save, which happens by faith alone, but it is one of the means God uses to ultimately bring the child to faith.

-Methodist – Most Methodists would say that infant baptism is merely a symbolic act (which is often also called a ‘Christening’ rather than baptism). I say most because there are a very few rare Methodists who might take the Lutheran view, or even be apposed to paedobaptism. Another aspect of this event is covenant, where the parents and congregation promise to bring the child up in the teachings of Christ, and at confirmation the child (then grown up) assumes the responsibility of faith themselves.

-Anglican – Anglicans are hard to pin down. According to wikipedia, “Baptism is the sacrament by which one is initiated into the Christian faith.” I haven’t had much other exposure to this view except on one occasion. I was listening to Wretched Radio (in those days known as Way of The Master Radio) and on that particular show, the host was in London and he interviewed the Rector (I think) of Wimbledon. This gentleman explained that the primary reason for paedobaptism (as an Anglican) was that they, the congregation, was assuming the child had or would come to faith rather than being totally outside of the faith (which is the typical Credobaptism view)

-Presbyterians – Like the Methodists they also hold that paedobaptism is symbolic, however for a different reason. The Presbyterian church typically holds to a amillennial replacement theology. Without going into too much depth, they believe that the church has completely replaced Israel, and any as yet unfulfilled promise to Israel in the Old Testament, now becomes the property of the church. Paedobaptism becomes important, because it replaces the initiation rite of circumcision that male Jewish babies received.

Credobaptism

Also known as believer’s baptism, this form of baptism is reserved, as the name implies, only for those who profess a credo (Greek for creed), they who believe.  Only  a person who has professed faith in Jesus Christ, thus only those who really want to be baptised ever get baptised. Unlike Paedobaptism, which usually happens by sprinkling or pouring water over the infant, the candidate for baptism is usually dunked in a pool of water, deep enough to cover their whole body. In a church, the baptismal area is called a font, and this form of baptism is called “baptism by emersion”.

Typically preceding the baptism itself, a candidate will make a public confession of faith, often telling the congregation their testimony before going down into the water. This is however, not compulsory.

Baptism_18The majority of credobaptist churches hold to the idea that baptism is merely symbolic although there are exceptions. The majority of churches that hold to credobaptism would be described evangelical and fundamentalist, rather than mainline. These include Baptist church (bit of an obvious one there), the various Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and the various non-denominational churches. Within the three mentioned above, there are any number of different groups; Reformed Baptists, Southern Baptists, Independent Baptist etc. as well as a slough of small Charismatic groups and the non-denoms are by definition, each a separate church. Each of these may nuance their Baptism theology, but what is described above covers the majority view.

Non-baptism

This one will probably surprise you. Why would I include non baptism as an option. Frankly it is not an option because Christ has commanded that a Christian should be baptised. In Matthew 28:19 one of the aspects of the great commission is that disciples are to baptize newly converted disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is God’s express command that we do this. Yet there are many genuine Christians out there who, whether through ignorance or disobedience, have not been baptised. and typically, they are content to leave things as it is. This is dumb, and usually downright disobedient, and the only thing I have to say to a person in this category is, “Regardless of your denomination get on it, man, do it asap

 

I have gone out of my way to not express an opinion in this post, except for the last category. However, in the next post, I will begin to look at the passages concerning baptism to see which view is correct, Paedo or Credo.

If you think I have misrepresented your denomination’s view of baptism, I would appreciate correction in the comments section below. Also, if you belong to a denomination which I have not yet mentioned, by all means state it, and what their view of baptism is. I would be interested to learn.

Bearded gentleman, Christ follower, Christian and theologian blogger. Owner of Havelock the cat. Reader of Tolkien lore

Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube