I don’t believe in believer’s baptism because… – theoryspace
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I don’t believe in believer’s baptism because…

“It is one thing to say that confession of faith accompanies baptism, and quite another to say that the meaning and purpose of baptism is to give an opportunity for confession.”

“If baptism is primarily for the remission of sins and regeneration, the emphasis is not on our necessary but subsidiary part, faith and the confession of faith, but on the indispensable primary part, the divine work of reconciliation and renewal. The chief thing which is declared in baptism is not what I do, but what God Himself has done and does for me.”

“We are not directed to ourselves and our faith and our confession of faith. We are directed to God, and to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and will do within us by the Holy Ghost. Only in that context can we think of the necessary response of faith as the personal entry into the saving work of God.”

“It is no less perverse to treat baptism as primarily a sign of faith and the confession of faith than it is to regard circumcision as primarily a sign of the faith of Abraham. Indeed, it is more than perverse. It is false to the New Testament. It destroys the whole balance of the Christian Gospel and the Christian life. It puts the ‘I’ and its decision in the place of primacy and honour which belongs rightly and exclusively to God and His work. It gives it an apparent independent importance apart from Jesus Christ and the atonement. It finds the critical point in our turning to God rather than in His turning to us and His turning of us to Himself. In other words, it turns the Gospel upside down, and in so doing it misses the real meaning and purpose of the Gospel sacrament.”

Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The Baptism of Infants, Chapter 3: The Meaning of Baptism (Vine Books Ltd, 1955, 1976 & 1977)

Sorry my Anabaptist friends. These are pretty strong words, but I’m afraid I agree with Bromiley in his sacramental view of baptism.

I just lament that the sacramental nature of baptism has been lost in many church traditions and baptism has become a very I-centric activity — “I decide to get baptized…… I want to be a public witness to my family and friends…… I want to tell my story of who I was, how I converted, and what kind of a person I am now…..  I pledge to God my commitment to Him for life…… etc.”

As Dr. David Pao said in the Asian Mission Conference last week, our Protestant heritage is to realize that there is very little that we can do ourselves, except to just “hear” what the Lord has done and is doing for us. God is always the subject, the initiator, the active one. We are merely passive recipients and respondents of His divine grace and mercy.

P.S. I once wrote a paper titled “The Identity of the Children of Believing Parents and the Benefits of Infant Baptism,” explaining my position on infant baptism and why I let my two daughters get baptized. Let me know if anyone is interested in reading.

Posted in Posts in English, Theology.

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8 Responses

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  1. Edmund Ho says

    Amen brother. I just said the EXACT same thing this morning in part 2 of a 6-part series on Baptism during this Lent!

    Baptism is PRIMARILY the celebration and recognition of what God has done for us. That His Grace is upon those who are baptized. It is HIS pledge His commitment to us.

    And we have turned it to a complete opposite….

    • Anson says

      Amen brother. I wrote this because I was preparing for a baptism class last night and wasn’t very happy with the materials I’m using. I’m glad our Anglican tradition provides us deep theological resources to understand this issue better.

      I have yet to hear a good credobaptist argument that is theologically and scripturally motivated instead of always being motivated by the question “But what if……” (e.g. But what if she doesn’t have faith and is faking it all the way…… what if he renounces his faith later on when he grow up…… etc.) Notice that all these “what if” questions are centered on the self again and there is very little about God and His promises.

  2. Alan yu says

    I want to read your paper… Mind sending it to me? Thanks!

  3. Edmund Ho says

    I think the arguments are more biblical on both sides now. As Witherington noticed in “Troubled Waters”, padeo-baptists tend to equate baptism with circumcision, while credo-baptists look at it as some kind of bar-mitzvah. Recent discussions and books are more critical on the the ex opere operato myth for some padeo-baptists.

    • Anson says

      Yeah, I guess it is more likely my ignorance that I haven’t heard a convincing credobaptist position yet. I should do more reading on this topic. Thanks for your book reference. I’ll check it out sometime.

      Yes, in my paper I did use circumcision in my line of thought to argue for the validity of infant baptism. In regards to “ex opere operato”, I think if we truly believe that the omnipresent Lord, not the baptism administrator, is the one who’s making the sacrament effective, then I don’t see there is much of a problem. Only when we see that the Lord is sitting up there with his arms crossed, uninvolved in human affairs, do we start to question if sacramental acts that we perform have some magical ability in and of itself.

      If indeed, as Bromiley says, baptism is primarily about the remission of sins and spiritual regeneration, then how can we do it without the Lord’s active participation making it effective? When we start seeing baptism as merely following an ordinance, an opportunity to be a witness in public, and a confession of faith, then I don’t see there is anything sacramental or transcendent about the act.

  4. Dierdre Back says

    High achievement always happens in the framework of high expectation.
    Do a lot more than is needed. What is the distance between somebody who achieves their set goals consistently and people who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile.

  5. Barn says

    As one who holds to believer baptism, I believe baptism is always about what God has done for us. That is what baptism signifies……the old has become new! Our sins have been cleansed and we are now righteous in Christ. It does publicly identify one with Christ, but that does not negate the unique and amazing symbolism of what God has done for us. I’ve always thought it strange that paedobaptists argue against credo-baptism, yet every example of baptism in the New Testament is of a new believer.
    Tough to argue with Scripture. If contemporary Christians get it “wrong” at times by emphasizing self during baptism, this does not negate the overwheming evidence that baptism is for new believers in Christ, in expression of what God had done for them. Similarly, don’t forget that there are many, many different interpretations among paedos regarding what it means and its significance…..that fact alone does not defeat the argument of those who side with infant baptism.