Yesterday I was able to perform one of my favorite things that ministry allows me to do– infant baptism. Some people were surprised that Crossbridge baptizes babies so, I decided to write a post to explain why we sprinkle babies.
1. We are Presbyterian. Part of what it means to be Presbyterian or Reformed is to be covenantal. Cove…what? Reformed Christians read the Bible with the understanding that God relates to individuals through a people he has set aside. The terms of this relationship that God establishes with his people are called covenants. Through the 6 main covenants depicted in the Bible (Adam/works, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, New) God vows to protect, to nurture and to never abandon his covenant people.
2. We believe that baptism (as circumcision in the Old Testament) functions as a sign and seal of this covenant. The seal aspect points to the fact that through baptisms people are brought into life in the covenant community in a visible way. In Matt 28:12 when Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples and baptize, he intended that those who became believers in his Gospel would have to be immediately inserted into the covenant community for nurture, service and growth. The sign aspect reveals that there is a greater reality which baptism points to. This greater reality is, God’s outpouring of special blessings to his covenant people (we technically say that baptism is a “means of grace”).
3. We believe that adults are brought into the community through baptism after they profess faith in Jesus. Infants on the other hand, that are born in the covenant community (children of members) are naturally brought in through their parents. To deny them the seal that recognizes their participation in the community is to A) narrow the composition of Jesus’ church (covenant community) to people that have the ability to discern B) to be inconsistent with what actually takes place practically.
4. We believe that baptism does not confer salvation. Reformed Christians differ from Catholics that believe that regeneration is initiated in baptism and from Baptist or Anabaptist Christians that believe that baptism is merely a symbol of one’s profession of faith. For us, baptism is a sacrament. Sacramentum is a Latin translation of the Greek word Musterion from where we get the word ‘mystery’. We believe that in baptism as in communion, God graciously distributes blessings to those who participate by faith. In the case of infants being baptized, their parents’ faith. Parents trust Jesus in baptism that Jesus will mysteriously begin to work in their child’s life and that one day Jesus will draw their child to himself and, that their child will one day publicly profess their personal faith in Jesus.
5. A covenant involves responsibility for those who participate in it. As wedding vows bind those who marry, baptism binds the church (the covenant community) and the parents to Jesus’ covenant. For both, it means bringing the child in the ways of the Lord, providing the child a culture of Grace and, godly examples to follow. Lack of faith in participation implies in judgment.
I know that there is room for a lot more to be said in this post and I’m sorry if I disappointed but, let me remind you that this is a blog not a theological journal. I attempted to be practical and less technical so, if you wish to study this topic in more depth let me know and I’ll send you a couple of theological papers. I also recommend this video by Dr.Richard Pratt one of my professors in seminary.