Thursday, April 06, 2006

Baptism

We are happy to announce that we will be baptizing Jada in a couple of
weeks. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward confession. As
such, many people believe it is to be reserved for those who are
mentally able to make that confession. In fact, there are probably
just as many church-going Christians who do not agree with infant
baptism as there are who do. I myself, having not grown up in a
church, was baptized at 18, and Amy grew up in a church that didn't do
infant baptism.

So why are we baptizing Jada well before she understands the meaning
of the ceremony and the faith decision it represents? First, it's
what our church denomination does, and since there are just as many
sound Biblical arguments for and against, we want to go with what is
taught here.

Second, and more profoundly, Amy and I are learning what it means as
parents to make decisions for our children. We have both worked with
kids in our professional lives, and as close as those relationships
have been, we have set limits in how much authority we can have in
their lives. We can teach those kids, instruct them, warn them, even
chastise them. But at the end of the day, we can't make decisions for
them. Part of what have sought to do in those mentoring relationships
is exactly to teach our kids how to make good decisions on their own,
not to have someone make decisions for them. And so it is with our
children, eventually; that we want to raise them right, so that they
can be independent and critical thinkers, and make sound decisions in
their lives.

But as parents, we first have a responsibility, before our children
can make those decisions, to make decisions for them. We don't let
them learn the hard way not to touch a hot stove or run into the
street or eat marbles. We choose, for their own good, to keep them
away from the stove and to hold their hand as they cross the street
and to take marbles away from them. And so it is with the Christian
faith. We choose, for their own good, to teach them the Christian
faith, as we know it from the Bible and from our church.

The notion of waiting until you can mentally assent to a particular
religion is a very postmodern one. The notion of parents making life
decisions on behalf of their families seems very old-fashioned, even
outdated. But it is what you see in the Bible. And as our pastor
points out, the invitation to participate in God's Kingdom has always
expanded over time -- from one man to one family to one people group
to all people groups. It would seem strange, then, for it to change
course and retract, such that children, once welcomed from Day 1 into
God's family, would now have to wait until they are old enough to
choose into this family for themselves.

The Bible and church history both validate a diversity of faith
experiences. Some have lightning bolt moments, others assent once
they are rationally convinced, and still others are raised in the
faith and carry it through into adulthood. In a couple of weeks, we
will affirm that we intend to raise Jada in the Christian faith, our
congregation will promise to assist us in that endeavor, and Jada will
be marked by baptism as a child of God and of His covenant with man.

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