Should We Baptize Young Children? This Guy Thinks So.

I have shared about my ongoing conversations with Elijah about baptism and communion. While communion (which Grace Church does about once per month) is the more regular issue, the first step needs to be him being baptized.

But I also know that I need to continue to evaluate my thoughts on this topic. I appreciate guys like James White, who left a comment on Baptism Before Communion?, challenging my perspectives. James was the first guy who mentored me when I was a young believer, and who helped me think through why I did not feel a need to be baptized. (I put my faith in Christ as Savior in 1995, and but wasn't baptized until two years later.)

Moreover, I was glad to have read an article by John Starke, entitled Should We Baptize Small Children? Yes. It challenged and encouraged me. While we parents and church leaders need "to guard against giving a young child false assurance," Starke cautions against having a "probationary period between believer and baptism."

Starke then gives four reasons to not delay baptism for young children:
  1. No pattern in Scripture for a probationary period.  "I'm afraid that in the attempt to guard against false conversions, we have also prohibited obedience to Christ in following his command to be baptized."
  2. Faith is all we need to be a Christian.  We do not want our children to think that they need to do anything or act in a certain way in order for us to treat them as a Christ-follower.
  3. Affirming belief is never false assurance.  Baptism is a part of the discipleship process, not just an isolated one-time event. See the post 10 Principles for Shepherding My Child Through Salvation and Baptism.
  4. The New Testament pattern is reactive instead of proactive concerning conversion.  There is some theology in this point that I really don't understand completely. But the main point is that "the New Testament's emphasis is not on the proof of an individual's conversion." It is about the continual work of leaders to help others' faith grow strong.

So, maybe I am being too hard on Elijah. The reason I have not let him be baptized is that I am not sure if He is a follower of Christ. That is the central issue. He definitely knows the truth of the Gospel. And the statements he makes and questions he asks seem to show a deep level of understanding and application. Maybe I am being overly-fearful in holding him back. I need to remember this encouragement from Starke:
"But if a child is expressing faith in the gospel, our first impulse should not be to doubt it. We have every reason to believe that God has used the ordinary means of prayer, discipleship, and teaching to bring to life faith in our young children."

There is no easy formula to figure out when a child is ready for baptism. There is tension between wanting our children to grow in Christ, and wanting to be sure that he "owns" his own faith. But remember that the tension we feel is OK and expected. The tension is what drives us to cry out to God for His wisdom. The tension is one way that God uses our children to disciple us.

Chalk it up to yet another area that I am learning to trust God with.

Related Link:

No comments :

Post a Comment