Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Tuesday, July 23


We had a fantastic baptism service on Sunday night.

There were six people:

A retired headmaster

A single mum

Four members of the youth group, children of believers making their own commitments.

Three were proper Biblical baptisms: a person having come to faith Christ is baptised into his name. In the Bible baptism always comes after a confession of faith.

There now follows a rant about baptismal theology. To skip to the narrative story, scroll down to #####

The other three were 're-affirmations' of baptismal vows. This is a curious Anglican get-around for situations where people have been put through an infant baptism but then come to a true faith later in life. The old way round this was confirmation - a ritual in search of a theology. There is no Biblical basis for 'confirmation'. But let’s take what is good about it - it’s a person committing themselves to God and asking for the Holy Spirit. Fine - I have no problem with that. But it is no substitute for baptism. So these people now want a Biblical baptism, but the church says you can't be baptised twice and doesn't want to dismiss its own infant baptism practices. So we have invented a 'reaffirmation of Baptismal vows'. It would be better in my view to admit that infant baptism is not true baptism. Parents cannot make promises about their children, not least because baptism isn't about promises. Baptism is about being joined to Christ, which happens when we come to faith.

Now I hear you say 'baptism equates to circumcision, so its right to do it to the children of the household of God'. Circumcision was done when the child was born into the family. I believe life starts at conception, but it is not until the child emerges that the circumcision is performed. Now it is by faith that we are Abraham's descendants. We are not his physical descendants (well, the reader may but I am not), but we are his spiritual descendant, by faith. It is when we believe that we become his children; that is when we are born into his family, and into his covenants. So if the physical circumcision happens after the physical child is born into the physical Israel, so the spiritual circumcision (baptism) happens after we are born spiritually by faith into the spiritual Israel. To baptise an infant is like going into the womb to circumcise the unborn child. To baptise the infant is to say to the unbeliever that he is a member of the family of believers. Which he ain't.

In the case of the Philippian jailer, when the whole household was baptised, the last line of the story is that 'they all rejoiced because they had all believed'. Those who were baptised were baptised because they themselves believed, not because their daddy believed.

### Continuing the story.....

The first of the youth was my third son's steady girlfriend, having a non-reaffirmation baptism despite being the daughter of a vicar. Excellent news all round. Hope it progresses to a wedding.

The first of the adults was a friend of my wife's. She had a bit of a crisis, having woken up from an afternoon nap to find that her three small children had been taken out of her house by persons unknown. I called the police for her while she descended through ever deeper levels of sheer panic and terror. It turned out that it was her own father, responsibly looking after the kids while she was out for the count. It would have helped if he had left a message, but he meant well. Anyway, apparently the sleep had something to do with alcohol, and the whole incident brought the lady to a realisation of her need for a new start. My wife prayed with her, speaking in tongues, and the lady was baptised with the Holy Spirit - which was a surprise because although we nominally subscribe to that sort of theology it’s one of those things that always happens to other people. Then the lady prayed to be born again. (Yes, I would have expected those to be in the opposite order, but I suppose it’s just her mind catching up with a fast changing reality). Then we arranged for her baptism just three days later. Woohoo!

So we were excited by the baptism, and the crowded service was a real banger. Good stuff!

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