Photo credits

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

Sunday, December 22

Fishing for a theology of infant baptism

So Jesus made us fishers of men.

Of course there are lots of kinds of fish, and lots of techniques for fishing them.

Historically, as a good Evangelical, I have preached a very clear gospel of salvation by faith which is free but is recognised by repentance, confession, baptism, etc.  the good old 'sinners prayer'.  But that is a very bare gospel.  It is fishing with a bare fish hook.

No fish will voluntarily bite onto a bare hook.  Give the hook a juicy wiggly worm and hang it in the water for one kind of fish.  Wrap out in a fly and skim it over the water for another kind, still others need a line with multiple hooks, or dragged behind a boat, or whatever.

So the good old Evangelical gospel presented bare will have few takers.  The gospel must be presented to the public in a way that is at least vaguely attractive.  I oppose the 'prosperity gospel', but it can work in this way.  I prefer a gospel that comes with compassion for the poor, social justice, a new family, a social club, a rock concert, just being there, helping at a time of crisis.... whatever.  Fish will take and swallow this, and in so doing they will find the gospel inside those things.

But the one that is making me think and change my views the most is the good old trawl net.  You drag it across the sea bed and catch indiscriminately.   All the hook methods rely on an act of will by the fish to want and to take the bait.  The net just takes everything.  Once in the boat, the old boots and seaweed can be separated out, but the act of catching is indiscriminate, regardless of the will of the fish.

Now here's the thing: the fishermen that Jesus knew used nets.  So that is probably what he had on mind when he called is fishers of men.  The Evangelical gospel places hurdles in front of people before they are considered to be 'in'.  The net says ' you're in' .... and the boots (or goats, or tares, depending on your metaphor) are separated out later.

So whereas I have previously always insisted on believers baptism after a confession of faith supported by evidence of repentance - the hook model - I am now becoming more sympathetic towards indiscriminate infant baptism - the net model.

I suppose the moral is to never pin your colours to anything too dogmatically as God will soon come along and make you change.

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