Sunday, October 3, 2010
A Journey Ended
Today we ended a five year journey. Five years ago, Steve was interviewing for a job at a Presbyterian church and during the interview process, he was asked his thoughts about infant baptism. We were both brought up baptist (or non-denominational which is basically baptist without calling itself so) and so he responded that he didn't have much experience or understanding of the practice, which was true. He did, however, comment that he would love to learn more. (Steve had actually thought about it even before this time as a result of a conversation he had with a buddy from Cal Poly after a debate they heard between James White and Doug Wilson over baptism. Yet this was the first time we as a couple encountered the issue.) I was there during that part of the interview and left totally baffled that there were real Christians out there who baptized their infants. It was simply not how I grew up and my understanding of the practice well...I didn't have any understanding of it really. Nevertheless, it intrigued me tremendously.
He didn't get that job but instead got a teaching job. For that we are grateful. However, that little seed planted then has come to fruition many years later. After moving away from our beloved San Luis Obispo, we ended up attending a non-denominational church for a few years. However, after some time we realized that the things we had learned while away at college with respects to reformed theology, etc...just weren't adding up at this church so after much thought and wrestling we started attending a little Presbyterian church that was much more traditional and liturgical than our backgrounds had afforded us. Not to say that made us any better Christians at all. It just fit our belief system better and our preferences as well. Basically, it was the environment we wanted to raise our children in.
Yet this church believed in infant baptism. There it was again. We did not have to baptize our children to be members of this church. It wasn't required as they accepted both paedo-baptists (infant baptists) as well as cred0-baptists (believer baptists). The reason both are accepted at our church is that the issue of baptism is a secondary issue. It's not a salvation issue. Therefore, if brothers and sisters disagree on the issue of when to perform a baptism (whether at infancy or at a profession of faith), they can still fellowship together in unity. But when it comes down to where our church stands on the issue, our church practices infant baptism.
At that point, we began to think about it and dialogue about it. One of the things we started doing was we looked at church history. Martin Luther, one of the major reformers of the church, believed in infant baptism. What?! How could he believe in such an unbiblical practice? We read some of his sermons on the subject and they were quite compelling. For a man who reformed many things in the Catholic church, infant baptism was not one of them. Why? He simply couldn't just be afraid of societal pressure since he obviously had enough courage to nail 95 other issues to the door of the Catholic church. No...it seemed to us that he didn't reform it because he thought it was biblical. His sermons bear that out. Then we looked at a few other "greats" of the faith like Augustine and puritan Jonathan Edwards (there were also many other puritans who believed in infant baptism as well but Edwards is one of the most well known). They all talked about the subject like it was a no-brainer. How could this be? Church history itself also seemed to show that Christians had been practicing this form of baptism (baptizing the children of believers) for nearly two thousand years and these realizations caused us to dig deeper.
Neither Steve nor I are very impulsive. In fact, we often over think issues chewing on them until there's simply nothing left. So in true Steve and Nikki fashion, we chewed. We read, we listened and we chewed. Sometimes we'd go months without talking about it much. Then we'd have another baby and the topic would get brought back up and we'd chew some more. That's just how we work. We weren't in a hurry. We knew it was a secondary issue but, we also knew that we wanted to understand it because there seemed to be much more to it. With so much history riding on it, it had to be given some weight. And most importantly, if we came to the conclusion that we should do that for our family, we wanted to honor God in it. So we continued to dig and chip away at it and this process took years.
Explaining the validity of infant baptism in a single post would be difficult as it is a very intricate and lengthy thing to delineate. I would like to discuss some of the reasons why we decided to take this step for our family but I won't have the time to do that this post as it is already long enough. But there are many reasons and to us, they're solid. I don't want to enumerate them to try and convince you we're absolutely "right" and that this is the only way. We don't believe it is a salvation issue nor that differences over it should cause so much disunity to break fellowship amongst believers. There are truly amazing, brilliant Christians on both sides of the issue. I simply would write about it because it's our journey...our story and it's just another chapter.
Today we ended a journey. We baptized all four of our children and it was wonderful. It hasn't been easy. Not everyone in our lives has understood or seen eye to eye. But it's been an amazing journey. It has brought us to the depths of our faith and produced in us a hope- a hope that one day God would capture the hearts of our children through faith. We cannot make that happen. Only God can. Their baptism today did not save them. But it looks forward in faith. It says, "If you will believe, if you will have faith, the Lord will save you."