January 3 2015

Why worry about baptism?

WHY WORRY

Lately, I have been thinking lots about baptism. I am talking to people, posting thoughts on facebook, listening to talks and reading a really helpful book called, “Baptism: Three Views“. My aim is to reach a biblically faithful understanding of baptism and come to some conclusion as to which “camp” I sit in. There are many different understandings of baptism and people have debated it for centuries, but I am only considering three basic views – “pedo-baptism” (the idea that it’s appropriate to baptise children of Christian parents), “credo-baptism” (the idea that only professing Christians should be baptised) and “inbetweedo-baptism” (not a real term, but represents the view that either position is ok and there does not need to be uniformity between Christians on the issue).

But as the title of this blog asks… why worry about baptism? Why go to such lengths to think through an issue that may not be resolvable and is definitely not core to the gospel? Well, firstly I do want to acknowledge that I do think this is not a core gospel issue. Baptism is not necessary for salvation, a point that is most clearly shown by the story in Acts 10:43-48 where people respond to the call to believe in Jesus for forgiveness, are born again and given the Holy Spirit, and after all that are baptised. Only Jesus saves us and he does so when we put our faith in him, which is why Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Baptism doesn’t save us, so why worry about it?

great_commissionWell, baptism might not be necessary for salvation, but it is connected with salvation. All the views of baptism that I respect (namely the three that I mentioned above) acknowledge that baptism is an important ritual that Jesus commanded his disciples to perform as they spread the message of the gospel and made disciples. The final words of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s gospel record this command: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Any Christian that takes seriously Jesus’ authority and his command for us to make disciples and spread his teaching, has to engage with what he means when he commands us to “baptise”.

First and foremost, it must challenge all Christians to get baptised themselves. There may be much debate about whether or not we should baptise our kids, but if you are an un-baptised Christian, then the call and biblical expectation to get baptised is a no-brainer. I understand some Christians may want to think through exactly what it all means, or they may be unsure about the mode of baptism (dunk or pour), or they want to make the event something their friends and family can come to, but those concerns should not drag on too long. We should rather have the enthusiasm of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:36, who after comprehending the gospel, said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?” To put it off indefinitely or to simply ignore it, is I think, dishonouring to the beautiful ritual that baptism is supposed to be. At best it is a sign of being ignorant of the importance Scripture puts on it, and at worst it is an act of willing disobedience to the clear command of Jesus. So, if you haven’t done it and you’re a follower of Jesus, then get your bathers and get on with it!


MY JOURNEY WITH BAPTISM

So baptism is important to think about for all Christians, but why am I particularly engaging with this issue now? Well, the answer is in the blog I wrote before this one. I have a baby on the way. And so, I feel I need to come to some conclusion as to whether or not God wants me to get my child baptised. One thing I have come to realise is, I can’t do nothing. I can’t sit on the fence indefinitely. Basically, if I think about it for 20 years and then decide I believe that the pedobaptist view is correct, it’s a bit too late. It’s like someone driving towards a cliff as they are asking themselves “To be or not to be”. Once they hit the cliff, they have decided “not to be” whether they are ready for it or not! In the end, I do think there is some merit to the case for pedobaptism and so I think I should consider it before my child is too old and I have accepted the “credobaptist” position by default!

Even though my child’s impending birthday does create a sense of urgency (if you can call 6 months “urgent”), even before I was married I was interested in understanding baptism. You see, I was brought up in a Catholic family and so was baptised as an infant myself. For most of my childhood I didn’t contemplate my own baptism, but it did effect the way I understood Christianity. I was always taught that my baptism was like my ticket into heaven, and because of it, I was a child of God.

Baptism.146174950_stdAs opposed to what I now know the bible teaches, the Catholic Church’s position is that God uses the actual act of baptism to save us. The Catholic Catechism teaches: Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.” 

Due to this teaching, I always just presumed I had a relationship with God and so I did not engage with the message of the gospel or the call to put my trust in Jesus for my forgiveness. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I started to question this idea. Despite being told I was right with God, I didn’t feel it. It didn’t ring true to my experience.

At aged 16, I finally heard the message that I could be freed from my sin and received this rebirth as a child of God, not through my baptism, but through trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection. I heard this message through a pentecostal family, who were very much “credobaptists”. The daughter, who I was dating at the time, even told me how she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour and was baptised at the young age of 5!

After becoming a Christian I developed a real disgust with the idea of infant baptism. After all, it was my infant baptism that lied to me that I was already right with God and prevented me from seeking the truth about the gospel. At least, that’s how I felt. I came to think that infant baptism was the primary thing wrong with the Catholic Church and was the cause of most of their problems. Also, I had such a wonderful example of “believer” baptism in this pentecostal family’s testimony and now, my own experience.

I would have happily remained a devout credobaptist if it wasn’t for the Christian Union. If you haven’t heard of them, they are a wonderful evangelical group that meets on University campuses around Australia, teaching, evangelising, training and mentoring students. It was through the Christian Union (or CU as we called it) that I really started to delve into studying the Bible. The pentecostal church I had started going to was loving and full of enthusiasm, but they were not good at bible teaching. It was the CU that helped me study the bible, write bible studies, ask questions, seek answers, engage in robust theological discussion and get a fuller and clearer understanding of the gospel.

The CU (and its parent organisation, AFES) is made up of lots of denominations, but clearly there was a dominance of Anglican and Presbyterian churches. It was through the CU that I started attending Bundoora Presbyterian Church (a church I have now been going to for around 14 years). It was also through the CU that I heard the crazy idea that some Christians who knew the gospel and studied the bible, also believed that you could baptise infants!

You can image how shocked I was. For nearly 5 years I had believed that infant baptism was the biggest poison to true Christianity. I was thoroughly convinced that no valid biblical argument could be made for pedobaptism, but, not wanting to be stubborn in my beliefs, I was willing to be swayed. I looked for a solid biblical article that would explain the position to me, and low and behold… I found one! I am very sad to report I can’t supply a copy of this article, but I can testify to it’s arguments being solid and biblically based. It didn’t completely convince me, but it did show me that there was more to this debate than just what I had experienced in my childhood and conversion.

fenceFrom that point on, I was pretty much “on the fence” on the issue. Over the years I have done some thinking and discussing on the issue, but nothing that would compel me to pick a side. I would hear one argument and find it robust and convincing, but then I would hear a valid rebuttle and a presentation of the opposing view that was also robust and convincing.

As I said earlier, with a child on the way I feel I should once again pick up this issue and see if I can come to any settled position. Although I am an active member in my local presbyterian church, I feel no specific loyalty to agree with its position on this matter. My minister, Neil Chambers, is wise and very biblical, keeping our church focussed on the core issues of the gospel and not forcing people to agree with the official presbyterian position on an issue is not clear in Scripture. He definitely is a pedobaptist, but he would not expect I would have to agree with that position in order to be a member or be involved in church ministry. His focus has always be that Christian parents raise their children to love Jesus, whether they baptise them or not.

So, here I am, still on the fence. After years of reading and discussing, I feel I am getting a good grasp on both sides of the debate. In fact, if you are fully convinced of either position, I reckon I could happily and passionately argue for the opposing view. This doesn’t help me in my goal to reach some conclusion myself, but it does give me a respect for both sides, a humility when it comes to these issues, and an acknowledgement that neither side is “clearly” wrong or wildly unbiblical.

Now, I haven’t actually gone into the arguments for either position in this blog. This is partly because I am still reading the book “Baptism: Three Views” and wanting to solidify my thoughts a bit more. I will hopefully write another blog down the track to reveal and explain which position I have decided upon, when (or if) I eventually reach a decision. I just thought I’d write this blog to explain a bit of my journey so far and why I find it personally very stimulating, engaging and interesting to think about the issue of baptism.

To aid my journey, please feel free to do the following, either in the comments on this blog, or in an email to me personally:

  1. Share your own journey and questions relating to this issue.
  2. Pass on any articles, sermons or thoughts that you find explain either position well.
  3. Catch up with me to ask your own questions or to discuss or debate the topic with me. I’d love that!

 

Please also pray for me. This issue may be complex and both sides may have valid arguments, but I do want to be faithful to Scripture and the commands of Jesus, in how I think about this issue. At the same time, I don’t want to give this issue more time than I should. As my brother Tony advised me, I believe with the first child your primary thought will be “I must not drop you” until you relax. Just enjoy those early days.’ Good counsel.

So, why worry about baptism? Well, I don’t plan to worry too much. But I am looking forward to the journey. 

In the meantime, if you want a laugh, have a read of a funny post I wrote on this topic last year…

10 alternatives to “credobaptism” & “paedobaptism”

 

 

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December 10 2014

The New Camilleri

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10th October 2014
The test was positive!

We got a blood test done later that day to confirm the test. We fortunately got the results for the blood test the very next day, on the morning of Saturday 11th October. As a wonderful turn of events, this was also the morning of the March for the Babies that Cat & I attended to make a stand for all the unborn children aborted in Victoria.

As you can imagine, this day was especially significant for us!

cat Simon march

 

20th October 2014
This is the 6 week ultrasound showing our little baby’s heartbeat.

At this stage it is only 5mm big

CAMILLERICATHERINE20141020100006409

20th October 2014
The very next day, we told Simon’s mum & dad (Vic & Bernadette) the news.
But of course, we couldn’t tell them like normal people!
Simon used a magic trick to give them a cryptic clue…

23rd October 2014
We hosted a belated combined birthday celebration dinner for Cat and Clive (Cat’s dad).
Clive likes nice wines and so we bought him a bottle of Grandfather port, as a way of breaking the news.
This celebration was especially wonderful, because both of Cat’s nans were able to be present.

(Now, skip ahead a bit over a month)


5th December 2014
On this day we got our 13 week scan.
It was very exciting, because it marked the end of the first trimester.

We were so grateful to God that everything is looking healthy and on track.
At this stage our baby is nearly 8cm big.

baby 13 weeks

It is crazy and very sad that at this stage they encourage you to do a test to see if your baby has down syndrome. In fact, the “12 week scan” that gets done at this stage is purely to check for signs of this, so that you can abort the child if the test comes out positive.

We have been adamant that we would not consider killing our child even if they were found to have down syndrome and so we did not get the blood tests done to check for it. We did however get the scan because we were keen to see our new family member and we are happy to have the scan picture above.

It is amazing how much has developed in such a short time and our baby has a fully formed body and organs, arms, legs, fingers, toes and detailed facial features. At this stage our baby is also sucking its thumb and moving around as its bones grow and get stronger.

It is devastatingly sad that 1 in 4 abortions happen when the baby is around this age, encouraged by the myth that the child is not human, valuable, or even “alive” at this stage. It boggles the mind and breaks the heart to think about the millions of children, as developed as our baby at this stage, who have been killed due to this lie.

Anyway! On a lighter note, here is something you might be interested in. Here are…

THE TOP 5 FAQ’s
that we get asked as we tell people we are pregnant!

1. “When is the baby due?”

The baby is due at this stage on the 11th June, 2015 (subject to change without notice).

2. “How’s Cat feeling?”

Cat has actually been feeling pretty good with only a few of the dreaded pregnancy symptoms.
She’s had a little nausea and heartburn, but nothing too bad.
Mainly she’s just been exhausted and pretty drained, emotionally and physically.

But we’re only starting the second trimester, so who knows what fun symptoms await us!

3. “Where are you having the baby?”

We were thinking of going public, even though we had private health insurance,
but sadly we weren’t zoned for the Mercy Hospital, so (for a few reasons) we then decided to go private.
We’re having the baby at North Park Private, which is only 10 minutes south from our house in Mill Park.

4. “Will you find out the gender?”

Yes, we plan to, though we will have to wait til our 20 week scan in late January.
Some people like to find out the gender when the child is born, which is fine,

but we think it will be more personal to call our child he or she (rather than “it”).
We do not consider that we are “having” a baby. We have a baby. 
We have considered it a person and a member of our family right from the beginning.
We think relating to and referring to our little girl or boy will help express this reality for us.

Having said that, we are conscious of how children are boxed or narrowly defined by their gender
and we want to be conscious about not contributing to that. We believe gender is real and God-given,
but we do not think it is the most important aspect to a person’s identity.
Our child will first and foremost be a precious human being made in the image of God.
All other aspects, like the fact that they are our biological child and their gender,
will be secondary to that primary foundational aspect.

5. “Have you chosen names?”

Yes, believe it or not, we had agreed on a boy’s and girl’s name before we were even pregnant!

The question then arises, if we are finding out the gender,
will we name our child before it is born?

The answer to that is no. We will wait til after the child is born, before we give it its name.
If you’d like to know the names we have in mind for our child,
then you’ll sadly have to wait til they’re born as well. We’ll keep it a secret til then!


Please keep praying for us both and the health of our little new Camilleri,
and keep an eye on this blog page if you want to see more of our scans as our baby grows!

 



20 WEEK SCAN UPDATE!

22nd January 2015

We got the 20 week scan and everything is on track and both baby and mum are very healthy.

20 weeks baby scan

They even did a 3D scan which didn’t come out great (in fact our baby looks positively depressed),
but it’s still pretty cool.


3D 20 WEEK SCAN

We can also now happily announce the we are having a girl!

This is wonderful and allows us to talk about our daughter and call her “she” rather than “it”.

Below is an edited version of the amazing 20 week scan (the full thing went for around 40 minutes).

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