Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Baptism -- Knowledge of God

I was reading a post over at Cerulean Sanctum the other day about baptism as it relates to children.

Before I go a step further with this discussion, I need you to understand that I hesitate even to write it. I am a wife, mother, daughter, friend, member of the United Methodist Church, and child of God (an abbreviated list). I am a lay person, and the only qualification I have to write about baptism is that I have been baptized. Know that before you read anymore. You know what they say about a grain of salt.

Dan, at Cerulean Sanctum, is asking questions about baptism. It’s dangerous, isn’t it, to try to distill another person’s thoughts down to a few sentences, but here I go anyway. Dan is wondering how we know when baptism is appropriate – how can we know that a child has been converted or saved? By what evidence can a parent make that judgment? I think that it may all come down to a basic understanding of baptism – what is its purpose? What is the role of conversion? I think the questions are interesting, and even though I have no qualifications, I’m delving in anyway.

No big words here (just so you’ll know). I am a biologist, and I have my own bag of large, hard to understand words (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, anyone?) I know their value, but in this case, words like credobaptist and Calvinist monergists are just going to get in the way, so I’ll avoid them.

Dan is worried that it is difficult to discern if conversion has occurred in a child. That’s not a question that I’ve ever asked myself. I believe in infant baptism, and I’ve taken two sons to the altar of our church to be baptized. I was able to do that because it was (and is) my belief that God was at work in their lives, as young and as small as they were. I didn’t need proof – it was faith in things unseen.

It may be easier for me to explain this if I get a little more personal that I usually do on this blog.

I remember as a child – this was while we were still living in Virginia, so I was probably three or four – knowing that God existed. I didn’t understand much of anything about Him, but I knew He existed. We didn’t go to church much, so I wasn’t mimicking back VBS themes; it was knowledge. Had Mom told me that God existed? Probably – that’s part of what we do as parents. But my certainty was more than that. And really, isn't that where all us start? Knowledge that God exists.

I’m a Methodist, and when we say prevenient grace, I know what it means. God is at work in our lives from the very beginning. I never had a conversion experience. I never made a conscious decision to believe in God, to accept God. It has always just been my reality. The question, “Are you saved?” has always bothered me. God never lost me.

Does it sound arrogant? It isn’t meant to be. The credit for that isn’t mine at all; it’s God’s. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t turned away from God, that I haven’t (and that I don’t continue to) sin, or that God is in any way done with me. It only means that God has been working in my life from the very beginning.

I know that my story isn’t anyone else’s story, and that yours is different. Some of us have conversion experiences, and thanks be to God for them.

In The Silver Chair, by CS Lewis, Aslan says, “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you.”

Because of that certainty, I am able to take my children to the altar for baptism. I don’t need evidence of God’s work in their lives. There is no trial, and I am not the judge. All I need – all I have – is the deep down knowledge that God is working in their lives. And I have that certainty as a gift from God -- grace.

That’s not the end of my thoughts – only the beginning – so more tomorrow.


Blogger Dan Edelen said...


Thanks for the link! I appreciate your candor on the subject.

You say at the end, though, that your final gauge on this issue is the deep down knowledge you have that God is working in their lives. Yet you said right before that that you don't need evidence. Well, isn't that deep down knowledge evidence? And, honestly, isn't God working in some in everyone's life, whether saved or not?

Not trying to be a pest. Just wondering.

Even Wesley was heading to a credobaptist position toward the end of his life.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

You're not being a pest.

The difference though, between watching the child to see if conversion has occured, and what I mean by "deep down knowledge" is that evidence of conversion is rooted in watching the child. My deep down knowledge -- faith -- that God is working in the child is a gift from God -- not based on the child at all.

And absolutely, I pray that God is working in everyone's life, and I believe it. I know it. Whether I can see it or not. Another gift of grace.

And while I don't always agree with your blog, I read it all the time, because it starts my mind working. Thanks for writing.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Brett said...

I also wrestle with the concept of infant baptism. In my layman understanding, John Wesley felt that infant baptism helped diminish the effects of the infant's upcoming actual sin (not original sin) and to speed prevenient grace. If I'm wrong on this, someone correct me.
My background is Southern Baptist with some Reformed influence. My wife and I joined the Methodist Church after we got married. I thought at the time that there really is not that big of a difference between the denominations. As I study John Wesley, some of his concepts of grace and baptism are very different. I love his zeal for evenagelism, but I'm still not sold on his doctrine of baptism and grace.

2:13 PM  

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