Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why We're Baptizing Our Infant Daughter

(Note- this post is a slightly updated reprint of a post I wrote back in 2009, anticipating Kate's baptism.)

Claire is being baptized this coming Sunday. We're very honored to have Rev. Dr. M. Douglas Meeks, a mentor and professor of mine from my seminary days at Vanderbilt, coming to preside at the baptism.

Over the years I've heard the argument more than a few times from my Baptist friends (and from a few Methodists who think they're Baptist) that infant baptism isn't biblical, valid, or anything else remotely good. (Jessica wrote a really great blog post on the subject several years ago)

A cursory glance at the history of the Christian faith presents a different picture, however. In the 4th century St. Augustine (in one of his only major contributions to Christian theology that didn't turn out horribly) helped answer the question of what to do with people who came back into the Orthodox fold from a schismatic group called the Donatists. Augustine determined that the efficacy of baptism lay not in the holiness of the priest performing the sacrament (ex opere operato), but in the holiness of God.

In my own tradition, we view baptism as a sign of prevenient grace (a term Mr. Wesley learned from Jacob Arminius), which is symbolic of God's claim upon us. Claire doesn't understand the concept of God at three months old, but God's love for her and God's claim upon her life are no less real. In the same way she doesn't understand the concept of family, but she's no less a part of our family. Later she will be able to understand and claim for herself what has been true about her before she was even born.

Furthermore, baptizing an infant is an act of the church in which we are making a covenant to raise the child in the faith, provide a Christian example for them to emulate, and support them as they grow in their spiritual life. We are also reaffirming our covenant with one another and dedicating ourselves to emulating the divine life of perichoresis we see in the Holy Trinity.

On the non-theological side, this baptism is very special because I was baptized at Arlington as a baby, and Claire will be wearing the baptismal gown my mother made for me, which was also worn by my brother, Andrew, and Kate at their baptisms.

Look for a recreation of this photo after tomorrow's service:

If you're in the Nashville area, come to Arlington UMC this Sunday at 10am and celebrate with us!

1 comment:

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