Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Explanation (a little late) of our Decision to Baptize Our Babies

It's that time in our lives when it seems everybody is having babies. With that, comes a million decisions starting in pregnancy continuing on through---well, I guess forever.
One decision that we have faced as parents, was whether or not to baptize Benson as a baby. We have had two infant baptisms the past two weeks in our church and I have been so touched by both of them and our pastor has done such a wonderful job of explaining them that it got me thinking how I've never really shared how we came to understand and embrace infant baptism for our children-- so I wanted to share that here, in case there is anybody (like me!!) out there, who has ever wondered what it's all about...

When I was in high school, I was leading a small group of kids from our youth group and one week the lesson was on baptism. (At this point in time, I was attending a baptist church that to this day I am so thankful for, as it was so instrumental in my life.) As I prepared for the weeks lesson which explained baptism and encouraged the group to recount their baptism experience, I realized that I didn't have a baptism experience to share! Upon realization of this, I was a bit embarrassed-- I mean, here I was LEADING the group and had never even BEEN baptized?! I was reassured in studying for the lesson that just because I couldn't remember ever being baptized, didn't mean that I wasn't saved by the blood of Christ. I did have a memory of my "conversion" and asking Jesus to be my savior--so I knew I was indeed a Christian, however, I did come to understand the significance of the "sign" of baptism as an important part of a Christian life, not only as an outward sign of an inward change, but also as a commandment from Jesus.
Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

After learning more about Baptism, I was eager to ask the pastor if I could be baptized. After recounting to him my testimony of God's faithfulness in my life and at age 13, my coming to an understanding of my need for his death on the cross in my place, Dr. Marshall Edwards baptized me at age 17. It was such a sweet experience and one that I am so thankful for-- as I felt it was "my own" and symbolized to me a very real picture of what it meant for me to die to my "old self" and rise anew in Christ. I will say, that since I had become a believer years before my baptism, my baptism served more as a reminder, a looking back, to my previous conversion and Jesus's salvation given to me through his death on the cross, rather than an illustration of a present "change" in my life.

Now, at the time, I didn't realize it, but I had indeed been baptized before.... I didn't remember it, because I was a baby! In later looking through my baby book, I found a certificate that says I was baptized as a young child in the Lutheran Church. I didn't remember being baptized-- but there it was.. a "certificate of baptism." Well then I felt foolish AGAIN, for being Dunked after I had already been sprinkled.... until I had another realization that my baptist church would not have recognized my infant baptism as "true baptism." Baptists believe in "believers baptism," which, obviously as a baby, I had not realized my sin and depravity and asked Jesus to take my sins and replace them with his perfect righteousness and become a "believer in Jesus' substitutionary atonement"-- I mean, my parents say I was a bright baby-- but I'm thinking that was probably a little advanced....

And then I met Benjamin.

His family was Presbyterian ARP. Now, for those of you who don't know, there is a difference in Presbyterian churches-- I didn't realize this at first-- You've got Presbyterian USA, PCA and ARP-- I didn't know the difference in the beginning, but I will say that there is a HUGE distinction between especially USA and PCA/ARP-- so much so that I think they should be called different denominations-- but that's a tangent I won't go on here--
The point is, I had been sprinkled in the luthern church as a baby, dunked in the baptist church as a teenager and now I was being introduced to a "new" church-- the Presbyterians.
For about the first YEAR of our dating relationship, Benjamin and I had some knock-down-drag-outs over some theological differences between my baptist church and his presbyterian church-- ONE of which, was baptism.

Apparently, presbyterians, like lutherans, believed that you were supposed to baptize babies--However, Presbyterian baptism differs from lutheran baptism in that the presbyterian baptism is not thought to in any way "save" the infant, it only symbolizes the covenantal relationship between the Lord and the baby. After learning more about baptism in high school and having "my own" baptism as a teen, this idea of babies being baptised seemed very offensive and wrong to me because I felt that profession of faith should precede baptism. It wasn't until after much prayer, research on the history of baptism, discussion with pastors, and searching the Word, did I come to understand WHY Presbyterians baptize babies.

In the old testament, before Jesus came, there was no baptism because Christ had, obviously, not come yet- and Baptism is a sign of the NEW covenant- the sign of the covenant relationship-- the promise we have from Christ that indeed whosoever believes in his life, death and resurrecion will be saved.
That's not to say that anybody born before Jesus's birth (who wouldn't have even known about baptsim as a symbol) wont' be saved-- it was just different-- We look BACK and trust on Jesus's death in baptism, whereas in the old testament, they were looking FORWARD to it and trusting in it through circumcision.
In the old testament, the sign of salvation and covenant relationship with God was circumcision-- when someone became a believer in the One True God, they were circumcised as an outward symbol of their inward conversion-- as were their FAMILIES... (even the babies)
Genesis 17 -- Talks a bit about that :)
When Jesus came, he commanded that the Symbol- the Sign of a Covenant relationship and faithful dependence of salvation was changed from circumcision to baptism.

And now-- what sparked the interest for this post.... an illustration from our new Pastor at Lexington Pres, Clay Werner:

Clay and his wife Liz moved to South Carolina four months ago-- Since moving here, people in our congregation have given them both Clemson and Carolina Jerseys for their two small children hoping to "win" them over to the "right" side early on! :)

He used the illustration that we are SO EXCITED to put our "team colors" on our little ones. (And if you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know that is true of the RYAN family, for sure!!) We want them, even when they are itty bitty teeny tiny babies, to be wearing that Jersey that says CLEMSON (or whatever team you pull for) in big letters right across the front, so that EVERYONE will know which team that baby belongs to... Now, realistically, the baby isn't ACTUALLY a tiger fan YET. How could he be? He's only a baby-- However, because we, his parents, both went to Clemson and have such a love for the tigers.. we desire and hope that one day he will grow up to be a tiger fan himself! And "accept" his tiger jersey as his own. Now, just because he's a baby and can't yet comprehend what it means to be a "Clemson Tiger Fan" doesn't mean that we won't dress him in orange and teach him the fight song and watch the game and stroll around campus with him in hopes that one day that outward Orange Jersey will become an inward love for Clemson-- and that he'll embrace "our team" as "his team"!

If we do this with our Univeristy, how much more, and what an EXAMPLE for how we are to raise our children with the mindset of being on "Jesus's Team."

One way to think about it is this: Infant Baptism is the "My First Clemson T-shirt" of the Christian faith. It's the outward sign of an inward change, that like the people of the old testament, we are looking FORWARD to in our child's life.

It says, this baby is going to be brought up wearing Jesus and hearing about Jesus and singing about Jesus and learning about Jesus and surrounded by Jesus "fans" so that one day, when he's old enough, we pray he'll understand the meaning of it all and fall in love with Jesus himself.

Looking back on how the Lord has worked in my life, I'm so thankful for my "Baptist Baptism" and what it meant and still means to me. (and I'm thankful that the Presbyterian Church recognizes and validates my baptism) But I'm also so very thankful, as a parent who wants nothing more than for her son to come to know and love Jesus as his own, to be able to give him his first "Jesus Jersey" through his infant baptism. Since Baptism in infancy or adulthood never saves, but is a sign-- pointing to something greater-- in infancy a sign of what's ahead and a trust in God's faithfulness to work unto that end-- and in adulthood a sign of God's faithfulness to have completed the work-- I count it a blessing to have been on such a journey as to have experienced different understandings of baptism and look forward to sharing with Benson, when he accepts Jesus as his own, pictures and memories of him being first baptised and then brought up in the faith so that he can see God's faithfulness in working through his life, even from the very beginning.

Here's a nice article:
Is it Okay to baptize infants?

(All that being said, this is where God has brought us-- we do not think every baby should be baptized, only if God has led the parents to an understanding and conviction of it-- the end of the aforementioned article says it well:

"(Our position) is that it is okay to baptize infants if the parents of the infant are God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians who honestly see infant baptism as a covenantally faithful act -- not that it saves the child. On the other hand, if the parents do not believe it is proper to baptize their child, then it is not okay for them to do it."

So all in all-- This post is not to say that our way is by any means the "only" or "right" way-- it's just the way in which God has graciously led us and what we have embraced as a family-- and I wanted to share the blessing here.)


  1. What an amazing post Jessica! Thank you for having outlined this important covenant and what it means in Presbyterian and Lutheran churches. Having grown up in the Lutheran church, we had Gracie baptized as an infant (and have had to defend that to several people). You are awesome!

  2. That is an awsome post. I was just talking with a friend of mine about infant baptism. I'll have to link her to your blog. Thanks for sharing this out in the "blogging world".

  3. I never thought of it this way, Jessica! I've only been a Christian for about 12 years, and was dunked simply because Jeff and I had ended up at a Baptist church by that time (Hubert's family has "been" both Baptist and Presbyterian--and before that, my parents occasionally took us on Easter and Christmas to Methodist churches). So needless to say, I've had very little experience with baptism, except for the Baptist way. But the "Team Jesus" analogy brings it all into perspective for me! Great post.