The perennial question of the Baptist parent: when is my child ready to get baptized?
And once you’ve asked that question, you begin to ask even more questions. What does it even mean to be “ready” for baptism? Was I “ready” when I got baptized? What is “baptism” anyway? And how does it relate to things like “faith,” “repentance,” and “salvation”? If you’re not careful, you might accidentally end up doing theology.
Whether we should baptize small children (not infants) is the question that John Starke addressed recently. Specifically, he’s responding to Trevin Wax’s post arguing that there are good reasons for delaying the baptism of small children until they’re ready. Starke understands the concerns, but he thinks they’re misguided and offers 4 reasons for baptizing young children without delay:
- The regular pattern in Scripture doesn’t give any indication of a probationary period.
- A probationary period seems to imply that there is something more than faith we need to do in order to be a Christian.
- Affirming belief in the gospel is never false assurance.
- The New Testament pattern is reactive rather than proactive concerning conversion.
You’ll have to read the post to get his full thinking on the subject, but I think he makes some good points. I’m particularly concerned about the second point and the suggestion that we need to wait until a child “owns” her faith or has a sufficiently “mature” faith before getting baptized. The first concern seems to rise directly from our rampant individualism and the idea that if the community (or family) serves as a shaping force in a person’s faith development, their faith no longer belongs to them in some way. And the second implies that you’re not really converted until your faith reaches a certain level of maturity, as though my salvation depended ultimately on the quality of my faith.
One of these days I’ll finally get around to writing my own post (it will probably take more than one) explaining how I view baptism and how my wife and I are approaching it with our daughters. But for now, just read Starke’s post and see what he has to say.
Update: Nathan Finn also addressed the issue this morning, with an interesting reflection on how his views on the subject have changed slightly over time.