Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. --Psalm 139:16
I ended my last post with these questions:
So then what? Why does an issue of apparent semantics -- me choosing Christ or Christ choosing me -- mean that babies should be baptized? They haven't chosen or been chosen at all yet, right? How does their baptism mean anything if they don't even remember it?
I want to focus most of all on that last question. My experience with my own baptism was very important to me. It was built up to be important to me; it was to be a public confession of my faith in Christ. My thoughts have changed on that, however, and now I view baptism as a sign of God's covenant with his people. In the Bible, God promises that our children are a part of that covenant, which is why, when someone professed their faith in New Testament times, their household was also promised to be saved (and everyone in the household was promptly baptized). We see this happening in Acts 16 (specifically verses 15 and 31). The way I read these scriptures indicates to me that children were baptized as part of the covenant of grace.
Even when I understood all of those things in my head, my heart still had a problem with baptizing infants that didn't even know what was happening to them. How was that at all meaningful? During a theology class at church, another mom told this anecdote and it really hit home with me; I think I almost changed my mind about infant baptism right there on the spot! She told us about how above each of her children's beds, there was a photograph of their baptism. At bedtime, it was common for the children to occasionally ask their parents about the photo -- they wanted to hear the story of their baptism. The parents would then tell them about how helpless and tiny they were as babies; how they depended on mom or dad for their every need. They then talked about how, to God, we are all like helpless little babies; that we don't even know that we need him, but he still cares for us and nurtures us. They talk about how God chose us to be part of his family before we even knew it, when we were too weak to choose Him (she mentioned reading Psalm 139 to them)! And so, they were baptized as small helpless babies into God's family, and Mommy and Daddy had to promise to teach their baby about God and Jesus.
That story from that mom is what really hit me about baptism -- it isn't about the experience one has, it is about pointing the child to Christ their whole life. God promises that our children are a part of his covenant and their baptism is a sign to us, their parents, of that promise. Does this mean that every infant that is baptized professes faith later in life? No. But many people that are baptized as believers go on to abandon their faith later in life as well. We don't know why this happens, but I believe Paul tries to explain much of it in Romans 9.
Part III of these postings will come on Monday, with pictures of Ethan's baptism. Hopefully I haven't bored everyone to death