"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Tomte's thoughts on Baptism

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tomte's thoughts on Baptism

Back in October, p3 said,

Baptism has been a thought as related to our new little one. When/how/where/why? Baptism vs dedication? Any particular scriptures or thoughts out there? With the others we did the expected OALC baptism; we know that's not the route we want this time, but it feels that something should be done...

I never had a clear idea about why we baptized babies in the ALC. I suspect that there really wasn't much of a rationale behind infant baptism other than:

  • The Bible commanded us to baptize. At most of the baptisms I attended this was the main theological rationale. It was an "ordinance." In other words, we baptize because God commands it; now shut up and pass the holy water.
  • All the Laestadianisms baptize infants because they come out of the Lutheran tradition, which also baptizes infants. However unlike much of Lutheranism, the Laestadians emphasize pietism, which in a nutshell means that you're always looking for some kind of sign that yourself and others are really holy and holding up their end of the Christian bargain instead of relying on God's grace.

I've given this some thought. Even though I am no longer Laestadian, I still believe in baptism, and especially infant baptism. No, I don't think that un-baptized babies go to hell. NO, I don't believe that baptism saves.

So what does it do, and what is it good for?

For me, all of the sacraments (including baptism) are what St. Augustine called an "outward and visible sign of inward and invisible grace." That's a fancy way of saying that mysterious things happen in the spiritual realm. God does stuff like confer grace and love upon us.

I think that when a child is born God's love and grace is lavished upon that child. In this sense there are no unloved children and no unloved human beings. God loves us all, for we are all God's children, and what parent worthy of the name fails to love their children?

As we all know, however, the world is often an unloving, cruel and unforgiving place. I believe that everything good comes from God, and that as human beings we are called to be God's hands and feet in the world. We turn the spiritual reality of God's goodness into physical reality.

The same thing happens in baptism.

What is already true on the spiritual plane is "made manifest," focused, given flesh in the ritual of baptism. When the water is poured over the infant's head, when the parents and godparents and congregation make promises, personally guaranteeing that the child will be brought up within the beloved community of faith, what is true in the spirit becomes true in the flesh as well.

It's a beautiful thing to behold. And it encapsulates all you ever really need to know about being a Christian. Love God, and love each other.



  1. LLLreader sez: I agree Tomte. Baptism is a beautiful thing. The act of baptism can be a powerful statement from the parents. What can be more loving then making a public promise to raise your child in a way that would be pleasing to God?

  2. Tomte, that is beautifully written! I have also always believed that baptism in itself does not save, but other Lutheran denominations take the admonition for baptism more literally. They see that certificate of baptism as the sign of a Christian, a seal (LCMS, ELCA and perhaps WELS also). As an ALCer I've always discounted that approach, but recently have taken a second look at it.... perhaps they have something there. Pietism requires outward holiness, but mainstream Lutheranism says be baptized and be saved, period.

  3. I see baptism as one of many possible "signs" of a Christian as well. When I said "baptism doesn't save" I meant it in the sense of "Don't baptize your kid because you think it will save them." I'm at the opposite end of pietism at this point --for me salvation is all about what God has done, not about what people do or don't do.

    Baptize your kid to show the world what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.

  4. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind. When we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace, a new life in a new land! That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus: when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.

    -Romans 6 Message version

    I had my roomate babtize me this last July. It was 5 years after I started going to other churches besideds the LLC. I was spending alot of time meditating on that scripture and i felt compelled to get re-babtized.It was between me and God, and im glad i did it.

    I dont like to argue about what is the proper way to get babtized. I'll let the theologians fight about it. But the outcome is seldom good when christians start fighting with each other.

    Im gunna go grab some food.
    Love God, Love People

  5. Tomte, it was fairly obvious to me that immersion baptism was the Biblical method of baptism. For example when John the Baptist baptized Jesus it speaks of Jesus coming up out of the water. Sprinkling baptism was essentially a Roman Catholic innovation. When I was in Laestadian circles I ran into a firewall of hostility whenever I brought this subject up. I heard comments such as 'Baptists believe that salvation is in their (immersion) baptism. When I finally got out of Apostolic Lutheranism I got to talk with some Baptists about this subject and in no way do they believe that salvation is because they were immersed when baptized. They simply do it that way because that is what the Bible says to do. I read some of the writings of the 1st century church leaders such as Clemente of Alexander and others. These were people who were mentioned in the New Testament by the Apostles. All of their writings show that they also believed in immersion baptism. It is so interesting how Laestadians can be so adamant that they are the only group with the proper understanding of the Bible yet in fact they remain so blinded to what the Bible actually says clinging to what is essentially a Roman Catholic interpretation of Baptism. Infant baptism seems to be more of a thing where others affirm what I should believe. Immersion baptism seems to be more of an affirmation of what I believe. Old AP

  6. Heh, people have been arguing about adult versus infant, immersion versus whatever for over 1000 years. We're not going to settle that one here. :-)

    One thing I will point out is that Lutherans and others aren't against adult baptism per se. They are just against getting baptized more than once. I've seen adults who weren't already baptized as infants get baptized in the ALC, and also in the Episcopal Church.

    Is immersion your main issue, or is it adults versus infants? Most of the baptisms performed in the New Testament were of adults, although there is a passage or two that allude to entire households getting baptized at once (even people who probably had no choice in the matter!)

  7. Catholics don't "believe" in sprinkling baptism. They practice the pouring of water over a person's head, as well as immersion for both infants and adults alike -- if there is a facility to do that. It doesn't matter.

    Regarding multiple baptism, Catholics believe that it doesn't really matter if you re-baptize 76 times -- you were sealed to Christ the first time, and after that what you're doing is getting your hair wet. Sometimes in adult baptism, a person is unsure whether they were ever baptized or not. In that case the priest will baptize with words to the effect that just in case you were never baptized before, then this is your baptism, and leave the determination of whether it is the first or second time up to God.

  8. Tomte,

    A very late post, as I've not been in this site for awhile, but would like to add my opinion.

    As beautiful as your thoughts are, I disagree. I do believe that God is just, righteous, and perfect in all ways and loves all his creation, but we are a fallen creation. We are born with a sin nature. There comes a time in each person's life when we have to make the decision to either follow Christ and be saved by grace (born again) or not. Babies and young children do not have the capability to understand and make that decision. I believe that water baptism should only be performed by an act of a person's will and out of obedience as a result of salvation as a proclamation of a person's faith. I do not believe a person has to be baptized to be saved or vice versa. When a baby is baptized, I do not believe it sanctifies them in any type of future faith. I do think that it takes away from them a decision they should eventually make for themselves. The "outward and visible sign of inward and invisible grace" is the evidence of the born again person.

    When I was saved at 21, it was natural to then be water baptized.

    Jackie K.