by MW Cook
Reflections on infant baptism and the voice of God
My father-in-law is an Anglican Priest. He is also a very godly man. Three years ago I would not have thought that those two things were compatible. I grew up in the Brethren Assemblies, and I’m rather thankful for that. I believe that the Assemblies have some good things going for them. It was in the Assemblies that I first heard the call of Christ and set my face to follow. I was baptized in an Assembly. I’ve been with them all my life and will likely continue to be with them when I’m in Canada. Lately, however, I’ve been noticing some common problems with our little denomination. Every problem that any denomination has always boils down to people. People screw things up; I think the Bible mentions that somewhere.
Anyway, many people I respected in the Brethren circles would not accept the idea that my dear father-in-law was a godly man and an Anglican at the same time. We’re rather stuck up that way. Every other sermon I hear from the Brethren platform has some sort of dig against this group or that group or some book or tradition. Now, I can see where criticism is needed against certain things, but not to the point where it’s the defining characteristic of our little group.
But I’m getting off topic before I even get on it. Yesterday we went with my dear father-in-law to a man’s house. This man has about six kids and a billion grand-kids all living in the same house. He’s a traveling, unpaid evangelist with a big heart. He’s also an Anglican. God gave him a new grand-child recently. A girl on May 18 at about 5:00pm (The exact same date and time Joseph was born). Like any good Anglican, he wanted this child baptized. I was the preacher at this little ceremony. Now, 4 years back I would have thought this whole thing was just plain awful. How dare they baptize this infant! The child doesn’t know what’s going on, how can she make a choice for herself? Geez, I bet they even think that this baptism saves her. I think I was a bit of an arrogant dummy 4 years back. In all honesty, I loved the service. I preached about how children are a gift from God, and how the most important thing a parent can do is to point their children in the direction of God. We sang a few songs, and then the parents brought the dear little child up to the front, where my father-in-law (Devraj) and I were sitting. He took the baby and blessed her. He prayed over her and then sprinkled water on her. The mother was almost crying.
I think I learned something there. There is a tendency for us to become racist. Not against other ethic groups, but other traditions and practices within the evangelical church. Not for a second did anyone in that room think that the water saved the child. This ceremony was a symbol of the parents giving the child up to God, of them consecrating her to His service. I think that’s beautiful. How could anyone argue against it?
Don’t think of this as a Brethren-bash. I love the little group I’m associated with. It’s full of lovely people. But, just like in any group, we run into unique dangers. Our danger stems from our belief that we exclusively practice New Testament gathering principles. We run the risk of assuming that any practice or tradition that we don’t do is simply unbiblical. I’ve been with the Christians here for a bit more than two weeks now and I find some of the things they do beautiful. The way they express their faith and run their meetings highlights different things. In our groups we highlight the simplicity of faith and priesthood of all believers and out direct access to God. And we do well to do that because these are all good things. But here I see something a little different. They highlight the solemn yet joyful worship of Christ, the holiness of God and His other-ness. They do well because these are all good things. We highlight His accessibility and they highlight His transcendence. We highlight His positional work and they highlight His practical work.
We aren’t against each other. We compliment each other. I used to think that denominations were a tool of the devil, but I think I’m drifting a little from that belief. Through the different outward styles people use we can see different parts of God highlighted. Through other people we can hear the distinct voice of God.
Food for thought.