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Baptism - The Christian Viewpoint

The Methodist tradition has always practised infant baptism, something which Mr Wesley would have regarded as ‘normal’. In infant baptism we see very strongly the presence of prevenient grace – God giving us something in love before we are able to understand or lay any claim to it for ourselves. In baptising an infant we make a very powerful statement about God’s love for us, and the way in which God’s initiative comes before anything else. In doing that we down play the idea of forgiveness of sin, unless we believe that a baby is guilty of sin in some way.

Other traditions have practised what is known as ‘believers baptism’, the baptism of adults upon profession of faith. While the grace of God is in no way absent from this, the emphasis is placed much more on the response of the individual, on their deciding to be baptised as an act of obedience and commitment, and in the case of people where the past needs clearly leaving behind for some reason, the symbolism of washing away what was so that something new might begin.

These are often presented as opposite ends of an argument, though in practice we often want to keep elements of both. What they have in common is that they are both focussing on the future. Where we are going is more important than where we have been, and the church has a responsibility to nurture those who are baptised whether as children or adults. The clearest difference between the naming ceremony described elsewhere and baptism, is the sense of commitment to discipleship to Christ. In the service of baptism there is an implicit call to something bigger, to living out a call from God that requires our whole lives.

If you reflect on the fact that you are baptised (if you are) what does it mean, what difference does it make to you?

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