Baptism at Christ the Redeemer
We do not believe in baptismal regeneration. Meaning, baptism is not required for someone to become a Christian or for a Christian to keep or maintain right position with God. Baptism is not at the core of our theology, as the core of our theology is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This document is not intended to be a thorough theological explanation or biblical exposition of the practice of Christian baptism, nor is it intended to be a defense or argument for or against Paedobaptism or Credobaptism. There are many, many resources that are available for research on the understanding of baptism throughout Christian history. Please see Russ for research recommendations.
Since the Reformation there have been two major, differing views of baptism within Protestant Christianity – Covenantal Paedobaptism, and Credobaptism.
Covenantal Paedobaptism is the baptism of an infant or small child with the understanding that baptism is the symbol of God’s promise of salvation to the child. It is also seen as the initial welcoming of the child into the community of the church family. The basis for an infant being baptized is that their parents received Christ by faith alone and the seal of baptism is put on them based on their parents’ faith (Genesis 12.3 and Acts 16.31). Covenantal Paedobaptists do not believe the water of baptism saves the child, but that the sacrament of baptism is an “instrument,” a “visible word” in and through which God speaks and seals the promise of future forgiveness and salvation to the child. In other words, the God-given faith of the child is the instrument that receives Christ, and that faith is realized and actualized not at baptism, but by hearing the gospel message (Rom 10.17) and responding to it with the God-given gifts of repentance and belief.
Covenantal Paedobaptism is also seen by many as simply the sign of the new covenant of Christ, replacing the sign of the old covenant, which was circumcision. As in the old covenant, God’s grace, realized through the God-given gifts of repentance, belief and faith justifies a believer. But under the old covenant all male infants were circumcised as a sign of the covenant. Today, under the new covenant, Covenantal Paedobaptists believe baptism applies to the same objects: infants.
Covenantal Paedobaptists, like all orthodox Christians, believe that no one is truly saved until God opens their eyes to their own depravity and he brings them to a point of repentance and they believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This sets Covenantal Paedobaptism apart from, say, Catholic christening or other types of infant baptisms found in Orthodox traditions that teach baptism is actual salvation for the child.
Additionally, Covenantal Paedobaptists gladly baptize new adult Christians who have never before been baptized as children.
Credobaptism, or believer’s baptism, has been the dominant baptistic form and belief in evangelical churches over the last 50 years, especially in the South. It is probably fair to speculate that a majority of future new members of Redeemer will come from a Credobaptist background.
Credobaptism is the belief that baptism is only for a person who is able to say she has called on the name of Jesus for salvation, so it is obviously reserved only for adults or older children who are at an age of self-awareness. In other words, baptism comes after a person hears the gospel message and responds to it with the God-given gifts of repentance, belief and faith. It teaches that baptism is the “first act of obedience” for a new Christian and that it is an outward sign and seal of the salvation God has given to him. The water of baptism does not save the person, but the sacrament of baptism is a sign in and through which God speaks the promise of forgiveness and salvation that the person has already received. Another aspect of Credobaptism is that it is the act when a new Christian proudly “goes public” with her faith and is accepted and received into the church family.
Redeemer also accepts, welcomes and celebrates the baptism of adults and older children after they have become Christians.
Baptism has been a controversial, divisive subject in the church, especially since the Reformation in the 15th and 16th centuries. Churches have been split over the issue. People have been killed over the issue. It continues to be a divisive issue today. We, however, do not want it to be a divisive issue at Christ the Redeemer.
Unity and Gospel Centrality
What we believe about baptism is important. Because it is important, we do not and will not accept or practice some forms and beliefs of baptism. As a church we affirm and teach Covenantal Paedobaptistism while recognizing and respecting many of our members may subscribe to Credobaptism. Additionally, we baptize with water by pouring or immersing, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But, we believe the difference between Credobaptism and Covenantal Paedobaptism is not of utmost importance. It is not what unites us and we do not want it to divide us. There are things to be dogmatic about, but we do not believe the difference between these two forms of baptism is one of them.
At the same time, there is no getting around the fact that these are two different views of baptism, but it is also true that both views have solid biblical, historical and traditional legitimacy, and that there are and have been millions of committed Christians who love the gospel who subscribe to each view.
The big questions for us are these: is the differentiation between Credobaptism and Covenantal Paedobaptism worth fighting over? Is it worth splitting over? Is it worth sending away an individual or family who desires to be a part of Redeemer who may believe one way or the other? We believe the answer to these three questions is an unwavering “no.”
What unites us is the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified, not the way we baptize. We welcome people from all beliefs and walks of life to worship with us, and membership is open to all who profess Jesus to be their only hope for salvation.
To that end, Christ the Redeemer Church of Marietta will accept and practice both Credobaptism and Covenantal Paedobaptism as differing-yet-valid and acceptable forms of Christian baptism. This does not mean that you cannot have a view on baptism. This does not mean your pastors do not have a view on baptism.
What it does mean is that we must hold those views loosely and be willing to submit our conviction and conscience concerning the doctrine and practice of baptism to the greater cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the unity of Christ’s church. What it does mean is that Credobaptists at Redeemer are called to fully accept Covenantal Paedobaptists as members of the Body of Christ as well as member of this church, and Covenantal Paedobaptists at Redeemer are called to fully accept Credobaptists as members of the Body of Christ as well as members of this church.
What will this look like?
If you believe in Covenantal Paedobaptism, we will gladly baptize your baby before the congregation in accordance with our baptism policies.
If you believe in Credobaptism, we will gladly dedicate your baby before the congregation in accordance with our baby dedication policies.
If you believe in Credobaptism, we will gladly baptize your child before the congregation once he/she can consciously articulate his/her faith in Christ, according to our baptism policies.
We will gladly baptize new adult believers who have never been baptized, according to our baptism policies.
We all will accept and love those of differing views on baptism within Redeemer.
What if someone baptized as an infant in our church (or in another Christian context) later grows up to change their baptismal view from that of their family and wants to be baptized as a believer?
We generally feel uneasy with re-baptisms, but here are some basic parameters:
-As with all baptismal candidates, an interview process would sort this out on a case-by-case basis. There is no one-size-fits-all template for re-baptisms.
-If the candidate for believer’s baptism is a minor and his Christian parents are opposed to his re-baptism, we would not baptize him.
-If the candidate for believer’s baptism is a minor and her parents support their change of position while maintaining Paedobaptism themselves, we would consider baptizing her.
-If the candidate for believer’s baptism was baptized as an infant in a non-covenantal context and desires to be re-baptized, we would carefully consider baptizing him.
-If the candidate for believer’s baptism had already received believer’s baptism, we probably would not baptize her.
In every case, we would confirm as best as we are able that the candidate for believer’s baptism understands credobaptism. And in every case, we would confirm as best as we are able that candidates for infant baptism have parents who understand Covenantal Paedobaptism.
No one will walk in and just say “Please baptize my baby” and have us simply say “Okay.”
Will Redeemer baptize both infants and adults?
What will we tell our children? We have raised them to believe in Credobaptism or Covenant Paedobaptism. Won’t this confuse them?
It might, but this is a fantastic opportunity to teach your children about the utmost importance of the gospel and the foundational beliefs of Christian orthodoxy as well as the humility that unity in the church demands.
You can explain it like this:
Our family believes that baptism is for those who are able to say they have received Jesus for salvation. But some other families in our church believe baptism is for babies in Christian families, as a sign of God’s promise to save them. We disagree with them about baptism, but we agree with them that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again, and because we agree on the most important things we are happy to be a part of the same church. What we agree on is better and bigger than what we disagree on.
Or like this:
Our family believes that baptism is for babies in Christian families, as a sign of God’s promise to save. But some families in our church believe that baptism is for those who are able to say they have received Jesus for salvation. We disagree with them about baptism, but we agree with them that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again, and because we agree on the most important things, we are happy to be a part of the same church. What we agree on is better and bigger than what we disagree on.