Believer’s Baptism vs. Confirmation

I’m interested in pursuing ministry some time in the future. But one of the difficult parts of ministry is the high standards of morality an doctrine one must be held to in any particular denomination one seeks to serve in.

This should be obvious. But for someone like me, who is a member of the Anglican Church in Sydney, who desires to service in pastoral ministry in the future, but who is also ambivalent on whether or not Infant Baptism is biblical, that serves as a major challenge to my thinking.

As an Anglican denomination, my church practices the baptism of believing parents’ babies. This is because the Covenantal Theology to which Anglicanism seems to be committed implies that believing parents’ babies are members of the New Covenant, and are therefore worthy to receive the covenant sign of trinitarian baptism.

But as a matter of course, Believer’s Baptists do not believe this practice is biblical. It would therefore follow that the Anglican Church is full of many unbaptised people, yet the Bible says, “Be baptised” in various passages (e.g. Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38, 10:44-48)..

However, in the Anglican Church, we have a service called Confirmation. In Confirmation, believers who were baptised as infants freely, publicly, and personally claim for themselves the promises made on their behalf by
their parents and godparents at baptism, namely, to:

1. renounce the devil and his works;
2. believe in and follow the Christian faith;
3. be holy and keep God’s commandments.

Here’s the full citation from the Prayer Book (An Australian Prayer Book, 1978, p.513.):

The bishop may address the congregation and the candidates. He then says to those who were baptized as infants

At your baptism, your godparents made three promises in your name: first, that you would renounce the devil and all his works, the empty display and false values of the world, and the sinful desires of the flesh; secondly, that you would believe the Christian faith as set out in the Apostles’ Creed; and thirdly, that you would keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in them all the days of your life. Do you now, in the presence of God and of this congregation, renew these promises and take them upon yourself?

The candidates answer

I do.

[…] When all have answered, the bishop continues

Let us now pray that God will enrich with his Holy Spirit each one of these who have been baptized, and confessed Christ.

The congregation then prays to God together, and the bishop praises God the Father for the gift of his Son and the Holy Spirit, lays his hands upon the head of the candidate for Confirmation, and asks God to bless him with power in the Spirit to increase him in God’s gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, godliness and reverence for God that they may bear the likeness of Christ. (Ibid. p.514.)

Since the Anglican church in Sydney is a Protestant church, believers who undertake Confirmation class in preparation for this service are taught clearly the doctrine of the Gospel in a catechism class before they proclaim their belief in Christ publicly before the congregation. Thus they confess Christ before others, and according to my understanding of pssagesin the New Testament are therefore confessed by Christ before the Father and the holy angels (Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8).

My thought is that, from a Believer’s Baptist point of view, wouldn’t such a public confession of Christ such as happens in the service of Confirmation essentially fulfill the role Believer’s Baptism should normally play in the Believer’s baptist view, just without water? Since baptism per se is not necessary for salvation, but being unashamed and confessing Christ as Lord is, wouldn’t Confirmation be “good enough” for doing the thing Christ wants us to do — proclaim him publicly? Confirmation on this view could serve as a king of Believer’s Baptism surrogate, such that those who get confirmed count as being baptised. Is this acceptable? The thief on the cross next to Jesus was not baptised, but would be with Jesus in paradise.

If this is the case, it seems to have the implication that we needn’t worry too much about if a person is baptised falsely as an infant (if indeed it is false) yet who really trusts in Christ and proclaims that publicly and personally for all to see. Now there would be a problem if someone simply did Confirmation as a kind of ritual without any real faith, just as would be so in the case of Believer’s Baptism. But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about “Believer’s Confirmation”! I feel that were a person of true faith Confirmed in the manner of the Anglican service represented above, that would be adequate to seeing them as a true disciple, bold and unashamed.

But I guess I’m not a teacher, so all my thoughts above have been quite tentative. I’d appreciate any thoughtful comments.

Confirmation in an Anglican Church

Confirmation in an Anglican Church


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