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


Covenental Theology, Apostasy and Perseverance

So, here’s a point on covenantal theology in relation to apostasy and perseverance.

I was watching a debate between Douglas Wilson and James White on whether or not we Reformed Evangelicals should consider Roman Catholics our brethren. White spoke in favour of the Negative, and Wilson spoke in favour of the Affirmative. But Wilson spoke in the affirmative position from an interesting angle. Wilson maintained that for every person who is baptised with Trinitarian baptism (which, for the record, Wilson also takes to include infants), that person shares in a special covenantal relationship with Christ by virtue of that baptism which has been administrated unto them. And since this is the case, it can be said that a baptised Roman Catholic is a true, covenantal brother of a baptised Protestant, even if the Catholic Church is living in spiritual adultery and outside of regenerate salvation by virtue of its manifold abominations and perversions and errors.

Now what was so interesting about this was that Wilson, in his opening presentation, commented on the apostasy passages in Hebrews. If it is the case that a Roman Catholic counts as our brother in Christ by virtue of Trinitarian baptism, does it follow that they are part of the saved, elect people? And to this, Wilson answers: Not obviously. Wilson maintains that it is quite clear when one reads the Book of Hebrews that it is taken to be a very real possibility and danger for people who are members of the New Covenant community to forsake that new covenant with Christ and thus fall away from it. But does that imply that the elect can fall away from salvation? Well, no. Why? Because, on Wilson’s view, there is a distinction between people who are baptised members of the New Covenant Church and people who are born-again elect members of the New Covenant.

So it may be that in a discussion about apostasy and perseverance, there are very implicit underlying assumptions being made about fundamental covenantal theologies. For the person who thinks a distinctions such as that which is represented in Wilson’s view is correct or incorrect , that may alter the way you approach the question about apostasy and perseverance in the New Testament.

εἰς τὸ ὄνομα … Should we use “Yahweh” in Baptism?

Here’s what Matthew 28:19 says:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”

This passage has been used to support Trinitarian orthodoxy for millennia. And rightly so. For it implies that there is a single Name shared by three divine Persons, namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

What is “the Name”? Well, surely, the Name is “Yahweh”, the name of the God of Israel (Exo. 3:13-15). Jews today refer to God sometimes as Ha’Shem (“the Name”) as a way of avoiding accidental blasphemy when referring to God. English Bibles use “the LORD” to refer to the tetragrammaton YHWH or Yahweh (although one recent translation has largely dropped this trend). And for us Christians, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all share that one Name of Yahweh. For Yahweh is one God who is tripersonal, as Trinitarianism states.

But so far as I am aware, nobody uses the Name “Yahweh” explicitly in a baptismal service. I’ve been to baptisms in Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic churches. No one uses the Name explicitly.

I wonder why this is? I’m not saying we should have some kind of revolution. But I feel there is a solidified tradition of simply baptism “in the Name of…” rather than “Yahweh.” But I imagine that early Judaism would have used “Yahweh” in the baptismal ritual, and Jesus simply makes the Trinitarian nature of this Name more explicit later in Matthew after his resurrection from the dead.

Another reason I think it is important to at least remember “Yahweh” as the Name of Matt. 28:19 is that, in the Book of Acts, baptism is only done solely “in the Name of the Lord Jesus” and not of the Father and the Holy Spirit also (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:448, 19:5). According to one friend of mine, this has been used by textual critics as a reason to think that the very Trinitarian formula in Matt. 28:19 was probably not an authentic saying of Jesus written by Matthew himself but was inserted later. But if we understand Jesus to be included in what “Yahweh” properly signifies as the eternal Son, then that is logically compatible with what Matthew 28:19 says, and I simply see no reason why we should have to form a textual-critical thesis such as these secular textual critics have done.

So I reckon it would be cool if we started to baptise people explicitly into the Name of “Yahweh, the God of Israel” (who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit). It makes more sense, and seems more authentic.