When Should My Children Be Baptized?

For Christian parents who don’t baptize their babies, this is an important question for obvious reasons. Baptism is Jesus’ ordinance of conversion, the first task of the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

But behind the question is an important issue for every Christian parent and one that makes all the difference: How do I respond to my child’s profession of faith? I’m setting aside arguments from the covenant for paedobaptism and only dealing with the baptist position in this article. I minister to people of both credo and paedo convictions, and my main concern is not when the water goes on, but with how the parents nurture and disciple their kids, and this concern addresses the temptations and pitfalls of both positions.

Tim Challies answers the question of when to baptize here. He offers this definition of baptism which I’m happy to work with:

Baptism is an ordinance of God given to the New Testament church. It symbolizes that the recipient has been buried and resurrected with Christ and serves as public profession of faith and admission into the local church community. It precedes both membership and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and as such, is the gateway to full participation in the life of the church.

Given this good definition and its consequences–that the unbaptized are not church members nor able to take the Lord’s Supper–Challies points out that many if not most children of believing parents profess faith at a young age. And yet he still recommends that the typical Christian kid get baptized in their mid to late teens. The reason for this hinges on the requirement of a credible profession of faith. No doubt Challies wants to preserve the purity of the church and not breed presumption or baptize false professors, but what if he is asking the wrong questions and setting the bar for baptism where Jesus didn’t? Continue reading

Greater Not Lesser

I’m reading through John Piper’s very fine Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, and have come to his chapter on baptism. The pastoral thrust of this chapter is very good: “I think we need to teach our people the meaning of baptism and obey the Lord’s command to baptize converts (Matt. 28:19), without elevating the doctrine to a primary one that would unduly cut us off from shared worship and ministry with others who share more important things with us.”

Amen. One way we do this at our church is through a cooperation agreement whereby we perform both credo and paedo baptisms, and no one is allowed to throw food when it takes place. On occasion both are even performed in the same service. While wanting to cooperate and fellowship as a church, we also want to strive for like-mindedness, which is different than agreeing to disagree. We agree to love one another while pursuing the truth. So not only does our doctrine of baptism not cut us off from fellowship with other churches, we embrace this secondary difference within our own ranks. Continue reading