From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Infant Baptism and the Anabaptists

A point of divergence for Lutherans, Baptists, and Mennonites


Windows in the Parkway Missionary Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, KY.
(In Peartree Park, between Hopkinsville Electric and the Pennyrile Parkway.)

These windows in a local Missionary Baptist church contain some common Christian symbols. The cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. The doves represent the Holy Spirit, who descended in the form of a dove when Jesus was baptized, according to the Gospels (Matthew 3, Luke 3, Mark 1.)

Missionary Baptist churches teach that Christian believers should be baptized as a symbol of their repentance, faith, and commitment. On several Missionary Baptist websites, I found the following statement of their belief about baptism (emphasis added):

We believe that there are two pictorial ordinances in the Lord's churches: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Scriptural baptism is the immersion of penitent believers in water, administered by the authority of a New Testament church in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Lord's Supper is a memorial ordinance, restricted to the members of the church observing the ordinance . (Source)

Baptism of believers has always been an important issue to Baptists. The origins of this Baptist belief can be traced back to the Anabaptists. In the early 1500s (shortly after the Reformation), the Anabaptists decided that Martin Luther had not gone far enough in reforming the church. They taught that infant baptism must also be abolished. Baptism was only for believers who knew that their sins had been forgiven. All believers who were baptized as infants needed re-baptism because infants can't understand what baptism means.

The Mennonites (and related groups such as the Amish, Hutterites, Swiss Brethren, etc.) also originated from the Anabaptists. The histories and theologies of these groups have diverged over the 500 years since the Reformation. However, they all still agree with the English and American Baptists that infant baptism is a misuse of God's command to baptize.

This is very different from Lutheran teaching about baptism. We believe that baptism is a sacrament; that is, a person who is baptized receives God's grace and blessing through it. (Grace, in the Christian sense, means God's acceptance and forgiveness.) Because baptism is a means by which God creates faith, Lutherans think it's right and important to baptize babies. (So do Catholics, the Orthodox churches, Methodists, and various other denominations, for similar reasons.)

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.