This post is written in honor of my baby girls, Addie Lee and Reagan.  At ages 19 months and 10 weeks, respectively, they will both receive the sacrament of baptism this weekend at Gordon’s Chapel United Methodist Church.  The girls will be baptized from a font dedicated to the memory of J.A. and Annie Epps Stone, and will be amongst the fifth generation of  Stone descendants to be a part of this church community.  “Grandpa and Grandma Stone” were both in attendance at the first meeting of a community that became Gordon’s Chapel, held underneath a brush arbor in Sanford, GA.  Undoubtedly, they will also be present at the baptism of my girls, amongst the great cloud of witnesses that are watching as they participate in this first step of faith.

During my years of service in ministry in the evangelical world, I heard many criticisms of churches that were liturgical in nature.  As I’ve grown older (I won’t say more mature…just older),  I’ve come to realize that there’s tons of misunderstanding in the Protestant world about sacramental theology.  I might hear the theology and the frequency of use of the communion table criticized in evangelical circles from time to time, but the hot button topic always seems to be baptism.

Sacramental churches don’t always dunk (or immerse, for those of y’all who need to be more holy-soundin’).

Even worse…They baptize babies.

When I first journeyed outside of the Methodist church, the Baptist body I became a part insisted that my baptism in the UMC at age 11 wasn’t legitimate, because I hadn’t prayed “The Sinner’s Prayer”.  Once I was filled with a sufficient enough amount of doubt to pray that prayer,  I was then told that my method of baptism, sprinkling, was wrong in every way.

As an immature believer, I didn’t mind praying the prayer, even if it was only for my own assurance.  I resisted being re-baptized, though, until the time at which I discerned God’s call on my life for ordained ministry.  At that time, I submitted to my denominational leadership’s request that I be baptized via immersion.

I regretted my choice the moment I entered the water, and have ever since.  I understand the requirement that I adhere to denominational standards, but now I realize that those standards didn’t have a sound base.

Now, you won’t find any argument here that  “believer’s baptism”…baptism which occurs after someone does a profession of faith…is wrong.  My path was different, though.  I was a covenant child.  My parents had taught me about Christ from an early age, and I never remember a time in my life that I wasn’t aware of my sinful state, or that I didn’t realize that Christ had died for my sins.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that not every Christian takes the same path to Christ.  It’s not so much the pathway to faith that matters, as long as the object of your faith is correct.  I’ve grown to believe that  infant baptism is a pure, true, and legitimate expression of what God is doing in a child’s life..  It doesn’t represent salvation, but it does represent the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit in that individual.  Infant baptism isn’t about how we feel about God;  instead, it’s a rite of adoption, a reflection of the great affection God feels toward us.

Some time ago, I was blessed to hear Bishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Diocese of the South (ACNA) share his thoughts on infant baptism, and I will note that I borrow liberally from his teachings in my own ideas on the matter.  Below are a couple of reasons I believe that infant baptism is legitimate, interspersed with random commentary, and thoughts from that “great cloud of witnesses” I mentioned earlier.

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William Porcher DuBose

Today, The Episcopal Church calendar lists a feast day in honor of an American member of the communion of saints, William Porcher DuBose.  DuBose was a veteran of the Civil War, an Anglican priest, and a university professor who helped establish The School of Theology at at The University of the South in Sewanee, TN.  Though the average believer may not have heard of DuBose, in some circles, he is considered to be one of America’s greatest pastor/priests and theologians.  Despite the high regard in which he was held in academic and spiritual circles, he never was blessed with the office of Bishop.  DuBose was known to have said that this lack of promotion was a “fortunate escape”.

Below is an excerpt from a sermon DuBose delivered in Sewanee in 1911.  In it, DuBose hammers home his point that nothing is new with God, no matter what we believe we know or have come to understand about His nature: He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  It’s us, with our limited vision, who are constantly distracted by “ism’s” and our own concerns, that keep ourselves from seeing God as He is.  As a result, we never see ourselves as we really are, and the Church as she should be.  As we engage in our own culture wars over the issues which divide the body of Christ today, we would do well to hear more and more sermons like this one.

EXCERPT FROM SERMON PREACHED IN THE UNIVERSITY CHAPEL,
SEWANEE, ON THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION, 1911

“I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”–1 Cor. ii. 2.

What is the moral already? We do not forever want new things; we want the art of keeping things forever new. The change we need is not in the things, it is in us and our hold upon the things–our life in them, our use of them, our labor for them. Let us remember that our Lord taught absolutely nothing new–the Gospel was older than the Law, God’s love than man’s obedience. He Himself, the incarnation of our faith, our hope, our life, was before Moses, before Abraham, before Adam, before the foundation of the earth, as old as God, because He was God’s love-disposition, love-purpose, Self-realization in us and in His world. Our Lord spoke only of God and of man, and their mutual relations; on God’s part, of love, grace, and fellowship or oneness with us (coming down)–and on our part (going up) of faith, hope, and love that make us one with Him. Our Lord uttered no new word, gave no new commandment, even instituted no new sacrament–water and bread and wine were already in themselves not only symbols or signs, but instruments and agents of birth and life. He took all the old things as they were, and He made them all living and new. When He took His disciples up with Him into the very high mountain, it was not really in Himself, but only to them that He was transfigured. They saw Him as the sun and His raiment as the light; they heard words from heaven, claiming Him for God and declaring Him to man. But their so seeing and hearing was only through the exaltation of their own spiritual selves and faculties. Jesus was always so, if their senses could but have perceived it. We do indeed live only in our supreme moments. Things are monotonous, dull, dead enough, day after day, perhaps year after year, until somehow we are taken up–let me say, however, that we are never taken up, except as also, with all our spiritual cooperation, we take ourselves up–into the exceeding high mountain, and there all our world becomes transfigured before us. “Old things are passed away: behold all things are become new.” Mind, not all new things have become, or come to pass, but all things, the old things, have become new. God and heaven are everywhere and always here if we could but see them; but alas! almost nowhere, and so seldom here, because so few of us can see them, and we so seldom.

How is it that our Lord Himself could live so continuously and so high? I am speaking of Him humanly; and speaking so, we must remember, however, that He had His deep places as well as His high, His darkness as well as light, His desertions and emptiness as well as His exaltations and fulness, His descents into hell as well as His ascents into heaven. But still, how could our Lord walk as continuously as He did upon the mountain tops, with such deep waters and desert places, such Gethsemanes and Calvaries always beneath His feet? We must look for very old and simple and human answers if we would know our Lord as He came to be, and was, the Way, the Truth, and the Life for us. It is because, what time He could spare from the valleys, ministering to the multitudes, going about doing good, He was wont to spend upon the mountains, drawing breath and strength and life from God.

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