Monday, 16 August 2010

Baptismal Boosters

From time to time it happens: you know how it is, you read the Church Times and then you get all flustered and annoyed about something. Well, this happened to me last night as those who Tweet will confirm!

On the back cover, there was an interview with a very nice lady who does stirling work as a Street Pastor (carbonara?) She does this work despite some serious constraints, and I am delighted that good people do good things for those they do not know. It is not about her work that I am upset, but about something she thrice claimed to have done:

she has been rebaptised...

I have a very specific diffculty with this. In her interview she talks of a very active life of prayer prior to her rebaptism. For me, baptism is a once-only absolute and sufficient rite of intiation into God's own family. It is an answer to God's calling that through baptism, we are called to Christianity. We are baptised through the grace of God and by the power of His Spirit.

I am left with questions:
 - do some Christians regard baptism as a means of entry to a denomination or to the whole Family of God?
 - Example: If I am my mother's son, how could I have need for her to adopt me again later? Even if I had walked away from my family, I am still her son and they still my family. I can return, but my family is my family. The same for Baptism - if we are recieved into God's family by God's grace, how can this lapse, especially in a life meshed with prayer as was described in the interview? 
 - Is one 'mode' of baptism more effective that another? Is full submersion the best way therefore?
 - Rebaptism, to me, makes denomination supreme over Church. If that is the case, then we live in dangerous times.
 - Can baptism lapse due to non-attendance at church? Is God's love that feeble?

I am trying hard not to be ranty and ravey about this, but I am appalled at the implications behind the state of affairs that can suggest a person is re-initiated from 'a religious club of like-minded people' (that's the Church of England she is describing) to another group who were 'aware of the love of Christ'. That's insulting, by the way. Packaged in this way, I read it as 'a poor baptism replaced by an improved one'. Not good.


  1. I was also reading said article this morning and hit the roof over this new fad that is sweeping the Church....maybe it says something about the lack of sacramental training or doctrinal understanding by some church leaders then about the person wanting "re-baptism" since those in the church can only understand what has been taught them from their "pastors".

  2. ooohh I feel I have to comment!! My husband and I recently renewed our baptism vows. We did this for one reason: because we had both spent years in church, had both been baptised at birth and then confirmed at 14, but throughout all of that had not really had any faith. (full story on my blog so won't bore you..) We finally discovered what faith really meant in our 30s and so actually wanted to devote our lives to God and mean it this time. However we had already been baptised and confirmed. We both knew that it wouldn't make a difference to God but it was important to us to stand up in front of friends, family and God and give our lives to God publically.
    Our Vicar was keen to point out that we could not be 're-baptised' as you can only do it once. he said 'it's not like it didn't work the first time..'. Instead we said slightly different words and it was clear we were 're-newing our vows' to God. I agree with your point that it seems to be a bit of a fad, but a good Vicar or Pastor should make it clear to anyone considering it that you cannot be 're-baptised'. I think there are various evangelical churches who see it as something to be done regularly which seems a bit strange if you ask me..

  3. Red, thanks for the comment. Renewal of baptismal vows feels very different to me, and are liken to the same thing in terms of marriage - a way of revisiting and re-affirming, and re-declaring publically. Change of language and no sense of replacement all make that a very different proposition. As such I celebrate the potential, and most Christians of a catholic pursuasion (at least) renew vows annually at the Easter Vigil.
    You are right though, this 'Top Trump' approach has the feel of faddishness about it, and any Pasta that advocates such a process is, in my humble opinion, achingly supremicist in their local theology ('we is better than them' stuff).


  4. I suppose the thing with baptism is that the baptised don't actually make those vows if they are baptised as a baby - although they do claim them as their own at confirmation (though that is often at a young age as well.) I can sort of understand that people might feel they didn't personally make them, especially if they have come to believe in adult only baptism...

    I always think renewing marriage vows is a bit weird - a vow is a vow forever? BUT if people want to do that and it has meaning for them, I certainly don't object, it just would be meaningless to me personally.



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