There is a debate raging, in my head at least, concerning the administration of Baptism. It is a debate that has murmured under the surface of a few conversations that I have been part of or privy too in recent years, and never with any sort of resolution.
Argument 1 - We want all people to be disciples of Christ, so of course we must baptize all those who seek it
Argument 2 - If someone asks for their child to be baptized, it would be bad form, rude even, to deny them that which they seek
Argument 3 - Seeds sown now may yield fruit later
... and so on! These are the arguments given by those who think that baptism should be freely granted to all who ask, and fair enough. They are valid views.
I have always wrestled with a sense that baptism seems too readily granted. Someone pops by the Vicarage or church, asks for baptism, gets it and then more often than not they vanish from whence they came. That might be as a result of poor follow-up pastoral care; it might be because that is the very nature of the beast; it might be that people seek baptism (and this debate is more to do with children presented as candidates by their parents and guardians) because it is "what you do". The simple fact is that baptism is less to do with initiation into the worshipping life of the church than other factors.
My instinct is to ask enquirers "and why so you want your child to be baptized?". Part of me fears the answer, but if I administer baptism without a concern for that, what implicit message am I delivering? That baptism doesn't really matter so go ahead, let's book a date. Indeed, the liturgists in their zeal to offer choice have created the Great Euphemism - the Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child order of service which, although never intended to be, has become 'Baptism Lite' so that we don't frighten people away with all the religious hocus-pocus.
Part of me thinks that if our faith is of life changing and affirming value to us as believers, we should administer its initiation scrupulously. Part of me still thinks that if faith is like that we should cast it far and wide (and hope some of it sticks?). Where does giving something freely become the administration of something that has no value? One is generous, one is insulting (to God, to believers and to those who really do value baptism). If I am honest, part of me thinks that baptism should be first step of a renewed pattern of behaviour that revolves around the community of which the baptized have just become member. Part of me thinks that if I took that view I might struggle for baptisms!
Thoughts, please ...
Se also Baptism Boosters