When should a person be baptized? As an adult or as a baby?
In some church backgrounds, it is taught that the baptism of babies ‘doesn’t count.’ There are some denominations that, in fact, will insist on re-baptizing believers as adults, when the person can make the choice for him- or herself. It makes logical sense. How can a baby make a promise to follow Jesus? Understand what it is to accept and grow into a relationship with God? There is a whole movement of Christian history – reflected today in particular Christian denominations – that reacted against infant baptism as superstitious and inappropriate church teaching.
And yet, in the Anglican tradition (as well as the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, United, and Presbyterian traditions), we continue to baptize babies. We continue to baptize babies, and we teach that there is One Baptism, that regardless of where, when, or under what circumstances you were baptized, that baptism is valid. Why? When it makes no logical sense?
Because our relationship with God actually isn’t about logical sense. Baptism is not about our understanding enough to be ‘ready’ for a relationship with God. It isn’t a graduation ceremony, where we have achieved certain requirements that validate us for the Body of Christ. Baptism is first, foremost, and ultimately about grace, about gift. Specifically God’s gift to us, the gift of God’s self, God’s love, God’s relationship. No strings attached. It is about a human recognition of the covenant that God makes with each and every one of us, of God’s faithfulness to us, whether or not we deserve it, whether or not we understand it. We continue to practice infant baptism because in this sacrament (an outward sign of an invisible gift) all of us are reminded most clearly of God’s unconditional love and acceptance of us. Although this baby has never done a single thing to earn a place in the community of people who are committed to walking together in the way of Jesus, they are welcomed, accepted, validated, valued, and joined to us, nonetheless.
So the question “ when should a person be baptized”? We, in the Anglican Church, baptize our children as babies but also baptize anyone who has not been baptized but has decided they wish to become part of the body of Christ in the Church. It was actually quite emotional for me to baptize my first great granddaughter and her daddy at the same. Her daddy Jay choose to share his gifts and his life with the Christian community, for himself as an adult at the same time we baptized their first child!