Confessing Christ Bloggers
Nov 11

Written by: Richard L. Floyd
11/11/2008 8:44 PM

I struggled with infant baptism early in my ministry, partly because of Barth’s influence, and partly my pain at the casual way it was often regarded in the culture Protestantism of much New England Congregationalism.

I came in time to embrace it and love it like Herb Davis, but I exercised a kind of tough love discipline around it, requiring parents or sponsors to have a real church connection, and for this, let me say candidly, I sometimes experienced a different kind of pain (as Paul said, I still bear on my body the marks of Christ.) But our congregation in time took baptism far more seriously than previously.

The BEM document that Gabe Fackre mentioned is very useful. And some of you will not be surprised to learn that I also have found P. T. Forsyth’s writings on Baptism, chiefly in his book, The Church and Sacraments, to be very useful in my ministry over the years.

Forsyth suggests that both forms (believer and infant) have their inherent emphasis and along with them certain temptations. In the case of believer baptism a temptation is to think it is about me, my faith, my experience, and in infant baptism the temptation is to a kind of magic. He asks rhetorically, “Would Christianity really be reformed if it abolished infant baptism? Can that now be hoped for? Is that the only way to keep the magic out? Would it not be burning the house to roast the pig? Would it not reduce the church to the permanent condition of a missionary Church only, amid a quite pagan society?”

For Forsyth, who proposes that both forms be offered and recognized, “What makes baptism real is God’s changeless will of salvation in Christ and the Church. It testifies chiefly to this, and not to a subjective attainment of confession, which might change. Sacraments are modes of the Gospel (not of our experience), and that is what the Gospel reveals.”

Writing about infant baptism he says, “Baptism is incorporation, not into Christ, but into the body of Christ, with its moral, spiritual, social influence on the soul. The child is not given the Spirit, but placed where the Spirit moves. It must make much difference to a young soul whether it is taught to believe it is a member of Christ’s body, and takes its disciplines as a child of the house, or whether it is taught to regard itself as an outsider, spectator, and by-product of the Church’s grace.”

Would that the whole church would take these issues as seriously as they have been taken in this conversation.

Copyright ©2008 Richard Floyd


Re: The Relationship between Word and Sacrament


Thanks for posting this. My shift in thinking on this issue is largely thanks to Forsyth whose espousal of both forms on the basis that they both have something 'crucial' to preach to us is most compelling, not to mention the ecumenical fruits of such a position.

By Jason Goroncy on   11/12/2008 3:28 AM

Re: The Relationship between Word and Sacrament


Thanks for your comments, which encourage me that someone is reading this blog. Perhaps others are lurking. If so, Jason has the best theology site on the web:

Lots of Forsyth, atonement matters, great visuals, and good stuff on art and culture. It represents the kind of evangelical catholic faith that Confessing Christ is all about. Check it out.


By Richard L. Floyd on   11/16/2008 12:15 PM

Re: The Relationship between Word and Sacrament

While I agree that what you are saying is perfectly logical, I don't know that it is biblically justifiable. I do not disagree with Forsyth on much, but here I find myself constrained by a lack of evidence from Scripture that this (infant baptism) is a) necessary and b) efficacious (even with a sponsor). If Scripture is our rule of faith and practice, what Scripture mandates or necessitates infant baptism?

Oh well. Thankfully, should my lack of insight prove damaging, I have been both christened (as an infant) and immersed (as a confessing, repentant adult), the latter of the two being far more meaningful; the former of the two perhaps making the latter possible.

Thanks for the post.

By Jerry Hillyer on   12/15/2008 4:59 PM
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