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Let's say a Christian grew up in a non-Baptist Reformed church and was baptized as an infant. This Christian went through a catechism and confirmation during his youth (12-15 yr. old) and in the process came to a personal conviction and personal decision to make Christ his Lord and Savior. The pastor (the catechist) knew this and because of that he decided that the candidate is ready for confirmation. In the confirmation ceremony he declared his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ publicly to the congregation and by that ceremony became a full member of the church and was allowed to take communion. (See this answer for the meaning of Confirmation for a pedobaptist Reformed church).

This Christian now goes to another church, a Baptist church that practices adult full immersion, which also holds the same Reformed theology apart from baptism. Knowing the personal history of this Christian, what is the typical Reformed Baptist church policy on this?

I can think of a few options:

  1. Ignore the infant baptism and the confirmation completely, and treat this person like other baptism candidates
  2. Consider the infant baptism invalid since an infant cannot make a conscious declaration of faith, so have him re-baptized
  3. Do not require adult baptism, but require the person to do the remaining important element, such as making a public confession and taking a class (to update the theology) so he can then become an elder later
  4. Recognize the combination of Infant baptism + Confirmation ceremony to be equivalent to adult baptism since all the elements (baptism using Trinitarian formula, declaration of faith, public announcement, admittance to membership + communion) were believed and performed within the same Reformed theology framework.

In implementing the policy, can you also give an overview of pastoral approaches in Baptist churches for people who fit the case study above, i.e. were baptized as infants, catechized, confirmed, and became member of a pedobaptist Reformed church?

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    Note that Reformed Baptists disagree with Reformed Paedobaptists on more than just baptism: they will typically reject Covenant Theology (there are a variety of alternative models of covenant in Baptist churches), and the family covenantal view, such that the children of believers are not considered part of the church on the basis of their birth. Baptism is just the most visible disagreement.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 16, 2022 at 2:22
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    Related question: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/69250/…
    – Lesley
    Nov 16, 2022 at 8:25
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    Just an anecdote, and I don't even know the specific Baptist subgroup, but someone I know was in essentially this situation. The pastor wanted her to be baptized as an adult, but in the end accepted her firm declarations "I am baptized".
    – aschepler
    Nov 16, 2022 at 13:22
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    @MikeBorden I just made the edit to focus on Reformed theology, thus the case study I'm using is from one Reformed church to another. In this way, I also prevent this question from being a duplicate from Lesley's related question. So, no, not in scope. Nov 16, 2022 at 13:47
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    Note to existing/potential answerers: Q edited further to focus on overview of pastoral approaches since theological explanation has been covered elsewhere. Nov 16, 2022 at 16:06

4 Answers 4

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I was batized into the Church of Scotland at the age of five (in 1956), which I vividly remember, but later I left the Church of Scotland, on grounds of conscience, and joined with a Baptist assembly in Glasgow.

I voluntarily went forward for baptism at the age of sixteen and that was accepted by that congregation at that time, in 1967.

In fact my father, a Presbyterian Church of Scotland minister, attended my baptism into the Baptist congregation.

My own experience is that Baptist churches expect to baptise in adulthood, after a proper repentance and confession of intelligent faith as an adult.

They do not accept a 'christening', as a child, to be a satisfactory entrance to the body of Christ.

In my case, I went forward voluntarily, in the full realisation of what I was doing, as a person brought up in a formal religion but not converted, intelligently, in a cogent understanding of gospel truth, until adulthood.

Yet, still, I remember my original baptism at the age of five (it was delayed through my own illness and other circumstances) and I believe I had a degree of understanding even at that tender age and I appreciated what was being done to me, to some extent.

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    Interesting. Many baptists I know would accept the baptism of a five year old. If they can speak for themselves and express their trust in God that would be considered old enough.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 16, 2022 at 2:14
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    @curiousdannii Yes. My own case is very unusual. I also 'went forward' at the age of six at an evangelical meeting, though I do not recall doing so. But I do vividly remember being conscious of my own existence (I am here, now) at the age of six. And I vividly remember the Shorter Catechism being put on my desk at school (aged 6 or 7) and being filled with horror at the implications of the first question, which I read myself as the teacher walked on, giving out the booklets.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 16, 2022 at 2:18
  • The pertinent aspect of my updated question to your case is this: 1) were you required (as a policy) to be 'rebaptized' assuming they knew of your 5-yr old "adult" baptism?; 2) Or if they treat your 5-yr-old baptism as equivalent to infant baptism, what's their theological reasoning for them to do so? 3) The case study in my OP is more specific though, that the Christian was fully confirmed and fully understood the implication of his faith. How would that same Baptist congregation treat this individual? Please note that in this case study, it was not Christening, but baptism. Nov 16, 2022 at 14:18
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Baptist churches do not consider baptisms done as infants to be valid. They will treat you the same as someone who has not been baptized. The issue of confirmation is not relevant to their theology.

Baptist churches vary greatly in how far they allow someone who has not been baptized to participate in church life. For the most part they allow people to attend for as long as they want, and serve as a volunteer within the church. That was certainly the case for me when I started attending a Mennonite church, which has a very similar theology of baptism. You would usually be required to be baptized if you wanted to become part of the church leadership, or become a formal member. They will probably also encourage you to get baptized (as they see it) as a spiritual discipline. However Baptist churches are essentially entirely independent from one another and set their own rules.

Getting baptized does not always require that you receive education in the same way that mainstream churches do for confirmation. If you have been a Christian for a long time they are unlikely to make you attend a "beginners" class. However given that you had to ask this question it might be prudent to attend a class on the distinctive theology of Baptist churches.

Essentially option 2 applies - although for practical purposes it is also equivalent to option 1.

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    I have seen how a Baptist Church does baptism (as a spectator) and it looks like what the baptized does is the same as in Reformed confirmation (short of the immersion baptism). Since Baptist church does not consider baptism as a means of grace, why does it matter? On the other hand, it seems more likely that someone coming from a Baptist church would be rebaptized in a church believing in baptismal means of grace, don't you think? Nov 16, 2022 at 1:50
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    @GratefulDisciple For Credobaptists, the important thing is that it is a sign done in faith by the person. And most Baptists would say baptism is the initiation rite into the church. Confirmation can be an act of faith (though in many churches it too is routine and performed on many people that lack faith) but that doesn't make it the same as baptism, as confirmation isn't considered to be an initiation rite into the church.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 16, 2022 at 2:13
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    As to your final sentence, Catholics don't rebaptise Baptist converts, if that's what you're alluding to. They would no doubt say that it was an active means of grace even though the baptisee didn't believe that at the time.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 16, 2022 at 2:15
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    @GratefulDisciple Sure, they'd accept that as a profession of faith. Protestants love clear professions of faith! Doesn't make it a baptism. Though interesting in your church that it's confirmation that marks entry into the church. In the Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches it's baptism instead.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 16, 2022 at 2:23
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    Baptists actually require a baptism. A profession of faith isn't equivalent. For them it's a sacrament (communion is the other) and is (as curiousdannii puts it) "as close to essential as it's possible to get", since it's commanded by Jesus. It may not be essential for salvation but you need to do it at some point to be obedient to the Lord. Nov 16, 2022 at 2:54
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While the other answers here are good, something I think is missing so far is in regards to the relationship between a congregation (referring to one specific set of believers who meet in a specific community), the Church (capital "C", referring to body of Christ at large throughout the world and it's worldly organizational structure), and individuals.

Baptist groups are organized differently to the heritage described from the earlier life. Each baptist congregation is more or less autonomous from the all the others, with their own set of beliefs and norms around these things. I love that you used "typical" in the question; that's a good way to put it. There are certainly things that are "typical" among all Baptist fellowships, even to the point of being near-universal, but the weasel-word is still there, and for good reason.

So the relationship between a congregation and the Church tends to be different from groups that are sufficiently top-down organized to offer set confirmation classes. Baptists would tend to see confirmation classes at all as an idea entirely unsupported and outside of scripture; perhaps useful, but not something that can be required of anyone.

In the same way, Baptist groups tend to have a subtly different relationship between the congregation and an individual. The congregation and local clergy are not at all a gatekeeper between the individual and access to the God or the Church. An individual's salvation status is between themselves and God. There's a reason I said "beliefs and norms" earlier rather than "rules". Some groups may even reject the idea of a clergy as a distinct set from the normal laity: we are all clergy ("I will make you a nation of priests").

So local congregations may be sure to teach baptism in a certain way, and look for baptism before you can be accepted among their own leadership ranks, but it's unlikely to ever be a barrier for church attendance, local membership, or even taking communion. Instead, they would hope you would be convicted of the need for baptism through your own study, including messages from the pulpit and group bible studies or classes.

In fact, communion is often passed freely through the congregation, where even non-believing guests will partake. It mostly-fine in their eyes for an unbaptized person to partake; they'd see it as a minor faux-pas on the part of the taker, because they also tend to reject the idea of sacraments in the first place. Jesus Christ is our sacrament. There is no concept of "allowed" to take communion. We take communion because he asked us to commemorate him in this way, not because there's any special sanctifying power there to be reserved for the faithful only.

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  • As a side note, I've tried to be careful here in my use of "we" verses "they". I am not personally baptist, but I come from a fellowship with similar roots and systems. So "we" would denote a shared practice between baptists and my own group, not necessarily that I am myself part of the baptist group. Even so, I've probably made a mistake with those pronouns in a few places. Nov 17, 2022 at 20:15
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This answer comes from a long comment: see above

Many modern Baptist churches (e.g. "Converge" f/k/a BGC) typically don't require (for salvation) Baptism as an adult, but certainly encourage it. According to one of my pastors, one does have to be baptized to be a member, so this would be even more important to be a pastor. However, they do not view it as essential for salvation. I think they would require a believer's baptism, so perhaps a teen could do it. They use water immersion for baptism. They do not believe infant baptism to be valid, so they wouldn't use the term re-baptize, but I would use that term myself. I attend such a church but am not a member. I personally sympathize with all forms of baptism, including infant baptism.

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    "However, they do not view it as essential for salvation." - Interesting, how would they reconcile this with 1 Peter 3:21 which says that 'baptism. . . is saving us'?
    – agarza
    Nov 17, 2022 at 19:20
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    @agarza They would say the passage says the baptism indirectly saves us. There is an analogy being made. It doesn't make us clean (save us) by removing dirt. It makes us clean by asking someone else (an appeal to God) to remove the dirt. God saves us; baptism is how he tells us to ask him to save us. Nov 17, 2022 at 20:16

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