Last month I had a lengthy and very stimulating discussion in the comments of one of my friend Andrew Wilson’s posts on the subject of credobaptism and baptismal efficacy. Andrew subsequently posted a summary of David Gibson’s paedobaptist position from that discussion.
He has now posted a summary of my position, and there is already a helpful conversation in the comments. Here are a few tasters of my comments:
Baptism functions much like adoption. It can occur before or after our conscious awareness and choice, but either way it changes our status and identity, makes us participants of a new context and life, and comes with new responsibilities and privileges. Even though adoption often precedes any choice of the child, we rightly presume that, as they grow up, they will willingly identify with the life and family into which they have been brought. While an adoption always achieves something, even when it ‘fails’, its presumed and desired effect is that of the adopted child maturing happily in a new loving context, responding with gratitude to the grace of their adoptive parents. The long term outcome of the adoption is fairly important. The child needs to be subjected to the long term practices of formation and inclusion that constitute ‘family life’ or adoption is emptied of much of its significance, becoming a hollow formality. Baptism is much the same.
When Paul addresses the Church, he speaks of the realities that they have been given and made part of in terms of their proper reception, much as we do. When speaking generally about adoption, we don’t typically hedge our language to accommodate the cases where the child grows to reject their adoptive parents. In speaking of adoption, we appropriately assume that it will have its proper and desired effect and speak of it in such a manner. In the same way, Paul addresses the whole Church as the family chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, even though some will fall away, all receiving the Supper as partaking in the ‘cup of blessing’, even though some will drink judgment to themselves, and all the baptized as receiving the benefits of incorporation into the life of Christ, even though some will turn their back on this.