Baptizing the child of a non-member

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by rrfranks, Apr 19, 2012.

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  1. rrfranks

    rrfranks Puritan Board Freshman

    I have a scenario on which I would like to get your wisdom. I am a PCA pastor and have been contacted by someone I know who is a believer and lives two to three hours away. His wife recently gave birth to their first child and he would like to have his daughter baptized as he is convinced by Scripture that this is the correct thing to do. The problem is that he attends a church that holds only to Child Dedication. There are no Reformed churches close by. They are desirous to start a church plant. He is not comfortable with the practice of Child Dedication and desires to have his daughter baptized. This man's parents attend our church, so he has asked if he might have his daughter baptized at our church. I can sympathize with this brother and would like to accommodate him if possible, but have never been confronted with such a request. I am curious as to what you all think? I sure could use your wisdom. Thank you!
  2. he beholds

    he beholds Puritan Board Doctor

    In a PCA church that I know of this has been done. The pastor's nephew lives far from any Presbyterian churches but is himself Presbyterian. The nephew attends a Baptist church, but has gotten his children baptized at the PCA church. I think it is a good thing, but I'm not a pastor. I think, if I recall correctly, the congregation does not vow to care for that covenant child.
  3. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I would probably do it.
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    In the ARP, when the baptism of a child takes place, there is a vow that the congregation makes with regard to the child. I'm guessing the PCA has something similar. It would not really be possible for the congregation to affirm that vow if they will rarely, if ever, see the child again.

    My advice would be to tell him to wait. I know that's not ideal, but if he is desirous to have a church plant started, that would be the solution.
  5. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I would think that the question to the congregation in BCO 56-5 should be omitted.

    ---------- Post added at 07:05 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:02 PM ----------

    I was surprised to note just now that the question to the congregation is shown as 'optional' in the PCA BCO.
  6. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I wonder why that is. Could it possibly be because of the whole "godparents" thing? The congregation is supposed to be taking a roll that replaces "godparents" (in a sense) as the child is growing up in the covenant community; perhaps it is because folks have scruples with regard to this? :scratch:
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Public statement/vow by the congregation or not, baptism is a "church-action." It is attaching a person to the church--a particular earthly church, with officers and members, worship and discipline. That's the function of baptism.

    Is that child a part of the "invisible church?" No one knows if anyone is in the invisible church, that is among the elect. So if he were or weren't, there's nothing that we do that makes it so or refuses to so make. We can't withhold what we don't have power over. Therefore, if the child is losing nothing that his parents don't also lose if they are not members of Christ's church. If the parents are members in a church that refuses to acknowledge their child, from the Presbyterian's perspective that's wrong. But, until something better comes along, they are stuck.

    What I'm saying is simply this: I don't think it's proper to baptize any person over whom the session has no discipline. An exception is when a session at a distance has both granted permission to another session to act in its stead, and when official word is transmitted to the proper overseeing session, so that the record of that baptism is made for the child, and his name added to the rolls of the church where he has been recognized as as member.

    The thing to remember is that when baptism "arrives" in a place where it is missing--that is a day of great rejoicing. Usually, the evangelistic Word arrives, then a church is organized, and the sacraments are then properly administered. Baptism is a sign that the church has arrived. Baptism is disciplinary. The body of Christ has grown, expanded, and now enfolds even more. Presbyterians aren't congregationalists, nor do we think that a recognizable church exists just anyplace there's a person who calls himself a Christian. The invisible church of course includes every individual believer, regardless of his situation (for example, in solitary confinement). But if I look at the believer on a video feed, I'm not seeing "the church."

    The desire of these Christians in the OP to have their child properly baptized should either,
    1) encourage them to join the church where their parents go, even if the circumstances are extraordinary. Which would (in a somewhat inadequate sense, I'm afraid) at least give the impression of oversight and discipline;
    2) force them to pray with deeper fervor for that church-plant to come into being. They want what they do not have, and passion for a rightful desire will often bring us to our knees like nothing else--which earnestness God is often pleased to bring to answer with favor.
  8. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    Baptism is not for the family, not for the parents, nor even ultimately for the child. It is for the Church. For Reformed Baptists or paedobaptists to baptize those without the intention of adding them to membership ultimately leads to the idea of some sort of baptismal regeneration (where roman catholics and Lutherans in some cases will sprinkle water on whoever to save the Child from hell) or Low sacramental zwinglians or anabaptists in which you have baptism becoming fundamentally and act of obedience for God instead of a demonstration of the Gospel in which God is shown visibly to save sinners. Systematic theology aside the bible pattern is clear: Acts 2: 41 "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." Membership and baptism go hand in hand in the New Testament. Baptism is a sacrament of the visible church, not a social ceremony or passage of rite.
  9. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Does he merely attend or is he a member of that church?

    If he is a member, one thing I have not seen mentioned yet is talking to his elders about his desires. Even if it is not a Reformed church, I still think it would be proper to keep them in the loop since they have taken an oath to oversee his soul.
  10. rrfranks

    rrfranks Puritan Board Freshman

    John, your question about membership vs. merely attending is a good question. Thanks for pointing that out!

    ---------- Post added at 09:56 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:55 PM ----------

    Thanks everyone for your input!
  11. anotherpilgrim

    anotherpilgrim Puritan Board Freshman

    Out of curiosity... does the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch have any bearing in situations like this?
  12. rrfranks

    rrfranks Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't think so. Was there something in particular that you had in mind?
  13. anotherpilgrim

    anotherpilgrim Puritan Board Freshman

    I was thinking of the similarity of the Ethiopian being away from a local congregation as in the case of this family you refer to in the OP.
  14. Kim G

    Kim G Puritan Board Junior

    I'm trying to understand paedobaptism, but once again, something like this comes up and confuses me.

    If the point of baptism is to baptise into a particular church, then why is a person not re-baptised every time they become members of a new church?

    If baptism does not baptise into a particular church, what is to keep this child from being baptised into the visible Church?
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    There is no record of what vows should be taken at a baptism in Scripture, so different congregations and denominations have different vows and rules.

    But baptism does admit adults and children into the one visible Church, and so only needs to happen once.
  16. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor


    I have never thought through this before (never been in the situation), but I believe our Session did this for a family once when Tom was here.

    If it was done, I'd assume the Session would have to meet with the family and discern their profession at the very least. I also have no clue how you'd record it in your minutes.
  17. Fogetaboutit

    Fogetaboutit Puritan Board Freshman

    I was wondering the same thing, if we acknowledge that other churches are true churches how does this work? Would Jews not circumcise their child if they would not have been member of a local synagogue? What about Paul baptizing converts when he was traveling?
  18. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The question raised isn't answered with reference to infants, but to any baptism at all. You can't be baptized into "the visible church-universal" without being baptized into a particular visible congregation. And it makes no sense whatever to baptize someone into "the universal church (visible)," following which he's cast adrift into the sea. Baptism isn't about the individual Christian with no connection to anyone but Christ-mystical. (We cannot even effect such a thing, or even recognize it as a certainty.) Since we believe that particular churches are not disparate congregations, but belong to one another, one whole body, then the actions of one congregation are actions on behalf of the whole. So, we recognize that a person, once he is a member in a particular church, is admissible to another church of like faith and practice without having to begin anew, as if a neophyte.

    Who is responsible for this child? I mean, what pastor and elders are responsible for him, if he is just baptized and passed off... to no one? Have they "done their job" with respect to him? That's possibly how the CalvaryChapel does things, for whom baptism is just another "personally meaningful moment" in someone's spiritual life. Those guys don't even record memberships. So what do they care for the average attendee, if he has been baptized or not? It makes no difference to how that church seeks to shepherd sheep. Who are their sheep? Do they even know?

    Re. circumcision. There are both cultural and religious ties to circumcision, the disentangling of which is part of the transition to international-Christianity in the New Covenant. But in general, circumcision (in the Bible) was a religious function, performed under the supervision or approval of the religious order, not just a parental function or entrusted to a local handy with a knife. What did they do in extraordinary circumstances? I don't know. Under some circumstances or other, there would need to be some way to know if this man or that were circumcised. Prove it somehow: either by demonstration (probably least desirable to everyone), or according to religious records, synagogal or templar.

    We know such family records were kept as vital statistics for many generations, which things were an important part of the Jewish return from the Exile. And the destruction of the 2nd Temple in AD70 wiped out a tremendous amount of the centralized record-keeping. But the bottom line was surely: to be a part of synagogue, you had to be circumcised. Besides, to not belong to synagogue was tantamount to rejecting Jewish identity. If they were rejecting that, why have the son circumcised?

    Re. Paul's baptizing converts. Where does this happen, without the founding of a church? Perhaps the best known example of something close to the suggestion is the case of the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip is equipped for his service, as one under the direct authorization from Christ (who is moving his agent around as if by a teleporter). There is some anecdotal (extrabiblical) evidence that the Ethiopian went home thus empowered to organize the church in his country.

    The bottom line is: there is no evidence that Paul or anyone else just evangelized and baptized people, and then went trotting off to fire up the next big thing, meanwhile expecting the lately-baptized to spontaneously organize or do anything else. If this had been the apostle's habit, there would be no churches, because that's not how humans operate, and that's not how the Bible teaches us the church came into being. Baptism is part of church-organization. It's the beginning of church-discipline.
  19. jfhutson

    jfhutson Puritan Board Freshman

    What about the authority of the Baptist church? If we're considering them to be a true church, then we should respect their authority and jurisdiction over this family. If not (because of administering the sacraments incorrectly), we shouldn't baptize the child of a family who is not a part of a true church.

    I suppose you could ask for their permission, though I doubt they'd agree to it.
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