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Viola Larson

Thank you Dr. Mouw, and Wiley for posting this. I loved this article. Just this last Sunday my third great granddaughter was baptized in a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) service. Not only was she baptized with plenty of water but the pastor stood by the font for the sermon dipping his heads in as he expressed a point on returning to our baptism in the midst of troubled times. Water was dripped over and over as he caused all of us to remember our baptism.

Mike Poteet

Amen to it all. When I started in pastoral ministry, I just decided I wouldn't give parents a choice, just a warning: "Your baby will get wet." And I explained why. Never did any parents complain (at least to my face), though some parishioners did. I tried to educate them, as well.

The most egregious "moist finger" baptism I ever saw was a pastor of a large PC(USA) megachurch who deferred to the wishes of a small girl's parents and didn't even have her take off her Easter bonnet when the time came for the water to be applied. ?!?!?

Charles Wiley

Someone not comfortable with public commenting said to me that she was a bit uncomfortable with this line in reference to the baptism of children: "failure to proclaim to all that it is only through the atoning work of Jesus Christ that the stains of our sin and guilt can be removed."


Viola Larson

Calvin in his section on infant baptism states this on the meaning of Baptism:
Scripture shows, first, that it points to that cleansing from sin which we obtain by the blood of Christ; and, secondly, to the mortification of the flesh, which consists in participation in his death, by which believers are regenerated to newness of life, and thereby to the fellowship of Christ." (Book four , chapter XVI (1-2) Henry Beveridge trans.)

He adds a bit more to that part but the cleansing of sin by the blood of Christ is his first priority.

Also in the beginning of chapter four writing of 1 Peter 3:21, Calvin states:
"... the only purification which baptism promises is by means of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ who is figured by water from the resemlance to cleansing and washing. Who then can say that we are cleansed by that water which certainly attests that the blood of Christ is our true and only laver?" (book 4, chapt XV, (2)

Viola Larson

To add a little more, I think Mouw is right, if I am reading him right. Because we fail to grasp the amazing work that Christ has done by shedding his own blood for us (and our infants) we fail to be lavish with the water of baptism.

Teresa Stricklen

Hooray to Mouw for this great article! I wonder, though, if it's a theological defect as much as it is a deep suspicion of ritual action that many Presbyterians have that leads to dry-cleaning baptisms. Our tradition emphasizes the promises of the Word in words so much that we can diminish the importance of ritual action to the detriment of theological meaning.

Anita Stuart-Steva

I, too, inform the parents that their child will get wet. I use a shell and dip it in the water for each person of the Trinity. The water pores down as the oil did on David when he was anointed. It is important to see the cleansing...to see the sign. I also use the stole liturgy found in our alternate baptism service. It is significant after cleansing the sin to have them put on Christ. Then, as I carry the child down the aisle I explain that this child has died to the life he/she would have led without Christ and now has become one with him and his body, the church.
Ritual is important to make the intangible tangible. It takes time and effort, but is essential if we are truly to "remember".

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