Should My Differing Beliefs About Baptism Keep Me from Attending an Otherwise Biblically Solid Church?
Question from a reader:
I’ve been visiting a church with biblical teaching that focuses on missions and evangelism and other good things. But I don’t think I agree with how they practice baptism. What is the difference between Credobaptist and Paedobaptist? Should beliefs about baptism keep me from belonging to an otherwise biblically solid church?
Answer from Brenda Abelein, EPM staff:
Like Randy, I think involvement in a local church is very important—not just “attending” on Sundays, but learning, growing, and serving together with other believers. Jesus thought it was important, so I think we should too.
I hear your concern about the ethics of attending a church which believes differently about baptism than you do. Talking with the church pastor about your concern would be a great place to start. This article and some resources I’ve linked below can help you prepare for that conversation. The Tim Challies article might be especially helpful to share with your pastor, because he writes from the perspective of having originally believed in baptism for babies, and now does not.
My short answer to your question is that if the church is not proposing that baptizing infants and children is for their salvation, and baptism of infants is not being required, then I would be okay to “agree to disagree” on that point. But here’s a longer answer.
Paedobaptism is the practice of baptizing infants and children of believers. Credobaptistm, sometimes called believer’s baptism, is the practice of baptizing those who have professed faith in Jesus. Based on what the Bible teaches about baptism, I can confirm that Randy and I also align with the credobaptist theology that baptism should follow a profession of faith in Jesus, rather than baptizing infants and small children who are not of age to choose faith for themselves.
That said, there are many positions on baptism (and other religious practice issues like how often to take communion, etc.) among sincere believers. One of the founding pastors of my church has always said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” And the “main thing” is always the gospel… God’s plan to send Jesus to die for my sins, and me choosing to believe that Jesus did that for me.
Yes, baptism is an important part of Christian faith, something Jesus modeled for us, and something all believers should choose to do. But for me, if someone chooses to baptize their infant, and I know the truth that it doesn’t save them, to me that isn’t a “main thing” and I don’t think it would keep me from attending a particular church where I was hearing sound biblical teaching. Many of my believing friends that I currently attend church with believe theologically different than me on various issues, but we are in agreement on Jesus and the gospel.
Here’s some resources that will help further understand the terms credobaptist and paedobaptist, and how Christians view the practice of baptism.
- Baptism: A Step of Obedience and a Public Profession by Randy Alcorn
- Why I am not Paedobatist by Tim Challies (an author Randy quotes and retweets often)
- Why I am Credobaptist by Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition (a ministry EPM supports)
- Should I Be Baptized as an Adult If I Was Baptized as an Infant? By Stephanie Anderson, one of my coworkers here at EPM, with links to several other Christian perspectives
You can learn a lot about a church’s beliefs by checking out their website. Here are a few things I learned in just a few minutes from the website of the church you are visiting.
- On the home page it says in big font: Helping people say “yes” to Jesus! I would say that’s definitely a bold statement of the “main thing.”
- I see nothing specific about baptism or communion at all in their Core Beliefs.
- One of their Core Values says “Jesus Christ's completed work on the cross as the only way of salvation,” which seems to indicate they don’t believe baptism of infants is for their salvation, but maybe a sign or means of identity in a Christian family.
I was baptized as an infant in a Catholic church by my well-intentioned parents who thought it was the right thing to do. It did not hurt me, and also did not have any effect on my future spiritual condition. They allowed me to go to a neighborhood after-school Bible Club when I was 7, also because they thought it was the right thing to do, and it was there that I heard about Jesus and that He died for me, and chose to believe. I was baptized again when I was 20, as a public profession of my faith, and a testimony that I was choosing to love and serve Jesus.
The bottom line is reaffirming this: if the church is not proposing that baptizing infants and children is for their salvation, and baptism of infants is not being required, then I think it’s okay to “agree to disagree” on that point and enjoy the biblical teaching that will help you learn and grow in your faith.
Photo by kaleb tapp on Unsplash
Brenda Abelein works part-time as a ministry assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries, both as a receptionist and also assisting other staff with projects.