Monday, March 22, 2010

On the Phrase "Remember Your Baptism" When Spoken by Paedobaptists

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the people who most use the language of remembering one's baptism are those that baptize infants? I am aware of the substantive theological discussions and disagreements here, and no one is less interested in scoring cheap ecumenical points than I am. But this is undeniably curious, is it not? "Remember your baptism." "When your child is older, teach her to remember her baptism." "Whenever someone is baptized, we remember our own baptism." "Whenever the congregants pass the font, they will remember their own baptism."

I realize that, as someone on the outside, the practice, language, and theology of paedobaptism will naturally feel alien to me. But surely we can agree that it is a strange thing indeed for churches to ask their members to do the one thing they are unable to do vis-a-vis the singular foundational act of incorporation into the death and resurrection of the body of Christ? Again: I "get" that we can theologize memory corporately and spiritually and any number of other ways. But on the face of it, as it is heard and received in the pews and in the minds of ordinary believers, this has to be the very definition of a theological mixed message. It seems to me to be a bit like saying, "Remember your first step." Sure, we can fill in apparent or real content to that statement, but on the face of it, it just seems nonsensical and goofy.

My own suggestion, of course, would be to stop baptizing infants. Given that that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, how about finding new language to call forth the reality and power of baptism outside of the contingencies of memory? In other words, take the baby step of not asking adults to remember that which is intrinsically unrememberable.

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