Does Christening and Confirmation Count?
As the pastor of a Baptist church I frequently encounter this recurring couplet of questions posed by prospective members:
“Since I was baptized as an infant, and then later (in my denomination’s confirmation ceremony) confirmed publically that I trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior, why do you believe I should be re-baptized? Is this re-baptism not a renouncing of my previous confirmation ceremony, which to me was a precious and public expression of my personal trust in Jesus?”
Here is the essence of a letter I recently wrote to answer the question. Let’s call the inquirer something that rhymes with dunking.
Your questions are good and show a commendable desire to reconcile what you have been taught with what you are learning now. Here are four handrails for our thoughts to grip as we wade through the issue.
1. Reasons for infant baptism.
Most Christians in our country were baptized as babies, myself included. There are some regions where this is very common, due to denominations like Methodism, the Dutch Reformed Church, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, and Catholicism who have all sprinkled their influence abroad. As a result of how culturally entwined the practice can become, an extremely common reason people baptize their babies is because everyone in their family has done it for generations. That’s not an argument that holds water.
In my experience very few people can articulate a theological defense of pedobaptism. Those who do, base their theological convictions on an understanding of the way the Old and New Covenants are related, whereby circumcision is replaced by baptism. But in order for this view—unbelievers being baptized as babies who then get saved later in life—to stay afloat, one has to invent the confirmation ceremony as a substitute for what biblical baptism is meant to be.
The Bible knows nothing of the confirmation ceremony at all. There is not a single mention of it described or explained, and no instruction given about it anywhere in the Bible. Nor is there any case in the Bible of the baptism of an unbeliever being recognized as valid, which is what confirmation is intended to do.
2. The real meaning of baptism.
The word baptize means “to immerse fully under water.” This is not an insignificant detail, because of what the act symbolizes.
What most churches do with babies is sprinkling or dabbing. So, to say “I was baptized as a baby” is to substitute the way Jesus commanded and modeled with an alternative method.
The purpose of baptism, according to Romans 6:3-5 , is to illustrate a person who has died to their old life, being buried with Christ, and then being raised with him unto a new life. This picture makes no sense if the person doesn’t yet believe, or if they are too young to have an “old life” of which to repent.