What Should the Church Do When a Child, Grade 2, Is Too Old for Infant Baptism and Too Young/Not Ready for Believer's Baptism?

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We have a woman who will be baptized as a new believer soon, and she has a son in grade 2. Both have become a part of our congregation and been participating in the church faithfully and actively. We are very thankful and excited about carrying out the Great Commission in our city and Praise the LORD! While it is clear that the mother shall be baptized we need wisdom with respect to the son. He grasps that the Lord Jesus loves him and died for him. This young boy also professes that he loves the Lord himself and wants to follow him. But in regards to the content of faith he has a limited knowledge both in the Bible and his ability to articulate his faith.  

 

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I would suggest you look at the Faith Formation materials, particularly the emphasis on children coming to the Lord's Table with age-appropriate faith. The situation before you could be solved with the same logic. The grade 2 child can and should be able to articulate faith in Jesus at a grade 2 level (more or less what you wrote in the post). That is what you are looking for. I would suggest very simple faith questions based on the Adult Baptism or Profession of Faith forms followed by baptism. Then he can make full Profession of Faith later when he is ready. 

The other option is to just baptize him as you would an infant purely because of the faith of the mother. I would see this as perfectly ok too.

What would make it most meaningful for the child?

I had this situation some years ago.  In the end I asked some questions of the mother and some of the seven year old boy.  And he was baptized.  But, this didn't count as profession of faith. 

We may speak of infant baptism and believers' baptism however, if we're referring to the water ritual, neither bestow salvation. The baptism of infants and small children brings them into the spiritually-nurturing, covenant community of believers but doesn't bring salvation. Only saving faith in Christ's finished work transforms a sinner into a saved, beloved child of God. No one is baptized into Christianity. Hence, Christian parents baptize infants or little children presuming they are among God' s elect and that when they're older they will commit their lives to Christ and are born again. 

Participant

I would baptize the child, not as an infant or adult baptism, but more accurately, as covenantal baptism. When we were evangelized into the church, my mother was baptized and made profession of faith, and I was baptized at age 11 ,and my sister at age 6. My pastor (John Rozeboom) explained what baptism was about in an "age and ability appropriate way" (as we have been saying lately with our focus on faith formation and the issue of children and the Lord's Supper). Was it "infant baptism" or "believer's baptism"? Neither term is really fitting; it was covenantal baptism. I was baptized because my single mom, the head of our household, was baptized, just like Lydia and her househould, or the Philippian Jailor (poor guy has no name!) and his household (Acts 16).

Also, it is quite appropriate to say that a person is baptized into Christianity, though more appropriately, that one is baptized into the church. This is not a statement about God's eternal decree of election; it is a recognition that this person, at whatever age it occurs, is now breathing the air of the confessional community (credit to Henry DeMoor for that phrase, I believe). There is a well-known remark of CS Lewis on this topic: "Don't bother at all about the question of a person being 'made a Christian' by baptism. It is only the usual trouble about words being used in more than one sense. Thus we might say a man 'became a soldier' the moment he joined the army. But his instructors might say six months later 'I think we have made a solider out of him.' "

In addition, we do not baptize because we presume that a child is elect, though Abraham Kuyper championed that view, and it was common in the CRC beginning about a century ago and through maybe the 1950's - 60's. The "Liberated" Reformed Churches (Canadian Reformed and American Reformed) still think we teach that perspective (presumptive regeneration). But this perspective has rightly fallen by the wayside. We do not baptize on the basis of a presumption. We baptize on the basis of God's claim and God's promise. We baptize because we recognize that God's covenant promises come to an individual through a community; we baptize because God's claim on a child's allegiance will come to that child through the influence of at least one believing parent (I Cor. 7:14).

Randy,

Thanks for your thoughts on this common matter. I'd be even more appreciative if you'd take those thoughts and work them into an article for the BANNER. Something similar to what Kuyvenhoven did on a Baptism article years ago would be in Q&A form to make it easily digestible.    We need more emphasis on the covenantal aspect of baptism, and get away from the adult or infant terminology. You've got a good grasp of it....expand it, share it, the CRCNA needs it as it continues to deal with the faith formation of its youth, and do some catch up with its non-informed others.... Thanks!

Participant

Thank you, George; I'm working on it.