Rogue Baptism?

To baptize or not to baptize - that is the question!

16 Responses to “Rogue Baptism?”

  1. Kurt Nordstrom Says:

    Erk…that really doesn’t sit right with me.

    I mean, yeah, I’m a baptist, so obviously we’ve got the doctrinal differences. But what’s getting me is the disregard for parental authority. Not to mention that baptism is administered through the church, not the bathroom (under most reasonable circumstances anyhow).

    I mean, if you follow that track, why not sneak into the hospital nursery and sprinkle all the newborns while you’re there?

  2. Elle Says:

    That’s the one part that doesn’t sit right with me either, Kurt. It seems like a usurpation (is that a word?) of the parent’s responsibility. But then again, if one believes what Lutherans confess about baptism, it seems like it would somehow be justified if for no other reason than that the parents were forsaking their responsibility.

    One wouldn’t be advised to sneak into nurseries and baptize because any new faith must be nurtured and grown with God’s word. I know my friend’s grandchild will be nutured in God’s word, so I’m not concerned about that.

  3. Revvin' Rev Says:

    Remember what the Bible says when it comes to whose authority is top dog. Acts 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men”. All authority, whether that be God’s representatives in government or in the home (parents), are subject to God as the higher authority.

    God has given us a command in the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to make disciples by 1. baptizing all nations and 2. teaching them everything Jesus has commanded them. It would be foolish to go and baptize without the teaching to go with it, as in going to a hospital and sprinklin’ the newborns. It appears that the grandma and the family is going to follow God’s command and teach the child more about their Savior later on. But for now, is there another way that Scripture says for a newborn child to be saved other than baptism? Surely you can not say that infants are perfect headed for heaven cuz they’re cute or their minds are not developed? They are sinful, are they not? Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

    Does Scripture not also say that Baptism saves? (1 Peter 3:20-21, Acts 22:16) Since Scripture does not tell us a different way to convert babies other than doing the same thing with babies as you do with older folks (”All nations” means everyone, including infants, no?), why not baptize them?

    Where does Scripture say baptism must happen in the church or that only the church has that right to baptize? Lutherans say all believers have the right to baptize (seeing no Scriptural evidence that only those called into the office of the holy ministry are commanded to baptize), yet for the sake of everything being done in an orderly way, they ask the pastor to baptize for them. (1 Corinthians 14:40).

    Saying all of that, I agree the situation described is not ideal. Ideally you’d like both parents to see the need and the blessings of baptism. However if one refuses to give that gift to the child, you gotta bring Acts 5:29 into the equation. If an authority tries to deny God’s means of grace to an individual or a group, do what God says.

  4. Rachel Says:

    Wow! This is why it’s so nice to have a pastor brother. I was going to say something, but he just said it so much better.

  5. Elle Says:

    Does Mattew 18:15-17 apply here?

    “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

  6. Chris Jones Says:

    With great respect, Pr Ruddat, I must firmly disagree. You ask “Where does Scripture say … that only the church has that right to baptize?”; but Scripture does not have to say it explicitly, because it makes no sense otherwise. To be baptized is to be in Christ, to be joined to His body, the Church. How can one be baptized into His body outside of His body? How can one be joined to His Church apart from His Church? It is a contradiction.

    Indeed, when a lay person baptizes, it is still the Church - or, more correctly, Christ Himself acting through His Church - who is doing the baptizing. It is simply not correct to say that if a lay person baptizes, the baptism is “outside the Church”. There is no such thing as baptism “outside the Church”. The question is not, should someone “outside the Church” baptize; the question is, is it fitting for a lay person (who is “inside the Church”) to baptize?

    You say that “Lutherans say all believers have the right to baptize”; but we say no such thing. On this point the Augsburg Confession could not be clearer: “no one should … administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” Even if you, personally, see “no Scriptural evidence that only those called into the office of the holy ministry are commanded to baptize”, to go against the Augustana on this point is to put your reading of Scripture above the Confessions - in short, a “quatenus”, not a “quia” subscription.

    It is, of course, true that lay baptism is valid, and that sometimes it must be done when a person is at the point of death and no pastor is available. But what is permitted in an emergency does not give an excuse for going against the good order of the Church at any other time. Not for naught did St Ignatius of Antioch advise that “nothing pertaining to the Church be done apart from the bishop”, for it is the appointed shepherd that is the steward of the mysteries of God, and he that will have to give account for his stewardship of God’s Church. It is the appointed shepherd, and not Grandma, who has that burden and that call.

    The discipline of the Church exists for good reasons, and we ought not to transgress on her good order lightly. There are so many things that are pastorally wrong and spiritually dangerous about this story that I can hardly begin to list them. I’ve addressed some similar issues (albeit in a VERY different context) in a post from a few years back on my own weblog called “Do We Have A Right To Baptism” (at ).

    I’d be very interested in your reaction to what I have said, both in that old post and in this comment.

  7. Revvin' Rev Says:

    Chris, I appreciate your comments. When I spoke of church in my comments, I should have said ‚Äúvisible church.‚Ä? That would made your first two paragraphs unnecessary, since we agree on the distinction between visible and invisible church. However, I’m glad you said it because readers may not be clear on that distinction. Thank you for the clarification.

    I hold a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions.

    I believe my statements (‚ÄúLutherans say all believers have the right to baptize ‚Äú)are in agreement with Article XIV which states ‚ÄúOur churches teach that nobody should publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper call.‚Ä? (I used the Kolb Wengert German Translation here)

    Let me explain. Like all spiritual gifts the means of grace, including Baptism, are given by God directly to all Christians. (Matthew 18:15-19 Jesus gives the power of the Keys to the individual Christian, Great Commission is given all people not just those in the public ministry, and of course 1 Peter 2:9 states that all Christians are in the universal priesthood)

    Pastors administer Baptism in their public office (which is divinely instituted - Ephesians 4:11) as the called servants of the believers. They have called him to administer the sacraments in their place. This is done for the sake of good order (1 Corinthians 14:40) This is Article XIV of Augustana.

    In summary, the authority to administer the sacraments is vested in the individual Christian, who calls their pastor to do it for them. While the public ministry is divinely instituted, the right to administer the sacraments is given by the calling body. Hence all believers have the right to baptize, but for the sake of good order, they call someone to do it for them.

    I appreciate your post as well. If a couple comes to me and wants me to baptize that child, I would say yes, I would. I also would stress that baptism is not the end of the child’s Christian education, and that God has called them to bring up that child in the way of the Lord. The child’s baptism would be then the focal point I would use to bring the parents back into the Word and the need to gather together with other Christians to hear that Word.

  8. Chris Jones Says:

    Pr Ruddat,

    I appreciate your irenic response. But unfortunately we still disagree. While I don’t particularly want to argue any further, honesty compels me to clarify a point or two on which your response suggests that we agree, but we do not.

    There is nothing in my first two paragraphs that depends on a distinction between a “visible” and “invisible” Church. I don’t, myself, believe in such a distinction. At least not as most people use the terms. (The saints in heaven are certainly part of the Church, even though they are not (normally) visible to us.) But in this life, to be “in the Church” is to be a part of an orthodox congregation where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered. I know no other Church than that, and it is visible. A lay person such as the woman in the story who baptized her grandchild is just as much a part of “the visible Church” as a pastor is; but she has (or should have, which is the point of my disagreement) a different role in the Church from that of the pastor.

    The second point I need to clarify concerns the relationship between the universal priesthood and the sacred ministry. In the view of this that you present, the sacred ministry (including the office of the keys and the authority to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments) is given to all Christians, and is delegated by them to their pastors. I do not agree with this view. You describe pastors as “the called servants of the believers”; but in my congregation the pastor refers to himself as “the called and ordained servant of the Word (that is, of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word)”, not of the believers. He is the shepherd whom God has placed over us, to stand in the place of Christ (in His stead and by His command) to deliver God’s grace to us.

    It is true that pastors are chosen by a divine call issued by the congregation; but that is only a detail of polity (and other, equally legitimate, methods for choosing pastors have been used in the Church in other times and places). It does not mean that his authority is delegated to him by the congregation. His authority is directly from Jesus Christ.

  9. Revvin' Rev Says:

    Chris, this conversation has been enlightening to me. This conversation does take more of an argumentative tone when the Bible is not referenced.

    I assumed we were on the same page re: visible and invisible churches since the Augsburg Confession makes a distinction. Can a person who is part of an orthodox congregation where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered yet does not believe it in his heart (i.e. hypocrite), is he still in the true Christian church? Articles VII and VIII says no. (re-read the apology for clarification). A person could belong to a (visible) church that has the marks of the true Christian church, yet still isn’t in the true Christian church (invisible).

    What about a congregation that has the Word of God (hence, the Gospel) and the Sacraments but false teachings in its midst, are they a visible church? Yes. Is this visible church part of the true Christian church? No. Are members in that church part of the true Christian church? Some of them may be, since the Word and Sacraments are present. That’s what the Apology to Article VII and VIII confesses.

    What did you think I meant by visible and invisible churches? I may not be aware of the distinction of which you speak.

    Please don’t take my ‚Äúcalled servants of the believers‚Ä? out of context (although by not being as clear as I should, I probably set myself up for that. :-) ). Doesn’t the word ministry mean service? Are pastors not to serve the believers who called them? As in all vocations, a pastor serves first and foremost His Lord Jesus Christ. I have God’s people entrusted to my spiritual care to which I serve them by preaching Law and Gospel, by administering the sacraments, etc. etc.

    Do you agree that the Bible states that the sacred ministry (including the office of the keys and the authority to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments) is given to all Christians?

    If I understand you correctly, you believe that the public ministry gets its authority from Jesus Christ, who acts through the church to call them. I would agree with this. I also would state the WHAT the public ministry is called to do is granted to them by the church, which is given by Jesus the sacred ministry (including the office of the keys and the authority to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments). In effect, the authority of the public ministry comes from Christ himself, whether he institutes the office or the function of that office (giving it to the church which then calls a pastor).

    Public ministry is revealed in the word of God, it is divinely established for the sake of the word of God, and recognized as such by those entrusted with the word of God. Public ministry also reflects the will of believers and be a practical response to ministerial needs among them, but it is God’s idea first and foremost.

    Is a public minister “called by God” or “called by fellow believers” to function representatively? You could express it either way. Public ministers are servants of Christ and Christ’s people. To the same people Paul wrote, ” Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ” (1 Cor 4:1) and “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor 4:5)

  10. Chris Jones Says:

    Pr Ruddat,

    I am glad you find the conversation “enlightening”.

    “What did you think I meant by visible and invisible churches?”

    When I hear someone describe the Church as “invisible”, that indicates to me an individualist approach to Christianity, in which the mediation of the Church’s ministry, and the means of grace committed to her, play no role. A Christianity in which God is thought to convert, regenerate, and sanctify the individual believer personally and directly, apart from the ministry of Word and Sacrament, is to me plainly false. And it is certainly not Lutheran. And a “gathered ecclesiology” in which the faith of the individual is primary, and the Church is defined as the assembly of those who are already “saved”, is to me plainly false. And it is certainly not Lutheran.

    It is true that there are those who are outwardly members of the Church, but are in fact unbelievers who ultimately are lost. But that fact only makes their “membership” in the Church illusory; it does not make the Church herself invisible. It only serves to show that formal membership in the outward polity of the Church does not automatically guarantee salvation. Our Confessions never describe the Church as “visible” or “invisible”, “revealed” or “hidden”. The section of the Apology which you bade me read makes clear that the Church cannot be defined SOLELY by “outward polity”. But it never claims that the Church can be *separated* from outward polity, nor that she cannot be recognized by visible marks.

    To the contrary, Melanchthon writes:

    “Neither, indeed, are we dreaming of a Platonic state, as some wickedly charge, but we say that this Church exists, namely, the truly believing and righteous men scattered throughout the whole world. We are speaking not of an imaginary Church, which is to be found nowhere; but we say and know certainly that this Church, wherein saints live, is and abides truly upon earth … and we add the marks: the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the Sacraments. And this Church is properly the pillar of the truth, 1 Tim. 3.15.”

    “Do you agree that the Bible states that the sacred ministry (including the office of the keys and the authority to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments) is given to all Christians?”

    No, I do not. I do not see that Scripture states that the pastor is “called by fellow believers to function representatively”. The pastor does not represent US, he represents CHRIST. We have no need of the pastor to represent us; Christ represents us. He did so on the Cross and He does so now, representing us before the Father in heaven. We do not need to be represented; but we need someone to represent Christ to us, so that there will be concrete, visible means by which He delivers His grace to us.

  11. Chris Jones Says:

    In any case, I don’t think that our disagreement over the nature of the sacred ministry or over the “invisible Church” is really relevant to my objection to the woman baptizing her grandchild. If you are suggesting that the irregular baptism is perfectly OK because the child has been baptized into “the invisible Church”, then you misunderstand my objection. I am not claiming that the baptism is in any way invalid, and I am not saying that the child has not been grafted into the Body of Christ. What I am saying is that such a baptism is pastorally very problematical. Has the child become a member of an orthodox local Church? Is there a duly appointed shepherd taking responsibility for the cure of his or her soul? Who will see to it that the child is properly catechized? Who will see to it that the child regularly receives the means of grace: the proclamation of the Word and precious body and blood of the Saviour?

    When a couple who are members of an orthodox local Church bring their newborn child to the font, all of these questions are answered. The child becomes a member of the local Church in which he or she is baptized. The Church’s pastor becomes responsible for the cure of his or her soul (for which he shall answer before the dread judgement-seat of Christ). The parents and sponsors are solemnly charged with the responsibility to bring the child to Church, Sunday school, and confirmation class so that he or she will be properly catechized and prepared to receive the Holy Gifts. In the case of the clandestine baptism, none of these questions is addressed, and no one takes responsibility that the new child of God will not fall prey to the Devil and fall away. I find this to be quite dangerous. And it remains so whether it is you or I who is right about the sacred ministry and the “invisible Church”.

  12. Kelly Says:

    Hey Chris and Rev, I think that you’d both probably agree that the situation is “pastorally problematical.” Ideally a young Christian should be growing in their faith in a church where the Gospel is taught purely and the Sacraments administered correctly. So the question is: is it better to not baptize the child at all and risk his eternal damnation, in the hope that someday he will be drawn to a church with perfect doctrine and then be baptized? Likewise, if it’s only a choice between a child going to a church with heterodox teachings, is it better that he never darken the door of a church at all? We agree that because of the parental situation, the circumstances are not ideal. Still, how does one proceed? In this case, I see some hope for the child because (like Timothy) the mother and grandmother have some background in sound teaching.

  13. Chris Jones Says:


    is it better to … risk his eternal damnation?

    What we sometimes forget is that when we have a child in the first place, we are “risking his eternal damnation”. Every child that is born into this world is born subject to original sin, and apart from grace he will be lost.

    Even with baptism, there is no “guarantee” that the child will be saved. Any one of us can turn his back on Christ and abandon our faith; and if we do, our baptism will not save us. Baptism must be followed by living the life in Christ.

    To separate baptism from the whole life of the Church, from the preaching of the Word, the Holy Supper, and Holy Absolution, from catechesis and the life of prayer, is to fail to deliver the whole counsel of God. It is to deprive the child of the opportunity to put on the whole armour of God. It is to treat baptism as a self-contained talisman, rather than as the entry into the life in Christ.

    If, because the family is not united in the faith, the child is not properly raised in the orthodox faith, then the chances are strong that he will fall away from the faith. And then he is no better off than he would have been had he never been baptized. Rather than be fearful because the child has not been baptized, it is better to strive to bring both parents to a confession of the orthodox faith, and to join themselves to an orthodox local Church. Then the entire family, including the child, can live the life in Christ together.

  14. Confident Lutheran Says:

    Hmmm… One thing to concider is augsburg confession number 14. Per church guidelines what happened there was a breach of the Good Order of the Church. Then again what do I know I’m just an ELCAer, what do I know about Luther?

  15. Confident Lutheran Says:

    Ah, now that I’ve read the responses I see Aug 14 has been discussed. Sorry ’bout that.

  16. Kelly Says:

    I’m just glad that I was baptized and incorporated into the Church as a child, even though at the time I was not in an orthodox church. I believe that the Holy Spirit worked through my baptism to save me in spite of human error, eventually leading me to a church where the Gospel and Sacraments are central. I don’t advocate using baptism as a “talisman” or separating the baptism from the full life of the church. We all know that the ideal situation is for the parents to be perfectly united in faith with their child! Assuming that the child will probably fall away anyway just seems like an odd starting point. If that’s the case, we’d be baptizing people only on their deathbeds.

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