Re: [asa] Infant Baptism and Original Sin

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri Mar 14 2008 - 08:54:31 EDT

Message1) I would suggest that the elimination of infant baptism, and the consequent downplaying of the importance of baptism generally, has contributed significantly to the individualistic varieties of Christianity that are so prevalent especially in American Christianity. That is because it fosters an idea of the church as a kind of club that one chooses to join rather than a community that one is incorporated into. I agree that that is not inevitable - close-knit communities like the Amish have other means of maintaining their significance. But in much of American Evangelicalism that is not the case. If the idea is that one "gets saved" by accepting Jesus and then encouraged to join a church, the result will often be that the person won't join a church or, if she does, won't be very diligent about it. Thus we have a lot of free-lance Christians who "got saved" at some point but are in no practical sense members of the Body of Christ. & that in turn can produce the kind of free-lance "teachers" that I referred to before.

2) It's important to note that this doesn't have to do just with the question of infant baptism but with baptism in general. When baptism becomes primarily a way in which a person makes a confession of his/her faith rather than a way in which God initiates faith in a person & brings that person into the Body of Christ then it's essentially no more important than any other way of confessing the faith. I have counselled people who insisted that they didn't need to be baptized because they'd been "saved" (which I put in parentheses because in some cases it just means "believed in God") or because they said the sinner's prayer or something of the sort.

3) Of course if infant baptism is to be abandoned then the idea not only of original sin but also of a sin of origin has to be abandoned too. (Hence the incoherence of some anti-evvolutionists who claim that human evolution would remove any need for a savior because there was no historical fall - but who reject infant baptism!) Note the important distinction. "Original sin" refers to a sin supposedly due to our first ancestors. "Sin of origin" refers to the sinful condition in which each person begins life - i.e., a condition of alienation from God with its consequences. The notion that there is no such sin of origin reflects an exclusively moralistic (rather than theological) view of sin & shows an extremely superficial view of the human condition.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: John Walley
  To: 'Jon Tandy' ;
  Sent: Friday, March 14, 2008 8:23 AM
  Subject: RE: [asa] Infant Baptism and Original Sin

  IMHO, this discussion proves my point. Infant baptism (or not) is indeed an important doctrinal issue in the church and I understand all the arguments for and against it and what they imply and what they stand for. But this shows that there are allowable differences of opinion within the church on the issue and that it is at least possible to approach a reasonable position on it that the majority of the church would agree with, thus the value of a majesterium.

  But whatever we choose to believe on infant baptism has little effect on the world and what they think of us as opposed to YEC and other science-denial beliefs. On these we have a higher standard to meet other than just the bonds of peace within the body. We have to make sure we are reflecting honesty, integrity and reality in our arguments to unbelievers and not putting a stumbling block in front of them. So even more of a need for a majesterium.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: [] On Behalf Of Jon Tandy
    Sent: Friday, March 14, 2008 7:46 AM
    Subject: [asa] Infant Baptism and Original Sin

    Even more fundamentally, it touches on the very nature of original sin, and whether sin is something inherited semi-biologically, whether it's something acquired only after exposure to the truth by someone who is accountable for his actions, or possibly some combination of the two. Which leads to how a person comes to acquire original and actual sin; through biological or social processes or both. Which can certainly influence one's range of explanations for Adam and the origin of original sin.

    I just read the interesting discourse which touched on this question, between John A. McIntyre's "The Real Adam and Original Sin" and his critics in the PSCF, June 2006 ( I think McIntyre has some good points, as do his critics. Note that Perry Yoder's response has an incorrect link, it should be In particular on this subject, Yoder responds,

    "The abandonment of inherited sin, from my Mennonite tradition, causes little difficulty. In this tradition, children are held to be in a state of innocence until they come to the age of accountability. That is, children are innocent until they themselves become responsible for their own choices to do wrong. There is no "original sin" for which they need cleansing by baptism as infants. Sin may be inevitable, part of the human condition, but it is not logically necessary, imposed upon them, so to speak, through no fault of their own."

    Jon Tandy

      -----Original Message-----
      From: [] On Behalf Of George Murphy
      Sent: Friday, March 14, 2008 6:08 AM
      Subject: Re: [asa] Why couldn't you write your d*mn book more clearly?

      I realize that this could take the discussion well out of the science-religion area but it's already going that way.

      Infant baptism is not an "obscure, internal doctrinal issue." What is at issue is not just a procedural question about the best time to administer baptism about about whether or not the baptism of an infant is valid. This touches upon essential matters such as whether or not a person is a member of the church.


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Received on Fri Mar 14 08:56:56 2008

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