Dipping into Baptism 2: an aside on liberty of conscience

I was asked on the first post in this wee series about being an elder in the PCI and not holding to infant baptism. A good question that sparked these thoughts:

It all depends.

It depends on the local context: – locally we have a great liberty to discuss and debate pretty well everything. This is in my opinion a great strength.  I guess however other local contexts could make it quite difficult.

It depends on how rigidly infant or believer’s views are held: For example a denomination has clear structures of leadership and a basis of faith. Yes infant baptism is taught in the Westminster Confession which elders have to affirm at ordination.  BUT the WC is a ‘subordinate standard’ to Scripture. The Confession itself places a high degree of importance on liberty of conscience and how any teaching must be open to reform by Scripture. I’d want to argue my case from Scripture and for liberty of conscience.

There are also an awful lot of people within Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Ireland (including elders and such) which practice infant baptism who do not agree with it and effectively ‘opt out’ by not having their babies baptised. I suspect a ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ approach is taken by default. I think a good healthy debate is long overdue, especially with the weight of scholarly and theological opinion not supportive of infant baptism 🙂 (I’ll back up that assertion in a later post!)

I also think that any denominational church has a huge in-built resistence to reform. The clergy are the leaders and administrators and power holders. Yet it becomes far more difficult for a minster to question infant baptism since to do so will immediately raise all sorts of difficulties. Those who are non-clergy have effectively little ability to change the status quo.

It also depends on how a ‘dissenting’ opinion is held. I don’t happen to agree with the PCI line on this but in the bigger scheme of things, while important and badly needing reform in how it is practiced, I don’t see it as a do or die gospel issue. In any church there will always be issues members disagree about – the key thing is how we disagree within a determined committment to love one another and not to divide the body of Christ. There are core things about a local church that are important to me, but while baptism is essential, the mode of baptism is not in my top 10.

So, help me out here.

Does my position make sense?

What are examples of issues that you would be willing to live with in a local church?

What sort of issue would be one you can’t live with?


3 thoughts on “Dipping into Baptism 2: an aside on liberty of conscience

  1. Your position does make sense. I myself would change a few things in church but i aint willing to get into people faces about things that are not in my top ten either.

    But i do think that whilst freedom of conscience is great and right, the continual invoking of it has done untold damage to the credibility of protestantism as a thesis (which is another topic but its been on my mind so i thought i’d throw that in there:)).

    You say it becomes difficult for a minister to question a doctrine (in this case InfBap) but surely the reason for that is obvious – Its already been settled and resettled over the last 500 years!!!! The westminster confession allows us to question itself, yes but to what end? Simply to be able to question it? I would say that end of those questions must either result in someone agreeing with the original idea, disagreeing and leaving or disagreeing and trying to get the confession changed.

    Im not sure what im asking of you. I mostly asked you the original question because i feel the tension myself of belonging to a long established denomination that has doctrines that i am not sure about. I also feel that the fear of talking about these things is not helpful- at the very least we should have space within the denomination to find out the reasoning behind our denominations stance. I honestly feel hypocritical having some of the stances i do whilst being in the denomination i am in. I am putting off looking into the topic because im afraid of what i might find!! There has to be something wrong with the ministers you mentioned who are baptising babies but not there own. Freedom of conscience !!!???? what happened to following your conscience?

  2. ICFMT,
    point of clarification, I wasn’t talking about ministers baptising infants but not their own.
    If a minister feels so strongly that he/she was unwilling to practice infant baptism then he/she should not have got him/herself into the position that his/her job demands it!

    Yes this is hardly a new debate – but at least as David Wright so thoroughly pointed out, there is a desperate need for reform of the current practice of infant baptism.

    And I would add, a ‘reformed’ church should always be open to reform.

  3. Time for a new confession then 🙂 Ill sign you and zoomtard up to be a “devine”

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