Salvation 2.0: Part 6.7: Marriage as Analogy; Infant Baptism

grace5An arranged marriage

One more story. A couple is married at the age of 8 days. They are from a province in India where the parents arrange and make marriages for their children.

Many years later, when the children are of age, there’s a ceremony designed to confirm the marriage. According to the law, either one could refuse to confirm the marriage, but rarely does anyone do that. Rather, they remain true to their upbringing and voluntarily go through the confirmation ceremony.

The boy and girl, now 21, have never met and have never confessed their love for each other. But they are genuinely committed to the marriage. Indeed, these marriages have a better success rate than Western marriage built on romantic love and the passions of the young couple.

[Not as unrealistic an example as you might imagine. Until the last century, child marriages had been practiced in India for centuries, and remain practiced today in a few places. After the government imposed a law requiring that the couple be at least 18 (bride) and 21 (groom), previously made marriages would have become illegal and so would require confirmation when the participants reach legal age. I make no claim of any expertise in Indian marriage law. I’m just saying the example is well within the realm of possibility.]

In God’s eyes, is the Indian couple married? If so, when were they married — according to God? When their parents declared them married, with the parents making vows for their children? When the ceremony was held when they were babies? Or when they confirmed that decision? And does it matter all that much?

Well, what if the couple refuses to go through the confirmation ceremony? Is that a divorce in God’s eyes?

Well — you know what? — I’m not sure I know the answer. But this much I know: if they confirm the marriage, they’re married — even though the ceremony is contrary to the marriage practices we read about in the Bible. The rite matters.

Infant baptism

Now, I oppose infant baptism. I think it’s an unhealthy practice for the body of Christ. After all, in nations where infant baptism is nearly universal, the church is extremely weak. Evidently, the church does a very poor job of making confirmation a real confirmation. It can easily become too much ritual and not enough substance.

But, of course, Churches of Christ have sometimes so focused on baptism that a large percentage of the teens who are baptized do so out of social pressure and not a real commitment to God. Yes, we can do the rite exactly right as a matter of form and theology and yet still get the heart of the rite entirely wrong. Of course, you can also do the rite wrong and get the heart wrong. And God certainly wants the rite right and the heart rite. But the heart is the thing that matters ultimately.

(1Sa 16:7b ESV) “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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10 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 6.7: Marriage as Analogy; Infant Baptism

  1. Mark says:

    “Evidently, the church does a very poor job of making confirmation a real confirmation.” This is being corrected with faith formation classes in some churches which baptize infants as the problem was realized.

    “But, of course, Churches of Christ have sometimes so focused on baptism that a large percentage of the teens who are baptized do so out of social pressure and not a real commitment to God.” Tragically, some of these baptisms were done out of parental pressure too. Meanwhile, the age of cofC baptism has been creeping lower to the point that the last one I witnessed, the kid was almost under water standing straight up in the baptistery. I guess next is to procure a snorkel.

    Either way, for a long time there was no teaching about the faith prior to or after baptism (or confirmation). No one did it. Even in the cofC there was no discussion of the faith and what it meant. That was the hard part which was simply “figure it out on your own and ask few questions.” Now, the Jewish kids got taught by the rabbi and/or cantor and got a party after both bar mitzvah and confirmation and all their friends came as well as family. The kids in churches where there was confirmation by the bishop got a visit from the bishop, family and friends were there as well. I even saw the bishop go meet personally with the parents of and those those being confirmed before the service. I thought it must be nice to get 30 minutes or an hour of the bishop’s time. The kids who grew up evangelical (Baptist, cofC) remember getting nothing but dunked and the minister didn’t always seem happy performing a baptism during the service as it likely cut into his sermon time.

  2. Dwight says:

    I used to think infant baptism was wrong, but now not so much.
    Now can the baptism save an infant who doesn’t have faith…no and nor should that be taught.
    But many do so to dedicate their child to God and this isn’t wrong. The Jews dedicated their child to God when they circumcised them.
    Not all things that we do that aren’t written in the scriptures have a value of sin attached to them.
    This doesn’t mean that the child will grow up in the Lord…just look at Samson who was raised under the Nazarite vow and how he turned out in the opposite.
    But it does mean that the parents are willing to place value in their child towards God to some extent.
    An arraigned marriage in the scriptures from the beginning…Adam and Eve.
    But most involved not babies or even children being placed in the position of a covenant by their parents.

  3. John F says:

    And of course, there is “Baptism, the Believer’s Wedding Ceremony” from F. LaGard Smith.

  4. Mark says:

    While reading a blog re confirmation over on Patheos this comment had been posted a few years ago. It has relevance and perhaps some useful advice in the second paragraph. I am pasting it here unedited.

    “zman • 4 years ago

    We came at confirmation a little backward than most. We belong to a Church of Christ which, as most know, practices “adult” immersion only. Having said that, we were drawn to a local UMC confirmation process for our daughter because of the theological depth of what was being covered. Our CofC just had nothing to offer on this level, it is almost always one-on-one study, which is part of the equation for us, but sharing in the learning in community is also important.

    No, at 12/13 she didn’t understand most of the concepts but was at least introduced to them. The best part – and for us a key to its importance and attractiveness to our family – was that parents were strongly encouraged to attend with their child and most did. You didn’t just drop off your kid and pick them up 12 weeks later. This was a great launching point for our own family discussions. Well, as much as a jr. high girl was willing to talk about with us!”

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Mark,

    Thanks.

    While some on the CoC will have a new members class, it’s assumed that the teen program takes care of teaching teens what they need to know — and some do and some don’t.

    A challenge is deciding what to cover in such a class. I mean, do we talk about denominational distinctives — weekly communion, plurality of elders, etc. — or do we focus on the Trinity and hypostatic union? Or do we cover a Gospel? I mean, it used to seem so simple: Five steps, five acts of worship, a scriptural name, scriptural organization, a limestone block saying “Founded 33 AD.” So do we now teach a class on Romans? I mean, what’s appropriate for a 12 or 13-year old child?

    We have no catechism tradition in the CoC, and hence no real filter to tell us what’s most important. Our systematic theologies are largely defensive against Calvinism and Pentecostalism rather than truly saying what is true and right. I would love any recommendations on good materials for such a class. I’m sure our teen minister would appreciate a recommendation, as well.

    PS — I would think we would want to begin with a brief series of lessons on the nature of Jesus, and then from there, God and the Spirit. From there, the covenants, the Kingdom, and the church — and over-arching themes of all of scripture. From there, an emphasis on living as images of God, mission and being “missional,” and Christian ethics/living. Then the sacraments — how baptism and communion speak of all these things and help form the covenant community. Finally, the assembly, the church, church leaders, the role the church plays in a Christian’s life.

    Something like that. But it’s been a very long week, and so I’ve probably missed something really important.

    Wonder if I should try writing a catechism series? Could be fun …

  6. Stephan says:

    Hello, Why Churches of Christ claim to baptize adults as opposed to the Catholic infant baptism when the very large majority of members of the CoC have been baptized as a teenager? Thanks.

  7. Dwight says:

    Basically teenagers are young adults. If they come to the understanding that they are lost and are in need of Jesus who is the Son of God, then why not? This is hardly infant baptism where they nothing of why they are being baptized.

  8. Stephan says:

    I understand. However, using the word adult for adolescence, preadolescence and even childhood (baptized at eight, nine or ten years old…) pretty much misleading. By the way, is there any example of Christians being baptized so early in the new testament?

  9. Dwight says:

    Any age limit is rather ambigious in the NT in regards to baptism or conversion. I mean how old did you have to be to understand the message of Christ? Age limits are not given. Now there are scriptures that refer to the “household being baptized” as in Cornelius, but this could be adaptive sense of those that you would count…which wouldn’t have been the children. But it is possible that it does include the children. But the reality is that one is required to have faith to be baptized hence Mark 16:16 and understand repentance as of Acts 2:38.
    Now teenagers of one society is the adults of another. IT wasn’t too long ago that people married in their teens and they do in other societies. What was once called an adult and used to be fully functioning in the work force and married and having babies is now called a young adult or teenager and is getting out of high school and unfortunately having unmarried and having babies.

  10. Stephan says:

    All right. Could you tell me which is the most important relationship for a man, commitment and responsibility wise: becoming married or becoming a Christian?

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