Baptism has been a thought as related to our new little one. When/how/where/why? Baptism vs dedication? Any particular scriptures or thoughts out there? With the others we did the expected OALC baptism; we know that's not the route we want this time, but it feels that something should be done...
I never had a clear idea about why we baptized babies in the ALC. I suspect that there really wasn't much of a rationale behind infant baptism other than:
- The Bible commanded us to baptize. At most of the baptisms I attended this was the main theological rationale. It was an "ordinance." In other words, we baptize because God commands it; now shut up and pass the holy water.
- All the Laestadianisms baptize infants because they come out of the Lutheran tradition, which also baptizes infants. However unlike much of Lutheranism, the Laestadians emphasize pietism, which in a nutshell means that you're always looking for some kind of sign that yourself and others are really holy and holding up their end of the Christian bargain instead of relying on God's grace.
I've given this some thought. Even though I am no longer Laestadian, I still believe in baptism, and especially infant baptism. No, I don't think that un-baptized babies go to hell. NO, I don't believe that baptism saves.
So what does it do, and what is it good for?
For me, all of the sacraments (including baptism) are what St. Augustine called an "outward and visible sign of inward and invisible grace." That's a fancy way of saying that mysterious things happen in the spiritual realm. God does stuff like confer grace and love upon us.
I think that when a child is born God's love and grace is lavished upon that child. In this sense there are no unloved children and no unloved human beings. God loves us all, for we are all God's children, and what parent worthy of the name fails to love their children?
As we all know, however, the world is often an unloving, cruel and unforgiving place. I believe that everything good comes from God, and that as human beings we are called to be God's hands and feet in the world. We turn the spiritual reality of God's goodness into physical reality.
The same thing happens in baptism.
What is already true on the spiritual plane is "made manifest," focused, given flesh in the ritual of baptism. When the water is poured over the infant's head, when the parents and godparents and congregation make promises, personally guaranteeing that the child will be brought up within the beloved community of faith, what is true in the spirit becomes true in the flesh as well.
It's a beautiful thing to behold. And it encapsulates all you ever really need to know about being a Christian. Love God, and love each other.