Today is Tuesday. There should have been a number of posts posted, but I haven't had the will power or the sleep to think about writing anything spectacularly thrilling other than my child has a cold.
But I figure that I could write the post about Baptisms early since it's been on my mind. I've been perusing a number of Catholic blogs and have gleaned a number of interesting post ideas from them lately.
Baptism isn't something new. It's actually an old concept. There has always been some sort of ritualistic cleansing or initiation involving water. For new converts to Judaism, there is mikvah. It is also part of ritual cleansing from impurity (think OT unclean/clean laws). Muslims also have abluation, a form of ritual cleansing.
For Christians, Baptism is seen two fold: a ritual cleansing/purification and an act of initiation into the faith. Although this is not true of all Christian denominations, Quakers and the Salvation Army do not Baptize (the Salvation Army is a religion and yes they take collections for the poor at Christmas but they are a religion).
And from there is gets more divergent. Some groups believe that Baptism is more symbolic, an outward display of the inner conversion of the heart; whereas other denominations believe it to be intrinsic to the conversion process.
For those of my Protestant friends, Catholics believe that you must be Baptized in order to be saved. For us, Baptism is not just a symbol of internal conversion to the faith, but essential to a person's salvation. This is found in the Bible in the Gospel of John (I think most Catholic precepts that diverge from Evangelical Protestants are found in the Gospel of John). John 3:5 says "Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.'"
We're not particular about whether you are immersed, sprinkled, etc. (although many denominations are). You don't have to even be a Catholic to baptize a person. It's the intention of the person who is being baptized and their desire to be Catholic that matters. (or in the case of infants, the desire of the parents who act on behalf of their child). We are, however, particular about the words you use. You must baptize a person in the Holy Trinity. That is why Catholics recognize all baptisms except those by Jehovah's witnesses and Mormons because those groups do not recognize or baptize in the Holy Trinity.
Okay...here's where it gets nutty. I can hear it now...what about the man on the cross that Jesus said was saved or the many other people who were not Baptized but Jesus said were saved. We believe that while God created Baptism, He is not bound by it. We also believe that there is the baptism by blood (martyrdom) and baptism by desire (death before baptism). But these are extraordinary cases. So Baptism is the norm for assurance of salvation. Make sense? I suppose that you could look at it this way...Jesus can do some extraordinary things like walk on water, but in general he did mostly normal things like walked on the earth. Why not get baptized to make sure that you are saved rather than wait and see if you are an extraordinary case?
So now you understand a little bit of why it was so important to baptize HB as soon as possible. I've seen at my church people wait until their children are able to accept Jesus themselves. It bothers me that they do that. If you knew that you needed God in your life, why wait another moment to ensure that He will be there forever? Why do that to your child? I don't get it. I have heard that it is a big trend now to let your child decide.
I think that I've mentioned this before but I'll reiterate. There has never been a moment in my life where I "converted" or suddenly believed in God. As far as I can remember, Jesus has always been important to me. So I've never felt the need to decide to accept Christ in the sense that He was never there. I've had friends who are not Catholic explain to me that they grew up in their faith, but then came to accept Christ. Maybe someone can explain it to me because I don't understand how you can believe in Christ all your life and that He died for you, yet you have to accept him as a teen or something. I think there is some bit of information that I'm missing.
That being said, there are other moments in a Catholic's faith journey that we grow closer to God or are continually renewed in our faith or are saved again. Catholics believe that faith is a journey. You don't suddenly become saved and that's it. We believe that it is a continuous process, amounting to several moments in life where you are saved. Baptism is only one of them, but again an assurance of salvation. At age seven, the Catholic age of reasoning, we come to accept Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We believe that the bread and wine change into the physical forms of Jesus. Then some time around junior high or high school, a Catholic person becomes Confirmed. They make the decision to become full adult members of the Church. But I think I'll save the discussion on Confirmation and how our Traditional Protestant brethren also recognize Confirmation for another post.
I think I'm going to take some benadryl and call it a night.