Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Infant Baptism

Tying in with my previous posts on Original Sin and the abolishment of Limbus Infantium, I’ve been thinking about the theory and practice of infant baptism. It’s easy to understand why infant baptism would be used if we were to accept Augustine’s doctrines, but since most Gnostics reject such views, why is it still practiced in some Gnostic Churches, is there a distinction between the adult baptism and infant one, and what are the theological and mystical implications thereof?

Personally, I’m not overly keen on the notion of infant baptism, as I believe a spiritual path should be chosen by a responsible person, not “enforced” upon someone at birth. Indeed, while the ceremony will undoubtedly have spiritual and psychological effects regardless of the mental development of the child, they will not have the capacity to either understand or appreciate that which they are passively undertaking. That said, however, while it may look like our parents are indeed choosing our spiritual path for us (at least, initially), the lack of a baptism or similar ceremony in infancy will not necessary detract from the fact that we are always influenced by our family, friends, and larger society, and that this influence will mould our spiritual path and direction, which is, at least partially, enforced by these influences. If we do not teach our children certain spiritual beliefs and practices, they will have very little to work with when it comes to making their own choices about whether or not to explore these things further, and this is, effectively, choosing our (initial) path for us just as much as a ceremony like baptism does, though, perhaps, less formal.

So, while I don’t like infant baptism personally, and would generally ask that all seeking baptism do so as adults who actually want to pursue that path, I understand why some parents would want their child baptised, and do not doubt the magical and spiritual effects of the ceremony (afterall, we are responsible for the spiritual health of our children just as much as their physical, emotional, and mental health, and would all want, providing we are spiritual ourselves, our children to have a strong spirituality). I do not consider such a rite binding (i.e. that you are henceforth a member of that faith alone, etc.), so the child may still go on to explore another path and possibly seek baptism (or the equivalent, if there is one) in that faith.

How do you feel about infant baptism? Do you have any theological position that influences, dictates, or affirms your opinion of this ceremony for infants? Do you feel this ceremony may have a stronger impact on a younger psyche and may help towards, in the Gnostic tradition, the attainment of Gnosis? And, if you are clergy, do you have any special considerations you make that differentiate this passive version of baptism to the active one pursued by “the willing”, and do you make any recommendations, etc. to the parents in question?

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