The Magistrate expressed concern about baptising the small child into a particular faith before she was able to decide for herself what religion she wishes to be part of. He considered that it was not necessary for (the child) to be baptised at this early stage, despite the mother's wish to baptise her so young.
The Magistrate was reported as stating that given the conflict between the parents on this issue, and given her tender age, this process can be safely left to a later date.
"Although this was clearly a case relating to a family court dispute, it nonetheless illustrates the difference between a basic theological tenet of the universal Christian Church and the theology of baptism," Mark Tronson commented.
The individual decides
He explained that in Baptist theology it is the individual himself or herself who makes a determination within their own heart to become a follower of Jesus. The way to publicly identify oneself with the community of believers is to follow Jesus and be baptised by immersion.
John the Baptist baptised Jesus in the Jordan River. He could hardly believe his eyes when his cousin, Jesus, came to him for baptism in the presence of all those standing on the shore line. As Jesus came up out of the water the Spirit of God spoke: "Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Mark 1 verse 11).
In Acts 2 we read how upon Peter's preaching of the resurrected Jesus after the crucifixion, three thousand followers of Jesus took the same steps and were baptised by immersion. Later we read in Acts 8 how the Ethiopian Eunuch, having heard Philip the Apostle explain about the prophet Isaiah and Jesus was the fulfilment of the prophecy, ordered his chariot stopped and he too was baptised by immersion.
It was the teachings and writings of Augustine in the fourth century that popularised infant baptism. Because so many infants were dying, baptism quickly became a sign of Salvation giving comfort to the bereaved parents. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo)
This "sacramental theology" gained ascendency until the Anabaptists of the 15th century advocated baptism by immersion upon "confession of faith" and it was then that infant baptism theology was publicly challenged.
But it was more than just a point of theological nicety because the Roman Catholic politic saw "baptism by immersion" as political statement against Roman theology. Upon being baptised, an infant became a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and under Roman theology, thereby gained Salvation.
Obviously the Reformation challenged this 'essential combination' that maintained the Roman Catholic position within society, because they claimed that Salvation was of God's Grace and had nothing to do with whether a child was baptised. A decision to follow Jesus could only be made by someone when they could assess such a decision, and therefore only upon their "confession of faith".
Baptists took this "Reforming" theology one step further, and invited the followers of Jesus to follow Jesus' own example, into the waters of baptism as a public declaration of being a follower of Jesus. It has nothing to do with Salvation. It has nothing to do with becoming a member of any Church. It is a symbolic act declaring where one's true loyalty lay, both spiritual and religious.
The Anglican and Uniting Churches both have provision for people to be baptised by immersion when older. Clearly this ceremony of "baptism by immersion" is not owned by Baptists because many other Christian affiliates practice it.
Dedication Services likewise have a different emphasis
However, committed Christian parents like to have some way of declaring their faith and passing it on to their children. Baptists (and others) will often conduct a Dedication Service of infants whereby the parents "dedicate" themselves to raise their children in the teachings of Jesus.
For example, some members of Mark Tronson's own family who worship at a convenient Uniting Church near their home, are choosing a 'dedication' ceremony for their infant children, with the blessings of both the family members and the Minister.
Should Prince William as a future head of the Church of England ever decide to be baptised by immersion, it would NOT preclude him from ascending to the British Throne as some have suggested. Adult Baptism by immersion is not a determinant of Church affiliation, rather a symbol for the world to witness, that this person is a follower of Jesus.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html