Baptismal grace

Last month, at the Nashville emergent cohort, the discussion revolved around raising children in the faith.  At one point, we veered into how infant baptism displays God’s claim on our lives, being chosen prior to our ability to choose.

Now, I’m an unapologetic universalist, convinced that “all God’s [children] shall one day reach His feet, however far they stray.” (LCC Act of Faith)  Some of us are hard cases, but God has an eternity to work on us.  Thus, I’m not concerned about baptism being in any sense necessary for salvation.  But baptism does draw us into participation in the body and mission of Christ, in a peculiar and irrevocable sense.  Christ has the baptized person by a bungee cord of grace, and we can only run so far before it starts to snap back.

All of us can think of baptized people, in whose lives the (in)activity of sacramental grace is, to put it mildly, a puzzling mystery.  But God’s strange ways do come to the surface, from time to time.  I am thinking of a friend of mine in another state who got involved in an independent sacramental community, and expressed interest in baptism.  She had been raised by aggressively anti-religious, atheist parents.  Upon asking her if she had any contact with any religion in her childhood, she mentioned that she had an aunt who was a religious Roman Catholic.  However, she had never been allowed to spend time with her aunt because her parents worried about exposure to religion.  “But my mom was very sick after I was born, and since there was no one else, my aunt took care of me for a few months when I was a baby.  I guess they assumed she couldn’t indoctrinate a baby…”  

While my friend’s aunt could not indoctrinate her while she was an infant, I could imagine something else she might have done….   I sent her to see her now-elderly aunt, and, sure enough, her aunt had baptized her.  My friend was stunned (actually reduced to tears) to discover that she had been claimed as part of the body of Christ, all those years before.  Grace had silently worked its magic, bringing her back to an identity that was already hers.

(For Nashvillians – the cohort discussion is always interesting.  Next meeting: Thurs, Feb 8, 11.30, at the Flying Saucer.  More info can be found at


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