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Book review: Your Child’s Profession of Faith

September 29, 2007

Selected passages: 

Let us begin by exhorting our children, with all our hearts, to come to Christ, and at an early age. How crucial it is that parents stress to their children that they may and aught now to come to Christ. Intro, pg 9

We must encourage them to turn to Christ now, before their sins multiply and a while lifestyle has been molded in the service of sin. Why add more to turn from in order to turn to the Lord? Why wait until it is even costlier to turn and Satan has a firmer foothold in the affections of one’s life? Intro, pg 11

Your Child’s Profession of Faith, by Dennis Gundersen, is a book my husband had been suggesting I read for several months. One of our children made a profession of faith at an early age, but has not been baptized yet. For those of you unfamiliar with the Southern Baptist denomination, we believe that Scripture indicates a believer is to be baptized by immersion as the first step of obedience following salvation.

My husband and I have struggled with not wanting to give our child a false sense of security as it is impossible for any child that young to fully comprehend the commitment he/she is making. How can they truly understand the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the remission of their sins? How can they understand the commitment Christ calls us to in following Him?

On the other hand, as we read through Scripture we see people become believers and immediately follow in baptism. We read of how Jesus tells us that to follow Him, we must have the faith of a little child. We read of entire families coming to Christ and being baptized in the New Testament church.

So based on all of this, we wanted to read and come to a better understanding of when it is appropriate for a child to be baptized.

Despite the passages quoted above, both from the introduction, Gundersen’s approach is definitely one of waiting. While in the introduction he notes that it is certainly possible for a child to experience true conversion, he wants to err on the side of caution. His belief is that if a child is converted, nothing can change that. Once God has saved someone, they are secure in His hand. However, if we help a child to believe that they are saved because they have repeated a prayer and been dunked in water, when in fact the child was simply trying to please parents or emulate friends, then we give them a false sense of security.

Gundersen notes that children are, according to Scripture, capricious and tossed about by every wind. How can a child understand or even bear the hallmarks of followers of Christ when it includes “hating” their mother and father, dying to themselves, and seeing Christ as the Bridegroom? He notes that while households were saved, Scripture does not specifically state that young children were a part of those families. Gundersen further states that while a child may be regenerate and no longer dead in their sin, the normal fruit of a believer’s life is difficult to assess in children.

Even though he feels this way, Gundersen states that as parents there is rarely a need to openly doubt our child’s profession of faith. Instead, we should encourage them in every way.

Rather say, “It is good to hear you talk that way! I hope you do love the Lord, and if you really do, from the heart, it will become clearer to you and to us as well, as you walk by the teachings of the Bible and grow in Christ. We’ll pray for you.” Chapter 9, pg 48

In addition, he states that we should “urge him to pursue Christ all the more.” If a child is still concerned about a public profession of his faith, he should “instead concentrate on pursuing Christ with all his heart.”

Even after reading this book, I still feel somehow as if I am holding my child back from obedience by not encouraging baptism. Although Gundersen states that passages mentioning household baptism “could include children” but “do not explicitly say there were children included,” I believe it is logical to think that at least some households would include children. Tobacco and crack cocaine are not explicitly mentioned either, but we can draw from biblical principle that it is not glorifying to God to use them.Some of his other arguments made more sense to me. The strongest were arguments referencing the mental immaturity of children. I guess I am still struggling with Christ’s call to come to Him with the faith of a child. Although that faith should grow in understanding and development, childlike faith is held out as an example to us.In closing, I would recommend this book for greater understanding in this area, but I do not feel as if my understanding is developed enough to be satisfied in the decision our family has reached for the time, which is to wait and encourage our child, but not baptize just yet.If any of you wise Internets can share something beneficial, I would love to hear from you.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2007 6:01 pm

    We are right there with you. We have a son who came to us at the age of four, he is now seven and we still have not baptized him. He, of course, still acts childish and immature but we see small pieces of fruit in his life. We are trusting God to lay the desire of baptism on his heart and we are still doing our part in nurturing his love for the Lord. It’s a tough area to discern…….

  2. October 1, 2007 12:03 pm

    What does your child have to say about this matter? We had one sone who, after putting it off for several months, said to us. “Why would you not want me to obey Jesus? You want me to obey you…but I want to obey Him.” He was 5. We had him baptised within the next month. I still stuggle with the decision because of the same reasons you stated. But. I have come to lean on this: My child belongs to God. only God can call his heart to HIM. God’s will is still the ultimate will and His Sovereinty means that my child’s salvation lies in the Hands of the Almighty. Not within mine. While this does not negate my responsibilty- it does wipe away this feeling that I might somehow alter my child’s eternity by making a small well-intentioned error in the regard to baptism.

    With this said. I have another child who turned 5, gave his life to Christ….and I am again struggling with the decision to baptize. perhaps this is an issue with my own faith and is not reflective of my son’s faith at all. After-all, I have already learned this lesson once. Must God slap me in the face a second time for me to believe it ? It is my job to guide my child to obedience…not to me…but to God. My child’s sincere heart wants to follow God. How dare I be an obsticle.

    As a side note. i was Baptized at the age of 8. i became a Christian at the age of 15. If you do the math, you can see where my concern is. BUT. God still saved me. He still called me to His heart, false baptism or not. he loves me and brought me to Him regardless of the fact that I had felt for all those years as if I were a “Christian”. If my child faces what i have faced, God will bring him through it…

    Sorry for all these ramblings on your blog. I just thought maybe if I brainstormed this with you, perhaps we both might be able to see God’s heart in this matter.

  3. October 3, 2007 7:41 pm

    I’m glad you’re thinking about this. I’ve had these thoughts before, but put them off since I don’t have children yet to rush my thinking. But just this past week I had a disagreeing conversation with one of my coworkers about this exact subject. I picked up Steve Lawson’s _Absolutely_Sure_ (which is about having BIBLICAL ASSURANCE of your salvation based on the book of 1 John), hopefully to help clarify my own thoughts. I’d like to hear all of yours in person one day soon.

  4. October 4, 2007 9:18 am

    Here I am, coming from a Reformed tradition, so I probably shouldn’t be answering your question, BUT… given our history, I think you’ll take it with the proverbial grain of salt.

    We have read a lot on baptism, as you can well guess. One of the most persuasive arguments to me was this: As parents, we don’t starve our children, and then tell them to “grow stronger.” We feed them. Likewise, we need to feed our children’s faith in order to help them grow stronger in it. Why do we keep them from baptism and communion, the God-given means to feed our faith? Are we setting them up for a lifetime of questioning? They are usually quite ready for baptism, quite sure that they mean what they say when they say, “I love Jesus.” But we look at them askance, we raise an eyebrow, we communicate our thoughts of “well, maybe… I’m not sure about that yet,” thereby planting a seed of doubt in their heart that may just grow and take root – the doubt that “maybe I’m not good enough,” or “maybe I am not sincere enough.”
    We have come to conclude that faith truly is a living thing, and our 5 year old has as much faith as a 5 year old should. I am not going to look for the faith of an adult, or even a 10 year old, in him. Same goes for my 10 year old, and my 12 year old.
    Obviously, baptism signals something a bit different for us than for those in the Baptist tradition, but I think the issue of feeding your faith holds true either way. I think I’m correct in my understanding that y’all are reformed baptists, (?) so you understand when I say that the Southern Baptists have a knack for instilling doubt while telling you you can’t lose your salvation. I can say that because I lived it for 25 years! I’m not knocking, I’m just sayin’… 🙂
    Feel free to throw that argument out, baby, bathwater, and all… or take it with a grain of salt, or forget about it altogether. Those were just some of our thoughts as we’ve raised our 3, and I thought it might pertain. It’s a very sensitive issue, and one we all want to get right. It makes us dependent upon Him, and upon His Spirit, so that is always good.
    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts as things progress. Isn’t it a blessing to have this sign and seal? Isn’t it a blessing to raise God’s children? Isn’t it a blessing to BE God’s child?
    Blessings on YOU today!
    Jen

  5. Excogitating Engineer permalink
    October 8, 2007 3:07 pm

    It is difficult (and wrong) for one to argue from silence. So Gunderson’s argument that no child is called a disciple and no child (explicitly) is baptized is impossible to hang your hat on. You cannot point to the references to households being baptized either because that could easily have excluded children.

    I think we have to base our theological convictions on what the scriptures explicity show us; and that is that baptism is for believers. It is not just for anyone who says that they have prayed ‘the prayer’ but for born-again believers; i.e. those who show credible evidence that they are Christians. This is especially difficult to discern in children but I think it is our responsibility to do our best to discern. We can never be 100% sure, even with adult converts. It is our duty to discern (that they have credible evidence of their faith) the best we can and beyond that we have to take people’s word and believe that their professions are true. We should receive with open arms new believers (children and adults) so long as those who know them best (parents, Sunday School teachers, converted friends, etc.) can affirm that they show credible evidence of regeneration. That’s what I think today……

    EE

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