Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tweaking Terminology: (Believers') Baptismal Regeneration

The phrase "baptismal regeneration" is commonly and accurately used to refer to the view shared by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Mormons and the Churches of Christ, which teach that regeneration (spiritual rebirth) occurs at the point of baptism. The phrase does not imply that the water, and not God, is the cause of regeneration, nor that it regenerates without faith, and the phrase is not used to suggest either of those things. It is merely a phrase communicating the belief that regeneration occurs at time of water baptism.

Despite that, a friend of mine, and apparently others, who believe that water baptism is a prerequisite for salvation, object to using the phrase "baptismal regeneration" to refer to their view. After a lengthy dialogue, it seems to me their objection is based on the fact that some groups who teach baptismal regeneration, such as Catholics, believe even infants, unable to have and express faith, are regenerated at baptism. My friend and others, on the other hand, believe only someone old enough to have faith is regenerated at baptism, based on that faith. Therefore, they might argue, using the phrase to apply to their view would inappropriately suggest that they, too, teach that regeneration can happen apart from faith.

I think there's an element of truth in that argument, and so I feel compelled to slightly tweak the phrase when using it to refer to my friend's view specifically, as distinct from the Catholic view. I'm inclined at this point, therefore, to begin referring to this view using the phrase, "Believers' Baptismal Regeneration," thereby communicating that the particular version of baptismal regeneration I'm referring to is one which holds that it's only for believers. This doesn't entirely satisfy my friend, but because it a) clears up any confusion between his view and that of Catholics, while b) using the phrase historically and accurately used to refer to his view, I think it's the best option.

No comments:

Post a Comment