Friday, August 6, 2010

Baptism before eucharist: the table is not open to the unbaptised?

A strong line of support for baptism of infants (of believing parents) in Anglican theology has involved covenantal theology in which some analogy is drawn between circumcision and baptism.

Thus I find it interesting to read this text:

"If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it." (Exodux 12:48, italics not original).

Just saying ... (to those here and elsewhere in the Communion who advocate 'open table' welcome to the unbaptized to share in the eucharist).


Doug Chaplin said...

I'm not sure what you are "just saying", Peter. Do you know people in NZ who would advocate communion for the unbaptized? That would be very un-Anglican, surely?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Doug,
There definitely are people in our Anglican church here who would advocate communion for the unbaptized (as there are in TEC).

I have also found, in my experience here, a lack of clear and strong advocacy for baptism-then-communion from people I consider to be leaders (both bishops and clergy and laity) in the life of our church.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
While I support infant baptism, I'm not a big fan of the covenantal argument. Colossians 2:11-12 is about the closest we get to any Scriptural support for the link, but even there it is circumcision by Christ rather than men, and 'baptism' probably refers to the package of initial belief in Christ (including baptism) rather than solely the act of baptism itself (similar to Rom. 6).
While baptism is the "mark of membership" of God's people under the new covenant, it doesn't simply inherit the meaning of circumicision. In the same way that OT types such as the temple, or sacrifices are fulfilled more completely and wonderfully in the NT, baptism more fully and completely expresses membership of God's people than circumcision, e.g. open to women and men, themes of death to old self/new life, etc.
So, I'm not sure taking arguments from circumcision texts is helpful here. I'd argue from the Apostles' practice in Acts, where people who believed in Christ would be baptised almost immediately, and then welcomed into fellowship. We get into trouble here because we often delay baptism for months or years after belief. It gets a bit trickier with children, I know, but for adults it's reasonably straightforward. Just to be consistent, we should also say that this restriction would also apply with regard to church leadership positions, ministry involvement, etc. not just the Lord's Supper.
Andrew Reid

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
Yes I would not push the 'circumcision' analogy too far, but I think there is something in it: God covenants with people; how do people join the covenanted people? through circumcision in the old covenant, through baptism in the new.
Yes, of course, serving leaders of the church should be baptised.