Repent, Believe, Be Catechized, Be Baptized?

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  1. Veronica says:

    Ryan, Greg and I were discussing this recently too and all that I could figure was that we do not have an open table and the reasons for that might be related since adult baptism and profession of faith both open up the door to the table. Could that be related? And if so, what would be the indication for a closed Lord’s Supper table?

  2. Jason says:

    Part of the answer lies in the type of membership which we hold to. Upon review of the form for public profession of faith, one can see that the Canadian Reformed Churches practice what’s called confessional membership: “First, do you wholeheartedly believe the doctrine of the Word of God, summarized in the confessions and taught here in this Christian church?”
    By way of comparison, the United Reformed Churches appear to practice creedal membership, as their form (first of two profession of faith forms in the Psalter Hymnal) reads as follows: “First, do you heartily believe the doctrine contained in the Old and the New Testament, and in the articles of the Christian faith, and taught in this Christian church …?”

  3. Coosje Helder says:

    Pondering over this question as well…..
    I guess I am not helping…..

  4. Hi Ryan,

    First of all, the practice of catechizing converts for an extended period of time prior to baptism (or profession of faith) is not a novelty in the history of the church, or something unique to the Canadian Reformed churches. Early on in the history of the Christian church, a class of people known as “catechumens” grew – people who were being trained in the fundamentals of the faith prior to being baptized. A regular practice was to divide the church service into two segments – the first, where the preaching was done, included catechumens and members. The second, where the Lord’s Supper was celebrated, was open only to members, and catechumens and non-members had to leave!

    We know that neither antiquity nor succession of persons, etc., makes a practice “correct.” But it does show that our Canadian Reformed practice is not a novel thing, or something that has only developed in recent centuries, even.

    Regarding the baptisms you mention in the New Testament. In most, if not all, of the cases you cite, people were baptized who had already been part of the people of God, but who didn’t yet know Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of what they had been taught. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Scripture when he and Philip ran into each other. Ananias was a devout man according to the law. Lydia was a worshiper of God. When these people had become part of the Old Covenant church, as “God-fearers,” Gentile converts to Judaism, they had already been catechized. They knew the Scriptures, but they didn’t know Christ. When their hearts were opened to the truth of the gospel, when the Christ was introduced to them, and they believed in Him, extensive catechizing wasn’t necessary, because they already knew the truths of what we have as the Old Testament. This means that this is a much different situation than someone coming from a completely non-Christian background, with no knowledge of the Scriptures or Christian teaching.

    I have had the privilege of performing a number of non-infant baptism in a mission setting (young children, young people, and adults), and welcoming new members into the church who had already been baptized, but had not yet made profession of their faith. In each case, baptism was preceded by a period of instruction, and not just instruction, but also interaction on a personal level, as we get to know each other, as current church members get to know the prospective new member, and vice versa.

    We want to make sure that people know what it is that they’re doing, and I personally want to make sure that people realize the seriousness of the commitment that they are making. For me, it’s more about a prospective member’s level of commitment and about their being “teachable” than it is about “knowing the confessions.” If someone has made a start and has accepted the basic teachings of the Christian church, shows a willingness to learn, and expresses a willingness to commit themselves to the instruction and discipline of the church, I believe that’s what is needed for baptism (or profession of faith). How long that takes is a case-by-case kind of thing – I don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all kind of program we can follow.

    Hope this addition to the discussion is helpful!

    Pastor Jim Witteveen
    Prince George, B.C.

  5. My colleague Rev. Ken Wieske posted an excellent response on Facebook. If you ask him nicely, perhaps he will allow it to be re-posted here. His explanation is very good.

  1. October 4, 2014

    To read Rev. Wieske’s Reponse click the name Adult Baptism | One Christian Dad