Baptism

October 10th, 2022

Asher is going to be baptized. It has taken a while for us to get to this point. Typically, a child is baptized within a few weeks of their birth. Our grandson, Asher, is nearly two years old. We needed to make sure that his mama was on board with the decision. She is. The prospective godparents are willing and able. Now, we just have to wait for the Catholic Church to approve of the baptism. The Church is a creaky organization where the wheels turn slowly. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

Years ago, when our own kids were infants, it was customary for them to be baptized. It was a family tradition and an integral part of Catholic culture. There was never a question if the child should be baptized. The main questions involved when and where it would happen.

Karin and I took time and care when choosing godparents for our kids. The Church wants the godparents to help raise the child as Catholic. There is an emphasis on teaching the youngster to believe the tenets of the faith. The people we chose as godparents made an effort to keep their charges on the straight and narrow path. However, now that thirty years have gone by, it’s hard to describe any of our children as traditional Catholics. I think all three of them believe in something, but I’m not sure what exactly.

Honestly, there are parts of the theology of baptism that I struggle to accept. For instance, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says:

“1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called.”

It’s the “original sin” thing that bothers me. I’ve never been able to see the justice in the concept that every human comes into the world as damaged goods because our primeval ancestors screwed up mightily. It fascinates me that the Church relies heavily on our biblical traditions, but there is absolutely no notion of original sin in Judaism. In fact, two online sources say this:

“There is no concept of “original sin” in the entirety of the Tanakh. We are all capable of choosing to sin or not sin and we are all capable of returning to God and have our sins forgiven.” – Derech HaTorah

“Jews do not believe in the doctrine of original sin. This is a Christian belief based on Paul’s statement, “Therefore just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). The doctrine was fully developed by the church father, Augustine of Hippo (354-430).” – Gerald Sigal

Original sin is a purely Christian idea, and not necessarily a good one. The idea that we are all born sinful and depraved makes no sense to me. However, this concept has persisted throughout Christian history from Paul to Augustine to Calvin to Cotton Mather and to us. It is obvious that humans are frail and often in error, but that is not the same as believing that we are scum. Asher often gets on my nerves, but it never occurs to me to think of him as being sinful. He’s just a little kid, and basically, we are all just little kids.

Another thing… the Church says that baptism is necessary for salvation. See the passage below from the Catechism:

“1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.”

Okay, the implication is that the vast majority of the world’s population, those who are not baptized, will not be saved. I probably won’t mention this to my friends who are Buddhist, Jewish, or Muslim. I especially won’t talk about it with the ones who plan on coming to Asher’s baptism.

However, the Catechism also says:

“1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” 63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”

A good lawyer would be able to get almost anyone into heaven with that statement. So, I’m not too worried about my non-Christian buddies making the cut.

Why have this baptism at all?

In Asher’s case, there is compelling reason for it. Asher does not have a father in his life. Stefan, our youngest son, has agreed to be Asher’s godfather. Stefan has further agreed to serve as Asher’s mentor and male role model. Stefan may not be the most devout Catholic, but Asher needs his uncle to guide him through his life. Asher needs Stefan on his journey to find God. I suspect that Stefan will need Asher too.

Stefan is willing to be Asher’s godfather, not because he likes the Church, but because he loves Asher dearly. Stefan wants to be there for Asher, now and in the future. Stefan is willing to make that commitment in public for all to see and hear.

That is enough reason to have the baptism.

 

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