I’ve been thinking about baptism quite a bit lately. My church had a wonderful baptism service on Easter in which a range of men, women, and children joyfully took the plunge. I was particularly stuck by the fact that some of the people being baptized were doing so for the second time in their lives.
I’d never encountered re-baptism before, but upon reflection, it makes sense to me. As with an initial baptism, re-baptism is a public statement of your faith, and there are myriad reasons why one might want to reaffirm that sentiment.
The text that’s often cited for re-baptism is in Acts 19:1-7 Paul baptizes a group of men into the “name of the Lord Jesus.” What makes this baptism interesting is that these 12 men had previously been baptized by John the Baptist.
I don’t think one can extrapolate an air-tight doctrine from this text alone, but it does suggest that there are circumstances in which re-baptism is an appropriate course of action. Church history is filled with examples of various denominations re-baptizing people upon conversion (often to the detriment of ecumenical relations).
What do you think? When, if ever, is re-baptism appropriate?
A few non-hypothetical scenarios might help frame this conversation. How would you respond to the following situations?
- As an adult, John was pressured into baptism by friends and family. He went through with it even though he wasn’t sure of the theology or ramifications of what he was doing. Later, he harmonized his feelings and theology and affirmed that baptism was a correct course of action. Should he be re-baptized now that his thoughts and feelings are different?
- Sharla was baptized by a pastor who was shortly afterward found to have been involved in deeply rooted sin that cost him his position at the church and tore his family apart. Should Sharla be re-baptized?
- Constance was baptized as a baby by her parents. Later as an adult she felt the need to recommit to baptism. Should she be re-baptized? Or just affirm the previous baptism?
- Jeffery was baptized at the age of 30. When he hit 50 a series of life circumstances brought him to the point of renouncing his faith. At 60 another series of life circumstances brought him back to the faith. He wants to recommit his life to the Lord. Should he be re-baptized?