Someone asked me the other day whether or not Presbyterians baptize adults. Surprised at the question, I told him that we do. He responded that he had never seen it in his several years at one P.C.A church. I told him that I’d baptized an adult and his two young daughters one Sunday, assuring him it does happen. But why does it not regularly happen, or at least as often as you might see in a Baptistic church?
1.) One explanation could be that Baptistic churches will re-baptize folks. So if they have been baptized as an infant, the church may require or at least encourage re-receiving the sign of baptism. People can be baptized more than once, sometimes more than twice. In a Presbyterian church, we will not re-baptize. So if someone who was baptized as a child or a teenager, and yet truly comes to a embrace and cherish Christ for the first time as an adult, he or she won’t be re-baptized. Baptistic churches tend to think of baptism as an outward sign of an inward reality, whereas Presbyterians see baptism as sign and seal of the promise. I have no desire to argue the validity of the latter, but simply want to show why we and they do what we and they do. So that may account for some of the lack of adult baptisms in Presbyterian churches.
2.) There is another other explanation; I don’t like it, because it is a bit more condemning. Yet I think it may be more likely the culprit in the dearth of Presbyterian adult baptisms as compared to our Baptistic brothers and sisters. It is possible that Baptistic churches just do a better job at reaching people for Christ than Presbyterian churches. It is possible that they simply “see” more conversions, or at the very least, more professions of faith. That’s probably the reason as much as I hate to admit it.
Now of course some Presbyterian churches do see plenty of adult baptisms. It has not been my experience in PCA churches where I’ve been a member or minister. Yet. I’m not throwing in the towel…..
As far as to why there are discrepancies in new professions of faith, which soon lead to the adult baptism discrepancies, well, that’s for another day. By the way, hope you enjoyed the picture of the 80’s Mormon baptism in the right hand side of the post. Apparently they immerse. Somehow I missed that in all of my front door Mormon conversations. Just for the record, Presbyterians would baptize you if you came to faith out of a Mormon background. Their baptism is not Trinitarian and so we would “legitimately” baptize for the first time.