frgavin on October 29th, 2012
Image of Rev John Richardson[…] The Church of England (as with evangelical theology more generally) has long recognized that faith is a necessary component of baptism. In the Prayer Book Catechism it asks, ‘What is required of persons to be baptized?’ and the answer is, ‘Repentance … and faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God.’
The problem with Kuhrt’s approach is that it reduces this ‘repentance and faith’ to a personal claim which must have a particular beginning but which is indefinite as to its present consequences. As he puts it, ‘once someone declares their faith we are obliged to regard them as a fellow brother or sister’ (emphasis added). As we have argued, however, this ought to entail treating all the baptized as ‘brothers and sisters’ — and this has certainly never been the evangelical position. If it were, we would never evangelize anyone who has gone through infant baptism. It would also encourage the peculiarly evangelical error of treating a past ‘conversion’ as sufficient for present salvation, which neither a more thoughtful evangelical tradition nor Scripture itself (cf James 2:14) would condone.
The question lies, as always in these matters, in the nature of faith. And the answer is to understand a ‘declaration of faith’ as not just a past affirmation (whether in baptism or elsewhere) but a present reality. Justification, in other words, is not just sola fide (by faith alone) but semper fide (by faith always).
The Christian life does not begin with an act of faith and continue in the doing of works. Every moment is lived in faith, and our works are always and only the fruit of that present faith. Thus faith is required constantly by God’s word to us (ie the gospel) and declared constantly by our response.
Hence our baptismal declaration is valid (whether made by ourselves or for us by our godparents) and our baptism is effective, so long as (and only so long as) we grasp by faith the promises of God held out to us in baptism. To those who grow up in this attitude, the Christian life has always been lived by faith. For others, faith begins later. The important thing in every case, however, is that faith should always be in the ‘present continuous’ tense: not ‘I have declared,’ but ‘I am declaring’ Christ’s Lordship. (Read more)

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