This is my confession: I am Christian–but I have not been baptised with water. There are a few reasons for this, and I think the time has finally come to share them.
I went through several seasons of faith in my early life: from a childish version of Christianity that didn’t survive contact with the disappointments of life, to agonstic, to Wiccan, and finally back to Christian. It was this last transition which is the focus here.
When I came to university I identified as Wiccan. First year was rough for a lot of reasons, beyond what normal first year stresses are, and by the end of the year I was spent. When I returned to my hometown I eventually decided to perform a Wiccan ritual called a Declaration of Faith. There are various ways of going about this, but essentially it’s a ritualized way to introduce yourself to Goddess and declare your intention to follow the Wiccan path. I decided to this in large part because I felt I needed a closer connection with the Goddess to get through life.
In second year, I slowly got connected with a group called Guelph Campus Ministry. There was no pressure to be anyone but myself, and the Christians seemed thoughtful and intellectual. I felt more and more of a calling to be part of this community but nobody could give me the same answers about what Christianity meant. To get to the heart of the matter, I decided that I should read the entire Bible cover to cover (I am an avid reader after all). This I did–in two weeks (I didn’t think much of this feat–I had been expecting it to take longer, but I’ve since been informed that it was quite remarkable). This experience left me accepting I was called to Christianity, but I still wrestled with being extremely liberal, especially in regards to sexuality. I read Mere Christianity next which resolved most of my doubts, but (and this is key) I still struggled with the Christian label. I was marked by my early experiences, and I still found mystic practices I leaned in Wicca extremely helpful and II was still liberal in areas most Christians weren’t. So while I accepted I called to part of the Body of Christ, I viewed myself as a part of the Body which a lot of the other parts of the Body would rather not have in it. I called myself Christian, but I struggled with whether that was the right thing to call myself. All of this made me rather reluctant to get baptised as I was not sure whether I was fully committed to Christianity.
Within a couple years, I knew I was fully committed to Christianity and had grown more comfortable with both that label and the fact that a lot of the Body would probably not rather not have me in. To which my reaction had generally become, “Too bad, God thinks differently.” At that point though, it seemed that baptism with water was no longer appropriate. I had been calling myself Christian for so long and doing my best to serve God and understand how to follow Christ and glean wisdom from Scripture. I had also had communion several times by then without spontaneous combustion on the spot. Since I largely understood baptism with water to mark the beginning of a faith journey, or at the very least, the beginning of being Christian that didn’t seem to fit. It might have been different if my faith journey had taken a different course, or if I had been more sure of acceptance after I was called to Christianity, but since it didn’t and I wasn’t, Christianity had, in a sense, snuck up on me.
Reading the Bible cover to cover also had its advantages in that I was familiar with parts of Scripture which aren’t necessarily always addressed on Sunday morning sermons on a regular basis.
The first is Luke 3:16 as John the Baptist tells his followers of the coming of Christ: “John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (John 3:16 NRSV)
The second is at the beginning of acts as the resurrected Christ is speaking to his disciples, telling them to wait until the Holy Spirit is sent forth “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5 NRSV)
The third is in the middle of Acts. In a critical moment in the history of the early church, Peter is called to the house of a centurion and there the Holy Spirit acts again and even Gentiles are given power and able to speak in tongues. Peter is astounded but accepts that the Gentiles are included in the kingdom of heaven, and baptizes them with water. In his report to the church in Jerusalem though, he references the words of the resurrected Christ in his moment of revelation: “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but your will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God” (Acts 11:16-17 NRSV)
What these Scriptures enabled me to realize was that perhaps the most important baptism for a Christian is the Holy Spirit. I also remembered how God influenced my life, and slowly drew me to Him after my Wiccan Declaration of Faith. Now, I don’t know if you noticed, but the Wiccan Declaration of Faith is similar, in principle to baptism. So I eventually accepted that God, in His grace, took my Wiccan Declaration of Faith in lieu of baptism, as I still admitted I needed God and my conception of the Wiccan Goddess was very similar to the nature as I now understand it of the Christian God. Since I hold that as true, and since God has clearly been in my life more fully since that moment (He was in my life always, I can see in retrospect, but definitely more fully after the Wiccan Declaration of Faith was performed) it seems ungrateful and actually lacking in faith to pursue baptism now, at this late date.
So that is where matters stand. I am Christian, but I have not received a water baptism. I am convinced however, that I have been baptised by the Holy Spirit and that I am as much a part of the Body of Christ as any Christian. Peace and blessings, my friends.