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Missionary Baptism and Evangelical Unity: an Historical, Theological and Pastoral Inquiry by J. Cameron Fraser

Missionary Baptism and Evangelical Unity

Weary of debates around human sexuality? How about something simpler—say, navigating infant baptism vs. believers baptism/baby dedication? CRC minister Rev. J. Cameron Fraser steps into what many would call a clear confessional matter providing a nuanced, warmly pastoral, and missional way forward to advance a wider unity in the body of Christ.

Witnessing the long divide over the troubled waters of baptism and noting a more recent interest for infant dedication practices in Reformed churches, Fraser wonders if there “is another way to understand Christian baptism that removes the basis for misunderstanding while promoting unity.” He argues for a more modest approach, observing that while infant baptism is consistent with Scripture, it is not prescribed nor required by Scripture. So why not then pursue all the practical common ground available to the church?

Fraser’s pastoral aim is to give serious weight to Christ’s call for unity amidst a divisive matter of varying practices. The book explores theological corners of Reformed and Presbyterian traditions to pull out a surprisingly hopeful way forward of missionary baptism. Also known as household baptism, missionary baptism recognizes the biblical norm of baptism as that of converts and their families, a practice that also allows for infant dedication of believing parents, for “the coexistence and acceptance of different views of baptism in one church.” It’s a timely word for the CRC in its ever-increasing missionary situation of post-Christian North America. 

Many will object to his argument, but it's more than Fraser’s thoughtful conclusion that warrants our reading. It’s his genial and humble style, the attentive and patient listening to all sides, the peacemaking spirit, and steadfast concern for Christian unity that provides a template and model for navigating our other pressing theological divisions.

Fraser seeks out a space of generosity and unity in the church regarding our baptismal practices. Might Fraser’s model provide a way through the current controversies that threaten to divide the CRC? I’m not sure, but as Fraser concludes, “Still, one has to start somewhere.” (Wipf & Stock)

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