Jan.–Apr. 1984 · Vol. 13 No. 1–2 · pp. 93–94 

Book Review

Believers Baptism for Children of the Church

Marlin Jeschke. Scottdale, PA and Kitchener, ON: Herald, 1983. 150 pages.

Reviewed by Marlin E. Thomas

Marlin Jeschke’s recently-published book on the baptism of children is a welcome addition to the dialogue regarding the struggles which believers, church leaders and laypersons alike face in bringing their youth to a living, vital faith in Christ.

In his preface the author sets forth the parameters for his work by stating, “This book suggests the need of recognizing the special and privileged position of children of the church and, therefore, of a proper adaptation of the New Testament mode of baptism to their situation.”

He later defines “children of the church” as those who are raised in Christian, church-related families and/or community children attached to the Sunday school and youth programs of the Church.

The adaptation of the New Testament mode of baptism is discussed in ch. 3. There he suggests that for such children, raised in a context of faith rather than rebellion, salvation becomes a personal appropriation of the Christian faith upon entry into the age of responsibility. Baptism then becomes a visible testimony of that entry into faith, and a celebration by the faithful community that another human being has chosen the way of Christ rather than the way of sin.

Jeschke begins his book by discussing the meaning of baptism. He calls it a sign of “crossing over,” as illustrated in the Exodus experience and in Jewish proselyte baptism. He sees John’s baptism as a “registration for membership in the Kingdom of God, and Christian baptism after Pentecost as a “crossing over into the new era God had ushered in” (p. 34). Baptism thus speaks of being separated from the world, and joined to the redeemed community in Christ. It therefore leads to participation (koinonia) in the church, the family of God.

The real meaning of New Testament baptism involves four images. These include acknowledgement of Jesus as Messiah, a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit, incorporation into the messianic community, and the forgiveness of sins leading to moral transformation. This poses problems for those who postpone baptism until long after spiritual life has begun. It has then “ceased to be a living sign and has instead become merely a retrospective report” (p. 59). Jeschke therefore suggests individual baptisms throughout the year whenever conversions occur. They are to become individual celebrations, much like weddings.

A chapter on infant baptism (ch. 4) is followed by a theology of {94} children and conversion, in which the author discusses the need for a ministry to children. He notes that “the church’s responsibility to children is one of the unexpected conclusions” of this book, and suggests that “believers baptism of the New Testament kind is intended to create churches and homes in which children can be nurtured to faith” (p.106).

Chapters on the mode of baptism and on rebaptism are followed by a final chapter entitled “The More Excellent Way,” which includes a list of seven “dos and don’ts” of an “authentic practice of baptism with children and youth of the church” (pp. 147-50).

Mennonite Brethren will want to take a closer look at Jeschke’s concept of salvation as it pertains to the children raised in their churches. With the strong emphasis on individual, datable conversions, not everything found here may be acceptable. But traditional elements aside, Jeschke’s theology appears sound to this reviewer, and contains much to commend itself.