The New Form for the Baptism of Children

As Reformed women—and many of you are mothers—you should have a real interest in the form for baptism used in our churches. Perhaps your church has used the new form of baptism. If so, what do you think of it? Have you compared it carefully with the old form? Would it please you to have it adopted, or would it disturb you? You may like to know that a lady doctor in our circles (who did not come out of our circles) when comparing the new form with the old described the new one as “insipid.”

I should like to call your attention to what I am convinced are important differences.

In 1971 the CRC Synod accepted a new Form for the Baptism of children with permission that it be used by the churches on a trial basis for three years with a view to eventual adoption by Synod. This means that, in all likelihood, final action on this form will be taken by Synod in June 1974.

In this article, Miss Johanna Timmer, departmental editor of Reformed Women Speak, points out “important differences” between this new form and the old.

It may be added that the 1973 CRC Synod accepted for a three-year trial period an updated form for the Baptism of Children which, we are told, “is not a new form, but a translation of the old one” (cf. pp. 502–505 of the Acts of Synod 1973).


Part I. The first part points to:

1. the wrath of God resting on us by nature.

2. the necessity of regeneration if the wrath is to be removed.

3. the necessity of loathing ourselves, humbling ourselves, and seeking purification and salvation apart from ourselves. All this “the dipping in or sprinkling with water teaches us.”

Observation: This correlates with the first part of the answer to the second question of the Heidelberg Catechism: namely, I must know how great my sins and miseries are, if I am to live and die happily. SIN.

Part II. This part stresses what holy baptism witnesses and seals unto us, namely, the washing away of our sins through Jesus Christ. It stipulates what the three Persons in the Holy Trinity seal unto us.

Observation: This correlates with the second part of the answer to the second question of the Heidelberg Catechism: namely, I must know how I can be delivered from my sin and misery. SALVATION.

Part III. This part tells us what admonitions and obligations are our portion.

Observation: This correlates with the third part of the answer to the second question of the Heidelberg Catechism: namely, I must know how to show gratitude for such deliverance. GRATITUDE. SERVICE.

THE NEW FORM Part l. Part one points to:

1. the resurrected Christ and His commission.

2. the need of obedience to the Lord’s command to baptize.

Observation: There is no mention of the wrath of God. It merely stresses God’s command to baptize.

Part II. Part two dwells on the promise of God proclaimed in His Word and confirmed in the sacrament of baptism.

Observation: The promises point to the forgiveness of sins without mentioning the wrath of God resting on us apart from forgiveness.

Part III. Part three instructs us in how baptism is a sign and seal.

Observation: The strongest term used here to describe our condition because of sin is the word “judgment.” The word “wrath” is entirely omitted here and from the Form as a whole. There are those who will accept the word “judgment” (such as Karl Barth) but who deny that “the wrath of God” abides on us because of our disobedience. “Holy baptism witnesses and seals unto us the washing away of our sins.” This becomes more meaningful if we are first reminded of th.e wrath of God resting upon a child by nature, but removed by God because of the covenant of grace He has established with believers and their children.

By removing the “wrath of God,” we are weakening the concept of the holiness of God and thus detracting from the tremendous significance of the covenant of grace and of the signs and seals of that covenant. Our being conceived and born in sin doesn’t seem quite so terrible if we need not think of it in the light of the awful wrath of God from under which we cannot get unless we are born again. Only in the light of the wrath of God can we begin to realize how great ollr sins and miseries are. The word “judgment” does not necessarily imply wrath at all (as far as I know it didn’t for Barth and Brunner, nor in the eyes of some modern theologians). In fact a judgment may be unto approval as well as unto condemnation.

A realization of the antithesis between wrath and grace heightens the beauty and Significance of the sign and seal of baptism. The keen edge of this antithesis has been greatly dulled in the new form.

The Prayer

The prayer in the new Fonn emphasizes our destruction, our salvation, our being spared; whereas in the old form the stress is on God’s severe judgment, God’s great mercy, God’s drowning Pharaoh and his host, and God’s leading His people safely through.

Much inferior to the old prayer is the shift from the objective to the subjective—from God to man.

A fervent prayer that we bear our cross joyfully, cleaving unto Jesus Christ “in true faith, firm hope, and ardent love,” is entirely missing. That we have a cross to bear is also not mentioned.

The Vows

1. Of the parents.

The old form stresses that baptism is “an ordinance of God to seal unto us and our seed His covenant.” The new form stresses the action of the parent in presenting a child for baptism.

Here again the first question completely omits the concept of a child being “conceived and born in sin” and being therefore “subject to all manner of misery, yea, to condemnation itself.” This, I believe, should have been retained as the first question, even though the number of questions might have had to be increased to four.

II. Of the congregation.

The vow asked of the congregation is, I sincerely believe, utterly impossible to fulfill. I do not believe that any member of the congregation, except perhaps the immediate relatives, can meet the requirements of this vow. I do not believe that the church has a right to request its members to make this vow. I see nothing in the Scriptures that would substantiate the church’s action in this direction. To make a vow with one’s own mental reservations, as is being done by some leaders today, is not to take seriously the apparent meaning of a vow. This spells failure to take seriously the true meaning of words as well as the sacredness of a vow.


Don’t you think that the old form of baptism is much richer than the new one, that it represents a comprehensive concept of God’s covenant not matched by the new? Doesn’t the old one give us a far richer concept of that of which holy baptism is a sign and seal?