Sunday, January 13, 2008

Apple #292: Baptism or Christening?

Recently I was talking to someone about a new baby getting baptized. The person I talked to said "christened." Then we both agreed we didn't know what the difference is, only that my family always said "baptized," while he and his family always said "christened."

So what is the difference?

  • In a baptism, a person is spiritually reborn as a new entrant in a particular religion.
  • The term "baptism" comes from a Greek word which essentially means "bath."
  • People of Christian faith use the term "baptism" for their ceremony of entry, but so do people of other faiths as well.

Beatrice, a.k.a. Trixie, getting baptized at a church in Oklahoma.
(Photo from Sean Gleeson's blog)

  • In a christening, a person is spiritually reborn as in a baptism, but the term used to be a little bit more specific.
  • The term "christening" comes from the concept that the person being baptized is being dedicated specifically to Christ or the Christian faith.
  • The term also comes from way back in the days of early Christendom and in the beginnings of the Catholic church and the idea that when you christen somebody, usually a baby, the parents are making that decision on behalf of the child.
  • So if an adult wants to join a particular Christian church, that person is generally said to be getting baptized rather than christened.
  • Christening also used to be a separate ceremony when the child was named, and that happened in addition to the baptism. Now, however, there really isn't a naming ceremony, just the baptism.

This boy is getting baptized at Carver Lake Park in Minnesota.
(Photo from the Woodbury Baptist Church)

  • Also, you can christen a ship or a church or other kinds of objects. In that kind of christening service, the ship or the church are dedicated to God's service.
      • You know how British ships are named H.M.S. something-or-other? The H.M.S. stands for His or Her Majesty's Service. Because the king or queen was regarded since King Henry VIII's time as divinely appointed, by dedicating a ship to the service of the king or queen, you are dedicating it also to the service of God. Hence, ships can be christened.
  • A lot of Catholics still prefer the term "christening" to "baptism," but some Catholics think the term got appropriated by the whole ship-christening thing, so they use "baptism" instead.

Vanessa is getting baptized at a church in Singapore.
(Photo from Vanessa Tan's blog)

  • It's also worth noting that baptism is the one ceremony or sacrament that's recognized and accepted by any and every Christian church, regardless of who did the baptizing and under what circumstances.
  • So, generally speaking, since there's no difference anymore in what happens whether you call it a "baptism" or a "christening," you can use either term depending on your personal preference, regardless of what sort of Christianity you practice.
  • And I'm glad of that. We could all do with fewer shibboleths.

Dallas-Fort Worth Wedding Exchange, Christening and Baptism
The Free Library by Farlex, What's the difference between a Baptism and a christening?
St John's in the City, Getting Baptised at St John's
Ask the Padre, Is there a difference between Baptism and Christening?

1 comment:

  1. john:1-29,galatians:3-27,john:3-5,what about these scripture.


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