Monday, June 13, 2016

Autism, Theology and Baptism

I recently had the privilege of baptizing my daughter. For context, I'm a Baptist pastor and so we baptize believers as opposed to infants. While Emma is our first to be baptized, she is the fourth of our five children. Our two oldest children have autism and are on the severe end of the spectrum.

Baptizing my daughter has made me think about what baptism might look like for Logan and Abby. Baptism is meant to be an outward expression of what has happened on the inside. The problem is that with our children being nonverbal, I don't know what is going on the inside.

Abby is 13 years old, but seems to have an intellectual age of around four. With her communication issues, that is difficult to be sure of. Logan is 15 years old but is more advanced intellectually. He is able to demonstrate his intelligence in a clearer way. My intention is to try and communicate with him about faith and I can see the possibility of him being baptized.

My question is, how much does someone need to know about God to be baptized? What are the theological requirements? I try to get the basics across to those who are without disabilities, but what does this look like for those with intellectual disabilities?

This is not a post where I can offer answers. I really do not know. I do feel that in these cases that it is better to err on the side of grace and trust that God is in it in some way.

I would love to hear from other people about how you have dealt with this. If you are a pastor, what would you require in terms of knowledge about God before baptizing someone?

You might be interested in this post I wrote on baptism in general.

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