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Bridge over Troubled Water? Re-baptism in a Nordic Context

Urban Pentecostal churches in the Nordic Countries face a specific challenge regarding the doctrine and practise of baptism. 

Many of those who attend Pentecostal services in Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki, are – due to their background in a predominantly Lutheran tradition – not necessarily members of Pentecostal churches. Most of them were baptized as infants. Traditionally, Pentecostal church regulations would state the need to be rebaptized since infant baptism is not recognized as a valid act within Nordic Pentecostalism. So, should all of them have to be rebaptized to get their membership? How important is the amount of water as long as their theological reflection is compatible? And second, how can the doctrine of baptism become even more substantial within the Pentecostal tradition at the same time as new bridge-building practices are established across denominational borders? Is there a bridge over troubled water? The question is legitimate because the practice of rebaptism still represents a huge ecumenical challenge, creating tension between different church bodies.

Two situation pictures
Let me give you the first situation picture: Turn to any of the largest Pentecostal churches in the Nordic countries and ask for the topic that evokes the most interest. Probably all of them will point to this: the relationship between baptism and church affiliation with regard to all those - and they are not few – coming from the Folk church tradition who were baptized as infants but now define a Pentecostal church as their spiritual home. Consequently they cannot become members unless they are rebaptized.[1] Only a few of them are ready to be baptized again in order to become a member of a Pentecostal church. The fact is that many of them still consider their infant baptism as valid and important. To a greater or lesser degree they have grown up as believers and have lived in their “baptismal covenant” all their life. They indeed have a living faith, received in a Lutheran context and in the “room of faith” of home and church. According to Lutheran theology the prerequisite for the baptism of children is the expectation that the baptized will appropriate a living faith, though posterior to the point of time of the baptismal act. Through the emerging faith they will receive what Christian baptism proclaims to provide. So, if you ask them about their infant baptism – an event they do not remember – they still consider it as a valuable part of their life in faith. They even reveal a theological awareness in relation to their baptism that sometimes goes far beyond what many members of the Baptist and Pentecostal traditions show with regards to the content and nature of this doctrine.
Pentecostal pastors and theologians, on their side, refuse to be engaged in active agitation for rebaptism, because of their intuitive respect for the baptismal character of being a one-time action. Instead some of them ask whether new theological and liturgical criteria for affiliation with a Pentecostal church can be established.[2] One condition seems to be obvious: such criteria cannot allow a situation where the doctrine of baptism ends in a shapeless compromise or becomes set aside in a shadowy theological backyard.[3]
The second situation picture: In 1982, 120 theologians from a hundred different denominations came together in Lima, Peru to finish their ecumenical work on the convergence document labelled Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry.[4] The BEM declaration gradually became the most famous dialogue document from Faith and Order. In many ways this statement makes for good reading, characterized as it is by mutual respect for different doctrinal positions and its awareness of both the objective and subjective sides of the New Testament baptismal texts. However, one of the articles is a demanding read for those churches which are living side by side with majority churches with the tradition of infant baptism, namely section IV/13: “Baptism is an unrepeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as ‘re-baptism’ must be avoided” (BEM p. 4). Is this a formulation in line with the gradually established ecumenical “code of conduct”,[5] or is it an indication of power language expressed by the historical churches, showing lack of sensitivity to the complex questions re-baptism instigates? Is it a legacy from the condemnation statements in Confessio Augustana or is it quite the contrary: an attempt to safeguard Christian baptism as a sacred act of unity?
In the official comment from the Church of Norway this specific statement in BEM is characterized as “a source of great joy.”[6] Other churches considered the paragraph about re-baptism to be too short and too bold, not taking sufficiently into account that the issue of re-baptism not unilaterally belongs with the Baptist oriented churches. The Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland could not agree that “an a priori universal bar should operate” regarding the question of re-baptism (ibid, 48). In an additional commentary in BEM, Faith and Order described the section as a natural fruit of an ecumenical approach, stating that the closer the churches come to each other, the greater is the desire to refrain from practices that cause embarrassment with regards to the theological and sacramental integrity of other churches. This development probably has to be understood in light of substantial changes in attitudes in general, provided by postmodern insights. 

Preference given to understanding
Behind the desire to build bridges over troubled water we find a significant amount of empirical evidence showing how churches gradually have come closer to each other.[7] This is also perceptible in the field of academic theology.[8] The development takes place through an intriguing movement on the ground level in local churches, making the limitations of the old denominational lines a thing of the past. Churches have become “guests in each other’s house,” and to a large extent they are guests who do not want to leave! The reason is clear enough: the one obtains important impulses from the other. Moreover, postmodernity stimulates a feeling of equality. People listen in new ways and they are able to understand more constructively the other’s affairs, without being paralyzed by fear and prejudice. Gradually representatives of different traditions admit and acknowledge the spiritual treasures coming from other traditions. Hopefully people from one tradition could consider these gifts as “medication” which would heal the wounds and diseases of their own church. 
Following that, the children of faith and Spirit will get a distinct feeling of belonging to each other. They can retrieve insights from others which help them to define themselves more deeply. Moreover, there is a missional and perhaps also a prophetic perspective here, given by one of the most esteemed Norwegian Pentecostal evangelists throughout the last 60 years, Emanuel Minos. In his latest book he writes that the time has come for various Christians to come together, both from the high and low church tradition. “We should not overlook the differences between us, especially in the view on baptism. But the challenges are larger than that, because our country is in the process of being de-Christianized”. He concludes by writing: “united we stand, divided we fall.”[9] In light of this, it is significant to ask how transfer activity across the confessional borders can strengthen the identity of each church instead of causing confusion. This is especially the case when it comes to the doctrine of water baptism. Must the issue of baptism necessarily separate us? What is needed for the opposite to take place? Can various voices within the churches together provide building blocks to “a bridge over troubled water”?[10]  
If, as Paul declares in Ephesians 4, there is only one baptism, as there is only one Lord and one faith, how important is then “the order of factors” in the initiation process as long as the elements of faith, baptism and discipleship are taken seriously in the different church traditions – whether those who become baptized are children or full-grown?[11] In light of the preference given to understanding each other, is it possible to create a theological modus vivendi, a new way of living together as churches? How can the content of baptismal fullness be secured at the same time as new, bridge-building practices are established? Ecumenists, theologians and pastors may provide constructive assistance for each other. But let us first look at some historical considerations.

The baptismal debate: dialogue versus confrontation
Normally we define our identity by highlighting certain parts of our life story. During my years as youth pastor I came across a tract where the biblical foundation of adult baptism was presented on the left side and a corresponding account of the doctrine of the Lutheran infant baptism was rendered on the right side. The left side was full of Scripture references, while the right side was completely blank, without any text. The message was clear and in line with the strategy of T.B. Barratt, the founder of the Pentecostal Movement in Norway. He probably was shaped more for conflict than for dialogue. He had a strong polemical style in his writing, pronounced directly against the baptismal practise of the Church of Norway. The result was a clear awareness of what the Norwegian Pentecostal movement was against. To a lesser extent the Pentecostals were equipped with a reflected understanding of their own doctrine of baptism.[12] Barratt’s position also displayed a limited interest within the revival culture for the historical context of the Church of Norway and its long traditions which gives it a broad and valuable interface with the population. In his doctoral dissertation on Pentecostalism from 1956, Nils Bloch-Hoell comments with wonder why baptism became so important when it was not given any sacramental meaning. He presumed that its significance was connected to its ability to act as a confessional demarcation line, indicating a break with the old churches.[13]
On the other side, you do not need to search very deeply into the writings of an outstanding Lutheran dogmatist, Leiv Aalen, to find corresponding stigmatizing descriptions about adult baptism. Today it may hardly be recognized as well-grounded. Aalen could warn against “the Baptist delusion of the question of baptism. Where this doctrine is spread, it is a deadly danger to the Christian Church.”[14] We can clearly see how doctrinal debates about baptism have been historically colored by their own contemporary context. The confessionalism of the majority churches was in the Free Church tradition met by a similar profile of resistance. At that time it could probably appear as historically necessary. The strength of the Folk church model demanded an offensive defence. Today it appears neither fruitful nor constructive (Hegertun 2009, p. 93-95). However, the reaction can be seen from the perspective of the history of ideas, going back to the Anabaptists and their fight for freedom of religion and conscience as well as the voluntary element in the Baptist self-understanding.[15] Can this particular ideal of freedom of conscience, so integrated as it is in the human rights tradition today, be applied so as to talk about baptismal freedom of conscience?
I suppose so. In my view, a valid ecumenical approach presupposes an understanding of identity which at its base is open to new experiences. Without such an approach any potential reorientation normally would be interpreted as an unattractive theological compromise. According to French philosopher and literary theorist Jean-François Lyotard, one of the distinctive features of postmodernity is that confrontation is replaced by truth-seeking dialogue and a more intuitive openness to the fact that the power of definition is not managed only by the one part.[16] This makes dialogue easier, but also more challenging because it threatens the safety we are seeking, theologians as well. The risk of dialogue is that while listening to the other we might possibly come across insights that we have not yet acquired.
With regard to how a church has emerged historically, perhaps with a strongly marked theological (baptismal) profile, Pentecostal theologian Murray W. Dempster points out that what may have been the distinctive feature of a denomination in the past does not need to be the central sign in the future.[17] A reorientation of attitudes is possible without changing the core concerns of a faith community. Consequently he distinguishes between positions colored by their historically contingent conditions and factors of theologically substantive character. This leads us to the question of the relation between form and content.

The relation between form and content
The inflexibility of the baptismal debate has had consequences for the relation between form and content. Strangely enough, within the Free Church tradition the form has been subject to a greater attention than the content – the nature and function – of baptism. But, to some extent the form has been determined by circumstances and context.[18] Of course it can be said that the external figure is an integrated part of the baptismal act and therefore not insignificant. But there is something more than the question of immersion which makes baptism to a specific Christian act: that it takes place within the framework of the believing community, that Scripture is read and water used as element, that the name of the triune God is proclaimed and that there is some kind of statement of faith linked to the action.[19] These are normative elements for the baptismal act, and belong to way the doctrine has to be communicated and carried out. Baptismal practice, on the other hand, has been subject to adjustments throughout church history. Without the theology at the centre of our attention, a sort of “practice-fundamentalism” may occur with the result that the deep intent of the doctrine of baptism is muddled.
In light of these reflections, it is legitimate to ask whether Christian baptism is not in fact satisfactorily realized through more than just one baptismal form. If the two different baptismal acts which are in use in the global church today apparently do the same work, if they foster a common understanding of the relation between faith and baptism, and if the baptized becomes a disciple of Jesus and a citizen of the kingdom of God – both whether faith is fostered before or a bit later than the actual time of the baptismal act – what does this mean for the question of rebaptism? Given a common understanding of the theological content of baptism, developed through ecumenical dialogues, may not in fact the two forms be mutually appreciated as valid Christian baptism? Can form really invalidate content?

“Ritualized remembrance”
When the night came on the cotton farms in the old days the slaves were singing: “Where you there when they crucified my Lord?” This is a strange question. But yes, we were there! As it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived…” are “things God has revealed to us by his Spirit” (1 Cor 2:9-10). Remembrance (gr: νάμνησις) in order to recapture what is given me through the death and resurrection of Christ is an important perspective in liturgy as well as in pastoral counselling. The eucharist meal functions as a re-narration of the salvation story, as it is proclaimed to us and received by faith in a transcending way. We could say that it makes present the effect of something performed in earlier times. Through this “ritualized remembrance” the believer has the ability to build bridges between now and then and be in touch with a spiritual reality across time and place. The experience pushes beyond what is remembered cognitively, and is as much tied to an overarching interpersonal theological discourse.[20]
In the same manner as the baptized are able to appropriate content from the overarching theological discourse to form their own salvation story, they can also “live out” their baptism in their everyday life independent of concrete psychical and social memories. Theories of cognition permit for the possibility of uniting theology and history to get a current experience of being carried on the wings of salvation and by the eternal word of God’s promise.[21] That is why believers who are baptized as children do not think of their baptism in categories of time, but through an understanding of content.
This opens up a new perspective for Pentecostal theologians: the question of the sacramental potential of Pentecostal theology. Wesley Scott Biddy reflects on how much of a distance there really is between the Pentecostal spirituality with its emphasis on physical expressions, intercession prayer and laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; 19.6) on the one hand, and, on the other, the doctrinal conception of classical theology in which the visible world may contain invisible realities.[22] Why could not spiritual realities be expressed through baptism and Holy Communion, and thus have more than a symbolic significance? And what about the Pentecostal view of speaking in tongues as an outward sign of an inner spiritual fullness? For long, worship in charismatic churches has been a kind of “liturgy” in the sense that the participants expect the special presence of God during this part of the service. When both Pentecostal spirituality and classical theology learn that Christ is near by the Spirit through an incarnate spirituality, what is then the difference between a Pentecostal who seeks spiritual gifts by the laying on of hands and a Catholic who goes to the Communion table in faith, convinced of the real transformation of the elements at the table?[23]
It might actually be argued, with reference to Biddy, that Pentecostal spirituality provides fertile ground for thinking about the means of grace as events in which living encounters with God can take place through physical actions. Since Pentecostals think like this when it comes to the presence of the Spirit in the service, when the word of God is announced, in worship, and in intercession in which the name of Jesus is proclaimed, why not when baptism and Communion are administered in the same name of the Trinity; actions so clearly commanded by the Lord?

“The saving baptism”
Studies of how Baptist and Pentecostal theologians and pastors have been thinking about the content and nature of baptism actually point to a significant upgrading in theological understanding. This in turn leads to a closer approach to other churches. One does not go untouched in and out of each other’s house. The continual disagreement, however, appears to be in the understanding of the anthropology of children. The English Baptist Keith Clements, expresses how Baptist theology would be well served by developing a more nuanced theology of the child in the church in general.[24]
A profiled booklet on baptism published by the Swedish Pentecostal movement (Pingst), states that “faith and baptism is the way in which the Scripture effects the status of faith and fellowship with God.”[25] The booklet opens the way for a sacramental comprehension by using the phrase “the saving baptism” (p. 19) and continues by declaring that it contains a hidden reality in which God acts with those who are baptized. Thus baptism is more than only a public confession. Those who become baptized are given the fellowship of life with Jesus Christ and with the church, the body of Christ on earth. This in turn leads to healing from the substantial damage in the relation to God and ourselves caused by sin (ibid, 36). The formulations described above lead toward a deeper understanding of the doctrine of baptism. In this way Pentecostals today are able to reflect theologically without being stuck in the obsolescence of polemics and demarcation.[26]

Three ecumenical insights. First: Concurrent dimensions
Through ecumenical dialogues and joint texts some common theological preconceptions of baptism have been established between the churches.[27] To a certain extent also the Nordic churches and Free Church denominations have been involved.[28] The main perspective is that repentance and faith on the basis of the preached word, baptism, and the bestowal of the Spirit are converging dimensions associated with the beginning of the Christian life. It appears to be the overall picture of the New Testament texts of salvation, specific in the programmatic statement in Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The contextual framework for baptism is the church, and discipleship constitutes the basic identity of the Christian lifestyle. The baptized person is to become a participant in the great drama that unites her with people of faith in the past, present and future. Here the collective dimension is even greater than the individual. A transfer of ownership has taken place. Baptism has taken on the character of a personal interpretation of life. Baptism has become the ID of the believer: “I am baptized, therefore I am.” Thus, baptism is linked more to the believer’s everyday life than to constructions of dogmatic theories, and it centers on salvation history as proclaimed gospel and as an appearance of the grace of God (Tit 2:11). Because baptism definitely is related to the beginning of the Christian life, all baptisms at a later stage on the path of faith will in part deplete baptism of its theological substance and cause only a fragmentary contact with the biblical material.[29]
The New Testament texts about baptism are deep and wide-ranging. One’s old life is placed under the judgment of the cross and a new life has begun – in itself a huge ethical imperative. Media morte in vita summas - in the middle of death we are still in life! The baptized has to count themselves as dead to sin but alive to God in Christ (Rom 6:11), because in baptism they are “buried with him through baptism into death” (v. 4). 
This thought is rather radical. In the spiritual sense, the believers could be considered lying in the same tomb as Jesus. But right there is also his whole church, in which every member on the body of Christ is linked together in a life and community that makes the church to be one.[30] Being baptized implies giving to God the proprietary right of one’s life (1Cor 6:19). I commit myself to the community of faith with which I share the tomb of baptism. I am no longer a private practicing Christian (2Cor 5:17). Therefore you may talk – as a Lutheran does – about salvation in baptism or – as a Baptist does – about baptism in salvation.[31] Every means of grace is built upon, and administered in accordance to, the mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory – hidden for ages and generations, but disclosed to the people of the Lord (Col 1:26-27).

Second:  A Christological centre
In both Pentecostal and Lutheran theology there is a close connection between the doctrine of baptism and Christ, between Jordan and Calvary.[32] The oneness in Christ is given through faith and confession, not by uniform practices which in turn have their origin in different historical circumstances. The awareness of Christ as the unifying centre establishes a tool for discernment that allows the universal church to have a span of insight and a variety of practice. Baptism does not refer back to the act itself or to the person being baptized. It always refers to Christ. And if baptism does not lead to, reinforce, and strengthen the faith in Christ, any model of practice will be considered flawed. In fact no unambiguous, outward rite is able to guarantee the unity of the church, but only the faith once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).[33]
The deep sign character which colours the doctrine of Baptism talks about the fundamental identity of being in Christ. Those who are one in Christ are also part of his people. In a way equally fundamental to the way you belong to Christ, you belong to everybody in the church of the Lord – independent of denomination. Because we are baptized into one body (1 Cor 12:13), what happens in one church is not insignificant for the others. As long as the churches are baptizing in the same name of the holy Trinity, every member and every church has a relationship of mutual accountability. This also affects the question – and attitude – of rebaptism.

Third: The inner relation between baptism and faith
In a Scandinavian context, some Lutheran theologians may sometimes talk about the relationship between faith and baptism with even greater clarity than many Baptists do.[34] In his commentary on the confessions of the Danish National Church, Peder Nørgaard-Højen declares that “if you break the relationship between baptism and faith, in reality you cause a factual abandonment of the doctrine of justification (Rom 1:17).”[35] In his opinion, the New Testament narratives of personal faith stand in the way of the notion of a vicarious faith (fides vicaria) applied to infant baptism. Sooner or later the baptismal fruits have to be acquired personally. In his book Dåpen og barnet (The Baptism and the Child) from 1945, the profiled Lutheran dogmatician from Norway, Leiv Aalen, wrote that where no one is able to guarantee that children receive a Christian education in public schools and at home – what I describe as “the room of faith” – infant baptism must cease, because training in faith and baptism are inextricably linked (Aalen 1945: 74). Though the baptismal act still can be regarded as valid, the baptism it is not effective without faith.[36]
Contemporary analyses within the Free Church movement point in the same direction. One asks whether an appropriate description of the religious and cultural environment in Scandinavia and Europe – despite all baptismal acts within the Folk Church frame of reference – in reality has not come quite close to the New Testament missional context. If so, baptism may appear more as a missional act than an anti-ecumenical action in the eyes of those who have lived as if God and the Church does not exist, and accordingly ask for baptism when they come to faith.[37]
In order to rescue the topic of faith and baptism from being reduced to a matter of theological theory, but rather incite to faith-building practices, it is natural for other churches to bring those critical concerns to the table in their ecumenical talks wherever the Folk Church has its representatives. Not only clergymen and scholars within the historical churches share their criticism. Also the BEM Declaration is concerned about these perspectives when the report challenges the majority churches to make “a self-critical rethinking of the meaning of the baptism with the assumption that it is performed in a “seemingly uncritical manner”. The contemporary educational reform program in The Church of Norway can be seen as a response to this criticism. Nevertheless, the section IV/13 in BEM needs to be discussed with even more seriousness within the churches whose practice of infant baptism means one form of baptism always precedes any other baptismal form.[38]

These reflections lead to the following summaries and proposals:
1)      Intentions. Instead of talking about each other’s doctrine of baptism as wrong or right, it is more constructive to argue that there are both weak and strong aspects of the various views of baptism, both with regards to content and practice. No one can readily proclaim that they represent “the New Testament baptism.” Every church tradition has its special challenges, but also its good intentions.
2)      Vitalization. The theological sober-mindedness related to what baptism is and the theological closeness of faith, baptism and the Spirit represent the most important prerequisite for developing a new practical-theological trail in dialogue with believers of another, sacramental tradition. Without such doctrinal depth, the baptismal consciousness will be further weakened, to no one’s benefit. Every church has a responsibility for itself to revitalize the proclamation of baptism and to integrate it as a natural part of the ongoing church work, regardless of the tradition the individual churches may be embedded in. Baptism is much more than just a naming ceremony or a confession of obedience. I also recommend the Pentecostal communities to include elements of prayer for the fullness of the Spirit to overwhelm the newly baptized, in accordance with models from the early church. Likewise, my recommendation to the Lutheran church is to link its baptismal practice clearly to an educational program aimed at different age levels.
3)      “Invalid” baptism? Since a greater understanding of the theological content of baptism is emerging among the churches, it is difficult to imagine baptism being used as a proselyte act of separation. Baptism is by nature a baptism of repentance into the kingdom of God. It belongs to the very beginning of the Christian faith. Baptism is not suitable as a way of becoming a member of another church. The unitary nature of the global church makes it difficult to maintain the claim that baptism performed in another recognized Christian church simply can be characterized as invalid as long as it takes place within “the room of faith” in home and church.
4)      Freedom of conscience? In the future there will be people who, as a matter of conscience, look into their first (infant) baptism because it does not seem to carry the weight of the biblical texts of a baptism which links repentance, personal faith and baptism together, and therefore asks to be baptized as an adult. The same principle applies also to churches which perform these baptisms on the basis of the new faith and confession of the baptizands and consider their new baptism to be analogous to the missional character of the New Testament. Thus it is necessary to discuss the problem of rebaptism in light of the freedom of conscience for churches as well as for individuals. Here pragmatic ideals confront theological normativity. A consistent practice dictates that such a principle would also have to be applied for those who do not want to be baptized again, since they are already living within the sphere of the theological content of baptism – even if they have been baptized in another church and in accordance with a different tradition.[39]
5)      A potential model. Based on the ideal of raising the theological consciousness related to baptism, church affiliation practices which in practice privatize the doctrine of baptism should be prevented. Baptism will always be an important church affair. So-called “transmitted membership” may therefore win distinction as a possible model. It emphasizes that the church is a congregation of baptized, personal believers. It also recognizes that the road to faith and service for many is a result of the contribution of other baptizing churches. Not only have they brought those persons to baptism, but also to a living faith and discipleship. It seems to be more than enough. For those previously baptized who want membership without being rebaptized because their theological understanding of baptism largely is in agreement with the church they want to attend, there needs to be developed a liturgy which emphasizes their commitment to Christ as Lord and their intention to work in loyalty to the new community. Furthermore, it is expected that new members will be loyal to the intent and form of baptism which is practised in the congregation. Within the framework of the churches which practice adult baptism, these new members have to be aware of the fact that the inclusion of their children – in the next phase – will take place during a blessing ceremony; a “baptism” without water.  A church cannot be enforced to introduce two different practises.
Toward a common understanding. To express a “common understanding” and to admit a “mutual recognition” and a “responsible commitment” is not the same as having an “unanimous comprehension” in all details. The latter is hardly possible. However, it is really possible to approve of an “inner factual coherence” of what baptism is all about in the global church in general. By expanding the theological language and by becoming familiar with the theological grammar already established by the churches through the ecumenical dialogues of the last decades, we already have in our possession the most basic insights for succeeding in the baptismal conversation.


1        In Norway – as in the other Nordic countries – the majority of the population are members of the Church of Norway, an evangelical Lutheran folk church. The state-church system was established in Denmark-Norway in 1537 due to the Lutheran reformation. The Church of Norway, practicing infant baptism, has 3.9 million members which represent around 79 percent of the Norwegian population. On 21st of May 2012, the Norwegian Parliament passed a constitutional amendment that granted the Church of Norway increased autonomy. Article 2 in the Norwegian Constitution stated until this historical amendment that “the Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State. The inhabitants professing it are bound to bring up their children in the same.” In the new wording of the Constitution there is no longer any reference to an “official religion of the State.” Article 2 in the Constitution now says that Norway's values are based on its “Christian and humanist heritage”. But still the public Church Law of 1996 designates the Church of Norway as “a confessional, missional, serving, and open Folk Church” with baptism (normally infant baptism) as criterion for membership.

2        A few Pentecostal churches in Norway have decided to welcome new members without asking for baptism at all. Their argument builds upon a reflection of the sufficiency of the status of faith alone for the establishment of membership. Thus these churches get around the topic of rebaptism for the act of affiliation. However, in the light of important passages in the story of the primitive church and in order to construct a sustainable foundation for the process of Christian initiation, you hardly can split the doctrine of faith from the doctrine of baptism. See the following passages: Acts 2:38-39; 8:12-13; 10:44-48; 19:4-5; 22:16.

3        For a discussion within a Scandinavian Pentecostal context, see: Alvarsson, Jan-Åke, (ed.), 2011. Medlemskap. En tvärvetenskaplig studie av medlemskap i Pingströrelsen (Membership. A Cross-Scientific Study of the Question of Membership in the Pentecostal Movement). Uppsala: Institutet för Pentekostala Studier.

4        Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (the BEM Declaration), 1982. Faith and Order Paper No. 111. Geneva: World Council of Churches.

5        In Charta Oecumenica the historical churches in Europe commit themselves to work towards “visible unity of the Church, expressed in the mutual recognition of baptism and in eucharistic fellowship, as well as in common witness and service,” source: http://www.robinblount.co.uk/charter2.html. The churches want to “recognize that every person can freely choose his or her religious and church affiliation as a matter of conscience, which means not inducing anyone to convert through moral pressure or material incentive, but also not hindering anyone from entering into conversion of his or her own free will.” The churches also intend to “overcome the feeling of self-sufficiency within each church, and to eliminate prejudices; to seek mutual encounters and to be available to help one another”. Especially the churches propose to “defend the rights of minorities and to help reduce misunderstandings and prejudices between majority and minority churches…” The final version of the text of Charta Oecumenica was received at the SEC/CCEE Ecumenical Encounter held in Strasbourg in April 2001, containing guidelines for the growing cooperation among the churches in Europe.

6        Baptist, Eucharist & Ministry. Report on the Process and Responses. From 1982 to 1990, 1990. Faith and Order Paper No. 8. Geneva: World Council of Churches.

7        As an example, see the latest convergence document from WCC: The Church, Towards a Common Vision, Faith and Order Commission, Document No. GEN 06, 2012. The same development seems to be perceptible on the local level as a result of the ecumenical involvement by churches from different traditions. Young people show the way by their desire to move beyond church borders. Through impulses from other churches they achieve important ecumenical competence.

8        A remarkable case is the development within the frame of the Norwegian School of Theology, an old Lutheran bastion. During the last decade the school has given a wide range of educational programs in Pentecostal, Methodist and Catholic theology. This is based on substantial reflections about how to cooperate in the academic field without erasing – but rather listen and learn from – the distinctiveness of each church tradition. See Austad, Thorleif, 2001. Teologi i kirkens rom: Menighetsfakultetet som kirkelig og luthersk fakultet (Theology in the Area of the Church: The Norwegian School of Theology as Ecclesiastical and Lutheran Seminary). Oslo: Lærerrådet.

9        Minos, Emanuel, 2009. Det har ringt for tredje gang (It has tolled for the third time). Skjetten: Hermon Publishing.

10      Borrowed from a song written by Paul Simon in 1969 and recorded in 1970 by Simon & Garfunkel.

11      Ingrid Eskilt and Ingunn Folkestad Breistein, 2008. “Ecumenism and mission in an Alliance Perspective”, p. 229-244, in: Norwegian Journal of Mission Studies 62/4. As late as in 1939 infant baptism and adult baptism were practised in Germany within the same Pentecostal assemblies, Block-Hoell 1964, p. 164-167.

12      In his PhD dissertation, Terje Hegertun surveys the central aspects of the ecumenical positions of the Pentecostal movement in Norway. While the initial years were characterized by ecumenical ideals and the movement was placed in an interconfessional framework, a narrowing of perspective took place after Barratt’s own rebaptism in 1913. Gradually this led to an ecumenical isolation and in homogenizing categories of agreement, especially regarding the doctrine of baptism. See Hegertun, Terje, 2009. «Det brodersind som pinseaanden nødvendigvis maa føde». Analyse av økumeniske posisjoner i norsk pinsebevegelse med henblikk på utviklingen av en pentekostal økumenikk og fornyelse av økumeniske arbeidsformer (The Mind of Brotherhood that the Spirit of Pentecost with Necessity has to Give Birth to”. An analysis of Ecumenical Positions in the Pentecostal Movement of Norway, Regarding Generating a Pentecostal Ecumenism and a Renewal of Ecumenical Methods), Trondheim: Tapir akademiske forlag, p. 73.

13      Bloch-Hoell, Nils E., 1956. Pentecostalism: a survey of Pentecostal origins, development and characteristics, in particular the movement's design in Norway. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.  An English version was published in 1964: The Pentecostal Movement, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, pp. 164-67.

14      Aalen, Leif, 1945. Dåpen og barnet. Barnedåp eller «troendes dåp?” (Baptism and the Child. Infant Baptism or “Believer’s Baptism”?), Oslo: Luther Forlag, p. 45.

15      Eidberg, Peder A. 2007. ”Baptist values ​​historically illuminated”, in Baptist. Journal of Baptist History, Theology and Practice 13/1, pp. 19-35.

16      In: Henriksen, Jan-Olav, 1999. På grensen til Den andre: om teologi og postmodernitet (At the Border of The Other: On Theology and Postmodernity). Oslo: Ad notam Gyldendal.

17      Klaus, Byron D., Douglas Petersen, and Murray W. Dempster, 1991. Called and Empowered: Global Mission in Pentecostal Perspective. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson.

18      Already from the time of the first century of the church, we can observe the flexibility with reference to the question of the quantity of water. A striking example is the advices coming from the oldest surviving written catechism, Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles). The second part of the text begins with an instruction on baptism. If possible you have to use “living water” (natural, flowing water). But if the water is insufficient for immersion, it may be poured three times on the head. But observe: the ideal was flowing water. Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lake/fathers2.v.html

19      In the Lutheran tradition there is a clear distinction between form and content. If a person is baptized in accordance to these conditions but in another tradition (such as the Baptist’ tradition) he or she does not need to be rebaptized to become a member of a Lutheran Church.  In deciding whether a prior baptismal act should be regarded as valid, the amount of water is of no relevance. In Pentecostal circles the position is near the opposite: the act of immersion is evaluated as just as important as other liturgical elements. Here baptism is linked to the image of the funeral of one’s old identity, which probably becomes more clearly expressed through the Baptist tradition of immersion.

20      The kerygma – the message proclaimed – upon which the Christian life is built is the righteousness which is able to say that “the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…” (Rom 10:8). See also Eph 1:1-12 where “the blessings”, “the grace and peace”, “the adoption of sonship”, “the redemption”, “the forgiveness of sins, “the wisdom and understanding”, the mystery”, “the purpose of his will”, “our hope in Christ”, “the message of truth”, “the promised Holy Spirit”,  and “the redemption”, is given as proclaimed treasures, totally without our own involvement and personal ownership as such.

21      These non-empirical and non-perceptible reflections cross the line of Hume’s doctrine of empiricism by not being “faded copies of earlier sense impression” or “figment of the imagination”.
22      Biddy, Wesley Scott, 2006. “Re-envisioning the Pentecostal Understanding of the Eucharist: An Ecumenical Proposal”, in: Pneuma, vol.28/2, pp. 228-252.

23      Joø, Odd Arne, 2001. «Sakramentene. Et baptistisk standpunkt i de bilaterale samtalene mellom Metodistkirken i Norge og Det Norske Baptistsamfunn» ("The Sacraments. A Baptist Position in the Bilateral Talks Between the United Methodist Church in Norway and the Norwegian Baptist Union” s. 19-46. In: Baptist. Tidsskrift for baptistisk historie, teologi og praksis (The Baptist. Journal of the Baptist History, Theology and Practice), 8/1.

24      In: Nigel Wright, 1994. “‘Koinonia’ and Baptist Ecclesiology: Self-Critical Reflections from Historical and Systematic Perspectives” in: Baptist Quarterly 35.8, pp. 363-75.

25      Dopet. Trons hemlighet. Vägledning i den kristna trons grunder (Baptism. The Secret of faith. Instruction in the Foundations of Christian Belief), 2006. Stockholm: Pingst/Libris.

26      Similarly a Swedish charismatic church leader, Ulf Ekman, states that non-sacramental churches normally have a rationalistic conception of the sacraments, which might in turn lead to a decline in the Christian life. It is not recognized how the grace of God is conveyed in a manifold of ways. However, the grace is there through the presence of Jesus, whether we believe it or not, but it is of no use if we don’t receive it in faith, in: Ekman, Ulf, 2003. Grunden för vår tro (The Foundation of Our Belief), Uppsala: Livets Ords Förlag.  

27      BEM 1982, pp. 2-6. See also the document from 2011: One Baptism: Towards Mutual Recognition. A Study Text, Faith and Order Paper No. 210, Geneve: World Council of Churches 2011, Source: http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/files/wccmain/documents/p2/2011/One_Baptism_Corrected_for_

28      During the last ten years the Pentecostal Movement has become a member of the national ecumenical councils in Norway and Sweden respectively. Consequently, the Pentecostals draw extensively on insights from the dialogue processes and have become familiar with the theological language which has been established over the years.

29      One example is the Pauline ascertainment in Gal 3, 26-27 that "in Christ you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”. This shows that it is the relationship between faith and baptism which is the adequate point of departure, not distance and differentiation. The Baptist theology seems to have only two options: to continue a practice in which the conscious consideration of baptism gradually will be diminished, or deepen the kind of reflection which connects baptism with the entrance to the Christian faith and life.

30      According to paragraph 22 in De Oecumenismo – the Decree of Ecumenism from Vatican II, baptism “establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it. But of itself Baptism is only a beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ. Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith…».

31      Eckerdal, Lars and Per Erik Persson, 1981. Dopet – en livstydning. Om dopets innebörd och liturgi (Baptism – an Interpretation of Life. On the Content and Liturgy of Baptism), Stockholm, Verbum. See also: Johnsson, Lennart, 1999. Baptist Reconsideration of Baptism. Uppsala: Faculty of Uppsala University.

32      For a Pentecostal perspective in the Norwegian context: see Rudmoen, Ragnar, 1986. Kristen dåp (Christian Baptism). Oslo: Filadelfiaforlaget AS. For a Lutheran approach, see Schlink, Edmund, 1969. The Doctrine of Baptism. London: Concordia Publishing House, pp. 120-130.

33      Sannes, Kjell Olav, 2008. «Dåpen, troen og Ånden – et luthersk perspektiv» (“The Baptism, the Faith and the Spirit – a Lutheran Perspective”), in: Norsk Tidsskrift for misjonsvitenskap (Norwegian Journal of Science of Mission), 62/4, pp. 220-228.

34      This is also articulated within the growing presence of the Catholic adult baptismal tradition in Nordic countries. When the candidate arrives at the church, she meets at the door by the vicar who asks: “What do you seek in the Church of God”? The answer is: “The faith”. The question continues: “What are you given by faith”? The candidate answers: “The eternal life”.  

35      Nørgaard-Højen, Peder, 2001. Den danske folkekirkes bekendelsesskrifter. Kommentar (The Confessions of the Danish National Church. A Commentary), København: Forlaget Anis. See also: Tro og Dåp eller Dåp og Tro? Bidrag til diskussion af dåbssynet i tilknytning til Det økumeniske Fællesråds studierapport 1977 (Faith and Baptism or Baptism or Faith? Contribution to the Discussion of the Baptism in Connection with the Report from the Danish Ecumenical Council), 1982. København: Det økumeniske Fællesråd. See also: Højen, Peder, 1977. Tro og Dåb i exegetisk, økumenisk og systematisk belysning (Faith and Baptism in the Light of Exegetical, Ecumenical, and Systematic Perspectives), Lumen. Studierapport. København: Det økumeniske Fællesråds Dåbsgruppe.

36      In Confessio Augustana the role of faith is obvious. In article IV (On Justification) it is stated that the reformators “teach that  men cannot be justified before God by their own powers, merits, or works; but are justified freely for Christ's sake through faith. Art. XIII (On the Use of the Sacraments) underline that “men must use Sacraments so as to join faith with them, which believes the promises that are offered and declared unto us by the Sacraments.” Editio princeps (the first edition) adds that “they condemn those that teach that the Sacraments do justify by the work done (ex opere operato), and do not teach that faith which believes the remission of sins is requisite in the use of Sacraments”. Source (in Latin and English translation): http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds3.iii.ii.html

37      Bloch-Hoell, Nils E., 1976. «Dåpen som økumenisk problem» («The Baptism as an Ecumenical Problem») s.100-117, in: Kirken og nådemidlene (The Church and the Means of Grace). Eds.: Asheim, Ivar, Torleiv Austad, Åge Holter og Magne Sæbø. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

38      Hegertun, Terje, 2008. «Refleksjoner omkring Ånden, troen og dåpen» ("Reflections About Spirit, Faith and Baptism") s. 212-219, in: Norsk Tidsskrift for misjonsvitenskap (Norwegian Journal of Mission Studies), 62/4.

39      Roy, Kevin.1997. Baptism, Reconciliation and Unity. Carlisle: Paternoster Press.

Publisert i Pneuma 35 (2013) 235-252