Original Research

The ritual of baptism as status-transformation

Pieter van Staden
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 57, No 1/2 | a1883 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v57i1/2.1883 | © 2001 Pieter van Staden | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 December 2001 | Published: 14 December 2001

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Pieter van Staden, Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit, South Africa

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Abstract

The ritual of baptism as status-transformation. Rituals are social mechanisms that have the very important function of effecting transitions in social and/or religious roles and status. Such transitions can be both internal and external in nature. Rituals should be differentiated from ceremonies. The latter function to confirm the roles and issues of status in the institutions of family, politics, education, religion, and economics. Ritual is the mechanism by which role and status are changed in a valid way in order to ensure spiritual growth and strengthen the bond with the church. The purpose of the article is to comment on the apparent loss of experiential meaning associated with the ritual of baptism in the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, but probably also in most protestant churches that practice the ritual of infant baptism. The thesis is that infant baptism functions like a ceremony rather than a ritual the infant, not present at its own baptism in any real sense except physically, is never able to experience the affective and cognitive transition originally wrought by the ritual. Therefore, if the church does not introduce some measure to effect the bonding, the individual will always have trouble in identifying with the church.

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