Your Child’s Profession of Faith

GundersonDiscerning the genuineness of your child’s profession of faith and how hard to urge them to accept Christ as their Savior is a matter of great concern to us as parents. Dennis Gunderson, in his book Your Child’s Profession of Faith gives a good deal of wisdom in dealing with your children.

This small book of 58 pages consists of seven chapters which I will summarize as follows:

  • Chapter 1: “A Parent’s Greatest Concern”–Our greatest concern is that we lead our child to know Christ as Savior while not manipulating them into making a profession they do not really understand.
  •  Chapter 2: “The Intellectual Immaturity of Children”–This chapter deals with the reality of the intellectual immaturity of children. At what point can they truly understand what it means to commit to Christ as Lord and Savior? Help is provided in discerning whether our children have “come to a point where he can take a step of independent devotion to Jesus Christ…” (18).
  • Chapter 3: “The Changeableness and Instability of Children”–Gunderson distinguishes between good intentions and resolve to follow through with committments in this brief chapter. He recommends seeing if a child follows through with his or her committment for a time–showng resolve–before encouraging believer’s baptism.
  • Chapter 4: “The Likelihood of Deception in Children”–It is argued here that agreement with the gospel facts alone is not enough for salvation and that we should not assure our children of their eternal security based on their agreement alone.
  • Chapter 5: “Childhood–A Time for Patient Cultivation”–The focus on parenting our children is on cultivating obedience in their life. If your child cannot clearly express his profession of faith he should not be baptized yet and he should not be pressured to make such a profession until he has understood of what he speaks.
  • Chapter 6: “The Manisfestations of Faith”–In the author’s opinion, there must be sustainable evidence of understanding of the work of Christ, affectionate love for Christ, a determination to obey Christ and God’s Word, and a repudiation of sin.
  • Chapter 7: “Some Positive Concluding Counsel”–Encourage your child in his or her expressions of faith, the author says. Challenge him with the committment that coming to Christ entails using Scripture. Urge Christ-Centeredness, not profession-centeredness on your child.  

  So what do I think of the book and its advice? Positively, first, Gunderson is Scriptural throughout. He causes us as parents to think through passages on children with ours in mind and on salvation with our children and their understanding in view. Second, he rightly combats the easy-believism that is evident in many children’s ministries and outreaches. Children must understand the gospel before they make a profession. This takes time and teaching for younger ones particularly. Phrases like “Ask Jesus into your heart” do not contain the full gospel. What child wouldn’t want Jesus in his tender heart, along with Barney, Blue and Mia and Miguel? Third, he encourages observation of children who profess faith before verbal assurance is given and baptism is allowed. This observation shows they have changed their loyalty from self to Christ and no longer live for sin. Fourth, he encourages parents to work hand in hand with their pastors for the spiritual growth of their children. This is all great advice.

Negatively, I think Gunderson argues a little too strongly for the inability of children to understand the gospel and make a valid profession of faith even with immature understanding. He doesn’t argue against children being able to be saved and he states that more than once, but that spirit still comes across. Christ said “of such are the Kingdom of God” and Paul said of Timothy “that from a child (word for small child used) you have known the Scriptures that are able to make you wise unto salvation” (2 Tim 3:15). He recommends waiting for baptism, but does not suggest a time frame.

In my opinion when a child gives evidence of understanding the work of Christ, can express this, and has given evidence of making right choices as a new creation and has shown a love for God and His Word, the child should be presented with the command to be baptized and it should be seen whether he or she has the desire to obey God in this way. Children seem to develop the ability to understand these things in early to mid elementary school. Any child or other convert for that matter will need challenged to persevere in their faith by obeying God’s Word and should be told assurance comes in that way, should doubts arise.

Overall this book should be on your shelf. It is less than $4.00 and it gives you very helpful Biblical principles to consider, particularly when your children are under the age of 8 in my opinion.   You can get a copy in the Inter-City Bookstore.


7 Responses to “Your Child’s Profession of Faith”

  1. 1 Will Pareja
    March 11, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks for the mini-review of this book. For those wanting to read more, I would encourage Vern Poythress’ (almost) classic article on this subject. It is not for the faint in heart, but it really provokes us to think about the nature of response/conversion in the local church context. The genius of the article, I believe, is the tie he draws b/t adult and child conversion. Though, he is a Presbyterian, he is really fair to us Baptists. I applaud his irenic tone and again highly recommend it. http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1997Indifferentism.htm

    See You all this Lord’s Day, God willing.

  2. March 11, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the link, Will. Didn’t know you were coming out this way! We will look forward to seeing you.

    On reading Poythress’ article, I think he points out the tensions (he calls them rigorist and indifferentist I think) when it comes to baptizing people, in our discussion, children.

    He says: “In actual practice, change might often come gradually. Let us picture a typical case. Change starts when the elders or leaders in a baptist church become convinced of several related truths: that baptism marks the inception of life with Christ and the joining of the church; that credible profession of faith rather than infallible evidence of regeneration is required; that credible profession must be appropriate to the age and gifts of the person; that faith consists primarily in trust in Christ rather than intellectual mastery, precise verbal articulation of the truth, or self-conscious, autonomous decision-making.” I agree with this description as what we do here (“rather than…precise verbal articulation” is a little open to interpretation).

    While Gunderson is a little too ‘rigorist” in my opinion, Poythress pushes things a little too far down, trying seemingly to (as fairly as possible I agree) bring Baptists and paedobaptists into a continuum of sorts which I don’t think can be done.

  3. 3 Will Pareja
    March 11, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Quick follow-up on the article I recommended. It probably goes w/out saying… Don’t take my recommendation of something thought-provoking as a full blown endorsement. Individual priestly discernment is always advised!=+)

  4. March 11, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    No problem on that–I think it is a helpful article to read (for those not faint of heart :-))

  5. 5 Will Pareja
    March 11, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    I hear you. I don’t think he even addresses the Baptists that immediately dunk every professing person (w/ little discernment or validation). He deals w/ the Baptists who are rigorist (probably Calvinistic and/or Reformed) and, then, (as you say), attempts a “continuum” of the two… Just not going to happen.
    I tend to agree w/ him about the re-baptism issue. Perhaps, he oversimplifies his illustration, but the point is well-made. I was immersed twice; once @ 8 yrs & then @ 18! So, now, doing the math, I may stand in the historic waters of one stream of the ancient faith in that I have experienced trinal baptism (pun intended). I was sprinkled un-salvifically as a Roman Catholic infant in Colombia and then the two times I just mentioned. LOL!!
    Seriously, though, the mystery of regeneration, imho, throws a wrench in the practice of re-baptism.

  6. 6 Daniel Huff
    March 24, 2008 at 10:20 am


    How about a signup list in ABF with a ‘special’ price from the bookstore :-). Maybe HBs and Cstone class together???

    Just a thought,


  7. March 24, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Good idea. Of course this one only retails for $3.95, but I am sure we can get discounts on some others.

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