Infant Baptism?

Infant Baptism

I have learned a lot from my Paedobaptist (Infant Baptizing) friends. Even though I ultimately disagree with their practice, I think they bring a paradigm to the table which challenges a number of unhealthy American evangelical assumptions.

Here are three things I believe we can learn from the Paedobaptist:

1) There are ultimately only two covenants.

I find many Christians assume people fall into one of three categories: 1) a handful of extreme followers of Jesus, 2) a handful of lawless unregenerate, and 3) the majority of “normal” people who are not too evil but not necessarily too religious.

But the Scripture rejects the third category. People are either a part of the kingdom of light or a part of the kingdom of dark. Jesus or Satan. Good or evil. The Scripture doesn’t leave space for an in between or “pending” kingdom. You are either in Christ or out of Christ.

The question Paedobaptists pose is, which covenant kingdom are Christian babies? Are they a part of the Christian community of Jesus or unregenerate community of Satan? And, if Christian babies are part of the Christian community, then why deny them the sign of entrance to the kingdom of Jesus, namely, baptism?

2) Everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus.

It’s very common to hear evangelical preachers teach that people enter into a personal relationship with Jesus once they “accept him into their heart.” So they wait for their children to grow old enough to say a prayer and accept Jesus into their heart, and thus enter into a “personal relationship” with Jesus before the children can be baptized.

Paedobaptists are troubled that nowhere in Scripture is mentioned such a prayer, and they further point out that all persons, whether of the “age of accountability” or not, have a personal relationship with Jesus; either people are related to God in righteousness in Christ, or they are outside of Christ in a relationship of wrath. Either way, every person has a deeply intimate relationship with Jesus, either of unity or of rebellion.

If Christian infants have a personal relationship of grace with Jesus by being a part of the covenant community, then why not give them baptism to symbolize what is true about them?

3) We must be humble to consider our paradigms and assumptions when proof-texting doctrines and practices.

Evangelicals are quick to look for proof texts to assert practices. Where are the verses about baptizing babies, and where are the verses about age of accountability? etc?

But Paedobaptists are wise to point out the human tendency to read the Bible with assumptions and paradigms which shape the way we interpret and practice Scripture. I appreciate this challenge: to be honest about our paradigms and let our assumptions be challenged, and to search the whole of Scripture to inform our practices and doctrines, and not merely proof text.

Believer’s Baptism

This all being said, I would like to outline a couple points where I believe Paedobaptists have missed the mark, and ultimately why I disagree with the practice of infant baptism:

 

1. Baptism and repentance go hand in hand.
“Repent and be baptized…” (Acts 2:38). This is the Word of God. God’s Word calls every person to respond to the resurrected Son of God in repentance and baptism. Repentance and baptism go hand in hand  throughout the New Testament.

A person enters the kingdom of God through repentance just as much as baptism. Just as each Christian child ought to grow up and come to terms with his or her own sin and repent, so each Christian child ought to grow up and come to terms with the obedience of baptism.

The call to baptism is a call to personal repentance. Unfortunately, personal repentance is not a thing a community of faith can do to a baby.

For this reason I believe baptism – like repentance – is a part of every Christian kid’s personal growth and maturity. Christian children should grow up in the faith and come to terms with their sin and respond to the Word of Jesus and repent and be baptized

 

2. Something actually did change when Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant.

 

Paedobaptists are in general Covenant Theologians (CT), which means they believe in a continuity between Israel and the Church. In other words, Israel IS the church and the church IS Israel.
But I have never heard a clear answer from CT to the question, what exactly is “NEW” in the covenant inaugurated by Jesus (Matthew 26:28)?
I believe one of the “New” aspects of the covenant of Jesus is the breakdown of the national barriers of the nation of Israel. The New Covenant community has nothing to do with a nation, but rather a Spirit-filled community living in the midst of many nations, families, workplaces, etc (Eph 2).
We are not defined by a circumcision which by default identifies us with the nation or family in which we find ourselves. Rather, we are defined as a community which breaks out of these barriers in repentance and baptism. This community is made up of individuals who make this decision.

Conclusion?

In sum, I believe that baptism involves the personal volition of the individual involved. The New Testament identifies baptism more with repentance and believing the Gospel, i.e. acts of the will of the person involved, rather than with circumcision. I believe that is the key theological mistake of Paedobaptism.
Granted, this is a complex issue, and my article is by no means a slam dunk. I realize I have not dealt in depth with Scripture here. So this article is more of an invitation to consider the subject.
Infant Baptism? Yay or nay?
The best direction for this conversation is the Scripture. Please add to this conversation with an open Bible.
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18 thoughts on “Infant Baptism?

  1. I think the fundamental question MUST be theological and ultimately not directly biblical. While i really appreciate the way this article is parsed out and reasonable to encourage discussion, i think it misses the ultimate challenge such a predicament applies to our faith.

    Can i, a separate individual, save another through my actions? Naturally there are all numbers of gray areas and theological arguments for how a person might save another or contribute, but ultimately the question comes down to whether we accept God as wholly sovereign, or partially sovereign working through our actions to save others. How you inter-personally answer that question is ultimately what will decide where you fall in this issue, and where you fall in faith as well.

    I would suggest if you cannot force repentance on a person, it seems silly to even begin to suggest that a washing in water or sprinkling of the forehead of a child without conscious capacity to act in accordance with the spirit (no matter the age of accountability or personal relationship with God) is baptism.

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  2. I thought I would offer some dialog with your points. Hope some of it is paradigm shifting. I will proceed according to your order putting your words in quotes. Please fasten seat belts….

    “Infant Baptism
    1) There are ultimately only two covenants.
    People are either a part of the kingdom of light or a part of the kingdom of dark. Jesus or Satan.”

    There are layers of understanding in scripture. A great illustration of this is Job. Who took Job’s flocks? Was it the Sabeans, Satan, or God. The answer is, yes. While your “Jesus or Satan” is correct on one level, maybe in light of the baptism discussion discerning whether you are in the first Adam or the second Adam would be more helpful than trying to sort out supernatural matters outside of our grasp. While the NT writers may know the deep things of God, we must deal with the matters more sociologically and ecclesiastically. We both know that wolves and tares and angels of light get into the mix sometimes, thus for us to ultimately know who is in Satan or Jesus is out of our fallible ability. Our ability is only to sociologically recon people as in Christ or not.

    It is significant that humans are a race, not a host. The crass individualism of modern times often blinds us to this biblical truth. Sociology is fundamental to our constitution as humans created in the image of God. For the subject of baptism with fallible humans, I find reading the Bible with a sociological bent is very helpful. We are not autonomous individuals, rather we are always seen in relation to God or others.

    As was pointed out elsewhere, both sides of the issue – paedos and credos – do not ultimately know the final state of individuals. Paedos baptize on the basis of the promise of God and the knowledge that children in Christian households are “holy,” (I Cor 7:14) i.e., set apart from the first Adam and placed by virtue of God’s sovereign grace into a home that will pour out the Word and Spirit onto the child, and into the context of the very body of Christ. Credos baptize on the basis of a profession that the baptiser deems as credible for various and sundry reasons. Both sides, historically, have seen those who do not persevere in their baptism.

    Both sides seem agreed on this – no matter what other mysterious aspects of baptism we cannot discern or articulate or agree on – we do agree that baptism is the sign that does set apart one into the christian community- or at least we all agree that those in the christian community should be baptized.

    So, in light of these thoughts are Christian babies to be considered/accounted as part of the Christian community (the body of Christ) or as part of the world, ie, the race of the first fallen Adam? We agree there is no third category.

    “2) Everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus.”
    I thought this section was spot on. Needs to be shouted from the rooftops!

    “3) We must be humble to consider our paradigms and assumptions when proof-texting doctrines and practices.”

    Again, spot on, Jesse. The debate will not be settled by proof txts. Biblical context, Biblical theology, and all the assumptions that get consciously and subconsciously brought into the discussion often have much more bearing than actual proof texts do. The influence of American revivalism, Lockean individualism and Cartesian rationalism often play a far bigger part than many are willing or able to recognize.

    Part Two – Believer’s Baptism
    “1. Baptism and repentance go hand in hand.
    “Repent and be baptized…” (Acts 2:38). This is the Word of God. God’s Word calls every person to respond to the resurrected Son of God in repentance and baptism. Repentance and baptism go hand in hand throughout the New Testament.”

    At first I was going to challenge this on the basis that there are numerous NT texts on baptism that do not mention repentance. But upon further thought I think you are right as long as we are agreeing on what repentance is.

    The primary meaning of repent is to change directions or to be put on a road to think differently. Repentance is not sorrow or regret or mourning or confessing sins as sometimes accompanies repentance. It is simply, in its broadest understanding, changing directions.

    This is why we see, for example, the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26ff), a god fearing man on his way coming back from worshipping Jehovah in Jerusalem, and upon hearing good news from Philip he wants to be baptized. No notion that he was a pagan sinner needing to confess sins and to mourn. He was one with faith that God brought more light to; brought him to a place where he is now following the Savior of Israel and the Savior of whole world including Ethiopia – All the nations are given to the Son as an inheritance. He is one in the transitional period between testaments, before the Temple is destroyed, one who was given understanding of the transformation of Israel to the Church. One, who like Simeon and Anna in Luke 2 where awaiting the redemption of Israel.

    Peter at Pentecost accuses the Jews of crucifying the Lord of glory. They do need repent (change direction in their lives) AND confess this sin. They are changing from crucifying the Lord to praising the Lord. They confess their sin, because they have sin to confess, and they repent, i.e., change direction and sociological relationships.

    So, with this distinction of a more biblical understanding of repentance in contrast to the connotation of the revivalist english usage, this change of direction perfectly illustrates what happens with children of Christian parents. They are, by generation of the seed of their father – who, with that seed – is procreating according to the flesh of Adam and are in need of repentance, a change. But upon being conceived in a christian home, they are holy, set apart (I Cor 7:14). They have a change from conception to follow Jesus the second Adam and not follow Adam and the ways of the world that they would have done in a pagan household. There is a repentance graciously given to these children by God, demonstrating that we are born again, not of the will of man, but by the will of God. (John 1:13)

    I agree that “each Christian child ought to grow up and come to terms with his or her own sin and repent” i.e., turn from continuing in that sin. But this is true of all of us in the body of Christ – we confess our sins to God trusting He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. But we do this on an ongoing basis as we commit sin and/or receive more light, just as children should be taught to do. But the basis of baptism is not this, rather it is a repentance a “change” of sociological relationship from the first Adam to the Last Adam which they receive by virtue of the grace of God in them being born into a Christian home.

    “The call to baptism is a call to personal repentance. Unfortunately, personal repentance is not a thing a community of faith can do to a baby.” This, I would say, is a key point of contention between our positions. While I agree that baptism is a call to personal repentance (we have already agreed above that everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus), I would add, that this is exactly what happens to the baby born into a Christian home. It is exactly the “change” from the natural sociological relationship with the community of the world (the race of the first Adam) into the supernatural sociological relationship with the community of faith (the race of the last Adam – the body of Christ). The baby is NOT in limbo, nor is he/she being raised as a pagan. The baby is on the road to glory if he/she perseveres; and accordingly should be accounted as part of the body by the rest of the Body of Christ.

    “2. Something actually did change when Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant.”

    This is a very odd section. I know and have read numerous CT people, and not one believes the Church is Israel without BIG qualifications, often the very kind you point out. I do not know which CT people you have read but I have NEVER seen one say the Church is Israel without strongly proclaiming there is significant transition, very much along the lines of the article you let me read awhile back. So, I am quite confused by this section and why you would say this.

    I believe with all my heart, as well as I would think every CT person I know would gladly confess that the church is a “Spirit-filled community living in the midst of many nations, families, workplaces.”

    I Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

    “we are defined as a community which breaks out of these barriers in repentance and baptism. This community is made up of individuals who make this decision.” I would agree with this with the understanding that repentance is a change of mind and direction from the Adam (of the flesh) to Jesus (the Adam of the Spirit and fulfillment of all the OT prophecies and types and shadows). But I would rephrase the last line as, “this community is made up of individuals who believe and persevere in the faith.”

    “Conclusion?”

    I agree with you that “this is a complex issue, and your article is by no means a slam dunk.” 😉

    Granted there are numerous other avenues to go down on this issue, but I tried to confine myself to dialog with your points. I hope I have offered a few morsels of presuppositional challenge to keep the dialog open and full of light with no heat. The only thing missing is the pint/pitcher!

    blessings…
    ~ richard

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    1. Richard,

      I)

      Thanks for the clarification on my second point in the Believer’s Baptism section. I thought I remembered you in a different discussion mentioning Acts 7:38’s reference to the “ecclesia” in the Wilderness as support for the fact the Israel is identified as the Church, but I might be wrong.

      II)

      The example of the Ethopian Eunuch may not have involved mourning for sin, but his baptism DOES involve a willful response to the Gospel and a decision to obey Jesus. In fact, prior to being baptized, the person and work of Jesus must be explained to the Ethopian Eunuch. As you say, the Ethopian Eunuch is “a god fearing man on his way coming back from worshipping Jehovah in Jerusalem”… talk about childlike faith! Yet he is not baptized til he hears of and responds to the Gospel in obedience.

      As far as I know, every example of baptism in the New Testament involves the person’s hearing the Gospel of Jesus (not coming to a robust theological understanding of baptism…) and then acting in obedience to be baptized.

      3)

      You point out the following:

      “There is a repentance graciously given to these children by God, demonstrating that we are born again, not of the will of man, but by the will of God.”

      I agree that repentance is given. But the fact that God grants repentance does not mean that repentance does not involve human volition. In fact, the Bible puts God’s sovereign saving together with human will most of the time, including the verse prior to the passage you cite:

      “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name…”

      Can you point out a single instance in Scripture where a person repents, and it does not involve a personal decision?

      4)

      Can you explain how 1 Cor 7:14 supports the idea that Christian children are holy by virtue of their parents?

      “14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”

      Seems to me his point is precisely the opposite of what you are saying. He is equating the children with an UNBELIEVING spouse. The children are holy exactly in the same way that the “unbelieving” husband or wife is holy. They are set apart (because of their close relationship to a believer), to be exposed to the grace that they witness from the believing spouse or parents.

      Would you say that the unbelieving spouse is part of the covenant in the same way that a Christian family’s infant is a part of the covenant?

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      1. Jesse, thanks for the interaction and questions. I will respond to a few and note that I am currently working on a longer response I hope to be able to post later this evening dealing more directly with your concerns on volition.

        I) On the Acts 7:38, it was me, but I was in no way implying Israel = Church without tremendous qualification and transformation – along the lines of the article you posted before. My point IIRC was trying to point out that in the old covenant community of faith the children were included and in the new covenant community of faith there is no indication that children should now be excluded – so our assumption should be one of inclusion of children unless the NT indicates otherwise. But there are numerous things like circumcision, the temple, sacrifices, food laws, Aaronic Priesthood, etc that have radically changed.

        II) The Ethiopian Eunuch. I grant all you say about him but you may have missed my point. I was trying to point out that repentance is a change of disposition or mind or direction. In the context I was trying to make clear that repentance does not necessarily involve mourning or confession of sin, rather a change in direction. The Ethiopian now had a realized direction, distinct from the shadow orientation and direction he had before under the OT veil – but he was already a believer; he needed to be oriented to the new covenant community. Before he worshiped at the temple which was a type and shadow of Jesus, now he worships Jesus.

        He is not baptized til he hears because this baptism is a new practice and he had never been introduced to it before. A new heavens and new earth have now been inaugurated – with the coming of Christ all things have become new. Several instances in Acts about believers hearing about various baptisms for the first time. The NT was not yet written. The practice now is locked in the Canon.

        I hope to deal with the infant’s wilful response in my post later this evening.

        3) “Can you point out a single instance in Scripture where a person repents, and it does not involve a personal decision?”

        Again, I am thinking of repentance as a change of direction or orientation not some crisis of conscience or cognitive rationalism. As I pointed out in my first response. We are, by virtue of being the seed of our earthly father, a son of Adam, born of the flesh. But we are born again by the Spirit to be sons of the second Adam Jesus. This transition is a repentance.

        David is a great illustration of this. In Ps 51:5 he states, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” acknowledging his covenantal relationship to the first Adam. But he also says in Ps 22:9,10 “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God,“ here acknowledging his new direction, his graciously given orientation and faith in the true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        As a son of the flesh, we choose to walk in the flesh, as a son of the Spirit we choose to walk in the Spirit. So, would you call that a personal decision? He is graciously given a faith, a new orientation, a repentance, in the womb and his choices are for God rather than for fallen Adam.

        …I have more on this coming…

        4) “Would you say that the unbelieving spouse is part of the covenant in the same way that a Christian family’s infant is a part of the covenant?”

        No, not at all. While they are both set apart, holy in some sense – they are certainly both being exposed to the grace through the believing spouse; yet the unbelieving spouse is actively rejecting the faith and the child is not.

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  3. I heartily agree with what Richard has said here about repentance and it is at the core of why I have no problem with paedobaptism. I’ll take a personal tack here:

    I am the Godfather of Paul and Emily Pastor’s children. This means I have actively participated in two baptisms of very young children. Before doing so, I had to be convinced in my own mind that what we were doing was in accord with the scriptures. I had never given the issue serious thought, being raised in a firmly “believers baptism” tradition.

    There were a number of points that convinced me along the way. I’ll share a couple:

    1) In some ways, every tradition I’ve encountered baptizes before full maturity of conviction has been reached. This point has been made by others in the discussion. Traditions with a more sacramental bent actively account for this, through things like reaffirmation once adulthood is reached and other practices. It has become my conviction that churches with a fully orbed padeobaptist conviction are better positioned to walk somebody into maturity in the faith as they grow in age. This is not to say they do, just that they are better positioned to.

    2) I myself was baptized at age 10. but it could have just as easily been at age 2. Why? I have almost zero memory of my Baptism, but the faith of my household, and myself within it, was strong from day one and has been reaffirmed many times throughout my life.

    This is one example of how I understand repentance. I do not have any single moment in my life I can point to that identifies my “act of repentance.” I understand repentance to be a road that is walked rather than just a volitional act that is done (reducing it to that is disturbing to me on a number of levels, not the least of which is the way it puts the cognitively impaired outside the life of God). Some of us are actually born along the road. Our parents and the community hold us in their arms as they walk the road of repentance, then when we start to walk ourselves, they hold our hands until they are confident we are alongside them in the way. We have the choice to leave, but it’s a choice to leave a road we are in fact walking on.

    Others of course are not born anywhere near the road. Their repentance is a more drastic leaving of another way and entering onto The Way. For examples of these different kinds of repentance, one only needs to read more than just the apostle Paul’s story of conversion (reformed theology focuses WAY too much on Pauline conversion).

    This, to me, is a much more compelling explanation of what you actually see happening in the book of acts and why the call to baptize a household makes sense.

    This is not to suggest that children of the flesh are the children of promise. If the Spirit has not put his seal upon you, you do not inherit the faith. This is why a whole community, and a robust theology and catechismal life must accompany any baptism, infant or no. But the reality is that the same could be said for baptism at any age. Who is it that determines whether the seal has been placed?

    If you are going to take the “believers baptism” stance honestly, you better have a seriously involved process for identifying one that is truly a child of promise, and even then, good luck. No, this doesn’t square with the call to “repent and be baptized…” The quickness of the call indicates that this is a marker for the entrance into a new life one is just beginning (a new polis, as the anabaptists like to say (don’t hate on me Jeremiah, there are plenty of sacramental anabaptists, especially nowadays, and there are good reasons for that)), not a sure and perfect sign that you are a child of the promise.

    3) My experience of baptism with my Godchildren was the most significant experience of baptism I’ve encountered period. In both cases (two of the three children were done at once), I was struck by the gravity, the seriousness, and the fullness of the call to raise these children in The Way. I have never seen another baptism (not that there haven’t been) that felt as drenched in the Spirit.

    Now, you might say, “but not for the kids.” Well, I might disagree, but then we’ll be having a long conversation on the nature of memory. But further, in this kind of tradition, the children themselves participate in the baptism of other children, and if the Spirit is in it, it is a witness to them, even of their own baptism. It will be difficult for my Godkids to grow up without a deep and abiding sense of the significance of their baptism. That’s harder to say with the sort of baptismal practice that is common in evangelicalism.

    4) And finally, the newness of the New Covenant is in the reality that the Spirit now abides with and seals all that are truly in Christ. It is that God tabernacles among His people. As Hebrews 6 tells us, you can taste of that reality and walk away from it. Or you can taste it and walk further up and further in.

    That passage does not make sense unless it is a reference not only to the individualized indwelling of the Spirit, but to the communal one. I would suggest then, that you can taste the new covenant, and even be baptized into the community of the Spirit, without being a child of the Spirit, but that does not mean you were never “in.”

    That went longer than I meant it to.

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    1. Thanks Luke. I appreciate your input on this especially given your recent experience with Paul’s kids. I know you guys have given this a lot of thought and prayer. Obviously, I am still wrestling through this myself so I appreciate your voices.

      A few thoughts in response:

      1) You mention “every tradition I’ve encountered baptizes before full maturity of conviction has been reached.” A lot of people have made this point. To be clear, I don’t think a level of theological understanding of baptism or a level of maturity is necessary to be baptized, but I do think a knowledge of and response to the Gospel in an act of obedience to Jesus IS necessary.

      2) Both sides argue from experience. I know you have had a rich experience with the Pastors and their kids, but many evangelicals (including myself) would value their own experience of baptism as an act of personal obedience to Jesus rather than an inherited decision made by parents. I honestly don’t like going down the road of which experience is more “Spirit-drenched” than the other. It seems too easily subjective.

      3) I agree that repentance is a complex and life-long journey. But I don’t think it is a road walked RATHER than a volitional act. Repentance is not merely a volitional act, but it does seem that it INVOLVES volition (sorry, caps are the only way to emphasize in these comments).

      4) A couple passages seem to clearly associate baptism with the individual’s expression of faith:

      Paul associates baptism specifically with faith in the resurrection of Jesus:

      Col 2:11-12: “11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which [i.e., baptism] you were also raised up with Him THROUGH FAITH IN THE WORKING OF GOD, who raised Him from the dead.”

      And Peter mentions that baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience:

      1 Peter 3:18-21: “18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”

      Both these are acts of the will of the person being baptized, it seems.

      5) The absolute silence of Scripture on instruction for infant baptism (as opposed to infant circumcision, for instance) is a weighty point.

      6) You and Paul have both mentioned the complexity and childlike aspects of faith and repentance. Having grown up in the church, I get that. I remember having faith for as long as I can remember. But I also remember a clear transition to begin to make personal acts of obedience in response to the love of Jesus in the Gospel. As I read through the New Testament, baptism is a call for every individual to respond to the love of God in Jesus Christ through an act of obedience, namely, baptism. I see biblical problems in disassociating baptism with an individual’s decision to obey Jesus in response to his Gospel and call.

      Some thoughts. Thanks for helping me understand how to follow Jesus better in all this.

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      1. Thanks for interacting Jesse:

        I’ll start at the end.

        6) I don’t remember any transition personally. I have genuinely always been responsive to God, with growing maturity from as early as I can remember. There have been markers along the way, but none that were a transition from one thing to another. In the scriptures, there are many examples

        5) It is, but isn’t definitive in any sense.

        4) All your examples are contextually toward those at the inauguration of The Way.

        3) I am not saying repentance is either a volitional act or a road that is walked, but as you say, a complex dance of between the two.

        2) I wasn’t suggesting that “experience” is more spirit-drenched generally and I also didn’t suggest that other baptisms of a different sort are not, nor is that the reason I’ve been convinced. But the witness of the Spirit is a thing :).

        1) The line you are suggesting was damaging to me as a child. I felt on the outside of the experience of both conversion and baptism because I didn’t have any identifiable “act of obedience”. I often tried to manufacture them so that I had a “testimony”. I “asked Jesus into my heart” at every event I went to, but my heart had always been His. (As an aside, you have not yet addressed the implications of your position for anybody that is not operating with full cognition.)

        One point to add. As a pastor I actually wouldn’t do infant baptism unless I was in a community that had a very robust theology, practice and support of it. For me, this is the main issue, that whatever position a church chooses to take (neither are a “slam dunk” biblically), that the language, practice, and support of the practice is rich and has the gravitas to do what baptism is meant to do, mark and seal our entrance into the people of God.

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    2. I am glad that we can have this conversation with those who have chosen to baptize their infants and those who have chosen to wait, can converse.

      Some one can only walk into maturity in the faith as they grow in age, if they possess something that needs to mature. It would seem then that pedos would have affirm so sort of baptismal regeneration, however defined

      Luke, in regards to identifying a child of promise. Is it really that mysterious? I mean Paul makes it pretty clear that they are children of faith and also with the example of Isaac a supernatural birth is being pointed to.
      So a believer’s baptism that holds to baptism upon confession of faith and has those being baptized share their story with the community of faith.

      So we baptize upon a confession of faith, not upon a definite assurance of salvation that God only knows.

      How are you not suggesting that the children of the flesh are the children of promise exactly? If adherents to credos need to make sure that they have a ‘process for identifying one that is truly a child of promise’ then how would pedos ensure that they are not baptizing children of the flesh?

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  4. Luke, I can relate to the asking Jesus into your heart at every event. But then again, think of the testimonies of Martin Luther, John Owen, or Jonathan Edwards, or pretty much any major reformer. These men had intense struggles with whether or not their faith was saving faith (they also asked Jesus into their heart at every event), and most of these men (as far as I know) were baptized as babies and also believed in infant baptism. Whether you are from a Paedo or Credo tradition, the personal coming to terms with the reality of God’s grace is intense. Both sides have to wrestle with this. I don’t think baptizing infants makes the struggle go away by any means, and a lot of Paedobaptists do talk as if their tradition would remove this struggle.

    The transition I am referring to is the moment when a person is old enough to make decisions for themselves. It is a basic aspect of being a human to transition to accountability in decisions and beliefs. You guys all mention a moment of confirmation, so I think we all agree that there is a significant point in every person’s life where they need to come to terms with obedience to Jesus. For me, this is the moment where a person should respond to Jesus’ call to be baptized and obey him.

    Honestly, my feeling in response to this whole discussion is that Paedos have tended to argue heavily from experience and also take shots at some of the more shallow aspects of evangelicalism (which is easy to do) but haven’t really come to terms with any kind of argument from Scripture. Infant Baptism relies on a complex theological system rather than Scripture. Are there other Christian practices that rely on such a complex system?

    I see where you guys are coming from. But ultimately your arguments are experience and logic driven and not biblically driven. Infant baptism relies on a complex theological system rather than the Scripture, seems to me. (The complexity is ironic to me, considering we are talking about infants).

    I have also read Calvin and Owen on this issue, and I feel the same. They make a strong logical connection between the covenant with circumcision but offer no biblical evidence for the practice.

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  5. Jesse, I find your consistent assertion that there must be some point at which faith transitions from non-saving faith (can that even be a thing?) to saving faith to be strange and while it may be reflective of the stories of the reformers (who were leaving the Catholic church, lest we forget), it is not reflective of the stories of every biblical character.

    I also find your statement that paedos are offering no biblical evidence to be odd as well. I think it’s more the case that you disagree with the evidence they’ve provided. How many of our doctrines our based on theology drawn from the whole witness of scripture? Lots. And CT is not that complicated, not nearly as complicated as DT for sure (I am not firmly CT, though I lean that way). I am also more willing to let the history of the church be a witness. One of lesser weight for sure, but not of no weight.

    I hear the biblical evidence you have provided, and I don’t find it all that supportive of your position, which is in large part because of a few theological presuppositions I have that cause me to read those passages differently (and because these are, again, all passages related to the inauguration of The Way).

    One of those presuppositions also addresses why I can hold the position I do Jeremiah, and still believe we are not baptizing the “children of the flesh.”

    Namely, I find the credo position to be way to individualistic. I think the ecclesiology of the NT is significantly more communal. We are talking about the inauguration of a new people group. This is why, I think, household baptism is called for later in Acts, following the earlier call for baptism at Pentacost (I also take household baptism to be a piece of biblical evidence btw).

    Finally, I fully grasp why credos land where they do, I just don’t think their position is as self-evident from the scriptures as they seem to think it is. The fact that there has been so much disagreement in the church for so long should be a clue here.

    Now, on to baptism of the dead…

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    1. Luke, how do you know that the infant being baptized is a child of the promise? What presupposition of yours allows you to hold that, or is it only a hope that they are?

      I am curious as to your comment of finding the credo position individualistic and not as communal in their ecclesiology as paedos.

      Thanks

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      1. I don’t claim to know that for certain any more than I know it with a 7 year old or 17 year old or 27 year old. I do believe that the spirit bears witness.

        But this is my point about the seeming (my qualification) induvidualism of many credos. I believe baptism to be a marker for those that are part of covenant community, which could include young or old, the disabled and the like. I don’t beleiv e baptism is anything near salvific, any more than circumcision was in the ot.

        This dive we have all done may be getting close to too deep to do in the comments section 🙂

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  6. Jesse, I have offered several comments above on repentance and the children of believers. I thought I would also offer a few thoughts on volition that you have brought up, in particular the volition of children. And I will attempt to put this all in the context of challenging the modern assumption of rationalism which I believe cages some in so that they miss or ignore or explain away important passages of scripture. I hope to be very rational in my critique of rationalism. 😉

    The english word “volition” means the faculty or power of using one’s will. Your concern seems to be one in which it is assumed that babies or infants cannot exercise a will or make a decision until they come to such an age or development in which this faculty is present? There is an assumption of a transition that a person comes to when a they are old enough to make decisions for themselves. It is never made clear what this actually looks like biblically, and maybe that is what you are referring to when you say some “take shots at some of the more shallow aspects of evangelicalism?”

    The beginning of your original post you wrote that “people are either a part of the kingdom of light or a part of the kingdom of dark.” So, are you saying then, that the children, until they reach this age and make this decision are part of the kingdom of dark? I have tried to argue with a sociological slant admitting I do not ultimately have the mind of God to determine those in the kingdom of light and kingdom of dark and I rather actively suggested we look at it as how should we recon or consider people. There is the visible new covenant community – the Church, and there are those outside the covenant community. Would you consider these pre-decision making children outside the covenant community?

    I have suggested to include them as part of the covenant community by virtue of their being brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by Christian parents. And I have suggested that baptism is the rite of entrance into that covenant community – the body of Christ.

    The concern is we do not know if these children grow up to love Jesus so until we can determine that via a credible profession from their lips, they should not be baptized. I understand that, but I am still unclear on their status up to that point in your thinking.

    ———

    With all that behind us, I want to suggest some understandings that may help to demonstrate the value in expanding our rationalistic understanding of volition. It is very true, in the NT and in our experiences we often see big people make cognitive and radical decisions to turn from unbelief to belief – especially those who have not been brought up in the Lord. I am not denying this in the least. Rather, I am trying to expand our understanding to what I consider a more biblical understanding of choice and will.

    I will list several verses with their address and offer a few comments. Modern rationalism tends to now want to take these verses at their face value, and rather filters them to say something else. Let me know what you think of them.

    Ps 22:9,10 “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.“

    David sees a continuity between the faith he possesses now as an adult and the faith he had as a child, even in the womb. He explains he had a Godward orientation from his earliest days. David never points to a “conversion experience.” But in Ps 51 he does acknowledge his original orientation toward iniquity and relation to fallen Adam. But here he confesse faith toward God.

    Ps 71:5, 6 “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.”

    He leaned upon God before his birth! From his youth the Lord was his trust.

    Ps 8:2 “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.”

    See this with Jesus quoting it in the next passage…..

    Matt. 21:15,16 “But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”

    infants and nursing babes praising the Lord.

    Is 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

    The Lord himself is the teacher in the covenant community households.

    Matt. 18:1-6 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

    Incredible passage. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” In light of the simple trust of a child, modern evangelicalism seems to be saying the child must first grow up and deliberate as an adult and from his own volition – after considering the options – make a choice to follow Jesus. Children very easily believe – as you will find out with Acacia. The job of the Christian parent is to encourage them to believe and to continue to believe the promises of God and to mature accordingly. The credo baptist, actually, inadvertently I am sure, teaches the child to doubt and question – as both you and Luke have pointed out – through trying to get them to seek something they already have – simple childlike faith in Jesus. The credo baptist wants the child to find/make some point of decision, a place to put a stake in the ground. And I think this is very confusing (at the least) for children who have been taught to love Jesus, pray to Jesus, trust Jesus, and confess sins to Jesus from before they can cognitively remember.

    Luke 18:15-17 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

    I would contend, for our context, bringing the infants to Jesus is to bring them to the community of saints, the body of Christ; primarily through their parents. They should be included in the community not excluded and they should be counted as part of the community, not in limbo or neutral or as outsiders looking in. Rather as participants in the community of the faith. In baptism they are, by the rite and symbols, brought to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

    JOHN THE BAPTIST:

    Gabriel to Zechariah in Luke 1: “for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

    Here is a guy, explicitly stated as being filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. How does that fit the modern evangelical and charismatic notions? This calling was given to him and when you see him come on the scene his will is fully on board. Did he chose this life or was it chosen for him? I would say, yes, both. His will is active and participating. He was choosing to follow the Lord from his mother’s womb. Also, in Luke 1:44 it is explicitly stated that John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Mary and Jesus. Can modern rationalism comprehend a baby leaping for joy in the womb? The text is clear; do we filter it?

    Some may respond and say, that was a special supernatural occurrence and not what we should expect. I would agree it was a supernatural occurrence; but the context of this post is volition of babies, did it violate John’s free will in any way? No, not at all. And would we not not all agree that all of salvation for anyone is a supernatural occurrence?

    Now for another direction….

    TALKING TO YOUR BABIES…..

    To add another forest for the trees aspect to rationality, let me ask why do we talk to infant children? Parents often talk to their children while they are still in the womb. If the children cannot understand, if the children cannot choose to speak back, if the children are without will and volition, why do parents do this? I would submit they do it for the very reason that talking to your child is the very means God uses to bring the child to a more cognitive understanding of things. You keep talking to your children and they are hearing, they are processing, they are learning, and they are growing and before you know it, they talk too. But the seed, the foundation, the orientation, was already there. Parents impose a language and a name and a view of reality on the child without any visible conscious choice being made by the child. And in this imposition, the child matures, often to become very similar to his parents. Is there any violation of the child’s volition in this that should be stopped?

    Now if the parents are speaking the words of Jesus to the child, the words that Jesus says are Spirit and Life, what should we expect to see? Jesus says, my sheep hear my voice and faith cometh by hearing. Is there any violation of the child’s volition in this that should be stopped?

    I think the verses above indicate that children can have a saving, active, and real faith, even in the womb. I know it goes against modern rationalism but there it is. If not, how would you explain these passages?

    QUESTIONING YOUR FAITH

    I think questioning our faith is very normal for people as they grow in Jesus. We struggle in this life while still in the flesh with all sorts of temptations and trials. Try going through a divorce or untimely death of a loved one. There is real struggle. But those in the covenant community encourage those having the struggles. We do not encourage them to doubt suggesting that maybe they are not christians, rather we should encourage them to believe, to trust the promises of Jesus no matter what. Believe God’s faithful word. We should not encourage our children or our mature brothers and sisters in Christ to doubt, we should always encourage them to believe and trust, wouldn’t you agree?

    THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH

    In the NT you have the work of Christ, the Last Adam creating in his resurrection a whole new heavens and earth. It was at the proper time scripture tells us. And it is an explosion of light on a dark world – the light is growing the the darkness is passing away (I Jn 2:8). Everything is changing. In the NT, as this message goes forth, you see people making clear conscious changes from darkness to light. This is what you see the loudest, and this is as it should be as the light marches into the domains of darkness in all the nations of the world.

    However, another aspect of the Kingdom is also starting to develop, but not as loudly. This is Christian parent’s having children and bringing them up in the light rather than the darkness. And Luke alluded to it, but it is valuable to point out, the “household baptisms” are mentioned, and they are just incidentally mentioned with no explanation. I know the credo needs to insist that there were no infants in these households. And the paedo assumes there may be. But it does not say one way or the other. Depending on what assumptions you bring to the text is how you read it. If there is a continuity between the covenants with children being included in the covenant community, then we would have no qualms assuming infants in households were baptized. If there is a discontinuity between covenants for children and now children are being excluded from the covenant community until such a time as they come to an age of accountability (whatever that may mean) and make a credible profession, then we would know there were no infants being baptized. So our assumptions matter; and both sides are arguing from silence from the text. It does not say either way, so you have to go to other places as I have tried to do here.

    ABRAHAM

    One last thought is Abraham. Abraham is the father of the faithful. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Paul argues that those of the faith are children of Abraham.

    We cannot think that baptism is magical or regenerational in and of itself, it MUST be accompanied with faith and the means God has given. I have already shown that infants in the womb can have faith and infants in a godly household will be brought up in the faith.

    God says, “For I have chosen him (Abraham), that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised.” (Gen 18:19) I would submit that this is the very means God ordinarily chooses to mature children in the faith. And this is what Paul repeats in his epistles – for parents to do just this for their children. And in both Ephesians and Colossians Paul writes directly to the children as part of the covenant community of faith.

    These are some reasons why I believe children of chrisitian homes should be baptized into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and considered included in the church.

    ——–

    I know I have rambled on and on, and probably upon later reading I would rephrase certain parts, and delete or add parts. I welcome any interaction. I know these matters are rich and there has been much disagreement on them by godly people over the years. I appreciate the opportunity to interact on this, Jesse, as it is very dear to my heart.

    blessings on you and your covenant family

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  7. Again I want to say I appreciate all your voices in this and your willingness to engage with me as I learn. It’s important to make sure both sides feel heard and understood in these things, so I apologize where I have been unfair or made sweeping statements.

    A few questions for you guys,

    1) Luke, do you agree with Richard that the kingdom is “visible”? I know Ray and Brad would say the kingdom was visible and concrete with Israel, then went invisible after Christ, and will again become visible at the second coming. Just curious where you (and Paul) fall in regard to this question.

    2) Luke you say, “How many of our doctrines our based on theology drawn from the whole witness of scripture? Lots.” Can you (or Richard or Paul or others) give an example of another doctrine/practice that does not have specific proof texts?

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    1. 1) Jesse, to be clear, I would say there are aspects of the kingdom that are visible. There are invisible aspects as well. For the purposes of baptism and inclusion in the covenant community (the body of Christ), I think it is very biblical to approach this sociologically rather than presuming we know the eternal decrees of God or can somehow infallibly know the hearts of men. I believe, ultimately, there is much intersection between the visible and the invisible. Jesus is the kingdom and he is visible here with us as the body of Christ. But we all agree that in the visible sometimes there are wolves, tares, angels of light, and future apostates. But this is where we are called to function unless you know something I am missing?

      My thesis is that baptism is not magical, it, in itself, does not regenerate anyone. It is a sign and seal of the righteousness of God for entrance into the visible covenant community on earth until such a time as God takes you home. Baptism cannot stand on its own, it is a segue into a new community – “For in one spirit we are baptized INTO one body (I Cor 12:13).” it is within the covenant community that the new life resides and thrives not in the act of baptism. And it is in the covenant community that the grace and Spirit of God flows from one another moving the brethren to maturity and perseverance in the resurrected Jesus. This would explain why the thief on the cross had no need of baptism.

      It does NOT explain about baptism for the dead, that one is in Luke’s court. 😉

      2) The the triune God? The hypostatic union? Using grape juice at communion? 😉

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      1. 1) I mostly agree with Richard. I believe the kingdom is manifest wherever the rule of Christ is present. But, I don’t believe the church is the kingdom, serves rather as a witness to the kingdom. Here now, not yet and all that. DT folks put kingdom way too much in the future and others place it way too much in the present and take anything that is ethically “good” to be kingdom. I take kingdom to have a direct relationship to “king.”

        2) Trinity or hypostatic union are pretty good examples. There are also no proof texts that would make it crystal clear that sex before marriage is out of bounds. Rather we draw it theologically from all that is included in sexual immorality (being anything sexual which is non-marital or trans-marital). Also, I need to make it clear again that I am saying I don’t find the texts that are used in favor of credo baptism to actually be proof texts. I am not saying there is no biblical case for it, I think there is a distinctly biblical case for both, I’ve just been convinced in the other direction (by good theological and biblical evidence).

        Jess, In light of the way you generally approach theology, I also find the focus on specific proof texts to be out of line with your own approach. Am I wrong on that?

        As I’ve said, there is a reason the debate has persisted. I’ve landed in a place that has openness to both positions because I’m not dogmatic about either, though I’ve been convinced toward one. I don’t think you can do that on all issues, on baptism, I believe you can 🙂

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      2. As a qualification, I am not saying doctrine doesn’t need textual evidence, I am saying it doesn’t always need the kind of evidence you are going for.

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  8. “Jess, In light of the way you generally approach theology, I also find the focus on specific proof texts to be out of line with your own approach. Am I wrong on that?”

    You are not wrong. This one has been a bit of a struggle for me and to be honest this conversation might have polarized my opinion a little bit much.

    I have wrestled with this question for years, and I came extremely close to adopting infant baptism especially reading John Owen and John Calvin. Both make very compelling arguments and obviously it’s not easy for me to reject those guys (not to mention Edwards!). Much easier to reject a baptist tradition 😉

    For the record, I feel similar to you, Luke, about my own experience. I don’t remember a time where I did not have faith in Jesus. As far as I know I was regenerate as long as I can remember. Those who have had a radical adult conversion often have a hard time imagining how this is possible. But my experience is why I came so close to accepting infant baptism.

    Infant Baptism really does fit my paradigm and general approach to theology in a lot of ways, but I came to realize I was trusting in my own man made theological paradigm in contrast with the call of Jesus (for ALL to respond to the Gospel and be baptized).

    Many have pointed out the stark inconsistent hermeneutics of the Magisterial Reformers when it comes to infant baptism. I am not alone in that criticism. There really does seem to be a stark contrast between the way this doctrine is developed vs Trinity, justification by faith alone, hypo-static union, deity of Christ, election, etc., as far as Sola Scriptura goes.

    By the way, James White has some pretty compelling arguments in this debate, if anyone is interested:

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