To My Blog Readers:
Please pray for us. I am copying the text of two e-mails I sent out to the elders of our church. I can't believe this is happening. This is a difficult time for us.
To Our Spiritual Fathers, the Elders . . . ,
This is an e-mail to ask for help. This is Josh and Angela Brisby, and we wanted to let you know that, over the past couple of years, through baby steps, and through dialogue/debate, we have become more and more convinced of infant baptism. This is hard for me to believe that this is happening, especially because I was Presbyterian for two years before I became Reformed Baptist. However, I am unsure whether I fully understood the paedobaptist position then, nor did I give it a fair chance to respond when I was becoming Baptist.
Yet, this time we have no desire whatsoever to become paedobaptists. We love [this church] , and the last thing we would want to do is to have to change churches. We are asking you to please convince us from Scripture, with reason subservient, that the infant baptism position is incorrect, and to please show us that the Baptist position is correct. We are asking you to rescue us. We love this church, and we want to stay.
Please pray for us as well. This is a very emotional time for us, but even more so for me as the husband and leader. I wept over this yesterday.
Josh and Angela Brisby
To tell you the truth, I think that most paedobaptist literature is not very good. I had recognized some aspects of what I believed in articles by Richard Pratt, and I am currently reading The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism (edited by Gregg Strawbridge). I also read the collection of essays Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant In Christ, but was not persuaded by most of it (many of the writers wrote from a New Covenant Theology perspective).
Over the years, it has happened as the following:
Shortly after I became Reformed Baptist, I saw problems with the traditional Reformed Baptist view, namely, that only the elect are in the New Covenant in this administration of the covenant of grace. I saw this as problematic from texts such as John 15, Romans 11, 1 Corinthians 5, and the book of Hebrews (particularly Hebrews 10:30). I agree that the covenant of grace, eternally speaking, has always been with the elect only, but in its administration temporally, it has always included both elect and non-elect.
Because of this, I reasoned that I could still stay a Baptist and believe that the covenant had two circles to it: the internal and the external. The internal is those who truly possess saving faith, and the external is all those in the outward administration, that is, those who belong to the visible church. Indeed, that is the way I was for quite a while.
But as years passed, I read an article by Gregg Strawbridge which demonstrated Scripturally that children were in the covenant. Ironically (and thankfully), I am not convinced of paedocommunion (we can discuss later as well why I do not see this as inconsistent), but the article was in The Case for Covenant Communion. I found that if one does a search on the word "children" and ponders God's promises, they are so powerful that indeed, it seems to me that to cut the children out of the covenant would be drastic. But in the New Testament texts, we still see promises made to the children (Acts 2:38ff), and the children are called "holy" as opposed to "unclean." (I am also aware of how Baptists respond to this, and we can discuss why I am not persuaded by their response as well.) Furthermore, when Jesus says that "brephoi" (infants) belong to the kingdom, and then blesses them, that it something that seemed to tug at me. I learned through dialogue with _______ that "blessing" was always looked at in a covenantal context in Holy Scripture. Our Lord blessed them.
I also realized that indeed, both the paedo and the credo position use inference. For example, the Baptist cannot find an example in Scripture of children believing and then being baptized. The only examples of professors who are baptized in Scripture are adults. There are some Baptists who wait until age 18 to baptize (Spurgeon, Dever), but they are few and far between. So Baptists reason that, since it seems that in every case of baptism in the NT, it seems, there was repentance and faith first, and then baptism followed, they therefore conclude that if children repent and believe, they are admitted to the waters of baptism. They conclude this by good and necessary inference, as it were.
But the paedo also concludes by good and necessary inference that children were in the covenant in the OT, and that God nowhere put them out. Circumcision was a sign of entrance into the covenant, and baptism is the sign of entrance into the New Covenant. Therefore, since they see children in the covenant, they conclude, by inference, that children or infants should be baptized.
Both sides agree that the household baptisms are inconclusive, but it seems to me that the "you and your household" principle goes back to the Abrahamic Covenant. Yet this is still spoken to Gentiles (such as the Philippian jailer in Acts 16). In other words, when was the last time that we all have evangelized someone and said to him, knowing he was a family man, that the promise was to him and to his children? Or that if he believes, he and his household will be saved? I confess that I too was uncomfortable with this language, but I sort of brushed it off and put it in the back of my mind.
Finally, I reasoned that, perhaps I could say that infants of believers were members of the church, yet I did not have to baptize them. But I learned as well that both sides agree that baptism is a sign of entrance into the church. I concluded that it would be unwise of me to deny it if I thought that my children were members of the church.
One imporant thing, as we dialogue, I think, is to carefully define our terms. I think especially the term "church" and "covenant" need to be carefully defined, because I think that many times, Baptists unknowingly may equivocate and switch on the visible/invisible church, and on the external/internal covenant (although the traditional Reformed Baptist view sees the New Covenant as purely internal currently).
There is much more, of course, that could be discussed, but perhaps this will get us started. I would love to discuss in whatever way you think is most convenient and profitable, whether over the phone, by e-mail, or in person, or all of the above.
We love you as our spiritual fathers. As my wise and amazing wife told me, if this is not true, then we need to fight to stay Baptists. If this is true, then we need to fight to believe it and to have our hearts follow. Right now my head is there, but my heart does not want to go. Please help us.
Yours In Christ,
Josh Brisby for the Brisbys