Friday, August 31, 2007

INFANT BAPTISM: CASE DISMISSED

Well, we are officially dropping our infant baptism studies. This will be my last post on the matter (hopefully for the rest of my life).

I do not pretend to have this all worked out. Let me say that, over the years, I was dogmatic for some time. In fact, you can see some of it in the earlier archives of this website. But I am hardly dogmatic about anything anymore, except for the doctrines of sovereign grace and the gospel.

So, I will leave this last post on the subject for all my paedo and credo brothers and sisters to consider, and then feel free to comment. If there are any comments that to me warrant a consideration and response, I'll probably respond in the comment thread. But I have heard countless arguments on both sides, many many times. To me, both sides seem to have much to say. So, without pretending that I have this all worked out, perhaps I can sum up why I remain a credo, although I am sure it is by default.

The best thing to do I think would be to list what I think to be bad arguments on both sides, and good arguments on both sides. I will include brief commentary as to why I think they are bad or good arguments.

BAD ARGUMENTS ON THE CREDO SIDE:

CREDO BAD ARGUMENT: Baptism is for believers only because of the nature of the New Covenant. It is made with the elect only, as Jer. 31:31-34 says.

RESPONSE: I think that Paul Manata has done a phenomenal job of showing how this text has nothing to do with the subjects of baptism. Elsewhere in Jeremiah, there are several passages which mention that in the New Testament era, God will be the God of our children. Furthermore, it still seems that God has a special view of our children today, since Mary herself sings that God's faithfulness is unto a thousand generations.

CREDO BAD ARGUMENT: Only the elect are in the New Covenant now, in the current administration of the covenant of grace.

RESPONSE: When we examine the way the covenant of grace is applied today, this just doesn't hold water (pardon the pun). Romans 11 speaks of being cut off. What were these unbelievers in the olive tree cut off from? 1 Corinthians 5 speaks of excommunication. Ex= "out of", and "commune" = assembly. They had to be "in" in some way, didn't they? Hebrews 10:30 speaks of the Lord judging "His people." The context is eternal judgment. In John 15 our Lord speaks of every branch "in Him" being cut off. In fact, the language of being "cut off" is most definitely covenantal language. It seems to me that the threatenings make no sense if they are not to be understood covenantally.

CREDO BAD ARGUMENT: But you see, these people were only cut off from the church, and not the covenant. The church and the covenant are different.

RESPONSE: This kind of "out" makes the Reformed Baptist view unfalsifiable. Anytime there is a text against the credo view, they have an out--it's only the church, not the covenant. Or when children are mentioned, they are spiritualized. Besides, isn't the local church the "covenant" people of God? Are we going to really say that ALL the members of the local church are not "in covenant" with God? The very threat of excommunication is covenantal. I see no way of getting around this. Every church that practices church discipline, whether paedo or credo, is practically showing that the covenant still has attending curses that come along with it for breaking it.

CREDO BAD ARGUMENT: Every example we have of baptism is of people professing first, then becoming baptized.

RESPONSE: This is debatable. The "household" passages are at least inconclusive. But where do we see a child of the age of three, or four, or five professing faith and being baptized? Yet Baptists have no problem doing that because of the inference that it doesn't matter what age, as long as they profess. There is no case of women partaking of the Lord's Table anywhere in Scripture, but Baptists (and paedos) believe they can because of *inference*. The fact is, both sides use inference.

There are others as well, I believe. But this post is already getting long, and I wish to examine both sides.

BAD ARGUMENTS ON THE PAEDO SIDE:

PAEDO BAD ARGUMENT: Circumcision and baptism both share the same meaning. So, we can assume that baptism replaces circumcision in the New Covenant administration of the covenant of grace, and that therefore the subjects of baptism are the same as the subjects of circumcision.

RESPONSE: First of all, this makes an unwarranted leap. Indeed, circumcision and baptism do not share *only* the same meaning. Baptism signifies union with Christ. In fact, both sacraments do. No matter how much a paedo tries to tell us that circumcision signified union with Christ, that is a huge burden on them to prove so. How do they know that? I think many times the paedo makes the mistake of taking the full meaning of the New Testament and mixing it into the shadowy, not-yet-revealed analogy of the Old Testament. There seems to be an error in biblical theology here. More than that, even if we assume that paedobaptism is true, even our paedo brothers must admit that the subjects are not the same. Needless to say, only males were circumcised in the OT (for obvious reasons). But now infants of both sexes receive baptism in their system, so, at least on the surface, circumcision and baptism do not correspond as closely as they mention.

PAEDO BAD ARGUMENT: Romans 4:11 says that circumcision was the sign of faith, yet it was still applied to infants.

RESPONSE: Romasn 4:11 is speaking of Abraham as the father of our faith--the faith he had while uncircumcised. If anything, this is actually a case for the credo. The apostle is speaking of Abraham's faith, and is not making a generalization for the meaning of circumcision.

PAEDO BAD ARGUMENT: 1 Corinthians 7:14 says the children are "holy" and not "unclean." It doesn't mention that the unbelieving spouse is "unclean."

RESPONSE: Just because it doesn't specifically mention that the unbelieving spouse is "unclean" does not mean that he or she is or is not unclean. But the same root word (hagiedzetai--"sanctified") is used of the unbelieving spouse as is used for the children (hagioi--"clean, sanctified, holy"). In other words, in this passage, it is clear that whatever "holiness" the children have, the unbelieving has as well.

PAEDO BAD ARGUMENT: That passage says that because it is speaking of adults . . .

RESPONSE: Here the paedo has an "out" as well. When Peter calls baptism the "pledge of a good conscience toward God," is he giving baptism a meaning for adults that it doesn't have for baptized infants? It seems to me that they are driven to change the meaning of baptism for infants, and make it mean something different for adults.

PAEDO BAD ARGUMENT: That's because circumcision and baptism mean the same thing.

RESPONSE: They do not. As mentioned above, the paedo has a heavy burden of proof to demonstrate that circumcision signified union with Christ. Again, how would they even begin to demonstrate this?
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On the good side of things, I think that we need to listen to our paedo brothers when they speak about God's view of our children. I also think that the credo side has some very excellent and helpful things to say when they speak about the "newness" of the New Covenant. I think you could still remain a paedo or a credo and incorporate those good things into your sytem.

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Well, that's basically it. I apologize to any if I have misunderstood either side or not addressed some things. It seems safer to me to drop this. Both sides agree that those who profess faith should be baptized, so it seems to me that the safer route to take would be to remain a credo by default.

I hope that the above is helpful to the Body of Christ as we continue to be led by our Lord into the unity of the faith.

3 comments:

RubeRad said...

Josh, your even-handed consideration of both sides is commendable. You didn't come out on the right side in the end, but certainly the Holy Spirit will keep working on your heart!

Because of my reviews of the Manata/Cook debate, I've got an outbreak of the paedo/credos on my blog again. Mostly I'm sure it's stuff you've heard before, but buried deep in a comment trail, here is a point by Echo_ohcE I had never heard before:

"If you want to have some special ceremonial depiction that the covenant child has made what they have been taught their own, well, then enter the public profession of faith and the child’s first communion. For it is communion that Paul says requires some measure of understanding lest we eat and drink damnation. So we have children profess their faith before the elders privately - and the elders examine them - and then they profess their faith publicly before the congregation. From then on, the child can partake of communion, but not before this takes place."

RubeRad said...

Every church that practices church discipline, whether paedo or credo, is practically showing that the covenant still has attending curses that come along with it for breaking it.

How many baptist churches practice church discipline? Reformed Baptist maybe, but the broad spectrum of American non-denominationalism is I would guess 99.9999% Baptistic, and at least 95% not practicing church discipline at any level.

markk said...

Though very much reformed in my beliefs, I too come down on the credo side. With all your study, have you come across anyone offering the view that circumcision was a pre-Moses Mosaic law? Sounds silly but I believe there is sufficient biblical evidence to at least consider it viable.