Friday, February 29, 2008


Well, I am now the closest I have ever been to becoming a paedobaptist in the past nine years.

My wife and I are discussing this together, and we are also going to talk to our elders. I'd like to give them some chances to persuade us otherwise.

I'd like to give any of my Baptist blog readers some chances to if you would like to comment.

Let me give you a brief baptism position testimony.

When I came to the Reformed faith, I became paedo for a few years, but I did not have a deep understanding of the covenant. I became Reformed Baptist in 1999. Even at that time I still recognized that the Reformed Baptist view of only the elect in the covenant from Jeremiah 31 was very problematic based on texts like John 15 and Hebrews 10:31 and Hebrews 10 and 6 and 1 Corinthians 5. Why would there be given warnings at all? Many Baptists suggest that they are merely "hypothetical," but I don't see how that could work at all. These people are excommunicated from something. They fall away from something.

So, I reasoned that perhaps I could stay a Baptist and uphold a kind of two circles view. I did this for many years, even participating in Gene Cook's show "The Narrow Mind" critiquing infant baptism on one program. But later my friend Paul Manata (who debated Gene masterfully) asked me to look at the many passages which speak of the word "children" in holy Scripture. If one does a simple word study on the word "children" they will be blown away by what they find.

So, I reasoned that the promises belonged to them but perhaps they weren't in the covenant. But I saw this as very problematic later because a promise itself in Scripture is covenantal. Indeed, God sees my children as special, as heirs of His promises of salvation.

So finally, I reasoned that OK, they're in the covenant, but perhaps they don't receive baptism, even as most paedos agree that they don't receive the Table until they can examine themselves. But I saw that theologians on both sides agree that baptism is a sign of entrance into the church.

So I then fought it some more. I said to myself, "Perhaps the Reformed Baptist view of elect only is actually true, and those passages which speak of falling away mean falling away from the church but not the covenant." But this is extremely problematic. What is the local church but the covenant people of God? What are the sacraments but covenant signs? The covenant of grace with regards to administration has always included both elect and non-elect. Indeed, it has to on this side of heaven.

So I realized that that wouldn't work. So now I recognize that my children are in the covenant.

How could I then deny them the sign of covenant entrance? Baptism says something of them. It says that they belong to God.

How could I deny them baptism?


Anonymous said...

Josh, I know what it is like to go through the struggle you describe here. I pray for you brother. Hopefully you and your wife, with full confidence, will be able to give your children the sign that is consistent with they way you've treated them since they were born. If you talk to your elders and they still can't talk you out of this, then I'd say you've got a strong confidence. If they can change your mind, then hold off.

Whatever is not of faith is sin.

Blessings to you bro.

Jeff Kazules

Josh Brisby said...

Thanks Jeff. We appreciate your prayers.

Anonymous said...

Josh, This post sounds just like the conversations I have with myself almost on a daily basis. I see the same things in Scripture that you mention. I'll be praying for you and Angela. I know it is a difficult situation when you have to consider finding a new church home and leaving one you love behind. That has been a great struggle for me as I wrestle with this issue.
In Christ,

Josh Brisby said...

Brother Dax,

Thank you. We will pray for you and Amber. I've realized that I've always at least implicitly been a paedobaptist, b/c even when I was on Gene Cook's show critiquing it, I still didn't believe the covenant only included the elect. I found this as unworkable both practically and biblically. My wife as well had always seen a problem with it. Right now, she is in the same place I was seven months ago: her head sees paedobaptism, but her heart doesn't want to go. It is difficult to leave our church.

However, this time, although I know it will be hard for me to leave, I have a strange peace about it. My heart is finally seeing the paedobaptist position clearly. I see that Baptist even treat their children like paedobaptists do (except for baptizing them of course), and I always did as well.

If you would like some support in this, feel free to ask B.J. for my cell # and I'd be happy to talk with you. We wish you God's comfort and blessings on your journey.

Canadian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canadian said...

As a Baptist, I could not entertain paedobaptism because of the absence of direct scriptural support. I suspect it has been the same for you. If you change your view to paedo, however, one of the strongest means to defend your position will ironically be the Tradition of the historic church
As you know, this (Tradition) has been the very impulse that has led me to explore Orthodoxy. You also realize, that you don't have to ditch immersion to have infant baptism...Orthodoxy uses triple immersion for all baptisms I believe :-)
Peace in Christ

Josh Brisby said...


Actually, I do not use that argument at all. In fact, many Reformed paedobaptist scholars think it is weak as well. The Reformed view of infant baptism cannot be argued from history. It can, however, be argued practically and most importantly biblically.

Historically, infant baptism does not show up until the third century, and does not become the universal practice until about the sixth or seventh century. It furthermore was used many times as clinical baptism (deathbed).

Many paedo scholars admit the above, yet still have no problem remaining paedo, for the simple fact that what matters is what Scripture teaches. Biblically and practically, the Reformed view of infant baptism is extremely tenable and even necessary.

Josh Brisby said...


One more thing. Although Reformed paedobaptism cannot be argued from history, this is not to say that the Baptist view can. As a matter of fact, we find all throughout history children being embraced with their parents in the covenant community, and we do not find the Baptist notion of treating them as unbelievers until they profess faith.

Saint and Sinner said...


Most Presbyterian exegetes (that I know of) nowadays wouldn't use the "unregenerate member of the New Covenant" argument on Hebrews 6 and 10. So, they have the same (alleged) predicament that we have.

Here's a paper from the Westminster Theological Journal arguing that the language used in Hebrews is non-dogmatic and should be read through the lens of OT background allusions:

As to John 15:

I haven't spent too much time on the paedo/credo-baptism issue. So, what part of 1 Cor. 5 were you thinking of? It seems that Paul is calling the people who commit habitual sin "so-called brother[s]" (v.11).

Anonymous said...


Would you really have to leave your church if you become paedo? I wouldn't have thought that, although it might be tough to find a minister to baptize the children for you, if you don't belong to their fellowship.

Jeff Kazules

Bruce S said...


I am sure you already know this but the historical argument does include Polycarp's claim that he had been a Christian for 86 years. He made this claim after he made the trek from Asia Minor to Rome to face martydom and thus couldn't possibly recant after 86 years of serving Christ. The theory goes that, as hard as it would be to believe he made the trek as a 100+ year old man (placing his baptism in his teen years) it is more likely that he was baptized as an infant and he made the trek as a spry 86 year old. So this is a very early testimony, Polycarp having been a disciple of John the Apostle.

The Christology debates of the early church were far more crucial. Consequently, paedo-credo debates never saw the light of day. Hence the paucity of the kind of documentation you (we) would like to have.


Josh Brisby said...


As mentioned, I agree that we find nowhere of the Baptist view of treating our children as unbelievers and then later treating them as believers only after a profession of faith. I agree that perhaps Polycarp is a good example of that. But I don't agree that we can use history to try to defend Reformed infant baptism other than that.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Paul Manata said...


I'm not gonna get into a drawn out baptism debate, but I Cor. 5 is loaded with the idea of expulsion from the covenant. The book that argues this most forcefully is Brian S. Rosner's _Paul, Scripture, and Ethics: An Exegetical Analysis of I Corinthians 5-7_. I don't think Rosner is a paedobaptist either. So, it's what can be drawn out of his study and applied to this debate since his purpose in the book isn't dealing with the question we are. Nevertheless, it serves that end. One out of the many points he makes, well, Paul makes, is that of the expulsion formula: "Expel the wicked from among you." This was always and everywhere because: "For he has violated my covenant." Actually, Rosner shows that almost eveyr jot and tittle of i Cor. 5 draws from the OT concepts of expulsion from the covenant, corporate holiness of God's people, and the temple holiness. Indeed, this is why the man's sin is viewed as the Corinthians sin. And, these men leven the whole lump. To do that they would have to be *in* the lump. But, as Bavinck says, unregenerates "are *in* but not *of* the covenant." Much the same way the leven is not *of* the dough, it is still *in* the dough. Rosner also points out that the listof sins/sinners in v. 11 exactly mirrors the list of sins one would be "expelled from the covenant" from in the OT. He points out that it is odd that Paul would mension this precise list out of numerous other sins he could have mentioned.

That's a all-too-brief answer you your query about I Cor., but I hope it's a start. I've been working on a paper arguing for a mixed community from I Cor. 5, as well as some other verses, but it'll be a while before I'm finished. I don't intend to debate this issue right now so you may respond and it'll be left at least on my end.



Anonymous said...

Hebrews 10:30

“‘The Lord shall judge His people.’ A most important example is here given as a guide to teach us how Scripture is to be applied. The reference is to what is recorded in Deut. 32:36, but there is is God’s care exercised on behalf of His people, while here it is vengeance upon their enemies. Some have caviled at the appositeness of the apostle’s quotation. Yet they should not. Each particular Scripture has a general application, and is not to be limited unto those first addressed. If God undertakes to protect His people, He will certainly exercise judgment on those who apostatize. He did so in the past (I Cor. 10:5); He will do so in the future” 2 Thess. 1:7, 8. The rule which is established by this quotation from Deuteronomy is, that all Scripture is equally applicable unto all cases of the like nature. What God says concerning those who are the enemies of His people, becomes applicable to His people should they break and reject His covenant.” - A.W. Pink, Hebrews, 623

“God’s own people are not exempt from this law that men and women reap what they sow. And this is confirmed in the next verse of the Song, ‘Yahweh will judge His people.’ This certainly means that he will execute judgment on their behalf, vindicating their cause against their enemies, but it carries with it the corollary that, on the same principles of impartial righteousness, he will execute judgment against them when they forsake his covenant. These privileges which Israel enjoyed as God’s covenant people meant that their responsibilities were the greater and that retribution would be the most severe in their case if they gave themselves up to unrighteousness: ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2). What was true then remains true for God’s dealing with his people now.” - F. F. Bruce, Hebrews, 265.

“The Lord shall judge his people. Here another and a greater difficulty arises; for the meaning of Moses seems not to agree with what here intended. The Apostle seems to have quoted this passage as though Moses had used the word punish, and not judge; but as it immediately follows by way of explanation, “He will be merciful to his saints,” it appears evident that to judge here is to act as a governor, according to its frequent meaning in the Hebrew; but this seems to have little to do with the present subject. Nevertheless he who weighs well all things will find that this passage is fitly and suitably adduced here; for God cannot govern the Church without purifying it, and without restoring to order the confusion that may be in it. Therefore this governing ought justly to be dreaded by hypocrites, who will then be punished for usurping a place among the faithful, and for perfidiously using the sacred name of God, when the master of the family undertakes himself the care of setting in order his own house. It is in this sense that God is said to arise to judge his people, that is, when he separates the truly godly from hypocrites, (Psalm 1:4;) and in Psalm 125:5, The original text referred to Ps 125:3, which seems to be directed more at the fact that the wicked will not persevere over the righteous, whereas Ps 125:5 refers to the wicked joining the “workers of iniquity,” and that “peace will be upon Israel”; neither are quite as explicit as the commentary in terms of the final destruction of the wicked, but in my humble opinion, verse 5 has more relevance. where the Prophet speaks of exterminating hypocrites, that they might no more dare to boast that they were of the Church, because God bore with them; he promises peace to Israel after having executed his judgment. It was not then unreasonably that the apostle reminded them that God presided over his Church and omitted nothing necessary for its rightful government, in order that they might all learn carefully to keep themselves under his power, and remember that they had to render an account to their judge.” - John Calvin, Hebrews, online

Josh Brisby said...

S & S,

Your WTJ link didn't work. I'd love to read it though if you could fix it.

Thanks for White on John 15. However, in all honesty I have not seen someone address this satisfactorily. Our Lord speaks of branches being broken off, the same as Romans 11. These people seem to be "in" the covenant but not truly "of" the covenant. Although it may not be as common in paedobaptist thought to speak of "unregenerate members of the covenant," it still posits a two-circles, external and internal covenant. Those who fall away from the covenant or are excommunicated, as 1 Co 5 teaches, were "in" something. Paedos would say they were in the external covenant.

Now, Baptists would respond that in 1 Co 5 they were cut off from the church, but not the covenant. But I find this to be both unbiblical and impractical. As I asked in my blog post, isn't the local church the covenant people of God? And aren't the sacraments covenant signs? Why would all the warnings be given to covenant members? In other words, I don't see the NT ever exegete Jer. 31:31-34 how Reformed Baptists do. In fact, Jer. 31 is exegeted only twice, both times in Hebrews, smack-dab in the middle of warning passages. In the context, Jer. 31 is quoted and exegeted to differentiate between the sacrifices which "mediated" atonement in the OT, and the only true Mediator, who is better, the Lord Jesus Christ. It's never exegeted to say it's better because now you can't fall away from the covenant.

To me this also makes sense of the warning passages. As Calvinists, we affirm that you can never fall away from salvation. However, it seems that Scripture is clear that you indeed can fall away from the covenant.

Now, I also think it's vital though that we keep God's promises at the forefront. He is the one who keeps us preserved. Indeed we must persevere, but if we keep covenant over election, then we will be driven to despair. I think election needs to be kept primary.

I heard Robert Strimple say what seems to be true of the Reformed Baptist view: it is an eschatological jumping of the gun. It fails to see the "not yet" aspects of our current redemptive-historical situation, and places them into the "already." But practically, this is unworkable.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading that paper when it is finished. Thanks for that comment. It was very helpful to me.


Saint and Sinner said...


I went into the "Post a Comment", copied the link, and pasted it, and it worked. It should be a pdf.

I've never studied the paedo/credo issue in any detail. So, I won't try to debate you on it since I would only be speaking from ignorance.

I'll continue to pray for you and your family.

In Christ,

Reuben said...

You're almost there, Josh.

"The covenant of grace with regards to administration has always included both elect and non-elect."

Amen! God gave special revelation (Gen 17:18-19) that Ishmael was not elect, and yet commanded Abraham to circumcise him. How much more in the absence of revelation about the election status of our children, should we include them in the visible administration of the covenant?

Since you're a friend of Gene's and fan of TNM, you might want to listen to my call-in from last Saturday (3/1/08), when I tried to make the paedo case from Ishmael. But having listened to the show this morning, I didn't make that case as well as I could have. It's presented clearer here.

Josh Brisby said...


Right. As I mentioned, I've realized that I've always at least implicitly been a paedo, because even when I critiqued it on Gene's show I didn't believe the covenant only included the elect.

I was talking to my wife yesterday about one of the aspects of the credo view which I find troubling. I don't mean to sound harsh with them, but I find it almost unbelievable that they would actually believe that circumcision was mainly a national sign. What does it mean to have the foreskin cut off? Surely God didn't have all the ornate ceremonies just because He thought it would be neat. (I'm not trying to sound harsh, but I can't think of any other way to put it.)

No indeed. Circumcision was mainly a spiritual sign. The Baptist view fails to see this, and I think this is one of its fundamental errors.

Gospel.or.Death said...

Echo_ohcE says:

Well, this will probably be longer than anyone wants to read. Forgive me. But you can't take these matters lightly, nor can you prove one side or the other in a paragraph.

Credobaptists often like to say, “Where is the command in Scripture to baptize infants? Show it to me where it explicitly says that we must baptize infants!”

I think this is probably their best argument. However, this argument breaks down very easily. First of all, the requirement that they’re looking for is too severe. They’re looking for a Scripture verse that says, “Thou shalt baptize thine infants.” If this is their requirement, then there are a lot of things that the confess as doctrine that they would have to give up, if held to the same kind of scrutiny.

For example, where is the explicit command in Scripture to administer the Lord’s Supper to women? Women are to be silent in church, and in those days, culturally women were treated as second class citizens. In the OT, women were not circumcised, nor were they the ones who brought the sacrifice before the Lord. Rather, it was the husband that did this, the father. So one might say that at the time, culturally, this command should have been explicit, in order to help people understand that women too should be given the Supper, but no such command is given. Ergo, women should not be given the Lord’s Supper.

But I guarantee that every single person who just read that argument thought that I was being stupid. And quite frankly, I agree. It’s not a good argument. No one would say that there needs to be an explicit command in Scripture to give the Lord’s Supper to women. It was probably simply understood by all, and no one questioned it. In fact, it is likely that if anyone ever did, the apostles simply corrected them verbally and in person. No big deal. No need for that to be in Scripture.

There are lots of things that we could choose to question, and then say that there is no explicit answer to it in the Bible. But most of us recognize that in these cases, an explicit command is not required for us to have the right answer and be confident about it. My only point here is that this is an unfair requirement.

On the other hand, many credo-baptists insist that in every single instance of baptism that takes place in Scripture, it is preceded by faith and repentance, and therefore, we must take this as normative, following the example of Scripture.

This is probably a better argument that they give. And yet this is simply untrue. It is not true that in every case of baptism, that it is preceded by individual faith and repentance. In Acts 16:14-15, we are told about Lydia. We are told only that she believes, that the Lord opened her heart to believe, and then we are told that she was baptized – and her whole household as well. We are never told that her household believed, only that she believed. Now it may be that her whole household was baptized only after they also believed, but we are not TOLD that.

This example proves that we may reply to the credo-baptists that there is no explicit evidence in Scripture to support their claim that everyone who was ever baptized in Scripture was said to have first believed. Their claim is simply incorrect. Lydia’s household was baptized after SHE ALONE was said to have believed. To be sure, the apostles didn’t just go around baptizing everyone. Lydia’s household was only baptized because SHE believed. While this does not explicitly defend infant baptism, it does not defend credo-baptism either. It leaves the situation up for grabs.

In the same chapter, Acts 16:30-34, we see the story of the Philippian Jailer. This story is less clear than the story of Lydia, because we are told that the Word was preached to his whole household. Nevertheless, we are never told that his household believed, only that he believed, and his whole household was baptized.

But, says the credo-baptist, the word “household” does not necessarily imply infants. That is absolutely true. It does not necessarily imply infants. But if we are to really pursue the point, the word “household” definitely includes slaves. We should think of household in terms of the old Southern US plantation. It’s the entire household. And in those days, households almost always included slaves, or if you prefer the term “servants”, that’s fine.

We may also conclude that Lydia was the head of her household. This should not be thought strange, because in those days, men married at about 30, whereas women married at about 15 or so. So if Lydia had outlived her husband, being 15 years or so younger than him, she might have been the head of her household, especially if her sons were not of age yet, or if she had no children. She was a seller of purple, which meant she was a wealthy merchant. So she definitely had slaves.

So Lydia was probably the head of her household, since it is only her belief spoken of, and the baptism of the household ensued. We might figure that if her husband was alive, and was opposed to the idea, the household would not have been baptized. The household included SOMEBODY, that much is certain. Whoever this somebody is, Lydia had familial authority over them, and that’s why they were baptized as a result of HER belief.

Whatever we say about this passage, we must conclude that Lydia was the only one said to have believed, and those over whom she had household authority were baptized along with her. This forces us to conclude at least that when someone enters the church, those over whom they have household authority should be baptized, whether they believe or not. We have to say, “whether they believe or not” because the text doesn’t tell us if the household also believed.

But perhaps this is less than convincing. Perhaps we are saying that the text forces us to this conclusion based on silence, and arguments based on silence cannot be said to be determinative or doctrine. That’s fine. We may concede that credo-baptists have a point here, so long as they are willing to concede that their arguments are ALSO based on silence when it comes to explicit examples of baptism in Scripture. In short, there is no argument that can be made one way or the other based on what Scripture explicitly says by way of command or example.

But if this is true, then we need to consider what Scripture implies with regard to baptism, since what is explicit is not definitive, inconclusive.

Having arrived at this point, we find that the arguments that most credo-baptists depend on to make their case is already defeated. There is no explicit command in Scripture that supports their claim, nor is there any example that is explicitly normative for their position. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that baptism must be preceded by a profession of faith in the case of the children of believers. For a “household” to enter the church and to be baptized requires the profession of faith of the head of the household, but nothing more.

The infant baptism position doesn’t say that simply everyone should be baptized. It only says that the children of believers should be baptized when those believers are brought into the church. And there is no explicit prohibition in Scripture for this, otherwise it wouldn’t be an issue.

So let’s consider if Scripture may imply the infant baptist position.

First, let’s consider what baptism means. Most Baptists, I think, especially Arminians, conceive of baptism as signifying “My commitment to follow Christ.” This is very important. This is what most people in the church believe. But is it correct?

No. Of course not. Are we saved because we made a decision or because God made a decision? Where does faith come from? Did I generate faith myself, or did God give it to me? Eph 2:8-9 explicitly tells us that faith is a gift from God, saying that faith “is not your own doing”, but is the “gift of God”. The Greek text is even more clear. There are many other passages that indicate the same thing. This is the heart of the Reformed belief in election. It is undeniable from Scripture that faith is a gift that comes from God. Rom 12:3 makes this clear when it speaks of “the measure of faith that God has assigned.” More than this, Paul is continually thanking God in his letters for the faith of his readers. The credit for faith belongs to God. 1 Cor 12:9 attribute faith to a gift of the Spirit.

So is faith self generated? Clearly not. Clearly it is a result of God’s election, God being the one who chooses us from all eternity, and Christ being the one who accomplishes our salvation, and the Spirit being the one who regenerates us, giving us faith, by which we lay hold of the merits of Christ on our behalf, bringing to completion the eternal will of God for our salvation.

So faith comes from God as a gift. We are not saved by OUR decision, but by God’s decision. We are not saved by our works, but by grace through faith, as Eph 2:8-9 makes so clear for us. Faith does not bring us into a state in which we are helped to earn our own salvation. No, by faith ALONE are we justified (declared righteous) before God.

Paul makes this so crystal clear in Gal 2:16, that it is absolutely undeniable. Salvation is by faith alone, and if it is by works, then as he says in v. 21, Christ died for nothing. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he meant it. The work of our salvation was complete in that moment when Christ gave up his spirit, commending himself to the Father. It is not, “What would Jesus do,” it is, “What DID Jesus do”.

So if baptism signifies our commitment to Christ, then how do we make sense of this? We are not saved by our commitment to Christ, but by his commitment to us! How could our commitment to Christ have so significant a meaning as to be solidified in the sacrament of baptism? No, what is signified in baptism is God’s commitment to save us.

The sacraments are a visible representation of the gospel. It signifies that we have passed through the flood waters of judgment unscathed, and that is not accomplished by our obedience in following Christ, but in Christ’s obedience in following the Father’s will for our salvation. It is accomplished further by the Spirit giving us the gift of faith whereby we lay hold of Christ, through which Christ becomes ours and we become his. We can pass through the flood waters of judgment because Christ has chosen to save us, because God has elected us, died for us, and given us of his Spirit. That is why and how we are saved.

Baptism preaches to us that we CAN pass through the judgment waters unscathed thanks to what Christ has done for us. It is a sermon illustration, a sermon which preaches the gospel of salvation in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone.

The Lord’s Supper preaches the exact same sermon, teaching us that by the broken body and shed blood of Christ we are saved, nourished in our faith, united to him and brought into glory.

Neither of these two sacraments has anything to do with OUR commitment to Christ, but everything to do with HIS commitment to us.

In short, baptism signifies that we can be justified by faith.

But, says the credo-baptist, if THIS is in fact what baptism signifies, then surely such a sign is only appropriately applied to those who actually DO have faith! Well, once again I’d point to Acts 16 and the examples of Lydia and the Philippian jailer, and say that no, the Scriptures do not demand faith prior to baptism, any more than you have to have faith before you are allowed to listen to a sermon.

But an even better answer can be given than this. Rom 4:11 tells us that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” According to Paul, circumcision signified righteousness by faith. This is the exact same thing that I am saying that baptism signifies. Circumcision signified a cutting off of the flesh. It does not so much signify that person’s commitment not to live according to the sinful ways of the flesh, but rather it signifies that person’s flesh being cut off from him, put to death, nailed to the cross of Christ. It foreshadowed the work of Christ. This is Paul’s whole point in Rom 4. Circumcision is a seal of PROMISE, not of requirement. I won’t quote the whole chapter here, but go and read it. Paul’s whole point is that circumcision pointed to the promise of righteousness by faith, a promise that was realized and accomplished in Jesus Christ. Remember, Abraham was not given the law of Moses. He was saved in exactly the same way as we are, by faith in the promises of God. For us, that promise has become much clearer now that we have seen Christ, but Abraham had hope in Christ, even if he didn’t see Christ or how it would all work out. His faith was in the Word of God who made him a promise, who committed himself to him. Remember, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. His righteous standing before God was not based on works, but based on faith, just like us. He saw Christ through a glass darkly, without perceiving him clearly, but nonetheless having faith and hope in him. Jesus himself claims Abraham as his own in John 8:56, saying that Abraham had seen his day and was glad. This is what Jesus meant.

And this is what circumcision always meant. It always was a seal, signifying the hope of righteous standing before God by faith in Christ. Did the Israelites fully understand this? Of course not. But their hope was in the promise given to Abraham, that was all they knew. But that promise was fulfilled in Christ.

The meaning of circumcision as a seal of righteousness by faith is crucially important to us in this discussion simply because in the Old Testament, this sign was applied to infants.

There is clearly a precedent in Scripture for applying this sacramental sign that signified the hope of righteousness by faith alone to infant children of the people of God.

So circumcision means exactly the same thing as baptism, which now replaces circumcision, and it was applied to infants who as yet showed no sign of faith, unable to even talk at 8 days old.

But maybe the words of Paul in Romans do not convince us that circumcision was a sign of the righteousness obtained by faith alone. I cannot imagine why this would fail to convince anyone, but often enough it does fail.

Circumcision signified the hope of the promise by cutting off the foreskin of the male. The promise given to Abraham was much the same promise given to Adam and Eve, the promise that their offspring would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15). This promise was realized in Christ, of course. Abraham was given the same promise, only a bit more clearly, for God said to him that his offspring would be the means of blessing to the whole world. It was through the offspring, the children of Abraham that the Savior would be born. Thus the sign of circumcision, the cutting off of the foreskin of the male reproductive organ, the seed-producing organ, pointed to the holiness of Abraham’s seed. Abraham’s offspring-producing organ had become an instrument of God’s plan of salvation, because in his descendants, the Christ would eventually come to accomplish salvation.

So the sign of circumcision pointed to the holiness of the offspring of Abraham, pointing to the Christ to come from out of his line of offspring. When once this is understood, so much of the OT becomes clearly understood. Hope for mankind became wrapped up in the line of Abraham, which is why so many people acted in desperation to become a part of that line, for example, Tamar in Gen 38. We might look back on this story and find it quite odd. But the only way to understand her actions of prostitution as an act of faith is by recognizing that her actions were driven by a desire to unite herself to the line of promise, by bearing Judah children. And as it turns out, her children would be the forefathers of Christ himself. She became the mother of one who would be part of Jesus’ genealogy. This was her goal, to become part of the line through which the promise would be realized. And thus her actions, strange as they appear to us, were done in faith in the promise given to Abraham.

That holy line was eventually whittled down to just one man, Jesus Christ, who was the righteous servant of God, through whom salvation came to all those who had faith in him.

This is the meaning of the seal of circumcision, this is Paul’s point in Rom 4. This sign was applied to infant children of believer’s in the promise throughout the Old Testament, and this sign, we believe, ought still to be applied to believers’ children today.

This is why Paul affirms in 1 Cor 7:14 that the children of believers are holy.

I don’t think most credo-baptists understand what a stumbling block to their position this declaration of Paul’s presents.

Let’s say that credo-baptists acknowledge that circumcision signified the promise of righteousness by faith, and let’s say that they acknowledge that in the OT, this sign was appropriate to apply to the infant children of believers, but let’s say that they argue that in the OT, the promise was to come through a blood line. And let’s further say that they argue that it is only by HAVING faith that we are united to that blood line today, because as Paul says also in Rom 4, Abraham becomes our father when we have faith.

In other words, they argue, in the OT, the seal was appropriately applied to the children of Abraham, because they were his children by BIRTH, whereas we can only become his children by having FAITH. Therefore, baptism might mean the same thing as circumcision, that we are of the offspring of Abraham, and thus children of promise, but the way that we become children of promise is not through birth, but through faith, so again, the sign should only be applied to those who have faith, who make a valid profession of faith.

Now this is a better argument against the infant-baptist position. But it is completely and utterly defeated by the declaration of Paul that the children of believers are holy, as he says in 1 Cor 7:14. Notice how Paul says it. He doesn’t argue for it. He presupposes it, and uses it as if everyone already knows it, as if no one could possibly disagree with it, and he uses it to support a larger argument he is making. He is saying that something is true, because as everyone knows, the children of even one believing parent are holy.

Now we must bear in mind that 1 Cor is one of the very first letters written to the churches. What Scriptures did this church have available to them at the time? Did they have the New Testament as we have today? Certainly not! All they had was the OT. That was their Bible. That was where all their sermon texts at that time had to come from.

Well, one thing that is crystal clear in the OT is that the children of believers are holy. It is clear that those who are united to the promise by faith produce holy children. Even Rahab is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Mat 1:5. Remember Rahab, the Gentile who hid the spies? Ruth is also included in the same verse. Ruth was no Jew, she was not the children of Jews. Yet these women became part of the line by faith, and their offspring would eventually produce Christ, who was the Savior of the world, the one who realized the promise given to Abraham.

So what Paul is doing in this verse is saying that the children of believers are holy. Even though in the NT, we are grafted into the line of promise, the household of God, by faith alone, nevertheless, the children of believers remain holy, just as they were in the OT.

Does “holy” mean “elect”? No. The sign of circumcision, the sign of the hope of righteousness by faith was not applied only to the elect. As Paul says, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.” Not all the flesh and blood children of Abraham would inherit the promise of eternal life, the promise of righteousness by faith, because not all of them would be chosen by God to be given the gift of faith. Consider Ishmael and Esau. They were children of Abraham, but they were rejected. No one at any time has ever inherited eternal salvation by being born into a particular family. Certainly not everyone in OT Israel was saved. Certainly many of them were horribly wicked idolaters, throwing their children into the fire, sacrificing them to other gods. Clearly not the behavior of a regenerate person.

Circumcision was no guarantee of salvation. It is not a declaration of election. But neither is baptism such a declaration. Even if you require a profession of faith, that profession may be false. You never know. Only God looks upon the heart. There is no way possible to guarantee that only the elect will receive the sign of the covenant, the sign of the hope in the promises of God.

And yet, Paul insists as if everyone clearly understands the principle from their familiarity with the OT, that the children of believers are holy, set apart to the Lord, belonging to the Lord. Therefore, the sign of the covenant, the sign of the hope of righteousness by faith, not the guarantee of righteousness, but the hope of righteousness, should rightly be applied to the children of believers.

After all, if faith is a gift (Eph 2:8-9), and if that faith comes through hearing the preached Word about Christ (Rom 10:17), then it only stands to reason that children who are raised in the pews of the church, sitting under the preaching of the Word their whole lives, would be quite different from the children who are raised outside the church.

Isn’t there a difference between a child raised under the faith-producing preaching of the Word and a child raised watching NASCAR on Sunday mornings? Isn’t there some distinction to be made here? Aren’t the children of believers taught to be believers? Aren’t they in much the same situation as the children born into Israel? The children born in OT Israel were not guaranteed salvation, and many of them did not ever find it, but went after other gods. Yet they were commanded to be circumcised. It is the same today. The children raised as part of the household of faith ought to have the sign applied to them, which today is no longer circumcision but baptism.

Or consider the Great Commission.

Matt. 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It is incredibly easy to misunderstand this when reading it in English (as opposed to the original Greek), especially when you come to it thinking like a credo-baptist. But there are many questions that should be asked of this view when coming to this passage.

For a credo-baptist might say that according to this passage, someone should only be baptized after they have been made a disciple. And since in Arminian circles, the emphasis is on the decision that someone makes, the supposition is quite natural that someone becomes a disciple of Christ when they have made that all important decision for Christ. They become a disciple in the worship service, after the sermon, when the minister says, “Ok, every head bowed and every eye closed, and no one looking around, if you want to receive Jesus into your heart, raise your hand. Thank you I see your hand, thank you I see your hand…” And then there is the altar call, “If you raised your hand, don’t be shy, come up here and we’ll pray with you, and you can receive Jesus.” One cannot help but wonder why they ask them to raise their hand if they need to pray a prayer. What does the hand raising accomplish?

But anyway, for Arminians, coming forward, walking the aisle, coming to the front and praying that prayer, asking Jesus into your heart, this makes you a Christian. This initiates you into being a disciple of Christ. Only then can you be called a disciple.

But we who believe in election must reject this definition of disciple. In fact, if we look up the word “disciple” in the dictionary, we must also reject this definition of disciple. For it is not those who exhibit obedience to Christ’s commands who are properly called disciples. No, a disciple is a student.

That a disciple is a student, one who is being taught, one who is learning, is plain. When you think about what the word means, I don’t know how you can come to any other conclusion. And if we really ask the Arminian if they are still learning, then they’ll say that they are. At what point do you graduate and become “a disciple”? There is no such point. We never graduate from God’s school of learning. We never graduate from being a student of Scripture. No, we are always learning about God, about what Scripture says.

But maybe this is not sufficient for some. The word “disciple” is related to the word “discipline”. Look, it is even spelled similarly. A disciple is one who is disciplined, one who is trained, one who is taught. A disciple is therefore a student. Your children are your disciples when you are training them growing up to obey you. When they disobey you, you discipline, whether by “time out” or the more traditional (and biblical) method of spanking. You discipline your children as a method of training. They who are subject to this training of discipline are properly called disciples, to signify that they are undergoing this training. In short, they are students.

So Jesus says to make students of all nations. Very well, Jesus, we will do as you say, but what shall we teach them? “All that I have commanded you,” says Jesus.

Now I don’t know how anyone can deny that the children of believers who are raised in church could under this definition be called disciples. Are not even the youngest of children in the church taught to obey their parents, and is this not the way we begin to teach them to obey God? Even a child who is breast-feeding is taught not to bite. Even this simple training and discipline is the beginning of teaching the child to be obedient to the God who says, “Honor your father and mother.”

But surely no one can deny that the children of believers are enrolled in the school of Christ. Don’t we begin to teach our children about Christ from day one? Don’t we teach our children to obey us from day one, so that as they get older, they begin to see that they must be obedient to God? Aren’t we, then, teaching our children from day one, from the very day that they are born, all that Christ has commanded us?

But, says the credo-baptist, you are not teaching an infant EVERYTHING that Christ has commanded us. But my reply is that NO ONE fully understands ALL that Christ has commanded us. It is impossible. Are YOU fully trained? Are YOU fully obedient? No, you continue to mess up, just like the rest of us. And even when you aren’t messing up, you are continually violating laws which you don’t yet understand fully. There is no such thing as arriving at a point of full understanding of all that Christ has commanded us.

No, the disciple is the one who has merely BEGUN to learn to obey the commands of Christ. The disciple is the one who has merely begun the training. The training never ends, not in this life anyway, but it DOES begin. It begins at birth for those born into a Christian home.

Therefore, the children of believers, who by the way are HOLY, are properly called disciples, not because they have full faith, but because they are beginning to be trained in the ways of Christ, they have begun to be taught “all that [Christ] has commanded [us].”

But the passage does not say to merely make students of all nations, teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commands. Nope. It says when you make them disciples of Christ, baptize them.

All disciples of Christ are to be baptized into Christ, signifying that they are to put their hope in him. If they have begun to be taught, then they should be baptized. It does not guarantee their salvation. It simply means that like the children of Israel, they have begun to be taught the commands of our great God, who is Jesus Christ, our Creator and Redeemer and Lord and King. Like the children of Israel who were taught from day one to honor their father and mother, and as such had begun to be taught to follow the commands of their God, so too, from day one, we who believe begin to teach our children to be obedient to all that Christ has commanded us.

The holy children of believers are disciples of Christ, and as such, we are commanded by Scripture, indeed, by God himself, to baptize them, just as the Israelites were commanded to circumcise their children.

So go, baptize your children, and do so with a clear conscience, knowing that this is what Scripture commands, and see if when you have done it, whether or not you sleep soundly that night, resting in the promises of God, that they are not just for you, but “for you and your children.” You may trust in the promises of God for your children, just as those promises are YOUR only hope as well. “The promise is for you and your children.” (Acts 2:39)

Forgive me for the length of this post, but what else could I do? This is no light matter.

orthodox said...

It's simply not true that infant baptism doesn't turn up till the third century. Where does that nonsense come from?

Polycarp (69-155), a disciple of the Apostle John, was baptized as an infant. This enabled him to say at his martyrdom. "Eighty and six years have I served the Lord Christ" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 9: 3). Justin Martyr (100 - 166) of the next generation states about the year 150, "Many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples since childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years" (Apology 1: 15). Further, in his Dialog with Trypho the Jew, Justin Martyr states that Baptism is the circumcision of the New Testament.

Irenaeus (130 - 200), some 35 years later in 185, writes in Against Heresies II 22: 4 that Jesus "came to save all through means of Himself - all, I say, who through him are born again to God - infants and children, boys and youth, and old men."

Josh, I applaud your open mind to seeking the truth, but doesn't all this flip flopping indicate a deeper problem with your ecclesiology and sources of authority?

Saint and Sinner said...

"It's simply not true that infant baptism doesn't turn up till the third century. Where does that nonsense come from?"

Gene Bridges already covered those arguments here:

"Josh, I applaud your open mind to seeking the truth, but doesn't all this flip flopping indicate a deeper problem with your ecclesiology and sources of authority?"

That's what this whole debate between Brisby and Dyer has been about. Look at the comment boxes in the previous posts.

Second, I believe that most Protestants would say that the clarity of this issue is not as great as that of say justification. The standard Protestant confessional statement says:

“***All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all***; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (WCF 1.7)

Josh Brisby said...

Gospel or Death,

Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate them and I appreciate the time you took. Indeed, this is no light matter.


You beg the question. Saint and Sinner is right that Protestants do not consider this issue perspicuous. Justification by faith alone is clear and perspicuous. The WCF is clear on this.

Furthermore, you obviously claim that I should turn to the Orthodox church to get my "clarity." OK--so you mean the "church" that can't agree as to what makes a council ecumenical? You mean the "church" that begs the question as to why I should accept their "tradition" but not the Roman Catholic one? What about the monophysite churches? Why shouldn't I accept them on that standard?

Your promise of epistemological certainty is all bells and whistles dressed up in a pink dress.

Saint and Sinner,

Thanks for your thoughts. As usual, you are right on.

Gospel.or.Death said...


At your service.


GeneMBridges said...

So, I reasoned that the promises belonged to them but perhaps they weren't in the covenant. But I saw this as very problematic later because a promise itself in Scripture is covenantal. Indeed, God sees my children as special, as heirs of His promises of salvation.

In the OT these promises are types and shadows of the New Covenant promises. This is where Paedobaptist hermeneutics go awry. They interpret the Mosaic Covenant and Davidic Covenant in terms of types and shadows, yet they seem to drop that with respect the Abrahamic Covenant. RB's are more consistent.

The key text to which most Paedos appeal here seems to be out of Acts 2, but this assumes that the text is referring to their physical offspring. Yet, plenty of Paedos, not just credo's see this as a reference to their spiritual offspring, that is the elect. That fits with the trajectory of Acts moreso than physical descendants, for the movement of Acts is the spread of the Gospel from Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the earth. The emphasis is not on the children of Israel - literal - but their figurative children, the Church, the elect from every tribe tongue and nation.

The typical appeal is that baptism is analogous to circumcision, but this is a poor inference. It's also a bad one, for baptism is only analogous to circumcision insofar as baptism is a sign of regeneration. Baptism is the sign of the remission of sins, repentance, conversion.

So, they appeal to the Fathers, but this has been thoroughly rebutted by Stander and Louw in Baptism in the Early Church.

Even at that time I still recognized that the Reformed Baptist view of only the elect in the covenant from Jeremiah 31 was very problematic based on texts like John 15 and Hebrews 10:31 and Hebrews 10 and 6 and 1 Corinthians 5. Why would there be given warnings at all? Many Baptists suggest that they are merely "hypothetical," but I don't see how that could work at all. These people are excommunicated from something. They fall away from something.

They fall away from their profession of faith and out of the visible church. They are false professors.All the "problems" that are in these texts are answered by the standard arguments for perseverance of the saints.

Within the trajectory of Hebrews, we have to remember that the letter is unique, as it, unlike the others, is written to a Jewish audience living in the shadow of Second Temple Judaism. These were people actually born under and into the Old Covenant. The author's point here is that,for the Jew, it is incumbent upon them to enter the New Covenant if they wish to be a consistent Jew. So, for them to "fall away" and out of the covenant is to fall out of the covenant into which they were born by virtue of being a Jew, namely the Old Covenant. The point is simply: You, as a Jew, have a unique obligation, namely, having been presented the Gospel clearly at the pinnacle of revelation of the types and shadows to which the Old Covenant pointed, you absolutely must enter the "rest" of that covenant, which is the New Covenant itself. Not to do that is to commit apostasy. This is fundamentally a different argument from the argument for falling out of the covenant put forth by modern Paedobaptists.

It applies by extension of application to all persons who today sit under the clear teaching of the gospel. In the New Covenant era, people have a clearer message, increasing their responsibility. They are like the Pharisees or Judas Iscariot, not because they are "in the covenant" the way the audience of Hebrews was, but because they have the clear teaching thereof.

Lydia’s household was only baptized because SHE believed.

The obvious reply to this is that the text does not say that at all. It says:

14A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

15And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

It does not say they were baptized because she believed, as if she spoke for the whole house. There is not a single line of text that says that. To allege that is a classic example of eisegesis. I am frankly appalled by that. Brother, G.o.D, you should know better than that.

In the same chapter, Acts 16:30-34, we see the story of the Philippian Jailer. This story is less clear than the story of Lydia, because we are told that the Word was preached to his whole household. Nevertheless, we are never told that his household believed, only that he believed, and his whole household was baptized.

Actually, it is more clear, not less.

Again, the text:

They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.

33And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

1. The Jailer was told that to be saved he must believe in Christ. This was also true of his household. This does not mean that he was saved and represented his household, rather, it says that, in order for him to be saved, he must believe. In order for anybody else in his home to be saved, they too must believe.

To say otherwise, as if he was covenant head of household could believe for the whole home to be saved, is to prove too much, for then we get into one person believing in the home and the rest being saved as a result of that person's faith - salvation by proxy.

2. The text then says that they preached to the whole household.

3. The text records that they were all baptized. The proper inference is that they were all baptized because they each one believed.

4. Also, I'd point out that infants are nowhere mentioned in either text. This is an assumption not warranted. If children were baptized, it is because they believed, for there is warrant that they all believed individually.

5. So, the pattern here speaks to the pattern for the previous text. If the whole household of Lydia was baptized, then the preponderance of evidence is that they did so because they believed too. The credobaptist has the better argument here, for the Paedo can only do so on the basis of a set of inferences drawn from his Covenantal theology. This is how Dispensationalists argue for their eschatology.

But, says the credo-baptist, the word “household” does not necessarily imply infants. That is absolutely true. It does not necessarily imply infants. But if we are to really pursue the point, the word “household” definitely includes slaves. We should think of household in terms of the old Southern US plantation. It’s the entire household. And in those days, households almost always included slaves, or if you prefer the term “servants”, that’s fine.

This is disanalogous at the critical point of comparison, for slaves who are capable of exercising faith in Christ are not like infants who cannot do so.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that baptism must be preceded by a profession of faith in the case of the children of believers.

If true, this proves to much for the Paedobaptist, for there is no text that says that baptism must be preceded by parents speaking for infants at their baptism.

And there is no explicit prohibition in Scripture for this, otherwise it wouldn’t be an issue.
There is no specific prohibition, because they didn't in any text face that question. This is the sort of argument that the Jews would make in their hedge about the Law...well, there's no specific prohibition here, so we can do this...There are no specific prohibitions against many things, but this does not, therefore mean they are permissible.

Back to Josh: I suggest you order and read through this text: Should Babies Be Baptized? by T.E. Watson. It is available from Evangelical Press. Order it from the publisher here:

Watson knows Paedobaptist very well, as he was once one himself, and, though Manata and I obviously differ on this, he has, as I recall, studied the issues enough to know and admit, if I recall what Dustin told me correctly, we Credo's have actually done a better job at listening to the Paedos than they have us. Watson's book is not well known in the US, but it is, IMO, one of the best, probably better than most of the RB/Founders books on this issue.

Also, Don't, whatever you do, order it from Amazon. Whoever is selling it is ripping people off. It is nearly five times the price at Amazon! Get it directly from EP!

johnMark said...

And how about Greg Welty's A Critical Evaluation of PaedoBaptism.


Paul Manata said...

Gene Bridges said...

"though Manata and I obviously differ on this, he has, as I recall, studied the issues enough to know and admit, if I recall what Dustin told me correctly, we Credo's have actually done a better job at listening to the Paedos than they have us."

That's correct, Gene. Though I am paedobaptist, I think, not only have you guys done a better job listening to us and trying to answer us, but your positive case, as of late, has been much stronger and much more scholarly than ours. Not only that, much of the standard arguments for paedobaptism decent answers from your side, I hardly see any paper or book on paedobaptism anticipate and address the contemporary responses to their tired arguments.

People can go to my good reads site and read my 'reviews' on about half of the books I've read on the subject of baptism:

and see that I rate the baptist books much higher than the paedo books (but don't leave any critical comments there. I don't want it to be a discussion site where I have to defend myself. I don't have the time).

But, the caveat is this: Given my somewhat extensive study, I found the credo case to not be as strong as I previously thought it was. And, I found that I could give them many of their premises and 'believer baptism alone' still did not follow. And, I actually have incorporated many of their points and arguments in favor of paedobaptism. Hopefully when I get done with school, and have some letters behind my name, I'll get to put something out. No one would listen to a schlub like me, now. Maybe even then! :-)

Anonymous said...


"They fall away from their profession of faith and out of the visible church.

Is the visible church not to be taken as the New Covenant people of God? Josh admits that he struggled with this Reformed Baptist assertion as well.

Josh wrote:
So I then fought it some more. I said to myself, "Perhaps the Reformed Baptist view of elect only is actually true, and those passages which speak of falling away mean falling away from the church but not the covenant." But this is extremely problematic. What is the local church but the covenant people of God? What are the sacraments but covenant signs? The covenant of grace with regards to administration has always included both elect and non-elect. Indeed, it has to on this side of heaven.

We can discuss the NT accounts of household baptisms until we are blue in the face, but I always found them to be inconclusive. Although it is interesting that the household formula appears in the New Testament. I always found the crux of the debate hinges on what one thinks of the New Covenant. For me personally, once I came to the conclusion that the New Covenant has an already/not yet aspect to it, the rest was all down hill into the Font.


Josh Brisby said...


Thanks for your thoughts. I have read T.E. Watson's book. Indeed, he shows that paedos differ with each other, but I have found that Reformed Baptists differ with each other on key issues as well. Furthermore, Gregg Strawbridge I think makes a valid point when speaking of the fallacious premise of the book:

"while this book has been utilized by Baptists and has apparently been persuasive to many, the essential appeal of the book is fallacious. Pastor Watson's central mode of convincing the reader that the Reformed paedobaptist position errs is a kind of ad verecundiam/non sequitur fallacy. That is, he appeals to paedobaptists' disagreements, as though the falseness of the paedobaptism position follows. But to argue that two authorities disagree on certain points within their own respective arguments for their positions, therefore the conclusion (that they mutually hold) is false -- simply does not follow (it is a non sequitur). This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of relevance. Differences among those who hold to a position, are simply irrelevant to the cogency of an argument. It is also the case that Baptists have differing theological frameworks, varying exegetical conclusions on passages, and even different ways of demonstrating their mutually agreed upon conclusion to be true. But these differences do not prove, one way or the other, the truth of falsity of the Baptist position."

In other words, just because someone differs on aspects within a certain thought or how to apply it, how does that therefore lead to the fact of it being false?

Now, Ben Witherington has made the case that Acts 2 is referring to Jewish children when it says "to all those who are afar off," because later in Acts 10 Peter is surprised that the Gentiles are included. How, then, could Acts 2 refer to Gentiles? In other words, when Peter says the promise is to you and your children, he is indeed referring to the physical offspring of those men present.

Both baptism and circumcision are signs of regeneration. They are both spiritual signs, even primarily.

Stander and Louw I think do an excellent job (who are both paedos BTW) in demonstrating that paedos cannot argue their case from history, as I have always thought. But as I have also mentioned, infant baptism can be argued from practical implications and biblically. Furthermore, the Baptist idea of treating children as unbelievers until they profess faith is unheard of at all in all of church history until the Anabaptists.

You said that the apostates fall away from the church but not the covenant. Can you prove this assertion from the text? I honestly don't find it anywhere in Scripture. As I asked, isn't the local church the covenant people of God? Would you say that someone in the church is a New Covenant member? Would you say the sacraments are New Covenant signs? If someone falls away or is excommunicated--the same one who is a member of the local church (which is the New Covenant people of God, right?), what did they apostatize from? The RB view sounds impractical here.

Even if I grant your argument that Hebrews is only referring to that time and to those particular people, we still have to deal with Romans 11 and John 15 (branches being broken off), and 1 Corinthians 5 (expel the wicked from among you). I refer you to Manata's paper when he's finished on 1 Co 5.

Thanks again for your thoughts brother.

Tartanarmy said...

Josh, I have been following some of your journey as a fly upon the wall.
Very interesting thread this. I am praying for you brother!


Josh Brisby said...

Thanks Mark. Welcome to The Reformed Oasis!

Gospel.or.Death said...


In my discussion of Acts 16, I wasn't trying to prove that infant children of believers should positively be baptized from those texts. I was just trying to show that the credobaptist position is not proved from those texts, and in fact, those texts bring the credobaptist position into doubt. You yourself found it necessary to add the supposition that the people in the household of the Phil Jailer believed prior to their baptism. That is eisogesis.

I had many other things to say. I realize that people try to prove infant baptism with Acts 16, so I understand why you would assume that that's what I was doing. My only point is that the credobaptist claim that the NT clearly demands credobaptism only, is simply unfounded.

There is no clear command in Scripture against baptizing the children of believers, and there is no clear command of Scripture for only those with a credible profession to be baptized. Baptism does not bring you into the invisible church, but the visible church.

You made no comment about Paul's declaration that the children of believers are holy.

Look, baptism signifies passing through the flood waters of judgment unscathed. But it is only a SIGN. Circumcision, meanwhile, is a SIGN of the cutting off of the flesh, accomplished only in the cross. Not everyone who properly received circumcision was guaranteed to participate in Christ. They were not guaranteed membership in the invisible church of the elect. In fact, "Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated." Both were children of Isaac.

The idea that people were saved by being born to the line of Abraham in the OT is necessarily dispensationalism. So if we aren't dispensationalists, then we must affirm that people in the OT were saved just like we are: by grace through faith.

And yet 8 day old infant children of Israelites were given a sign that signified salvation. It did not mean they were saved, it only signified salvation. It pointed to it.

When we baptize someone, it is not a declaration that they are saved. It is a way of bringing them into the church.

Baptism is not analogous to circumcision, but both are analogies of salvation. They have the same referent.

Now, there is no proof text that you can point to where it says in the NT either, "Baptize the children of believers, of church members," or "Baptize only those members of the church who make a credible profession of faith." There is no such simple, clear, easy proof text for either side in the debate.

This is my point. And if this is correct, then we have to give up on trying to point to this one verse or that one verse as proving the case one way or the other. We have to bring the entirety of Scripture to bear on the problem, and try to bring our theology which arises from it to bear on the problem. We don't eisogetically impose our theology on the text, but rather we derive our theology exegetically from all of Scripture, as a tool to help us uphold the simple principle that Scripture does not contradict itself.

For example:

2Pet. 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

What does this verse tell us about apostates, those who are in the church but are false, not true believers?

Doesn't it say that Jesus bought them?

For most of us, this stretches our notion of limited atonement. But this need not be a problem if we understand that the covenant of grace has a condition affixed to it, namely faith.

For all those who are under the governance of the covenant of grace, IF they have faith they will be saved, and if they don't have faith, they are apostate.

In either case, they are governed by the covenant of grace, and that means that Christ purchased them.

This is how Peter can talk about apostates as denying their Master who bought them. This refers of course to Jesus, who bought them with his blood.

The blood of Christ is held out to all who are in the VISIBLE church, saying, "IF YOU BELIEVE, you will be saved."

This promise is not made to those outside the church, because the promise is proclaimed INSIDE the church to all who are in it.

That is not to say that someone can't become a part of the church, where the promise will be held out to them, but the proclamation of the promise takes place primarily in church, where the covenant of grace is the rule of governance.

But at the very least, we can say that all those, even those who do NOT truly believe, even those whose profession of faith is clearly FALSE, who are in the church have been purchased by the blood of Christ.

They belong to Christ. They are his people.

If this is true, that Christ's blood purchased even the apostates in the church who are actively preaching a false gospel - then what about the little darlings who sit in the pew and learn about Jesus? Are they of a lower status in the church than a false prophet?

And I'd just like to say again that Paul says of them that they are holy, and Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

What more do you want? Oh, that's right, you want a simple, clear prooftext that says, "Hey, baptize your children when you come into the church."

Well, there isn't one. But just because YOU demand such a thing doesn't mean God thought it was necessary. Clearly he didn't, because there aren't many clear indications about just what is supposed to precede baptism. Apparently the Apostles failed to foresee the Anabaptists, apparently they failed to foresee what OUR demands would be, and failed to deliver.

Well, I guess we'll just have to let them tell us what the right questions to ask actually are, instead of insisting that the Bible answer our questions in the way that we want.

I guess the Apostles, even God, thought that the baptism issue was pretty clear. I do too.

Josh Brisby said...

Gospel or Death,

Well-said, and well-explained.

I always saw 2 Peter 2:1 as two circles, even as a Reformed Baptist (which once again demonstrates that I was always implicitly paedobaptistic). That is the same way I view Hebrews 10:26,30; Romans 11; 1 Co 5; Jn 15; Heb 6; etc.

One thing I think that is clear in Scripture is that the covenant has two circles: the external and the internal. One can be "in" the covenant but not "of" the covenant. This is what happened of those false teachers in 2 Ptr 2:1. The RB view of dichotomization of church and covenant just doesn't hold water (pun intended).

Gospel.or.Death said...

Hahahaha...that was a GREAT pun!

Anonymous said...

Josh, I am praying for you and your family. Changing churches is a huge decision, and I know you are not taking it lightly.

Grace and Peace in Christ,

Josh Brisby said...

Thanks Ron. Hope to see you at the next Hoagies and Stogies.

Pastor Matt Singleton said...

Josh, you can't baptize you kids in a Christian way with out there personal faith Hebrews 11:6 mark 16:16,
The promise of salvation is not for unbelievers john3:18
You are not good. Your children will be headed toward hell as soon as they understand evil and until they believe. Ephesians 2:1-2
The ordinances are always negative when applied to unbelievers. Acts 19:1-6, 1corinthians 11
If you love your children do not enslave them with dead religion. Matthew 3
Btw baptism is a transliteration. It always literally translates to immersion.

Pastor Matt Singleton said...

One issue I do find hilarious is the idea you have to leave the baptist faith for the sake of Calvinism. I have watched several Calvinist freinds go through this process. Jay and two other freinds went down this same road. (a married couple became orthodox by means of first baptist then reformed, then orthodox)
Where is jay's Calvinism now?
Instead, jay believes in a gospel of deifying grace. Tradition is about our fallen nature. Because our fathers were sinners. When we follow them we follow sin. Romans 7:1-6
This leads to a conflict with God's Word. Matthew 15:1-9
John macArthur once likened infant baptism to the ring of power in "the Lord of the rings"
How it would destort people's natures and eventual drag them back to it's evil master.

Infant baptism does nothing at all to support the gospel. It denies it. It says the gospel is for others to believe.
But without faith it is impossible to please God.
If baptism is translated properly as immersion. Then the catholic churches do not fulfill the great commission.
Which also means that infant baptism doesn't bring someone into the new testament church.
Now, I am telling you something that would discourage most from my position.
Like Lot's wife in their hearts they don't want to leave their freinds in Sodom.
I wish I was more about "dialogue" and not so axiomatic.
But this is the way the God works.
I believe salvation is free, but discipleship is costly.
I love theology, but it is a lonely path.
Infant baptism will win you the positive camp of ecumenism.
We are all part of a mystical unity.
One big new age stew!
It reminds me of attending a pastor's conference, sitting with two reformed
Pastors complaining that their flock would not accept grace and clung to legalism. If you don't accept grace, how on earth will you have it?
There are many issues we would have to go over before I could hope to have any confidence of winning you over.
I guess I'll pray for you.