(the) True answer: Because over a period of about 5 or 6 years, I came (at first) kicking and screaming (or at least extremely resistantly) to a true conviction of it’s truth.
(the) Extended answer: I’d be happy to answer questions or tell a bit about what convinced a settled credo-“little b” baptist that the Covenant Promises are meant for believers and their children. That will take some time, which I will not have until the end of the week, but I am willing!
(the) Just-in-case-you’re-wondering answer: No, the sign of baptism placed on an infant does not save. DOES NOT SAVE. That covenant child must, like everyone, come to faith in Jesus Christ and be converted.
No, basically. I would agree that there is something different about children brought up in Christian homes. However, I would balk at saying that as they stand they are Christians, for reasons of biblical theology (ie. the new covenant is not reckoned through families). And I would argue that baptism is a visible and public declaration of faith.
However, I wouldn’t pick a fight with an evangelical presbyterian over it – I think it’s an area of freedom.
Well, there is a book on my shelf by Douglas Wilson about the issue, and I’ve always meant to read it. Just haven’t got around to it yet. I don’t really know one way or the other, and I guess I haven’t made an issue of coming to a solid issue because it isn’t what converts us, as Kim so adeptly pointed out.
No. A person chooses baptism as a very obvious sign of a new life following Jesus.
Yesterday I saw a reproduction of a painting from the Roman catacombs. John the Baptizer (clothed) stands on the riverbank reaching his hand out to Jesus (naked) who is stepping up out of the water. An adult, individual act.
The mikve is the Jewish ritual bath & a Jewish adult immerses themselves in it. I don’t know where the sprinkling of infants comes from. Sounds just a little bit pagan to me.
My babies were baptized, but that was more as a sign of our commitment to raising them as Christians. And partly to make myself feel better, because The Baby was going through all of her health problems then. Is that an answer?
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Baptism signifies the death to the old life and the commencement of the new (regeration) , so it is only appropriate for those who are regenerate to participate.
Kim, I think I’m probably closest to where you were at: essentially a baptist who believes the Covenant Promises are true for children but not sure if that means infant baptism is the new sign in the new covenant because circumcision was in the old. [A brief and crude description of a whole lot of doctrine… sorry]. I like that infant baptism emphasises the fact that God choses us before we ever chose Him… I’d like to hear about your thoughts and the questions you asked as you changed from baptist to paedo-baptist.
Your comments were also interesting. The historical example of Jesus certainly has to be considered – since it is Him we are following! – and there is definitely something to be said for being baptised as an act of obedience to Jesus’ instruction…
OK, here we go; from a Paedo-baptist understanding:
The fact that baptism signifies something means it is a sign, so I guess the best place to start is with the basic understanding of what baptism signifies.
As paedo baptists, we understand the sign to signify a reality: God’s Covenant promises to save His people. Contrary to the understanding of credo baptists, who place the reality of baptism in the subjective realm (dependent upon the profession of the “subject”), the paedo baptist grounds the meaning of baptism in the objective truth: God saves believing sinners through the atoning, sacrificial death of Christ. This objective sign is always and forever true, no matter who receives the sign, because what it is pointing to, or signifying, is God’s Covenant Promise to save. Because, in our understanding, that is what is being shown forth in baptism; it’s truth does not rest in the profession of the person being baptized, but in Christ’s atonement and God’s immutable promise. Baptism is “an outward sign” but of an “outward reality”, which may demonstrate what belongs to the person being baptized should they have faith, rather than a subjective “inward reality” based on a profession of faith.
In other words, the meaning of baptism is not dependent upon the recipient as it is grounded in the immutable promise of God to save all who believe. Just as the Gospel doesn’t vary according to the one who hears, the meaning of baptism is always the same regardless of who is baptized. Everytime a baptism takes place it is proclaiming the promises of God.
A friend of mine once put it this way: “Baptism is not added to grace, but is an identification of a covenantal relationship. As limiting as illustrations are: Like a Folger’s label to a can of coffee. The label adds nothing to the can (one is paper, the other steel, plastic, etc.) or coffee, but it does identify the item as a coffee can. Baptism (the label) is a sign and seal of a specific kind of relationship (a covenantal can). The contents of the can (which are placed in the can when the Maker sees fit) may be later identified as caffeinated (effectual) or decaffeinated (non-effectual). Baptism (the label) DOES NOT SAVE in ANY form, it is simply a sign and seal of the covenant. Important, yes, essential, no (for the saved there would still be a can of coffee, w/o a label).”
Clear as mud? Maybe this will help clear it up. From Chapter 28 of the Westminster Confession of Faith: On Baptism (especially section VI):
V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.
13. Gen. 17:14; Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; see Luke 7:30
14. Rom. 4:11; Acts 10:2, 4, 22, 31, 45, 47
15. Acts 8:13, 23
VI. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.
16. John 3:5, 8
17. Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27; I Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38, 41
For clarification, as a “credo-baptist”, I wouldn’t say that because I believe baptism relates to an inward reality doesn’t mean that I think that reality is “subjective” – just that it is inward. The inward reality that it is based on is exactly as solid as the outward reality that Kim is talking about – it is grounded in the promises of God; it is not a subjective experience. However, it is an “invisible” reality.
Also, as a “credo-baptist” I would agree that there is a covenant relationship between God and his people – but I would say that this is not expressed through nations or families (as the old covenant was), but in God’s sovereign calling of his people. If there is a weakness in the credo position theologically, I would say that families of believers do seem to be given a significant status even in the new covenant.
However, this all requires substantially more humble theological wrestling on my part ….
Perhaps I should clarify: by “subjective” I meant “within the realm of the ‘subject’ive. The ‘subject’ of baptism is the one who makes the profession of faith, without which baptism is never administered. I did not mean to suggest in any way that the faith of the credo baptist was not grounded in Christ’s atoning work or was only a subjective reality–only that it is upon the profession of the ‘subject of baptism’ that baptism takes place.
To knowingly participate in the drama of symbolically declaring identification with life-out-of-death by Christ is a great privilege and I would understand if someone baptized as an infant felt slightly cheated of that.
I’m with you so far , Kim. Thanks for your detailed and extensive explanation! I love it!
…But the bit I don’t get is when people make the link between baptising children because God’s covenant relationship was established between Abraham and his offspring – I’m ok with that bit but the next argument loses me – and was administered to children in their infancy through the sign of circumcision and so we should therefore use this new symbol, baptism, at the same time – in infancy. The reason I don’t get this is because the New Testament talks about Christ being our circumcision, so we don’t need this old sign anymore even though the covenant stays the same. So, why do we keep the – I don’t know what to call it… – time frame of the old? Also, Jesus was also baptised as an adult. What do we do with Christ’s example as paedo-baptists?
Miss M asks: Jesus was also baptised as an adult. What do we do with Christ’s example as paedo-baptists?
Well, as Reformed Presbyterians, we do not look to the baptism of John as the institution of Christian baptism. Baptism is a sacrament that was instituted by Jesus by proclamation, not example: Matthew 28:16-20.
Matthew 28:16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We don’t look to Jesus’ baptism (as an adult) by John the Baptist as an example of how we are to understand Christian baptism. How can Christ’s own baptism signify the death, burial and resurrection of Christ when he had not yet died, been buried, or resurrected? We look at the post resurrection baptisms that occur in the book of Acts, which were often characterized as household baptisms:
Acts 15:15And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Acts 16:33And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
1 Corinthians 1:16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas….)
Here you see the covenant language of the OT, which you asked about. The covenant includes believing parents and their children, both of whom receive covenant sign and promise:
Gen 17:9And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.
Here it is in the NT:
Acts 2:39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
New Covenant baptism is linked with Old Covenant circumcision:
Colossians2:11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
If, as we understand, you look at the linking of baptism to circumcision along with the fact of Christ’s having instituted it after he died, was buried, and rose, you will find the parallel between the OT and NT (Matthew 28 and Acts 2:39) and rather than at the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. Hence, as circumcision was administered to believing adults and the infants of believers in the OT, we believe the New Covenant sacrament of baptism is to be administered to believing adults and the children of New Covenant believers.
I hope that helps you understand at least a little bit about how paedo-baptists arrive at their understanding of Christian baptism.
Wow! That is clear, Kim. Thank you. I think I’m getting it now. Thanks! I’ll let it soak in for a while and will come back if I have more questions. You have explained this well though. Thanks for your effort!
Glad to be of service. I don’t have all the answers, of course, but if you have some other questions, I’ll be glad to answer as best I can.
For me, as a former credo baptist, what it all centers around is when baptism was instituted and what it signifies. Once I understood the reformed position on those two things, the light went on for me.
MissM: I’d recommend a book called “In Pursuit of the Truth” by Derek Bigg in relation to applying this sort of time frame thing – although it doesn’t directly address the issue of baptism. But it’s not easily available – there is a blog for the book linked to in my blogroll; email me if you think you might be interested.
Something else – again, I’m not saying that you can’t bring up a child as a Christian, or that I would part company with Presbyterian/Anglican brothers and sisters over this. I am continuing the discussion because it is happening in a grown-up Christian way of being concerned to think through the issues, not to try and score points or fundamentally to show “I am right, you are wrong”.
Whilst I can see the case is coherent for baptism being a parallel of circumcision, I don’t think the case is made that birth for somebody today can be considered parallel to birth under the old covenant. You are adopted through new birth and through faith in Jesus; you don’t inherit the covenant through birth. There aren’t necessarily “privileged” people – hence Paul’s “no Jew or Gentile”, no?
In other words, the parallel between baptism and circumcision is not related to the age at which it should happen.
“I am continuing the discussion because it is happening in a grown-up Christian way of being concerned to think through the issues, not to try and score points or fundamentally to show “I am right, you are wrong”.”
I, too, am glad that this subject, which can become emotional for those on both sides, can be and has been discussed in a God honoring way.
I would be delighted to compose an answer for your questions, but time restraints do not permit me to do it immediately. I’m not a “quick on my feet” thinker. It takes some time for me to respond to honest questions like yours, so if you don’t mind, I will copy your question and come back with an answer when I have had time to give it the time it requires.
If that’s ok with you, I’ll be back week after next, God willing. In the meantime, maybe someone else will weigh in.
… actually, looking back over your posts, I think you have already addressed the question to an extent (“believing adults and children of believers…”). And I also agree that John’s baptism isn’t the same as Jesus’ baptism – though interestingly, baptism was another of the steps taken by people if they wished to convert to Judaism at the time. John’s baptism was interesting because even those people who were “good Jews” were still expected to be baptised, to prepare the way for the Lord…..