Monday, January 21, 2008

Baptism 2b

My ability to communicate seems to be a bit lacking on this baptism issue. I have had a couple of comments that I thought warranted my clarifying what I meant in the last post. I am NOT saying baptism saves us. I will try and clarify this with a quote from the Westminster Shorter Catechism and one from John Murray, first question and answer 94 says:

What is baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, (Matt. 28:19) doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’ s. (Rom. 6:4, Gal. 3:27)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism : With Scripture Proofs., 3rd edition., Question 94 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

And from Dr. Murray in WTJ:

"It is here that some of the most relevant references in the New Testament afford us light and direction. Such passages as Romans 6:3–6; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27, 28; Colossians 2:11, 12 plainly indicate that union with Christ is the governing idea. Baptism signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. It is because believers are united to Christ in the efficacy of his death, in the power of his resurrection, and in the fellowship of his grace that they are one body. They are united to Christ and therefore to one another. Of this union baptism is the sign and seal. The relationship which baptism signifies is therefore that of union, and union with Christ is its basic and central import."
Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Journal Volume 13, 13:109 (Westminster Theological Seminary, 1950; 2003).

I think my mistake was in not emphasizing baptism as the sign and seal of our union with Christ. I hope this clears things up a bit.

P.S. I see where the confusion comes in and have reworded point 2 at the end of the "Baptism Part 2" post.


Rhea said...


Perhaps I just don't understand reformed theology enough to understand this....from the catechism: "signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ." If this is what baptism does, then shouldn't this come AFTER salvation? Or at least, isn't baptism then an IMPORTANT PART of salvation? It seems then that one is saved BEFORE do you (and I guess reformed theology also) believe that infants are then saved?

Now, I don't believe (and am not trying to say) that if a 3 month old baby were to die, that he would go to hell. At the same time though, I don't know that I would say that a 3 month old baby is "saved," per se, at least not in the same way that an adult is who is able, cognitively, to understand it. Do you understand what I'm trying to say here?

I guess I just feel like I'm still missing something here, but I'm not quite sure what it is. I will admit, I think that part of it might be simply b/c of the different ways that we think of/view salvation. You are reformed, and I am not, so obviously we are going to view certain things differently. Perhaps that is just the case here...I'm not sure.

Alan said...

I will try and clear things up somewhat. Everyone who is saved, before Christ or after Christ, 3 months old or 100 years old is saved the same way, by faith in Christ and this faith in Christ comes from God. He does the atoning work and the implanting work of effective faith. You said:
"I would say that a 3 month old baby is "saved," per se, at least not in the same way that an adult is who is able, cognitively, to understand it."
Do you see what you are saying? The decision is what is effectual in your belief, this is the problem with most evangelicals understanding of salvation, they uninentionally assign salvation to the creature instead of the creator. Does this help?

Rhea said...


I see what you're saying. I think that at this point, we'll have to "agree to disagree" :-) I do have one question you believe that a 3 month old is able, cognitively, to have faith in Christ? Is this cognitive understanding of faith the same as a 20 year old with average intelligence? The way I see it (and well, just really the way it is), cognitively a 3 month old is VERY different than a 20 year old with no mental difficiencies. Do you perhaps believe that this "faith in Christ" one must have, that is given by God, is "outside" the realm of cognitive function? As in, it's something entirely supernatural, and doesn't have to make sense from a cognitive side?

(I think that everything that I just said/asked really doesn't have anything to do with baptism though, so feel free to wait until you're done with your baptism series to answer the questions).

I would be interested to hear from a reformed individual the merits/reasoning for believer's baptism and not infant baptism. I've never heard from a self-professing Calvinist the reason for believer's baptism (I've only heard from those who would be placed on the Arminian camp). Do you know of any websites that explain believer's baptism from the reformed perspective? B/c honestly, from what little I know about reformed theology, it makes a lot of sense to have infant baptism.

Deb said...

Thank you Alan for posting this! I think that really helps me out to understand where you're going with the baptism study. I've been reading a lot of what you have on this blog and enjoy it. I just wanted thought I'd jump into the discussion on baptism, because it is a current topic of discussion in our circles here in Delaware.


Rhea said...


This made me think of you:

Perhaps I'm a "closet Calvinist" and don't even know it ;-)

Anonymous said...

On the question of a 3 month old having faith, I read once at Reformation 21 about the age of accountability and the death of infants. I think Richard Phillips was writing. He quoted an old saying that represented the classical Reformed view that infants and the mentally challenged are "exceptions to sola fide." The old saying said that infants went from a state in which faith is not possible (infancy) to a state in which faith is not necessary (heaven). This is not an attempt to defend the point, but to demonstrate that those who went before us in the Reformed faith thought the Bible taught that infants could not express faith. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar enough to cite the relevant texts to work through the question from Scripture, but it seems to me, at least, that, with or without faith, they are saved by grace alone.

How does the point that infants can't express faith apply to the question of infant baptism? Chapter 28 on Baptism, paragraph 6, states:

6. 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.

The argument for baptizing infants of believers, though they may not be able to personally believe for themselves, is an appeal to the sovereignty of God. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. He can do so for an infant before he comes of age. There are believers running around who testify to having believed ever since they can remember. Certainly, these were not baptized as infants in vain.