Thursday, March 20, 2008

Alan On Infant Baptism

So I have posted quite alot of information about baptism from John Calvin and Michael Green. I am not sure how many have read them, surely not much conversation around them, so I thought I would post some thoughts. I will tell you all my story and see if some personal experience helps lend any credence to what I have to say. I was raised, as a Christian, in a baptist type church. We practiced "believers baptism," which meant we only baptized those who professed Christ. Since infants could not profess Christ we did not baptize them. We would "dedicate" the infants, which was really a dry baptism, I see this as evidence we all have that we should not suffer the little children from coming to Christ in baptism.

Eric asked me to explain why there is so much disagreement about baptism and why I thought it was not clear in scripture. I have to say I think it is clear in scripture. The debate is not "infant baptism vs. believers baptism" as those on the believers baptism side think it is. I have said before and I will say it again, I am NOT against immersing an adult who comes to faith in Christ. I am also not against an infant in the household of believers being ushered into the covenant through the sacrament of baptism which is the fulfillment of the shadow of circumcision of the Old Testament. Paul clears this up for us in Colossians:

"8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having 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. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him."

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Col 2:8-15 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

There was no Church before Pentecost, there were no Christians before Pentecost. Everyone needed to be baptized after Pentecost this is why we see the early Church baptizing all those adults, but we do see them baptizing households as well. I hope this helps somewhat.

4 comments:

Eric said...

Alan,

Thank you for this post.

I wish I had worded my question a bit differently. I hope that what I said does not imply that I think there is any problem with scripture. The problem is with interpretation.

Also, I realize that you are not against adults being baptized. The issue is with those who have not yet accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

Here is what I think is interesting: I have read the same bible passages you have. I've read that section of Colossians multiple times. I understand Covenant Theology. I was even raised in a tradition that is willing to (although does not promote it) baptize infants - the Wesleyan denomination. I am now a Reformed Baptist.

I read the same scripture you do, but I just can't see infants being baptized. I'm not writing this comment in order to argue with your conclusions. I just find it interesting that we read the same bible, believe it is true, worship the same God, believe God is sovereign over salvation, and still come to different positions on the issue of baptism.

Alan said...

Well, I know you were not implying there was a problem with scripture. I can answer your root question as well, we live in a fallen world and have a habit of being wrong. So one of us is wrong, could even be me, but fortunately Christ died for our wrongness as well.

In Christ
Alan

Eric said...

Alan,

I agree with you. The great part is that one day we will both be with Christ, and then our differences won't really matter.

John D. Chitty said...

May I attempt to insert some thoughts regarding Eric's question about how individuals can examine the same text and come away with different interpretations?

As a listener to the White Horse Inn, I frequently hear Michael Horton point out that no one comes to the text of Scripture completely free of preconceived notions. Even though Eric was raised in a paedobaptist denomination, he says they didn't promote paedobaptism. That leaves a deficit in the minds of those not receiving clear instruction on the matter. So, naturally, this void of teaching on baptism was easily filled with the very consistent emphasis offered by the tradition for whom baptism is their very namesake--the Baptists! Perhaps I'm just trying to say, "nature abhors a vacuum."

The heart of the Baptist approach to the question of baptism seems to be in the difference in the emphasis put on the leap from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The paedobaptists emphasize the continuity between the testaments, while the credobaptists emphasize the discontinuity between the testaments. While paedobaptists are looking in the New Testament for explicit negations of giving the sign of the covenant to children of covenant adults (if you will), Baptists are looking for explicit commands prescribing the same thing. Baptists come looking for a positive; paedobpatists come looking for a negative--that explains, in my mind, how two individuals come to the text and end up with varying interpretations (which not amazingly coincide with the interpretation of the traditions from which both individuals come). It's the age old problem of not being able to get away from one's preconceived notions.

This may not have told you anything you didn't already know, but I think it's the plain and simple answer to that particular question.

I must confess, Alan, I haven't been following the posts on Calvin and Green as much as I would like, however, every time I did read them, I came away with a new layer of understanding on the issues. I'll certainly try to get back to looking up the ones I've skipped in the past. I presume they'll still be there when I come looking for them.

If I may, I'd like to suggest, if you haven't done so already, come by my blog later and check out the link to Google Maps which I found featured at the ESV blog. They are featuring satellite images of the greater Jerusalem area, with tags detailing the events of Passion Week, linking to the ESV website to read the relevant Scripture passages. It's pretty interesting. But my blog features a bonus great hymn on Christ's sacrifice by a seventeenth century Lutheran pastor to add a devotional application to the interesting maps.

God bless you and yours this Good Friday!