Here is a brief position paper on the issue of infant baptism.
A Case for Paedobaptism
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#1 by Chris on June 15, 2011 - 1:51 pm
Here is some food for thought.
Was circumcision a satisfactory sign to signify entrance into the Covenant of Grace under the Old Covenant? If so, then why was Paul, who recieved the sign of circumcision as an infant under the Old Covenant, baptized after he born again in the New Covenant? Was Paul outside the covenant as a circumcised infant prior to his being baptized (now that sounds baptistic).
If there is a complete one-to-one correspondence between circumcision and baptism, then circumcision would have to be a satisfactory sign to signify covenantal standing during the transitional apostolic age, but this is not the case. The New Testament teaches that there is a unity but there is also an important discontinuity. This discontinuity is the crux of the issue.
Both sacraments signify entrance into the Covenant of Grace. Under the Old Covenant male infants received the sign and seal of circumcision, but under the New males and females who are united to Chirst receive the sign and seal of baptism. The New fulfills the Old which is why Paul and the others were baptized as adults, even though they were circumcized as infants.
I am convinced that the most important issue in the debate about baptism is whether or not a person understands what it signifies. “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, 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.” (WSC 1:94). In Presbyterian and Baptist churches alike many are ignorant of this most fundamental life changing truth.
#2 by Jesse Pickett on June 16, 2011 - 1:29 am
Good thoughts Chris.
I would just respond by saying that I think we can err if we try to connect the sign of the covenant with the reality to which it points by using chronological logic. What I mean by that is this: if we only offer the sign of the covenant AFTER someone professes faith in Christ, then how in any sense do our children have an interest in the covenant which is, according to Westminster standards, dispensed through MEANS, one of those means being the sacrament of baptism? This is precisely the point that Paul labors in Romans 4 when he tells us that Abraham received the sign of the covenant after he was already justified by faith, yet his son Isaac received the sign of the covenant before he was even able to talk, much less profess faith in Christ. My point is that the when of administering the sign is not the issue: as you said, what is signified is the issue. The whole argument for believers baptism only hinges on a question of when and misses the what, and Romans 4:11 makes it clear that the when isnt nearly as important as the what. Further, how can we catechize our children in obedience to the great commission’s command to “make disciples” if we can only make disciples after they have professed faith in Christ and followed in believers baptism? Although I recognize the discontinuity between the covenants of works and grace, I do not see a discontinuity between the administration of the covenant of grace from old to new testament where the benefits of the covenant are to be extended or withheld based on someones ability to make a public profession. It is true that Paul was both circumcised and later baptized, but so was Christ who was both Lord and Servant of the covenant. He was neither circumcised nor baptized because of a need for regeneration, but, again, the idea is IDENTIFICATION. A new way of administering the covenant was coming in, and the Old Covenant was passing away, and as the One who was ushering in that new form of administration, He in His baptism identified with both the Old and the New covenant people.
#3 by Chris on June 16, 2011 - 2:23 pm
Good discussion. I want you to know that I am not a hardline creedo baptist, but these are things I have considered as I reflected on the paedo bapitst position.
Jessie you wrote:
What I mean by that is this: if we only offer the sign of the covenant AFTER someone professes faith in Christ, then how in any sense do our children have an interest in the covenant which is, according to Westminster standards, dispensed through MEANS, one of those means being the sacrament of baptism?
The same way a baptized child participates in the Lord’s Supper without eating the bread or drinking the cup. The sacraments are always coporate in nature and never individualistic; they are visible signs and seals of the covenant. When a person is baptized all who are present, baptized or not, participate in the sacrament, either as a blessing or a curse. The saved person is blessed becasue it stregthens his or her faith, but the unsaved is cursed (or is led to repentance, then it is gracious) because it brings further condemnation. The sacraments are a visible Word, and they, like the preached Word, are always effectual. I would argue that whenever anyone attends a true and faithful worship service they gather together with the covenant people of God, and are therefore liable to all the blessings and cursings of the covenant.
Your are arguing from Romans 4 without addressing my argument concerning Paul. Romans 4 is teaching that Abraham was justified by faith prior to the old covenant sign of circumcision. Isaac received the old covenant sign of circumcision to indicate his standing in the Covenant of Grace. I argued that Paul received this same sign too, but now under the new covenant he was baptized after he was born again. My original question focused on whether or not the old covenant sign was sufficient to indicate one’s standing in the Covenant of Grace. In order to be true to Scripture you would have to answer yes to this question. The next question was, If this is the case then why was Paul baptized? He was already in covenant so why baptism after he was born again? It is difficult to argue that infant circumsion is replacing infant baptism, especially when we consider Paul’s example. It is possible that the progressive aspect of revelation could include a movement from infant circumcision to believer’s baptism. After all the Passover has several elements in it we do not do today, but we still see the Lord’s Supper as a progressive unfolding of this ordinance.
Jessie you wrote again:
Further, how can we catechize our children in obedience to the great commission’s command to “make disciples” if we can only make disciples after they have professed faith in Christ and followed in believers baptism?
Most of the baptized children who are catechized do not posses saving faith, yet they can be “made disciples.” Saving faith is not a prerequisite to be discipled, neither is baptism as an infant.
Jessie you wrote further:
Although I recognize the discontinuity between the covenants of works and grace, I do not see a discontinuity between the administration of the covenant of grace from old to new testament where the benefits of the covenant are to be extended or withheld based on someones ability to make a public profession.
If this is true then circumcision should have been sufficient in the apostolic period. The first administrative discontinuity is obvious: cutting off the foreskin of males, to washing with water of males and females in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am not arguing whether or not the benefits of the covenant depend upon a person’s public profession (that is Evangelical Arminianism). My argument stems from Paul’s pattern, he was circumcised as an infant but he was baptized after he was born again–this testifies to a significant discontinuity.
Finally, Jessie you wrote:
It is true that Paul was both circumcised and later baptized, but so was Christ who was both Lord and Servant of the covenant. He was neither circumcised nor baptized because of a need for regeneration, but, again, the idea is IDENTIFICATION. A new way of administering the covenant was coming in, and the Old Covenant was passing away, and as the One who was ushering in that new form of administration, He in His baptism identified with both the Old and the New covenant people.
Well said. It is possible that Christ set a pattern as well. You admit a “new way of administring the covenant is coming in, and the Old Covenant was passing away,” yet you argue that because infants were circumcised they should also be baptized, this is partly the old way. If the old is passing away and something new is coming, then why not see Paul’s and Christ’s pattern as the new way?
#4 by Joshua Hinson on June 16, 2011 - 10:53 am
I would say that circumcision and baptism aren’t one to one, but that baptism is all that circumcision was and more (so more than a one to one ratio). Granted, the substance was the same throughout the different administrations making circumcision a valid sign and seal but baptism is a better sign. This is why after the resurrection of Christ in the apostolic era circumcision was made to be obsolete. Baptism is more than what circumcision was because circumcision was fulfilled in Christ’s circumcision on the cross. In my opinion, to make baptism only available to adults makes it less than a one to one with circumcision and shrinks the covenant sign when in the new covenant it is expanded – both to females and to all nations.
#5 by Chris on June 16, 2011 - 2:48 pm
Josh you wrote:
I would say that circumcision and baptism aren’t one to one, but that baptism is all that circumcision was and more (so more than a one to one ratio).
I was responding to Jessie’s position paper. He writes in III:1 “To guard against “beating a dead horse” here, this point will not be stressed far, but there is a precedent in the New Testament of directly connecting circumcision to baptism in a 1-1 relationship.” My whole point is that a one-to-one correspondence is not that clear. There is a relationship to be sure, but it has be more than one-to-one as you indicate. The nature of that realationship is what I was arguing.
You wrote again:
In my opinion, to make baptism only available to adults makes it less than a one to one with circumcision and shrinks the covenant sign when in the new covenant it is expanded – both to females and to all nations.
I agree again. Paul was baptized as an adult, but most importantly it was after his encounter with the resurrected Lord. Certainly, a child may have this experience as well. Mark 16:16 says: “Whoever believes and baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
What is restricitve is saying that only baptized infants are under what the Covenant of Grace signifies. Again, as I said to Jessie, anyone who enters a faithful worship service is under the blessings and cursings of the covenant. If they believe they are saved or strethened in faith, if not they are condemned. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent..” (Act 17:30 NKJ).
The sign of the covenant gives great hope and blessing to baptized children, but it does not ensure salvation–they still need to repent and believe.
#6 by Garrett C on June 30, 2011 - 3:28 pm
thanks for the great blog fellers!
If say anything provocative it is only to get Josh and Jesse to laugh.
One things is for sure, you have to defend infant baptism.
You do not have to really argue for believers baptism.
However, you guys are good thinkers and you have good understanding of your Bibles.
I think we need to have a discussion of how padeobaptist misuse the covenant of grace as a means to read old covenant signs into new covenant realities. That is the real crux. If you can pull that pin out from a Presbyterian… the whole things goes kaput. No one has done a better job succinctly than Stephen Wellum.
Personally that is what keeps me from joining the PCA today. I have more in common with them than I do most Baptist. However, I do not like the “covenantal hopscotch” it takes to arrive at the practice of something so out of place in the new covenant community. Again, I know how you come to your conclusion that this is not out of place. 🙂
Now some argue that congregationalism makes the church impure ( not to name anyone via text message -Mr. Hinson). I argue that the baptist of old, were once accused of trying to purify the church with our stance on baptism. That is because we believe as you do that Jesus said the church would have tares among the wheat, but that does not mean we should sow them in ourselves.
I for one confess we will make error in allowing some into membership, in fact, Baptists have led the way in that with a poor understanding of conversion and gospel. I know from painful experience as a pastor, that I have people on my role who were sowed in to membership as uncovereted. But by God’s grace, and sticking to our beliefs on regenerate church membership… we can clean up some of the mess and apply excommunication when necessary.
It is true, you can actually be a covenant theologian without being a “baby wetting person”. 🙂 I’m just messing and I know this is important to you so don’t shoot me.
Even though Jesse did not argue primarily from the “household passages” (as he shouldn’t), there are those who do.
One food for thought on never using those texts in Acts 10 and 11 to defend infant baptism, is the fact that, in order to defend infant baptism, they have to ignore the other descriptors to place more emphasis on “household” so that it can include infants.
It should be noted that the “them” who are baptized in 10:48 and 11:17 of Acts are also described, now get this… as having heard the word (10:44; having received the Holy Spirit (10:4-47; 11:15-17); having spoken in tongues (10:46) as at Pentecost (11:15); as believers implied in (11:17); and having repented (11:18).
You cannot exclude from the descriptions given of those who were baptized in 10:48 these other descriptions given by Luke.
Infants cannot hear the word, speak in tongues, believe, and repent.
I would contend, with many others, the new covenant sign… is not administered to a physical people… it is given to a spiritual people.
No matter what at the end of the day… DA Carson is not a Presbyterian. That is all I need to know. 🙂
#7 by Joshua Hinson on July 2, 2011 - 1:19 pm
When Jesse told me that he forwarded you my text my first thought was “Garret is going to nail me on the purity of the church.” Touche, brother.
I read Wellum’s piece when I was wrestling with the issue and I believe he has done very well from a credo baptist position. I would recommend it for anyone to read (whatever side of the fence… he hem… waters, one may be on) because I believe he deals with the true issues at hand. However, my conclusion is still the same that the credo baptist position holds to an over realized eschatology. Ideally this works, but of course we cannot know with certainty that the subject of baptism is regenerate. You know the arguments, so I’m not going to go any further but suffice it to say that I had questions Wellum did not answer for me.
We were at the lake the day after you left. I wish we could have seen you guys. I did get to go down and see your mom and dad. They have always been a joy. The boys had a great time jumping off the dock with the Conner kiddos.
Btw, I enjoyed your most recent sermon at Capitol Hill. I just want to tell you to stop hating on covenant children; they’re on the right track baby, they were born this way!
And Carson kept me from becoming a Presbyterian for a while too. Then I got over my man crush and stopped worshiping him. ; P
Love you bro,
#8 by Garrett C on July 5, 2011 - 6:15 pm
Thanks for the encouragement. Jesse loves to poke at my “preaching techniques.”
I have to say, brother, I wish I knew what you and Jesse know going into Seminary.
It will be boring for you guys.
I told Jesse the PCA and the OPC sure are “sexy” to me, but as you know there is the one preventative and that is that bunch of wet youngins yall got running around.
I do fit culturally better as most 9marks Baptists do with those camps.
I can see your point about the over realized eschatology. I’m sure you understand we are pursing, as we should, a “let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” However, we cannot truly accomplish the eschaton on the cursed earth as He will do.
Once we get the argument as you put (which is a helpful one), it comes down to then how we think from a prudent perspective.
What did you think of Wellum’s treatment of the Covenant of Grace?
That was a big point for me. Of course, as he admits, it was him piggy backing on Jewett.
I just preached the Abrahamic Covenant on Sunday. I do want to be careful not to “flat iron the covenants” as Wellum puts it. The more I spend time looking at the covenants in their context coupled with Redemptive History, and how they are fulfilled on multiple horizons, I do arrive at the New Covenant community differently with one entrance.
I hope that is helpful.
Thanks for the response and the “fear of man” rebuke toward Carson.
They don’t call him the “Don” for nothing.
#9 by Joshua Hinson on July 11, 2011 - 9:50 am
I would have to go back and look over Wellum’s chapter, it has been a while since I first read it.
I also have to confess that I named one of my sons after “The Don.” (even though Christen wouldn’t agree)
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