November 24, 2017

Why I Believe In The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Credobaptist Apologia

A long overdue piece, but I don’t want to be seen as a flagwaver for this controversy. Forgive any annoying tone in this piece. I’ve sat on my credobaptist beliefs through a rising tide of paedobaptism among my blog friends.

No one out there is coming to the Internet Monk to work through the issue of paedo or credo baptism. If you want the Baptist position stated by a reformation Christian, then go to the Desiring God library and read good papers like this one that detail the differences in the two positions. If you want the best reformed Baptist expositions, then listen to Al Martin, read Fred Malone , Sam Waldron, G.R. Beasley-Murray or Wayne Grudem. Professors Stander and Louw go through the early church documents and make the historical case, something I have neither the information nor the credibility to attempt.

I’ve actually been operating under a bit of a vow to not bring this subject up. The BHT is overrun with infant baptizers of every variety. The Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and, of course, the Lutherans will lay aside their differences and beat me up together. I don’t like to provoke their ire, because they are a nasty group that doesn’t know how to fight fair, and they use bad language.

In promoting reformation theology and a reformed understanding of the Gospel, I’ve probably led more than a few credobaptist evangelicals close enough to the paedobaptist waters that they decided to drink. It’s the impending conversion of one former credo to paedo that has made me realize I at least need to say something on the subject.

What I want to say isn’t a rehearsal of the same arguments. I have no interest in arguing or converting anyone on this issue. I like the Wilsonite compromise where a church says, “We realize good, Bible-believing Christians study, read, debate and still differ on this subject. Because we believe this may be an issue that can’t be resolved in this fellowship, we will structure our church constitution to allow both paedo and credo baptizing households to exist as one fellowship.” I supported the now withdrawn motion by Dr. John Piper to allow paedobaptists to be members of Bethlehem Baptist church in a recognition of the seriousness of the conviction with which the paedo position is held by some Christians.

So I have no desire to promote a 200 entry comment thread that eventual descends into a discussion of latin grammar in obscure church fathers. What I want to do is state some of my own convictions as a credobaptist, particularly aimed at why I do not believe paedobaptism is the teaching of the scripture or a position I can hold or teach.

And with that, we are off to the races, because it is church tradition’s heavy witness to the practice of paedobaptism that becomes one of the trump cards in this discussion. The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Lutheran Churches and most reformation churches point back to the tradition of the church as a convincing verdict in this discussion.

Baptists generally don’t care much about the early church fathers (to their detriment), and when they do, and cite them for the credo cause, no one pays much attention. Any paedo who hasn’t read Stander and Louw really ought to, lest they assume the case is different than it actually is. There is abundant evidence in their research that credobaptism was the practice of the early church, and paedobaptism became normative by the fourth century. (I can hear the laughter in the next room.)

I am convinced, from church history, but most of all from scripture, that infant baptism became the practice of the church as it grew and expanded into the Gentile world. I do not believe that it was a pagan development, but an extrapolation of the overall direction of gracious inclusion implicit in the Gospel itself. It is not hard at all, to make the case that a movement that reserved baptism for adult converts in its beginning eventually took on infant baptism as a practice in line with much of what the Gospel affirmed, particularly in its Jewish roots.

I am prepared to accept infant baptism as early. I am not prepared to say Jesus taught it, or taught the Apostles to do it. I believe that in his use of baptism as a continuing connection to Judaism and the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus taught credobaptism in his ministry and in the Gospels. This explains what is, for me, the mountain that will not be moved: the absence of examples of infant baptism in the New Testament.

I am quite aware of the arguments that can be made from the use of the word “household”, and of how social and family dynamics affect participation in religious rituals. The Greco-Roman world was a world where children, women and servants would have been affected by the conversion of a Philippian jailer or a Cornelius.

But it is possible to simply presume too much from that connection. For example, the inclusion of a child in a Christian household does not necessitate the baptism of that child. Note, for example, Paul’s reasoning in 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 :

13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

Does this passage mean the children were baptized? The text says what it says. Children were part of the extended family of Christian marriages and households. They are “holy,” but not a word says they were baptized.

And this, of course, brings me to another objection. It seems that if I say that I will go as far as the texts go, and not go beyond, into what church tradition and covenantal reasoning conclude, then I will be treated as if I have looked at scriptures that say “You should baptize infants”, and simply rejected them. Since there are no scriptures that command the baptism of infants, I haven’t rejected them.

Once the assumption is made that infant baptism was the practice of the early church, then infant baptism begins to appear everywhere in the theology of its advocates. Those who say it is NOT THERE, are treated as if they have refused to see what IS THERE. Again, what is not there are any examples of infant baptism.

The connection between the Gospels and the epistles best demonstrates this problem. Take a text like: Matthew 19:13-14 13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” This text does not refer to the baptism of infants. You may assume based on dozens of good reasons that it does, but as it is, it does not. You may assume that everything in scripture convinces you that Matthew was putting the command to baptize infants into Jesus mouth, but it isn’t there unless you infer it there.

It is the same with the Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-20 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.” If you assume that the method of making disciples includes infant baptism, then this text is on your side. If you assume that the method of making disciples is what we have dozens of examples of in the New Testament, then it means a credible, personal confession of faith.

I take the Bible seriously. I believe that the Lord’s Supper is in the Gospels and the epistles so we would see it, understand it and practice it. I believe church discipline is in the Gospels and the epistles for the same reason. I believe baptism is in the Gospels and the epistles so we would practice it and understand its implication.

The Gospels and the epistles contain clear indications that children can believe. The Gospels and the epistles do not leave me confused on the nature of being a disciple of Jesus. But there is no command or example in the Gospel to baptize infants, and there is no clarification in the epistles that such a command is present.

The Gospels and the epistles are clear that infants of believers are in the position of covenantal blessing. They are saved by grace through faith. They are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord with the object of a living faith in Jesus Christ as King. These are clear matters in the Gospels and the epistles. The Baptism of infants, however, is not commanded nor “exampled”, unless it is done so in a way that is utterly silent of explicit text or event. If God is teaching infant baptism the way he is teaching all the other things I have mentioned, then the method is completely different.

I am not opposed to arguments from silence or implication, properly used. I simply do not believe you can rest a major component of understanding the nature of the church on arguments from silence and implication. For matters that define the boundaries of the church, there must be explicit example and command. They are not there.

The last thing I want to talk about is covenantal reasoning. If I may emote for a moment- some of you may want to leave for this part- it is extremely frustrating to hear infant baptism presented repeatedly in two ways:

1. How can we continue to boundaries of physical Israel in the New Covenant?

2. How can we answer a series of questions built on the assumption that we need to understand the Biblical reasoning for infant baptism?

Dr. John Piper, in the paper cited at the beginning of this essay, answers the first question sufficiently for me. I understand others disagree, and I have no desire to change your mind.

The people of the covenant in the Old Testament were made up of Israel according to the flesh – an ethnic, national, religious people containing “children of the flesh” and “children of God.” Therefore it was fitting that circumcision was given to all the children of the flesh.

But the people of the new covenant, called the Church of Jesus Christ, is being built in a fundamentally different way. The church is not based on any ethnic, national distinctives but on the reality of faith alone, by grace alone in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a continuation of Israel as a whole; it is an continuation of the true Israel, the remnant -not the children of the flesh, but the children of promise.

Therefore, it is not fitting that the children born merely according to the flesh receive the sign of the covenant, baptism. The church is the new covenant community – “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25) – we say when we take communion. The new covenant is the spiritual work of God to put his Spirit within us, write the law on our hearts and cause us to walk in his statutes. It is a spiritually authentic community. Unlike the old covenant community it is defined by true spiritual life and faith. Having these things is what it means to belong to the Church. Therefore to give the sign of the covenant, baptism, to those who are merely children of the flesh and who give no evidence of new birth or the presence of the Spirit or the law written on their heart or of vital faith in Christ is to contradict the meaning of the new covenant community and to go backwards in redemptive history.

The Church is not a replay of Israel. It is an advance on Israel. To administer the sign of the covenant as though this advance has not happened is a great mistake. We do not baptize our children according to the flesh, not because we don’t love them, but because we want to preserve for them the purity and the power of the spiritual community that God ordained for the believing church of the living Christ.

The second question is a matter of understanding how we approach the Bible, and particularly appreciating what “makes sense” to any of us at a particular point.

I have lived long enough to understand that none of us have any trouble setting up a “path” through the Bible that will show, in the end, that we are right. Roman Catholics. Covenantal Calvinists. Word-Faith Charismatics. Dispensational Baptists. All can start at Genesis, use a set of questions, and move through the Bible to their own conclusions.

Now anyone reading this web site is well aware that I believe this situation gives us two conclusions:

First, we should respect and appreciate the other person’s questions and path. Should we differ in significant ways, we don’t act as if what we are doing is different from what the other person is doing in seeking to understand scripture and the Gospel. I absolutely believe there are better and worse paths, and that all paths are not equal. But, at the same time, I don’t see the dispensationalist as a Bible-despising heretic, while the covenantal Calvinist, Orthodox Catholic or Lutheran are on a much higher road with a “higher” view of scripture.

We are all walking these roads with the questions we have chosen as our map. If you have convictions that your questions- and therefore, your answers- are superior, then you still have the responsibility to treat your fellow travelers with respect. Why are you convinced of the value of your “map?” I am sure you have an answer, but I suspect that it would take a lot of honesty and a lot of history to really tell us why you and I have chosen to move through scripture with our “maps.”

This, by the way, throws some important light on the fact that those who have decided to change “maps” are often the most obnoxious representatives of their “way through” scripture. My advice: if you are convinced you are right and I am wrong, then win me over with something other than your contempt and massive intelligence. Particularly realize that you, quite probably, once believed as I do, and you came to a different conviction by way of a changed point of view that isn’t entirely explainable or able to be duplicated.

This leads us to the second conclusion: the reason your questions and answers make perfect sense to you, but may mean nothing to me, is mysterious. I can tell you that I spend a lot of time talking to students who have no interest in God or Jesus Christ. These things matter to me. They don’t matter to these students. So if I spend my time answering questions they are not asking, they will sleep or ignore me. If I yell at them for being stupid, hostile or possessed by devils, we will get nowhere.

I know of no way to make someone like broccoli who doesn’t like it. Lectures. Books. Testimonies. Product demonstrations. “Proof” of the benefits of broccoli. None of these- or all taken together- will make someone change their mind at the level of real affection.

So, I am quite sure that a pile of books, cds, sermons and charts will not convince by paedo readers they are wrong, nor will I be convinced that I am wrong by the arsenals of monergism.com, apuritansmind.com or twenty other paedobaptistic reformed apologists.

Which brings us back to questions. The best book on paedobaptism I ever read was Doug Wilson’s To A Thousand Generations. It was in that book that Wilson stated the problem this way: At what point would Jewish converts to Christianity have stopped giving the covenant sign to their children? First generation? Second? Is it not highly probable that the covenant sign was simply transferred to baptism of infants and, therefore, we ought to do the same?

This is a compelling question and answer. I believe it has converted more than a roomful of evangelicals who were wobbling. If one is on the path of covenantal consistency in the signs given to children in the visible church, this is a substantial question. But it is the fact that paedobaptists assume the overarching priority of a covenantal system, and its tensions, rather than starting by asking “What do we see in the Gospels and the epistles?” that causes me to decide to remain a credobaptist. I conclude Wilson’s persuasive reasoning is, in the end, answering questions that are not the primary questions, but questions that exist within the presupposed consistent covenantalism of paedobaptism. With that beginning point, the questions lead logically- an important word- to infant baptism. Bring the texts along for the ride, and you have reformed paedobaptism.

(Even as I write the above, I know there is an ever more elaborate answer headed my way to easily explain how we can believe something is so important even though it is never commanded nor given in a single example. Where’s Occam’s razor when you need it?)

The continuance of the covenantal sign is not a question I am asking or that the Gospels lead me to ask. I am not asking it because the continuation of the covenant sign to children is not a compelling focus of the Gospels, and the epistles are clear that there are some limited parallels between circumcision and outward baptism, but the true circumcision is an operation of the Holy Spirit.

Wilson’s question depends on the adoption of covenantal consistency as a primary theme of scripture. I believe this is a mistake. I agree with Piper that the new covenant moves beyond the old, and Baptism, as we see it practiced in the New Testament is not a continuation of the old covenant sign to infants, but is a New Covenant sign to confessing believers.

Infants and children of believers occupy a somewhat unique place among God’s people, in that they are part of the household of faith in a potential, “fleshly” sense, but not part of the visible church until they have confessed faith in Christ and been baptized. They are the recipients of promises as part of God’s family, but the reality of those promises comes by faith, not simply by the sign of infant baptism.

If I were to be a paedobaptist, the most persuasive reason would be the magnification of grace and the abuse of Baptism as a “work.” Growing up in fundamentalist circles where rebaptism was a regular feature after every revival, I am drawn to the emphasis on the gracious action of God that is emphasized in infant baptism. I join my paedobaptist brothers and sisters in affirming what Holy Scripture says about the grace of God in baptism. It is imperative that, no matter what our view of the baptism of disciples and the making of disciples, we affirm that spiritual reality is GOD ACTING in grace.

We may bring entirely different suppositions, questions and understandings to the questions of who is baptized or how the language of these verses relates to the grace of God in the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. It is unlikely that any of us will change our minds from the view of the Bible or covenant children that we are drawn to in our individual journeys.

These passages are, still, the Word of God that we confess together in worship and live out in our discipleship. There is no better way to end this essay than to say: This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

1 Peter 3:21 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Romans 6:3-5 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Ephesians 4:4-5 4 There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Colossians 2:11-12 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.

1 Corinthians 12:13 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Galatians 3:25-29 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Comments

  1. Good post. I’m a credobaptist as well, for many of the reasons you mention. But most importantly, I agree with your emphasis on Christian unity. Baptism is supposed to be a joyous blessing, however it is practiced, not a point of angry division.

    Here is the main thing that bothers me about my credo position, however: even if it’s correct that the practice of infant baptism didn’t become normative until the fourth century, why does that mitigate the subsequent 1600 years of church history? There are a few other very important things that weren’t stabilized until the fourth century or so, including the canon and the nature of Christ and the Trinity. In these areas, we say that the Holy Spirit guided the Church in understanding and applying things that were only implicit in scripture. I’m concerned that my credobaptist position represents an unduly restrictive, Western modernist conception of scripture as a sort of static propositional instruction manual. If I believe the Holy Spirit continually speaks to the Church through scripture, am I justified in writing off how baptismal practice developed after the fourth century merely because the specific context of baptism in the NT seems to relate primarily (though not unequivically) to new adult converts?

  2. Michael: This is not a joke, but a serious plea. Could you simplify the language and terminlogy in your blog a little? You have many readers, I’m certain, that like myself are not academics. Sometimes you are hard to read. When you use words like Paedobaptism, Credobaptist and Apologia, I haven’t the foggiest idea what you mean.
    Now, I can often read the article, and figure some of it out, but not all of it. I value your opinions, and your teachings, but if I am to benefit, I must understand.
    No disrespect meant, and thanks for your consideration.

  3. Dolan McKnight says:

    As I was a member of Baptist churches for over fifty years and recently joined a Methodist church, I have done a lot of study on credo- vs. paedo-baptism, and basically agree with your conclusions, primarily on the assumption of sola scriptorum. I am more interested in the actual practices of baptism that seem to blur the distinction and those that tend to minimize baptism’s significance.

    Credo churches have now almost unanimously incorporated baby dedications in their services. I have observed my new pastor christen infants using the Methodist liturgy and visited several credo churches where dedications were performed (specifically for my grandchildre). For all practical purposes, the elements of the dedication (call for the parents to raise the child in a Christian home, invocation of God’s blessing, parading of the baby before the congregation, etc.) were identical to the Methodist practice sans about three drops of water on the baby’s head.
    I am not critical of this practice, which I regard as adiaphoria in a credo church, and realize it is a great marketing technique, but it certainly blurs the line.

    Also on the credo side, we have for many years practiced, if not infant baptism, paedo-baptism. It used to be the Baptist emphasis to hold off on pushing children for a conversion decision until at least the fourth grade (where there was always a big pitch in Vacation Bible School), but I have seen many six or seven-year-old professions of faith and baptisms recently. I certainly am not one to judge the readiness of a child to understand what this decision implies, but I also am aware that the vast majority of these converts tend to realize that their conversion was not real in their teenage years and walk the aisle a second time.

    Thirdly, their has been a deemphasis on baptism in the mega-church, as much as any reason due to logistics. If you are baptizing a thousand a year, it is time-consuming to parade them in front of the church each Sunday. To the seeker, whose anonymous presence dominates such a church, this is boring, like watching a high school graduation, and the site of a baptistry is just too old school. So many of these churches perform annual or quarterly mass baptisms in a huge decorative pool in front of the church. The ancient custom of instruction and an all night vigil to reflect on the meaning of baptism is definitely dead.

    The church only becomes more progressive in its attitude toward baptism. The Arkansas church’s practice, where a child may be baptized in a fire truck baptistry with flashing lights, roaring sirens, and popping fireworks, is certainly the wave of the future. Why worry about the distinction between credo- and paedo- when you can have so much fun?

  4. ajaxfc10 says:

    How then should I now live? Seriously, though. I am becoming increasingly convinced of the credobaptist position. Having said that, I don’t think it would be profitable for me to remove my family from the PCA church we are members of and drag them to the legalistic SBC church down the street. Thoughts?

  5. Dolan McKnight says:

    As a member of Baptist churches for over fifty years, but a recent member of the Methodist church, I became very interested in exploring the credo- vs. paedo-baptism views. Like you, I still think credo has the strongest case, but I am convinced that both sides have diluted the meaning and significance of the event to the average Christian.

    As I am sure you know, in the early church the event was extremely important. Catachumens, who often were initiates for several years, would spend all night in an Easter vigil, reflecting on the meaning of their coming baptism. The service itself would involve baptism, confirmation by a bishop, chrismation (receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit), and then communion. Prior to Constantine, the stakes were high if one called Jesus Christ Lord, so the initiation was suitably involved and impressive to emphasize that commitment.

    The public ritual started gradually to go downhill from there. I won’t go into the history, but overtime the meaning (but not the grace)has all but disappeared in most churches.

    I have become familiar with the Methodist liturgy and practice of infant baptism. I have also seen the nearly universal practice of “parental” dedications (including my grandchildren) at various credo churches. In all elements, the call for commitment to Christian upbringing for the child, the blessings of God, the parading of the child before the congregation, etc., the rite is identical, save for about three drops of water. I do not have a problem with parental dedication (I regard it as adiaphoria), but it clearly is a substitute (and an attractive one for young families) for infant baptism.

    A further blurring is the practice of allowing paedo-, but not infant baptism in credo churches, with children as young as six and seven being baptized. When I was growing up, the push for commitment usually came during Vacation Bible School for fourth graders, but today many are much younger. I am certainly not capable of judging when a child is ready, but I do know that many teenagers realize that there first commitment and baptism were not real and walk the aisle a second time.

    On the other hand, confirmation has become the Methodist answer to the need for a clear ceremony to establish personal commitment to Christ. Throughout time, confirmation began to be separated from baptism in the Western church, because the bishop was not always present. Also with infant baptism taking hold, it had no meaning for the initiate. It even disappeared in the Eastern church. The paedo reformers saw confirmation as a means to express sola fide years after baptism, and this was carried on by Episcopalians and the Methodist church, although the Episcopalians began to debate it theologically. So another departure was used to fill a hole.

    Today, the mega-church has again transformed baptism. Seekers, who dominate the thinking of the mega-church, do not want to be bored by a group of baptisms each Sunday, which is like seeing a high school graduation. Plus a baptistry or font is too old school. Therefore, many mega-churches have built fancy decorative pools outside the church and only baptize a few times a year outside of the services so that they don’t interfere with the entertainment.

    Of course, the church is infinitely innovative. I expect the Arkansas church that allows childred to be baptized in a fire-truck-shaped baptistry accompanied by sirens, flashing lights and fireworks will be the new norm. Why worry about the theology of baptism when you can have so much fun?

  6. A suggestion for those not having Michael’s vocabulary: I don’t know about all browsers, but Firefox allows me to double-click a word, then right-click and execute a search, which opens in a new tab. Rarely do I have to hunt long for a correct answer.

  7. I’d be interested to hear what you think about this.

  8. Here is a question for you: in your theology, does baptism itself actually do anything? Or is it only symbolic? If it is only symbolic, then can you explain why it is important?

    I was baptized twice, once as a baby in the Episcopalian Church, which my parents resigned from when I was very young (and Christianity had made no impact on me); and later after I became a born-again Christian, in an evangelical mega-church.

    I’m now a convert to Roman Catholicism, and it’s the infant baptism they recognize.

    Thanks.

  9. u2wesley says:

    I’m a staunch credobaptist, but I realize that disciples-only baptism can become just as trivialized as infant baptism is for the most part. One thing I’ve never been able to figure out is the “near-infant baptism” practised by some supposedly credobaptist churches. For some parents and the churches that cater to them, baptism is one of a long list of life passages they rush their kids through as if they were so many hoops. “Hey, your kid learned how to ride a bike at 4? I can top that. My kid got baptized when he was 3.” I was listening to one of Mark Driscoll’s sermons recently and he bragged about one of his kids getting baptized at the age of 3. There are a lot of things I really like about Driscoll, but he needs to revisit that one.

  10. Michael,

    Thanks for your post, and for the graciousness towards those of us who practice infant baptism. When our kids were born, I was absolutely sure we would dedicate them, and allow them to make a conscious decision to be baptized later in life. What changed my mind was being reminded of God’s prevenient grace, which is at work long before we chose to follow Christ.

  11. Just out of curiosity, what, in particular, is wrong about baptizing a child at the age of 3?

  12. Travis, nothing — if you believe in infant baptism. But if you’re holding to iMonk’s arguments for believers-only baptism, then most people would suggest that a three-year old cannot make a credible confession of faith that they will remember, say, ten years later.

    It is an interesting question: at what age is a person’s confession of faith suitable for baptism?

    But overall I find nothing disagreeable here, despite being one of those nasty BHT baby-baptizers (whose youngest child was four when he was baptized).

  13. Michael,

    A seminary professor and I used to go around on this debate nearly every week. I stopped arguing after an experience during my CPE at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh fourteen years ago. The three-year old daughter of a very devout and dedicated Baptist elder had been hit by a car in front of her father – she was not expected to survive. In the Intensive Care Unit, the father asked me to baptize his daughter. Taking a bottle of sterile water from the nurses’ station, I baptized her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The water mixed with the blood on her head and came down over her forehead, and I suddenly realized with a clarity I had never know before that Baptism is what God does, not what we do. Christ had claimed her as his own, and the water mixed with blood reminded me that His atoning sacrifice on the Cross makes every sacrament “effective” and his grace does not depend on what I do. My difficulty for a long time with the argument that Baptism is only efficacious when it is administered as the result of an adult decision is that it makes the grace of the sacrament dependent on the one baptized. Which is a form of “works righteousness” isn’t it?

    When I saw my professor several weeks after I baptized the little girl, I said, “I will not argue this matter any more. I may be wrong intellectually, but I think I now understand Baptism spiritually in a way I never have before.”

    My experience will not prevent others from arguing about this matter – it enabled me to give up another one of the many useless exercises in trying to “explain” the great mystery of God’s grace.

  14. Although I consider myself to be a Bible Analyst, probably alone in this discipline, consise with words and not a good speller (I not going to use my spell checker for emphasis of this statement and be intetionally wordy, please don’t hate me) I will sound like the guy in the Bible (simply stated for those who don’t have time to look up words just to enter a conversation) who was up on charges by the Church for being healed by (Jesus Christ!!!) our Savior. He did not have a theology to dis-ertate or elaborate confirmed by years of comparing Church history, he just said, “I don’t know,” and was promptly ex-communicated from the Church. Well he did not want to talk to them with all their questions, because it was sooo obvious to him that Jesus heald him. He just could not convince them.

    Which brings me to the point of water baptism of youth. I am a Presbyterian from birth, and my Godson I Roman Catholic. I was at an Urban Missionary outreach on the street with a friend who people think is strange, but our best friend was born in a manger. My Godson who was very young at the time walked up to me and asked me if I was a Priest. What? Water baptism of infants? OK, so my mom let my dad name me Winston Tobias (Tobias, Tobijah, Tobiadonijah, Tob again excuse my spelling) Please forgive me when I don’t understand theological constructs but stick to the KJV only and especially not the N-IV (N4) for wisdoms sake (666) which is obvious to me after word comparisons between the to then discerning what is written on the cover and lack of authorization by kings, prophets, priests, and gifts of the Spirit which some decided are not needed today, only for 10,000 years earlier.

    www. Chaplain Winston .com

  15. Christian Greetings, Michael,

    Good arguments for believer’s baptism, Michael. Succinct and Biblical, which I appreciate.

    Perhaps you might think with me, briefly, of the influence of the art of politics on His church – the institution, and perhaps the Body.

    While the Biblical admonition for adult baptism is clear, the desire to assure infants a place in eternity began with the church fathers, Cyprian for one. The Apostolic Constitution (c.360) encouraged infant baptism. However, the issue of baptism as it became traditional in The RCC resembles a desire to control the attending families by claiming their children for God – read: the institution of the church. Both Luther and Calvin realized the necessity for this as they set up their own church/state environments and the tradition lives on today in the hearts of unthinking Christians and their denominational structures.

    The hierarchy within all denominations has obvious parallels to political structuring and ignores the fact that Paul defined only two offices in his letters to Timothy and Titus. I believe the characteristic/gifts of Ehp 4 are just that – not titles or offices.

    The council at Dortrecht was convened to answer the remonstrance movement in Holland resulting in the TULIP doctrines. “All Arminians” get out and they did. Theological issues got tangled up in politics and visa versa. All were served poorly and the mess continues.

    When doctrinal issues divide the Body of Christ political solutions are right around the corner.

    The idea of politics may come from the Koine word politeuoo found used here in Philippians 1:27: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” NKJV

    Albert Barnes has a very good comment on this verse.

    Thayers defines (NT:4176) politeuoo (conduct) as follows:

    1. to be a citizen
    2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
    3. to make or create a citizen
    4. to behave as a citizen; to avail oneself of or recognize the laws

    Isn’t it a shame we don’t embrace the limited definition of this word instead of the manipulative, favor trading, back stabbing monster it has become. It is grossly abused in the world and does not belong in the church – Body or institution. One spirit and one mind would be refreshing, no?

  16. Hi Michael,

    I appreciate your post. I was a baptist for a long time, and am now a paedobaptist. I agree with you that over 90% of infant baptism resources just seem to pound home the continuation of the covenant, Covenant, COVENANT! I do agree with the covenantal argument. But since you do not, I am not surprised that your mind remains unchanged after reading MANY such infant baptism resources.

    Just in case you are interested, I invite you to read a couple of arguments for infant baptism which are *not* covenantally-based.

    You said “Jesus taught credobaptism in his ministry and in the Gospels. This explains what is, for me, the mountain that will not be moved: the absence of examples of infant baptism in the New Testament.” — Well, I disagree with your statement. I do not think Jesus ever taught credobaptism in the New Testament. The second link below makes this argument.

    When you have some time and some interest, please read these two links:

    http://www.biblelighthouse.com/sacraments/baptism-ot.htm

    http://www.biblelighthouse.com/sacraments/baptism-edwards1.htm

    Thank you, my brother!

    In Christ,
    Joseph Gleason
    http://www.biblelighthouse.com
    http://www.reformationsuperhighway.com