Thursday, December 31, 2015

Paedo - The Objection to the NT Baptist Case

Dispensationalism is a way of understanding redemptive sweep of the Bible, and is an interpretative principle common to American Christianity. You can find it in denominations as new as the Calvary Chapel group and as old as the Churches of Christ; as large as the Southern Baptists and as small as the KJV only fundamentalists.
Dispensationalism asserts God has two distinct peoples: the Jews and the Christians. In the Old Testament the Jewish dispensation was characterized by bloodlines, families, circumcisions, law-keeping, sacrifice, and theocracy. In the Christian dispensation we're characterized by spiritual families, baptisms, grace, fulfillment in Christ, and salvation by faith (although most dispensationalists would agree that in every era salvation has been by grace through faith).  

Fundamental to this framework is the principle that in each dispensation the rules start over. When a new chapter in redemptive history dawns all the old regulations and requirements do not get carried through but are swept away. So for example the Jews were not to wear garments of mixed threads or light fires on the Sabbath, but because these rules are not specifically re-instituted in our dispensation we're free to ignore them. Now in fairness the New Testament speaks of certain commands in the Old Testament being abolished, so all theologians have to grapple with what stays and what goes. But nuking all the rules is an error, whether you justify it by saying, "Christ is the fulfillment of the law" or "the regulative principle", or "Well I don't know why exactly, but that's just how it is."

You can immediately see the relevance to the debate here. Abraham was told to circumcise his infant children as a sign of the righteousness he had by faith, but because he lived in an obsolete dispensation the practice of applying the sign of the covenant to children is hoc finis est. Believers in the New Testament are given no such instruction to baptize infants, nor even a hint of such a thing, therefore we're not to apply the sign of the New Covenant to infants.

But covenant theology rejects the fundamental principles of dispensationalism (for a number of good reasons). As a result, when trying to argue the NT case for credo-baptism with a paedo, the discussion goes something like this:
"The New Testament only records adults being baptized after they profess faith. Therefore, we should administer Baptism to those who profess faith."

To which the Presbyterian says,
"We agree. Now pass me that baby and let's do this."

"Wait, what? No you misunderstood me. I mean to say only professors of faith may be baptized."
"Look brother, all I heard was someone making a case that adults who grow up pagans, Mormons, or Buddhist need to be baptized upon their conversion. I agree."

The Baptist is puzzled as to why this hasn't convinced the Presbyterian of anything, because it seems so clear in his own mind. But the problem is that this argument only becomes effective once the principle of discontinuity is imported from dispensationalism, and the paedo-baptist is unwilling to trade his preexisting interpretative grid for what he perceives (rightly so might I add) is an inferior one. He points to the New Testament and insists that Abraham is the father of the faithful, and that Abraham received the gospel, which means the Old Testament saints were also saved by faith in Christ and there's no possible way to say it was a physical, not spiritual dispensation. That's why instead of drawing out the argument on why adults should be baptized the credo-baptist needs to prove that the Bible forbids his paedo friend from baptizing infants. Barring that he needs to show that there's no valid reason for baptizing infants using Covenant theology

But before we do, let's hear from the paedo-baptists on why they believe as they do. 

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