Thursday, December 31, 2015

Paedo Vs Credo - Introductory Remarks

Having decided the Presbyterians were right about covenants, I wearily set myself to solving the next problem: were they also right about baptism?

At first glance our views seemed similar. We both regard baptism as a sacrament. We both baptize people who may or may not be saved. Both see baptism as ushering the person into the visible church. Both immerse (although Presbyterians relax this somewhat). Both believe that adult converts must be baptized. Both see it as the sign of a promise. Both baptize persons when they enter the new covenant. But Presbyterians baptize infants and we don't.
It was time to make an honest effort to find out which was more Biblical.

Growing up in the Church of Christ I heard something very similar to this regarding musical instruments. The majority decided that because there was a conspicuous silence about their presence in the New Testament, service ought to be done a-Capella. The minority decided the silence meant instruments were either a matter of conscience or were permissible because they were used in the Old Testament.
In like manner there are three ways to deal with the fact that there's no mention of infants, children, or teenagers being baptized in the Bible:
  1. Baptism is inseparably connected with faith, so only those who make a profession of faith should be baptized.
  2. The lack of instruction one way or another indicates it is matter of conscience. Both the paedo and the credo views are equally Biblical.
  3. The lack of overturning the established Old Testament pattern indicates the children of believers are in covenant and therefore warrant the sign of baptism.   
Within the first position there are some differences of opinion. Those who hold more strictly to the data insist that the minimum age is something like a teenager since that's the equivalent of an adult in the ancient world. Those who hold to the principle of the data believe children who make profession of faith ought to be baptized, which follows a debate on how old a child can be before baptism is permitted. 

The second option I'm tempted to rule out as unacceptable because I don't see the tertium quid. Either infants should be baptized, or they shouldn't. If infant baptism is Biblical for them then I don't see why they should be denied it. Likewise if baptism is reserved only for professors of faith then including infants is clearly impossible since they lack the ability to profess anything. If, however, over the course of this study a third option somehow presents itself then I'll change my mind, but for now this is out.

The third position is the Presbyterian one, and it comes in two forms. The first is the classic Reformed stance that the covenant of grace was given circumcision as it's sign, and in the fullness of time God eventually replaced this sign with Baptism. The second version trades on the fact that God has established certain properties about covenants (namely that they're made with a head and the family is included), so children are included in every covenant.

What I quickly verified in my studies was that there is no mention of infant baptism in the New Testament. Neither however was there any evidence of a child growing up in a Christian home and receiving the sign of baptism once they had reached an age where their faith was considered credible. In both cases the Scriptures were totally silent, which meant the matter had to be decided on other grounds. Things like good and necessary inference. 

Before I begin however let me say a few words about the structure of this series.  
  1. In conducting this “debate” my plan is to put on the viewpoint of the side I’m arguing for and present the best possible case I can in that tradition. So for the case of the paedo-baptist I'm going to argue as if I was one.
  2. I'm going to cut this debate straight down the middle. The paedo-baptist points the finger and says, "you threw kids out of the covenant, the burden of proof is on you to show the evidence for this discontinuity in familial solidarity." The Baptist points back and says, "You say kids are in covenant in the New Testament? Prove it."
    I'm going to start each under the burden of proof of the other
  3. After much thought I’ve become convinced that there are three places the Baptist can go to justify not baptizing infants, while the paedo-baptist has one and only one argument to make for it, and it’s built entirely on the definition of a covenant he’s established in the Old Testament. So in this series we'll deal with the three Baptist arguments and the one Presbyterian argument.
Although the number of arguments is greater on the Baptist side, this debate is not as asymmetric as it seems. Because children of believers were given the sign of the covenant as infants in the Old Testament, the Baptist has to establish on what basis this practice ceases. The answer is either:
  1. Because the Old Testament is a physical era, not a spiritual one like we have today. We do give the sign to infants, just spiritual ones. Because in Christ things are different now.
  2. Because the New Covenant terms indicate we are to give the sign to those in the new Covenant. 
  3. Because they didn’t give the sign to infants in the Old Testament.
We'll take them in order, but because the first is so weak we'll go ahead and get it out of the way now.  This is why the first argument is a no go against the paedo-baptist
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