Friday, January 1, 2016

Credo Baptism - The Proper OT Covenant

An alternative to proving there's a valid reason for the covenantal discontinuity regarding the status of infants  is to prove that they never had a place in baptism to begin with. This approach grounds the principle of believers baptism in the New Testament with the believers baptisms found in the Old Testament and shows that because infants were never given baptism before, they shouldn't be given it now.
Baptism is a washing that prepares the priest for service, and infants were never priests. 

You've Got the Wrong Guy

Presbyterians assert that Abraham is the key figure in the Old Covenant because circumcision is the sign of it. But why? The New Covenant doesn't replace the covenant made with Abraham, it replaces the old one made with the Levites at Sinai. As Van Dorn says,
"The assumptive error of the paedobaptist argument is ... that the old covenant had one—and only one—sign attached to it. This has several sub-points.
1. This sign was circumcision.
2. The recipients of this sign were infants.
3. Since we believe in the continuity of the covenants, we must continue to give infants the sign, unless there is clear and convincing proof that the NT has abrogated it... 
[but] the Levitical covenant is just as much its own distinct covenant as the Abrahamic covenant. Both are separate administrations of the covenant of grace. It has its own head: Levi. It has its own sign… baptism, at least as far as the ordination and induction rite of the federal head (i.e., the priest) is concerned. And it is this sign that Jesus Christ is receiving, and fulfilling, at his own baptism. And Christian baptism follows after the Lord’s baptism! ...
It is here, in the Levitical covenant, that baptism is first regulated in sacramental form as a permanent and lasting ordinance in the OT (Ex 29:4)... The Christian rite therefore flows out of the ordination ceremony of the priest, as we become Levitical priests of the new covenant, servants who are baptized into Christ. Thus, is it here—in BAPTISM, and not in circumcision—that NT baptism has its OT covenantal counterpart."
Thus the paedo-baptists are skewered on the horns of a dilemma. If they give the classical line and say the covenant of grace is a single covenant with many different administrations, then on what grounds is Abraham the singular figure for it? On what basis is circumcision the sign of the old covenant, particularly considering all the other explicit signs?
On the other horn, if they instead say there is not one, but multiple covenants, then why is the one with Abraham the main one and not the Levitical covenant? After all, it's the Levitical covenant which directly grounds Sinai, and by extension, the New Covenant. And since this covenant establishes baptism as a sign and rite only for adults, it follows that New Testament baptism inherits the same properties and shouldn't be done to infants. So this argument has the effect of not just knocking circumcision out of contention, but putting believers baptism in it's place.

Your View of Baptism is Too Small

Now upon hearing this the Presbyterian might be tempted to argue, "on what grounds do you supplant our choice of covenant and sign with yours? You say we can't arbitrarily pick out Abraham and circumcision as the key feature because it makes our point, but it seems like you've arbitrarily selected a covenant that makes your point. You're guilty of the same sin you accuse us of."
To that the answer is: we didn't pick it out arbitrarily. Jesus was baptized into priestly service, obeying this covenantal law. Baptism is larger than circumcision, and larger than Levitical washings. Baptism is not just an idea found throughout the Bible, nor something that merely predates circumcision by hundreds of years, but something that is integral to redemptive history and human life.

Those on the ark experienced a type of baptism (1 Peter 3:17), as did those who were immersed in the flood, long before Abraham arrived. And testifying to its ubiquity, the children of Israel were Baptized into Moses in the red sea (1 cor 10:2), the priests were cleansed by it, Jonah underwent it, and every mundane bath throughout history has testified to it. It's evident then that when men come to God they must first wash and be made clean. In fact there's a strong case to be made that every time you see a sanctuary there's baptismal water nearby for the washing of the priest. 
  • Adam was a priest, Eden his sanctuary, and Eden was enclosed by water.
  • Noah was a priest and his sanctuary was surrounded by water.
  • The tabernacle had a laver of brass that the priests washed with next to it.
  • The temple had a bronze sea next to it that the priests could wash/bathe in.
  • The new temple imagery in Ezekiel has water pouring out of it for washing the nation.
  • Christ is our sanctuary, and we wash when we are included in Him to begin our service.
The padeobaptist may protest again, "the Levitical duties called for sprinkling and bathing, not immersion." But this isn't quite accurate. Sprinkling signifies cleansing from sin, but baptism signifies making ready for priestly service--which is why in the New Testament we only baptize those who have reached an age where priestly service is possible.
Therefore in both covenants baptism washes away the sins and impurities that disqualify us from proper service, and enable us to come before God in a holy fashion. In both covenants it's for adults, not infants. Or as Van Dorn says,

Baptism has always been the symbol of a new creation, way before the advent of circumcision. This is why even the priest was baptized at the start of his earthly ministry. He was becoming a “new creation” of sorts. But it is nothing like the priestly ministry now given to believers, who do not serve before God in a man-made temple. Rather, we serve him with our whole lives wherever we go in anticipation of the day when God will make the temple-heavens and earth new and eternal.

Now that both sides have had a turn it's time to ask the question, is there a third option?

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