Friday, September 20, 2019

Credo vs Paedo Baptism: Pushback Part I

If you've been following this series you may have noticed my two Pastors commenting on my work. 

Phil it might help those of us who find your musings more amusing than biblical if you actually showed some exegetical proof of the paedobaptist position being 'more biblical'. You assert it but you don't prove it even in the slightest. Even your assertions are unsupported. Give me one example of infant baptism in the bible from a biblical text? Just one. Show me where the scriptures teach that the Abrahamic covenant is exactly the same as the New Covenant? Just one place is fine. Show me a text that proves that infants without faith are in the New Covenant? Let's get to the scriptures for the discussion before claiming paedo baptism is the most biblical position. As you said brother, you need to do better. I do think that one of the two ordinances of the church would need to be exemplified for us if we would practice it. No problem citing believers baptism, but paedo baptism is simply not there unless I have missed something. 
When you strip away the ad-hominems you find Robert packs a lot into his comment. 
  1. He asserts that I offered no proof for paedo-baptism being the more Biblical.
  2. He argues that because the Scriptures do not explicitly teach infant baptism (Something like, "I Paul command you to baptize infants") that infant baptism is not Biblical. 
  3. He says that I equate the Abrahamic Covenant to the New Covenant.  
  4. He uses the Baptist definition of New Covenant being equal to salvation, and then questions where faithless infants were saved.
That's a lot.
I'm not going to address point one because I think I've made a good showing of myself from Scripture. Plus his statement just seems mean to me.
Point two is pretty commonly thrown out in debates by the Baptist, but if we required an explicit statement and disallowed good and necessary inference then we'd have to bar the communion table against women because nowhere in Scripture does it say they're allowed to partake. Further, Jesus hung the Sadducees out to dry by pointing out God says "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" implying they're all still alive. Had they died then God would've said "I was the God..."  So good and necessary consequence is a real thing.

Point three I don't know how to deal with because I never made that claim. But Romans 4:11 and Col 2:12 do tend to make the point about the two covenants being related, in the sense Baptists disagree with.
Point four proves my point that the two groups are operating under vastly different conceptions of what covenant and baptism actually mean.


The other comment was left by Steve, and he too packs a lot in.
I could have told you this - "Baptists and Presbyterians have a radically different view of what baptism actually is," and perhaps saved you some reading. :) Though, to be more specific, the "radically different view" between the two is not really over baptism - both confess it to be a "sign" (see WCF 28.1 and LBC 29.1) - but over the new covenant of which it's "a sign." That's the actual question, what's the new covenant? (Presbyterians have a harder time explaining what exactly is new about it). Since the new covenant is spiritual - not genealogical, as was the old - it's sign is only properly administered to those who may be legitimately considered members of the new covenant community, i.e., "who do actually profess repentance..." (LBC, 29.2).
To be fair, there's no problem with the oft-repeated Baptist concern: “Infant baptism is a positively harmful doctrine since infants who are baptized will think they’re saved" - I think you're missing the concern over the de facto state of many Presbyterians, not the consistency of their doctrine. Of course, there's no inconsistency with Presbyterian theological understanding of baptism, but what's the actual impact on people's lives? Many think they're saved because they were sprinkled as babies - it's the (however, unintended) inevitable fruit of a bad doctrine. It's similar, for example, to our concerns over Roman Catholicism, which does believe salvation is by faith through grace - and recoils at any suggestion that teach it's "by works." But what's the practical effect of their sacramental understanding of salvation by grace? Roman Catholics think they're saved by their works.
Paedobaptism is undeniably is a later accretion to the church - no evidence of it's practice earlier than later 2nd or 3rd centuries (look at baptismal archaeology - they're pools for immersing adults!). Of course, it became enforced practice after Christianizing Rome, a century later. There is no exegetical argument for it, which is what Luther confronted during the Reformation when opponents argued that if he carried his argument against Roman tradition to it's logical conclusion, he'd have to throw-out infant baptism, too - which would've sent European society into chaos. So, he invented the "household" argument from Acts and infant baptism has been built on that house of cards in Reformed traditions, ever since. And when you push Presbyterian historians and theologians, eventually they will admit this, "it's tradition" and it's later appearance is a sign of the church "maturing." Now, I believe in doctrinal development, but the church got baptism wrong for it's first couple hundred years?! C'mon.
So, the real key to this debate is understanding that infant baptism can only be deduced from the Bible if you assume it to be the inevitable conclusion before you actually study the Bible - it's a tradition searching for a biblical text. Sadly, people still think they've discovered some and then de-form into Presbyterians. I, however, feel sure of better things in your case, brother (Heb 6:9) - and trust the "most biblical" award goes to 1689 LBC, 29. :)
Steve makes the following points:
  1. The Dispensational Argument is true.
  2. Paedo-baptism is a doctrine that bears bad fruit.
  3. There's no exegetical argument for Infant Baptism.
  4. The practice of the early church was credo-baptism.
  5. Paedo-baptism only makes sense if you accept it's foundational premises
Most of these however were directly addressed by specific articles, so I don't feel the need to go over them again. The only one that wasn't was point two, and I'm not sure how much bearing that has on this investigaiton in any case. I'll leave you to decide for yourself how valid these points of criticism are.








Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Credo-Baptism: Analysis of Covenant Discontinuity

There are two main arguments for the paedo-baptist position and both of them are built on the idea of a continuity between the Old and New Testaments. That means that if there is no covenant continuity then the paedos are doomed and credo-baptism is the necessary result. The premise proved to be well founded however, and as a consequence I am fairly convinced that Scripture make the case that the framework established in the Old carries through to the New. On the other hand there are three arguments for the credo-Baptist that require discontinuity, and if a discontinuity can be established then the paedo-baptist is done for. So can we make the case that the Apostles understood the New Covenant to be introducing a discontinuity in redemptive history that necessitates excluding infants in the New Covenant? Let's take the arguments made in the previous posts in turn.  

First, I’m quite certain that the Apostles were not dispensationalists, and that we can rule that out as a valid explanation for the discontinuity right now. Dispensationalism requires God to wipe out the rules in every age, but if you don’t assume this as a foundational premise and instead try to establish it through evidence you won’t be able to do it. Firstly because there's no verse that explicity says this, which is necssary to the literal interpretation of dispensationalist hermunitic, and second because there is no verse that requires it by good and necessary consequence. Thirdly Dispensationalism should be ruled out because I've not seen any pro-dispensationalist websites or articles don’t even attempt to prove the fundamental premise of discontinuity, as they just put it forward as self-evident, which tells me that it is hard to find if it even exists. Fourthly because Jesus indicates the opposite when He says He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. John affirms the need for obedience to the law in his epistle. Paul appeals to the law to make his case. Nowhere is the law abolished, but everywhere we see the law is “a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path.

Further, dispensationalism is not internally consistent as a system. It can’t account for times when the New Testament seems to pull a quote wildly out of context such as, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.” For had Matthew been a dispensationalists he’d never have said this, knowing that there’s no sensible, literal meaning in the Old Testament on which to justify twisting the meaning of Hosea in that way. But Matthew did say that, and because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Matthew must be something much closer to a covenant theologian than dispensationalist. There are other problems too, like how there’s a literal thousand year period of imprisonment for with Satan (a spiritual being) who will be bound by physical chains and cast into a physical pit. Or Joshua 23:14 which says, “…ye know in all your hearts and souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” because that takes away the need for the millennial kingdom to make up for the incomplete promises given to Abraham. 

And if that’s true then we can’t assume the Jews were an earthly people receiving earthly revelation from God and then disconnect their revelation from the spiritual to get the discontinuity we need. The Jews were a people to whom were entrusted the good news of Christ, and later, the person of Christ Himself, they were not merely a nation to whom God wanted to move into Caanan. Hebrews 12 indicates that the heroes of the faith looked forward to both the work of Christ and His heavenly kingdom, not a physical inheritance.

So then if we don’t have dispensationalist grounds for a discontinuity in redemptive history that justifies reshaping our understanding of covenant inclusion, can we get a discontinuity from the Particular Baptists and Jeremiah 31? Doesn’t the fact that this is a new covenant indicate a new essence rather than just a new form? 

Not really. The Scriptures are pretty clear that covenants were given to support and strengthen our understanding of Christ, and that they’re not identical to salvation—which means covenants are to salvation what the take-home box is to a pizza. It won’t work to say that the covenants in the Old Testament were simple promises that did nothing substantial, while the covenant in the New Testament is a glorious equivalent to salvation, because you can’t justly have multiple ontological definition of the word covenant and pick whichever one is most convenient. Stated differently, you can’t assume a discontinuity which requires two different definitions of covenant, and then use two different definitions of covenant to prove the discontinuity. Either the Old Testament has covenants or the New Testament does, but without continuity they can’t both have covenants in them.

What about the fact that the New Covenant is unbreakable according to Jeremiah 31? Doesn’t that indicate a massive shift has happened and that a huge change was introduced in redemptive history? To a limited extent, yes. But what’s more likely, that the New Covenant is unbreakable because from now on God only lets those who will persevere until the end into His church, or that His Son has become the second Adam, added to Himself a human nature, and stands as our perfect priest before His Father for all eternity? Which makes more sense as to why the New Covenant won’t be broken: God kicks out the immature, or God makes the covenant with Jesus? One is an extrapolation, the other is explicitly affirmed by the book of Hebrews. But even granting that the un-breakability of the New Covenant is not about Christ, and it is about us, there’s not enough strength in that to get to a massive discontinuity. Just because the Old Covenant said ‘if you obey then you will be blessed’ and the New Covenant said ‘I will bless you’ doesn’t mean you can conclude that the inclusion of infants into the covenant is finished.

The other unworkable thing about Jeremiah 31 providing the grounds for the discontinuity is that the New Testament doesn’t denote the word new in New Covenant with the radically, substantially, totally, never-before-seen-new indicator neos that the discontinuity requires. Instead Scripture indicates the New Covenant is new in the sense of being more glorious, more freeing, more inclusive, more clearly set forth, more full of good news, with the Greek word kainos. It’s the Kainos Covenant in 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6, Heb 8:8, 8:13, 9:15. It’s the Neos Covenant only in Heb 12:24 where the writer speaks of blood that actually absolves sins. So the New Covenant is substantially different in that the blood shed by the sacrifice works this time, otherwise, there’s the same concepts of signs, boundaries, seals, family headships, promises, meal, fellowship as before. The New Covenant is therefore a refresh of an existing thing, except for the blood of Christ—and that’s not enough to establish the discontinuity the credo-baptist requires.

As a credo-baptist I'm trying to be fair and impartial here, but this isn't encouraging. If you don't assume covenant continuity but demand the proof for it the paedo-baptist has a ready answer, but if you don't assume a discontinuity and demand the proof for it the credo-baptist has no answer. At least, I have been quite unable to think up or uncover an answer in my readings. So I'm going to stop this and move on to examining the historical data.


Next: which side the historic record favors



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Paedo-Baptism: Analysis of Covenant Continuity

In a previous post I examined how well the credo and paedo systems fit the framework given by Scripture, and from that tried to decide which one of them matched the New Testament evidence better. The plan wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped it would be, so now I’m going to look at the differences that separate the two systems and see which is the more Biblical. Is there more evidence for the discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments as the credo-baptist says, or is there more evidence for the continuity as the paedo-baptists asserts? 

To find out I'm going to use the question, "Did the Apostles believe the appearance of the New Covenant created a discontinuity in the given framework of redemption?" as the basis for my investigation. Or stated differently, I'm going to answer the question, "How would the Apostles have understand the promise of Jeremiah 31? Would they see it as requiring the exclusion of their children from the covenant or not?"

In light of how the New Covenant promises to include eunuchs and Gentiles (who were formerly excluded from the covenant community), and in light of how God made it clear to the Jews that covenants are the framework for salvation, the Apostles probably would not have assumed children were automatically removed from the New Covenant. The inclusiveness of the covenant of grace has always expanded with time (the covenant sign is washing which can be applied to infant boys and girls), making it unlikely that anyone would have assumed the New Covenant disallows infants. 

More importantly, Scripture indicates that the Apostles saw themselves as building on what had already come before, not as doing something completely novel. In Acts 2:16 Peter says that his hearers were living through the days spoken of by the prophet Joel, who prophesied that the familiar event of God's spirit being poured out would now be done to many people, not merely a few people. He then transitions into a sermon about how Jesus’ resurrection was foretold by David, and how His coming fulfills the promise God made to Abraham. Knowing his hearers were Jews who gave the covenant signs to their infants, would Peter have made the promise in Acts 2:39 without further qualification or clarification? If so, that's a good way to ensure the gospel would be immediately distorted, not communicated effectively.

Next Peter tells the crowd that Jesus is The Prophet foretold by Moses (Acts 3:22) whom they were obligated to listen to. Again he stresses the promises of God made to Abraham, "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" (Acts 3:25). Peter then quotes the Psalms to the rulers that Jesus is God of salvation (Acts 4:11) and basis his appeal on the fact that they were the children of the promise. This shows that Peter saw the New Covenant as an extension of the previous covenants, not as something completely unique. 

In speaking of the inclusion of the Gentiles into an all Jewish church, James the brother of Jesus quotes the Scriptures (Acts 15) saying, “After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up that the reside of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” In saying this he points out that the Gentiles were being effectively engrafted into the vine of Israel. This is the opposite of a discontinuity. If the credo-baptists were right then James wouldn't have used the word rebuild because that would indicate a refreshing of the existing structure, but would have instead used a word to imply a new construction was happening. Or not quoted the Scriptures at all. But given his response its quite reasonable to conclude the first century Jews saw themselves as the children and inheretiors of the previous promises.  

In addition to Peter and James, Paul also indicates that the inclusion of the Gentiles were not a unique parenthetical in redemptive history. In Romans 11 he compares the Gentiles to branches being grafted into an existing tree, and doesn’t compare the inclusion of the Gentiles to how scaffolding is pulled down once a building is complete. Scaffolding would be much more natural to the credo-paradigm, but the tree which implies continuity of being between the Old and New Testament is foreign to it. 

In Romans 15 Paul quotes the Old Testament to show that the Gentiles were always going to be invited to join Israel. He compares them to visitors adding their number to an assembly already in progress: “Rejoice ye Gentiles with His people” and “Praise the Lord all ye Gentiles, and laud Him all ye people” and “There shall be a root of Jesse and He shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles trust” and “For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles and sing unto thy name.” And in Gal 6:16 he calls the church “the Israel of God.” These statements presuppose a continuity since the Gentiles are joining the established pattern, not founding a new one.

The additional reason this makes the point for continuity is because Peter, James, and Paul spoke before there was a New Testament; to their hearers the Old Testament was the whole of the Scriptures. Therefore any idea of pitting the New against the Old would have been foreign to the Apostles. That means the Old Testament is itself living and active—and it can't be an old irrelevancy that gets supplanted by the new revelation. Besides, even after it comes along the New Testament merely quotes the Old Testament. So any permaent authority the New has must be borrowed from the Old. Thus, the concepts in the book of Romans, Galatians, or Acts show that the worship of the church was a continuation of the worship started during the Old Testament times. And if that's true then children were in the New Covenant just as much as the Old.

What about the evidence that Baptism was only for priests, and that continuity requires it to continue to only be given to adult priests and withheld from infants? There’s a lot of problems with that. In no particular order:
  • The evidence that Jesus was baptized as a priest for service isn't great, and it's this more than any other on which the argument depends. It’s far more likely the event was to conclude John’s purpose in pointing to Christ, or to fulfill our righteousness, than it was to make Him a priest.
  • There’s no collaborating evidence apart from an inference that baptism makes us priests, or that the people going out to John the Baptist were becoming priestly servants to God.
  • Paedo-baptists make circumcision the sign of the righteousness of Christ that comes faith that comes through the gospel in the Old Testament because that’s what Paul says in Romans and Galatiansso baptism must be the sign of the Covenant of Grace itself.
  • Infants were among the children of Israel baptized in the Red Sea. So there is biblical precedence for baptizing infants. Stated another way, baptism can't just be to make priests clean.
  • Levitical priests had to be older than 30 years old to be baptized, as did Jesus, so shouldn’t we wait until age 30 to be baptized?
Ultimately then this argument doesn't work to exclude infants. After everything is presented the paedo-baptist simply shrugs and says, “We agree that baptism is a big and important concept that runs all the way through the Bible.” The argument looks good on paper but once you dig in a little further it collapses and all you’re left with the observation that in the New Covenant God weaves together washing and cleansing into making His sign that much more meaningful.

Looking back, I don’t see any reason to re-structure the concept of covenant which would remove infants from it, and every reason to continue using the framework established by the Old Testament. And that would mean that the paedo-baptists are right and that infants ought to be baptized.


Next: The Evidence of Covenant Discontinunity


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Friday, September 13, 2019

Credo vs Paedo Baptism: Answers to Shared Problems

To the credo, baptism is a physical vow, done by a believer, following their verbal profession of faith, in accordance with the example of the New Testament. To the paedo, baptism is the sign of the New Covenant. 

Which is correct?

To find out, I intend to examine the logical consequences of both views and see which one more closely lines up with Scripture. I expect this to be difficult, since both views seem very reasonable and there’s no direct statement for either position in the Scripture. John never said, “The ontology of Baptism is X, therefore only baptize group Y.” And Luke never said anything like, “Although Timothy had grown up in a believing household, Paul waited to baptize him until his profession of faith was made credible by his good works.”

So I’m validating the two worldviews through circumstantial evidence, like a police investigator taking fingerprints at a crime scene. Individually each a piece of evidence may not be very compelling, but taken together I hope they’ll present a strong case that one view is right and the other is wrong.



Point 1 – Acts indicates belief before baptism

Issue: Acts indicates that those who professed faith were subsequently baptized.
Credo response: This fits our model exactly.
Paedo response: We also believe that an adult convert must profess faith before being baptized, but we also believe that baptism is a household/headship affair. At Pentecost there men who made the pilgrimage across the world to be at Jerusalem in accordance with the command of Deut 16:16 while their families stayed behind. The record of Acts then is not of atomized individuals professing faith, but of men, family heads, being baptized.
Verdict: Tie. Both sides make a compelling case here.



Point 2 – Households were baptized

Issue: The New Testament records five places where the word household is explicitly used when speaking of Baptism (Acts 10:47-48, 16:15; 16:30-31; 18:8; 1 Cor 10:16-18). For example, in the city of Philippi the jailer believed, then his house was baptized.
Credo: Based on the earlier evidence in Acts, it must be the case that the people in the house first heard the good news from Paul and then believed and were baptized. Nowhere in those verses are children mentioned, so assuming there were infants in the jailor’s household is an argument from silence.
Paedo: All baptisms are really “household” baptisms. The very existence of the word house in the text is evidence that the paedo model is correct—no debate on whether there were children in any particular house is needed. The man is the head of the house (Eph 5:23), the man believed, therefore the house was baptized. In the same way covenants are always headship affairs, so Scripture presents baptism as a headship affair.
Verdict: Paedo. If you adopt the household model as the paradigm then the earlier baptisms in Acts make sense, but if you adopt the individualistic model then the household baptisms don’t really follow. Reducing household to all the individuals living under a roof as the credo wants to do doesn’t give a solid basis for explaining why Scripture should so consistently insist that entire households were baptized in my estimation.

The other thing the paedos have going for them is that in Abrahams day the command to circumcise all the males resulted in a large number adults and an unrecorded-but-presumably-small-number-of infants being circumcised (Gen 17:23). After that, the majority of recipients of the covenant sign were infants. At Pentecost the initialization of the sign in like manner may have resulted in a large number of adults receiving the sign (Acts 2:41), and later the majority of recipients being infants. 




Point 3 – Peter said the promise was to their children


Issue: In Acts 2:39 Peter said that the promise was “to you and your children, and all who are far off.”
Credo: Peter should be understood as speaking of three distinct groups, “you [the hearers], your children [those who will one day be old enough to accept], and those who are far off [gentiles who’ll come to faith in Christ much later].
Paedo: Peter should be understood as speaking to two groups, (you and your children) and all who are far off [gentiles]. In grouping “you and your children” together Peter is communicating that Jesus is fulfilling of the promises God made to Abraham.
Verdict: Tie. I can see this both ways.



Point 4 – Children are in the Church

Issue: Acts 21:5 says the children (who were disciples) knelt down and prayed for Paul (and he doesn’t rebuke or correct them for doing this). Then in Eph 6:1-3 and Col 3:20 Paul commands the children who heard his words to obey their parents—meaning they were members of the church with duties and obligations. Is there a difference in the eyes of God between a child who grows up under believing parents and one who doesn’t? Should the children of believers be taught to sing “Jesus loves me”?
Credo: the children should be taught to pray and sing.
Paedo: Greg Welty, a credo-baptist, says, “Parents can have confidence that God hears the prayers of their children to the extent they have confidence that their children have renewed hearts.” If the Baptist paradigm is right then the most logical position is to keep the children from singing Jesus loves me until they make a mature, credible profession of faith and demonstrate they are inside the covenant of salvation. Failure to do this means we’ve sinned by teaching them to presume on the goodness of God or hardened them in their impenitency, since only believers are entitled to the blessings of the church. But this is exactly the opposite of what the New Testament says, and therefore indicates the credo-baptism model is wrong.
Verdict: Paedo wins a small victory. If the credo model is correct then Paul should have instructed the parents to make sure their children obey them, but the text indicates that the children are already part of the church and must act like it. Further, Paul praises Timothy for knowing the Scriptures since infancy (2 Tim 3:14-17), but how would this have happened under a consistent credo paradigm? Credo parents may catechize their children but there’s no mechanism or rational to do so if the church is no larger than the mature professors of faith.


Point 5 – Children in Covenant

Issue: 1 Cor 7:14 says the children of believing parents are holy.
Credo: Holy here means more nearly what we would think of as legitimate. Further, if the children in covenant are holy and should be baptized then the unbelieving adult spouse should also be baptized, but this is an absurd conclusionwhich leads us to realize that the premise is false.
Paedo: Holy can't be equivalent to legitimate because the children of a married couple are always legitimate. Instead, Paul’s use of the word holy is invoking covenant language imported from the Old Testament. In the same way that Peter declared Cornelius was not to be called unclean or outside the covenant (Acts 10:28) so too is the child of the believer not unclean, but holy. This is clear evidence that familial solidarity established in the Old Testament remains true in the New Testament, since the mere presence of believing parents sanctifies the child and makes them holy.
Verdict: Tie/Paedo by a hair. The unbelieving spouse is becoming holy, but the children are already holy, which indicates that they already belong to God.


Point 6 – The Warning Passages

Issue: The New Testament warns the reader to guard their salvation; see Mark 13:13; James 5:11; 2 Cor 13:5; 1 Tim 1:18-20, Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:7-19; 6:4-8; 10:26-3; 12:25. But we also know from other passages (like 1 John 2:19; Rom 8:29-30, John 6:38-40; Phil 1:4-6, etc) that it’s impossible for a true believer to lose their salvation. So how do we reconcile these two things?
Credo: The warning passages are admonitions designed to keep the believer on track. Just as a mother warns her children not to jump into a blazing furnace, and the warning functions as the means to avoid death, so too do these warnings provide the means to our perseverance.
Paedo: These are actual warning passages for events that could really occur, given to keep us on track. Those who fall away were inside the covenant but outside salvation, so it makes sense to speak of them as moving away from salvation. This is the only way to reconcile the fact that some men lose their salvation (1 Tim 1:18-20) but to all of them God will still say “depart from Me, for I never knew you.”
Verdict: Tie. Both seem to be pretty good to me. I think the edge goes to the paedo, but both are solid answers.


Point 7 – Passive/Active Participation in Baptism

Issue: 1 Peter 3:21 says baptism now saves you, but 1 Cor 1:14 indicates baptism is not the primary idea in salvation. Further, Peter seems to indicate Baptism is something you submit to passively (Acts 2:38) rather than something you engage in. How do we reconcile this?
Credo: Baptism saves us by being an appeal to a good conscience, but it is not the driving force in salvation (that’s faith). 1 Peter 3:21 indicates that baptism is fundamentally an appeal to God for a clean conscience, which is exactly what we say baptism is.
Paedo: Baptism is spoken of in the passive sense by Peter in Acts because it’s the sign that belongs to the church to put on its people, not a sign people proclaim to the church. It’s spoken of as being equal to salvation by Peter in 1 Peter because without God’s promise and righteousness we cannot be saved. At the same time it’s spoken of as unequal to the blood of Christ sacrificed on our behalf because it is unequal in that respect.
Verdict: This is another close one that seems to fall in favor of the paedo. 


Point 8 – Baptism Means ‘Immersion’

Issue: If Baptism is identical to immersion then how were the Israelites baptized into Moses when they crossed the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:2)? And how was Jesus referring to crucifixion when He used the word baptism (Matt 20:23)?
Credo: Baptism still means ‘to dip’. Jesus was plunged or dropped into suffering, and likewise the children of Israel were immersed into Moses.
Paedo: Baptism more nearly means ‘to wash; to pour,’ as much as ‘to dip’. Hebrews 9:10 speaks of various baptisms, with the reference in Numbers 19:17-18 being sprinkling. Further, the LXX translates “affrighted” in Isaiah 21:4 as “baptize”, which is what Jesus was quoting from in Matt 20:23.
Verdict: Tie. In fairness, I’m more interested in who is a candidate for baptism more than what is the proper mode of baptism.


Point 9 – Jesus Baptized His Disciples

Issue: Why did Jesus baptize his disciples in John 3:22 and not sooner? Or later? Why do the disciples turn around and immediately baptize the crowds that came to them (John 3:26, 4:2) rather than wait until their lives bore fruit to God?
Credo: The disciples were not baptized until John 3 because they didn't have enough information to make their faith valid until that point. They then turned around and baptized the crowd on profession of faith because Jesus instructed them to do so.
Paedo: if the credos are right then the disciples themselves should have been baptized sooner, since Nathan was a genuine professing believer since John 1:49-50. He wasn’t baptized because baptism pictures the objective work of Christ, and that wasn’t revealed until chapter 3. As soon as the discourse with Nicodemus reveals Jesus to be the center of the Old Testament, the one who’d be lifted up to give healing and salvation to those who looked on in faith, He takes His disciples to the river and baptizes them.
Verdict: Paedo wins a small victory, by a narrow margin. The credo might instead say Jesus was giving a baptism for ministry readiness (like how Levites were commissioned at age 30), or His was a baptism of repentance. Sure it’s a little strange to say that the Lords baptism was the same as Johns, or that baptism is a sign of commission, but it works after a fashion. Nonetheless, the paedo understanding is a slightly better fit.

Let’s step back and weigh how each side has done so far. The credo answers have been good, and there’s nothing to indicate any kind of systemic failure in them, while the paedo answers have also been good and have consistently provided a valid working framework for understanding the Scriptures. My hope in doing this was that one side would prove to be a clear winner, but so far it’s not panned out that way.

While the paedo system is fitting the data slightly better, there’s really nothing to cause me to give up being a credo-baptist, even though the ontological argument for paedo baptism is still bothering me (as it was the thing that drove me to do this work in the first place). But we’re not done yet. Let’s now turn to what seems to be the foundational issue: the presence or absence of a discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments.




The Historic Case For Paedo-Baptism from Various Sources

In the previous post I made the case that there was no coming back from the Synod of Carthage for the credo-baptist advocate, since the evidence against it is simply insurmountable. And yet, if that wasn't enough, there's further evidence that infant baptism was indeed the Apostolic practice.

Hyppolytus, writing in 215AD said, "First you should baptize the little ones...for those who cannot speak, their parents should speak."

Origen, who wrote about 248AD said, "In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants." (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3, and another in Leviticus 14). He also said, "The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9) 

Chrysostom who lived from 349-407, said, "Our circumcision, I mean the grace of baptism, gives cure without pain and procures to us a thousand benefits, and fills us with the grace of the Spirit; and has no determinate time, as that had; but one that is in the very beginning of his age, or one that is in the middle of it, or one that is in his old age, may receive this circumcision made without hands; in which there is no trouble to be undergone but to throw off the load of sins, and to receive pardon for all past offenses.” (Homily 40 in Genesis)

Augustine, in debating with Pelagius, pointed out that a denial of original sin meant a denial of infant baptism, since what other sin is being remitted in the infant? Here Augustine cleverly attempts to skewer Pelagius on denying the well-accepted doctrine infant baptism and make him look bad. But Pelagius answers, "Men slander me as if I denied the sacrament of baptism to infants. I never heard of any, not even the most impious heretic who denied baptism to infants."

For both of them not to have even heard of anyone who disagreed with paedo-baptism is telling. Not as telling as the council of Carthage mind you, but telling. And when you put these quotes together with the others (even those I haven't selected) it becomes pretty clear that there was no dispute in this matter, and that the early church baptized infants because they got the doctrine from the Apostles.  

So now, having gathered up the evidence, it’s time for me to ascend the podium and hand out the awards.


Next: Evaluating the Debate


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Paedo-Baptism: The Mono-Covenantal Argument

The previous post made the case that because infants were given signs in every covenant, infants should be given the covenant sign of Christ’s righteousness of baptism today. Covenant signs by their nature are objective revelations of Christ, not subjective pronouncements made by the individual. That argument parallels the Inductive Argument for credo-baptism because it looks at the data and draws a conclusion from it, except that it takes a wider view and makes the opposite conclusion.

The Mono-Covenantal argument for paedo-baptism posits that the sign of the Covenant of Grace was given as circumcision to infants, and that since circumcision is replaced by baptism we should give baptism to infants. This is by far the most common argument for paedo-baptism out there, and it parallels the credo-baptist Dispensationalist Argument in seeking to put together a wider understanding of redemptive history.

It might be more accurate to say that this is the opposite of dispensationalism however, because where dispensationalism sees a series of divisions the Mono-Covenantal argument sees a unity. And for good reason too—the saints in the Old Testament were saved exactly like we are: Christ's blood covers their sins, His righteousness is imputed to them, and they stand on works not their own. There is, as the Scriptures say, one dispensation for the fullness of time, and through it God is gathering all things under Christ (Eph 1:10). There is one people, one body, one Spirit, one cornerstone (Eph 2:14-20, 4:4-6). There is one singular plan that was put into motion by God from eternity past for the saving of souls regardless of gender, ethnicity, or ability, and that plan is Christ.

The strength of the Mono-Covenantal Argument rests on the premise that the New Testament is the outworking of the covenant with Abraham, not the giving of the law at Sinai. Abraham came first in redemptive history (which means both that he has the preeminence and that the subsequent covenant of Sinai cannot disannul God’s promise to him Gal 3:17). The law did not reduce or supplant the Abrahamic covenant, it added to it by showing men they’re trapped in sin and need the promised savior (Gal 3:22). Those who attempt to twist the law into making themselves righteous have forfeited the grace of Christ, which was the promise of Abraham (Gal 5:4). Therefore the sign of circumcision which was given after Abraham received the good news of Christ was pointing to this singular plan of salvation by Grace. In the form of a syllogism the argument goes like this:

P1: God required believers to give the sign of the Covenant of Grace to their infants (Gen 17:10).
P2: Baptism is the sign of the Covenant of Grace for believers today (Col 2:11-12).
C: God requires believers to baptize their children.

Premise one needs the least defense since Genesis 17 explicitly states that circumcision is to be given to infants of believers. The Old Testament is also explicit that circumcision was not merely a physical marker, but was designed to point to a greater spiritual reality since it was required for fellowship with God (Jer 4:4), symbolized regeneration (Deut 10:16), was to be followed by inward circumcision, and indicated to the Jews that they had to be circumcised in heart (Jer 9:25). It was the sign of Christ’s righteousness and work (Rom 4:11), and was appropriately bloody, for it pointed to a messiah who would pour out His blood to save us from our sins.

Premise two is more likely to be disputed by a credo-baptist, and in two ways.
The first line of attack is to say that it’s actually the Holy Spirit who’s the sign of the New Covenant, and not a physical element like water. In this view baptism isn’t a sacrament that points to the larger reality but an act of obedience that is required for holiness. But that’s the argument from the Churches of Christ—not the Baptist—and it’s not in scope here. So while it is true that the Holy Spirit seals us and marks us as His until the day of redemption, it is not the case that this cancels out the command Jesus gave us in the great commission to baptize as we make disciples.

The second line of attack says that baptism isn’t equivalent to circumcision, and that infants therefore shouldn’t be baptized. But baptism is the sign of the righteousness and the work of Christ, and it points to the one who washes away our sins, just as circumcision points to the one who was cut off for us. They’re doing the same thing, indicating the same status; as the Scripture says, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith” (Col 2:11-12a).

Abraham received the same gospel of Christ we do (Gal 3:8), and was commanded to apply the sign of it to infants. Since it's the same covenant (or plan), the same God, the same function of the sign, the same requirements for administering them (the only difference is that one sign was bloody and pointed forward, while the other a cleansing and pointed back) it stands to reason that we are to imitate Abraham and signify our covenant children's unique relationship to God.

To put this a bit more succinctly: the sign of Christ in the Old Testament is circumcision; the sign of Christ in the New is baptism. If God wanted us to apply the sign of salvation by grace to infants in the Old Testament, and we are still today under grace today, then it stands to reason that we should be applying the sign of salvation by grace to infants today.

Having made the case that both we and Abraham were under the covenant of grace, and that we are saved by grace, and that we are therefore under the same rules about who should be receiving the sign of grace, let’s move on to seeing any potential middle ground between the paedo and credo-baptist views.


Next: Credo & Paedo Baptism: a Common Middle Ground?


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Credo vs Paedo Baptism: Pushback Part I

If you've been following this series you may have noticed my two Pastors commenting on my work.  Phil it might help those of us who fi...