Friday, January 8, 2016

1997 Ligonier Baptism Debate, Sproul vs Begg

This is the transcript of the debate between Alistair Begg and R.C. Sproul over infant baptism at the Ligonier conference in Orlando, 1997. I've taken the pains of transcribing it because it's an absolutely outstanding debate, and well worth your consideration. The audio may be found at; this is an unofficial record only.
In the following transcript Begg will be recorded in Blue, Sproul in Red, and the moderator in Green.

Circumcision and Baptism

Far and away the most frequently asked question--I just stopped counting them--and maybe it has to do with the amount of women we're blessed to have at this particular conference, but they all wanted to know with the comparison between circumcision and baptism why then must women be baptized in the new covenant? You know the question, how do you deal with it, that's an obvious question which comes with the like.
I didn't hear it. Why what?
Because of the circumcision issue. If that's the connection you're making between the old and new covenant, and the sign. And so what does that do to the woman who was left out of the circumcision rite and the need for baptizing women under the new covenant?
Well one of the things that's clear, the women are baptized in the new covenant, which is one of the points I was making indirectly when I talked about how the new covenant is more inclusive in terms of those who receive the sign than the old covenant. Because by the nature of the covenant sign in the Old Testament women did not have the benefit of receiving that sign of the covenant, but they are able to receive the sign of the covenant in the New Testament. Which...
Now it seemed like a lot of the ladies had the question though, they didn't feel the force of the argument to include women as it was presented. Is that one of the things you'd say is different between the two? One of the discontinuities?
Yes, it is one of the points of discontinuity, and we know, as I've said, women were included. Lydia was one of those 12 that we mentioned there. 
Alistair do you have a comment from the [Baptist viewpoint?]
No sir. 
Yes that was my comment. *Pause for laughter* No, I do think the onus is on the good doctor here to answer that question. I was gonna ask it myself and I figured that would be the reply. So I thought, if that was the reply why ask the question, you know?
[Audience laughter]

What am I missing?
Let me attempt to follow up on behalf of the people that did ask the question. So you're then saying that because women were baptized they obviously then are included, but that doesn't necessarily prove the point about it being a sign of the covenant, does it?
Couldn't he argue--

I'm not understanding what the point of the question is.
Couldn't he argue that women were not circumcised in the old covenant, and baptism replaces or fulfills circumcisions, then why wouldn't that be just limited to men under the new covenant as well? Why would women such as Lydia then be baptized if the argument holds?

If? If wha? Huh, I don't understand, what?
Do you understand what I'm saying? They [the audience] all understand it.

What is the point that's in dispute? The point of continuity?
I think they are not feeling you've convinced them that just because Lydia was baptized, that's obvious that women are baptized.
But if your argument about circumcision in the old covenant and baptism in the new covenant is correct, why wouldn't baptism not be limited just to men as circumcision was in the old covenant. They don't feel the force of that argument I think, which is why I think they're asking.

Again, which argument are they not feeling the force of? That both are the signs of the covenant? Is there any doubt about that? Baptism is the sign of the new covenant. Any problem with that?
That's what you said.
You were there. *pause* Circumcision is the sign of the old covenant.
That's what you said.
Okay, and what I'm saying is that in the old covenant, the sign of the old covenant was given to infant children of believers. Correct?
Males, they're saying.
Males. That's, that's correct males. But they were male infants. The fact that they were males does not negate the fact that they were infants. And what we're discussing is whether it's appropriate to baptize infants. And all we know is that one class of infants in the old covenant, infant boys, received the sign of the covenant. Correct?
They're tracking with you on that.

Okay. And that that one class of infants who received the sign of the covenant in the old testament received that was, among other things, the sign of faith. And I'm saying why would you preclude infants in the new covenant from receiving the sign of faith simply because they're infants? And now you're asking me this business about women? All I'm saying is that this reinforces one of the secondary points I said, namely, that one of the points of discontinuity between the old covenant and new covenant, is that the new covenant is more inclusive, not less. And the fact that now females receive the sign of the covenant is evidence of the more inclusive character of the new covenant over the old covenant. Is that hard? Am I going too fast? 
There were far and away more questions on that, so it evidently wasn't as crystal clear in the presentation. As uh...
As you've made it now.
As you are being right now, thank you Alistair.
What have I said that was different this time?

So your answer would be, it's more inclusive?

It's more inclusive would be a simple answer that way.
Well the only thing I'd like to do in response to that is what I said before, therefore when my friends place circumcision alongside baptism, and contend that the latter replaces the former, we have to reckon with the fact that this is nowhere explicitly taught in the New Testament. It has to be argued for. And that is the reason they're asking the question, because you have to argue for it. The logic of the argument cannot be supported by the preponderance of the evidence, and that's why you've got so many questions on it, I suggest humbly. And I just don't think it's there in the plain and obvious pattern of the preaching, and so I agree entirely with the logic of what RC has said. I see the logic of his position. I've been defending RC for the last month as people say to me, "surely RC doesn't believe in infant baptism", and what they mean by that is a spurious view of infant baptism that is baptismal regeneration. That's what's in the minds of most people, and they haven't understood that there's any other view that somehow or another can be substantiated biblically. So I do understand that, and yet I still hold to what I'm saying, and people that are unconvinced feel something of that, hence the questions. 
So any follow up, or are you content with the previous...
I don't know what he's talking about when he talks about "the explicit" in that that takes an argument. Are you suggesting that... do you not believe that Baptism is the sign of the new covenant?

Yes, what I'm saying is that I'm--
Do you believe that circumcision is the sign of the old covenant?

Does the New Covenant replace the Old Covenant?
Well let's ask John the Baptist the question. Presumably he knew the old covenant real well.
John the Baptist?
John the Baptist.

John the Baptist was a covenant theologian.
Yes he was--so was Jesus.
So, and so was Jesus. So we might have expected that Jesus would have said, "hey honey, in fact don't just sit on my lap, why don't I baptize you right now? Because this is the new sign of you being a member of my group, and why don't I just start it off so we don't have to wait 300 years for these guys to find it out. I'll get it going right now."
Who? Who--
That Jesus is going to get... what?
Infant baptism. He'd be a good a guy as any to start it I would think.

But that presupposes that He didn't do that. That is an argument from silence Alistair.
I know and that's why I'm saying it's nowhere explicitly taught.
But hadn't we agreed on that in the beginning?

Well I said it my way and you said it your way.
Now wait, do you have to have something explicitly taught for it to be principerally binding on the Christian?

You know I can't answer yes to that.
I know you can't. You know. But I mean... we said that at the beginning that this whole discussion has to be based on inferences. But you seem to think that your position of anti-infant baptism is explicitly taught, and I want to know where that is. 

No, I think that it's not on the surface of the text. You know, there's nothing that says they did it. And I would just assume, I'd have thought that in Acts 15 at the council of Jerusalem they would've cleaned it up right there. When they had the big discussion about circumcision I would have expected someone to stand up and say, "You know what, we shouldn't be discussing circumcision, because after all circumcision is the sign of the old covenant, baptism is the sign of the new covenant, why don't we fix this right here and now?" But they clearly didn't do it, and there must be a reason why they didn't do it.
Was there an issue at the council of Jerusalem over infant circumcision?
That wasn't the issue.
Was there issue over infant baptism?

So what possible relevance does that have to what we're talking about here?
Ahhh, I think we better have another question.

Parents and their Children

Let me go to the second strongest category, since I don't think we're going to get further resolution on this one, but it will be interesting to see the application. The second biggest category had to do with the parental question. Concerned parents asking, saying this is not just abstract, this is something I'm dealing with right now. I'm striving to bring my children up in a way that pleases God, am I hurting them by only having them dedicated in the evangelical church, since one person said, "We are new Christians, we are new Christians and we have children that are a year and a half, four, six, and a teenager. Should we have all of them baptized? At what point is an infant no longer an infant?" These types of parental questions were the second largest category.
You're looking at me like you want me to answer that.
Well either one.
You want to go? *pause* Okay. Yeah, I think that is true about parents. These are not abstract questions these are people asking "what shall I do with my children?" And not only in terms of their own personal obedience before God, but in terms of "do I want to withhold from my child something that may have an enormous benefit for them spiritually?" And that becomes an existential question here of a significant kind. And I feel their pain. I would say that you know there are different parts to this questions concerning older children and all. I've already said that I'm persuaded that the overwhelming evidence of Scripture is that children of believers are included in the covenant and should receive the sign of the covenant today even as they have for... the whole of redemptive history. And I think that the parents are obligated to see that their children are baptized. Now the question there was dedication, am I doing them any harm by dedicating them. That's something that's always puzzled me. Why my friends in the Baptist community who don't believe in infant baptism dedicate their infants when we have absolutely no mandate for that in the New Testament. Where in the world does that come from? That's an Old Testament ritual, it's not a New Testament ritual. Yet they carry that through instead of the New Testament ritual, it... it's always puzzled me. I say to my baptist friends I've preached on Sunday mornings where they've dedicated their children and then had me as a guest preacher in the Baptist church and I say, "I just really enjoyed this dress rehearsal, I'm going to come back next week when you do the real thing. You know. But uh, *laughter* a dedication of infants is an Old Testament principle, and again I know of nowhere in the New Testament where we see that rite performed in the context of New Testament/Covenant religion. 

Now, as far as the second part of the question, I would follow, since again the New Testament is silent, the Old Testament principle of the age of accountability as to when you baptize or circumcise, [as to] when is a person considered an adult. It would be at age 13 in the Jewish community. So that children under 12 or 13 should be baptized--
So the couple that has these four children--
Yeah I'd say--

Deal with the four, deal with them differently?
I'd give them, the ones under 13 infant baptism, the ones over 13 adult baptism. But let, let him talk about this.

What about the dedication?
Well I, my view of the dedication thing is that I think it's probably a capitulation on the part of Baptist to Presbyterianism. And, a sort of pale imitation of the real thing. I mean I don't know historically where it came from but I've always sort of had that feeling. I've felt however that it wouldn't do anybody any harm, it's a kind of innocuous sort of thing, provided it doesn't bear any connotations, anything as um... I was going to say that it wasn't baptized with greater significance than it deserves but... so we would share in the dedication of children, but it would be a long the lines of Deuteronomy 6. You know, "these things are to be upon your hearts, you teach them to your children, as you walk along the road, lie down, get up." I mean that would be an opportunity for us to affirm some of those covenantal principals, admittedly from RC's position, without the covenant sign. And I wouldn't be suggesting that our dedication was a replacement for that, but in the case of the family who's asking the question, I would simply encourage them to work within the framework of a Bible believing church and pray that their unconverted children will come to faith in Jesus Christ, and that when they place their faith and trust in Christ that they would be baptized in profession of their faith. And so I wouldn't feel any duty incumbent upon me to urge them to baptism, because I don't believe that if they were to have the baptism they'd be in a more favorable position in relationship to grace than they would be if they were to remain unbaptized.  

[Would] that be true of adults too?
Baptized they wouldn't be in a more favorable position? Well the only more favorable position I think is that once we assume that baptism is a profession of loyal obedience to Jesus Christ, that while it would not alter the standing of the individual in grace before God, nevertheless obedience is always followed by blessing, and [the person] would be blessed.
That's, an, that's an interesting thing you said, because I think what we have here, in light of what I've just heard Alistair say, this is a kind of a surprise to me, if what I've just heard you say, if I understand correctly, and maybe I haven't, it would go a long way to explain why we differ on infant baptism. Because it would indicate that we have a radically different view of what baptism is altogether.

There's no question of that.
Because I hear you seeing it it basically as a sign of faith. Which I agree it is a sign of faith among other things. 
But it's a sign of something... in the person... where our primary view of baptism is that first of all things it is a sign of a divine promise. It is the word made flesh insofar as the non-verbal, symbolic, corroboration of the word of Gods promise,
So the emphasis would be on the promise.
Well... yeah.

Seeing it as a sign of something happening in the person, we're saying that principally it's the sign of the divine promise. And I'm saying, I certainly don't want to be not having that sign of God's promise in my life. I mean baptism is a very significant thing. And again, just as circumcision was a sign of God's promise for those who believe, so baptism is a sign of God's promise for all who believe. There's one of the parallels. And that sign of that promise of God was to be given to children in the Old Testament, and I still haven't heard any reason why they wouldn't receive it in the New Testament. We've heard a lot of talk about why adults have to make a profession of faith before they receive the sign, but every second we spend on that subject is wasted, because there's no disagreement. We all agree that adults have to make a profession of faith before they receive the sign of the covenant. But that's not what we're talking about here.
What do you think about the distinction between--

Well, well there's two things. I was careful to say this: the sign points both to the gracious act of God and to our penitent response. Most of my baptist friends would say "the sign is simply an indication of our penitent response, that it is a completely subjective issue." I've been sufficiently influenced by you boys to recognize that that is less than all that it is.

But that's about as far as I'm able to go, because guys that are out here that I've played golf with--my Presbyterian friends--I mean we've had the conversation all the way my children have been growing up, you know. "Are your children as marked by the sign of the covenant in a more secure position in relationship to the things of God than my children are, unmarked by the sign of the covenant? Your answer to that... I don't know what it would be, my answer would be I don't believe mine are impoverished as a result of not being marked in that way. But for somebody who would hold to a very strong view of infant baptism they'd be forced to say "yes, your children are impoverished by that."
I'll say your children are impoverished.
That's right. Right.
Because much advantage in every way. What advantage is there to being a Jew? You know.
Again, the supreme advantage is having the oracles of God, and we would see baptism as one of the oracles of God.
Yeah. And then, when you'd then start to get me annoyed, I would say that in point of fact there was a great potential for the thing acting in reverse, and indeed in the majority of cases it does act in reverse. That the children... we're not going to say that unbaptized children do not all believe, nor are we going to say that all baptized children are reprobate. But the fact is--
Would you have the same objections to infant circumcisions, Alistair?

Would I have objections to infant circumcision?
Yeah. I mean the same objections you just voiced here.
You mean in the Old Testament context?
No I would not.
Why not? Wouldn't those same objections apply?
No because they didn't have adult baptism to contend with. I mean, the two situations are different situations.
Yeah but couldn't you be giving children a false sense of security by giving them infant circumcision, the very same thing you're concerned about with baptism.
If you, if you took--
Wouldn't you have that same principial concern with that?
If you taught it incorrectly.
Yeah I don't understand why these principial objections that you're bringing here toward the danger that this could impose upon an infant by giving them the sign of the new covenant wouldn't also apply with equal force to a practice we know in fact God ordained and commanded. That's your problem that you have here, that your principial objection proves too much. That you end up having to be critical, not so simply of people who practice infant baptism, but you've got to be critical of the whole Old Testament.
No... I... well it may sound as though I need to do that, I don't feel that I need to do that. I'm simply observing that when you take the sign and you remove it (in terms of baptism) from the Apostolic practice, then you do something with it that the Apostles never did, nor even intended to do.
Okay time out, that's the point, now you're begging the question. Because we differ as to what the Apostolic practice is. I've given you the testimony of history, that in fact the apostolic practice was infant baptism.
After the year 300.
No no no no no, no no no. Not after the year 300.
Well, RC, why doesn't one of the Apostles overtly say, "we're gonna baptize kids" or "we should baptize kids" or "you must baptize kids"?
Don't know. A very simple answer to that would be there was no need to, it was tacitly assumed that the children of believers would be baptized. That's A. B, what is Paul saying when he's writing to the Corinthians and telling them that their children, even if there's only one parent as a believer, are clean and holy?
Well, see, you missed my point because I've made it so imperfect, presumably. But in 1 Corinthians 7 I agree with your exposition. I just disagree that 1 Corinthians 7:14 has got anything to do with baptism.
It's got everything to do with baptism.
See, I disagree.
If it affirms the presence in the New Testament of the principal of familial solidarity. Which is what's in dispute here.
Right. And that's a big if.
Let me, uh, add another series of questions--
No time out a minute, I can't let that go.
"That's a big if." Where is there any doubt that that reaffirms familial solidarity, Alistair? What does the Apostle mean that the children are not unclean but holy?
I think it means the same thing. And that's why I don't think baptism comes into it. I think where you've got a family where you've got a mother and father that are bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord with, or without infant baptism, that the influence, the godly influence of those parents on the life of that child, with or without an external sign, put that child within the framework of the sanctifying influence of God. Whereas an individual, a child brought up in paganism does not have that. But the sign is not necessary for the experience for the child to be under the sanctifying influence.
Well we agree on that point, but what I'm hearing here is you're saying they're holy or not unclean in the sense that they're placed in a situation where they're exposed to godly influences. How does that exposure to godly influence make them holy, or not unclean? The terms holy--
How does it make the husband?
And unclean, I'm saying the terms holy and unclean are terms relating to cultic [sic] status. Do you agree with that?
Well I may, and I may not, because I'm not sure that it works in relationship to the husband. That's the problem. How is that true of a husband? What Old Testament principal do we have that would transfer from a wife to a husband?

Mmm, okay. We don't. As far as I can see.
This is why I said Paul is bending over backwards now to deal with this problem now of mixed marriages which wasn't that big of a problem, you know, in antiquity. But that his basic overarching concern is the status of the infants. The only reason the unbelieving spouse is considered sanctified is as the Apostle said, remember, "for the sake of the children, else would the children be unclean, but now are they holy." Will you grant that they are deemed to be holy and deemed not to be unclean particularly and simply because they are children of one believing parent?

Yeah, I think that's right.
Alright. So does that indicate to any degree a principle of familial solidarity?
*Pause* Well... it indicates to me the influence of a godly mother within a home. I don't have to argue for a covenantal view of familial solidarity to acknowledge what he's saying in 1 Corinthians 7. I can still say that here's a lady who's a Christian, she has a husband who's a non-Christian, and the influence of that lady in that home affects not only her unbelieving husband but affects her children for good. I'm not sure that I have to take on--
Does it automatically and necessarily make them not unclean and holy? An influence for good may or may not be effective.
Well it leaves them in that--

I'm saying, I'm saying the text teaches more than "it puts them in an advantageous environment where there's the maternal influence." Do you get what I'm saying here Paul? What I'm saying--
I get what you're saying but I would go back and so though that you then qualified or defined what it means to be not unclean and holy, but I, I want to stop there because I'll get off to another question because a lot of people felt, you know there were questions on "are you advocating baptismal regeneration at that point?"
Were they not here when I said I didn't believe in it?
Well they were here, and they know it's by faith alone, so they're saying you know, what is the issue here? They quoted you that way, so I think if he agrees to the meanings to those words then we have to go back to how you define those words earlier where you qualified them I think.
Yeah, again, let me just re-summarize it. My assertion is, that the principal of familial solidarity which under-girds the practice of including infants in the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament is explicitly reaffirmed in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 7. That principal of familial solidarity where the children of one believer automatically--not just possibly--but necessarily receive a benefit religiously, from their relationship to their parent.
And I hear Alistair saying, "of course there's a benefit, but how are we defining the benefit" seems to be what the difference would be.
No what I'm saying is the benefit holds, I agree with that, but that the sign of baptism, it just muddies up the waters.
That's fine, that's fine, all I'm trying to establish at this point is that the principal of familial solidarity is affirmed by this text. And I wanted to do that for this reason: to respond to his charge that the text has nothing to do with baptism. And I'm saying if the question of familial solidarity is a relevant issue with respect to the issue of who is to receive the sacrament or sign of the covenant then this text is quite relevant to the discussion. I was responding to his charge--
Yeah and I, I--

That the text is irrelevant to the discussion.
Well here's the point. I concur with the logic of that statement. The fact of the matter is, once you begin from a position of covenant theology and that becomes your hermenutical principal which runs throughout, you are inevitably at infant baptism. If you do not accept the continunity in it's totality, and RC I thought did a very fair case for mentioning there is discontinuity here (far more than many would) but see I--

That's the debate behind the debate which you referred to in your presentation.
Yeah that's the debate behind the debate. Yeah. And that's the fundamental point of difference. Because there's a perfect logic to it. I understand the logic in it.


Now another question along the same line was "what would that have to say then to the connection of the Passover and the Lords Supper for say padeo-communion?" There were a number of series of questions that went that way. Do you make the same application that way for children and communion?
Okay. There are many in the Reformed community particularly who would make that as an exact parallel, namely that since presumably infants were incorporated in the celebration of the Passover and the Passover was fulfilled and replaced by the Lords supper, would it not follow that infants should be included in the celebration of the Lords Supper? And as I said there are many who take that parallel argument very very seriously and I frankly think that particular argument is the real strength of the padeo-communion advocate's position. And one that I think makes the whole issue extremely difficult. The chief reason why the church has not practiced padeo-communion is based on the problem of the manducatio indignorum which is the eating and drinking unto damnation, which can be a negative consequence of participating in the Lords Supper unworthily by those who fail to discern the Lords Body. So that, the New Testament explicitly refers to the Lords Supper as a discernment sacrament. So then the issue becomes whether infants can discern the significance of this celebration, which is not the same type of ordinance as baptism. And in a very real sense though we see the relationship of parallels to different covenant signs, as Paul [the moderator] says, it really is a red herring. Because the Lords Supper is not the sign of the New Covenant, first of all. It is a special sacramental event within the covenant. And that's one of the differences it has from baptism. And the parallel is not between baptism and the Passover, or baptism and the Lords Supper. The parallel is between baptism and circumcision. Where in that case we again (I say this ad nauseum) we have explicit clear biblical mandate by which God commands the inclusion of infants into receiving--and you don't have to be a covenant theologian to see that--to see that God commands the children of his people to receive the sign of the covenant which is among other things is the sign of faith.
Any response Al?


What about another large category of questions: re-baptizing. One person said, "I was baptized an infant as a Presbyterian (in a Presbyterian church), as a teenager in a charismatic neighbors pool, and as an adult to join a Southern Baptist Church." To the degree that we talk about the significance of baptism, what about, how do we council on this whole issue of re-baptism from each of your positions?
Well I would be passionately opposed to it, obviously. But again it gets back to what we were saying a minute ago here, about whether... I mean we have so much agreement about what baptism is and what it isn't. Neither one of us believes in baptismal regeneration. And we've both agreed that baptism is a sign of more than one thing. There are several things, seven or eight things. it's the sign of our, as he mentioned brilliantly, the participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, the sign of our willingness to participate in His humiliation, as well as our exultation, a sign of our cleansing from original sin, a sign of our being in-grafted into the body of Christ. It's a sign of our baptism of the Holy Spirit. It's the sign of many, many things. It's the sign of regeneration. It's the sign of all that's involved in salvation. It's the sign of our sanctificaiton. And we agree on all that. The question is, "Is it a sign of God's promise of all of these things to those who believe?" Now I would've thought  that he would agree on all that, that among other things it's a sign of Gods promise of salvation by faith, to all who have faith.
Right? Okay, now, here's my problem with re-baptism: suppose I've received the sign of Gods promise of all these neat things that are going to happen if I have faith. Then I have faith, and I receive all these benefits that are signified by this thing that was instituted by our Lord to confirm the promise of the word of God. And now that after I have received the fulfillment of Gods promise I say to God, "Why don't you run that by me again?"
I think that it implicitly denigrates the integrity of the character of God Himself and is an insult to His faithfulness. Now let me be quick to say, before anybody runs out of this room and quotes me here incorrectly, I can't imagine any Christian wanting to be re-baptized, or actually being
re-baptized because they want to make the public statement that you have to have God promise something two or three times before you can trust him. Now, again, what Christian would ever do something as crass as all of that? I don't think any Christian would. But I think that's what they're doing implicitly. Not intentionally, but because they don't think about baptism as a sign of Gods promise, which now has been realized. Why in the world?... But that's one of the reasons why I think something else we agree on in the New Testament, the Lords Supper as an ordinance, is repeated over and over again. Right? But not baptism.
That you see raises the question... this gets very convoluted because I would have to distinguish in counseling people, you know, what about Roman Catholic baptism? What about Anglican baptism ala the 1980 prayer book service? And what about, mmm you know, somebody who has been well schooled in the affairs that have been outlined for us here? To be true to what I believe at the gut of it all, I believe as passionately in reverse what he's saying now. That infant baptism is ultimately not a baptism, and therefore I'm not engaging in re-baptizing anybody, I'm baptizing them ala the New Testament, for the first time. And I'm not an Anabaptist, I'm just a Baptist in that sense. And so I would not countenance the situation where I was suggesting to this individual that by their coming into the waters of baptism having been brought up in paganism, having come out of wherever they've come out of, having understood the gospel and understood the claims of Christ and begun to read their New Testament and they said "It says in here I should repent and be baptized, is this a pattern here?" Yes I believe it is. Well then is it an expression of obedience as well as a sign of whatever else it is? Yes I believe it is. And so on. If you believe that then the logic in it is you've got to go ahead and re-baptize those people. And it comes down to the most endemic discussion then about the nature of baptism. And I don't like that discussion really. Because I think then you run into the danger... I mean I don't even like saying that I don't think that this is a real baptism. But the fact is of the matter if this re-baptism is irrelevant in light of what RC's saying, then maybe the reverse is true, and the infant baptism is irrelevant in light of what I'm saying.
Following your own, your own logic?
Which I think confirms what we just agreed on a minute ago, that we don't agree on what baptism is.
That it's not the sign of... I don't think he really believes baptism is the sign of Gods promise. Because he's making... what I'm hearing here is, he's making the validity of the baptism rest upon its legitimacy. Do you hear the difference?  Because suppose it is not legitimate to baptize infants, suppose we're wrong and we are acting improperly by giving the sign of Gods promise to people who don't qualify for it, which is what we've been hearing all day, right? Now, does that improper giving of the sign of Gods promise invalidate God's promise? See now we're fighting the Donatist controversy all over again because--
This is where we were in Seattle--
This is exactly where we were, oh yeah.
his sparked the whole issue there. And

 It just shows you how far we've moved--
So you see the point Paul, was that if it is the sign of God, even if he doesn't recognize infant baptism's propriety--
He would have to recognize it's validity.
Well I try to keep my own feelings out of this and represent my own friends out here, but I have one question I'd like to ask you. And, and--
We know where you're coming from *laughter*.

Granting, granting all you say, just grant you all of that, I still don't know why it's so troubling for you then for a person to say, "I now want to be baptized because I now understand what God's promise is all about, and I want to affirm my belief in that promise." I don't understand why that bothers you, uh, so much.
Okay so let me explain, let me explain it to you. It doesn't bother me so much that they want to experience something, and that they've now come to a deeper understanding. And I would say "okay, I'll baptize you because you want me to, because now you have a deeper understanding of what it means." And then I baptize them. And then the following week I say, "Have you studied baptism some more this week?" And they say, "Yes." "Do you understand even more fully this week than you did last?" Do I have to finish this for you?
How many times does that person have--
You're talking about a different guy than I'm talking about now.
Well alright. Bu the point I'm trying to say is, I would say to that person, "I understand your existential desire, I had the same thing. I was baptized as an infant, converted when I was 18 years old. And one of the first things I wanted to do was get baptized--
Man. Whew.

Because I wanted to have the
existential experience. I wanted the existential experience of that--
[To Alistair] If you could've just met him at that point...

Yeah I know.
And also one of the reasons I wanted to get baptized again was because the guy who baptized me was an unreconstructed 19th century liberal who didn't believe in Christ and the deity of Christ, or anything else. And so I thought, hey, I want to get baptized from someone who is a true believer, and after I'm a true believer. As if the validity or significance of the promise of God depended on those things. And when a pastor carefully explained to me that I would be insulting the integrity of God for doing that I didn't do it, and I'm glad I didn't do it.
And I fully understand that and I appreciate that. That's the point I'm making in distinguishing between people coming out of different contexts in this question. I think it would be wrong for me to press and individual such as yourself in the circumstances that you've just outlined to be baptized in any other framework other than the one you've believed. Because you are convinced, and convicted, and you understand it. Okay? Now, I do not though feel the same encumbency in relationship to someone for whom baptism was not only misunderstood in it's follow on, but for whom any notion of a covenantal framework of life or anything at all had anything to do with it. I would not council that person in the same way. The very first fact that I've responded to you as per what you've outlined is illustrative of my own personal dilemma. Because I want to be true to that kind of conviction, and I understand the framework and logic of it. And I think that one of the great disservices that has been done to the church in relationship to these things is that I think our Presbyterian brethren have been far more willing to work with the subject than most have from the other side of the camp. And so I recognize that that significantly reduces my credence in the baptist community as it were, but nevertheless that's the level of inconsistency with which I'm willing to live. Now what it means in terms of application to church membership and all those other things, then it becomes a far larger discussion. But there is a distinction in my own mind between somebody... I can think of people like guys, you know the general manager of Banner of Truth, who is a wonderful guy, you know who he is. And [he] was baptized as a child and came to faith in Christ and understood that. He for the last 30 years has lived in Edinburgh and worshiped in an unnamed church and has never been able to become a member of the church, or to function in leadership of the church, because the only way that he could do so would be to be, in his mind, re-baptized, and in their minds, to be baptized properly.
That's where the dilemma really hits. I mean the church would be violating their conscience in terms of their conviction,
That's right, that's right.
If they allowed him to be a member without undergoing baptism, he would have to be in his own mind betraying his commitment to the integrity of Gods promise to do it.
Would you just, would you--
Wow that's a great dilemma to have! Because it's a dilemma from people who are committed to godliness and differ on what it is.
That's right, that's right. And that I think is the lesson that ought to come from this in part, but would you not then distinguish
between... is all baptism valid in your mind? Is infant baptism?
Even if it doesn't take place within the framework of believing parents?
Let me put it this way, again I would take the position basically that Augustine did in the Donatist controversy on how the church settled this centuries ago.
You better tell them that though.
With heretical baptism and so on. For example, if someone were baptized in the Mormon church, I wouldn't recognize that as legitimate.
Not only is it not legitimate, it's not valid. I'd say it's not baptism. Now the question is what about somebody who's baptized in the Roman Catholic church? Reformed people are divided right down the middle on that one. And I frankly have vacillated on that one. Because I believe that Rome is an apostate body. I don't believe it's an authentic church. However, following Augustine, I think it's formula for baptism and it's intent follows the minimum necessary requirements for a valid baptism. So I would recognize Roman Catholic baptism.
And it was at that point in Seattle where Alistair came out of his seat.
[sarcastically] ha ha ha.

We're out of time.
Well let him jump up out of there again, I mean there's even more room here for him.


We're out of time, let me, let me ask you just one thing personally. When you drive home tonight and you're laying on your pillow both of you, what will be his strongest point that will bug you, and what will be Alistairs strongest point that you'll think about later tonight in this issue? Where is the strength in your opponent that you'll have the hardest time dealing with?
 *Pause* I want to be honest and kind, and uh... *pause* I think that the question as he outlined it on the board--is this the sign in the Old Testament? Yeah. Is this the sign in the New Testament? Yeah. There you are. I understand the logic of that, it is a compelling logic, and therefore he makes a strong point in that. If I actually believed overturned my own convictions about the unfolding pattern of events in the New Testament then I'd be applying for ordination in the Presbyterian church. The fact that I'm not means that as strong as the point is made and as logical as it is to me, I believe that RC and all my friends begin with a covenantal position, and it presses them then to these conclusions. And the logic is unavoidable, but for me the New Testament evidence does not allow me to close the gap in the way in which RC does. But his points are very well made.
[Audience Applause]
Paul, I think that's a really sharp question you asked, what point do you go and think back, because you know it's right. Usually when you go and disagree and have discussions like this, when minds do change they change when you put your head on the pillow that night and mull over the full measure of the thing. Uh, I'm puzzled, because I heard my brother say that my argument's compelling... I'm going to be thinking about how someone can say that the argument of their opponent is compelling and not submit to it.

If he didn't buy your first premise.
That's, that's, going to be puzzling, that's the thing I'm going to be thinking about when I put my head on the pillow tonight. *laughter*
I don't think you answered my question.

I think he did. 
Honestly? Paul, for better for worse I've had to look at this question a thousand times in my career as a teacher and theologian. I didn't hear anything here today that I haven't heard a hundred times. And I'm convinced that all that discussion about the pattern in the New Testament is completely a non-sequitur. I have granted from the beginning of these discussions that adult baptism requires a prior profession of faith, but that what adults do or are required to do have absolutely nothing to say abut the issue. And so I heard Alistair basically make a tremendous case for believers baptism, which I already agreed with beforehand. But I didn't hear him say anything that I thought was significant against infant baptism, so I won't be thinking about anything, I'll sleep--
You'll sleep like a baby in other words.

Except why he seems to think that's so important.
Well, if we had three more hours maybe we could do this, but I think if we took three more minutes we wouldn't get any further than we have at this point so I think it'll be fair to--

And I'll take  something I want everyone in this room to think about: one of the dangers of this kind of thing is that you see two guys differ, as radically different as we come out of different ends on this point as we could possibly come out on, and yet in the general scope of the content of biblical and systematic theology, you're going to have to look far and wide to find two men who agree more with each other than we do. Would you agree with that?
Mm hmm.

Um, if you get up close to us you'll notice that we're both wearing the navy blue ties with the yellow stripes. His is the thin yellow stripe of the pedeo-baptist and mine is the broad yellow stripe of the believers baptist. And these will be available in the bookstore.

Take your stand. Once again thanks to both of you.


Unknown said...

A point that neither of them addressed: People came under the first covenant simply by being born into an Israelite family, so the sign of the covenant came right after birth. People come into the new covenant by understanding the gospel and coming to Christ, and so the sign of the covenant takes place after belief and conversion.

Anonymous said...

I’d like to see you say that to Abraham or one of the gentiles who came to faith under the old covenant. They came into the old covenant through faith. Then Abraham was commanded to circumcise Isaac in order to bring him into the covenant God made with him. Baptism is the sign of the new covenant and is done the same way. An adult who comes into the covenant puts on the sign through faith and then administers the sign to their children (just like the household baptisms). Peter says that the promises are not only for the believer but also to their children. They didn’t argue the point because that is how the old covenant worked. Not everyone was just born into it and not everyone in it was chosen. This can also be said about the new covenant no matter what your stance is on baptism.

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