A couple months ago, I wrote an article that entailed my responses to eight supposed reasons for paedobaptism. These “reasons” were all proposed by a brother in Christ which led to some great discussion. Just as I did with the first eight, I intend to show why these seven additional reasons (#9 thru #16) aren’t actually reasons at all. Despite being presented with 16 “reasons” why paedobaptism is good and proper, I still contend it is an erroneous view of the covenant of grace and even goes so far as to MAKE A MOCKERY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. That said, while I disagree with paedobaptism, I also greatly respect many godly paedobaptists who will one day come to understand credobaptism is simply what the bible teaches.
Baptism is the way one is marked out as a member of the visible church. The children of Christians are considered members of the visible church and should receive the sign as anyone else would.
There are many places I could begin, but let us start with the last sentence. My brother stated, “The children of Christians are considered members of the visible church and should receive the sign as anyone else would.” Since the visible church is nothing more than what we can see on the outside, it is comprised of both believers and unbelievers, regenerate and unregenerate, saved and lost. The sad fact is that many members of the visible church are indeed lost and will one day see hell. Thus, if all members of the visible church should receive the sign of baptism (as has been claimed), it means all who are in the church should receive it. Age would not be a criteria, and given the fact that it was previously argued (in Part 1) that the children of believers are made holy and should receive the sign, it means the unbelieving spouse sitting in church should also receive the sign because Scripture places them in the same exact category of holiness. Now, I don’t personally know of any sound Presbyterians who would even attempt to argue in favor baptizing unregenerate and unbelieving spouses, though I have been told they exist. For those who are more in line with the flavor I have spoken with, it means they cling to an inconsistency in their own categorization. On the other hand, I will promote the baptism of neither because I recognize the proper context of 1 Corinthians 7:14 has nothing to do with baptism.
Moving to the first statement, it was claimed that baptism is how one is marked out as a member of the visible church. Again, since the visible church is comprised of both believers and unbelievers, this would make baptism a completely nondiscriminatory sign to be applied to all who are sitting in a pew. The pew becomes the new Israel. For circumcision, you merely needed to be born to be marked out. If baptism is the new circumcision, it should be applied to all who are in the pews. Age, faith, or faithfulness would have no bearing on the sign being applied, just as it had no bearing on the sign of circumcision being applied. Yet, once again, no sound Presbyterian would not argue for such a point.
Of all the passages in the New Testament that speak of baptism, not one of them says it is to be indiscriminately applied to all members of a household. Not one of them says it is to be applied to children of believing parents. Not one of them says it is to be applied to believers and unbelievers alike. Literally every last example of the strictly New Testament ordinance is of it being applied to believers upon a profession of faith or, where such a verbal declaration is lacking, the narrative describes faith as being present in the individual. Some argue this is only the case for individual baptisms and that household baptisms are different. Yet, even in the handful of household baptism instances, Scripture is very clear on them. In Acts 10:2, the entire household of Cornelius is described as fearing God. In Acts 16:33, it is clear that the jailer and his entire household believed. In Acts 16:14, it is highly unlikely that Lydia would have had any children with her considering how far she had traveled to sell her fabrics. The only remaining “questionable” case is Stephanas in 1 Corinthians 1:16, but even this instance is clarified in 1 Corinthians 16:15 when it calls the household the “first fruits” and says they devoted themselves to ministry. Paedobaptism simply does not begin with Scripture. It begins with tradition and then shoehorns an origin story in order to get away from the original intent (as implemented by the Catholic Church) while still maintaining the practice.
Nowhere in Scripture does it say baptism marks children as being under the nurture of the church. This is a tradition that is carried over from circumcision. Since circumcision was applied to all as a mark of being in the covenant, so the claim goes that baptism is now the mark for the same thing. However, such an interpretation is wrought with difficulties.
For starters, all physical seed of Abraham were marked. Yet, the same continuity doesn’t apply to baptism, even among covenant paedobaptists. It has shifted away from a national covenant and been transformed into a church covenant, but this has been done without any explicit (or implicit) charge from Scripture.
If you hold to the view that baptism marks you or seals you as an infant, ask yourself what it did to mark your children with the sign of the covenant. Did it bring them into the covenant? Certainly not without faith. If we say it did, it means there are those without faith who are full-fledged members of the unbreakable covenant of grace who are under the federal headship of Christ. This is a scary assertion that totally destroys federal headship. If we say they are not full-fledged members, why give them the sign? After all, there’s no biblical precedent for being partial members of a covenant. You’re either in or you’re not. If you’re in, you’re also under the federal headship of Christ. If you’re under the federal headship of Christ, you are saved, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Yes, Jesus did tell them not to forbid the children from coming to him (more on that in Reason #11), but at no point do we see Him advocating for their baptism. All who come by faith are welcome. However, those who lack faith are not part of the kingdom of God and should not bear the sign of the covenant that only kingdom members should possess. Notice that the passage speaks nothing of the faith of their parents. And, yet, nobody would advocate for all children being baptized merely for being children.
Noah found favor in God’s eyes and by faith entered the ark along with his entire family. Baptism corresponds to the flood as believers and their children pass through the symbolic waters of God’s judgement in Christ. (Genesis 6-9; 1 Peter 3:20-22)
I wish I had a better way of saying it, but this doesn’t even make sense. It is to take a family of eight adults who were spared for the purpose of repopulating the earth and somehow say it justifies baptizing infants. And that’s not even getting into the fact that Hebrews 11:7 states that Noah already possessed faith prior to the flood occurring. I think this paedobaptist interpretation might stem from tunnel vision. The greater context of 1 Peter 3 is about righteous and godly living. The correlation is in a matter of godly living. However, there is a key distinction found in verse 21. Baptism is an appeal for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Infants cannot appeal for such a thing, nor are they found in the resurrected Christ. Unless they are among the regenerate, they are lost and in need of a Savior. If baptism is an appeal through Christ, those who do not know Christ cannot appeal to Him (1 Corinthians 2:14).
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:14)
I can’t even begin to tell you how often I see this verse brought up as a proof text for infant baptism. Charismatics have Hebrews 13:8 and paedobaptists have Matthew 19:14. But there is a big difference between permitting those who desire Christ to come and forcing the sign of the new covenant upon those who are not members of it. If one desires Christ, we should nurture and encourage it. However, even then, we must not be hasty to baptize everyone who makes a public profession. There’s an entire parable dedicated to false converts. Wisdom and discernment should be practiced.
Even the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith leaves room for the salvation of infants who die (10.3). Yet, it also recognizes that only those infants who are elect will be saved (whether that is all of them or only some is not specified). Since baptism is a sign that should only be applied to those who appeal to a good conscience through Christ (1 Peter 3:21), and even covenant paedobaptists will readily acknowledge that baptism does not save, I assert that baptizing all infants of believing parents becomes a matter of superstition and is a misapplication of the sign of the new covenant in Christ.
Of course baptism doesn’t save but being in the covenant of grace does. It is an unbreakable covenant whose members are all under the federal headship of Christ. If one is in Christ, he is secure and will be preserved until the end.
Jesus did not say that in order to enter the kingdom a child had to become an adult. He said that adults needed to first become more like a child in simple faith and humility. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
While I can appreciate the concept of building an argument, as I have said before, a solid argument necessitates being built upon a foundation of solid points. This simply has not been done. Up to this point, there have been 12 Reasons, but each Reason has been thoroughly refuted and shown why, in its proper context, it is not referring to infant baptism at all, be it outright or through the nature of God. In fact, in each of these points, I have taken the time to show why they either speak nothing of infant baptism or why they even go so far as to actually be support for credobaptism. Because each of my responses have been consistent with one another, I could easily take these 12 arguments and show why they are Reasons for Credobaptism. It would paint one consistent picture. Yet, even my dear brother has admitted his arguments cannot make such a claim. He has gone so far as to say they don’t necessarily support infant baptism in and of themselves but paint a bigger picture that should get people thinking. Such argumentation appeals to the vague in order to paint a picture of clarity, while I am appealing to clarity in order to make consistent sense out of the vague.
The world that God has made is primarily covenantal in nature, not individualistic. We do not enter the kingdom of God simply as individuals.
I agree that God works through covenants. However, this is no reason to conclude infant baptism is good and proper. God worked through covenants that included nations in order to ensure a successive lineage from which Christ would come. This is why faith was not a factor in whether one was a member of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, or Davidic covenants. One merely had to have the blood of Abraham flowing through him. It was a covenant with a physical seed. The covenant of grace is made with a spiritual Seed: Christ. No longer are we in the covenant by having the blood of Abraham flowing through us. We are only granted membership into the covenant of grace by having the blood of Christ flowing over us. Christ is the covenant head, and none are admitted into the covenant apart from being under the covenant head. Thus, credobaptism is a more proper understanding of baptism when it comes to covenant theology.
Allow me to clarify a bit. None of this is to say there wasn’t a typological aspect of the covenant of grace within the Abrahamic covenant. There was certainly dual nature to it, but the spiritual side of it had not yet become manifest and would not be until it was inaugurated by Christ. The Old Testament showed the type while the New Testament brought forth the substance. While the Old Testament men with whom they were made had faith, it was not a prerequisite for all who would be in the covenants. Not all of Abraham’s physical seed had faith, yet they were in the Abrahamic covenant. Not all who were led by Moses had faith, yet they were all in the Mosaic covenant and were required to obey the totality of the Law. Not all who occupied the throne of David had faith, yet they were part of the lineage that preserved the coming of Christ. The covenant of grace, with Christ as the federal head, is the only covenant where faith is a prerequisite for membership.
This will usually result in the covenant paedobaptist asking how we are to know who is actually under the headship of Christ. After all, if it is internal, how are we to discern this? Since we cannot make such an infallible declaration of one’s status before God, are Baptists now faced with the same problem of giving the sign to someone whom it should not be given to? It was upon asking these questions that my dear brother brought up Simon the Magician. His claim was that Simon was baptized into the visible church without it being a guarantee that he was a member of the invisible church.
We can’t know with certainty who is under Christ’s headship. We’re but men who have fallible discernment. If one professes Christ, and there is reason to believe it is credible (based on observation and the testimony of the elders), baptism occurs. If one turns out to be a false convert, it would be determined to not be a valid baptism. If one is a false convert but later comes to saving faith, he would still be unbaptized because he was not in Christ the first time around. If a believer is baptized, temporarily falls away, and later returns, he would not need to be re-baptized because his faith never left nor did his federal head.
Yes, the problem of misapplying the sign exists within our framework as well. However, it is despite best efforts to prevent it, not because it is baked into our confessional theology to do so.
As for Simon, the passage is pretty clear he believed prior to being baptized (Acts 8:13). I see no room to speculate whether he was or was not a believer. The Holy Spirit tells us he was (though he was not without issues) and I see nothing in the passage that would lead us to think otherwise.
All Christians agree we should teach our children to pray, sing praise, memorize scripture and more. In other words we expect by faith for them to be Christians. If they can be raised as Christians they should be given the mark of a Christian.
First, if Christian parents are raising their children as if they are Christians, this is dangerous parenting. We raise our children in a household that teaches them to fear the Lord. We raise them in a household that instills Christian values while also teaching of their desperate need of the Savior. We raise them to know they can be saved but they are lost until they have faith.
If we were to apply the logic of this Reason to anything else, it wouldn’t make sense. If some are paying off a mortgage, they are living as homeowners and should have the full deed. If one is going to college and taking classes, we should give him his diploma now and count him as alumni. Again, it just doesn’t make sense. Now, one may say baptism would relate more to a college ID, but no sign of membership was ever given to anybody without them being fully in the covenant. In the covenants of the Old Testament, faith was not a prerequisite. Sure, Abraham was circumcised and his children were, too. His circumcision was based on his faith. Yet, his grandchildren and their grandchildren were also circumcised. I don’t see paedobaptists trying to baptize great-grandchildren based off the great-grandfather’s faith. It stops at the parent or head of the household. This just isn’t consistent with how the sign was applied in the Old Testament. Only those led by a federal head received the sign. In fact, all who were under the federal head received it but not one more. If Christ is our federal head, only those in Christ should receive the sign. It may be applied in error from time to time, but we certainly shouldn’t make it a confessional church practice to do so.
Of course, the argument often becomes one of affirming federal headship by including all who are children of the promise as part of God’s Covenant. But how does it affirm federal headship if not all in the covenant, of which Christ is federal head, are actually in Christ and under that federal head? It’s a gaping inconsistency that I would love to see addressed. There just isn’t a solid or legitimate tie to Scripture. It’s tied to tradition and then backfilled with loose Scripture that is shoehorned. In fact, covenant paedobaptism is just a morphed version of non-covenant paedobaptism forms (as found in Catholicism, Lutheranism, etc). It’s a tradition in search of Scriptural justification. But we should never begin with tradition and then justify it with Scripture. We must always let the Scriptures speak.
I have yet to see a biblical justification for why one who is not in the covenant or under the federal headship of Christ is to receive the sign of covenant membership, or how one who is fully in the covenant under the federal headship of Christ will not see salvation.
All of this ultimately ties into the concept of household headship, while I assert it should remain a matter of Christ’s headship. God has certainly ordered the household to emulate submission and headship, but that does not mean the church ordinances should be applied to it. Since the bible doesn’t promote the concept, most will appeal to history. But even this appeal is an argument from silence. The claim is that the early church saw the bloody practice of circumcision replaced with baptism as the sign and seal of the Covenant under the shed blood of Christ. Since there is no place in Scripture where anyone changes the rite to exclude infants, the thought it that infants must continue to receive the sign and that excluding them would be something that likely would have been covered in great detail. If the initial assertion is correct (i.e. that baptism replaced circumcision), this would be a valid point. However, if the initial assertion is incorrect, the conclusion is based on a false premise. With this in mind, is covenant household baptism attested in Scripture? I contend it is not.
The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered (WCF 28.6). When we have faith we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection, even though these things took place long before our faith. Likewise one who is baptized does receive all the benefits that are signified in their baptism when they believe, even if it is not at the moment of the baptism.
Just as with the other 14 Reasons, this one also comes with many problems. I 100% agree that we are united to Christ in His death and resurrection through faith alone. Where things go awry is in trying to say baptism has some delayed reaction for its beneficiaries. If baptism is a sign for those who are sealed in Christ by the Spirit, there is no reason to slap the sign on someone unless the reality aligns with the sign. Abraham’s physical offspring were given the sign of the covenant they were actually in. They received all temporal blessings of being in that covenant. It was an outward sign of their actual reality. They were members of the covenant and bore the sign of it. If baptism is a sign of the new covenant, it stands to reason that all who bear the sign would actually be members of it. To willingly encourage the application of the sign to non-members would be to slap an “unleavened” label on a loaf of leavened bread.
To claim it is the sign for admission into the visible church is empty since we see nothing in Scripture that divides the church between visible and invisible (in the way paedobaptists use the terms). That is a tradition. The better way to distinguish between the two would be to call the invisible church those with faith and the visible church those children of God and children of the devil who happen to dwell in the building together. Though they may dwell together, the latter category consists of those who are not actually members of the church or new covenant at all. I will never advocate for willing applying of one being sealed to Christ in the Spirit to children of the devil. This is dangerous practice that makes a mockery baptism.
Throughout the Old Testament Israelite children are included in the visible people of God and are given the sign of the Covenant. We would expect for the New Testament to say if this practice had changed, similar to the teaching on the end of the sacrificial system. We would also expect controversy among the Jews, similar to the controversy over Gentile inclusion. But the New Testament is silent on the exclusion of children from God’s visible people.
They were given the sign of the covenant because they were full-fledged members of the covenant. They received all blessings of the covenant and were bound to observe all the requirements of the covenant. There were no partial members. As for the expectation that Scripture would say it ended, it absolutely does. However, it does this in pronouncing the new covenant as being not like the old. Where you find continuity, Scripture declares newness. No longer are members of the covenant from a physical lineage but from a spiritual one. Apart from faith in Christ, one is not a member.
To bear the sign of the covenant apart from membership is to bear it in vain. Since baptism is an ordinance, to bear the sign in vain is an act of counterfeit and false worship. Indeed, Scripture is very clear on who should receive the sign. It’s explicit in intent and very clear by example. Baptism simply is not the new circumcision. In fact, circumcision is still very much active. It just went from being a physical circumcision of the flesh to a spiritual circumcision of heart. Absolutely nothing in Scripture says baptism is the new circumcision and the circumcision of heart is its own unique thing. Baptism is an ordinance of worship and is the outward sign to only be applied to those who are truly members of the covenant, just as physical circumcision was. Since baptism is not the new circumcision, there is nothing to switch. Infant baptism all hinges on the presupposition that baptism has replaced circumcision, but there is just no Scriptural warrant for such a belief.
As to the charge that my argument is from silence, the irony is that the credobaptist position is anything but silent, while the paedobaptist position is entirely an argument from silence. You say there would have been confusion, but it was quite clear that baptism was only for those who made a credible profession of faith. This is every last example in Scripture. The real confusion would’ve come in the form of Gentiles being told they needed to baptize their faithless babies even though they would’ve had no knowledge of the Jewish customs (aside from the fact that it was a Jewish practice). If faithless children of the devil were to be baptized, one would think this would’ve been mentioned in great detail. But it isn’t. In fact, it’s not even broached. The entire New Testament is entirely silent on the matter, though it does give very clear instructions regarding the baptism of actual covenant members (i.e. those with faith).
To say that all would have known about circumcision is not even remotely close to being accurate. For those who were Jews, it would have been the case, but none of the Gentiles would have had a clue. They would have only known about what they were told through the epistles or witnessed in practice. Considering Scripture is the manual for all church ages, if it were going to be a new practice for untold numbers with no knowledge of circumcision, one would think such an express ordinance would be expressly outlined in Scripture as something other than believers being baptized after a profession of faith. But that’s all we have. I argue it’s because that is the prescribed method: believe and be baptized (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38). Knowing they were physically circumcised doesn’t mean Gentiles would have knowledge of the Abrahamic covenant. It’s a bit of a stretch to expect that such an important practice of covenant theology, one that incorporates one of only two Scriptural ordinances that the Church is to follow, was left to silence with the hope that the existing Jewish converts would explain it to their Gentile brethren offline in a separate personal discussion. Simply put, the covenant paedobaptist method attempts to find continuity where it does not exist, while also conflating the Mosaic covenant of works with the covenant of grace that was not inaugurated until the death and resurrection of Christ.
Between these two articles, we have now reviewed a total of 16 attempts to justify infant baptism, with all 16 falling flat and not actually justifying anything of the sort. In addition to the above rebuttals, I would like to close out with another very important point. I assert paedobaptism is at odds with the regulative principle of worship. Being that baptism is a strictly new covenant ordinance instituted by Christ for the Church, it stands to reason that all instructions and examples for this institution would be laid out for the Church. We see this for the Lord’s Supper. It is made quite explicit. I would argue it is made equally clear for baptism. We are to believe and be baptized. We are to make disciples and then baptize them. Professions of faith were made and only then were they baptized. The New Testament is not shy about what baptism is, what the proper mode is to be, and who the proper recipients are. The most common counterargument against this would be similar to what John Murray declared when he said, “The evidence for infant baptism falls into the category of good and necessary inference.” However, I would have to disagree that a strictly New Testament ordinance (one of only two) was left to inference through the Old Testament in order to prescribe what it is and how it is to be performed, with no explicit prescription found in all of the New Testament. This is not good and necessary inference. The doctrine of the Trinity is good and necessary inference. Seeing shadows and types of Christ in the Old Testament is good and necessary inference. But delineating the purpose of a strictly New Testament ordinance and who its recipients should be is not a matter of good and necessary inference, especially when the New Testament does give the proper prescription for the ordinance and how it is to be applied within the Church. As Fred Malone, the ex-Presbyterian minister turned Baptist, has said, “Inference, even if one concludes it is good and necessary, cannot be used to invent sacraments or the subjects of sacraments, as do the Roman Catholics. There is a limit to valid good and necessary consequence, especially regarding the positive institution of sacraments under the regulative principle.” I agree with him when he says, “to adopt a practice from silence is not the same as rejecting a practice never mentioned. The former is the normative principle, the latter is the regulative.”
No, there is no delay in blessings as a sign is misapplied. This is why those who never turn to Christ will also never see eternal blessings of being sealed to Christ in the Spirit. If you bear the sign, you better bear the reality. Otherwise, it should be viewed as counterfeit worship, just as one receiving the Lord’s Supper while in open defiance to Christ would be an act of counterfeit worship. Baptism is an act of corporate worship and should be safeguarded as such. While my Presbyterian brethren are dearly loved, and we will one day worship together in heaven, the doctrine of paedobaptism is no small issue. It will ultimately affect what one believes about worship, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and a proper understanding of the unbreakable covenant of grace. Believe and be baptized but not a moment sooner.
~ Travis W. Rogers