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Posts Tagged ‘believer’s baptism’


I know, that is an ambitious title. These things are connected in our theology; or at least they should be.

When I interact with those who advocate for believers’ baptism they often point to the New Covenant which is said to be very different than the Old Covenant (it is in some significant ways). The New Covenant, they say, leads them to hold to a regenerate or pure church such that the difference between the visible and invisible churches to be nearly insignificant. While there is nothing in any of the direct statements about the New Covenant that prohibit infant baptism or demand believers baptism they think it does. They are using a good and necessary consequence argument to defend believers’ baptism. We Reformed paedobaptists also use an argument based on good and necessary consequence. The difference is that we acknowledge this but they usually don’t.

The author of Hebrews refers to the promise of the New Covenant twice: in chapters 8 and 10.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8

The author wants them to know that 1) the New Covenant is better and 2) the Old Covenant is obsolete. This does not mean the covenants are completely different and disconnected. The word used here for “new” is “kainos” instead of “neos”. “Kainos” can mean renewed rather than absolutely new. It can also refer to “more recent”.

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My journey on the doctrine of baptism was long and at times arduous.  I think it may be pertinent as I review this book about baptism.  I was raised Roman Catholic, and was “baptized” as an infant (I say “baptized” since my parents are nominally Catholic and I question whether I had a right to baptism).  As a new convert, I unknowingly fell into a campus cult that taught you needed to be baptized to be saved.  I knew I was already saved by grace thru faith, but believed I should be baptized so I was.  Soon I was engaging my “discipler” on the issue, driven to better understand Scripture and leave that “ministry”.  I found a Conservative Baptist church in my hometown and enjoyed my new life as a Christian there until I left for Seminary 5 years later.  At seminary I was a credobaptist among paedobaptists, and I was thankful for Dr. Nicole as I also read Kingdon & Jewette to defend my credobaptism from a covenantal perspective.

Finally, 2 years after I graduated from seminary (the first time), the light bulb went on.  A friend jokingly challenged me that my resistance was a reaction to growing up Catholic.  I re-entered my study with “Lord, if this is true help me to see it.”  I saw that I had erroneous presuppositions that led to my resistance of a fully biblical view of baptism.  I had it partially right, but not wholly right.

So, my cards are on the table- are yours?  The power of presuppositions is one of the reasons this discussion is so difficult.  We are not just dealing with biblical texts, but all the presuppositions about Scripture we bring to the table.  This is true about all doctrinal discussions, but this discussion is particularly laden with landmines.  Baptism: Three Views brings three respected theologians together to work through it.

The introduction quotes from Barth, who after writing the quote moved from a paedobaptist position to credobaptist position, about how your anger reveals a vulnerable point in your position.  Could be.  Or it could also be that your sanctification has not sufficiently progressed to patiently deal with a person who is either unteachable or utterly blind of the presuppositions he or she brings to the table.  So be careful about using that quote, folks.

Dr. Bruce Ware, a self-described Progressive Dispensationalist (footnote, pp. 42), is the first to present his view.  He has written many books I’ve found edifying, including God’s Lessor Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism and the books he edited defending the 5 Points of Calvinism.   He is no theological slouch, which is what makes his presentation all the more disappointing.  I see within it the power of his presuppositions, to it’s detriment.

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It has been quite some time since I’ve read anything by Doug Wilson.  The constant controversy turned me off.  But I had been meaning to read To a Thousand Generations: Infant Baptism- Covenant Mercy for the People of God for a few years.  I lacked opportunity.  Teaching a class on baptism provided the opportunity.  So I took it.

Like many of Doug Wilson’s books it is not very think.  It can be a quick read that touches on the most important aspects of the issue.  He doesn’t go overboard, and this one clocks in at just over 100 pages.  I know, some of you are thinking that 100 is too many pages for something that “doesn’t exist” in Scripture.

I think Wilson does a good job proving you wrong on that regard.  He opens with the problem of nominalism in churches.  This topic is never far from the surface of this book.  He revisits it often.  Sadly, some lay nominalism at the feet of infant baptism.  This is utterly erroneous for many/most baptistic churches are also plagued by nominalism.  It is not something particular, or peculiar, to churches that practice infant baptism (from a covenantal view).

In this regard Wilson brings up the problem of an “over-realized ecclesiology” (my term, I think).  Many advocates of believer’s baptism strive for a “pure” church or a “regenerate” church membership.  This includes some the “new Calvinists”.  This is a good goal- not letting pagans into church membership.  But the Scriptures are honest in that under both covenants there would be a mixed assembly- both covenant keepers and covenant breakers would be there.  The only ‘pure’ church will be in the New Jerusalem.  The visible church is not comprised only of the elect- that would be the invisible church.

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Baptizing CavSon

Perhaps it is because I was preparing a SS class on the Sacraments and then Baptism that I noticed a few things regarding baptism.  One was encouraging, and the other was disappointing.

I used to read The Gospel-Driven Church all the time.  Then transition happened.  I’m trying to get back there more often.  Jared does some good work.  He recently relocated to Vermont of all places.  The congregation, the only evangelical congregation in town, has both paedobaptists and credobaptists in it.  By conviction Jared is credobaptist (believer’s baptism).  But he wanted to love those who had a covenantal view of infant baptism well.  He did not want them to be ostracized.  So they unveiled a new policy regarding baptism.  They will honor the infant baptism of people coming for membership (and already in membership) rather than require that they be baptized as adults.  One of the deacons, who is a paedobaptist, will baptize the infants of believers who desire it.

It is a good compromise instead of the common status as 2nd class citizens often experienced by those who have paedobaptist convictions.  I’ve seen it often, binding the conscience of others to get a seat at the table (voting rights, for instance).  Most conservative Reformed churches permit members to disagree with their position on baptism without any form of church discipline.  They will often limit them with regard to office, which makes sense.  This is just what John Piper has advocated at Bethlehem Baptist.

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