More thoughts on baptism

I’ve read most of Baptism: Three Views now (I don’t think I’m going to read the section by Tony Lane arguing for a mixed practice. Unless you redefine baptism for infants it won’t work. If it was redefined, I don’t know that I’d have a problem with infant baptism). Here are a few thoughts on it, in conjunction also with listening to this defence of baptism by my friend James Dolezal.

It is with certain fear and trepidation that I say the following things. If there is any contemporary preacher/writing that I have benefited from (and continue to) it is Sinclair Ferguson. That being said, I find a number of problems with infant baptism. Also, as important as baptism is, it is secondary, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 – God did not send him to baptise, but to preach the gospel.

To start, I thought Bruce Ware’s chapter was fantastic. Between the two (Sinclair Feguson writing on infant baptism) it seemed more reliant and tied to the text of scripture. He deals fairly extensively with the challenge of house baptisms (principally looking at Bryan Chapell’s wee booklet on infant baptism by P & R), which I found helpful and quite compelling.

If infant baptisers redefined baptism I don’t know that I’d have a problem with it. Ferguson writes, “It is a symbol of regeneration, cleansing, and repentance in Christ (e.g., Acts 2.38; 22.16; Eph 5.26; Col 2.12; Tit 3.5-7; Heb 10.22).” He states on the next page, “Baptism is a sign and seal of the union with Christ and fellowship with the Father given by the Spirit and received by us through faith.” Now I know most paedobaptists don’t think this is much of an argument, but how in the world can those explanations of what baptism is be true in regards to infants? The only response I’ve seen, which Ferguson also gives, is that the “efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration.” He also spends some time explaining that it is not a sign and seal OF faith, but a sign and seal TO faith (and this in the context of a discussion on Rom 4.11 which speaks, in Abraham’s case, of it being a sign and seal OF faith).

There is also an inconsistency in understanding household baptisms, along with Acts 2.39. Even if you grant household baptisms, it would not only involve infants, but adults (who, presumably, did not have faith). Also, Acts 2.39 is leaned upon quite heavily (though it says nothing about baptism, just promise). It does say “for you and for your children” which the paedobaptist uses to endorse infant baptism, but what about the next phrase “and for all who are far off”? If we are consistent this would not prohibit baptism from anyone. Indeed, shouldn’t everyone be baptised then?

One aspect that was completely absent from Ferguson’s chapter, but quite central in James argument, is that of typology. Some people rashly say that a credobaptist has a different covenant theology than a paedobaptist. This is unhelpful and untrue (listen to James and read Ferguson if you want an example). It is an issue of continuity with the old covenant. It seems that aspects of the type and shadow are being retained when the reality has come and the shadow disappeared.

Well, much more could be said, and said much better than I have, but I’ll cut things off here for now.

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One Response to “More thoughts on baptism”

  1. wjhinson Says:

    …how in the world can those explanations of what baptism is be true in regards to infants?

    Who says that it is? Look at the definition again. It says that it is a sign of these things not a sign of the person’s status. It’s an objective definition, not a subjective one.

    In actuality Baptists are the ones uncomfortable with that definition, as Ferguson pointed out, because it leaves room for infant baptism. And Baptists are the ones who redefined baptism in the 1689 LBC to make it a subjective definition, i.e. as a sign of what is true of the person who has believed, instead of a sign of what happens by faith.

    The Reformed definition of baptism is a visible proclamation of the gospel not a proclamation of the result of the gospel in someone’s life.

    I will address your other objections, if you desire, once we reach an understanding on this one.

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