On September 27, 2010, I was interviewed by Scott Oakland of ReformedCast concerning my journey from credobaptism to paedobaptism. Click on the link below to listen to the interview.
Throughout Church history, but more notably and rancorously within the past several hundred years, debates over Christian baptism – what the rite itself actually signifies and does, by what mode it ought to be administered, and who may qualify as its proper subjects – have continued without abatement. One notable characteristic of the question, which has doubtless served to keep an easy and obviously irrefutable answer out of reach, is that the entire biblical witness to the nature of baptism is not exhausted by the relatively few passages directly addressing, by precept or historical example, the actual administration of the New Covenant sign, but on the contrary, many broad and far-reaching biblical themes and motifs have a necessary and compelling impact on virtually every point of the debate. We will not understand what is intended by the sign of baptism until we know what it is to be in covenant with God in Christ Jesus; and we will not understand his Covenant until we go back to the beginning of his dealings with his people, and take careful note of how God has inaugurated, clarified, and expanded his covenant, to whom he has always made it firm, how he advanced it to its final state of immutable certainty in the atoning work of Christ, and what that means for us today who are heirs of the Covenants of Promise. Nor will we understand the manifold significance of the rite until we have adequately accounted for God’s saving of Noah and the children of Israel through the waters by which he destroyed the world, the washing rituals of the Old Testament priests, and many other such things. But although the question is multi-faceted and complex, and although many well-meaning persons have therefore failed to take into account certain vital and necessary pieces of information pertinent to the subject, and have thus become inadvisedly dogmatic in an opinion which cannot adequately account for great and inextricably related truths which are the most ardently and emphatically proclaimed throughout the scriptures, it is my firm belief that the scriptures alone, when laid out in due order, may cast such a brilliant and inextinguishable light upon the whole topic as to render a few much-debated conclusions firm beyond cavil. God grant that his holy scriptures may here dispel much fruitless and misdirected groping after answers through the wrong means and reconcile all true and pious Christian brothers (of whom there are doubtless many on every side of the question) in a singleminded opinion!
Although many credo-baptists will base their argumentation on the fact that every clear New Testament example of baptism follows a confession of faith, there are some who recognize the problem with this argument, namely, that while it is helpful and gives clear exemplary warrant for the practice to be followed in like cases for the church today, it does not provide any example to be followed for the case in question: what do we do with the children of believers. If we had a clear New Testament example for this situation, the debate would be effectually over. But as it is, we are forced to bring other scriptural data to bear on a question which is not explicitly addressed in the bible. Recognizing this shortcoming of exemplary New Testament texts, these Baptist apologists have largely based their arguments on the prophesied difference between the Old and New Covenants, with respect to the purity of their respective membership. On a number of points, they are to be commended; for first, they have recognized the need for additional biblical evidence; and second they have sought this additional evidence in the right place – they have honed in on the true locus of the debate. The strands of evidence we must employ, in the pursuit of a biblical stance on the baptism issue, have ultimately to do with the nature of the New Covenant, and the quality of its members. Continue Reading
The common conception that, in the debate over the proper subjects of baptism, the believers-only position is more concerned not to go beyond the clear example of scripture, where the believers-and-their-infants position has seen fit to extend the scope of subjects beyond that of explicit biblical testimony, by way of analogous reasoning, is at best misleading. There is, in this assumption, an unspoken variable that derives largely from one’s conception of the organic unity of the Bible as a whole. When this variable is apprehended, the underlying supposition of the believers-only position must be rephrased thus: its concern is not to exceed the explicit example of baptism as recorded in the New Testament. This last phrase strikes at the true (albeit largely unrecognized) heart of the debate. It properly relegates the issue to the more foundational debate over hermeneutics – a debate which is indeed clearly addressed in the New Testament. Continue Reading
It may at first glance appear out of place to preface a retraction with these famous words of Martin Luther, by which he refuses to retract anything; however, I think the quotation is appropriate, because the same concern that constrained him not to retract anything, in spite of weighty pressures upon him to do so, now constrains me to make this retraction, notwithstanding several pressures that to me are weighty indeed. That is to say, I have indeed been convinced by scripture and clear reason of the error of my previous position, and my conscience now compels me to renounce the position to which I have held all my life. It is difficult for me to do so. May God help me. Continue Reading
Any attempt to support credo-baptism from within the framework of Covenant Theology has its own unique set of difficulties with which to contend from the outset. While much has been written in support of credo-baptism, the preponderance of these writings have directed the bulk of their argumentation against the foundational premises of Covenant Theology. If the hermeneutic itself can be discounted, paedo-baptism must necessarily fall with it. This approach affords little help to those of us who are both reformed and baptistic. Does the general (although not ubiquitous) dearth of writings in support of credo-baptism within a Covenant-framework indicate a necessary antithesis between the two doctrines? We would argue that it does not; but in so arguing, we acknowledge the necessity to demonstrate that it does not. Before we address the question at hand, therefore, we will honestly address the historical solidity and continuity of paedo-baptism within reformed thinking, as well as the scriptural bases for the historic position. Only then will we attempt to demonstrate that the scriptures themselves, when interpreted with a Covenantal hermeneutic, ought to lead the interpreter to an understanding of Baptism as a sign and seal intended only for those who are able to give credible evidence of regeneration. Continue Reading