Infant Baptism Retake

Well, nobody’s mind was changed by the (ever-growing) interchange on Infant Baptism (except I was strengthened by the discovery of Rom 4:11!! [as DBalc comments, “How could you have not known about Romans 4:11 before making the decision to baptize your children?”]).

The fact that the exchange is starting to degenerate into a link-war (letting smarter people do our debating for us) indicates to me that we’re running out of new things to say, and we’ll be going in circles soon. By all means, continue circling if you wish, but I just want to make a closing point (by pasting from another link!). The following categorization of 4 prevalent views of baptism (by R. S. Clark of Westminster, Escondido (although strangely posted at CSUSM!)) very neatly captures the essence of the debate:

Among Western Christians there are four major views on baptism:

  • Baptism is the means of spiritual renewal and initial justification and sanctification through the infusion of grace received in it, in such a way that one cannot be saved ordinarily without it. Baptism communicates saving grace, by the working of its own power. Children of all church members and unbaptized adult converts must be baptized (Roman Catholic).
  • Baptism is a public testimony to one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Only those who have reached the age of discretion can make such a profession of faith. Therefore, only those who are able to confess Christ should be baptized. (Baptist).
  • Baptism is so closely related to the gospel that through it, Christians receive eternal life and without baptism there can be no assurance of salvation. Both the children of believers and unbaptized adult believers should be baptized (Lutheran).
  • Baptism is a means of sanctifying grace and a gospel ministry to the people of God. It is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace illustrating what Christ has done for his people and sealing salvation to the same. Therefore covenant children of believing parents as well as unbaptized adult converts should be baptized. (Reformed).

It seems to me that all labels concerned would agree that their respective positions on baptism are captured fairly (I heartily endorse the “Reformed” position (and I previously would have heartily endorsed the “Baptist” position)).

What this categorization makes abundantly clear is that when we each say the word “baptism”, we are referring to different concepts (just as “justification by faith” are words that may reasonably come out of the mouth of a Catholic, but the meaning is different). The real argument is not whether infants should be baptized, but what is baptism? If the Baptist view is correct, then absolutely infants should not be baptized. If the Reformed view is correct, then absolutely infants should be baptized.

Here’s the whole article this came from, which is quite good, and much more succint than some of the other links tossed around (discounting footnotes).


20 Responses

  1. Well, nobody’s mind was changed

    What did you expect when your opponents are biased, lacking objectivity.

  2. I, for one, want to hear a Baptist give assent to that Baptistic view of baptism. What will happen is this: we will discover another great divide between orthodox Reformed theology and the ‘theology’ of popular evangelicalism. More to the point, you will find a great gap between the former’s view of what a sacrament is and the latter’s view of what a sacrament is. Because the above Baptist ‘definition’ of baptism doesn’t sound like a sacrament at all even though they claim baptism to be one of their sacraments.

    In all but the Baptist view, baptism does something as opposed to merely symbolizing something, or demonstrating something, or re-enacting something.

    In all but the Baptist view, Christ is the operator, and the Baptee is the operand. In the Baptist view, there is no Christ operating. It’s all and only man.

  3. Well, that’s only fitting, since it was all and only man that made the choice for Christ in the first place, right?

  4. It has been fun to re-connect with my S. homies. May I suggest opening a new thread on “baby salvation”, and maybe one on our superbowl picks and current thoughts on the status of the NBA.

    BTW, I don’t mind pasting links to worthwhile articles. I agree that these forums should primarily be our own thoughts, but it is often helpful to see things from the perspective of those who will probably never post here.

  5. I “choose” to ignore the subtle Calvinistic references

  6. I’m glad that God gave you the grace to be able to do that.

    As per request, I started the new thread here

  7. Baptee? ;)

    By the way, RubeRad, you might not have seen the exchange last year on your dad’s blog about baptism at my church (ECUSA) – which is a very profoundly moving experience. Infants and adults are baptized by immersion (though, some parents choose sprinkling for their babies), and the whole congregation gathers around the baptismal font/pool/tub thingy and they *shout* Amen! at the proper points in the liturgy. Afterwards the baptized are annointed, and wrapped in a towel and carried around and around the congregation (well, I’m not sure what they do for adults, as I’ve only seen infants baptized so far, though there will be adults baptized at Easter this year…) as we sing “There is one hope, one faith, one baptism, there is one God, who is Father of all” and we are “introduced” to the newest member of the community of faith. The assisting pastor follows the priest around and flings water drops into the congregation to remind us of our own baptisms. It’s so amazing whenever there is a baptism – not a dry eye in the nave…

  8. God, my Creator, gives me oxygen to breathe and a brain with which to reason. Therefore, obviously, gives me the grace to choose. Now did he MAKE me choose to ignore those subtle references, or did He allow me, in His sovereignty, the freedom to decide for myself? Hmmm…

    Just had some delicious sizzling fajitas and sweet tea for lunch. Oh yeah, babeeeee…..Wait, did I choose that entree as well?

  9. not a dry eye in the nave…

    I bet, what with all the sprinkling and flinging of water!  I remember that blog, and I remember our short stint in an Episcopal church, though not as good as yours.  They did walk the baby around, but there was no shouting of Amen, and there were plenty of dry eyes.

    ‘Bino, don’t make me do this TULIP thing all over with you again! My God is enthroned in heaven, and in full control of his universe, not cowering in heaven, hoping for his “elect” to make the right choice!

  10. Debate Error = False Choice between God cowering and hoping and me getting to choose. What about God giving me the choice AND knowing the outcome? Anyway you’re right, don’t want to take this thread down that road or it will never end.

  11. Did anyone ever discuss the meaning of the greek word “baptitzo” in your circling? It doesn’t mean “immerse” or “submerge”. It means “cleanse”. Consider Mark 7:4, “…washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.” Literally that word “washing” in the quote is “baptizing”. While it’s physically possible to immerse a table before eating at it, i submit that ceremonial sprinkling is in view here.

  12. “baptizo” – “to make fully wet”

  13. AH, what is your source? The children of Israel, when baptized in the Red Sea were dry as a bone the whole time. Same with Noah’s crew.

    But, really, what is your source for this definition? Please.

  14. ME, what is your source?

  15. The root of baptizo, “bapto”, means “to dip” (see Bauer/Arndt/Ginrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT). Therefore, a lot of people assume baptism is properly performed by dipping. The only times that the Greek word behind baptism is translated into English in the NT, however, it is translated “washings” or “to wash”. Everywhere else it occurs, it is transliterated into “baptize” and not translated. The places it is translated as “washings” refer to cleansing rituals, and give us a hint about how the bilical writers understood the word. The rite of baptism is a similar cleansing ritual, and it makes sense to similarly practice it. Just as God says He will sprinkle us with clean water, and Moses sprinkled the assembly with the blood of the sacrifice (after dipping his finger in the blood), so we are sprinkled with water in the right of baptism. When a word is taken from it’s secular use and given a religeous conotation, it doesn’t always retain it’s original meaning. But the mode of baptism isn’t as important as the subjects of baptism, which I haven’t even touched upon.

  16. I think I figured out who ME is (isn’t that profound)? Are you Mr. Hoagies & Stogies? (Or should I say Elder Hoagies & Stogies?)


    Here are the Greek Lexicon meaning FROM Strong’s Lexicon

    907 baptizo {bap-tid’-zo}
    from a derivative of 911; TDNT – 1:529,92; verb
    AV – baptize (76), wash 2, baptist 1, baptized + 2258 1; 80

    1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
    2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe 3)
    3) to overwhelm

    ++++ Not to be confused with 911, bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g. Mark 16:16. ‘He that believes and is baptised shall be saved’. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle

    908 baptisma {bap’-tis-mah}
    from 907; TDNT – 1:545,92; n n
    AV – baptism 22; 22

    immersion, submersion
    1a) of calamities and afflictions with which one is quite overwhelmed
    1b) of John’s baptism, that purification rite by which men on confessing their sins were bound to spiritual reformation, obtained the pardon of their past sins and became qualified for the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom soon to be set up. This was valid Christian baptism, as this was the only baptism the apostles received and it is not recorded anywhere that they were ever rebaptised after Pentecost.
    1c) of Christian baptism; a rite of immersion in water as commanded by Christ, by which one after confessing his sins and professing his faith in Christ, having been born again by the Holy Spirit unto a new life, identifies publicly with the fellowship of Christ and the church.

    ++++ In Rom. 6:3 Paul states we are “baptised unto death” meaning that we are not only dead to our former ways, but they are buried. In Moslem countries a new believer has little trouble with Moslems until he is publicly baptised. It is then, that the Moslems’ know he means business, and then the persecution starts.

    909 baptismos {bap-tis-mos’}
    from 907; TDNT – 1:545,92; n m
    AV – washing 3, baptism 1; 4

    1) a washing, purification effected by means of water
    1a) of washing prescribed by the Mosaic law (Heb 9:10) which seems to mean an exposition of the difference between the washings prescribed by the Mosaic law

  18. You figured right, Rube.

  19. Any Baptists (or similar view) out there ever wondered what to make of this?

    1Co 10:1 I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
    1Co 10:2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
    1Co 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food,
    1Co 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

    When it says our fathers were baptized into Moses in the sea, does that mean that when they crossed the Red Sea that they were baptized? If so, how could they have been baptized in the sea if they passed through on dry ground, if the word means to get wet or to be dunked or whatever? (By the way, Strong is not exactly the chief authority on the definition of Greek words.)

    Or perhaps you Baptists have wondered what to make of this:

    Act 19:3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”
    Act 19:4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
    Act 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

    It would certainly appear that John’s baptism of repentance is not the same thing as the Christian baptism. If it were, why would those who were baptized into John need to be rebaptized into the name of Jesus?

    Incidentally, that’s now the second biblical reference of being baptized into people other than Jesus. We know that we get baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because that’s what Jesus commanded the apostles to do, but what does that mean, and why were “our fathers” baptized “into Moses”, and why were these men baptized “into John” in this passage? What on earth does that mean?

    It couldn’t have anything to do with classical reformed notions of covenant mediators. It couldn’t be that the Christian baptism isn’t a matter of repentance, but a matter of being brought into a covenant with God, not because YOU make it with God, but because GOD makes it with you. That couldn’t have anything to do with figuring these passages out. In fact, that would probably make them harder to understand.

    We need to chart this out and diagram it carefully.

    It would be relevant here to talk about the efficacy of God’s Word speaking to us. I mean, God did after all speak the world into being, so either the efficacy is in the spoken Word of God (which by the way IS God according to John 1), or in things that do not exist. It cannot be that non-existence has the ability to hear God’s command and to make a good moral decision to obey it. So the Word of God is efficacious. It has to be.

    But if the Word of God is efficacious, those reformers make so much more sense. The efficacy of the Word of God does not come in my decision to obey it. The efficacy of baptism is not in my repentance and decision to follow Christ. The efficacy comes from God who baptizes us.

    That’s why the reformed call the sacraments the visible Word preached. It operates like the Word of God. The Speaker who spoke the world into existence is the same Speaker that speaks to us today in Scripture and in the Sacraments and in the preaching of the Word. God speaks to us through His Word, whether visible or audible.

    Someone smart once said that man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

    Have you ever thought about that?

  20. Indeed I have thought about that, and one of the best, most concise arguments for paedobaptism I can think of is this: credobaptism celebrates man’s choice, paedobaptism celebrates God’s choice.

    I doubt Albino Hayford and DanielBalc can be lured back into this discussion, but thanks for contributing anyways!

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