Nate, I really did not intend to be the "tolerance police" - I apologise that my post came across like this.
Certainly you are entitled to express your opinion, and say what you believe. My comments were not intended to prevent this. All I ask is for some openness in the way these opinions are expressed, because the truth of such forums is that we all come from different places and traditions. You can bet if someone had said "anyone who believes in believers' baptism is just plain wrong" that there would have been many who would have objected to that statement. The statement that "there is no scriptural evidence for infant baptism" does come across as "my opinion is..." but as "this is the fact and if you disagree you're wrong". Those of us who believe in infant baptism believe that there is much Scriptural evidence to support infant baptism, so to say there is none is, in my opinion, an unfair statement. This is what I mean when I say I would like a little more openness in how we express our views. After all, didn't Jesus call us to act with love above all?
Anyway, I guess that in a forum like this we will also disagree on what the "protocols" of posting should be and what is considered hurtful or not - for me that's part of the strength of this forum. And my post in this regard was also simply my opinion - with which you are free to disagree. :-)
In terms of the jailer in Acts, it doesn't matter whether there were children in his household or not. My point is that not all who were baptised were stated to be believers in this passage - so some who were baptised were not baptised because of their own belief but because of their membership in the jailers family. The principle is this - people are baptised in this story because they belong to a community of faith, not necessarily because they themselves have expressed that faith personally.
In an individualistic society, believers' baptism makes more sense because the emphasis is on individual response. In a community-based society (like the one that exists in most of Africa, where I live) personal response is less important than the community's shared response and experience. In this context, infant baptism makes sense because the community of faith knows, believes and experiences the grace of Christ, and the child is included in that community. My view of the Scriptures is that they are as much about community as they are about individual response - perhaps more so.
One last thought - if we emphasize the human response in baptism, then "my" faith, "my" capacity to believe is what is important - so we focus on believers' baptism which places the emphasis on the individual's response. If we emphasize God's pre-venient grace, God's work which cannot be earned, and God's initiative, then we will tend to toward infant baptism because there is no question that God is at work in the life of the smallest child. Again, the differences (in my view) are simply differences of emphasis. For me, the Scriptures express both emphases, so in this sense both views of baptism are "right" or biblical. Why don't infant baptism practioners then re-baptise people when they come to personal faith? Because, if the emphasis is on God's work, that work has been done, and we would be arrogant to act as if it wasn't effective the first time, and ask God to do it again.
Again - for what it's worth.
From my understanding of scripture, baptism is the recognition and response to God's grace covering your sins. Examples of this are found everywhere in scripture. The Acts 16:33 "whole household" scripture is proof texting, infant baptism was not implied or mentioned. Every example I see of baptism within scripture is believers baptism.
So, if a child is incapable of recognizing God's grace, why baptize them! Pray for them, make an oath with your community of believers, but wait until confirmation for them to choose for themselves, then baptize them.
This issue is not a matter of what believers choose to emphasize, the issue is staying true to scripture!
As someone who is fully committed to baptizing the children of believers, let me add a few things to our discussion.
First of all, the thirdmill article linked earlier was very good. There is also a video that you can watch called "Why Do We Baptize Our Children?" (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)
Second, many of the differences that we are going to have on issues like baptism are related to the presuppositions that we bring to the table. How does God administer his covenants? How much continuity is there between the Testaments? How analogous is New Testament Baptism to Old Testament Circumcision? What is the difference between the visible and invisible church? What is the nature of conversion? What does baptism signify?
As someone who is committed to paedo-baptism (baptizing the children of believers), let me point out a few things that we hold. I will be glad to expand on them later if asked.
- Children of believers are to be baptized, not all children. When I baptize a child in our church, I do so after hearing a profession of faith - the parents' profession of faith. God has promised to work through believers and their children. (See the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 17:7ff.)
- Baptism is the sacrament of entrance into the visible church. No one should be baptized outside of some sort of body of believers. We're not baptized as "free agents."
- Paul draws a very direct correlation between baptism and circumcision in Colossians 2:11-12.
- No one who practices infant baptism disagrees with adult baptism. I am opposed to re-baptism of adults who have already been baptized. (Ephesians 4:5 - "one Lord, one faith, one baptism...")
- Baptism, like the Lord's Supper, is not about us. It is about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who is active uniting us to Christ, giving us faith and bringing our dead hearts to life.
- Why does it seem like Acts has a lot of people who believe and then get baptized? How does a paedo-baptist explain this?
- a) Acts is about the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the known world. When the gospel spreads, the new converts are the ones baptized. In this, it's descriptive rather than prescriptive.
- b) Acts 16:15 & 33 do tell us that the household of Lydia and the family of the Philippian jailer are baptized based upon the faith of the head of the house.
- c) Peter promises in his Pentecost sermon that the promises of God are for "you and for your children and for all who are far off."
I'm sure that there are multiple points that credo-baptists will disagree with. That's okay. Hopefully, there are some with which you can agree.
Finally, a practical application. I am up late tonight feeding my 3.5-week old son. Since he was conceived, my wife and I have prayed for him that like John the Baptist he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth. We will raise him as a Christian. We will baptize him into the Church. We will tell him that God is his Father, Jesus is his savior and the Holy Spirit fills him with power to do the will of God. We pray for him that there is not a single day of his life where he does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord. We will teach him to trust in Jesus alone for his salvation. Do I know when the Holy Spirit will work in his heart? No. I pray that he already has! However, my job as his father is to raise him to love the Lord.
Is my son "incapable of recognizing God's grace"? Absolutely not! He might not be able to articulate it in English yet, but that doesn't constrain God! Remember Psalm 8:2:
"Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger."
Last edited by psalmsandhymns; 01-19-2009 at 04:22 AM.
Eric - Houston, Texas
Psalms. Hymns. Blog. Music. Liturgy. Christian Worship.
I appreciate and respect your response on this. I have just two responses:
1. Perhaps my use of the jailer scripture can be seen as "proof-texting", but I did this simply because I didn't want to get into a lengthy biblical review for infant baptism. While I could do this, I really don't have the time, and there are many good resources on the internet for those who want to know more. I'm simply using this one passage as an example and asking that there be some trust and acceptance that those of us who practice infant baptism do so from a deep love of Scripture and a thoughtful, prayerful response to what it says. You may disagree about how to read the Scriptures on this issue, but surely you can find the grace to respect my love of, and faithfulness to, God's Word?
2. Scholars from every denomination agree that to understand Scripture accurately, the history of those who wrote the Scriptures, and the history of how the Church has interpreted and applied the Scriptures is important. So, let me offer this thought. The reason it appears that only believer's baptism is seen in Scripture (I say "appears" because a study of the Scriptures can reveal a different story, I believe), is that the Bible only covers the first generation of Christians - everyone who came to faith in the New Testament did so as an adult. However, historically, there is evidence that as the first children were born to these believers, many were baptised as infants. The Church's practice of infant baptism began very, very early in its practice - and it was as the Church sought to apply the Scriptures that this was done.
Again, feel free to disagree. I started out as a strong believer in believer's baptism, and I'm not knocking believer's baptism at all. But, over the years my understanding of the Scriptures on this issue changed and now I'm in a different place. This happened through lots of prayer and study of the Bible - not through disregarding the Scriptures. So, please don't tell me that my belief in and practice of infant baptism is contrary to Scripture. It may go against your interpretation of Scripture, but that's as far as it goes.
Anyway, I think it's time for me to check out of this debate - I'm clearly in the minority here, and I really don't want to be contentious or argumentative. Thanks for the stimulating conversation, brothers and sisters.
Great reply Eric, thanks!
Interesting that at NorthWood (and I personally would change this), baptism is only received post-conversion by immersion (baptist roots). While I would only baptize AT NorthWood by this method, I don't know that I would not "accept" someone's baptism that was done by sprinkling in a post-conversion scenario. I might do this on a case by case with discussion with them. I believe this is what John Piper's church now does.
My church does the infant baptism, so I was baptized as an infant. Along with baptism is confirmation. Confirmation is done years later (most of the time teen years). This is where I stood up in front of the church confessing my faith and belief in God, and my commitment to Him and to the church.
I have asked God to be my Savior. I know God is my Savior. I can feel Him at work in my life. I can feel the Holy Spirit working in my life. As I said earlier, I still wonder if I should be baptized as an adult. But I feel like it is about the act of what you are committing to and what is in your heart. I think the form of baptism is a symbol similar to placing a wedding ring on your bride or groom's hand isn't what makes you married. The ring is a symbol.
I'm sure I'll get lots of comments back on this. Don't be too harsh. Thanks
There are a number of good comments in this thread. I have been studying the matter of baptism for a number of years. Anyone interested in delving into infant vs. believer's baptism is welcome to read a paper I have put together. It is posted at:
Here's my take, which is sure to be unsatisfying to some.
First, baptism is not a prerequisite to salvation. This would be a salvation by works doctrine. Sorry. Salvation is by grace alone (Eph 2). Depending on your take, baptism is either the "outward sign of the inward grace" (with communion) or simply an act by which one identifies him or her self as a Christ-follower (or both). Jesus himself implies that the real believer's baptism in the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11).
As for salvation, one must make their own decision in this regard, which would imply a baptism after the age of accountability. I don't believe this makes infant baptism something we should necessarily avoid as long as we understand it doesn't "save" the infant. Its certainly nothing we should get too exercised about, unless someone is claiming that baptism is required for salvation or that somehow our dipping, dunking, or sprinkling an infant "saves" that person.
Perhaps a follow-on question would go like this:
Infant baptism... is it wrong? I think the answer is clearly no, even if it is incomplete.
Last edited by NLoomis; 02-18-2009 at 10:09 PM.
I am amused thinking we are going to "solve" this issue on TWC when even RC Sproul and Beg couldn't settle this.