Saturday, December 30, 2006

Whole Family Baptism – Part 4: My Introduction to Paedobaptism

My introduction to evangelicals baptizing their children came at College Church in Wheaton. We began attending this non-denominational church when I was in high school. Since the biblical teaching is so difficult to figure out, the church allows its members freedom of conscience in this area. My only disappointment with the way this works at College Church is the lack of any solid teaching on the subject.

My first theological introduction to paedobaptism came while attending First Presbyterian in Columbia, South Carolina. Here I was taught the oft-observed connection between circumcision in the Old Testament and Baptism in the New. I could see the similarities, but my Baptist theology was not easily overthrown.

Over the years, I continued to study the issues on and off. When Leslie and I found out we were expecting our first child, I decided to apply myself in this area. I figured I had nine months to get it straight. Well, it’s not that easy: it took me another ten years!

Here are some of the basic types of arguments that can be found:

1) Just as infants were circumcised, so too should infants be baptized

a. The basic underlying premise at work here is the continuity found between the promises made to Abraham and the promises fulfilled in Jesus. Since Abraham circumcised his children, we should baptize our children.
b. Both signs symbolize one’s inclusion among the people of God.
c. Both signs represent a deeper heart transformation.
d. Not all who are circumcised will actually have the heart transformed, and not all who are baptized will have the corresponding heart transformation.

2) Whole households were baptized at once in the New Testament, surely infants were in those families (Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16)

a. This is a kind of inferential argument from silence. The text does not explicitly say infants were a part of these families, but paedobaptists find it strange to suppose that children wouldn’t have been involved.
b. Long articles have been written on both sides arguing that the Greek word for household either does or does not require infants, or at least young children, to be implied by its use.
c. One interesting factoid: four of the twelve baptisms explicitly mentioned in the New Testament are household baptisms (33%). Obviously this does not take into account the massive number of baptisms that occurred in Acts 2:41, but the ratio could have been similar.

3) The lack of any specific instruction concerning children requires a paedobaptistic view.

a. This one is interesting because it turns one of the main objections of Baptist on its head. Baptists generally argue that since Scripture does not explicitly command or even mention the baptism of infants, therefore we ought not baptize infants.
b. The paedobaptist argues that with the overwhelming familial/covenantal structure of the Old Testament, we would need to be explicitly told not to baptize our children if there was going to be a radical change in the way the New Covenant works.
c. The thought here goes something like this: when Gentiles were going to be included without being circumcised, a great argument arose. Gentiles had never been allowed among the people of God before, at least not without being circumcised first. Therefore the apostles gathered in Jerusalem to pronounce a judgment in the case. Likewise, if children were no longer going to be included as they had always been, there would have been a similar controversy. Since we have no record of such a controversy, there must not have been one. Therefore we should baptize our children.
d. A similar argument from silence goes like this. There is no record in the NT of any baptism of a believer who was too young to be baptized when his parents were.

Well this could go on and on, but you get the picture. I will address some of my initial objections in the next post. Suffice it to say, these types of arguments got me nowhere.

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