Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Whole Family Baptism – Part 5: My Initial Objections to Paedobaptism


Almost all of my initial objections to paedobaptism can be categorized under the following two headings: 1) The nature of the New Covenant, 2) The purpose of baptism.

As a Baptist, I viewed all of scripture and church history through a Baptistic lens. No matter how strong a case was made for paedobaptism, either from scripture or from church history, I was not convinced since my Baptistic foundation was so secure. In my mind I thought, “It does not matter how great an edifice paedobaptists build since their foundation is so weak.”

The first weakness I saw was in their conception of the New Covenant. Paedobaptists see a very strong continuity between the Old Testament covenants and the New Covenant. In many Reformed circles it is common to hear things like “there is only one covenant, the covenant of grace, being worked out in various dispensations (i.e. Noahic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, Davidic Covenant, and finally—ultimately—the New Covenant in Christ Jesus). Within this basic framework it is easy to see how baptism would take the place of circumcision and that therefore baptism should be administered to infants.

My objection though was this: not only do the Old Testament texts which foretell the coming of the New Covenant seem to reject this one to one correspondence between the covenants,

31 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 31:31-32 ESV
but the New Testament confirms the otherness of the New Covenant. What else could John the Baptist mean when he said things like,

9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
Matthew 3:9 ESV
or what else could Jesus mean when he said things like,

37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father." 39 They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
John 8:37-40 ESV
Surely the New Covenant in Christ is not familial (or national) like the older covenants were. The New Covenant in Christ is made on an individual basis without preference to family lines. Claims to genealogies/family trees (might I add “the birds and the bees”) are just ridiculous in light of the New Testament evidence. Only two things matter under the New Covenant: election and rebirth. Only the elect are reborn as the children of God and God’s election is not preferential (is this not the point of Romans 9!), even as can be shown by God’s passing over Noah’s son Ham, Abraham’s son Ishmael, Isaac’s son Esau, David’s son Absalom (note well: these are the men with whom God covenanted in the first place).

My second major objection was to the nature of baptism. This objection is not nearly as strong as my first, but it’s worth pointing out. As a Baptist, I viewed baptism as a kind of visual profession of faith. As such, baptizing children seemed simply absurd. How can a symbol which is meant to be a personal profession of faith be applied to one who has no faith or at the very least can not profess faith?

So, armed with these two objections, every scriptural or historical argument that came my way was easily dismissed.

More later.

Photo: While we were getting a large amount of snow last week, my parents were getting a proportional amount of frost. Mom took this on Christmas Eve just as the sun poked through the fog.

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