Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Defense of Covenant Infant Baptism Part 2

This was a sermon I preached @ grace URC and has been adapted for this blog, This blog post operates on the assumption that perseverance of the saints is true which I establish here: http://reasonfromscripture.blogspot.com/2009/06/can-you-lose-your-salvation.html

If you recall last weeks post I was giving positive biblical reasons for the truth of infant baptism. The three reasons I gave were 1) continuity of the covenants, 2) the replacement of circumcision by baptism, and 3) and children being in the covenant community. I argued that all three of these reasons show that from scripture the case for infant baptism is more plausible than it's negation. Today I am arguing that there are no good reasons for thinking that credo baptism is true. In this post I will show that none of the strongest arguments against infant baptism are sound and persuasive.

Objection 1: Only Believers in the New Covenant

One of the most common objections against Infant baptism is that children can no longer be in the covenant anymore as they were in the Abrahamic covenant because the new covenant is different in that only believers are in this covenant. And because children are not believers then they therefore cannot be in the new covenant. The Baptists typically justify this theological argument by one obscure and foggy prophetic text: Jeremiah 31:31-34 which reads 31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." The baptists interprets verse 34 to mean that all believers in the New covenant will be saved. However, Reformed paedobaptist interpreters have understood verse 34 to either be a reference to the new heavens and the new earth (amill. interpretation) or they have understood it to mean that in the age of the New covenant there will come a point were most people in the world will be saved (post-mill interpretation). Both interpretations are entirely plausible depending on which view of the end of the world you hold to. There are two fundamental problems with the baptist interpretation of this text: 1) it is incompatible with the teaching of the New Testament and 2) it is logically incompatible with Calvinism. The one text that demonstrate these two points are Hebrews 10:28-31. Let us first look at Hebrews 10:28-31 which reads as follows: Hebrews 10:28-31 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. What we have in this text is a man who is sanctified or set apart by the new covenant that falls away from it and is going to receive damnation for falling away from the covenant. Now if you say as the baptists do that all those in the new covenant are saved then the logical conclusion to this text is that someone has fallen away from salvation. If we take the baptists interpretation of this text then it would be incompatible with the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance of the Saints which is clearly taught in Romans 8. So on the baptists interpretation we generate a contradiction with Calvinism and worse with the Word of God. But on the classical Reformed paedobaptists view we can account for this text by saying that people can fall away from the New covenant and not be saved because the covenant functioned the same way as the Abrahamic covenant. The function of the Abrahamic and the New covenant in the classical Reformed view is that there are both believers and unbelievers in the covenant community. If we understand Hebrews 10:29 in this sense then there is no contradiction in the Word of God. Moreover, the text teaches that the person who is condemned in the covenant community is considered to be a part of the people of God. This is evident when the author of Hebrews says in verse 30 "The Lord will judge his people." Therefore, this clear New Testament text teaches us that there are unbelievers in the New Covenant community. The classical Reformed hermeneutic is more consistent because we interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament and we interpret the clear by the unclear. So the logical implication is that we ought to interpret the unclear Old Testament prophetic text of Jeremiah 31 by the clear teaching on the covenant community found in the New Testament, like Hebrews 10:29. Thus, the baptists argument that the New Covenant is only comprised of believers is defeated by clear New Testament scripture.

Objection 2: Only Believers are Baptized in The New Testament

One very popular objection by baptists is that every example of Baptism in the New Testament involves professing adults, therefore, the New Testament teaches that only professing believers ought to be baptized. This argument is an argument from silence that assumes that the other clear Reformed infant baptism arguments are unsuccessful. Furthermore, the argument is unclear because there are some examples in which we do not know if all people that were baptized professed faith. For example in Acts 16:15 it reads: 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.” In this text we have a household baptism that does mention whether or not if all the members of the household professed faith. So it is entirely unclear whether or not only professing believers were baptized in the New Testament. Because this argument is an argument from silence that assumes that the other infant baptists arguments are unsuccessful and it is altogether unclear then this argument is to be regarded as a failure.

Objection 3: Children are not Disciples

Another very popular objection is that 1) Matthew 28:19-20 teaches that we should only baptize disciples, 2) infants are not disciples, 3) hence would should not baptize infants. Before I answer the objections let us take a look at Matthew 28:19-20 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." The text is saying that the way we make disciples is by baptizing and teaching them. So there is nothing in the text that would exclude infants because after all we can teach infants (otherwise how would they ever learn) and we can baptize them. Therefore, it seems that we can make infants disciples because we can baptize and teach them so far from this verse disproving infant baptism it actually supports infant baptism (after all Judas was disciple, how much more should believers children be disciples).

Objection 4: Infant Baptizers are Inconsistent

The last argument is that paedobaptists are inconsistent with how they think about how circumcision relates to Baptism. The inconsistency arises from this claim that we as infant baptizers make, this is the claim: that baptism replaces circumcision so therefore we ought to baptize babies because circumcision applies to babies. The baptists claim that this claim is inconsistent with the paedobaptist's position because we do not baptize infants on the eighth day, we do not baptize slaves, and we do not baptize all males. They draw out this inconsistency from Genesis 17 so let us turn there to understand how our Reformed baptists brothers are reasoning, Genesis 17:9-14 which reads 9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner-- those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." The baptist understand this text to be saying that all infants are to be circumcised on the 8th day and that all men were to be circumcised and that it did not matter if they were believers or not. Now lets deal with these baptists claims one at a time. The first claim is that we are inconsistent because we do not baptize babies on the eighth day as they did in the Abrahamic covenant with circumcision. The continuity of the Abrahamic covenant and Matthew 19:14 does teach that children are in the new covenant community, but the Bible abrogates the practice to observe ritualistic Old Testament days, Galatians 4:10 “10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” So as a general rule we need not to observe Old Testament days anymore. Therefore, the paedobaptist need not observe the eighth day to baptize their child, but children are still in the covenant community and still need the covenant sign so the parents are under obligation to baptize their children. The second baptist claim is that Genesis 17 allows for unbelieving males to be circumcised because in verse 10 it says that “every male is to be circumcised”. They conclude from this that the Abrahamic covenant allowed for the possibility of unbelievers being circumcised so that therefore we have to be willing to baptize unbelievers. The problem with this argument is that it breaks two fundamental hermetical principles which are 1) let the New Testament interpret the Old, and 2) differentiation in accounts does not entail a contradiction of the accounts. It should be first mentions that the text never says that unbelievers ought to be circumcised and the narrative does not address this question. But the New Testament does address this question in Acts 2:38 38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” When Peter was speaking to adults who were had the gift of tongues he told them that they were to repent and be baptized and the consistent testimony of Acts is that when unbelieving Adults profess faith they are baptized. So for adults receiving the sign of baptism this should be connected to repentance and faith. Now Genesis 17 does not say that, but does that mean that Genesis 17 is incompatible with the New Testament teaching? No, because in the Bible one Gospel records that there was one angel by the tomb and in the other it says that there was two. This is not a contradiction because in two angels you at least have one angel. The issue here is Genesis 17 and Acts 2 are addressing different topics, but not contradictory topics so we should be consistent Reformed Christians and let the New Testament interpret the Old and when we do this we will find that there is no reason to believe that God was commanding that circumcision ought to be administered to known unbelievers. So for the reasons above I simply think that none of the standard baptists objections to Reformed infant baptism are reasonable or sound. So with that being said I would like to conclude that we have seen in this brief two part series that the Bible teaches that we should baptize our children because our God is a covenant making God that does not just deal with believers, but believers and their children.

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