Thursday, April 21, 2011

Paedobaptism Defended, Part 3

We now move on to the third of the anti-paedobaptist arguments.

3. Infant baptism is not consistent with the Gospel

Define the Gospel. It is God saving sinners. Are infants not sinners? If nothing else were said this is sufficient. Does God save sinners by baptism? Of course not. No Reformed person has ever said so. However, the hallmark of Reformed theology is its emphasis on the Covenant. Baptism is the Sacrament whereby one is admitted into the Covenant people of God: the Church. If, as we noted yesterday, covenant is not coextensive with election, then there is no viable reason why our infant children would not be admitted into the Covenant people. Throughout redemptive history the children of believers were always included in the covenant.

What does baptism mean to the infant. James Usher wrote:

“But what is to be thought of the effect of Baptism in those elect infants whom God hath appointed to live in yeers of discretion?

“In them we have no warrant to promise constantly an extraordinary work to whom God intends to afford ordinary means. For though God do sometimes sanctify from the womb, as in Jeremy and John Baptist, sometime in Baptism, as he pleaseth; yet it is hard to affirm (as some do). that every elect Infant doth ordinarily before or in baptism receive initial regeneration and the seed of faith and grace . . . .. But we may rather deem, and judge that baptism is not actually effectual to justifie and sanctifie, until the party do believe and embrace the promises.”

James Usher, A Body of Divinitie, or the Summe and Substance of Christian Religion . . . ( London, 1658), p. 417.

Christ uses an infant as an example of who gains entrance into the Kingdom. An infant brings nothing to the table. An infant is utterly helpless and dependant. An adult is not brought into the Covenant people of God by an act of his own (such as faith) any more so than an infant is. There is no way around the force of Christ's words

Therefore saying that the practice of paedobaptism is somehow inconsistent with the Gospel, is itself inconsistent with the Gospel, and we have the authority of Christ Himself for such a statement. Baptism doesn't guarantee salvation. If a child is baptized and then later in life proves to not be elect, his infant baptism will serve to be a judgment against him. The same could be said for one baptized as an adult.
Neither we nor our children are to base our hope of salvation on anything apart from faith in Christ's finished work. Careful self-examination which strong, soul-searching preaching should lead us to, is certainly in order. We must encourage our children to look to the Lord Jesus, to turn to him daily from their sins with godly sorrow, and to believe that their sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Yet we must press them to self-examination and remind them that it is only those who have the positive fruit of faith and repentance who should regard themselves as Christians. Their baptism lays on them, as circumcision did in the Old Testament as the obligation to make our “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).

We do not base the assurance of our salvation on our baptism, our joining the church, nor our coming to the Lord’s Table. Our assurance of salvation comes from the Holy Spirit bearing witness in our hearts, not because we were baptized on the basis of our parents’ faith (Cf. Romans 8:9-17, especially verse 16 and Galatians 5:22-24).

Baptizing an infant, thus admitting them to the Covenant community, is in no way inconsistent with the Gospel. In fact, it actually demonstrates the message of the Gospel: everyone, including the newest born baby, stands in need of the washing of Christ's blood for his or her sins. Insisting upon a "credible confession" of faith before baptism smacks of Arminianism anyway. Someone has called it Sacramental Pelagianism. It places way too much emphasis upon the personal decision. If decisional regeneration is erroneous, then why isn't decisional baptism equally wrong? Why should my admittance into the Covenant hinge upon my personal decision of faith when I deny that my salvation hinges upon this decision? It makes no sense.

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