Monday, July 29, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 1

We are going to take up again the subject of infant baptism. The form this series will take, Lord willing, is as follows: We will present a detailed, multi-point defense of the practice of infant baptism. In this part of the presentation, we will appeal to the historical practice of the Christian Church in a very limited way. While I believe that this is a legitimate argument, I will attempt to limit this aspect and appeal much more to scriptural arguments. Then we will present and reply to eleven objections, which was all I could come up with from my research into the subject. Granted many of these objections are simply variations on the first one (that infant baptism isn’t taught in the New Testament). Finally, we will deduce a few practical ramifications from both the arguments in favor and the refutations of objections. 

Lets us begin with the positive arguments.

1. All of God’s dealings with his people have always been covenant based in which the infant children of believers are included.

No one disputes that this was the case with Adam. Had Adam not sinned, his offspring would have automatically inherited his sinless nature. We know this to be true because Scripture explicitly teaches that all men sinned in the transgression of Adam. Since Adam stood as the federal head of all mankind, he acted for us all and we all acted in him. This is the nature of covenant in general and the Covenant of Works in particular.

The covenant God made with Noah after the flood, as far as this point goes, was of the exactly the same nature. God said, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your seed” (Gen. 9:9). The covenant God made with Abraham was equally comprehensive. God said to Abraham, “Behold, my covenant is with you and your seed after you” (Gen 17:9). The covenants of Sinai and Moab also included the children of the immediate participators. The language is clear in attaching to them as well as to their offspring the promises and the threats of those covenants respectively. Therefore, when Moses was about to leave the people he addressed them in the words of Deuteronomy 29:10 – 12, “standing before the Lord their God with their little ones, and their wives, to enter into covenant with the Lord their God.”

When we come to the New Testament administration of the covenant of grace we still find this same interesting feature, not only retained but more conspicuously displayed. On the day of Pentecost, Peter addresses the crowd with a promise strikingly reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 17, when he says, “The promise is to you and your children, as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

This has been a most noticeable feature of God’s continuing covenant of grace with his people. Are we to assume then that the New Testament, or Christian covenant, which is the same in substance with what preceded it, and excels the Old Testament administration in all the benefits, privileges, and glory of its promises, lacks this notable feature? The idea is absurd.


  1. Hey brother, I enjoy reading your blog.

    I've got a question about this subject, and if you're going to answer it in a later post, then don't worry about answering it now.

    Given the nature of the covenants as you outline them in this post, why is the Lord's Supper typically fenced from children of believing parent(s) in Reformed churches?

    1. Bill,

      Thanks for your thoughtful question. (By the way, this is the material I was referring to when I said I could have done a whole semester on infant baptism :-) )

      Since I will take up this issue in a later part of this series I won't give the long answer. But since this may be a long wait (this series s scheduled to run through the 3rd week of October), I will give a short teaser of an answer now.

      Membership in the covenant is not unlike citizenship (Scripture asserts as much). Every child is a citizen of the country in which he or she was born. Citizenship is plenary. There is no such thing as halfway citizenship. Nevertheless, he or she does not have free access to all the rights and privileges of citizenship until he or she attains a certain age. One cannot get a driver’s license before his 16th birthday, and even then he must have completed Driver’s Ed. One cannot even vote until he is 18. Generally speaking, no one finds anything objectionable in this scheme.

      In future posts I will argue for what I believe is the identity of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. Based on that identity and the similitude of covenant membership and citizenship, we can appreciate what we see practiced by believing parents in the Old Testament. Namely, every child of Jewish parents, though full church members by virtue of their birth and recognized as such by virtue of their circumcision, was still not allowed to partake of the Passover until they came to a certain age. This age was not specifically stipulated. Calvin notes that “the Passover, which has now been succeeded by the sacred supper, did not admit guests of all descriptions promiscuously; but was rightly eaten only by those who were of sufficient age to be able to inquire into its signification.” This is why the law did not stipulate a particular age. What was important was that the child had attained a level of intellectual acumen sufficient for understanding the significance of the Passover. The parents knew that the child was ready when the child began to ask the right questions. When a Christian child, one that has been baptized, begins to ask the right questions about the significance of the Lord’s Supper, and has the necessary intellectual capacity to understand the answers, then that child is ready to partake of the sacrament. (Deut 6:20ff).

    2. You actually touch on an area of controversy among the Reformed. There are some who see the signs of the covenant the way you hint at, and give communion to the children of believers. That practice is known as paedocommunion. I will try to avoid stealing Andy's thunder by saying merely that we generally look at baptism as the sign of God's promises of what he WILL do in the elect child's life, while communion looks back at what Jesus DID for the elect believer. Thus, logically, before making a profession of faith, the child is no more qualified to take communion that is the unbeliever.


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