Thursday, August 29, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 10

10. Church history beginning with the age of the apostles, furnishes an irresistible argument in favor of infant baptism.

For more than 1500 years after the birth of Christ, there was not a single group of professing Christians who opposed infant baptism on grounds even remotely resembling the arguments of modern Baptists. I know that many Baptists will wish to disagree with this statement, but it is quite easily demonstrated from history.

About 200 years after Christ, Tertullian is the first we encounter who wrote against infant baptism. Yet even that needs to be clarified. Tertullian clearly acknowledged the prevalence of the practice and indeed recommends that infant be baptized if it is certain that they are ill and thus likely to die in infancy. What was his argument? The second we inspect his logic, we see that is bears no resemblance to contemporary Baptist argument, which means they have no predecessor for their doctrine in the 2nd century. Tertullian adopted the superstitious view that baptism washed away all past sins, hence it was dangerous to be baptized young, since one was likely to commit future sins which could not be washed away by baptism because baptism is not repeatable. Nothing in this superstitious view supports the system of modern Baptists.

The next time we encounter the rejection of infant baptism, it is in the 12th century in the company of a small group in France under the leadership of Peter de Bruis. They were an insignificant group, all things considered. Their doctrine was that infants should not be baptized because they are incapable of salvation. They taught that no one could be saved who did not “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” Infants are incapable of this, hence are incapable of salvation. Surely our Baptist friends are not willing to claim these people are their predecessors? The issue never comes up again until the 16th century. Hence there is nothing even remotely resembling the contemporary Baptist doctrine of baptism, for over 1500 years from the birth of Christ. 

I could easily produce a litany of quotes from numerous church Fathers defending both the practice and antiquity of infant baptism. This would be beyond the scope of what I wish to address in this series of posts. I have done so elsewhere anyway. The only further comment I would wish to add with reference to the numerous patristic citations which could easily be mustered is that it appears to me to be inconceivable that in three centuries the practice of infant baptism could arise in direct contradiction to the practice of the apostles without so much as a whisper of opposition from any quarter. But if our Baptist friends are right, this is exactly what must have happened.

That the church should have transitioned from the practice of adult-only baptism to constant and universal infant baptism, while the transition passed completely undetected, is an idea which cannot be imagined by any impartial thinker.

Let's reassess the history for a second: Origen, Cyprian, and Chrysostom tell us that the baptism of infants was the universal practice of the church in their respective times and places. Moreover from the writings of Augustine and his antagonist Pelagius we are informed that they never heard of anyone who claimed to be a Christian, either orthodox or heretic, who did not both affirm and practice infant baptism. Now let's be frank: To postulate in the teeth of such overwhelming evidence that the practice of infant baptism crept in, as an unwarranted innovation, between the time of the Apostles and their own day, and that without the slightest notice of a change is ludicrous. Anyone who can believe this must be prepared to sacrifice all historical evidence on the altar of blind prejudice. 

It is sometimes asserted by Baptist historians that the Waldenses baptized only adult believers. But this is demonstrably false on several counts. First, the only association between adult-only baptism and the Waldenses comes from Roman Catholic opponents of Peter de Bruis who falsely labeled him such in order to condemn both in one fell swoop, - to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Secondly, and most importantly, we know that when the Reformation began, the Waldenses submitted to the Reformers samples of their creeds and confessions for doctrinal review. The Reformers found nothing objectionable. The Reformers never had anything bad to say about the Waldenses, but conversely they never had anything good to say about the Anabaptists. The conclusion is clear. Had the Waldenses been Anabaptists, the Reformers would have castigated them sharply for it.

But this is not all. If the doctrine of our Baptist friends is correct; that is, if infant baptism be a corruption and a nullity; then it inevitably follows that the true sacrament of baptism was lost for over 1500 years, - from the apostolic era until the 16th century. For, as we have seen, there was no representative in Church history of the Baptist dogma of adult-only baptism until the appearance of the Anabaptists in the 16th century. But can such an idea be admitted?

Let's be perfectly clear, there was no Christian remotely deserving of the name during that whole 1500+ year period that did not baptize infants. On Baptist principles, one is forced to conclude that God had no church on earth during this entire period. How does this square with God's promises? If during that long tract of time there was no true baptism in the church, and if none but baptized persons are capable of administering true baptism to others, the consequence is simple: There is no true baptism now in the world! Can anyone seriously believe this? Are we to suppose the Christ, as Head of the Church has allowed one of the great signs and seals of His covenant to perish from the earth? This is no true baptism today, on these grounds without recourse to the miraculous. The only way to evade this logic is to assert that baptism can be lawfully administered by those who are not baptized. If the Baptist position be true, this is the actual case. 

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