Monday, September 30, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 9

9. This objection goes back to the point made in the previous one. It is argued that if we hold to infant membership in baptism that we must also allow that all children, regardless of age, who feel disposed to do so, may come to the Lord’s Table without inquiry or permission from anyone.

This is not as formidable an objection as it is made to appear. For even those who reject our principle of identity with regard to circumcision and baptism, do affirm the identity of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. This is the key to answering this objection.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let us make an important observation. 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. Nonetheless, 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.

Now to return to my previous comments about the identity of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper: Every child of Jewish parents, though full church members by virtue of their birth and recognized as such by virtue of their circumcision, were 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.

This objection then, has no force. Better yet, what it alleges and then deprecates, doesn’t even exist. It is not part of the paedobaptist system. Our system has advantages with regard to this matter that no one else has. We solemnly bind the church and the parents to faithfully train up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord while simultaneously recognizing that the church possesses and must exercise the power of guarding her communion table from anyone who approaches it profanely, even her own children.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 8

8. Another objection often raised by the opponents of infant baptism is that we have the same historical evidence for infant communion as we have for infant baptism. It is asserted that the evidence of infant communion in the history of the early church invalidates the historical testimony we find in favor of infant baptism.

In answering this objection, I will freely grant that the practice of administering communion to children, and sometimes even to infants, has been practiced in various parts of the Christian church from a very early period. It is still practiced to this day in some circles.

Its history run briefly as follows: About the middle of the 3rd century we encounter it in the practice of some of the African churches. They had misconstrued Christ's words, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” They erroneously held that a participation in the Lord's Supper was essential to salvation. But it is a great injustice to the cause of infant baptism to represent it as resting on no better ground than infant communion. There are three notable differences between the two. 

A. Infant baptism has solid and decisive scriptural support. Infant communion does not.

B. The historical testimony to infant communion is greatly inferior to that which we possess in favor of infant baptism.

There is no historical record of anyone practicing infant communion before the time of Cyprian. On the other hand, we find Justin Martyr referring to people in his day who were baptized as infants during the apostolic era.

C. Infant communion does not possess anything like the general and universal acceptance infant baptism has had throughout church history.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 7

7. Since we assert that baptism is a symbol of regeneration, our opponents object that sense many who are baptized never partake of the grace and regeneration, our system corrupts the church by filling it with unconverted people.

There is much to take issue with in this objection. Even if it could be proven, and even if it were conceded that a majority of those who are baptized never partake of the grace of regeneration that is signified by baptism, this says nothing about the significance or efficacy of the sacrament.

Let me ask a question: How many people read the Bible without profit? How many people attend church without profit? How many people read Christian books without profit? How many people listen to Christian radio, attend Christian conferences, attend regular Bible studies, or partake in any other number of church-based activities without benefiting from them? By the above logic urged against infant baptism we would be forced to discard all of these things. Should we jettison reading of the Bible because some people don't profit from reading it? Again, the same objection could be made about circumcision. Circumcision, as well as baptism, was a symbol of regeneration and spiritual cleansing. But how many received it without receiving the spiritual benefit? In fact the same objection can be raised against everything God has instituted. Surely if God has instituted anything, it is richly significant and spiritually meaningful simply by virtue of the fact it was God who instituted it. But because the influence of said institutions is moral, the influence may be defeated by unbelief. We are not Roman Catholics who hold the ex opere operato view of the sacraments. The sacraments do not exert physical power, or save by inherent energy, and for that reason and that reason alone, it is possible for someone to receive their administration without receiving the benefit it was intended to convey. They are signs and seals of God's promise.

Let's take a short diversion to illustrate my point. While Adam remained sinless, the Tree of Life was a sacrament to him. It signified God's promise of eternal life, and it sealed this promise to him. But as soon as he fell, God forbade him the use of this tree because he was no longer eligible to receive God's covenant promise of eternal life by the covenant of works. Adam could've eaten from the tree, but it would not have had the earlier pre-Fall effect. Scripture does not intend to imply that the fruit of the tree was magical and that therefore Adam would never have died had he eaten of it after the Fall. God's point is that Adam had no right to lay claim to God's covenant promise because he had broken the covenant . That is precisely what we're saying here in reference to the sacraments of the New Testament. The only ones who have reason to expect God's covenant to be signified and sealed to them in the sacraments are those who use them as God instituted. 

Back to the matter at hand. The fact of the matter is, our children are placed in very favorable circumstances when they are baptized. Because baptism is a symbol of regeneration, it binds Christian parents to teach this important spiritual truth their children as soon as they are capable of understanding and receiving instruction. The covenant children of the church are placed in the best of all possible schools for learning practically and doctrinally the things of God. Besides, we are all aware of the fact that many children who grow up in Christian homes return to fellowship with her after a brief time of temporary wandering. I do not see how anyone can say that infant baptism seldom realizes its meaning. There seems to me to be no objective way to quantify such a statement especially in the light of the biblical promise of Proverbs 22:6.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 6

6. It is often objected that baptism can do infants no good.

“What good can a little sprinkling with water do a tiny, unconscious baby?” My chief response to this is: what good did circumcision do an 8-day-old Jewish baby? To even ask this question is to impugn the wisdom of God. It is for that reason a most impious objection. When the opponents of the apostle Paul asked the question, “What profit is there in circumcision?” he answered, “Much in every way” (Rom. 3:1-2). Baptism, like circumcision, is a sign of many important truths and a seal of many important covenant blessings. Can anyone possibly assert that there is no advantage in the practice of that which holds up to our view, in a significant way, several of those fundamental doctrines of the gospel which are of deep personal interest to us and our children? Can we not profit by attending on a sacrament which signifies to us our fallen, depraved nature, and the way God has appointed in his wisdom and love to recover us by the atoning blood and cleansing Spirit of Jesus Christ our Savior? In baptism, we are dedicating our children to God by a rite of His own institution.

It is for this reason that those who share our paedobaptist conviction have always asserted that those who refuse or neglect to baptize their children sin against Christ by disobeying his solemn command, and they sin against their children and themselves by depriving them of the great benefits of the covenant. They can pretend that this is a disputed point if they want to, but is this not an attempt to be wiser than God? Those may sound like rather harsh words, but let me hasten to say two things. The words of the Belgic Confession are much harsher as are Ursinus' words in the commentary on his own Heidelberg Catechism. Moreover, John MacArthur, in a sermon against infant baptism, used harsher words than I have when he call the practice of infant baptism "devilish." Whatever my personal views are on the doctrine of the Baptists and their erroneous view of the sacraments, you have never read the words "devilish" in any of my articles on the subject.

Back to the subject at hand. I don't pretend to be able to make a list which comprehensively includes anything or everything which may be of benefit to the infant who is presented for baptism. But I do know this, that Christ has appointed it as a sign of precious truths and the seal of His blessings to His covenant people and their infant offspring.

I am prepared to go even farther. This objection is founded on a mindset that is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the Gospel. It is equally opposed to the religious education of children, and if held consistently, would militate against all the instructions which the Word of God enjoins on parents. Indeed, we would have to assert that it is wrong to preoccupy the minds of our children with an abhorrence of lying, theft, murder, lust, drunkenness, and malice, lest we should fill their minds with prejudices that would be unfriendly to free inquiry later in life. Wouldn't it be deceiving our children into thinking that they belong to God when in fact they don't? Wouldn't it instilling in them a false sense of security that they belong to God if we train them in the faith before we have any indication of regeneration? But that is exactly what the Baptist position, if held consistently, entails.  Baptist churches, like Reformed paedobaptist ones, have programs for children. Which means that even while denying the sacrament of baptism to his covenant children, the Baptist views his children as being in the covenant. And the Baptist practice of baby  dedications is a tacit admission of the truth of what I have just asserted.

One of the great purposes for which the church was established was to watch over and train up its children in the knowledge and fear of God. Any system of religion that does not embrace children in its covenant engagements is gravely defective. (see Malachi 2:15)


Monday, September 16, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 5

5. Infants are incapable of faith, repentance, or any other spiritual act requisite for the lawful reception of baptism.

The opponents of infant baptism never tire of reminding us that the order of words in the New Testament is “repent, and be baptized.” The waste no opportunity to remind us of Paul's words, “If you believe with all your heart, you may be baptized.” They revel in drawing our attention to the fact that infants are incapable of repenting and exercising faith, therefore they are not suitable candidates for baptism. 

The first remark I would make in answer this objection is that all of the New Testament admonitions to faith and repentance are addressed to adults. Whenever we, who adhere to the doctrine of infant baptism, address adults who have never been baptized we always address them in exactly the same way the apostles did.

The opponent of infant baptism is not likely to be convinced by this argument, so we must press on. He will waste no time in reminding us with us, often with a sneer and no small amount of ridicule, that infants are incapable of repentance and faith. It never ceases to amaze me how someone can make this charge while simultaneously maintaining that it was appropriate for 8-day-old infants to receive the synonymous sacrament of circumcision. The apostle Paul expressly calls circumcision a “seal of the righteousness of faith.” Those 8-day-old infants who rightly received the sign of circumcision were no more capable of faith and repentance than any infant child of believing parents who submit them for baptism. Indeed, every single solitary objection that can be made against the doctrine and practice of infant baptism, if the Baptists wish to remain logically consistent with their own system, should be made against infant circumcision. Are they prepared to charge God with foolishness and absurdity in commanding infants, who of course, could not exercise faith to be presented as fit recipients of the seal of the righteousness of faith?

The whole weight of this objection is founded on a neglecting of the main principle of the paedobaptist system. The objectors forget that in every case of infant baptism faith is required, and if the parents are sincere, faith is actually exercised. This is the same principle which was at work in the Old Testament administration of the covenant of grace. The pious Jewish believer, in the exercise of his faith in God's covenant promises, brought his 8-day-old infant to God to be circumcised as a sign of God's promise and sealing of it unto that child. When it is objected that we must act on a principle of presumption with regard to the faith of the parents, we reply that every minister acts on presumption even in the case of an adult who presents himself for baptism upon a credible profession of faith. We must take that person at his word. Ergo, we must presume that he is not lying when he makes his profession of faith. The hypocritical profession only harms the recipient; it does not impugn the sacrament.

Just as an aside, let me also say that the question of whether infants can have faith is a debated question. Scriptures such as Psalm 22:9-10; Psalm 71:6; Isa 44:2, 24; Jer. 1:5; Joel 2:16; Mat. 11:25; 18:3; 21:16; Luke 1:14, 41-45; Gal. 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:5 & 3:14-15, would seem to answer in the affirmative.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 4

4. The next objection is yet another variation on the first: Christ himself wasn't baptized until He was 30 years old.

I don't need to tell you how unimpressive this objection is. It falls short on two counts. 

First, Jesus was baptized by John. John's baptism was not Christian baptism. Acts 19 clearly proves this point. Moreover, considering all the thousands of Jews John must have baptized, if his baptism were identical to Christian baptism, we would be forced to believe that Christ-rejecting Judea was filled with Christians. 

Further, under the Old Testament arrangement, when the High Priest began his work, he was solemnly washed with water and anointed with oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit). The High Priests then began their ministry only when they were about the age of 30. When Christ began His high priestly work, He inaugurated it with the same ceremonial washing at the age of 30. Besides, the baptism of Christ has no reference to this controversy; hence, it cannot be made to speak for or against our practice in regard to this sacrament. 

Secondly, if Baptists wish to remain true to their principles, they should prohibit anyone being baptized until they are 30 years old. I have personally witnessed Baptist baptisms of children as young as 10 or 12 who have made a “profession of faith.” I was baptized myself at the age of 10 by a church who was baptistic in their doctrine of the sacraments. I don't remember a single objection to the fact that I and several other children were being baptized before the age of 30. But this begs the question. If Christ's baptism at the age of 30 is to be an example to us, what right has anyone to tamper with the formula and baptize anyone before their 30th birthday? To make the assertion is to refute it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 3

3. Another variation of this objection is that if infant baptism were the prevailing practice of the early church, we should expect to find at least one clear example of it taking place in the pages of the New Testament. Again, our response to the first objection nullifies this.

The primary objective of the recorded history in the New Testament is to give an account of the spread of the Gospel. It narrates several notable conversions of Jews and pagans. Because this is the focus not much is said, as we should expect, about what was going on in the life of the Church.

But even if we ignore this, there is another issue that is quite unfriendly to the Baptist cause. It is not particularly noteworthy (for the reasons we have just given) that no account of an infant baptism is found in the New Testament. What is more amazing, and detrimental to the Baptist cause is that we find no account of an adult baptism of one who was born to Christian parents. Surely we have as must warrant to expect one as the other. In the entire 60-year period covered by the New Testament, we have no hint of the baptism of any adult born of Christian parents.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 2

2. Admitting the force of our first answer, the previous objection is modified slightly. It is admitted that we can infer many important doctrinal things, particularly moral duties, from scriptural statements. However, when it comes to positive institutions, we must have an actual direct and positive warrant. In other words, the inferential reason of our first rebuttal is not to be allowed in the case of a positive institution.

This objection fares no better than the first one. For one these grounds, women should never partake of the Lord’ Supper, for we have no explicit and direct commandment that they should. No Baptist I have ever met is willing to live by his principles in this regard. To avoid sounding uncharitable, I will not adduce any other of the multitudinous examples which could be marshaled in to show the falsity of such a position. 

Of course, it is proper practice that women, as well as men, partake of the Lord’s Supper. But on what basis can we make such an assertion. Clearly it is on the strength of the same type of inferential reasoning we used to refute the objection that there is no New Testament warrant or command for infant baptism.

And before I continue any farther, let me interject something here. Where does anyone get off jettisoning the Old Testament when it comes to doctrinal matters? This is clearly the result of a Marcionic view of the Bible. Marcion was a 2nd century heretic who rejected the Old Testament because it didn’t line up with what he believed to be the message of the New. To him we owe the false idea that the Old Testament shows a God of wrath, but the New Testament shows a God of love. Marcion was the proto-Dispensationalist, in a way. He drove a wedge between the two Testaments so far as to reject the Old. Every doctrine and principle we encounter in the New Testament appears in the Old. One need only to read Paul’s Epistles to have this fact verified.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 1

We will now turn our attention to the various objections raised against infant baptism. We will deal with much of what has been handled before on this blog, but upon deeper reflection, there is much more that I see which can, should, and must be said in response to the various objections. In the final analysis many of the objections are simply permutations of the first one, but since they are raised individually, I will attempt to handle them individually.

1. The old, trusty rusty stand-by of those who reject the doctrine of infant baptism is the dog-eared, “There is no New Testament command for infant baptism.” This objection has been raised a million times – and utterly refuted each time too, yet this has not dampened the spirits of its adherents.

Let it be borne in mind that we do not feel compelled to find New Testament warrant for every Christian practice. This is the cornerstone principle of interpretation that undergirds our position: For nearly 2,000 years, believers were constantly assured through the covenant sign of circumcision of the inclusion of their infant children in the Church of God. Why should we even expect this principle to be reasserted? If this privilege were intended by God to continue, there was no need to reiterate that which was known and treasured by His people for millennia. Nothing substantial is said in the New Testament about the covenant standing of the children of believers because no substantial change occurred. To inform the 1st century Jewish believers that their children were included in the New Testament administration of the covenant of grace, when they had known this for 2,000 years, would be to light a candle in the sun. In short, assuming paedobaptist principles, we find exactly what we would expect to find.

But upon Baptist principles, we are left with an unsolvable enigma. Why, we must ask, is nothing said to these first Christians, who would naturally expect the inclusion of their infant children, to the effect that the covenant economy was so substantially changed that their offspring were cast out?

It is we paedobaptists who have the right to demand evidence from our Baptist friends as an explanation of the monumental change in the administration of the covenant that their position presupposes. If it be, as they say, that the New Testament is silent on the subject, this very silence is enough to undermine their cause, and to establish ours. It affords proof positive that no such change as that which is alleged, ever occurred. If you can believe that such a drastic change occurred without a whisper of an explanation, then you can believe anything.

But there is actually a flaw in the Baptist argument that there is no New Testament warrant for infant baptism. If the Scriptures were silent on this subject, that silence itself would be detrimental to their cause, as we have repeatedly shown. But beyond that, we have already shown much of the New Testament’s teaching which presupposes the church-membership of the infant children of believers. Christ Himself declares that the kingdom of God belongs to them. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declares, “The promise is to us and our children.” We repeatedly see the apostles baptizing whole families. And in this regard we must remember that this must’ve been how they understood the Great Commission. To complain of a lack of New Testament warrant, on these grounds, seems ludicrous.

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