Infant baptism: Is it biblical?
Those of you who tune into BatesLine for political commentary likely won't care about this, but it's my blog, so I can indulge myself with notes about a topic of discussion around our lunch table today -- the topic being the history and origins of infant baptism (aka paedobaptism, household baptism, covenant baptism) as it is practiced in our church and why my wife and I disagree with it.
My wife and I grew up in churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. (Her childhood church was a rare congregation also affiliated with the American Baptist Convention.) In 1990, we started attending at a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, the Bible-believing offshoot of the mainline Presbyterian Church. The church's strengths in missions, music, and adult Christian ed, and their offer (at that time) of seminary extension classes were all appealing to us, so we joined and got involved.
We came when the senior pastor of the time didn't place a great deal of emphasis on the doctrine; a few of the elders and deacons were not paedobaptists. A few years after we joined, all that changed under a new pastor from a more traditionally Presbyterian background, and those officials who dissented from paedobaptism were removed from their responsibilities (although many of them remained involved in the church in other ways). We love our church, but we have that one difference of opinion: βαπτίζω means "immerse" and only a follower of Jesus is a proper subject of baptism.
In my 22 years at this church, I've been confronted with all the arguments in favor of paedobaptism. The arguments have always seemed to me to have massive gaps and internal contradictions. For example, if 1 Corinthians 7:14 justifies baptizing the children of believers, it also justifies baptizing unbelieving spouses of Christians.
A resource I found especially helpful was a series of tapes on the doctrine of baptism by Greg Nichols, then an elder at Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, N. J. Trinity is a Calvinistic Baptist church, agreeing with Calvinistic Presbyterians on most topics other than infant baptism and church governance. Nichols led an adult Sunday School class through a 32-week series covering every imaginable aspect of baptism with a special focus on the arguments made by Reformed (Calvinist) paedobaptists. I still have the tapes, but I just recently discovered that the audio has been converted to MP3, and the entire series is online.
Click here for a detailed outline of "Infant Baptism: Is It Biblical?" by Greg Nichols. Here's another link with just the titles of each talk and a link to the audio.
More recently, Pastor Nichols has written a book on covenant theology, partly to refute the notion that rejecting paedobaptism means rejecting the unity of God's redemptive plan. (A sample of the book may be found here.)
RELATED: If you'd prefer a shorter, written treatment of this issue, see Fred Malone's personal account of his journey away from paedobaptism to disciple-only baptism, "A String of Pearls Unstrung." Malone's rethinking of the issue cost him his job as a Presbyterian minister. It began with his reading of Exodus 12, and wondering why, if children of believers are to be added to the covenant community by baptism, they should be excluded from the covenant meal, and then noticing the inconsistent hermeneutic applied by Reformed paedobaptists to baptism and communion. (Malone has also published a book on the subject: The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism Versus Paedobaptism - Revised and Expanded.
And in the Winter 2012 issue of the Founders Journal, Robert R. Gonzales, Jr., observes that John 1:12-13 bolsters the case for baptizing only those who make a credible profession of faith in Christ.
MORE: At a much more basic level, here is a pamphlet, "The Truth about Baptism," by I. M. Haldeman, pastor of the First Baptist Church of New York City from 1884 to 1933. The pamphlet explains what baptism is, what it means, and why Christians are obligated to be baptized.
UPDATE: I'm informed that Greg Nichols's title at Trinity Baptist Church was "elder," and I have corrected the text above accordingly. My use of the term "associate pastor" was based on my understanding of his role -- a preacher and teacher, but not the principal preacher and teacher.
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