Here is a recent question we had to address in class after reading Stanley Grenz’s chapter on the topic of baptism. Enjoy!
Describe and defend your own view in the debate between infant baptism vs. believer’s baptism. What might be some strengths of the opposing view?
After reading Grenz, I had a greater appreciation for infant baptism but I didn’t change my view regarding the subject since it seems we share similar views. So, Grenz tended to strengthen and reaffirm my own current views.
In fact, we’ve recently had to address this issue in our own house and extended family. Some of our extended family feels strongly regarding infant baptism. My own thoughts are that infant baptism runs the risk of promoting a sense of entitlement in its recipient. Amongst family members who practice infant baptism, salvation can sometimes be assumed and comes as a result of being born in a Christian family rather than as a decision of repentance. Partly because I didn’t want to run those risk categories I chose not to have our daughters baptized as infants. I do, by the way, recognize the perceived risk from the pedobaptist’s viewpoint. So, I let it be known that if anyone was going to fret to the point of narcolepsy, we would have them baptized because the practice of infant baptism isn’t exactly the “excellent foppery of the world.” (Shakespeare)
Because I value textual considerations before theological ones, I consider heavily the meaning of the term baptize as well as the weakness of the “entire house” argument. To assume that the entire house means including children assumes that there were in fact children in those homes. With so many assumptions it becomes difficult to substantiate a point. Mostly, it seems clear that the pattern of scripture points to people who have lived out of communion with God who then turn and live in relationship with Him. At least one of the reasons John the Baptist and Jesus give the ordinance of baptism is to symbolize this change. It seems very inconsistent to speak in these terms while referring to an infant.
Since an infant can’t have full salvific faith, they can only be baptized outwardly and not inwardly. While it is true that many infants who are baptized with water eventually are inwardly baptized, this does not seem to be the pattern of scripture nor does it seem to be a well-grounded theological method. It seems likely then that the likely cause for the rise in popularity for infant baptism stems from people’s observations of the close link between faith confessions and baptism. It may be that people soon began to draw the conclusion that the physical baptism was the saving mechanism rather than the profession of faith.
It seems the early church exclusively practiced adult baptism. All the subjects of baptism that are explicitly given in scripture are adults. Grenz also points out the inconsistency in the ability for infants to partake in baptism yet they are restricted in participating in the Lord’s Supper. Both sacraments are faith events and as such they should be restricted to people making an actual outward confession of faith.
Because I am trying to develop a deeper respect for church history and tradition, I feel this is one of the stronger cases that can be made for infant baptism. It’s also the reason I give a theory on the subject above. I don’t buy the argument, however, that infant baptism should be preferred because it’s the majority view. The majority can be and often is wrong. When there is a majority holding to a view we should pay closer attention to their view but we may conclude that the minority should be the majority. Finally, the idea that baptism is in some way eschatological is another good point a pedobaptist could make. However, the hope contained in eschatology is the possession of current believers rather than future ones.
I have an example to share. As a preface, I realize this example does not textually prove my point. I believe it does show how easy inconsistencies arise out of the teaching of infant baptism. I attended a church that practiced infant baptism. One day, the pastor publicly introduced us to a lady in the congregation who had never been and was interested in baptism. He spoke of how excited he was to be able to baptize her. On a side note, he mentioned that he of course would have to talk to her about some things first. Well, that just doesn’t make sense.
I do have a respect for the reformed view. I especially like their emphasis on community and the tie in to Old Testament circumcision. However, I go in a different direction when it’s conflated into a case for infant baptism. I understand the concept of God doing the work of salvation (ex opere operato), but it appears in scripture to be intertwined with people’s repentance. What do you think?
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