Some questions for our Baptist friends
One of the biggest obstacles that often prevents evangelical Christians of a Baptist persuasion who are attracted to Reformed theology from leaving the fold of broad evangelicalism in order to join the Reformed and Presbyterian fold is the issue of infant baptism. There seem to be many evangelical believers today who have embraced the biblical truth of the “doctrines of grace” (otherwise known as “the five points of Calvinism”), and who appreciate the strong biblical emphasis in Reformed theology on truths such as the absolute sovereignty and holiness of God, but whose embrace of Reformed theology comes short of leading them to actually attend a Reformed church or pursue membership in such a church. What is it that prevents these evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ from leaving their broadly evangelical churches in order to become part of a confessionally Reformed or Presbyterian church? Again, I suspect that the obstacle that prevents many of them from committing to a biblically Reformed church is this issue of infant baptism.
For those of us who are members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church or other Bible-believing, confessionally Reformed churches, one of our biggest challenges in relating to our evangelical brothers and sisters of baptistic persuasion is the challenge of gently helping these dear brethren to see that the practice of applying the sign of the covenant (namely, baptism) to the children of professing believers is firmly grounded in the teachings of God’s inerrant Word. In other words, helping them to come to understand that infant baptism is biblical and that that is why it was the near-universal practice of the historic Christian Church from the very beginnings of church history. Contrary to the oft-repeated Baptist critique of infant baptism, it is not a “holdover from Roman Catholicism”, but rather a practice firmly grounded in the teachings of the Bible.
Of course, there are many excellent resources out there which lay out the biblical case for infant baptism. (In my opinion, one of the best books to get into the hands of a Baptist believer is Robert R. Booth’s book, Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism, which is published by P & R Publishing.) However, when interacting with Baptist believers on the subject of infant baptism I think one of the best ways to help them re-think this issue is not to shove a bunch of books on the subject into their hands, but simply to ask them some good, probing questions. Below are some suggested questions I would recommend that you ask your Baptist friends the next time you get into a conversation with them on the subject of infant baptism.
(1) Where in the New Testament does God explicitly command His church in this new covenant age to stop applying the sign of covenant initiation (which today is baptism) to the children of believers?
This question takes the common Baptist challenge to Paedobaptism (i.e., the practice of infant baptism), “Where does the New Testament explicitly tell us to baptize babies?” – a question obviously designed to put paedobaptists on the defensive – and turns it around in a way that puts the Baptist position on the defensive.
(2) All throughout redemptive history, up until the coming of Christ into this world, God has included the children of believers as members of His visible covenant community. If the Baptist position is correct, then God no longer includes the children of believers as members of His visible covenant community, the church. Why would this be the case? Why would God be less gracious under the new covenant than He was under the old covenant? Why would God be less gracious after the coming of Christ than He was before Christ’s advent?
(3) Doesn’t infant baptism picture God’s grace in a more powerful way than believers-only baptism? After all, an infant is utterly helpless and dependent upon others for everything. What a perfect picture of us sinners in our sins! Before God saves us we are utterly powerless and helpless, utterly unable to lift a finger to save ourselves! But then Christ comes to us in mercy through His word, takes us into His arms, and washes us clean from our sins through His blood. He comes to us in sovereign grace even before we “decide” for Him! Isn’t infant baptism a wonderful picture of the sovereign grace and Divine initiative of God in our lives?
(4) If the Baptist position is the correct biblical view, why does the evidence from the early church fathers seem to show that the practice of infant baptism goes all the way back to the very beginning of church history as an almost universally undisputed practice in the church? If infant baptism is such a gross unbiblical error, how is it that the early church fell into such gross error in its teaching on baptism so soon after the death of the apostles? Why do we not read of a vocal and vigorous Baptist movement rising in the early church in protest to such a seriously erroneous and un-apostolic practice? Why do we not read of church fathers and great theologians and Bible scholars in the early church vigorously seeking to demonstrate from Scripture that the sacrament of baptism must only be applied to professing believers, and not to infants? Did the Holy Spirit so cease from guiding the post-apostolic church into the truth that it was allowed to wander into such gross and dangerous error so quickly?
Do you have any additional ideas for good questions to ask our Baptist friends? If so, why not share them in the comments below?