Do infants commit actual sins?

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PanamaPuritan

Puritan Board Freshman
I am new and young, but I tend to lean toward the opinion that infants do commit sin. I usually am somewwhat skeptical of what the empirical sciences have to say concerning infants (with all due respect to those who come to the conclusions that many scholars in those fields do) because I do not accept inductive arguments as valid (that is, unless they proceed from a first principle that could be examined). I would rather first use rigorous deductive reasoning from Scripture to ascertain whether this doctrine is able to withstand scrutiny. The reasons for this are because I find the Scriptures to be absolute knowledge, therefore I would not be swayed to a particular direction by virtue of approximations or probability arguments.

For example. Let us consider that neuroscience has something to say about an infant. A neuroscientist comes to the conclusion that infant behavior is due to X or Y reasons, and not because of suffering and agony in Adam of having entered into a sinful world. If the reasons for the neuroscientist’s conclusions have to do with an a priori rejection of original sin(ning) then the conclusion is going to be faulty on Scriptural presuppositions. But let us suppose that the scientist is a Christian who affirms original sin(ning). Let us say that they come to the conclusion that infants do X because of Y. If they did so independently of Christian presuppositions (maybe based on independent reason and / or sense experience) How did they come to this conclusion but by a method other than deduction (from scripture)? How did they deduce their conclusions? How can we be sure that these theories are true? What would be a method (non-inductive) by which we would be able to test the truth of a statement concerning all infants if not by the propositions of the Bible? (note the term “all infants.”)

-A few brothers here have used Scriptures in Romans effectively, I believe, and these two were also supplied (one referring to reprobate children):

-Psalm 58.3: The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

-Isaiah 48.8: Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.

This is not an easy subject to discuss. If we are only within Biblical territory, so to speak, and we say that an infant is in need of grace, then why are they in need of grace? Why are all infants in need of grace? The answer, I believe, is because they are sinners – something is spiritually wrong with them – they have transgressed the law by virtue of not having been perfect, unless we hold to infant regeneration in some or many cases, and if so, then the baby would be a justified sinner. I am one of those who does believe in infant regeneration because I reject the empirical definition of “reason” that some people often employ “as some ability whereby they are able to learn this or that, or reason this or that.” God could simply cause elect infants to be regenerated independently of whether empirically they are able to do this or that.
I think that to say that an infant is not a sinner would be to not follow the logical issue and content of the definition of original sin. If they are fallen in Adam, I believe that this makes them automatically sinners from conception (a volition). If not, then what would be the use of saying that there is original sin unless it is operative? Would it not be the same to say that there is no original sin until the infant sins and somehow activates it? In other words, in my opinion, original sin manifests itself immediately by necessity, not by a potentiality that begins to show up as the infant “grows into reason.”
Infants die. But why? I say Because they are sinners. The curse of sin holds some down, and very sadly, they perish. This is indeed very difficult. Infants die in the womb.
In other words, my point is that original sin, in order to be what it is, must manifest itself as a volition in any creature, and another part of this argument focuses on the need for grace being a precondition of being a sinner by commission and omission as well. These are not primary matters, so I am not one to press my points at all, but I am just content with this one post. It should not create any difficulty among brethren at all. Thanks.
 

Bob Carlberg

Puritan Board Freshman
It has been proposed here that a child who is born of covenant parents is under the covenant and therefore under grace. As such the sins of Adam are not imputed unto him but rather to Christ and they are covered underthe blood and grace. If so then the only sins for which they must account for are actual sins for which we are individually responsible and alone. Correct?

Please point me to where this has been proposed. Such an understanding is certainly inconsistent with Reformed theology, and the proposer needs to be reminded to refrain from advocating unconfessional positions.

It was not a board member who proposed this directly, it was Rev. Bryn MacPhail in his article titled: John Calvin: Infant Baptism Here is a direct quote as taken from the link in post #35

"Believer's Infants Are A 'Holy Seed'
The case for baptizing infants rests primarily on the claim that "the transition from the 'old' to the 'new' form of God's covenant . . . did not affect the principle of family solidarity in the covenant community"(Packer 214). This is just an elaborate way of saying the Old Testament promise to bless to the thousandth generation(Ex.20:6) applies to the Church as well. Calvin plainly affirms that the promise is the same for both covenants(Inst.4, 16, 4). Both covenant promises receive God's fatherly favour of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Calvin argues that circumcision was the token by which the Jews were "assured of adoption as the people and household of God"(Inst.4, 16, 4). Similarly, the people of the Church are consecrated to God through baptism, "to be reckoned as his people"(Inst.4, 16, 4).

Calvin reminds us that the children of the Jews were called a holy seed. They had been made heirs to the covenant and distinguished from the children of the impious. For the same reason, Calvin argues, the children of Christians are considered holy; and by the apostle's testimony they differ from the unclean seed of idolators(1Cor.7:14). It naturally follows then, that if infants share the covenant status with their parent, it is fitting "to give them a sign of that status and of their place in the covenant community"(Packer 215). "

And,
"
Children Should Also Have Life In Christ

Calvin stands opposed to those who would have children barred from baptism because of their age. These people claim that young children are unable to understand the mystery signified in baptism and are therefore considered as children of Adam until they reach an appropriate age for the second birth(Inst.4, 16, 17). Calvin vehemently contests that "God's truth everywhere opposes all these arguments"(Inst.4, 16, 17). Calvin accurately observes that if infants are regarded as the children of Adam, "they are left in death, since in Adam we can but die(Rom.5:12)"(Inst.4, 16, 17). On the contrary, Calvin points out, Christ commands that the children be brought to him(Matt.19:14). Calvin anticipates the objection "that infants do not perish though they are counted as children of Adam" and refutes it manifesting that Scripture declares that in Adam all die, and it follows that no hope of life remains except in Christ(1Cor.15:22; Inst.4, 16, 17). When we recall that Christ declares that he is life(John 11:25), we must acquiesce with Calvin when he asserts that "we must be engrafted into him in order to be freed from bondage to death"(Inst.4, 16, 17).

Calvin also anticipates the objection, "how are infants, unendowed with knowledge of good or evil, regenerated?"(Inst.4, 16, 17). Calvin's reply is that "God's work, though beyond our understanding, is still not annulled"(Inst.4, 16, 17). Calvin is cognizant of the fact that if infants are born sinners, as Scripture affirms(Eph.2:3; Ps.51:5), either they remain hateful to God, or they must be justified. While Calvin agrees that the water itself does not necessarily save, he reminds us that John the Baptist was sanctified in his mother's womb(Luke 1:15), and for Calvin this is "something he could do in others"(Inst.4, 16, 17).

When others object to infant baptism on the grounds that baptism is given for the forgiveness of sins, Calvin suggests that this "abundantly supports our view"(Inst.4, 16, 22). Calvin argues that since we are born sinners, we need forgiveness and pardon "from the time in our mother's womb"(Inst.4, 16, 22). Since God does not withhold from children the hope of mercy(Matt.19:14), Calvin argues that "they must not be deprived of the sign"(Inst.4, 16, 22)."

I am not particularly inclined to agree with Rev. Bryn McPhail or John Calvin in this particular matter because as I stated, it would rely on the works of the parents to have baptism administered if the concept of baptism being a seal is correct. I'm a little confused here whether it is merely a sign or it is a seal, the two seem to be used interchangeably but to me have very different connotations) I guess the concept of federal headship could be evoked here saying that the child was in the father when the father believed and therefore the covenant of grace extended to the father is extended to the child? If this is correct then as long as believing parents have their child baptized and the covenant is sealed, and their children do likewise, then all continuing practitioners continuing in the covenant all will be saved? I am not sure I would embrace this as the basis for sound doctrine.

So, are infants "Holy" due to sanctification in the womb" brought about by their parents belief and being members of the covenant community?
 

Bob Carlberg

Puritan Board Freshman
The Confession clearly states that not all sins are equal.

Bob, "not equal" meaning what?

On the one hand you say original and actual sins are "not equal," implying one is less culpable(?) than the other. On the other you say,
I never said actual sins are the only ones deserving God's judgment.
implying they are both culpable.

So, what is the difference you say exists doctrinally, from the standpoint of their deserving God's judgment?

Scott,

I'm having trouble here. You accused me of not giving confessional reference for what I said and asked me to give confessional evidence which I did (twice). Now you want me to form an opinion which requires speculation as to what the confession means when it says all sins are not equal. This seems a bit circular.

The Confession simply states that all sins are not equal and states the scripture reference upon which it bases that conclusion. I am not qualified to say which are the greater or lesser sins and the confession does not comprehensively delineate specific sins nor assign specific judgements to them. It does separate Original Sin and Actual Sin in its construction and I believe this was done with purpose as they were historically viewed separately. Culpability is not at issue here. All sin deserves judgment and man is culpable, however, the Reformed position is that grace is bestowed through the new covenant for both Original Sin and actual sins committed before we are believers correct?

Do you have issue with the confession or am I unclear or incorrect in stating its position?

Do you take the position that believers will be held responsible and judged for Original Sin and for actual sins they committed before they were grafted into the covenant community?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
to form an opinion which requires speculation as to what the confession means

We assume the Confessions are intended to be clear,
that was their purpose- to clearly summarize the doctrine of Scripture on the matters to which they speak.
To be understood as a unifying basis for communion.
That's not based on them being "untouchable" because of speculation.


All sin deserves judgment and man is culpable, however, the Reformed position is that grace is bestowed through the new covenant for both Original Sin and actual sins committed before we are believers correct?

It sounds now like you are agreeing with the Helvetic and other Confessions now but then you add "however." God initiates (first) grace by regenerating a person, yes.
But what does that have to do with your earlier points about infants (possibly adults) not being culpable for sin because of "instinct?"
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
It has been proposed here that a child who is born of covenant parents is under the covenant and therefore under grace. As such the sins of Adam are not imputed unto him but rather to Christ and they are covered underthe blood and grace. If so then the only sins for which they must account for are actual sins for which we are individually responsible and alone. Correct?

Please point me to where this has been proposed. Such an understanding is certainly inconsistent with Reformed theology, and the proposer needs to be reminded to refrain from advocating unconfessional positions.

It was not a board member who proposed this directly, it was Rev. Bryn MacPhail in his article titled: John Calvin: Infant Baptism Here is a direct quote as taken from the link in post #35

[...]

I am not particularly inclined to agree with Rev. Bryn McPhail or John Calvin in this particular matter because as I stated, it would rely on the works of the parents to have baptism administered if the concept of baptism being a seal is correct. I'm a little confused here whether it is merely a sign or it is a seal, the two seem to be used interchangeably but to me have very different connotations) I guess the concept of federal headship could be evoked here saying that the child was in the father when the father believed and therefore the covenant of grace extended to the father is extended to the child? If this is correct then as long as believing parents have their child baptized and the covenant is sealed, and their children do likewise, then all continuing practitioners continuing in the covenant all will be saved? I am not sure I would embrace this as the basis for sound doctrine.

So, are infants "Holy" due to sanctification in the womb" brought about by their parents belief and being members of the covenant community?

Thank you for clarifying. I am not familiar with McPhail's article outside of your quote, but I do not understand the train of reasoning that leads from what you quoted to the conclusion you draw. Certainly reading the excerpt you supplied from McPhail's article I find nothing that would lead me to conclude that he teaches that the original sin of an infant born to covenant parents is imputed to Christ, leaving the child responsible only for actual sin. For one thing, imputation is not broken up in parts. Just as Christ's righteousness is not doled out to me piece by piece, nor is my sin partially imputed to him.

Also, what you describe in the paragraph beginning "I am not particularly inclined to agree" sounds like covenant nomism, not anything taught by Calvin or the confessions. Between E.P. Sanders and Thomas Watson there is not a lot of overlap! Again I am quite unclear as to how you derive it from the quotes presented above. Perhaps there is some confusion about the administration of the covenant of grace, or the connection between the visible and the invisible church.

Infants born to one or more believing parents are federally holy, included in the administration of the covenant of grace. When dying in infancy, there is no reason to doubt that they were elect. But their inclusion in the administration of the covenant of grace, their membership in the visible church, does not in and of itself identify them as elect or regenerate or justified. Later they may have a definite conversion experience, or they might grow up in such a way that they cannot remember any time when they were not believers - that is up to the Spirit, who blows where he wills. They may be like Timothy; like Nicodemus; like Caiaphas - there's no way to tell ahead of time. Adopting a "wait-and-see" approach logically results in deferring baptism until death seems near, because they might always apostasize tomorrow.

I would suggest consulting Robert Shaw's The Reformed Faith (a commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith) as a principal aid in understanding the language of the confession, and the concepts of Reformed theology.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello again, Bob – I see you’re really trying to come to grips with this teaching of Scripture (though you may not be so sure it is of Scripture).

Neither circumcision nor baptism are “the works of the parents” but simply a faith-based response of obedience to a command of God. A question for you, Bob: are you, as a Christian, to be considered the seed of Abraham? This is significant, for the command to Abraham was, “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised” (Gen 17:10). Throughout the entire Jewish era, from Abraham to Christ, this was required of all males who were to enter the Abrahamic covenant. Paul talks of it on this wise:

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Rom 4:11-12).​

Back to the question, Are you of the seed of Abraham? Paul (again) says,

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. . . And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27, 29).​

This is so because Paul just finished saying that the covenant promise (that God would be Abraham’s and his seeds’ God) was realized in Christ (Gal 3:16) and that the covenant was not annulled by the law but continued on until and into Christ (Gal 3:3:17, 18), and if you are “baptized into Christ” (Gal 3:27) you are Abraham’s seed because you are in THE Seed of Abraham. So those covenant commands back in Genesis 17 are still in force for the seed, only the “token” (Gen 17:11) – i.e., the sign – has changed because entrance into the covenant has been universalized so as to receive women and girls. You will note the language above of Paul, that he calls it a sign – aka a token – meaning an outward mark or signifier, and also a seal, meaning a certifying sign, as in a legal transaction. Though closely related, there is a marked distinction between sign and seal. You may also have heard the expression, that circumcision of old and baptism of the present are outward signs of an inward reality, or outward signifiers of an inward substance.

Now I realize it gets less clear at this point. But until this point it is unmistakably clear – unless one’s baptistic lens fogs up the clear statements and requirements of Scripture.

How the Lord works with regard to these two signs and seals – though we will henceforth refer only to the present token, baptism – may be mysterious (indiscernible) to us. Yet keep in mind this in God’s eyes was always a spiritual transaction between God and His people, as it is written,

And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deut 30:6)​

That it was not always efficacious unto regeneration in every individual is God’s prerogative of election. If you cannot follow thus far, you will not discern any further, for these things I have spoken of are foundational.
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
Is there no difference between original and actual sin, then?

Since infants are in fact cursed with original sin, must we believe they are actively sinning from birth?
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
A postscript to my post above:

Paul, as one of the prime interpreters of Jesus Christ’s work, says in his epistle to the Colossians,

“And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col 2:10-13).​

This passage reiterates Paul’s revelation in Romans 6:3-5 of our union with Christ signified by the token of baptism (having been effected inwardly by the Spirit), though in Colossians this baptism is explicitly called “the circumcision of Christ” and one “made without hands”, that is, by God in the Spirit. This spiritual reality is made effectual in us by faith in “the operation [working] of God” who likewise raised Christ from the dead.

This is the language used by the Holy Spirit to describe the nature of the inner reality of regeneration: it is the circumcision of the heart – made without hands – in one who is “dead in sins and the uncircumcision of [the] flesh”, resulting in one being “quickened...together with Christ . . . and...raised...up together” (Eph 2:5, 6) in Christ Jesus.

When Paul speaks of it here it is referring primarily to those of age as it is effected “through the faith” of them (Col 2:12) in God’s working; in the first mission fields of Colosse (and elsewhere) the converts were first and foremost adult Gentiles (though some were Jews); and this does not nullify the anciently held administration of the covenant to their infant seed.

---------

Miss Marple,

Unless a child has been regenerated by God in the womb – and it certainly does happen – then he or she is born a sinner, and that one is dead to God, and an enemy of His; what would an actual sin of such a little one be? Transgression of the first great commandment: “thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength” (Deut 6:5). We know that an infant in utero can love God by John the Baptist’s case (Luke 1:15, 41), Jesus’ case (He always pleased and loved His Father), Jeremiah’s case (Jer 1:5), and I could go on.

I find this saying by Calvin very interesting:

“Truly Christ was sanctified from earliest infancy in order that he might sanctify in himself his elect from every age without distinction. For, to wipe out the guilt of the disobedience which had been committed in our flesh, he took that very flesh that in it, for our sake, and in our stead, he might achieve perfect obedience. Thus, he was conceived of the Holy Spirit in order that, in the flesh taken, fully imbued with the holiness of the Spirit, he might impart that holiness to us. If we have in Christ the most perfect example of all the graces which God bestows upon his children, in this respect also he will be for us proof that the age of infancy is not utterly averse to sanctification. (Institutes, Book IV, chapter XVI, Sect. 18; Battles Edition)”​

Now I haven’t thought this through completely yet, but let me just put it out there (for review and critique): if God “hath chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4), does our election in Christ have some sanctifying quality in God’s eyes with regard to us?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
<Moderating>

This thread is in the general theology forum, so I'm recommending that when anyone offers a response that comes from an distinctly paedo-baptist or credo-baptist position (assuming you recognize the fact), please modulate your statements so that they do not appear to answer for Christianity, or this Board, as a whole. Respect your conscientious brethren.

And bear in mind the purpose/title of the thread. If baptism is going to be dragged into the discussion, please make sure your responses draw back toward the topic, rather than go tangentally to it, and become points of contention beside the main topic.

Thank you.

</Moderating>
 

Bob Carlberg

Puritan Board Freshman
to form an opinion which requires speculation as to what the confession means

We assume the Confessions are intended to be clear,
that was their purpose- to clearly summarize the doctrine of Scripture on the matters to which they speak.
To be understood as a unifying basis for communion.
That's not based on them being "untouchable" because of speculation.


All sin deserves judgment and man is culpable, however, the Reformed position is that grace is bestowed through the new covenant for both Original Sin and actual sins committed before we are believers correct?

It sounds now like you are agreeing with the Helvetic and other Confessions now but then you add "however." God initiates (first) grace by regenerating a person, yes.
But what does that have to do with your earlier points about infants (possibly adults) not being culpable for sin because of "instinct?"


Scott, You asked me to back a statement I made from a confessional view which I have forthwith done.

Do you concede that all sins are not equal? If you do not concede that all sins are not equal, or that there is a difference between Original Sin as defined by the Confession and Actual Sin as defined by the Confession then we can go no further.

Can you show from a confessional view that all sins are equal both original and actual.

Do you believe the following Scriptures:

Isaiah 53

II Cor. 5:19

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

II Cor 5:21

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Ps. 32: 1-2

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

Romans 4: 7-8
"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

Rom. 3:25
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

I believe it is quite clear that although we are all sinners, Original or Actual, not all will be held equally accountable.

Those who are not held accountable for sin are 1) those who were not knowledgeable of the law (as found in Romans 5:13 "for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.") and 2) those who have placed their faith in the atonement of Christs blood (as found in Romans 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.")

These are the only ones who I believe are assured of salvation.

Yes, their are some allegorical indications that God may bestow grace upon children of believers under the covenant but it is allegorical at best.

By the same token I do not believe there is a specific age at which one looses God's favors and sin damns them or at which grace expires and they become fully accountable, nor does a conscious choice to remain ignorant of the law or the gospel have any redeeming value. God knows the heart and he will judge.

Baptism by any means has no redeeming or regenerating value.

Can we agree here?
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Bob, you said, “Baptism by any means has no redeeming or regenerating value.” I could agree with the “regenerating” aspect, but as baptism is part of the Lord’s way of redeeming us – putting the outward sign and seal on us who believe in Him and enter His covenant – it surely has value in the plan of redemption.
 

Bob Carlberg

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello again, Bob – I see you’re really trying to come to grips with this teaching of Scripture (though you may not be so sure it is of Scripture).

Neither circumcision nor baptism are “the works of the parents” but simply a faith-based response of obedience to a command of God. A question for you, Bob: are you, as a Christian, to be considered the seed of Abraham? This is significant, for the command to Abraham was, “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised” (Gen 17:10). Throughout the entire Jewish era, from Abraham to Christ, this was required of all males who were to enter the Abrahamic covenant. Paul talks of it on this wise:

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Rom 4:11-12).​

I do not believe I am the seed of Abraham. I believe I am an adopted son with all legal rights and inheritance of a legitimate son. I believe Paul was speaking to Jews.

Paul is also clear that circumcision is of no value unless one intends to keep the mosaic law.

Back to the question, Are you of the seed of Abraham? Paul (again) says,

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. . . And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27, 29).​

I would interpret the "baptized into Christ" as a reference made referring to purification. Just as baptism by water was a form of ritual purification for the Jew, so being baptized in Christ, the Living Water, is a purification.

There were many who observed the practice of circumcision besides the descendents of Abraham (Babylonians, Egyptians, etc) but they were not considered part of the nation of Israel by virtue of circumcision.

This is so because Paul just finished saying that the covenant promise (that God would be Abraham’s and his seeds’ God) was realized in Christ (Gal 3:16) and that the covenant was not annulled by the law but continued on until and into Christ (Gal 3:3:17, 18), and if you are “baptized into Christ” (Gal 3:27) you are Abraham’s seed because you are in THE Seed of Abraham. So those covenant commands back in Genesis 17 are still in force for the seed, only the “token” (Gen 17:11) – i.e., the sign – has changed because entrance into the covenant has been universalized so as to receive women and girls. You will note the language above of Paul, that he calls it a sign – aka a token – meaning an outward mark or signifier, and also a seal, meaning a certifying sign, as in a legal transaction. Though closely related, there is a marked distinction between sign and seal. You may also have heard the expression, that circumcision of old and baptism of the present are outward signs of an inward reality, or outward signifiers of an inward substance.
Up until this point, we are just arguing minor interpretation differences and semantic points but here it begins to get a little touchy for me. You say that baptism is the equivalent of signing a legal transaction. We know that an unsigned legal certificate is worth nothing more than the paper which it is written on. The signing is actually just as important as the document itself. Perhaps this is twisting your words a bit, but are you not hereby attributing equal redemptive value to the act of baptism and belief(faith)? What if one dies in a unbaptized state?


Now I realize it gets less clear at this point. But until this point it is unmistakably clear – unless one’s baptistic lens fogs up the clear statements and requirements of Scripture.

Yes it is very difficult to overcome denominational bias

How the Lord works with regard to these two signs and seals – though we will henceforth refer only to the present token, baptism – may be mysterious (indiscernible) to us. Yet keep in mind this in God’s eyes was always a spiritual transaction between God and His people, as it is written,
i

I have difficulty with the link between circumcision of the heart and baptism, I assume this is because of my predisposition to Baptist bias. I am however diligently studying and appreciate you information, links etc. from which you support your view.

I am trying to refocus away from the issue of paedo baptism to the original question of infants committing sin, but I do see them as inseparable if the baptism=covenant=redemption for children of believers theory is credible as this would mean that the Holy Spirit would prevent them from committing sin and preserve them if they are called, at least until they make a conscious confession.​
 

Bob Carlberg

Puritan Board Freshman
Infants born to one or more believing parents are federally holy, included in the administration of the covenant of grace. When dying in infancy, there is no reason to doubt that they were elect. But their inclusion in the administration of the covenant of grace, their membership in the visible church, does not in and of itself identify them as elect or regenerate or justified. Later they may have a definite conversion experience, or they might grow up in such a way that they cannot remember any time when they were not believers - that is up to the Spirit, who blows where he wills. They may be like Timothy; like Nicodemus; like Caiaphas - there's no way to tell ahead of time. Adopting a "wait-and-see" approach logically results in deferring baptism until death seems near, because they might always apostasize tomorrow.

I would suggest consulting Robert Shaw's The Reformed Faith (a commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith) as a principal aid in understanding the language of the confession, and the concepts of Reformed theology.

If they are federally holy then they would not be conceived in sin even from the womb because they existed in the federal headship prior to conception correct?

If the are federally holy then the inclination to sin is not in them.

If they are federally holy , then they do not commit actual sins and are not guilty of Original Sin as one cannot be sinful and holy simultaneously correct?


The concept of "never remember a time when they were not believers" is a bit foreign to me as a Baptist but I understand what you are saying and see no biblical requirement for a "salvation experience" moment as long as they have grown into a full understanding of the gospel, have accepted it by faith, and have not departed along the way.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I do not believe I am the seed of Abraham. I believe I am an adopted son with all legal rights and inheritance of a legitimate son. I believe Paul was speaking to Jews.
Just a quick question. How does this measure up to the following passage?

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Paul is also clear that circumcision is of no value unless one intends to keep the mosaic law.

In context of seeking justification before God I believe you are correct. That was the heresy St. Paul was disputing in Galatians. At the same time Timothy was circumcised for another purpose and it didn't render him to be in that circumstance which St. Paul is speaking of.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
If they are federally holy then they would not be conceived in sin even from the womb because they existed in the federal headship prior to conception correct?
No. It was David who confessed that his mother had conceived him in sin, though he was federally holy.

If the are federally holy then the inclination to sin is not in them.
Incorrect. A professing believer, baptized as an adult is also one in whose flesh dwells no good thing.

If they are federally holy , then they do not commit actual sins and are not guilty of Original Sin as one cannot be sinful and holy simultaneously correct?
No. Do you know what federal holiness means?

The concept of "never remember a time when they were not believers" is a bit foreign to me as a Baptist but I understand what you are saying and see no biblical requirement for a "salvation experience" moment as long as they have grown into a full understanding of the gospel, have accepted it by faith, and have not departed along the way.
Great!
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
Do you concede that all sins are not equal? If you do not concede that all sins are not equal, or that there is a difference between Original Sin as defined by the Confession and Actual Sin as defined by the Confession then we can go no further.

What do you mean by equal? If we are talking about earthly consequences, then obviously there are unequal effects from various sins. Taking the Lord's name in vain has less of an 'earthly' effect or consequence then murdering someone. But that does not necessarily mean that taking the Lord's name in vain is not a serious offense. Since God's standards are perfection, one deviation merits death for the sinner. If one never repents of their sins, then one can only expect eternal separation from God, regardless of how 'many' or 'few' sins they committed. This is because we don't just commit a sin and then have a period (let's say 30 minutes) of not sinning, and then sin again. Sin is a continuous act of rebellion against God; a continuous suppression of the truth. It is true that our rebelliousness manifests itself in various 'sins' that are committed at specific points in time. Yet for the ENTIRE time, even when we are sleeping, our heart of stone has always remained a heart of stone. It does not revert back and forth between a heart of stone and a heart of flesh. From that perspective we never stop rebelling until God replaces that heart of stone with a heart of flesh.


Those who are not held accountable for sin are 1) those who were not knowledgeable of the law (as found in Romans 5:13 "for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.") and 2) those who have placed their faith in the atonement of Christs blood (as found in Romans 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.")

These are the only ones who I believe are assured of salvation.

I disagree. Paul also makes it clear that even the Gentiles, who had no law, had the requirements of the law written on their hearts. For that reason they were a law unto themselves, and were held accountable to it:

Romans 2:14-15 (NASB)
14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

Furthermore, what are your thoughts concerning Romans 1:

Romans 1:18-20 (NASB)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Now, I do believe that people will be judged according to how much 'light' they have been given. The Jews, and in particular the Pharisees, were given a great amount of light (special revelation), yet they suppressed that truth continuously. Those who never been exposed to God's special revelation, nor have heard of Jesus, have obviously not been given very much light at all. Yet they have STILL been given some light, as is described in Romans 1:18-20 (enough light to make them responsible). People are still held accountable for their response to the light they have been given. No one at all is without excuse. General revelation is sufficient to hold men accountable for their suppression of the truth in unrighteousness.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Bob, you said this: “I do not believe I am the seed of Abraham. I believe I am an adopted son with all legal rights and inheritance of a legitimate son. I believe Paul was speaking to Jews.”

And Scripture says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal3:27-29).

A red flag goes up for me when I see such obvious deviation from Scripture! Paul is really unequivocal when he says that both Jews and Gentiles in Christ are the seed of Abraham. In the province of Galatia were both Jew and Gentile believers, and he addressed both and included both in these verses. This is not an issue between credos and paedos.

------

You then say, “I would interpret the ‘baptized into Christ’ as a reference made referring to purification. Just as baptism by water was a form of ritual purification for the Jew, so being baptized in Christ, the Living Water, is a purification.

“There were many who observed the practice of circumcision besides the descendants of Abraham (Babylonians, Egyptians, etc) but they were not considered part of the nation of Israel by virtue of circumcision.”

I do not think your view in the first paragraph is held by Protestant Christians, whether credo or paedo. God purifies our hearts by faith (Acts 15:19) in the atoning work of Christ, not by any sort of ritual cleansing. There is a doctrine of baptism in the church which is substantially agreed upon by all Reformed camps – and I would add, all sound Protestant churches – even if we disagree on mode and subjects.

Going out of the community of God’s redeemed people, and seeking light on a crucial Old Covenant ordinance from Egyptian or Babylonian sources cannot but engender confusion. These ungodly pagans and their practices lend nothing to understanding the things of God.

With regard to the “legal transaction” – Baptism is the sign and the seal of inclusion into Christ and His body, keeping in mind that this ordinance given by command of Christ is an outward signifier of an inward reality: the substance of it the sealing of the soul by the Holy Spirit into the care of God, uniting him with Christ in death and resurrection, and joining him to the body of Christ (Eph 1:13; 2 Cor 1:22; Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 12:13). The legal transaction also pertains to the formal adoption of believers into the family and household of God.

The substance of the seal – outwardly marked by the sign – was ratified by the blood of the High Priest. In the OT the covenant was ratified by the blood of sacrificial animals.

It is “iron-clad”, this cutting of the covenant. None of them were “signed” the way we Westerners sign a last will and testament; the Covenant was cut with Abraham based on God’s promise, and His going through the cut animals (Gen 15); with Moses that covenant was ratified with the blood of animals (Heb 9:18-20; Exod 24:4-8); with Christ His covenant was ratified by His own blood (Luke 22:20).

I already said to you (earlier) that a person may be saved without baptism. I have pursued the issue of infant baptism because it bears so directly on the issue of sin in such little ones, and how God cleanses them (though there are aspects to this I cannot fathom).

You know, Bob, I am afraid I have been confusing you by going into such details of these issues, before you are even grounded in some basic doctrines of the faith. And now you are responding hastily to my remarks.

It may be better for us all to take a break, and for you to go about your normal Christian life, dropping matters pertaining to infant baptism – and baptism generally – as well the fate of dying infants, in lieu of other aspects of living out the Christian life. I would say talk with your pastor about these things, even though you have not been satisfied in earlier talks with him. And, as I know you already do, continue to study to show thyself approved. I would counsel you to steer clear of the Roman Catholic, High Anglican, and Orthodox churches, for their views will only give you more information, much of which is shot through with error (and I would add to these the pagan ritual practices), and find sound teachers, Baptist or Paedobaptist, whichever you lean to – of which there are many, and study them. You drink from polluted waters of the heathen you will fall ill.

We are Reformed – whether credo or paedo – because we find the Reformed confessions faithful formulations of Bible doctrines we hold (for the most part, at any rate). We have sought to give reasons for our faith, and for being part of the church communions we respectively belong to. We can respect your seeking to find what is true before committing to anything.

We have thought through what we believe, and try (not always well) to communicate it. We are sorry if it has gotten to wrangling. Sometimes we all can overdo a good thing. It has been stimulating discussing these things with you!
 

Bob Carlberg

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you to all who are responding to my somewhat incoherent rantings. It is difficult to address each response thoughtfully and in retrospect I believe I spoke hastily and in error to the question of being Abraham's seed. What I should have said is I do believe in Christ I am Abraham's seed and there is no difference between Jew and Gentile when speaking collectively of the church. My response was poorly stated and I did not speak in context. My intent was to say that in a literal sense it is not possible for me to be Abraham's seed unless I am a Jew even if I be circumcised. This probably still makes no sense so let me try once again more carefully.

It is not possible to become a Jew (a member of the chosen people) by being circumcised. One who was not a blood descendant of Abraham could only be adopted into the household of Abraham. Although circumcision was a sign that you were Abraham's seed the action of baptism itself was not what made you as such. Does this make more sense.

Therefore in allegorical terms, being baptized, if it is allegorically like unto circumcision, it cannot make you Abraham's seed or more correctly a part of the Church. It is a sign of association.

Following this line of thought, there were those outside the lineage of Abraham who chose to become "God fearers" or a members of the community. They had to renounce their heathen idols and beliefs in them (a spiritual circumcision of the heart) and subject themselves to fleshly circumcision (a literal circumcision of the flesh) as an outward sign of their commitment in order to be adopted into the community. Some did this and enjoyed the same protection that God afforded his chosen.

Likewise today, if we renounce our sinful ways, our heathen idols and beliefs, and believe solely in the work of Christ, through faith, we will then willingly subject ourselves to the symbol of baptism as an outward sign of the inward change that has taken place. We are then associated with the Church and "in Christ" are members of the Church"


If we view baptism as an outward sign of an inward change, then it seems incongruous to perform it before that change takes place. Rom. 4:10


Over the weekend, I was listening to a message on the Passover. It got me thinking regarding Covenant theology. When the blood was placed on the doorway, it was this act of faith alone which saved the firstborn. It had nothing to do with the parents being under the Covenant or the circumcision of the child. In fact it was even open to the Egyptians who were not the seed of Abraham and were unlikely circumcised in Abrahamic tradition nor under the Covenant. They could still avail themselves of the same promise of salvation by faith in the shed blood.


As to the equality of sins, it seems everyone who responds, inquires what I mean by sins are not equal. I do not know what that means, I am merely citing the confession. Please do not expect me to explain it. What do you all think it means?

One could surmise that this means that Original Sin is not equal to Actual Sins but this is not explicitly stated.


There seems to be a general assumption that I believe some are not going to be held accountable for sin. This is not the case, I believe all are individually accountable for sin. But what is sin? This is core to the discussion. Does our guilt make us sinful or does our sin make us guilty? It does not matter because Christ took on all our guilt and all our sin and by our faith in him we are seen sinless and guiltless in the eyes of God.


Please explain federal holiness if I have not already done it above.

Is it correct exegesis to apply admonishment to adults equally to children?

Are children held to the same standards as adults or have they been given "less light" and therefore their "sin" will not be held equal to the sin of an understanding adult or enlightened one?

I think it is clear that the nation of Isreal will be judged with greater judgment than their gentile counterparts for having known the truth (Christ revealed in prophecy) and having rejected it (Christ revealed in his earthly person).
 
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py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Please explain federal holiness if I have not already done it above

You have not - I don't think anything you said touched on the concept. Federal holiness is the state of being included in the visible church, having a part in the external administration of the covenant of grace. Here is Fisher:

Q. 37. How are children of professing parents designated in scripture?

A. If any one of the parents be a visible believer, or regular church-member, the children, on that account, are called holy, 1 Cor. 7:14 -- "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy."

Q. 38. What holiness is here meant?

A. Federal holiness, or being admitted to church membership, together with their believing or professing parent.

Q. 39. May not this holiness be understood of legitimacy, or being lawfully begotten?

A. No; because marriage being an ordinance of the law of nature, the children of married parents, though both of them be infidels, are as lawfully begotten as those of professing Christians.

Q. 40. How does federal holiness entitle an infant to baptism?

A. Federal holiness necessarily supposes a being within the covenant, in virtue of the credible profession of the parent; and, consequently, a right to the initiatory seal of it.

Flavel, in his reply to Cary's polemic, specifically distinguishes federal holiness from intrinsic holiness.
 
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