Paedo-Baptism Answers Do You Believe it Sin to Neglect Baptism of Infants?

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I believe this topic shows the errors of the Westminster Confession of Faith and how it was a cultural product of its times.

Just like the section on civil government that was revised in 1788 and still embarrasses most Presbyterians to this day, this section on baptism is over-stated due to the times in which it was written.

If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal. But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so. But very few things are spelled out as sin in the confessions...and especially not a lot of things are described as "great" sin in the WCF, but BAM...this IS described not only as a sin, but as a "great sin" and yet we do not treat it as such.

And so to neglect punishment for such a great sin is to act inconsistently with the confessions.

Let's face it, if the WCF was re-written in 2020, this wording of "great sin" would not survive...there are not many reformed who really believe this part of the WCF anymore. They sort of ignore it or explain it away. This is almost like the "descended into hell" phrase found in the Apostle's Creed. Most people read it and think, "How'd that get in there?"
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
I wonder (and someone here can probably tell us) if the Westminster Assembly had conscientious Baptists attending non-Baptist churches in mind when it wrote that line. I've always assumed it had in mind people who lacked devoutness—those who would not bother with baptism or felt themselves too good to submit to any church—rather than people with strong but differing convictions. But I may well be wrong about that. I'd like to know.
I have been curious about this as well! If anyone has information relating to credobaptists in England and Scotland during this period, please share. @Reformed Covenanter

@Pergamum, I don’t think the WCF and Catechisms were erroneous on this. If you haven’t read the sections on baptism please do so. They do not zero in on the baptizing of infants in remarking on the seriousness of the sin of despising baptism. They do assume infant baptism, of course. But as others have said, there is a difference between right knowing of yet despising an ordinance, and neglecting it due to being wrongly informed.

Also, though off-topic, a growing (I think and hope) number of Presbyterians don’t reject the original WCF regarding the magistrate, and many held stoutly to it throughout the past couple of centuries. Thankfully.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
I believe this topic shows the errors of the Westminster Confession of Faith and how it was a cultural product of its times.

Just like the section on civil government that was revised in 1788 and still embarrasses most Presbyterians to this day, this section on baptism is over-stated due to the times in which it was written.

If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal. But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so. But very few things are spelled out as sin in the confessions...and especially not a lot of things are described as "great" sin in the WCF, but BAM...this IS described not only as a sin, but as a "great sin" and yet we do not treat it as such.

And so to neglect punishment for such a great sin is to act inconsistently with the confessions.

Let's face it, if the WCF was re-written in 2020, this wording of "great sin" would not survive...there are not many reformed who really believe this part of the WCF anymore. They sort of ignore it or explain it away. This is almost like the "descended into hell" phrase found in the Apostle's Creed. Most people read it and think, "How'd that get in there?"
I think there's some danger in assigning writings in which the Church has upheld as being well representative of its dogmas as quaint or outdated. Sure, there have been revisions made to accommodate a fundamental difference held in belief about the Church and the state, but this was done, as far as I understand it to be, in order to maintain the purity of doctrine held under a new type of governmental regime.

If we as a people in different generations come to an important text and say "How'd that get in there?" in a manner unworthy of the work our predecessors in the faith have done before, then we run the risk of letting loose our moorings beyond what is a responsible action. I'm not saying to be uncritical when appropriate, but critical interaction ought not out necessity result in the departure of what has been figured upon by many others often greater than ourselves.

I personally believe it is a sin in which deserves the description of "great" attached to it. If a person holds to beliefs contrary to this but wishes to worship in such context, they ought not be granted full membership because they cannot adhere to this explicit teaching of the Church and indeed of Scripture. In this, they shall sit under the teaching which, by the grace of God, will bring them to a fuller understanding. With this, the hope is that they will be convicted of sin and repent. Again, as stated earlier, time is needed in order to walk through such a process. Yet, repentance should be our expectation.

You make a good point in showing the shame we have as the Reformed when we so quickly abandon our confessional beliefs. In this way, we do the very same I describe above about dismissal of the texts important to the Church. I would hope that we can revive our conviction and be held competent enough to "rewrite" the same document over and over again. Sin should be treated as sin, but we must take our lead from the very One who saved us. He and His apostles were not one size fits all in their approach to confronting sin but desired for their constituents to repent all the same.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Sorry guys. I see this is paedo-baptism answers. So I am not even allowed to respond here. I'll bow out. I have questioned my credobaptist convictions in the past (due largely to good arguments from this board). I would agree that (if I were paedobaptist) neglect of the ordinance would be a great sin (not only towards God, but also towards the child to whom you deny a blessing).
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
@Pergamum said:

"If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal. But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so."​

Or more likely, most Presbyterian church leaders recognize that Westminster is not targeting believers who believe differently concerning who ought to be baptized and when. You quoted the confession incorrectly. It does NOT say "neglect of baptism of children." Rather, it speaks about neglecting baptism more broadly.

The conclusion some here have reached—that their informal survey of Puritan-Board opinions reflects the views and practices of most Presbyterian churches, and that the vast majority would label disagreement over who should be baptized as a great sin—is a false conclusion. I feel confident in asserting that you are correct: the majority of Presbyterian elders in churches still faithful to the confessions would not hurl the "great sin" label at a Baptist who had misgivings. They would address things much more gently. They recognize that there is a difference between neglecting baptism as a whole and disagreeing about who should be baptized.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I have been curious about this as well! If anyone has information relating to credobaptists in England and Scotland during this period, please share. @Reformed Covenanter

If I understand what you and @Jack K are asking, the clause in the Westminster Confession was specifically aimed at Baptists. Dr Jonathan D. Moore has an essay in the Westminster Theological Journal on this subject. PM me if you wish to know more.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
@Pergamum said:

"If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal. But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so."​

Or more likely, most Presbyterian church leaders recognize that Westminster is not targeting believers who believe differently concerning who ought to be baptized and when. You quoted the confession incorrectly. It does NOT say "neglect of baptism of children." Rather, it speaks about neglecting baptism more broadly.

The conclusion some here have reached—that their informal survey of Puritan-Board opinions reflects the views and practices of most Presbyterian churches, and that the vast majority would label disagreement over who should be baptized as a great sin—is a false conclusion. I feel confident in asserting that you are correct: the majority of Presbyterian elders, even in churches still faithful to the confessions, would not hurl the "great sin" label at a Baptist who had misgivings. They would address things much more gently. They recognize that there is a difference between neglecting baptism as a whole and disagreeing about who should be baptized.

The Confession was targeting Baptists:

The Heidelblog states: "A recent essay in the Westminster Theological Journal has argued quite reasonably and plausibly that the best interpretation of Art. 5 is as a reference to Baptists. Recall that the Particular Baptists had published a confession of faith in 1644, three years before the WCF was finished. The divines were well aware of the growing Particular and General (to speak anachronistically) Baptist movements."

https://heidelblog.net/2009/03/for-what-its-worth-this-paedo-is-not-offended/

If Clark (and the article from the Westminster Theological Journal which he cites) are correct, then the confession was targeting baptists with their condemnation of the great sin of refusing baptism.

Of course, Clark is responding to Mark Dever's accusation that those who baptize their infants are sinning by doing so. So maybe Dever started it. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/dever-and-bird-on-baptism-and-sin/

Dever's position is a stance that I scoff at reflexively. But I must admit that there is a certain logic to this accusation by Dever given Dever's rigid system of theology. To be clear, I've never thought of Presbyterians as sinning by baptizing their babies. But there is a certain logic at work in which each side must accuse the other of sin (if we are to really take ecclesiology seriously). And such accusations seem supported by our confessions. But we don't really want to go there in 2020, it is against the spirit of our age.
 
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B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
The conclusion some here have reached—that their informal survey of Puritan-Board opinions reflects the views and practices of most Presbyterian churches, and that the vast majority would label disagreement over who should be baptized as a great sin—is a false conclusion.

Presuming this comment is directed at me (let me know if not), I have certainly not reached the conclusion that the random sample of a dozen here on the PB is representative of most Presbyterians today. That would be both silly and naive. However, this is a confessional board so I am most grateful to interact with members here who take the WCF seriously and are willing to discuss their thoughts on it.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I approve of this diversion.

You know...perhaps a month ago my son saw me typing away on the computer and came over while I was on PB and he noticed your avatar and got excited (he's a Lego maniac - 7 y/o). He studied it for a while and asked why I don't have a picture of a Lego character for my avatar. I had to go hunt for @Ben Zartman's avatar to show him! Hmm...perhaps I'll solicit my son's help in finding me just the right John L. Dagg look-alike Lego character to use. Lol.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
@BLM said:

"Presuming this comment is directed at me (let me know if not), I have certainly not reached the conclusion that the random sample of a dozen here on the PB is representative of most Presbyterians today. That would be both silly and naive. However, this is a confessional board so I am most grateful to interact with members here who take the WCF seriously and are willing to discuss their thoughts on it."​

You did say something like that, I think. And the new guy, Wretched Man, seemed to be reaching the same conclusion. So I guess I had both of you somewhat in mind (as well as any other, lurking Baptists), in case anyone might be drawing those conclusions. My concern was that Baptists not get the wrong idea about what to expect from a typical OPC, PCA, ARP, or similar Presbyterian church. I'm glad you weren't doing that, and I am sorry for thinking you might be, but I also had others I was thinking about.

I would never suggest this board is a bad place to ask good questions. I love learning from this board. However, opinions here are not necessary an accurate reflection of what one is most likely to hear from the elders in a typical church in XYZ denomination.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
You did say something like that, I think. And the new guy, Wretched Man, seemed to be reaching the same conclusion. So I guess I had both of you somewhat in mind (as well as any other, lurking Baptists), in case anyone might be drawing those conclusions. My concern was that Baptists not get the wrong idea about what to expect from a typical OPC, PCA, ARP, or similar Presbyterian church. I'm glad you weren't doing that, and I am sorry for thinking you might be, but I also had others I was thinking about.

I would never suggest this board is a bad place to ask good questions. I love learning from this board. However, opinions here are not necessary an accurate reflection of what one is most likely to hear from the elders in a typical church in XYZ denomination.

Jack, you make several good points (underlined) that people should definitely keep in mind, particularly if their first -- or only -- touch point into Presbyterianism is behind their computer on the PB. As a generalization, I believe one will find more diversity in thought and practice among the larger Presbyterian denominations than they will in the smaller microdenominations. Same goes for any other body of churches that have splintered into multiple communions. Thankfully with technology and the modern means of communication one can quickly gauge where on the spectrum a particularly church is on any given issue before they visit for the first time. Blind dates nearly always end in disappointment.

Last year while placing an order at GPTS to snag one of the remaining hardcover sets of Morton H. Smith's Systematic Theology I also picked up the book "The Practice of Confessional Subscription" edited by David Hall. I haven't cracked it open yet, but might move it into the on-deck circle of my reading lineup. Though our respective confessions always take a lower position to the scriptures (obviously), I think the majority here safely believe their confession of faith is a faithful summary of what the scriptures teach on a given topic. On that point, those who practice full subscription have my utmost respect -- even if it means they believe in good conscience that I'm in sin for not baptizing my infants. The quickest way for a so-called Presbyterian to lose my respect is to be ignorant of what Presbyterians have historically believed over the centuries...BUT give me a Presbyterian who unabashedly holds to the WCF and they'll have no greater friend in me...same principle applies to my Baptist brothers and sisters and our confessional heritage. We can rejoice in the faith with one another even with our deep differences and the beautiful thing is we don't even have to shed our convictions to do so.

Have a joyful Lord's Day today my friend!
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
If I understand what you and @Jack K are asking, the clause in the Westminster Confession was specifically aimed at Baptists. Dr Jonathan D. Moore has an essay in the Westminster Theological Journal on this subject. PM me if you wish to know more.

I have a subscription to the WTJ and will have to look for this essay. I too would be interested. I imagined it may have been in response to the Quakers, who neglect the sacrament of baptism in its entirety. Thanks for the investigative lead!
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
And in case it wasn't clear, when I say a conviction that baptism should wait until there is a profession is not necessarily "neglect" or "contempt," I do not consider my statement to be a denial of the confession. The confession does not specify whether or not that conviction qualifies for that label. Or course, it does specify that babies born to believers ought to be baptized, which I believe is both right and profitable.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Nothing personal, I’m just responding to your sentiments, and we are both sinners saved by grace, but of course I have to disagree with you. I don’t think we should make any changes or revisions. That’s bad precedent. Infant baptism is either proper or no. I think we should respect the original intent and the solemnity and consider if we are on the wrong side of the issue. I respect those who take it seriously one way or another.
I believe this topic shows the errors of the Westminster Confession of Faith and how it was a cultural product of its times.

Just like the section on civil government that was revised in 1788 and still embarrasses most Presbyterians to this day, this section on baptism is over-stated due to the times in which it was written.

If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal. But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so. But very few things are spelled out as sin in the confessions...and especially not a lot of things are described as "great" sin in the WCF, but BAM...this IS described not only as a sin, but as a "great sin" and yet we do not treat it as such.

And so to neglect punishment for such a great sin is to act inconsistently with the confessions.

Let's face it, if the WCF was re-written in 2020, this wording of "great sin" would not survive...there are not many reformed who really believe this part of the WCF anymore. They sort of ignore it or explain it away. This is almost like the "descended into hell" phrase found in the Apostle's Creed. Most people read it and think, "How'd that get in there?"
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Nothing personal, I’m just responding to your sentiments, and we are both sinners saved by grace, but of course I have to disagree with you. I don’t think we should make any changes or revisions. That’s bad precedent. Infant baptism is either proper or no. I think we should respect the original intent and the solemnity and consider if we are on the wrong side of the issue. I respect those who take it seriously one way or another.

You realize that your church ALREADY uses a revised version of the Westminster Confession of Faith, right?

http://www.upper-register.com/papers/1788_revision.pdf
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I’m ok with it, but it does concern me when we do so, and continue to.Im not sure the revised sections on the civil magistrate haven’t already become out of date, and could be ‘justifiably’ revised again, or maybe left alone in the first place. I think the spirit and intent of original language can be maintained, even if the culture and circumstances are drastically altered.
You realize that your church ALREADY uses a revised version of the Westminster Confession of Faith, right?

http://www.upper-register.com/papers/1788_revision.pdf

Not much is a ‘great sin’ these days. It makes it hard sometimes. It’s like walking a fine line between leaning on Him and trusting on what has been revealed in its proper context and application without seeking loop holes.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I would just argue that there are many ‘Christian’ churches that are so in name only, but in reality have nothing to do with Jesus Christ, making the portion, “to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians,” appear quite the fallacy. There is nothing common or Christian about many of the apostate denominations of our time. So must this again be revised? Words and meanings matter...

It is the humanist, Unitarian churches of the day that were already apostate and have promoted a low view of Churches that seek to maintain biblical faithfulness. (Also, contrast Madison w/ the Unitarian Jefferson and the current state of affairs)
...
The Calvinist Roots of American Social Order
https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/04/19116/

“Jefferson prefe
rred “Primitive” Christianity, in which Jesus was not God, there was no Trinity, and the church did not exercise any civil or social power. One Christian group in the United States appeared to him especially committed to each of those hated dogmas: Calvinists.” https://mereorthodoxy.com/john-calvin-thomas-jefferson/

Chapter 23
Of the Civil Magistrate

3. (Completely rewritten) Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest,* in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

You realize that your church ALREADY uses a revised version of the Westminster Confession of Faith, right?

http://www.upper-register.com/papers/1788_revision.pdf
Sorry for a little off topic...
 
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User20004000

Puritan Board Sophomore
Our friend said:

If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal.
I find that not just simplistic but dangerously misleading as a false-dichotomy. Not all great sins should be censured by the church.

But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so. But very few things are spelled out as sin in the confessions...and especially not a lot of things are described as "great" sin in the WCF, but BAM...this IS described not only as a sin, but as a "great sin" and yet we do not treat it as such.
The neglect to baptize infants is indeed great sin but not worthy of rendering one as living like an infidel. (We can even assume the Baptist position as true and make the same argument as I submit below.)

That outrageous claim overlooks the relevant distinction between (a) laws written on the heart that are repeated in Scripture and (b) precepts that can only be derived from Scripture. What we know by nature that’s not revealed in Scripture is most relevant this discussion as it relates to ecclesiastical censure.

For instance, not to recognize the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath and not to baptize infants are examples of the latter sort of transgression. Although they can be construed as great sins of neglect, those sorts of transgressions strictly have to with not discerning the Scriptures aright. Also, they are not matters of heresy. As such, they may not be attributed to an unrepentant heart with respect to the moral law of nature or the doctrines of God and salvation. Consequently, a session would have absolutely no ground to find one’s manner of faith or practice at odds with a credible profession of faith for such omissions of conduct. That we can’t figure all things out because of the noetic effects of sin or some other blindness for which we are still culpable does not equate to a refusal to obey God’s moral law in a way that would bring into question one’s regenerate state. Excommunication pertains to unregenerate acts - not to how far we are sanctified in our theological understanding.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Our friend said:

If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal.
I find that not just simplistic but dangerously misleading as a false-dichotomy. Not all great sins should be censured by the church.

But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so. But very few things are spelled out as sin in the confessions...and especially not a lot of things are described as "great" sin in the WCF, but BAM...this IS described not only as a sin, but as a "great sin" and yet we do not treat it as such.
The neglect to baptize infants is indeed great sin but not worthy of rendering one as living like an infidel. (We can even assume the Baptist position as true and make the same argument as I submit below.)

That outrageous claim overlooks the relevant distinction between (a) laws written on the heart that are repeated in Scripture and (b) precepts that can only be derived from Scripture. What we know by nature that’s not revealed in Scripture is most relevant this discussion as it relates to ecclesiastical censure.

For instance, not to recognize the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath and not to baptize infants are examples of the latter sort of transgression. Although they can be construed as great sins of neglect, those sorts of transgressions strictly have to with not discerning the Scriptures aright. Also, they are not matters of heresy. As such, they may not be attributed to an unrepentant heart with respect to the moral law of nature or the doctrines of God and salvation. Consequently, a session would have absolutely no ground to find one’s manner of faith or practice at odds with a credible profession of faith for such omissions of conduct. That we can’t figure all things out because of the noetic effects of sin or some other blindness for which we are still culpable does not equate to a refusal to obey God’s moral law in a way that would bring into question one’s regenerate state. Excommunication pertains to unregenerate acts - not to how far we are sanctified in our theological understanding.

The OPC, "Report of the Committee to Consider the Matter Proposed to the Assembly by the Presbytery of the West Coast"

https://opc.org/GA/refuse_bapt.html


"Since the Orthodox Presbyterian Church takes the position that infant baptism, that is, the baptism of the children of believers, is a divine institution, it is not proper to make any differentiation in respect of meaning, intent, and obligation between adult baptism and infant baptism. There is one baptism. And the sanction belonging to baptism, established above from the biblical evidence, applies to infant baptism as truly as to adult baptism. It is taken for granted that the person who refuses to be baptized would not be admitted to communicant membership and that a baptized communicant member who declares his renunciation of the propriety of baptism would immediately become subject to discipline. It is the judgment of the committee that the question posed in the overture from the Presbytery of the West Coast and passed on to the committee for consideration arises only when the place of baptism in the Christian institution is not duly appreciated and a sharp line of differentiation is drawn, perhaps not explicitly but yet in effect, between adult baptism and infant baptism.

The committee has deep sympathy for those who have been subjected to antipaedobaptist arguments and who find it difficult to accede to the necessity and validity of infant baptism. It is also aware of the appeal of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to earnest Christians who for many reasons wish to become members of a denomination which in all other respects bears a corporate witness to what they believe to be the truth of the gospel. Church sessions should be sensitive to the desires and needs of such persons and be ready to offer them to the fullest extent compatible with our constitution the fellowship of the church including the privilege of participating in the Lord's supper with the communicant members of the congregations over which they exercise oversight.

The committee considers, however, that to admit to communicant membership those who "refuse" to present their children for baptism would constitute a weakening of the witness the church bears to the ordinance of infant baptism as one of divine warrant, authority, and obligation. Of greater weight is the fact that infant baptism is the way in which God continues to remind and assure us of that which belongs to the administration of his redemptive, covenantal purpose. The defect of the person not persuaded of this aspect of God's revealed counsel is not concerned with what is peripheral but with what is basic in the Christian institution. And the person who resolutely refuses to present his or her children for baptism is rejecting the covenant promise and grace which God has certified to his people from Abraham's day till now. It is this perspective that lends gravity to the offense. It is this estimate of baptism that underlies the statement of our subordinate standards when the Confession says that it is "a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance" (XXVIII, v) and the Directory for Worship that the children of the faithful "are holy in Christ, and as members of his church ought to be baptized" (IV, B, 4). It cannot be denied that the person refusing baptism for his children is delinquent in doctrine. It is the obligation of the session (in the case envisioned in this study) to apprise him of this. It is scarcely compatible with honesty, therefore, for such a person to answer in the affirmative such a question or any other form of question of similar purport as must be asked of those being received into communicant membership, namely, "Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?" (ibid., V, 5, 4).

In support and confirmation of the foregoing position the following additional considerations are offered.

  1. God has revealed his great displeasure with those who refuse or neglect the administration of the sign of the covenant (Gen. 17:14; Exod. 4:24-26).
  2. To refuse the covenant sign to the children of believers is to deny God's covenant claim upon them, and thus to withhold from him those who are rightfully his. Such denial provokes him to anger (Exod. 4:22-26; Mark 10:13, 14).
  3. The riches of God's grace are most clearly seen in his covenant mercies, and to deny baptism to the children of the church prevents the grace of God from being seen in all its richness and manifestly detracts from its fullness. This cannot help but weaken the sense of gratitude in both parents and children and consequently rob God of the praise and thanksgiving that are due to him.
  4. Those professing parents who refuse to present their children for baptism thereby deny their solemn obligation to keep God's covenant by raising their children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and deprive their children as well as themselves of the comfort of God's covenant promise.
  5. Professing parents who refuse to present their children for baptism withhold from the church of Christ the holy seed which God in his goodness has provided for it, and consequently deprive their children of the nurture and discipline which the body of Christ imparts to its members.
In answer to the objection that the scriptural evidence for the ordinance of infant baptism is not of such clarity as to command our obedience, it may be conceded that there is no express command in Scripture to baptize infants. Nevertheless, what by good and necessary inference can be deduced from Scripture is to be received as authoritative (Confession of Faith I, vi) and the scriptural evidence for infant baptism clearly falls within this category. It may be further objected that in order to establish this doctrine such a closely reasoned and complicated process of inference and deduction is demanded that it is not reasonable to require those to conform to this ordinance who are unable to exert such powers of logic. In answer to this objection, it must be affirmed that the doctrine of the covenant of grace is all-pervasive in Scripture and that it takes no great powers of reasoning to find the rightful place of the children of believers within its fold.

The committee also incorporates in its report the following qualifying considerations of one of its members.

This member entertains no hesitation as to the importance of the baptism of the children of believing parents. The glory of the unity of the covenant of grace throughout Scripture must be constantly proclaimed. The privilege as well as the duty of Christian parents to present their infant seed for the sacrament of baptism must often be set forth. The Bible and our secondary standards make this altogether plain. On this there can be no disagreement.

The question is whether sessions may "receive into communicant membership those who refuse to present their children for baptism on account of scruples concerning infant baptism." The contention of this member of the committee is that our General Assembly ought not to declare that under no circumstances may a session receive into communicant membership one who refuses to present a covenant child for baptism. There may be occasions when a session ought to receive a Christian brother into its fullest fellowship even though that brother be unable in good conscience to appreciate the privilege that is his to present his child in Christian baptism.

A believer belongs in the church. The believer ought to be in the most faithful church to be found. While the Orthodox Presbyterian Church properly insists that its officers subscribe fully to the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, it has of members required a credible confession of faith in Christ. And has not the ministry of the church been appointed "for the perfecting of the saints...for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12, 13)?

There may well be situations where it would be highly unwise to receive as communicant members those who refuse to present their children for baptism. It would hardly make for harmony in the church to receive a brother who determinedly opposes the expressed doctrinal position of the church. In a home mission situation the admission of several families refusing to present their children for baptism might represent such a proportion of the entire congregation as to threaten the very character of the church as a Reformed communion.

But one can also conceive of circumstances in which it would amount to undue severity and harshness not to welcome a brother Christian desirous of becoming a communicant member, though unable from the viewpoint of his own convictions, poorly grounded though they be, to present his infant child for Christian baptism. Shall we allow such a believer to seek his fullest spiritual fellowship in a communion less faithful to the gospel than ours? Or shall we welcome him as a Christian brother indeed and trust that the ministry of the Word and the blessing of the Spirit shall bring him in time so see that his whole family should bear the sign and seal of covenant grace?

This, of course, indicates that all the circumstances must be taken into account as best we are able to do. This member would refrain from making a blanket statement as to the reception into communicant membership of those refusing to have their children baptized. The decision may in some instances be affirmative, in others not. And this just puts the problem where it belongs, back to the session of the local church. This is not sidestepping the issue but placing the responsibility where, according to the genius of Presbyterianism, it belongs. Historically such questions have been left with the local session. It is noteworthy that in J. Aspinwall Hodge's What Is Presbyterian Law? it is asserted again and again that it is the session that must resolve such matters. For instance, on page 143 of the 8th edition, we read: "And in 1872 the Assembly asserted 'that the admission of persons to sealing ordinances is confided by the Form of Government really and exclusively to the church Session.'" On page 140 of the same volume Hodge says: "Parents declining to present their children for baptism are not to be refused on account of scruples concerning infant baptism, yet in every such case the Session must judge of the expediency of admitting them."

Underlines and bolding are mine.

Conclusions:

1. As usual, the OPC is very well-thought out in its conclusions on this issue.

2. It is affirmed that refusal to baptize is a great sin. a.) The confessions say it is a great sin, b.) The person who refuses is delinquent in doctrine, and c.) they are even dishonest (i.e. liars) if they have sworn in as members to uphold the government of the church.
3. The elders should tell the refusing parents about this sin.
4. A church may or may not accept people into their membership as communicant members who hold to this sin. In some cases, yes, in some cases, no.
5. It doesn't sound like active church discipline (besides telling the person about his sin of refusing to baptize his babies) is recommended, and the OPC urges the elders to teach its members patiently in order to improve their opinions.
6. Officers must hold to this doctrine, but members must merely be saved.


This all sounds very reasonable and if I ever turned paedobaptist, I would join an OPC church. I do not think any baptist could join an OPC church, however, lest the church say he is then a liar, because it sounds like to join an OPC church one must affirm its "government" - but the report above clearly says that one who refuses to baptize his infant (but who has been sworn in as a member) is "scarcely compatible with honesty."

My apologies again, but I shouldn't even be posting in this forum and I'll try to withdraw, but the reply seemed to address me.

Conclusion: it really does seem that we must believe that the refusal to baptize our infants is a very great sin. Many Presbyterians might even cringe at this thought, but the confessions do seem to affirm it very clearly
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Our friend said:

If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal.
I find that not just simplistic but dangerously misleading as a false-dichotomy. Not all great sins should be censured by the church.

But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so. But very few things are spelled out as sin in the confessions...and especially not a lot of things are described as "great" sin in the WCF, but BAM...this IS described not only as a sin, but as a "great sin" and yet we do not treat it as such.
The neglect to baptize infants is indeed great sin but not worthy of rendering one as living like an infidel. (We can even assume the Baptist position as true and make the same argument as I submit below.)

That outrageous claim overlooks the relevant distinction between (a) laws written on the heart that are repeated in Scripture and (b) precepts that can only be derived from Scripture. What we know by nature that’s not revealed in Scripture is most relevant this discussion as it relates to ecclesiastical censure.

For instance, not to recognize the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath and not to baptize infants are examples of the latter sort of transgression. Although they can be construed as great sins of neglect, those sorts of transgressions strictly have to with not discerning the Scriptures aright. Also, they are not matters of heresy. As such, they may not be attributed to an unrepentant heart with respect to the moral law of nature or the doctrines of God and salvation. Consequently, a session would have absolutely no ground to find one’s manner of faith or practice at odds with a credible profession of faith for such omissions of conduct. That we can’t figure all things out because of the noetic effects of sin or some other blindness for which we are still culpable does not equate to a refusal to obey God’s moral law in a way that would bring into question one’s regenerate state. Excommunication pertains to unregenerate acts - not to how far we are sanctified in our theological understanding.

Right. It isn't causing scandal. Not all sins are scandal-causing sins.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Right. It isn't causing scandal. Not all sins are scandal-causing sins.

Question for you and others: Is it a common belief that only scandalous sins ought to be addressed by church discipline? Maybe this is a good topic for a new OP. I would agree with you, but I see many churches practicing differently (even disciplining for lax attendance).
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Question for you and others: Is it a common belief that only scandalous sins ought to be addressed by church discipline? Maybe this is a good topic for a new OP. I would agree with you, but I see many churches practicing differently (even disciplining for lax attendance).

There are different levels of church discipline. I Had in mind excommunication, which is for things like heresy, contumacy, and public scandal.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I believe this topic shows the errors of the Westminster Confession of Faith and how it was a cultural product of its times.

Just like the section on civil government that was revised in 1788 and still embarrasses most Presbyterians to this day, this section on baptism is over-stated due to the times in which it was written.

If this neglect of baptism of children is such a great sin then the parents ought to be church-disciplined for refusal. But most church leaders intuitively know that this isn't the right move and find excuses not to do so. But very few things are spelled out as sin in the confessions...and especially not a lot of things are described as "great" sin in the WCF, but BAM...this IS described not only as a sin, but as a "great sin" and yet we do not treat it as such.

And so to neglect punishment for such a great sin is to act inconsistently with the confessions.

Let's face it, if the WCF was re-written in 2020, this wording of "great sin" would not survive...there are not many reformed who really believe this part of the WCF anymore. They sort of ignore it or explain it away. This is almost like the "descended into hell" phrase found in the Apostle's Creed. Most people read it and think, "How'd that get in there?"

I believe that that portion of the WCF is correct as well as that of WCF 29.8 which, speaking of the Lord's Supper, says that the unworthy "cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereof" (emphasis mine).

Which is instructive because it appears that the importance of baptism and the seriousness of the neglect thereof was not considered to be an isolated matter but readily joined with the other sacrament of the church. So while it is true that the wording reflects the times in which it was written, it is also true that in those times they generally had a higher view of worship and the sacraments in particular. If the laxity of our time to the holy things of God is considered to be an improvement, then I know which "overstatement" I should embrace.

In regards to the matter of church discipline, it hardly seems becoming to the nature of infant baptism -which is a sign of inclusion in the covenant- to ignore the scriptures which warn us about the abuse or rejection of its application: Genesis 17:14, Exodus 4:24, Deuteronomy 30:6, Romans 2:25 & Philippians 3:3 (noting this was also true of the Lord's Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:27ff.). Whether Presbyterian churches apply discipline or not for the neglect of the sacrament amongst members who are in their purview indicates the purity (or lack thereof) of the particular church itself (WCF 25.4).

Personally I suspect that, in the West, being surrounded by a predominantly Baptistic culture we are not so inclined to deal with our members so "harshly" lest our membership be culled, and I also suspect that if the opposite were the case, we would not be so generous. That is, we are not so much embarrassed by our confession but find it more difficult and thus more reluctant to carry out its sanctions.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I believe that that portion of the WCF is correct as well as that of WCF 29.8 which, speaking of the Lord's Supper, says that the unworthy "cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereof" (emphasis mine).

Which is instructive because it appears that the importance of baptism and the seriousness of the neglect thereof was not considered to be an isolated matter but readily joined with the other sacrament of the church. So while it is true that the wording reflects the times in which it was written, it is also true that in those times they generally had a higher view of worship and the sacraments in particular. If the laxity of our time to the holy things of God is considered to be an improvement, then I know which "overstatement" I should embrace.

In regards to the matter of church discipline, it hardly seems becoming to the nature of infant baptism -which is a sign of inclusion in the covenant- to ignore the scriptures which warn us about the abuse or rejection of its application: Genesis 17:14, Exodus 4:24, Deuteronomy 30:6, Romans 2:25 & Philippians 3:3 (noting this was also true of the Lord's Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:27ff.). Whether Presbyterian churches apply discipline or not for the neglect of the sacrament amongst members who are in their purview indicates the purity (or lack thereof) of the particular church itself (WCF 25.4).

Personally I suspect that, in the West, being surrounded by a predominantly Baptistic culture we are not so inclined to deal with our members so "harshly" lest our membership be culled, and I also suspect that if the opposite were the case, we would not be so generous. That is, we are not so much embarrassed by our confession but find it more difficult and thus more reluctant to carry out its sanctions.

To clarify: 1. You feel that church discipline is demanded if parents don't baptize their babies, but 2. US churches are too embarrassed/afraid to do this?
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
To clarify: 1. You feel that church discipline is demanded if parents don't baptize their babies, but 2. US churches are too embarrassed/afraid to do this?

Yes to 1, no to 2 -or not without caveats. Not the US, I said the West. That includes Canada, Europe, NZ and Australia. And I wrote: "not so much embarrassed..." but "more difficult and thus more reluctant." Like it or not, we (all) are pragmatic more often principial. That doesn't make the Westminster divines wrong, it just means that we are not very consistent.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Yes to 1, no to 2 -or not without caveats. Not the US, I said the West. That includes Canada, Europe, NZ and Australia. And I wrote: "not so much embarrassed..." but "more difficult and thus more reluctant." Like it or not, we (all) are pragmatic more often principal. That doesn't make the Westminster divines wrong, it just means that we are not very consistent.

Thanks for your clarification. And sorry again that I am even replying. Thanks for bearing with me. Your answer makes sense.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thanks for your clarification. And sorry again that I am even replying. Thanks for bearing with me. Your answer makes sense.

You are welcome. I cannot speak for the moderators but I don't see that you are trying to be disruptive and it seems only fair that you be given an opportunity to reply when I was responding to your post.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
You are welcome. I cannot speak for the moderators but I don't see that you are trying to be disruptive and it seems only fair that you be given an opportunity to reply when I was responding to your post.

I am honestly curious. And have considered the Presbyterian position seriously about 3 times over the last decade. Maybe it will eventually stick. Then, that will cause trouble with my missionary support, no doubt.
 
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