Has Your Understanding of Baptism Changed?

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by Tom Hart, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. No change

    11 vote(s)
  2. Paedo-baptism to credo-baptism

    0 vote(s)
  3. Credo-baptism to paedo-baptism

    35 vote(s)
  4. Wrestled with credo-baptism, but settled on paedo-baptism

    3 vote(s)
  5. Wrestled with paedo-baptism, but settled on credo-baptism

    7 vote(s)
  6. Currently paedo-baptist struggling with credo-baptism.

    0 vote(s)
  7. Currently credo-baptist struggling with paedo-baptism.

    4 vote(s)
  8. Other

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    I was raised credo-baptist, but definitely wavered about 15 years back. I do find the Reformed rationale for infant baptism somewhat plausible and even quite appealing in certain respects, but ultimately falling short of being a “good and necessary” doctrinal conclusion. In the end, to me, it’s just too theoretical and derived, whereas I believe such a central and practical aspect of a sacrament should find very specific and direct indication in the New Testament. (I’ve outlined elsewhere why I just don’t see the household baptism passages as fulfilling that requirement.)

    A crucial issue in all of this is whether corporeal circumcision is effectively replaced by water baptism. While scripture does clearly draw a typological correlation between physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision, it never indicates a replacement of the physical application of circumcision with physical baptism. If that were the case, then at least one plain, simple statement to that end would seem requisite, especially considering the severe problems created by the Judaizers over circumcision (e.g. Acts 15, Galatians 5). Likewise, the argument that the Jews would have certainly assumed or understood various baptismal references and language used in the NT as alluding to such a succession fails to account for the fact that in their immediate context some of these passages were directed at or prominently involved gentile believers. I have seen various Reformed answers to these points, but have not found them convincing.

    Historically, which is of course only of secondary significance, the first clear references to infant baptism in the early church begin to appear around the end of the 2nd century. Yet it is notable that the covenant argument for infant baptism is absent in any of the early justifications given for it. Again, there are one or two limited and fairly abstract comparisons made between the age involved in OT circumcision and defending infant baptism, but the actual rationale given for the practice is always related to the cleansing of original sin and/or regeneration. This poses the notion that the original covenant basis for infant baptism was completely lost within just a few generations after the apostolic age. While perhaps possible, it seems there would surely have been at least a few more appreciable vestiges remaining in one or two locations. So it seems much more likely and consistent with these writings to conclude that the error of baptismal regeneration gradually crept into the church, which then prompted various practices. Several of the 4th and 5th century church fathers bypass scripture altogether and instead directly appeal to apostolic tradition as their reason for baptizing infants. The first yet still only very partially-orbed theological arguments covenantally connecting circumcision and baptism seem to come from the medieval Catholic Schoolmen. The first full-orbed covenantal argument for infant baptism appears to have come from Zwingli.

    Mode, also in a secondary way, poses a problem for me. For numerous reasons I am convinced that NT baptism was intentionally performed by immersion, which obviously is not intuitively or practically well-suited to infants. Could there have been exceptions to this mode in the NT, say for the physically infirmed? Theoretically, yes, but I don’t see any particular indication of this in the relevant texts to go by. Further, the outward means of the sacraments are intended to sensibly portray certain spiritual truths. And I have to agree with the historical consensus that with regard to water baptism this includes proclaiming the concept of death, burial and resurrection with Christ, to which, in my estimate, only immersion will sensibly answer.

    Over the years most these points have had multiple PB threads dedicated to discussing them. So I’m not here to necessarily debate them again (at least not on this thread), but simply to share some of my thinking relative to the question in the OP.
  2. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I edited, as still not use to small keys on smart phone!
  3. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Phil, just to one of your points: the fact that not-so-good arguments for infant baptism were made by the early church fathers should be no surprise. Much had begun to be lost after the time of the apostles. It was up to the church over the centuries to hammer those things out by church councils, and all that of God's providence; he didn't leave detailed exegesis from the apostles on many topics, for his own good purposes.
  4. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    I don't disagree. But the prospect of there being no appreciable remains of a particular doctrine in the earliest post-apostolic writings seems rather inauspicious and to somewhat militate against its apostolic originality. By contrast, for example, while the doctrine of justification by faith alone was also fairly quickly obscured in some quarters, there are still quite a few clear references to it throughout early church writings.
  5. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    I responded "wrestled with paedo-baptism, but settled on credo-baptism." There was a time when I explored Presbyterianism due to maturing views on the regulative principle of worship and wrestling over polity; however, I was never able to embrace covenantal infant baptism and found the arguments from the NT to be unconvincing.

    Additionally, the theme of Phil's comments below also resonated strongly with me. I often hear statements like "the church has always practiced infant baptism" and while it is regrettably true for much of church history I find it telling that for well over a millennium the church practiced infant baptism with a different understanding than what the Presbyterian advocates for today. Among the multitude of paedobaptists today, the covenantal infant baptism view is held by only a small minority really. That doesn't make it wrong, but the argument from history that I sometimes hear made isn't a good approach I don't think.

  6. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I can see where the argumentation for baptism (whether for professing adults or for babies) could more quickly have gotten murky, being that by the 2nd century the theologians were Gentiles; before then, while the church was so largely Jewish, it makes sense that receiving children from a believing household into the church would have been uncontroversial.
  7. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Could u please provide a citation or two on how u have come to this conclusion?
  8. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    I would presume the statement in question was a reference to what I said in my post about the covenant argument for infant baptism being absent in any early church justifications for it. That being the point, there can't be any citations to present per se. Various patristic scholars have made note of this circumstance. In their book Baptism in the Early Church Hendrick Stander and Johannes Louw (South African Anglicans) marshal virtually all of the known references to infant baptism through the 4th century and conclude:

    The idea of the covenant played no role whatsoever in the theology of the early church leading up to the institution of infant baptism. As a matter of fact, the washing away of sins as a sine qua non [“without which there is nothing”] to enter the kingdom of heaven was the main theological argument for conferring baptism as early as possible. (p. 139)

    ...It is also remarkable that the link between baptism and circumcision became relevant only when the issue of the age of the one to be baptized became crucial. And even then one should not assume that the third and fourth centuries saw a fully developed doctrine of baptism replacing circumcision. It was more a matter of analogy than dogma. This also explains why the Abrahamic covenant is hardly ever mentioned. These aspects belong to a later stage of development for which the theologies of the fourth century laid the foundation. (p. 185)
    This is also documented in Paul Jewett's book Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace (see esp. pp. 80f.). He notes that in the process of pioneering the Reformed covenant argument for infant baptism Zwingli acknowledged that “at many points we shall have to tread a different path from that taken either by ancient or more modern writers or by our own contemporaries.” (De Baptismo; 1525; Jewett, p. 80)

    Personally I haven't found anything that would contradict these conclusions. Thus, in effect, Reformed advocates of infant baptism are left to say that while those who baptized infants in the early church did the right thing, by all indication they did so for the wrong reasons. This is not to say such a prospect is impossible to reconcile, but it does give one pause.
  9. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    I wonder if I agree with this assessment; How did the writer come to such a conclusion? Based on silence? The thinking is baptistic in nature. For a good example is the silence in the NT about infant inclusion; For a covenanter,it is appreciated by the silence. That being, the covenant was a given and thinking along those lines, rationale, given the culture.
  10. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

  11. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    I understand your position. Yet there are a number of prominent ECF's that write in an apologetic manner regarding infant baptism, often dirtecting their work to various parties who would likely not have assumed or been very familiar with Jewish religious covenant concepts. So the point is that these early writers did in fact state their reasons for baptizing infants (removal of original sin/regeneration), while never invoking covenant principles as a basis for their practice.
  12. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Again, not to be argumentative, I would have to say that the reading is a matter of interpretation, i.e. assuming their silence is based on a neglect or ignorance of covenant theology proper.
  13. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Fair enough. I do think that supposing they had covenant theology in mind, anyway, though never stating such, is far more reliant on argumentation from silence than assuming their reasoning was indeed based on the reasons they did in fact provide. In any event, I've always found it fascinating how people can process the same information and often reach such different conclusions - especially among brethren on the topic of baptism! :smug:
  14. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    It’s says much for apologetics. All of us are pushing forward w/ our presuppositions guiding us. Mine’s a bit more refined in that I was saved in a Calvary Chapel, moved on to Particular Baptist and my final resting spot, Presbyterian paedo.
  15. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I don't prefer to decide much from the early church one way or another. Look how much time it took to get some clear statements on the Trinity!

    I remember Sam Waldron discussing the apostolic fathers and what a disappointment they are, comparatively speaking. You would think they had high and developed doctrines, but they didn't. In some places they show shallow understanding of Christian doctrine, and some of it is just regurgitating Scripture lines without any explanations. As he said in one lecture, "I expect to hear baby talk." He mentions one church father who defends original sin and the innocency of babies in the same breath.

    No shock if there is not a well-orbed covenant theology or view of the continuity of the covenants. They would likely not identify that well with arguments on either side. As Robert Godfrey said in one lecture, You didn't get a real systematician until Origen, and has called him "a great theologian who was wrong on everything." Some great minds fell flat to understand what they were working with.

    Like us, in ways we are not aware of.

    In the end though, church history is a maturing and growing process. By wise design the compendium of truth is not locked up in one age. It is not proximity to the apostles that determines understanding or likeliness to be right, but the direction of Christ by the Spirit to reveal what doctrines in what age.
  16. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior


    Again, can't disagree with much of what you say. That's why I classified the ECF's writings as secondary in the matter. But I certainly still find them very interesting and useful in certain respects.
  17. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    The early church fathers are useful in the discussion insomuch as their testimony tells us clearly that infants have been baptized for a long time. As for their reasoning behind doing it, that's another issue. We certainly don't believe in baptismal regeneration like some of them did. I don't think the ECF are a reliable authority on the why or why not on the baptism of infants. Appealing to the ECF's absence of a covenantal argument simply does not prove anything in my mind, because in the place of any covenantal grounds are illegitimate grounds having to do with the washing away of original sin and baptismal regeneration.

    People often do the "right" things for the wrong reasons. For example: giving to the local church is "right". However, giving in order to hopefully receive a kickback is wrong, this is in essence the prosperity gospel.

    What we as reformed people want to do is do the right things AND do them for the right reasons. Outward tradition is not enough.
  18. Anthony W. Brown II

    Anthony W. Brown II Puritan Board Freshman

    Was it difficult changing churches? Was the transition smooth or rocky?

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
  19. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    It was extremely difficult. It was about 4 months of strain for myself. My wife was convicted of covenant baptism shortly after me and so struggled for less time. There were days when I wept about the inevitable changes. I would say that my session and a few members of another OPC session nearby were instrumental in comforting us through it while being respectful of the membership we held at the time at our old church. They helped with that transition and made it as smooth as possible.
  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I'm barely holding on to my credobaptism. The pushyness of the 1689 Federalism folks has almost got me into the Presbyterian camp. 1,000 dollar reward and a free set of ginsu knives for anyone who can make me a true puritan!
    • Funny Funny x 2
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  21. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother! This post makes me simultaneously laugh and rejoice. I don't believe I'm the most well-equipped brother give that final nudge, but I can pray!
  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I can be bribed. I mean the baptists often want to ban and boycott things like Harry Potter and wine, after all.
  23. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    You would love being a Reformed Presbyterian. We are the most subtle, soft-spoken and unopinionated group of Christians you will ever find. Yeah, there is the occasional chucking of wooden stools in service*, tomes on psalmody and instruments, political dissent, insistence on national covenanting, but usually to our great shame this life of understatement puts us too far under the radar. Though we did get a little bad press for all this in the 1600s. But we're proud to say we are 100% Cage-Stage Free. And you've been on PB long enough to testify that what I say is true. :)

    Some in the RPCNA use real wine at the Lord's Table. We've got John Paton. Will that do it?

    Can't help with HP, sorry.

    Do you need an address for those ginsu knives? Do I pay shipping, or do you? Trying to decide if this $1000 merits a 1099.

    *To be clear, this was the one time we've permitted a woman to teach in public worship
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  24. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    How about all the Harry Potter and wine you'd like? Responsibly, of course. Ingesting too much Harry Potter could result in a loss of good discernment and injuries due to jumping off the roof with your wife's broom thinking you're in a quidditch match.
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    No Harry Potter for me. Not because it is Satanic, but because J.K. Rowling stinks as a writer. I prefer H.P Lovecraft.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  26. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    How about Stephen King?
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    He cannot finish a story to save his life. It's all character development and then at the end he can't bring it all together. BUT....I used to love him and read the Stand in 4th grade and wrote him a letter telling him I wanted to be a writer. And...get this..he wrote me a personal letter back and sent me a stack of his old Writer's Digest magazines (with his circles and notes after he read the articles). I abhor his politics, but I have read that he has treated his fans well and writes many of them personal letters as he did me.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  28. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Have you ever read Donaldson, the power that preserves saga?
  29. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Never even heard of him.
  30. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Simply the best.
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