Help me understand PaedoBaptism (As a Credobaptist)

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by Michael E, Jan 20, 2020.

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  1. Romans5eight

    Romans5eight Puritan Board Freshman

    PaedoBaptism is hard to understand for a Baptist because it is not an argument solely from the New Testament. Although there are NT verses that make no sense from a believers only baptism viewpoint (See Col. 2:11-12)

    It’s easy to get bogged down with all the complex and varying views on covenant theology, but the idea of baptizing believers and their children is simple.

    I think my personal confusion with the idea of believer’s only baptism was rooted in the idea that only New Testament believers are born again by the Holy Spirit which started in time in the New Testament era at Pentecost/great commission. So Baptism to me was a visible sign of an new inward reality.

    But, if you see that the old and New Testament church is one body of true regenerate believers, and all Israel has to be born again, as Jesus told Israel’s teacher Nicodemus, then you wouldn’t have an issue with infants being circumcised or baptized before a profession of faith since both are signs of God’s promise and not a sure sign of our personal decision in salvation.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  2. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member


    Colin, this article is by a Dispensational theologian and it undermines the covenant theology of the 1689 Baptist Confession - the confession you hold to according to your signature.

    It is important to grasp this point. Dispensationalism is no friend of the Reformed Baptist view of the covenant. It also is an unacceptable view on the Puritan Board. The Puritan Board rules specify Reformed confessional requirements. It is important to note this.

    I am not sure if you wanted to make a particular hermeneutical argument based on this article. If so please state it. But as the article itself is quite critical of covenant theology I am unsure if it is of any help to you in making a specific argument. As I said, the information in this article undermines (and undermines quite seriously In my humble opinion) the covenant theology of the 1689 Baptist Confession.
  3. Colin

    Colin Puritan Board Freshman

    Sorry uploaded the wrong link. 'Post Deleted'
  4. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Lane, R. Fowler White's name is at the top of each page.

    I see on your profile page (Information tab) that you are an ordained minister in the PCA. Are you not an ordained minister in the OPC? Carl Trueman has said PCA ministers "are not far from the kingdom of God." Mark 12:34. I assume you read Vos on the kingdom then moved to the OPC? ;);) I had to use Vos as part of my clarification :)

    Seriously, I have been enjoying your posts on Baptism. It is strengthening my thinking on this. I am skimming through Jewett's book "Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace". A Reformed Baptist friend wants to keep me in the Baptist camp and suggested the book. The argument is that Jewett points out numerous inconsistencies with the paedobaptist position (eg, that paedocommunion is the logical extension of infant baptism, and that the exegesis of Col 2:11-13 demands a Baptist interpretation). I don't know if you have read Jewett but I might formulate a few questions for your comment in the next day or so. I am sure it will instruct others on this forum as well. By the way I find some of Jewett's critiques shallow if not misleading. Eg, he does not allow for the paedobaptist distinction between the visible and invisible church in his argument.
  5. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    I've been reading Jewett's book as well. I wanted to try to find "the best of the best" to see if I could convince myself back into the Baptist camp (yes, I read Denault's book too, which I found interesting but ultimately unconvincing re. the Covenant of Grace). So far, no luck. ;)

    One of the problems with RB use of Jewett, however, is that his understanding of the sacrament is not RB. For example, he allows that children can and should be baptized upon profession of faith. All the RBs (and many Southern Baptists) I know do not allow for this as an acceptable practice, although they may accept such baptism as irregular.

    There were some other distinctions as well that I can't recall at the moment. I need to finish it someday.
  6. Michael E

    Michael E Puritan Board Freshman

    This has all been incredibly helpful and insightful. I look forward to digging into some of the more time consuming resources here shortly. Thank you all!
  7. Colin

    Colin Puritan Board Freshman

    Here is the link I intended:
  8. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    This is true in my experience as well. But, also in my experience, the reverse is not necessarily true. I mean the Baptist has been baptized. Right? But the Baptists often, no usually will not accept someone's infant baptism as legitimate for membership in the church. I only mentioned this to point out which group is more inclusive in their acceptance of the whole body of Christ. While this is not proof of which position this correct, it is something to consider while mulling this over in your mind.
  9. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Stephen, my current perception is that Jewett's is the best argument for the credo position in existence, precisely because he takes a covenantal stance on the relation of the testaments. As for paedocommunion, Cornel Venema has answered this particular question exceedingly well in his treatment of the subject. In short, 1 Corinthians 11 requires a level of self-examination not possible in infants. As in most Reformed understandings of the OT/NT, there is continuity and discontinuity. The subjects for covenantal membership is an area of continuity, while the sacraments themselves have both continuity and discontinuity with the OT signs and seals. They point to the same thing (continuity), but do so in a different manner (e.g., bloody vs. non-bloody in the case of circumcision/baptism).

    Also, the proper understanding of the two sacraments indicates that they function differently with regard to the subjects. This is a major difference between credos and paedos. Jewett is not the only one to argue that what works for one sacrament ought to work for the other. However, a reading of Berkhof's ST will reveal that the Reformed position is that the subjects of baptism are entirely passive, while the subjects of the Lord's Supper are both passive and active. The assumption behind Jewett's critique, therefore, only works within the credo perspective. Once the sacraments are allowed to work differently, the critique falls to the ground.
  10. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

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  11. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I figured you would see the strawman arguments I saw. Good Job!!!
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  12. Colin

    Colin Puritan Board Freshman

  13. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

  14. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Agreed. I first saw this article as it was circulated among some Reformed Baptist churches in Australia. I have no doubt Lane will deal with the straw man arguments. I'll just deal with one issue. He implies that Paedobaptists undermine the Regulative Principle of worship. As Reformed Baptist Greg Welty pointed out on the Reformed Baptist Discussion List a few years ago, the argument is fallacious because the issue is more about hermeneutics. But I found the argument to be a double standard because many Reformed Baptist churches in my country have a weak understanding of the RPW. Further, it has been my experience that Confessional Paedobaptists are better at utilising the Doxological Principle of Worship. That is why I am excited about Wes Bredenhof's new book "Aiming to Please". Wes made the statement:
    One of the congregations of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (the beautiful Scottish city of Dunedin [I am biased as a South Islander and a Scotsman :) ] ) has this helpful summary of the DPW. I think strengthening the links between Covenant Theology, the RPW and the DPW is a great development. Again it adds to the irony when Reformed Baptists say Paedobpatists weaken the RPW when they are slow to see the link between Covenant Theology and worship.
  15. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Tom Hicks argues:
    "Third, the Reformed Paedobaptist doctrine of the covenant of grace ascribes saving power to the OT covenants of promise. But this is impossible since the OT covenants of promise, including the Abrahamic covenant, were established on the shed blood of animals and imperfect human mediators. The OT covenants of promise commanded their members to trust the Lord, to love the Lord, and obey the Lord. But the OT covenants did not provide their members with the power to obey their commands. The shed blood of animals and human mediators never gave grace needed for regeneration, justification, sanctification, and perseverance. That only comes from the shed blood of Christ and His mediation. The paedobaptist notion of a “saving substance” in the OT covenants is foreign to the Bible."

    This is dreadful. I'm not surprised Lane regards the argument as closet dispensationalism:

    "I have answered this partially above, but a few more thoughts on the rest of the paragraph are in order. Does he really believe that the Holy Spirit was not given to OT saints? This is dispensational teaching, not Reformed teaching. He seems to be laboring under the lack of distinction between the Holy Spirit being poured out at Pentecost, which had to do with giving offices/gifts to people, versus the regenerative power of the salvific presence of the Holy Spirit, which was most certainly present in OT saints. Furthermore, his position opens itself up to a highly ambiguous situation. Is the substance of the OT covenants Christ or not? If it is, then the substance of the OT covenants is the same as that of the new, which he did seem to imply when he said, “They correctly teach that after Adam’s fall, the whole Bible is unified by one covenant of grace.” But now he wants to say that the substance of the OT is not the saving covenant of grace at all. Obviously I agree (and paedos, too) that it wasn’t the shed blood of animals and human mediators itself that gives grace for justification. But that is quite different from saying that OT saints didn’t have those things. They did. And it was the blood of animals and human mediators that pointed to the blood of the Lamb and the One Mediator to end all mediators. The substance of the OT covenants was in promise form, yes. But that promise form still presents Christ Himself, and it is by the promised Christ that OT believers were saved. Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. He saw it and was glad, Jesus tells us. Mr. Hicks’s position on this is confusing."
  16. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Are you aware there are a number of Particular Baptist works out now on this subject post Jewett? I know your friend reviewed one on your blog. A recent one is by Dr Sam Renihan "The Mystery of Christ, His Covenant, and His Kingdom". I see under the commendations tab that OPC pastor David VanDrunen 'recommends' the book. Sam also wrote an essay on the covenantal Baptist position. I started a PB post about this a few weeks ago. I have not read Sam's book but I see he starts the book (see table of contents tab) with a chapter on typology (ch 2). My suspicion is that he uses Vos' approach to typology to argue for the Historic Redemptive argument appropriate for a Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology. I say suspicion because my reading of previous writings of Dr Renihan is that he is a Baptist flavour of Meredith Kline and 'stretches' Vos' Historic Redemptive approach further than Vos would. In other words, I do wonder if Renihan falls into the trap of an implicit dispensationalism that you noted in Tom Hick's essay.
    I could not find this reference in Berkhof but Bavinck's RD 4:583f confirms your argument.
    I am coming to see now the significance of this Paedobaptist argument now. Could you expand on this please.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
  17. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Stephen, I am aware that several works have come out. I have not read them, so my information on them is negligible, and you probably are better informed on more recent RB arguments than I am. Jewett is still very highly regarded in paedo circles as the book that takes covenantal theology most seriously, and is therefore fruitful ground for greater rapprochement between RB's and paedos. I have no doubt that some of the later works also take covenant theology very seriously, and are less Dispensational-flavored than Tom Hicks is. I will try to flesh out the sign-seal argument as you request.
  18. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    As for Berkhof, it is more implied than stated. He implies it when he mentions the efficacy not being limited to the moment of administration (640), whereas in his discussion of the LS, he mentions what is required to participate (especially the top of 656, where he says, "Its effective operation is dependent, not only on the presence, but on the activity, of faith in the recipient".
  19. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

  20. RickG

    RickG Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Michael. Not sure if this will help, but I wrote a summary of my thinking earlier in my journey on this great subject. It is basically a brief summary a melding of the key points that stood out (to me at least) of two quite common basic 'primers' on this issue: "Children of the Promise" and "William the Baptist". Problem is, one can read the points, and they have little meaning, unless one is grappling with them at full length while doing the reading personally. However, I found it a useful exercise. Since then, I still uphold the key elements there that challenged and changed my thinking, but am also moving on to other areas of question on the topic. The points are brief and simplistic, and much lengthier and detailed arguments are given by others above, and in other forums of course.

    Attached Files:

  21. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Lane, I just read your second response to Tom Hicks with great profit. I think you have hit the nail on the head. 1689 Federalism wants to calve itself out as the true interpretation of chapter 7 of the 1689 Baptist Confession yet emphasises discontinuities between the Old and New Covenants in a way that Reformed Baptists would not have done 20 years ago. I think your comment "Only retroactively does the gospel apply to OT believers" highlights the problem here.

    I did want to add if you want to understand more fully where Mr Hicks is coming from as you continue to critique him (or other similar writers), you may want to visit the 1689 Federalism website which has extensive information - videos books, essays etc explaining their position. Their FAQ page has quite a bit of information on their view of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants.

    Regarding Mr Hicks comment "Historic Reformed Baptists had a better way", Dr Sam Renihan (who I mentioned in my previous post) did his PhD on this area. His book "From Shadow to Substance: The Federal Theology of the English Particular Baptists (1642-1704)", is a full Baptist study of how the early Baptists developed their covenant theology and how they debated this with their paedobaptist brethren.
    Thank you Lane. Look forward to it.

    Robert @Reformed Bookworm look forward to your research articles on the apostasy passages in Hebrews you kindly promised a little while ago.
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