J. I. Packer on baptism

lumenite

Puritan Board Freshman

In this short clip, Packer says,

"What baptism is it's a matter of going under water and it's a sign that you've finished with the old life--the life without God that you were living before--
and then you come up from under the water and that is a sign that you are resurrected with Christ.
You are a new creature in him because the Holy Spirit is in your heart and you are a believer and you have a new identity.
You are a Christian now and you will live as a Christian for the rest of your life.
It's a most momentous thing as a matter of fact to be baptized. Well, just by saying that I hope I'm making it clear why baptism is important.
It's important because conversion is important. It's important because knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord is important.
It's important because becoming a new creature in Christ is important."

What do you think of his statement about baptism?
1) the going under/ coming up
2) the importance of conversion

Is he a credobaptist? Do you think that his statement fits for paedobaptism as well?
 
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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
No he was not a credobaptist. He was an Anglican minister. He seems to be here discussing the typical view of baptismal regeneration within Anglicanism.

The WCF has a very high view of baptism, but does not assume the regeneration promised to the elect happens at that exact moment like Anglicanism does. It should also be considered differently than the Campbellite view of baptismal regeneration, which declares one is only justified through immersion.

One more difference between the Presbyterian view and what he is articulating here is that paedobaptists partly baptize infants because we already consider them Christians (see the Westminster Assembly's Directory of Publick Worship on baptism)
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
His words fit well with the following verses:
"Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Rom. 6:4
"buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."
Col. 2:12
As an Anglican, he's a paedobaptist. Paedobaptists should still see baptism as a sign of regeneration.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
One does not have to be a credobaptist to believe conversion is important and is connected to baptism. A good paedobaptist is anticipating evidence of conversion when an infant is being baptized.

And one does not have to be an immerser to believe burial with Christ and resurrection to new life is part of the symbolism in baptism. It's in Romans 6 and Colossians 2 (and features prominently in the Anglican prayer book), and a good sprinkler understands that the imagery of "going under the water" is present even if dunking is not.

It has become a common Baptist misconception that these are exclusive to Baptists, and some paedobaptists have heard it so often that they start to believe it too. Happily, men like Packer have been around to set us straight.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
...a good sprinkler understands that the imagery of "going under the water" is present even if dunking is not. It has become a common Baptist misconception that these are exclusive to Baptists, and some paedobaptists have heard it so often that they start to believe it too. Happily, men like Packer have been around to set us straight.

If a broader view of history is taken, I would say the first part is at least partly correct. The vast majority of Protestants, including the Reformed, continued to hold to the historical understanding that the symbolism of burial and resurrection is biblically intended in baptism, at least until the 19th century. But I have come across literally scores of modern peadobaptist writings and now websites (whether theological, catechetical, apologetical, or even denominational) that now deny it, and as such effectively deny there is any significance at all in the idea of being under water. Men like Packer are more the exception in this regard, modernly speaking. So I don't think the fact that so many peado laypersons also deny or else are ignorant of it can really be laid at the feet of the Baptists. But I won't attempt to determine whom amongst all this is "a good sprinkler" or not... :um:

In terms of mode, again, historically, there was almost universal agreement among the Reformed that immersion was at least normative in the apostolic church, and was the means intended to effectively convey the symbolism of burial and resurrection. Aquinas seems to have been the first to posit that being under water in any fashion, such as when the ministers pours or sprinkles it on the recipient from above, can still represent at least a burial, if not a resurrection. Calvin was the first Protestant to specifically adopt this idea, though there were relatively few echos of this notion among the Reformed in the following several centuries. Rather, the symbolic aspect of being under water in any fashion was typically ignored, and the fact that baptism also represents a washing or cleansing was emphasized instead.

More subjectively, I think this kind of technical diminution too easily leads to taking further liberties and drawing less and less reasonable associations. One of the sillier ones I have found - and more than just once - is claiming that the symbolism of burial and resurrection historically attached to immersing the recipient is still effectively shown when the minister dips his fingers in the water to then sprinkle it.

But probably the biggest problem for me is all this is trying to square this kind of allowed abbreviation, as a surprising number of paedobaptist theologians have admitted non-immersion to be, with the Reformed sacramental virtue of insisting that the manner (mode) in which the Lord's Supper is administered must strictly adhere to apostolic practice, or at least to the extent possible.
 
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83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
In terms of mode, again, historically, there was almost universal agreement among the Reformed that immersion was at least normative in the apostolic church, and was the means intended to effectively convey the symbolism of burial and resurrection. Aquinas seems to have been the first to posit that being under water in any fashion, such as when the ministers pours or sprinkles it on the recipient from above, can still represent at least a burial, if not a resurrection. Calvin was the first Protestant to specifically adopt this idea, though there were relatively few echos of this notion among the Reformed in the following several centuries. Rather, the symbolic aspect of being under water in such a fashion was typically ignored, and the fact that baptism also represents a washing or cleansing was emphasized instead.

Sorry if this is going too far from the purpose of the thread - I'm curious what you're drawing from as sources for the "almost universal agreement" and for what time period do you mean? If you mean the early reformers, no objection. If you mean beyond that, generally the tradition, I'm not so sure I buy it. Not intending to debate the mode, just curious about the historical assessment.

Consider the definitive statement of the Westminster Confession: "Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person." (WCF 28.3) This seems to show that a significant portion of the Reformed within a century of Calvin considered sprinkling as the proper mode, not immersion (and continue to do so up through today). Owen also advocates against immersion in his short work on baptism (Works vol 16, 266-268).
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
But I have come across literally scores of modern peadobaptist writings and now websites (whether theological, catechetical, apologetical, or even denominational) that now deny it, and as such effectively deny there is any significance at all in the idea of being under water. Men like Packer are more the exception in this regard, modernly speaking. So I don't think the fact that so many peado laypersons also deny or else are ignorant of it can really be laid at the feet of the Baptists.
True enough. Just as there are Baptists who would claim that all paedobaptists ignore Romans 6, there are plenty of paedeobaptists who actually do ignore it in an attempt to steer clear of anything that might sound Baptist. The divide has its effects on both sides. But a healthy look at the imagery in baptism ought to acknowledge the underwater symbolism even if it is not necessarily seen to be the primary symbolism. I would say washing is a more central symbolism, but Romans 6, Colossians 2, 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, 1 Peter 3:20-21, and the many ancillary passages that treat water as a judgment or saving-from-judgment experience should not be overlooked just because they are not most central to the rite. As with the Lord's Supper, the imagery in baptism is multi-faceted. Both paedobaptist sprinklers and Baptists have a tendency sometimes to oversimplify it, each in their own direction.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Sorry if this is going too far from the purpose of the thread - I'm curious what you're drawing from as sources for the "almost universal agreement" and for what time period do you mean? If you mean the early reformers, no objection. If you mean beyond that, generally the tradition, I'm not so sure I buy it. Not intending to debate the mode, just curious about the historical assessment.

Consider the definitive statement of the Westminster Confession: "Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person." (WCF 28.3) This seems to show that a significant portion of the Reformed within a century of Calvin considered sprinkling as the proper mode, not immersion (and continue to do so up through today). Owen also advocates against immersion in his short work on baptism (Works vol 16, 266-268).

Perhaps "vast majority" would be most accurate overall. From my reading the continental Reformed were virtually all agreed through the early 1800's or so (that immersion was "normative" in apostolic times, along with it being an intentional symbol of burial and resurrection). If British Presbyterians are taken in aggregate with them, then there is somewhat less concord, but I would still say a considerable majority held to that view, at least as far as their extant writings go.

With regard to the Westminster divines, see this thread. Even the leader in the effort for the resulting terminology eventually (later) came to believe so. In my opinion, the minutes of the assembly tend to convey that immersion was being minimized largely due to Anabaptism and the emergence of the English Baptists, rather than because a majority deemed immersion wasn't the apostolic norm. But again, that's not explicit but only my sense of it.

In terms of overall theological expressions from the first three centuries among the Reformed, Owen would be the most notable dissenter I've found. The tone of his entire treatise, however, seems quite agitated as having been provoked by the shenanigans of the Presbyterian turned Baptist, John Tombes. Henry was somewhat agnostic on the matter. Some others were content to note what they perceived were apostolic exceptions to the rule, and say these examples show such can be accepted for general use.

I've tried to get away from too much name dropping over the years, but if desired I can specifically provide 50 or so quotations from within the Reformed realm to such effect, including from many of their most well-known theologians.
 
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83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
Perhaps "vast majority" would be most accurate overall. From my reading the continental Reformed were virtually all agreed through the early 1800's or so (that immersion was "normative" in apostolic times, along with it being an intentional symbol of burial and resurrection). If British Presbyterians are taken in aggregate with them, then there is somewhat less concord, but I would still say a considerable majority held to that view, at least as far as their extant writings go.

Awesome, thanks! Interesting stuff.
 

lumenite

Puritan Board Freshman
Amen & Amen!

I don't believe so.

I don't see why not...

The Orthodox practice looks very interesting. Is the reason they do three times because it is administered in the name of the Holy Trinity? Is there any other baptist group that immerses three times as Orthodox does?
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
The Orthodox practice looks very interesting. Is the reason they do three times because it is administered in the name of the Holy Trinity? Is there any other baptist group that immerses three times as Orthodox does?

This thread may be useful. While the EO still generally immerse their infants three times, I must say this is certainly the most exuberant example I've seen... In terms of Baptists, the practice doesn't seem very prevalent, although I know their were (are?) some smaller German-oriented groups that did so.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
The Orthodox practice looks very interesting. Is the reason they do three times because it is administered in the name of the Holy Trinity? Is there any other baptist group that immerses three times as Orthodox does?
Yes, they immerse three times for each person of the Godhead. As for any Baptists doing this, I think there may have been some Baptist groups that practiced it in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, but it was never widely practiced and I know of none that practice it today.
 
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