Paedo vs Credo View On Children’s Songs

erickinho1bra

Puritan Board Freshman
Paedobaptist brothers, how do you view songs like “Jesus Loves Me” (which I think was originally from a book written by a Presbyterian woman)? Do you feel uncomfortable at all teaching your children to sing the part of that song that says “He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in” when they have not professed faith yet? Or Ellie Holcomb’s (who I believe is Presbyterian) song “Don’t Forget To Remember” that says “Even on days you forget what is true, Don’t forget to remember God won’t forget you”? If you don’t feel uncomfortable singing these songs to your children and having them sing them before they profess faith, is that because you believe “the promise is to you and your children” (Acts 2:39)?
If you DO feel uncomfortable, why is that?

Credobaptist brothers, do you think you feel uncomfortable with those two songs listed above? If not, is it because you want them to sing those words and for them to desire those things (e.g. that God would wash away their sins and that they would get into Heaven)? Or that some of those truths are true about them (e.g. that God does love them in some beneficent or benevolent way, or that God won’t forget anyone so of course God will remember to care for your children in a common grace kind of way)?
If you DO feel uncomfortable, is it because you think you are treating your child like a believer and that is inappropriate?

I have twins and love them to death. I am currently still credobaptist by default (I’ve only ever gone to Baptists-like churches). I love singing these songs but feel like maybe I shouldn’t unless I get to the place where I am convinced of paedobaptism.
I want to believe my children are actually God’s children and that He views them differently than the children of the haters of God and that they are “externally and covenantally” sanctified by being children of believing parents but I’m just not there yet. Anyway, all responses are welcome.

Love you guys! Thank you for unknowingly being such an encouragement to me for a long time!
 
I have a problem with a lot of worship songs that put the singer in a position of insincerity. Regarding the above, it depends where a child is at with the Lord. True faith can exist quite young and we should not keep our kids from the Lord if they desire Him. I taught my kids to only sing and pray what they really meant. A parent can guide but can’t be a child’s conscience.
 
I think "hopeful presumption" is at the heart of how this paedobaptist views his children. We read to them, teach them, encourage them to pray and reflect - they are part and parcel of every spiritual exercise in our family life and they are treated as presumptive believers in the hope and trust that the covenant promises are available to them.

At the same time, I do teach them that growing up in a covenant household does not mean automatic Christianity and that they must appropriate these truths for themselves. We pray privately and corporately for the salvation of all, and we are encouraged when our children seem to show evidence of true faith and discouraged in moments of difficulty and rebellion. I preach to all of us - myself and my wife as well as all our children - of the need to confirm our calling and election and to bring forth fruit that evidences our salvation.

When it comes to singing such hymns, I absolutely, one hundred percent, without a doubt believe it highly important that all believers teach psalms, hymns, songs, scriptures, creeds, and catechisms to their children. Have them internalize as much as possible. Should they - Lord forbid - manifest a heart of unbelief, should the Holy Spirit delay his work in their life, this will do two things. First, it will sharpen the miserable conflict caused by their unbelief. Second, it provides a ready-made house for the Spirit to inhabit when he does enter their hearts and awaken them. Now it's not always promised that there will be a "when" or that every covenant child will be in heaven, but that is where I simply obey and trust, leaving the secret things to the Lord. The Israelites circumcised their children in hope and in hope they taught them when they rose and when they retired and that pattern still holds today.
 
I have a problem with a lot of worship songs that put the singer in a position of insincerity. Regarding the above, it depends where a child is at with the Lord. True faith can exist quite young and we should not keep our kids from the Lord if they desire Him. I taught my kids to only sing and pray what they really meant. A parent can guide but can’t be a child’s conscience.
That’s helpful. So did you ever speak to them some of the promises or blessings of the OT to them like Numbers 6:24-26? Are promises like those meant for believers or can they be said to anyone?
 
I think "hopeful presumption" is at the heart of how this paedobaptist views his children. We read to them, teach them, encourage them to pray and reflect - they are part and parcel of every spiritual exercise in our family life and they are treated as presumptive believers in the hope and trust that the covenant promises are available to them.

At the same time, I do teach them that growing up in a covenant household does not mean automatic Christianity and that they must appropriate these truths for themselves. We pray privately and corporately for the salvation of all, and we are encouraged when our children seem to show evidence of true faith and discouraged in moments of difficulty and rebellion. I preach to all of us - myself and my wife as well as all our children - of the need to confirm our calling and election and to bring forth fruit that evidences our salvation.

When it comes to singing such hymns, I absolutely, one hundred percent, without a doubt believe it highly important that all believers teach psalms, hymns, songs, scriptures, creeds, and catechisms to their children. Have them internalize as much as possible. Should they - Lord forbid - manifest a heart of unbelief, should the Holy Spirit delay his work in their life, this will do two things. First, it will sharpen the miserable conflict caused by their unbelief. Second, it provides a ready-made house for the Spirit to inhabit when he does enter their hearts and awaken them. Now it's not always promised that there will be a "when" or that every covenant child will be in heaven, but that is where I simply obey and trust, leaving the secret things to the Lord. The Israelites circumcised their children in hope and in hope they taught them when they rose and when they retired and that pattern still holds today.
That makes sense. Thank you for the reply. That’s how I’ve understood the Presbyterian and Reformed position on instructing children— that there’s an assumption of covenant succession but there is still a call to each covenant child to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

Just curious, as I asked above, did you ever speak to them some of the promises or blessings of the OT to them like Numbers 6:24-26? Are promises like those meant for believers, believers and their children, only for the nation of Israel (I grew up dispensational so I apologize if that sounds ridiculous to you xD ), or anyone in general (even if they aren’t believers)?

Also, is it the Presbyterian and Reformed position that children of Baptist believers are covenant children even though their parents are not submitting to the call to baptize their children? Should someone who is on the fence on baptism be very concerned if they haven’t baptized their children because they haven’t done an in-depth study on baptism to come to a solid position on the matter?
I’m basically wondering if in the future I do become convinced of the Presbyterian and Reformed position on baptism and baptize my children then, does that mean they were outside the covenant that whole time they weren’t baptized? Did they miss out on any covenant blessings because I delayed their baptism while I was still studying the matter?

I appreciate and anticipate your response, brother
 
Not only would I pronounce such promises but my daughter, Hannah Duguid Estes, wrote a book to help parents do just that:

 
That makes sense. Thank you for the reply. That’s how I’ve understood the Presbyterian and Reformed position on instructing children— that there’s an assumption of covenant succession but there is still a call to each covenant child to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

Just curious, as I asked above, did you ever speak to them some of the promises or blessings of the OT to them like Numbers 6:24-26? Are promises like those meant for believers, believers and their children, only for the nation of Israel (I grew up dispensational so I apologize if that sounds ridiculous to you xD ), or anyone in general (even if they aren’t believers)?

Yes, we frequently put them to bed with the Aaronic blessing, believing that it is to be offered to all who are under the covenant promises, and made effectual to the elect, now as in the OT.

Also, is it the Presbyterian and Reformed position that children of Baptist believers are covenant children even though their parents are not submitting to the call to baptize their children? Should someone who is on the fence on baptism be very concerned if they haven’t baptized their children because they haven’t done an in-depth study on baptism to come to a solid position on the matter?
I’m basically wondering if in the future I do become convinced of the Presbyterian and Reformed position on baptism and baptize my children then, does that mean they were outside the covenant that whole time they weren’t baptized? Did they miss out on any covenant blessings because I delayed their baptism while I was still studying the matter?

I appreciate and anticipate your response, brother

The paedobaptist viewpoint as I understand is that a credobaptist parent has withheld the Biblically-required sign of the covenant promises from their child. I'm not sure what more knowledgeable paedobaptists would say regarding whether this removes your child from the covenant. I know that we would at least consider it an act of disobedience. Personally, I would tend to say that a child of Baptist parents who is regularly instructed in the ways of the Lord at home is better off than a Presbyterian child whose parents baptized him, checked that off their to-do list, then went on with their lives. And I acknowledge that God commands obedience for obedience's sake and by way of setting up a normal ordinary state of affairs, while reserving the right to save and pass over children from all backgrounds.

On my end, because I believe it is a Biblical command to baptize my infant children, I would not WANT to run the risk of disobeying that command or falling prey to the other associated errors which I see in the Baptist position - so it's not a question of whether I think I have placed my child outside of the covenant or whatever other specific ramifications might come to mind. I do not wish to disobey and find out. Of course, a credobaptist will see the matter very differently.
 
I've never understood the supposed disparity in this matter. Credos can and do raise their children as covenant children from God, in the instruction and nurture of the Lord. Applying the sign and seal of baptism upon a profession of faith, per Scripture, does nothing to change that.
 
Not only would I pronounce such promises but my daughter, Hannah Duguid Estes, wrote a book to help parents do just that:

Dr. Duguid, thank you for your reply! My wife actually bought that book and she reads it to our 8-month old twins regularly! It’s a wonderful book.

Your daughter’s book is actually one of the things that sparked this question (along with the two aforementioned songs). I grew up in an old-school dispensational household and hearing my dad pronounce these blessings over me (dispensationalists, as I’m sure you know, are not very consistent with their use of the Old Testament) and I found it a little bit sad that, if I am a consistent credobaptist, I can’t and shouldn’t declare these promises to my children until they profess faith.

Anyway, maybe I’m being inconsistent or slowly transitioning to the Reformed tradition but I still pronounce these to them.
 
I've never understood the supposed disparity in this matter. Credos can and do raise their children as covenant children from God, in the instruction and nurture of the Lord. Applying the sign and seal of baptism upon a profession of faith, per Scripture, does nothing to change that.
I think nearly every Presbyterian on this board would call that a blessed inconsistency.
 
Yes, we frequently put them to bed with the Aaronic blessing, believing that it is to be offered to all who are under the covenant promises, and made effectual to the elect, now as in the OT.



The paedobaptist viewpoint as I understand is that a credobaptist parent has withheld the Biblically-required sign of the covenant promises from their child. I'm not sure what more knowledgeable paedobaptists would say regarding whether this removes your child from the covenant. I know that we would at least consider it an act of disobedience. Personally, I would tend to say that a child of Baptist parents who is regularly instructed in the ways of the Lord at home is better off than a Presbyterian child whose parents baptized him, checked that off their to-do list, then went on with their lives. And I acknowledge that God commands obedience for obedience's sake and by way of setting up a normal ordinary state of affairs, while reserving the right to save and pass over children from all backgrounds.

On my end, because I believe it is a Biblical command to baptize my infant children, I would not WANT to run the risk of disobeying that command or falling prey to the other associated errors which I see in the Baptist position - so it's not a question of whether I think I have placed my child outside of the covenant or whatever other specific ramifications might come to mind. I do not wish to disobey and find out. Of course, a credobaptist will see the matter very differently.
I understand that. Yeah, I want to do what I ought to for my children and don’t want to end up being a “husband of blood” to my wife (Exodus 4:24-26) for not baptizing my children. I pray God grants my family grace as I seek to carefully study this topic.

I appreciate your time in replying, brother JP.
 
I've never understood the supposed disparity in this matter. Credos can and do raise their children as covenant children from God, in the instruction and nurture of the Lord. Applying the sign and seal of baptism upon a profession of faith, per Scripture, does nothing to change that.
Would you put an emphasis on the “as” in the phrase “as covenant children from God” since children of Baptist parents don’t bear the seal of the covenant and therefore are not actually “covenant children from God” (thought they still definitely are blessings from God)?
(I say this as a credobaptist myself so please don’t take it in an offensive way if I didn’t word that well, brother)
 
I understand that. Yeah, I want to do what I ought to for my children and don’t want to end up being a “husband of blood” to my wife (Exodus 4:24-26) for not baptizing my children. I pray God grants my family grace as I seek to carefully study this topic.

I appreciate your time in replying, brother JP.
It never hurts to let your family openly see you in prayer and wrestling with this topic. It shows them that you see yourself as a sinner and one who is seeking the will of a higher authority than yourself. And don't forget to embrace what we paedobaptists would call the "blessed inconsistency"; immerse (ok, pun slightly intended) your children in scriptural truths from a young age and live them out in your daily walk.
 
Would you put an emphasis on the “as” in the phrase “as covenant children from God” since children of Baptist parents don’t bear the seal of the covenant and therefore are not actually “covenant children from God” (thought they still definitely are blessings from God)?
(I say this as a credobaptist myself so please don’t take it in an offensive way if I didn’t word that well, brother)

What I mean is children in any Christian home are presumably raised in the nurture of the Lord. While I don't believe in the presumptive regeneration of infants, I do believe it is proper to have the expectation that they will realize the saving promises we teach to them, whether by catechism or song, once they have the ability to appropriate them by personal faith. The timing of baptism has nothing to do with their eternal calling and election. Both sides are acting in good faith according to what they believe Scripture truly teaches.
 
Also, is it the Presbyterian and Reformed position that children of Baptist believers are covenant children even though their parents are not submitting to the call to baptize their children?
Children are baptized because they are covenant/set apart/holy children by birthright - baptism does not make them holy, it recognizes that they are already so: "...the unbelieving husband is sanctified to the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified to the husband, else were your children unclean: but now are they holy" (1 Corinthians 7.14).
 
Children are baptized because they are covenant/set apart/holy children by birthright - baptism does not make them holy, it recognizes that they are already so: "...the unbelieving husband is sanctified to the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified to the husband, else were your children unclean: but now are they holy" (1 Corinthians 7.14).
That's helpful - thank you.
 
You're welcome - that understanding is largely what led me away from a credo position many years ago.
In fairness, I don't believe credos argue that baptism makes one holy, do they? Just that they view more as an individual declaration of one's salvation rather than an outward sign of a covenant promise.
 
In fairness, I don't believe credos argue that baptism makes one holy, do they? Just that they view more as an individual declaration of one's salvation rather than an outward sign of a covenant promise.
I know my church doesn't. They teach that baptism in a similar way to how Zwingli spoke of the Lord's Supper (symbolic and commemorative only).
Baptism is seen as an "outward expression of an internal change"
 
I thought you were going to ask about “Father Abraham,” a song commonly sung in Vacation Bible School. I know that some Calvinistic Baptists are against it. I don’t know whether or not they also oppose the things that you mention. As for those, a lot of people are only familiar with the first verse of “Jesus Loves Me,” although I suppose some might have a problem with “little ones to him belong” too, especially if they teach that “little ones” do not necessarily go to heaven. I’ve been a member of Baptist and Presbyterian churches and can’t recall ever having heard the second song you mention. Having looked it up, it looks like something new. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that some of us are suspicious of anything new. :)

Another thing to keep in mind is that the trend in mainstream evangelical and Baptist churches in recent decades has been to baptize at younger and younger ages. There seems to be a similar trend among Presbyterians with 5 and 6 year olds being admitted to the Lord’s Supper in some congregations. The sense I have is that more strictly confessional congregations are more resistant to this.
 
In fairness, I don't believe credos argue that baptism makes one holy, do they?
No, sorry - that wasn't what I was trying to communicate. Rather it was the idea that since they are holy they should be baptized - why withhold the sacrament from one who is set apart from birth?
 
I thought you were going to ask about “Father Abraham,” a song commonly sung in Vacation Bible School. I know that some Calvinistic Baptists are against it. I don’t know whether or not they also oppose the things that you mention. As for those, a lot of people are only familiar with the first verse of “Jesus Loves Me,” although I suppose some might have a problem with “little ones to him belong” too, especially if they teach that “little ones” do not necessarily go to heaven. I’ve been a member of Baptist and Presbyterian churches and can’t recall ever having heard the second song you mention. Having looked it up, it looks like something new. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that some of us are suspicious of anything new. :)

Another thing to keep in mind is that the trend in mainstream evangelical and Baptist churches in recent decades has been to baptize at younger and younger ages. There seems to be a similar trend among Presbyterians with 5 and 6 year olds being admitted to the Lord’s Supper in some congregations. The sense I have is that more strictly confessional congregations are more resistant to this.
haha I actually have wondered about that song because we do sing it at my church (Grace Community Church). I assume they just mean "I am Abraham's spiritual offspring but not his natural offspring, therefore the 'land, seed, and blessing' promise is not for me." John MacArthur (my pastor), does teach that "little ones" do belong to God because "before the age of accountability", they are God's and if they pass, they pass into the arms of Christ. But he would say that about any child that passes and not just children of believers, so it is not a Reformed view of children "belonging" to God, per se.

Regarding Ellie Holcomb's song, it's just a song my wife and I like to sing to our babies. I don't know of any churches that sing it either but it just seemed like a good example of covenantal-like promises sung to children before many of them can/do profess faith
 
It does not matter whether you are Baptist or Presbyterian. Your children are part of a Christian family and, I presume, also part of a Christian church insofar as they take part in its worship and receive teaching even if they aren't official by baptism yet. As a part of these godly communities, they should participate in prayer, singing, etc. alongside the other members of these Christian communities. They should sing the same songs and pray the same words. They are learning what it means to be a child of God and a member of his family. They are being discipled through their active participation in the Christian community.

Unless they start rejecting it, always talk to church kids and kids in a Christian family as if they are part of the community of believers. Yes, at times you also should urge them to confirm this with heartfelt repentance and faith, and eventually to profess their faith officially. You know they might not yet be saved. But while they are children, your responsibility is to train them "in the Lord"—to disciple them. And you simply cannot disciple anyone while also telling them their status is that of an enemy of God who at this point is headed for eternal punishment.

What would you do? Would you separate out the children from the rest of the congregation, and then have the adults sing "Jesus loves me, this I know" while the kids sing, "Jesus might love me or might hate me, I don't know yet"? Would you pray for yourself, "My Father who art in heaven" but teach your kids to address God as "My Enemy" until the time you are convinced they show enough faith to call him Father? No, you wouldn't do that. You know it would be impossible to disciple those kids effectively like that. They could never learn to love God that way.

Even if you are a Baptist, don't think so individualistically. God has placed your children in a family and in a church. The family and church confess and practice faith together. Don't be uncomfortable doing this. It's a precious gift God has given your children.
 
It does not matter whether you are Baptist or Presbyterian. Your children are part of a Christian family and, I presume, also part of a Christian church insofar as they take part in its worship and receive teaching even if they aren't official by baptism yet. As a part of these godly communities, they should participate in prayer, singing, etc. alongside the other members of these Christian communities. They should sing the same songs and pray the same words. They are learning what it means to be a child of God and a member of his family. They are being discipled through their active participation in the Christian community.

Unless they start rejecting it, always talk to church kids and kids in a Christian family as if they are part of the community of believers. Yes, at times you also should urge them to confirm this with heartfelt repentance and faith, and eventually to profess their faith officially. You know they might not yet be saved. But while they are children, your responsibility is to train them "in the Lord"—to disciple them. And you simply cannot disciple anyone while also telling them their status is that of an enemy of God who at this point is headed for eternal punishment.

What would you do? Would you separate out the children from the rest of the congregation, and then have the adults sing "Jesus loves me, this I know" while the kids sing, "Jesus might love me or might hate me, I don't know yet"? Would you pray for yourself, "My Father who art in heaven" but teach your kids to address God as "My Enemy" until the time you are convinced they show enough faith to call him Father? No, you wouldn't do that. You know it would be impossible to disciple those kids effectively like that. They could never learn to love God that way.

Even if you are a Baptist, don't think so individualistically. God has placed your children in a family and in a church. The family and church confess and practice faith together. Don't be uncomfortable doing this. It's a precious gift God has given your children.
Thank you, brother Jack. I appreciate the encouragement. I think that is very practical and God-glorifying advice!
 
I think the answers here reflect the fact that it's not just hymns such as "Jesus loves me," which may or may not be the best songs in worship, but how a child worships with his family and his status in the Covenant community.

It strikes at the difference between what a Presbyterian/Reformed Church considers a disciple and the administration of baptism.

Baptists consider a disciple to be for those who are regenerated historically, and Profession is the requirement to receive baptism. Baptism is a sign/testimony of the person's faith. This view does not preclude children from singing Psalms or Hymns with the congregation, praying at Church/home, etc but the Baptist waits until profession to note that the individual is presumptively regenerate and now a disciple.

The Presbyterian/Reformed view is that the commands to raise a child in the Lord and to be taught all that Christ has commanded is co-extensive with the notion that they are Covenantally disciples. Their participation in worship in the Church and home and instruction is consistent with their status as set apart for the purposes of Christian discipleship as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20.

It's not that the Reformed confessions downplay conversion, but our Sacramental theology notes that sign and seal are not connected in a sense that we believe that the person baptized has been sealed by the Spirit with the graces signified.

For that matter, when a Presbyterian/Reformed Church baptized someone who professes faith from outside a Covenant family, the same notion applies. Baptism is not for the "recognition" of being presumed regenerate but for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church with all the attendant promises annexed by the declaration of the minister to the party baptized. We are not baptizing and, in affect, saying to the party baptized: "This sign signifies your faith." What we are saying is: "This sign signifies God's promise to save all those who have faith, and all its benefits are yours by the Spirit according to HIs Sovereign application of them to you."

Thus, every person (child or adult) who is baptized participates in the hearing of the Scriptures and preaching and singing praises to God. Since it is up to the Spirit to make sealing application of the grace procured by Christ, we do not need to determine the time or the season of this application and press in, together, young and old.
 
For that matter, when a Presbyterian/Reformed Church baptized someone who professes faith from outside a Covenant family, the same notion applies. Baptism is not for the "recognition" of being presumed regenerate but for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church with all the attendant promises annexed by the declaration of the minister to the party baptized. We are not baptizing and, in affect, saying to the party baptized: "This sign signifies your faith." What we are saying is: "This sign signifies God's promise to save all those who have faith, and all its benefits are yours by the Spirit according to HIs Sovereign application of them to you."
This is a really interesting point. I confess I have had a tendency to think of us in some ways as credobaptists who also baptize babies. At least, it had not occurred to me that even adult baptisms might have a different theological undergirding between credo and paedo views. But it makes sense that, for a paedobaptist, there is one framework for all baptisms, whether those of a covenant child or of a converted third-world animist: baptism as sign and seal of initiation into a set of covenant promises, not as a declaration of saving faith on the part of the individual.
 
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