Paedo-Baptism Answers Purpose of Baptism

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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
In various passages it describes a person believing and an apostle stating that their household will be saved. What happens when an individual in ones household doesn't believe or is incapable of believing. In other words, why would you baptize somebody who doesn't believe. So many verses describe that the pattern is believe and be baptized. One thing I never understood regarding paedobaptism relates to what a child is missing if one doesn’t baptize an infant of a believer.

What benefits does one receive and what are they lacking if they don't receive it?
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
One thing I never understood regarding paedobaptism relates to what a child is missing if one doesn’t baptize an infant of a believer.

What benefits does one receive and what are they lacking if they don't receive it?
I personally as a Reformed Baptist for 30 years and a an observing member of two Presbyterian Congregations of more than 15 years during that time and after my change from RB to RCT (Reformed Covenant Theologian) for 9 years can give you some answers. Wow, that was a long sentence. I have seen the benefits of what I can consider to be both.

I will chime in later actually. I want to see this theologically pulled out. I will admit that I have seen better fruit in the Reformed camp.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
“What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”
‭‭-Romans‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭

To the one who believes in infant or household baptism, there is to us a link of the sign to the covenant. And that covenant made with Abraham which is an everlasting covenant and which is “to you and your descendants” which is the same promise communicated in Acts 2:37ff regarding baptism. So to us the question is the same, what benefit did Ishmael have in being circumcised?

Ultimately though, for someone who believes in credo baptism only, none of this will make sense or a bit of difference. Because you are, for an illustration, trying to understand why I use 5.56 in my .223 wylde before you even know what a gun is.

At the end of the day, you have to understand our position on Covenant theology before you can understand the signs of the covenants.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Ultimately though, for someone who believes in credo baptism only, none of this will make sense or a bit of difference. Because you are, for an illustration, trying to understand why I use 5.56 in my .223 wylde before you even know what a gun is.
Wow! How do you say what?, in slang. Huh? with more accent on the u? Okay, What?

Try telling me about a God that is one and three.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
<must... resist... urge... to... comment...> Fail.

Hi Robert,
When someone in the age before Christ's first coming believed in the God and Hope of Israel, he (if he was a male) would be marked with the sign of the covenant. And, if he had a household, that house would also be marked (in the males) down to the little ones.

You may not read the relevant NT passages this way, which speak in exactly the same covenant-terms of houses being baptized, but you should understand that we DO read them that way.

You write, "So many verses describe that the pattern is believe and be baptized." But then, you put a filter on the passages that refer to household baptism--you'd probably call it a "NT filter"--and propose to interpret all those references through the verses on which you've placed priority.

See how it goes, for both sides? Pattern discerned ---> influences interpretation. You prioritize a pattern you find in certain NT scenes where adults are engaged in evangelistic interaction; and then interpret other scenes by that rule. We prioritize a pattern we find in a combination of OT/NT passages where God's visible people are outwardly marked; and then interpret various scenes by that rule.

The benefit of such a mark, to the elect person, regardless of when he is given that mark, is understanding and appreciating that God has put his mark on him. A child of the covenant (be it OT or NT) who believes what his mark witnesses, should be awestruck by the knowledge that God put that mark of ownership on him before he could possibly be fully aware of it, or acknowledge its meaning. But later on, when he affirms it, he can testify not only to what it means to his present admission, but also to what it always had meant.

The baptismal mark, to the reprobate (again, regardless of when he takes it, even as an adult) is something he repudiates inwardly and outwardly. It's God's mark of ownership, his "trademark" or his "brand," and the ungodly person who wears it attacks it, defaces it, brings shame on it (tries to anyway).

We Presbyterians, we don't say "Well, that godless person can't bring shame on a mark he doesn't actually have, because he wasn't really baptized; perhaps because his ceremony didn't follow his profession, but ESPECIALLY since he isn't actually converted and they alone are the baptized." No, a person is subjected to baptism, to being marked by an action of the church in the name of God; and the proper subjects are whomever God's Word designates (and we disagree on who those persons should be).

We never say, "OK, that one was a bit early; so let's do it again." According to our doctrine, a backsliding baptized person is not worryingly invalidating his baptism. No, they "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame," Heb.6:4-6. They profane the covenant (like circumcised Esau, Heb.12:16) precisely because they are outwardly and recognizably within the covenant when they repudiate it. Baptism doesn't make union with Christ; but it does assert it. So it is a meaningful act to despise the gospel of which it is the sign.

It means a lot to me (baptized as an infant) to know that God, by means of his sign beforehand said, "I'm putting my mark on YOU;" which now I apprehend to mean: "I loved you, long before you first loved me; I have loved you with an everlasting love." The institution of baptism points the whole church (not just individual subjects) to the cleansing substance of the gospel. It points to Christ who cleanses, not to the individual who may only have put away the "filth of the flesh," 1Pet.3:21. Excess attention on what immediate benefit belongs to the individual child (or adult) because of baptism seems (to this Presbyterian) to miss the point.

I've only set this forth as an explanation, not as a polemic, not specifically with the intent of bringing about a difference in your opinions. You asked a question, seeking understanding; I've tried to explain what a Presbyterian believes (or should).
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
When I ask what is lacking I suppose I can answer it myself which would be the visible church membership for children. But serious question, do you excommunicate children of believers who show no signs of saving faith when they come of age (say 18)? In the Baptist world unrepentant church members can be removed from membership if they lack repentance of besetting sins.

You prioritize a pattern you find in certain NT scenes where adults are engaged in evangelistic interaction; and then interpret other scenes by that rule.
I do recognize this as a hermetical issue of continuity between Baptists and Presbyterians. But Baptists do not rely solely on the New Testament when interpreting these passages. The way we understand the Sign and Seal that you describe is that we apply it to being born again (ie. circumcision of the heart; Ezek 11:19–20; 36:25–27; Joel 2:28–32; cp. Num 11:27–29). We would say the baptism is an outward sign of an inward change (seal). This outward sign of Baptism is what grants the new convert entrance into the covenant community. An example verse that we use would be:

Eph 1:13-14: In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The circumcision of the heart view does not mean that OT believers did not experience this, but it does mean that the sign and seal of circumcision under the new covenant transfers to only believers. We would point to Jer 31:32 and highlight two points:
1. Jeremiah is contrasting Old and New Covenants in which the New Covenant in Hebrews is being described as better.
2. He tells us that this covenant is not like the Old (which I realize is a debate on new and renew).
While the OT believers thought circumcision gained them entrance into the covenant community. Paul later points out in Romans 9:6 that "not all of Israel was Israel" indicating the inward change that is required for the seal.
 
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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Believers or professing believers?
Circumcision of the heart is the moment one becomes born again. So it would be applied to only believers. Baptism in theory should be applied to true believers but only God knows the heart, so you will have a mix. This mix in theory would be less than what you would have in the Presbyterian denominations.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
When I ask what is lacking I suppose I can answer it myself which would be the visible church membership for children. But serious question, do you excommunicate children of believers who show no signs of saving faith when they come of age (say 18)? In the Baptist world unrepentant church members can be removed from membership if they lack repentance of besetting sins.
Here is the relevant passage from the OPC Book of Church Order, Book of Discipline, Chapter V, Cases without Full Process:

2. Erasure is an act of discipline without full process.

a. The names of members may be removed from the roll of the church by erasure according to the following provisions:

(1) ...
..........
(6) When a noncommunicant member neglects the ongoing exhortation of the session to profess faith in Christ and rejects the covenantal responsibility of submission to home or church, the session may upon prior notification erase his name from the roll.​

In other words, we usually don't use the terminology "ex-communication" for a member who is baptized, but who has not made a public profession of faith and therefore is not "in-communicant" (noncommunicant is the normal nomenclature).

"Signs of saving faith," is the expression you used above. Is it normal for a covenant-child to profess his own faith at an appropriate age, with or without external encouragement? Yes, but sometimes such a person is above 20yrs of age, and may struggle with articulating "his own" faith, to his own satisfaction.

If he's coming to church, and not living scandalously, should he be hounded out of the fellowship that has been church home all his life, a place which is nothing but a gathering of sinners at various levels of knowledge and assurance? I would have infinite patience with such a tender heart. This is not someone who should be pressured to make his personal public profession, or else cut loose.

But he cannot sit and partake of the Lord's Supper by mouth if he cannot answer the few questions (Yes/No) which are required of communicants. Anyone who is either spiritually or cognitively impaired cannot take the Lord's Supper, which is a rite of personal affirmation. However, on our polity both sorts of people are acknowledged members of the church because of baptism. And to take it one more step, only a communicant member's children may be presented for baptism; so, no halfway covenant for us.

But certainly a rebellious child and evidently unconcerned of spiritual things--so, showing signs of NO FAITH--ought to face the consequences of despising his covenant nurture. Erasure is an extreme/ultimate form of discipline without a full judicial process.



I do recognize this as a hermetical issue of continuity between Baptists and Presbyterians. But Baptists do not rely solely on the New Testament when interpreting these passages. The way we understand the Sign and Seal that you describe is that we apply it to being born again (ie. circumcision of the heart; Ezek 11:19–20; 36:25–27; Joel 2:28–32; cp. Num 11:27–29). We would say the baptism is an outward sign of an inward change (seal). This outward sign of Baptism is what grants the new convert entrance into the covenant community. An example verse that we use would be:

Eph 13-14: In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
With all due respect for your position, and its OT appropriations, it is a different kind of use of the OT. With NT reality in hand, the Baptist (not without good reason) finds NT fulfillment anticipated and predicted prophetically in the OT. Explicit references to the future exhibits of the H.S. are there for such use, along with innumerable other prophetic signs pointing to the Messiah and the Messianic age.

We'd reply: that circumcision of the heart is as old a requirement on the church as the institution of the rite, Gen.17; and provably as old as the Exodus generation, who have the concept verbatim from Moses (Lev.26:41; use of "uncircum." as metaphor first found in Ex.6:12; also Lev.19:23). I don't think Moses is the first to preach it. It doesn't strike a Presbyterian as anything fresh in Jeremiah's notice pertaining to the NC.

All the rites of the Old Covenant were signs and seals, visible tokens with spiritual (inward) analogues, along with untold types and shadows saturating the OT.



The circumcision of the heart view does not mean that OT believers did not experience this, but it does mean that the sign and seal of circumcision under the new covenant transfers to only believers. We would point to Jer 31:32 and highlight two points:
1. Jeremiah is contrasting Old and New Covenants in which the New Covenant in Hebrews is being described as better.
2. He tells us that this covenant is not like the Old (which I realize is a debate on new and renew).
While the OT believers thought circumcision gained them entrance into the covenant community. Paul later points out in Romans 9:6 that "not all of Israel was Israel" indicating the inward change that is required for the seal.
Presbyterians don't think the sign and seal of circumcision under the Old Covenant belonged to any but believers. So, the fact that in the New Covenant the sign and seal of baptism belongs to none but believers doesn't change our view of the ritual of outward incorporation.

The Old Covenant begins with Moses; circumcision begins with Abraham and the formal establishment of the Covenant of Grace, and we are Abraham's seed, Gal.3:29. Jeremiah is contrasting that which is temporary (Old/Moses) with that which is permanent (New/Christ).

Paul teaches an "inward/outward" distinction, two ways of being in one covenant, in Rom.2:28-29. I don't think he invented this distinction for a new age. Jesus rebukes Nicodemus in Jn.3 for ineptitude ("You are THE teacher of Israel!), since the Pharisee talks as one unacquainted with the spiritual essence of the OT religion, a quality Jesus takes for granted.

As a Presbyterian, I don't accept the premise that OT believers regarded possession of a bare external sign as indicative of indubitable covenant entrance/possession/identification.

You asked one Q., I addressed the whole post. It seems I'm setting forth the whole Presbyterian side, as such threads are to me a tar baby of sorts.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thank you for taking the time to respond. The information you have been providing has been helpful. I agree that the discussion can point us in many different directions until our thread becomes unrecognizable. This in my opinion is a question of hermetical differences since it seems to be the guiding force of our interpretation.

The church I attend aligns much with Thomas Schreiner's views since our Pastor got to know him well during his time in the doctorates program at SBTS. Thomas Schreiner wrote a detailed book on this topic which I haven't gotten around to reading in its entirety. What books speak to this discussion as a defense of the Paedobaptist view?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The church I attend aligns much with Thomas Schreiner's views since our Pastor got to know him well during his time in the doctorates program at SBTS. Thomas Schreiner wrote a detailed book on this topic which I haven't gotten around to reading in its entirety. What books speak to this discussion as a defense of the Paedobaptist view?
Are you referring to the book TS co-edited, Believer's Baptism, B&H 2006? A multi-author book has both advantages and drawbacks, but most likely on the whole it represents TS's views, and collects a representative sample of modern, influential Baptist conviction, as defended by SBTS and taught to its seminarians.

I don't know if there is a book on the Reformed paedobaptist side that is strictly comparable; I mean that it is a multi-author compendium of recent scholarship and a fresh digest of mainstream P&R conviction.

The books I'm most familiar with are single author, and generally short. An example is Danny Hyde, Jesus Loves the Little Children, RFI 2006. https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Loves-Little-Children-Baptize/dp/0965398196

But, I have found John Fesko's book, Word, Water and Spirit, RHB 2010, a well done, lengthy (480pp), scholarly package. https://www.amazon.com/Word-Water-Spirit-Reformed-Perspective/dp/1601782829/
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
One thing I never understood regarding paedobaptism relates to what a child is missing if one doesn’t baptize an infant of a believer.

What benefits does one receive and what are they lacking if they don't receive it?
This is almost like asking: "What benefit do I receive in partaking of the sacraments in general? What am I really missing out on by not receiving baptism or the Lord's Supper?"

God requires us to partake of the sacraments, in general. Calvin has great stuff here in the Institutes about how we as people might think of them lightly, and if we have the Word of God why do we really need these pictures anyway? His conclusion is basically: "God commanded us to partake of the sacraments. He did so as our omnipotent God who knows what's best. Since He has done so we would do well to submit to His command." There are other reasons he goes on to flesh out, but it begins here: If God has commanded it, somehow, that should be enough for us. There are many particular answers to your question which I'm sure others will flesh out, but it starts here.
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
Circumcision of the heart is the moment one becomes born again. So it would be applied to only believers. Baptism in theory should be applied to true believers but only God knows the heart, so you will have a mix. This mix in theory would be less than what you would have in the Presbyterian denominations.
Brother, circumcision of the heart is always what God was after. It's what He wanted in the OT, too. Nevertheless, He still commanded those in the OT to be outwardly circumcised. Presbyterians believe the same basic truth is still true in the NT. God still desires and requires the new birth--baptism of the heart if you will. Nevertheless He also requires us to receive the outward sign. We believe there is a definitive correlation between circumcision in the OT and baptism in the NT. They worked the same way. So here's the rub: Abraham believed first, then he received the outward sign to mark his faith (Romans 4:11). This is what you're saying: He believes, and only after he believes, he receives the sign of belief, right? But then what does God command in Genesis 17? That same sign, which is a spiritual sign to mark those in the covenant, God now commands Abraham to apply to his infant sons far before belief in the Lord is ever possible. Here's the pattern we see in the OT: For adult converts, the REALITY comes before the RITE (IE, Abraham). But for children of believers (IE, Abraham's son Isaac), God commands the RITE to come before the REALITY.

If you have the time, give this a read: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/be37d2_9b43f9d6bf644fd08edae296e25f8d24.pdf
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
"Baptism in theory should be applied to true believers but only God knows the heart, so you will have a mix."

Theoretically, this has never been the case.....ditto to what Andrew said above.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
When I baptized one of our tribal believers, Wahyu, beforehand, I asked him to give his testimony in front of the church and then (with some trepidation) I asked him to explain baptism for the whole church in the local language. We had never rehearsed this and I was afraid of what he might say.

But he did great. Despite me being a baptist and teaching him as such, here is how he explained baptism, which seems agreeable to the Presbyterians.

Wahyu the tribal man said

(below is both a mixture of his church testimony and also a private explanation in front of the other men we are training for ministry. I cannot remember which is which without my notes, he explained it pretty thoroughly twice, so below represents a mixture of those two explanations):

----

"When you own a pig, you put a hole in the ear of the pig. The hole in the ear marks out ownership. Everybody sees the pig and they know it belongs to you. Even in the jungle they do not shoot it because they know it belongs to somebody.

When you become a believer, you obey God by putting another mark of ownership upon you - you get baptized. Baptism is a mark of ownership.

In the old times, they cut the believer in the privates [giggles nervously] to show this ownership, just the top of the skin. That is very weird, but it is visible. And we know that everybody born after Adam is a sinner, we are all of his children. And so that is why they cut the private parts, because that is how you make more people (who are sinners).

Now to show ownership we get baptized. Just like Jesus died and was buried and rose again, we go down under the water and it is like we are dead and then we rise again with Christ to show that we are one with Christ. People see this and this is the same as the mark on a pig's ear. We are now like God's pigs - owned by God."
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
So here's the rub: Abraham believed first, then he received the outward sign to mark his faith (Romans 4:11). This is what you're saying: He believes, and only after he believes, he receives the sign of belief, right? But then what does God command in Genesis 17? That same sign, which is a spiritual sign to mark those in the covenant, God now commands Abraham to apply to his infant sons far before belief in the Lord is ever possible. Here's the pattern we see in the OT: For adult converts, the REALITY comes before the RITE (IE, Abraham). But for children of believers (IE, Abraham's son Isaac), God commands the RITE to come before the REALITY.
Jon, I have come to see that Romans 4 clearly teaches the spiritual reality of circumcision. Some Baptists have taught that circumcision was linked to land promises but that is wrong as you have rightly argued.

But my question is redemptive-historic. You said "Abraham believed first, then he received the outward sign to mark his faith". A Reformed Baptist would agree with that. But you go from Rom 4 BACK to the Old Testament, rather than a redemptive-historic PROGRESSION FORWARD.

Let me explain my point in another context. I have had a few theological sword fights with Calvinistic Dispensationalists. I tell them it is theologically bizarre to have animal sacrifices in the Millennium. I argue that in light of the clear teaching of the book of Hebrews one should redemptive-historically PROGRESS FORWARD because Christ is the one true sacrifice. Likewise, should we also do the same with Rom 4. If Abraham believed first, then he received the outward sign to mark his faith, does that mean that belief comes first, then Baptism?

Please note I am asking a genuine question. I have now acknowledged the strengths of many arguments of the paedobaptist position but I struggle at this redemptive-historic level.

Lane @greenbaggins you said you would dig out some exegetical material on Rom 4. I'm still keen to read it, it may help in this quandary :) Thanks.
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
You said "Abraham believed first, then he received the outward sign to mark his faith". A Reformed Baptist would agree with that. But you go from Rom 4 BACK to the Old Testament, rather than a redemptive-historic PROGRESSION FORWARD. . . If Abraham believed first, then he received the outward sign to mark his faith, does that mean that belief comes first, then Baptism?
Stephen,

I wouldn't call Genesis to Romans 4 a redemptive-historical progression. Paul is simply explaining what happened in Genesis. So he looks back at Abraham in Genesis and he's saying: Here's what happened. Circumcision was never a national or ethnic sign; it was a spiritual sign. So here's what was going on with Abraham. He's called by God, he saved by faith alone in Christ, and then God commands him to be marked with the covenant sign. Paul's simply telling us what happened. Circumcision didn't become a spiritual sign in Romans 4; Paul's telling us it was always a spiritual sign, that's what it was in Genesis.

So here's our information: 1) The covenant sign of circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of salvation, a spiritual sign. 2) Abraham was marked with circumcision to signify his faith only after he believed. 3) Yet he was then to apply that same sign to his infant sons before belief was possible.

I hope that helps. I'm not sure I know how else to say it.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
What benefit is baptism to the infant? While the analogy is imperfect, I usually use the following as an illustration: suppose a young man wishes to propose marriage to a young woman, but has no ring. Then suppose a different young man wishes to propose marriage to a different young woman, and he has a ring. Do you think the ring makes any difference? I think most young ladies would agree that a ring makes a difference. It means that he is "putting his money where his mouth is." Baptism is like an engagement ring. It is not a wedding ring, but an engagement ring. This infant is engaged to Christ. Engagements can be broken off, but they most certainly mean something! They are promised to God. The infant does not understand all of this at the point when he or she is baptized (and that is where the analogy is imperfect). However, it won't be too long before the infant grows into a child old enough to start learning about his engagement to Christ.

The other main benefit is a corollary of the first: the infant is set apart from the world. We do not treat our children like heathen. They could be saved already. They might not be saved. Good Presbyterians make no assumptions either way, but share the gospel with their children, so that the child can have the thing signified along with the sign. Actually, many Baptists do almost the exact same thing with their baby dedications. It means mostly the same thing as Presbyterians mean by baptism. The only difference is that baptism is commanded, and baby dedications aren't. :p:D
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brother, circumcision of the heart is always what God was after. It's what He wanted in the OT, too.
This comment you are responding to is a reply to the question 'Believers or professing believers?' In other words having the sign and seal applied to a mixed congregation of believers and non-believers.

God knowing the heart is a comment about having a full understanding of who is part of the church invisible. This is not something we can visibly see but as Christians, but its usually a distinction when talking about having mixed congregations (believers and unbelievers). In theory Baptists like to think their membership is more consistent with true believers. It didn't mean that circumcision happens only in the New Testament. I agree that Circumcision of the Heart happened in the OT.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
This infant is engaged to Christ. Engagements can be broken off, but they most certainly mean something!
I like your analogy. Baby dedications are hit or miss in Baptist congregations. The most conservative tend to shy away from this while others adopt the principle. My church actually does this and it always reminds me of infant baptism.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Stephen,

I wouldn't call Genesis to Romans 4 a redemptive-historical progression. Paul is simply explaining what happened in Genesis. So he looks back at Abraham in Genesis and he's saying: Here's what happened. Circumcision was never a national or ethnic sign; it was a spiritual sign. So here's what was going on with Abraham. He's called by God, he saved by faith alone in Christ, and then God commands him to be marked with the covenant sign. Paul's simply telling us what happened. Circumcision didn't become a spiritual sign in Romans 4; Paul's telling us it was always a spiritual sign, that's what it was in Genesis.

So here's our information: 1) The covenant sign of circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of salvation, a spiritual sign. 2) Abraham was marked with circumcision to signify his faith only after he believed. 3) Yet he was then to apply that same sign to his infant sons before belief was possible.

I hope that helps. I'm not sure I know how else to say it.
Thanks Jon. The summary was helpful. I used it on another similar post.
 
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