Infant Baptism?

Today I went to a conversation about Infant Baptism. Dr. Davis (who is a theology prof at GCTS) has rocked my world every time I’ve heard him and so I had to go to this. As of this morning, I was not a supporter of infant baptism and so it was cool to hear such a thoughtful response concerning this debatable subject.

Dr. Davis is all about infant baptism yet he said he thinks the other side makes a strong case. In defending the position, Dr. Davis argued that:

  1. God commanded that circumcision, the sign and seal of righteousness by faith (Rom 4:11) be applied to Abraham and his male descendants (Gen 17:10). Circumcision was spiritual in its intent, pre-Mosaic in institution, and international in its scope (Gen 17:12,13). Abraham was declared righteous before being circumcised and circumcision was a profession of faith. Dr. Davis also mentioned here that Abraham is the prototype to ALL people as opposed to Moses.
  2. In Christ, the Abrahamic covenant is confirmed, NOT abolished (Gal. 3:14; Matt 5:17-19). Basically Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, and this covenant is the backbone of the salvation plan. This was the “Old Testament form of the Great Commission” and thus Jesus Christ is the 2nd Adam, and Abraham.
  3. Baptism replaces circumcision in the New Covenant (Col. 2:9,11-12; Eph 3:19).
  4. NT does not indicate reduction in status for children of believers (Mk. 10:13-16; Acts 2:39; cf. I Cor. 7:14): The Apostle Paul was thinking about the family union in this context.
  5. Consequently, infant children of believers may be baptized, as sign of membership in the covenant of grace. Promise of salvation signified by baptism to be personally ratified by child through exercise of personal faith (“a valid check… must be endorsed to cash it”).

Other considerations are that there are no examples of later child baptisms from Christian homes within the NT. That is, although there would most likely have been child baptisms before conversions, no adults were later baptised again. Also, the earliest dissent does not claim that it is NOT apostolic (Tertullian, in his De Baptismo, merely disagreed with the doctrine on pastoral terms). As Dr. Davis says, infant baptism “fittingly symbolizes priority of God’s grace in salvation.” Baptism is basically an object lesson of the gospel because it points to Jesus and His resurrection. Dr. Davis also pointed to Historical/sociological considerations and also  patristic testimonies in support of infant baptism.

Dr. Davis stressed he doesn’t believe infant baptism is salvific. Rather, it is a “means of grace” which can then be fully received later pending a genuine decision of submission to Christ. For me, the most interesting part of his talk was that he reminded us that Abraham and Isaac (his son) had different experiences of circumcision. Abraham was circumcised as an adult, but then Isaac was circumcised as a child with no apparent knowledge of what was going on. Are we then to follow in this example with regards to baptism? I’m still not convinced. This whole “means of grace” terminology is too weird for me and I still hold to the fact that since baptism is the gender inclusive version of declaring your faith, it should be done when someone has actually made that decision for themselves. Comments?

M.P.

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6 thoughts on “Infant Baptism?

  1. Mike,

    I’m wondering why the gender inclusiveness of baptism necessitates a decision of faith before it can be applied to an individual. Essentially the question is: If we’re saying that baptism is the new sign of the covenant, as circumcision was in the OT then what is the grounds for moving from applying it to infants to applying it to believers?

    Respectfully,

    R.D.

  2. Dude, most importantly, what is your middle name? I don’t even think I know. Good question. I was a little unclear about that. Gender inclusiveness doesn’t have much to do with WHY an adult or infant should be baptized. I said that to stress the fact that baptism is a sign of the covenant for everyone. I think your question IS an important one and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. I mean, the commandment for the sign was given to Abraham who had already believed, but I don’t think I fully understand what “measure of grace” means. Do I think a child has a special place in God’s mind or receives extra measures of grace because of baptism? Probably not, so I think thats the part I’m wrestling with at the moment. I’m trying to figure out WHY (Scripturally) someone would baptize an infant and how an unbaptized infant would be different in God’s eyes. It seems like infant baptism is a statement of the faith of the parents and not the child and so I wonder how valuable it is FOR the child.

  3. Hey Mike!

    I agree with you, I don’t understand why it would be valuable or beneficial for a child. I also don’t think it would hurt…however, I feel that one of the main reasons baptism of infants is done is tradition…

    When I was a baby, my family had an ’emergency baptism’ done…because I was a premie and they thought I wasn’t going to live…then when I was 5 they ‘finished’ my baptism in a Catholic church. So they baptized me originally out of fear, its a very common thing for babies that are in emergency situations to be baptized…and like you said, I don’t think God shows special favor to those who are baptized and those who are not…

    Many people in the Catholic and Lutheran traditions have told me that Baptism is like a symbol that the parents are going to raise their children in the Lord and then confirmation is the way the children show they have made that decision themselves to walk in the Lord. When I was Catholic I was confirmed, and it wasn’t into my faith in God’s promise… I was saying that I believed in the Catholic church and would continue to have it be a part of my life for the rest of my life…I hardly remember talking about Jesus at all.

    I think this is an issue of tradition. I think it’s done sometimes out of fear. I asked an Aunt one time why they had their daughter baptized because they didn’t even go to church…and I was told that it’s tradition, and if anything were to happen to her, they would feel better knowing that she was baptized…kind of like they would know there would be no reason for God not to take her…

    So when I became a Christian and prayed about baptism, because I already kind of had been baptized twice, I felt the Lord put it on my heart to do it, again…as a symbol of my decision to follow him…

    What does the Bible say about baptism and salvation? I have heard so many times that salvation baptism alone will not save you and also that you don’t need to be baptized to be saved? I’m not 100% sure what the Bible says about that.

    Nicole

  4. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. He then received the sign of circumcision as an outward marker of his relationship with God. But then Isaac received the sign as well, along with all of Abraham’s household, and every eight day old male thereafter. So while the sign was initiated by faith, it was continued through the household.

    As for it being a means of grace, I have to go to greek so I will talk about that later.

    R. David Potter (which doesn’t sound as cool as R.D. Potter)

  5. @Nicole

    Good comments and I think your story illustrates where a lot of people are at. For some, infant baptism is merely tradition and “making sure the bases are covered” in case anything unfortunate were to happen. One of the reasons this could be dangerous is because some may assume their “insurance” actions lead to certain eternal rewards (salvation) which isn’t promised. However, others have legitimate reasons for believing this. I don’t have space here, but a few years ago I put together a word document (7 pages single spaced) on the Scriptural basis for both sides. I’d be happy to send that to you by email if you want to check it out.

    In a few words, adult baptism is based on several places in the NT where baptism was given AFTER a profession of saving faith. These passages include Acts 2:41, 8:12, 10:44-48. Also, in Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12 Pauls assumes baptism to be an outward sign of inward regeneration and this cannot hold with infants. Romans 2:29 says that true circumcision, in the New Covenant, is spiritual, not physical and in I Peter 3:21, faith is even included as part of the process. In the NT, the covenant community is the church and those who believe in Christ are included in this church. The physical elements of the old covenant are only “shadows of what is to come” (Christ) and true substance is found in Him (Col 2:17). Therefore baptism is appropriate as a result of a voluntary, spiritual and internal decision. Also there were some good links given by friends at my facebook post about this, I’ll post them here as well:

    http://bit.ly/aGWyX1
    http://bit.ly/cIDVGk

    This was a link shared arguing for the other side:

    http://bit.ly/bObCL9

    Hope this helps.

    MP

  6. Michael,

    First of all, i had no idea you had a BLOG, you nerd! Second, did you know I have a blog?

    Very interesting topic, and i of course agree with what you wrote, baby or infant baptism is just kind of pointless…as a mommy i do not feel it does any good….instead couldnt the parents just dedicate their children to the Lord to show publicly they want to raise godly children and then let the kids later on be baptized when their ready on their own!?

    Take care!

    Ur sis, Kris

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