What is baptism? What is it for? Does it really do anything? Why did Christ command it? Who gets baptized? Who should get baptized? These are important questions; unfortunately they're often left unasked. Many assume there is only one form and purpose for baptism (believers immersed to make a public profession of faith). Other views are ignored or unknown.
Though we are well aware most evangelical Christians practice believer's baptism (credo-baptism), we hold the paedobaptist (infant baptism) view. Below is a brief (and by no means complete) outline of our position:
A common argument against infant baptism is that the Bible never explicitly commands it. While it is true there is no New Testament "thou shalt" telling us to baptize babies, an examination of the Bible as a whole makes clear to us an implied mandate for paedobaptism.
In the Old Testament God's people circumcised male children as a sign of covenant membership. It was an irreversible seal of the child's standing before God, a blessing if he continued in righteousness and a curse if he did not. Under Christ's New Covenant, baptism replaced circumcision (Col. 2:11-12) and was administered to all Christians, whether male or female (Acts 2:41, Gal. 3:28). Baptism is a sign and a seal of inclusion in the Church. While it is a symbolic act, it is also an effective act, meaning it accomplishes something spiritual within the recipient.
Covenant theology informs our understanding of baptism. Seeing a unity between the Old and New Testaments, and a high degree of continuity between Israel and the Church as successive incarnations of the people of God, it isn't surprising that God replaced one outward form (circumcision) with another (baptism); it would have been strange if He hadn't. The physical act is indicative of and instrumental in the spiritual transformation.
The doctrine of covenantal succession states that continuation of the covenant body is primarily dependant on children following the faith of their parents. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus tells His apostles that the kingdom of heaven is made up of little children. This wasn't sentimentalism; He was referring to the children of covenant believers, indicating the disciples should treat them as fellow members of the covenant, not as outsiders or partial members. The passing of the Christian faith from parent to child is not just through verbal instruction; it is also through baptism, by which infant children of Christian parents are brought within the fold of Christ. This isn't a guarantee of salvation as they may apostatize later in life, but it is a visible sign that the baptized child should be treated as a covenant member.
To say that a baptized person can apostatize (reject the faith) is not to say that he can lose his salvation. We believe Scripture plainly teaches the doctrine of election, and to say the elect could become "un-elect" would be to undermine the entire concept. Most modern evangelicals take Christ's vine and branches analogy in John 15 to be talking about "true believers," those who are truly saved. However, in order to be faithful to the doctrines of election and the covenant, we believe the vine refers to the covenant body, and that those who are cut off are unregenerate baptized individuals who have rejected the truth of the Gospel. Baptism provides the necessary means to discipline such a person through excommunication.
Many argue that if Christians only baptized believers there would be no need to excommunicate individuals later in life. They say children should choose for themselves. But children don't make important decisions independently of their parents. A baby doesn't choose whether or not to go to church or whether the family prays before dinner. Parents, as the Biblically appointed guardians of their children, make those decisions. Baptists frequently "dedicate" their newborns to God, and while baby dedication and paedobaptism are not the same thing, one wonders how a parent who would not presume to baptize an infant would presume to offer that same infant (without consulting it) to God.
Paedobaptism is an understandably difficult doctrine for many. They've been taught to equate it with Roman Catholicism, or that those who practice it believe baptized babies are automatically saved. The books in this section offer a balanced approach to the subject. Many of the authors are themselves former Baptists, exhibiting a sympathetic perspective and intimate understanding of opposing views. We strongly believe a renewed understanding of our children's place in the covenant is crucial for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, and that a Biblical doctrine of paedobaptism is an excellent place to start.
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