Such is the accusation by some of our paedobapist brethren from pictures like the one above. One is supposed to get the idea that Baptists are abusing their children and causing them much grief by denying them entrance into the covenant by virtue of infant baptism. Surely there is a better way to engage in the theological discussion among the brethren without resorting to classless tactics? As Doug Eaton said of the picture, “Whoever put that together either has a warped sense of humor or a worldly propagandist approach to theological discussion.”
Now I do want to address an issue (again) that has been presented by many a paedobaptist. It is the argument of the counting noses. The one that goes something like this, “The early Church Fathers were paedobaptists, all through the Reformation. What does that tell us?” Such is often the assertion put forth typically with such force that it often goes unchallenged. Many, either are uninformed or confused about church history. Take Hendrick Stander and Johannes Louw’s book “Baptism In The Early Church” for example. Both, if I’m not mistaken, paedobaptists (they, at least, attend paedobaptist churches) conclude after much study that infant baptism was not practiced by the Apostles and did not become prominent until the end of the fourth century.
This passage from Tertullian is indeed the earliest reference in early Christian writings to children being baptized. However, to equate the baptism of children with the baptism of babies, as adherents of infant baptism prefer to do, is to neglect the fact that these children were not baptized within in a theological framework of the Abrahamic covenant and circumcision. The passage from Tertullian does not speak of infant baptism as it is understood today; it merely refers to a practice among some Christians (of which Tertullian disapproves) to baptize people at a very early stage as small children. It is also remarkable that Tertullian refers to sponsors who probably had to go through the ceremony on behalf of these little ones. This was done at a time when baptism was regarded as one’s guarantee to enter the Kingdom of heaven. As a safeguard, in order to avoid the possibility of little ones dying before they are grown and able to partake of the ritual themselves, sponsors substituted on their behalf. That is why Tertullian advises that such baptisms are undesirable and should be postponed until the recipients can understand what is actually at stake.*
This leads to an inconsistency on their part. That is to attempt to trace their roots in church history to any one that favored infant baptism. Then they start counting noses while a large part of church history is on their side and the confidence abounds (of course they believe their position to be from the Holy Writ). Yet, the position that is advanced today from the Westminster angle wasn’t the position of the same people they desire to use in the early Church Fathers. Ironically they are at odds. One position believed in baptismal regeneration (or something close) while the other believes in external covenant membership which wasn’t developed until Zwingli (sixteenth century) and then expanded and modified later! The inconsistency is that as long as one has the same conclusion (infant baptism) it is okay even though your means of getting their (reason for infant baptism) is at odds with one another even at times condemning one another. The Lord willing, we shall explore this further in another post.
Suffice it to say that we Baptists do not abuse our children. Frankly, we are not the ones telling our children they are members of the covenant while denying them a covenant privilege and command-a place at the Lord’s Table (communion). We understand your view of the external/internal distinction, we just don’t buy it. Baptism and communion go together. At least the Federal Vision and other paedobaptists are consistent in paedobaptism and paedocommunion.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Je 31:31–34).
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*Hendrick Stander, Johannes Louw, Baptism In The Early Church (England: Cary Press, 2004) p. 18