The issue of baptism certainly opens the floodgate of discussion. My article here provoked a response from a good brother, found here (a good blog that I do recommend). Although I do not personally know Mr. Silva, I have had the privilege of meeting his acquaintance on Facebook and can say that he does exemplify true Presbyterianism, and for that I am thankful to the Lord and him.
Before I address a few of his points I wish to preface my article with an exhortation to look for the unity we have in Christ, which is secured by the Gospel that bears His name, rather than looking for, and focusing on, any differences on any doctrines that will not get us booted out of the Kingdom if either of us are wrong. I know this stance evokes much anger from credobaptists and paedobaptists alike. It is too “ecumenical” for them. Very well then, move along, just move along, there is nothing here for you to see. This is a brotherly discussion where we believe the command of our Lord that we our to love one another (John 3:34-35). At the same time we readily acknowledge that the subject of baptism is no small nor trivial matter. Hence the discussion we are in that can get a bit excited at times. That being, and to repeat myself, the goal here is unity and not division.
Now to deal with some points that Mr. Silva mentions. There are far too many for me to cover in detail here. So I shall deal with a few that I think need to be addressed. My first being that the overall tone of that blog misses my main point. Issue was taken with the last paragraph of my article and I was taken to task for it while my main concern went largely ignored. My chief two issues were the demeaning insults from paedobaptists and the misuse of church history from some of them. My article was not motivated because of one individuals Facebook post but the sentiment that comes from many paedobaptists towards Baptists. That one post, which was not only insulting but slanderous as well, evoked many cheers and encouragements from all sorts of paedobaptists. Baptists were treated as inferior or as some sort of sub-species of Christians. And not one paedobaptists held their counter parts accountable for the insults.
I was by no means intending to infer that that attitude is one of Presbyterianism, because it is not. Perhaps, I could have been a little clearer. But my concern remains. If that attitude is not representative of true Presbyterianism, why weren’t those that are truly of the Presbyerian spirit holding their fellow paedobaptists accountable? Would they have remained silent if it was a Baptist posting such insulting things towards those that practice infant baptism? We here at this blog have rebuked fellow Baptists for being ignorant and misrepresenting paedobaptist beliefs and practices. It is hard not to come away with the idea that some or even a large portion of paedbaptists really believe that Baptists are somehow inferior.
Not only was there lacking a rebuke for the insult towards Baptists but the misuse of church history didn’t evoke any comment. The idea that believers baptism wasn’t around until the sixteenth century is just preposterous. Tertullian advocates against the baptism of small children. It is often understood that Tertullian was referring to infants in his discussion of baptism.He wasn’t. He was referring to the practice of baptizing children. His view was that it should be postponed until they are able to comprehend what is happening. Meanwhile the Didache, written before Tertullian’s piece, gave only instructions for believers baptism, again, a Baptist position. Church history didn’t start in the sixteenth century. The Didache (100-125 A.D.) is an extremely important piece of Christian literature. It is ( if I’m not mistaken) the earliest document outside of Scripture that gives instructions for baptism and it only gives instructions for the credobaptist position. A further study of church history verifies this as admitted by even some paedobaptists. As Fred Malone writes:
An interesting study of baptism in the early church was written by two paedobaptist authors, H.F. Stander and J.P. Louw , professors at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. They claim: “The truth is that modern-authors misinterpret and sometimes misrepresent the statements of the Church Fathers.”
These authors point out that many references used by paedobaptists from the church fathers to support infant baptism are really dealing with the baptism of small children, not infants. They demonstrate that the link between the Abrahamic Covenant , circumcision and infant baptism is a later development from the third to fourth century A.D. They find no wide practice of infant baptism till the fourth century. It is interesting that Peter Leithart also argues that infant baptism was not practiced by the church until the third century A.D. because Baptists had taken over the church after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (emphasis mine).*
Baptists could never get away with with such abuse of church history! Yet, paedobaptists play loose and fast with historical facts on baptism quite frequently. While not all of them are fast to jump to church history, a great many do. That is why I am attempting to drive this point- church history is not on their side. It has been said before and I’ll repeat it (again), “infant baptism is a practice in search of a theology.” I’m not quite sure they are even aware of the evolution of their theology in regards to infant baptism. Many are quick to point out that they dogmatically hold that position. My response is which version? The one that regenerates, washes away sin, proclaims membership into the covenant, the one that does not require infant faith, the one that does? Which one? And to answer the view of the Reformation. Again, which one? Luther’s baptismal regeneration or later infant faith view or Zwingli’s covenantal view? In fact Zwingli went so far as to say that all the Fathers and his contemporaries (Luther) have erred until his view. About the only thing they had right, according to him, was the practice itself! One can certainly observe the search of a proper theology for this practice.
I have not yet addressed Mr. Silva’s points about paedocommunion, which was his main concern with one of my previous articles. Lord willing, I will do that in part two. Suffice it to say for now that I reject it and think all Christians should reject both paedobaptism and paedcommunion. What I eventually will attempt to demonstrate is that the hermeneutic that leads to infant baptism, if consistently applied, will lead to infant communion. I did not address the issue now because I do not desire for my other concerns to be ignored.
I am aware that the majority of paedobaptists reject (rightly so) paedocommunion. And just a brief note here becuase I cannot help myself, the article quoted Dr. Nigel Lee as stating that minors were never permitted to eat the meat of the lamb in the Passover Feast. But that is one of many disagreements among paedobaptists. Dr. Berkhof writes, “Children, though they were allowed to eat the passover in the days of the Old Testament, cannot be permitted to partake of the table of the Lord, since they cannot meet the requirements for worthy participation.”* I will contend with Berkhof that they did indeed participate. But that argument is for a later time. I will also be posting an article in full from a good brother that will defend the paedobaptist/paedocommunion view point. Be sure to look out for it.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34–35).
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
* Fred Malone, The Baptism Of Disciples Alone (Cape Coral, FL.: Founders Press, 2007) p. 174-175
*Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (656). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.