Why I Will Baptize Your Baby and Not You (Again)

Church is an eclectic place, people of all ages gather each week (or several times a week) to worship, to be exhorted, to be discipled and to engage in community. We break bread, we celebrate together, we mourn together. People who go to Church do life together (or ideally do). Your local Church is your family, the people whom you worship with. The Church, the invisible Church, is held together by the preaching of the Gospel, administering of the sacraments and the power of the Holy Spirit. These are our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. We do not exclude people from family. We welcome people in with open arms. With hospitality we open our doors to strangers, to people walking through difficult circumstances, to people who do not understand everything about faith completely, to people who we would not expect to be apart of our family at all. We might call this the Covenant Community of God, his people, his bride purchased by the blood of his son. So the question is; who is allowed to be apart of this family?

Baptizing Infants is a big issue in the Church. Should we do it? Why should we do it? What are the benefits of it? Is there any purpose to it? To answer this first I think it is important to talk about baptism, just plain old baptism as a Sacrament, in order to understand why we should baptize more infants and less adults, at least adults who have been baptized four times and come up for a fifth. First, if we desire to have a biblical view of baptism we need to understand first what makes it a sacrament. A sacrament, in the Protestant Church, is defined as something commanded by Christ, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) combined with word and common element, “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:5) for the forgiveness of sins, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). We might be bold enough to call baptism a means of Grace, or in other words the administering of the Gospel through means (Baptism, the Supper and Absolution). In the most simple terms, Baptism is the Gospel. The question now stands, who is fit for the Gospel?

The answer is very simple if we believe scripture to have any authority, and if we take it seriously. Sinners need the Gospel, desperately. If all people are sinners, and sinners need the Gospel and baptism is the Gospel is in fact baptism why then are so many against the baptizing of infants? I see the answer cashed out in several different ways. First, the Erasmian school of thought continues to permeate the Church today, especially the American church. Erasmus of Rotterdam emphasized that baptism may only be done after faith had already been affirmed in someone. This is evident in his interpretation of the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In Erasmus’ ‘Paraphrases of the New Testament’ he does not explicitly deny infant baptism, but places a strong emphasis on pre-baptismal catechesis. This is not only an incredibly common belief today but also one that many Church goers would emphasize as the purpose of baptism, to be instructed! Had this been Christ’s intent I do not think he would have said “Baptize them…. Then teach them in all wisdom.”

Second, the influence of Andreas Rudolff-Bodenstein von Karlstadt has had a profound impact upon the American church, and many non- denominational church’s have more of his theology than they would desire to recognize. Karlstadt rejected infant baptism based on one thing. God empowers people to choose or to reject him. With this assertion he differed from Luther, who held to a negative free- will, and certainly that of Calvin or Zwingli, who emphasized God’s sovereignty through choosing the elect and damning the reprobate. This is probably the most common influence in the rejection of infant baptism. How can an infant choose God? He cannot! Therefore, he (or she) should grow up and choose to love God! We might call this an age of accountability. In this way Karlstadt was close to the Anabaptists who held that only consenting adults could enter into the kingdom and therefore those who had been baptized as children, more than likely under the Catholic church, should be baptized again. This legalistic pietism has continued to plague the Church today and seeks to force people to ‘clean up’ before not only entering into our churches but before they can be a covenant member in the family of God. To this I simply ask, did you choose God? If you answered yes unfortunately you should just stop reading this, open up your Bible to Genesis 1, read until you get to a blank page and see if you still hold to s synergistic view of conversion. If you answered no, you very well may be seeing an answer to who is fit for the Gospel.

The final influence, or at least that I will briefly touch upon, is that of Plato. Plato simply emphasized the distinction between body and soul, the body was bad and the soul was good. In his analogy of the cave, Plato describes men, chained to a wall against their will. For the entirety of their existence they observed shadows of cut outs of certain things; an elephant or a tiger etc. All they can see is the wall and the shadows. Their entire reality is constructed by these shadows. One day a man gets free and goes outside the cave and sees reality, or Truth. He comes back into the cave only to be laughed at by his peers when he describes what an actual tiger looks like. How does this influence many people view of Baptism? Pr. Matt Richards in his article “Why Evangelicals Struggle with Infant Baptism: The Platonic Connection” says that, for Plato the purpose of life is to escape the evil body and find what is good, true and beautiful in the realm of the forms. Therefore, what is outside of us or extra nos is not able to permeate the inside of us. In other words, water and word cannot effect our soul. Therefore, to be a supporter of infant baptism one must have not only a completely monergistic view of conversion but also one that believes the word is outside, and certainly more powerful, than us. (For more on this portion see http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2014/11/06/evangelicals-struggle-infant-baptism-platonic-connection/ ) [1]

If the church begins to see the influence of why they do not baptize infants maybe it can also begin to see why it is in fact biblical to do so. Do we baptize infants and never bring them up in the faith? Of course not. Do we even expect that once they have been baptized they will always be saved? For Calvin he held to “once saved always saved” and I am not convinced of this as a biblical interpretation. Therefore, we are left with several options. Deny the Gospel to infants and affirm our synergism, or allow someone, who is already elect, to ‘decide’ to be baptized. How do we desire to portray our theology? If we believe God has chosen us, that he has called us to himself, that despite my sinfulness from birth and the sinful acts I commit continually he has chosen me for his kingdom as well as his work, than we ought to baptize all people. For we were not any different than the infant at our baptism. A sinner in need of the Gospel. Anselm of Canterbury says “I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order that I may understand.” Let us not withhold the Gospel from any sinner who comes into our doors and let us examine our theology in order that we may be consistent in what we believe.

[1] All academic property is given to Pr. Matt Richard on this section Paraphrased by myself.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s