Friday, June 19, 2009


Augustine admitted that baptism must have faith as its prerequisite. He also admitted that infants can't do that. So, for Augustine, the church believes for the infant.

Many scholastics who followed Augustine then said that the triumphant church in heaven is the source of "faith" for infants. But how so? Because they no longer need their faith and it is deposited into a treasury of merits.

When our hot-headed friend Luther took the stage, he too insisted that faith and baptism must not be divorced. But for Luther, the issue was the faith of the one being baptized ["propria"]. Because he followed the robust rationale of much Medieval thought, he did not hesitate to say that reason is often a hinderance to faith. Thus, infants, because they are unscathed by reason, actually can have faith. "In baptism, the infants themselves believe and have their own faith."

"De Baptismo" was a powerful tract published by Zwingli in which he parted ways with Rome, Luther, and many of his Anabaptist friends. In it, he wrote,
In this matter of baptism, if I may be pardoned for saying it, I can only conclude that all the doctors have been in error from the time of the apostles. This is a serious assertion, and I make it with such reluctance that I had not been compelled to do so by contentious spirits, I would have preferred to remain silent.
Zwingli divorced faith and baptism and went on to maintain the covenantal argument for baptism that is commonly held today among most paedobaptists. He was not the first to do so, but definitely one of the most polemically outspoken of his time.

For anyone who has read to this point, you're a nerd. I just needed to iron this out on a keyboard.

I've just recently read the best defense of infant baptism I've ever read. It is still unconvincing, but well-argued. It's called "What About Baptism?" by Ralph E. Bass, Jr. There are some blatant slips and errors in the book, but it's still quite direct and thoughtful. For example, he claims that the Greek word "didache" means "twelve." He was just wrongly taught on that one. It means "teaching." He also makes several systematic assumptions on the text. We all do, but Ralph's are a little too strong.

I still find "Believer's Baptism" by Schreiner and Wright to be more faithful to the biblical witness. Does it have it's own scattering of questionable logic? Sometimes. Do I agree with every jot and tittle of interpretation? Not necessarily. Do they understand the covenantal nature of the story of God revealed in the Scriptures? You bet. Is there a type-o on page 230 in my copy? Yes. But still, this book seems to put baptism closer to the final exhortation of Jesus to His disciples in Mt 28.18-20. I feel that it keeps baptism closer to the gospel, the new covenant, and the consummation of the eschaton.

Now, to both of you who endured this, leave some comment expressing your disapproval that I will likely not respond to :)


TheSeeker said...

In Catholicism, we baptize our infants, to start them off in a life of faith and to bless them. Later on in life, the child has their Confirmation, which is the time when they independently proclaim their faith and receive a "baptism of the Holy Spirit." I didn't understand it before my conversion, but then I didn't understand a lot of things.

BTW, this is Elizabeth Tillman :-)

Douglas said...

I have actually never heard a good argument on either side of the fence with this topic. I think I was fine baptizing my son more because of my ecclesiology than any theological argument.

Pecos Brad said...

disapproval. but i still love you.

waiting on Isaac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
waiting on Isaac said...

Perhaps another view of infant baptism could be "Prophetic Baptism." A baptism in which the parents baptise the child with holy anticipation that the child will grow up to accept Jesus by faith and be baptised by immersion subsequent to conversion. I say this because I don't feel it necessary to invalidate the powerful service of formal catholic or episcopal baptisms, (i.e. renunciation of satan etc). Much in the way that our prayers work to cover our children, I have no problem with the formal declaration and symbolic use of water and may even choose to baptise my children in this fashion should the Lord bless me with with kids. But I don't feel this process is effective unto salvation, nor does it fill the new testament commandment to be baptised in my view.

Sometimes a solution to a theological disagreement that is both heated and non-essential is to do both.


p.s. hey back to ya jimbo!