The Case for Paedobaptism
If you’re a credobaptist (i.e., one who believes in seeking to baptize only believers), it can sometimes be confusing trying to understand why anyone would be a paedobaptist (i.e, one who also baptizes infants of believers). Therefore I thought it might be helpful to reproduce two summations by thoughtful paedobaptists setting forth their case.
The first (and briefer) summary is from credobaptist-turned-paedobaptist pastor Randy Booth, from his book, Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism, p. 8. He summarizes the case under five headings:
- Covenant Theology. Throughout the bible, God relates to his people by way of a covenant of grace. Covenant theology provides the basic framework for rightly interpreting Scripture.
- Continuity of the Covenant of Grace. The Bible teaches one and the same way of salvation in both the Old and the New Testaments, despite some different outward requirements.
- Continuity of the People of God. Since there is one covenant of grace between God and man, there is one continuous people of God (the church) in the Old and New Testaments.
- Continuity of the Covenant Signs. Baptism is the sign of the covenant in the New Testament, just as circumcision was the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament.
- Continuity of Households. Whole households are included in God’s redemptive covenant.
The second (fuller) summary is from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 632-34:
- Although the Abrahamic covenant had national aspects to it, at its heart, it was a spiritual covenant which signified spiritual realities, including its sign and seal, that is, circumcision.
- The Abrahamic covenant is still in force and is essentially identical with the “new covenant” of the present dispensation. The unity and continuity of this one covenant of grace in both testaments follows from the fact that the Mediator is the same; the condition of faith is the same; and the blessings are the same, namely, regeneration, justification, spiritual gifts, and eternal life.
- By God’s appointment, infants share in the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant and therefore received circumcision as a sign and seal. Since the “new covenant” is essentially identical with the Abrahamic covenant, infants of believing parents who receive the sign of the covenant are not excluded from covenant or church membership.
- Even though the Abrahamic covenant is essentially identical with the new covenant there are some changes that have taken place. In the new dispensation, baptism is by divine authority substituted for circumcision as the initiatory sign and seal of the covenant of grace. Baptism corresponds with circumcision in spiritual meaning so that both signs signify the washing away of sin and the need for regeneration. Furthermore, given the essential unity of the covenant across the ages, baptism, as the new sign and seal of the new covenant age, does not exclude infants of believing parents.
- Although the NT contains no direct evidence for the practice of infant baptism in the church this is due more to the fact that the apostolic age was primarily a missionary period which focused on the baptism of adults. But, given the unity of the covenant of grace, there is also no text in the NT which specifically abrogates the demand that the covenant sign be applied to the infants of believing parents in the new covenant era. Household baptisms probably, though it cannot be established with certainty, bear witness to this fact.
In the near future, Lord willing, I’ll seek to do a post summarize the case against paedobaptism, i.e., reasons credobaptists are not convinced of the above arguments.