Blog 218: 4.16.25 - 4.16.30

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Calvin was, and remains, a theologian of the ages.  Of course his theology comes to us clothed in the garments of the sixteenth century.  But some things never change--including many of the arguments, pro and con, in relation to the baptism of infants. This he passionately believed to be a biblical doctrine.

Calvin meets many of the arguments against infant baptism head on. Typically he deals with them by underlining ways in which they depend on a mis-reading of Scripture.

Thus faced with the insistence that regeneration is required for baptism, he questions the use of Scripture that lies behind such thinking.  Rebuffed by arguments that the order of biblical language ("teach, baptize") presupposes instruction prior to baptism, he points out that of course this is the order when adults are hearing and responding to the gospel for the first time. It would be a logical fallacy to think that the corollary of "adults should hear, believe and be baptized" is "infants must not be baptized"!  One would no more deduce that infants must not be fed because Paul states that 'those who do not work should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10).`

But there is one argument that credobaptist proponents, then and now, have often used as a kind of reductio ad absurdum: if you baptize infants, you ought also to give them the Lord's Supper.

But Calvin sees a serious flaw here.  For while both baptism and the Supper point to Christ, they each point to different aspects of union with him.  Baptism points to a once-and-for-all initiation into Christ. It is done to us, not done by us. We do not baptize ourselves, we are baptized.

The Supper, however, is not a sacrament of initiation but of communion.  That is why we are active and engaged at the Lord's Table. For it is essential to be able to
     • Discern the Lord's body
     • Examine oneself
     • Proclaim the Lord's death
     • Celebrate the Supper "in remembrance" of Christ.

Just why Calvin is so passionate about this--when, after all, baptism is never more than a sign--will become clear tomorrow.

Posted November 10, 2009 @ 4:21 PM by Sinclair Ferguson
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