Why I Baptize Babies
October 7, 2014
Part 2 of 2 (see part 1 on "Why I Pour" here).
As a pastor, who has many baptistic families in his church (who are fine Christians, dear friends, and those I commune with at the table), there are several points I typically raise in order to persuade them of the theological necessity of paedobaptism. Some are worth discussing.
Baptism is not a sign of my child's faith. Rather, baptism is a sign that my child must look to, and embrace by faith. Many baptists speak of baptism as a symbol of the believer's faith. However, Reformed theologians have typically understood baptism as representing Christ (Gal. 3:27), in whom our faith must rest. That is why we don't re-baptize people who have had crises of faith.
Rom. 4:11 - Circumcision was not a sign of Abraham's faith. Thus it was not a sign of Isaac's faith (as a baby), either. Rather, for both Abraham and Isaac, circumcision was a sign of God's covenant righteousness. It was a sign they had to look to by faith.
In baptism, God takes the initiative with our children. He speaks favor to them in baptism ("You are my child, whom I love") and they are to respond in faith to his "wooing."
Furthermore, if my children are not covenant children - if they must not to be baptized as babies - then I am at a loss on how to raise them.
Did Isaac, for example, possess any advantages by receiving the sign of circumcision? Was God's goodness to Abraham heightened because of his goodness also to his son, Isaac? In other words, does our "so great a salvation" terminate upon the individual believer, or does our salvation include a promise to our children? (see Acts 2:39, where the structure reflects Gen. 17:1-8).
Here's my point: is God less good to our children than he was to Abraham's? If Isaac was better off for receiving circumcision (a spiritual sign), are our children better off for receiving no sign? Was the sign given to help covenant children or hinder them? In reality, denying our children a covenant sign denies them a blessing from God. God is, therefore, less gracious to the children of believers after the resurrection than he was before.
In addition, how can we please God or do a truly good work? It must be done by faith, for whatever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).
Paul commands children to obey their parents in everything, to do good works. Why? Because obedience to parents "pleases the Lord" (Col. 3:20). Paul addresses children as Christians, and expects them to live accordingly (see opening greetings in Col. 1 and Eph. 1).
Paul does not hedge or qualify his language. He simply tells children they please God when they obey their parents. Should not the indicative-imperative model apply to our children when it comes to obedience? (Eph. 1-6, esp. Eph. 6:1 "in the Lord")
When my twin boys (4 yrs old) sin against each other and need to ask for forgiveness, do I have grounds to say:
"Matthew, since God has forgiven you, should you not forgive your brother?" (Eph. 4:32)
Or should I simply say, "Forgive, because it is the right thing to do"? (No indicative; a sort of "natural law" argument).
Let me press this a bit more in the realm of assurance:
When one of my four children sin, I typically
1. Rebuke them and explain to them their sin ("Give them [extravagant?] grace")
2. Have them repent and pray to their Father in Heaven for forgiveness ("Give them [extravagant?] grace")
On what grounds can I assure any of my children that they are forgiven? (1 Jn. 1:9) Or are they forgiven? We are not told to infallibly know the decree of God. We are told to embrace God's promises, as revealed in his Word.
When my children look by faith to Jesus for forgiveness, it is no different than them looking by faith to their baptism for assurance of forgiveness. Both involve looking to Christ, whether for the 4 yr. old or the 8 yr. old. The same applies to the 80 yr. old believer.
This makes sense to me as a paedobaptist.
But if my children are not baptized, if they do not belong to the visible church, if they do not bear the name Christian, then I do not know what grounds I have for:
1. Praying with them to our - not "my" - Father
2. Telling them they please God when they are obedient
3. Assuring them of forgiveness for their sins upon repentance
It seems to me that here again the Baptist parent is gloriously inconsistent when he sings psalms and hymns with his child, prays with his child, worships with his child, but does not call his child a Christian because his child has not been baptized.
If your child of 4 yrs. sins and the child prays and asks for forgiveness, do you assure them they are forgiven? Or do you say, "well, Johnny, we can't read God's decree, and one day you might fall away, so let's just hope that God has forgiven you, and we'll revisit this when you are old enough to be credible"?
How can you assure a child of forgiveness but deny to them the sign that symbolizes forgiveness?
So why do I baptize covenant children?
Because I treat them like Christians, not like pagans. Paedobaptism allows me to do that consistently, urging them to a life of repentance and faith. And because God says to my child, "You are my child, whom I love."
Pastor Mark Jones owes a lot to baptists, especially William Hughes, Albert Martin, Walter Chantry, Jim Butler, and Leigh Robinson.
PS, I give you further evidence (esp. see 1:24-40).