Blog 216: 4.16.14 - 4.16.19

Another objection to infant baptism is considered: infants are incapable of understanding the gospel and therefore cannot be regenerated. Therefore they should not be baptized. If, Calvin argues, they are not in Christ, they must be in Adam (there is no middle ground). This means that all infants who die (perhaps the majority in the sixteenth century) are consigned to damnation. But the premise needs to be challenged: because we cannot "see" regeneration does not mean it has not taken place. We dare not limit regeneration to those who have understanding. John the Baptist was regenerated in his infancy, after all. True, in the ordinary economy of salvation, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17), but we cannot say that God cannot grant faith and repentance to whom he desires. They may not possess as much faith as an adult, but it may be true and saving faith nevertheless.

Calvin is by no means through with his polemic for paedobaptism, but we have already seen that the arguments he deals with are very much the same arguments that arise today. Whether credobaptist or paedobaptist (and Calvin's strength of language is perhaps typical of the sixteenth century when the credobaptist argument was viewed with deep suspicion of orthodoxy), one must concede to the Reformer's theological and exegetical skill in theological polemics.