On Baptizing Babies

In a previous post, I explained how I came to change my mind on infant baptism. That post was semi-autobiographical, attempting not so much to persuade others as to indicate some of my own thought-processes. I originally intended it just for friends and family members who may have heard that I became Presbyterian and wondered what that was all about. Unforeseen to me, it ended up having a much wider audience than I had originally envisioned. To date it is my most read blog post. No other posts even come close.

In it, I promised a future post in which I would “more directly explain my views on infant baptism, address some related issues, and share a fuller, annotated bibliography of resources I found helpful.” This is that post. Again, this is not my Treatise on Infant Baptism. I am not going to say everything that can be said. I wouldn’t even say that I am writing this with the primary intent of persuading others or making a full-fledged case. My goals are more modest. This will primarily be informative, aimed at helping interested readers understand how I view infant baptism, what I think it does, and what further resources may be consulted on this matter.

Here is the plan for this post. I will first share a very basic overview of the biblical case for infant baptism. Then I will address several related issues: the new covenant promises, the nature of covenant membership, and baptismal efficacy. Finally, I will conclude with an annotated bibliography of resources that I found helpful on these issues.

The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism

“To you and your children” is a theme that echoes throughout Scripture. Every one of God’s covenants in Scripture—Adamic (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12–19), Noahic (Gen 9:12), Abrahamic (Gen 17:7), Mosaic (Exod 20:5–6; 34:7), Davidic (2 Sam 7:12–16), new covenant (Deut 30:6; Isa 59:21; Jer 32:39)—are made not just with the original recipients of the promises, but with their children as well. When Peter says in his Pentecost sermon, “The promise is for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39), he is enunciating a Biblical principle that was there from the very beginning, was reaffirmed in every covenant, and continues into the new covenant era.

Since children of the faithful throughout Scripture are regarded as covenant members and are recipients of the covenant promises, they are also fit recipients of the sign of initiation into the covenant people. It is important to note that not every covenant had an initiatory sign. The Adamic and Noahic covenants did not have a sign of initiation, though both covenants did clearly embrace the offspring of the original parties. It is not until the Abrahamic covenant that an initiatory sign is given, and that is circumcision (Gen 17:11). As soon as an initiatory sign is given, it is applied not only to adult converts, but also to the children of the faithful. Children are embraced by the covenant promises and are regarded as part of the covenant people; therefore they receive the sign of initiation into that covenant people.

Circumcision continued to be the initiatory covenant sign until the New Testament era. Now baptism instead of circumcision is the sign of covenant initiation (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor 12:13; Col 2:11–12). Just as circumcision was rightly applied not only to adult converts but also to the children of believers, so it is now with baptism. Children, from the very beginning, were included in covenant dealings. Children are nowhere excluded from covenant dealings—in fact, we see evidence of their continued inclusion throughout every covenant in Scripture. Therefore, children are fit recipients of the sign of initiation into the covenant people, which for Christians means baptism.

That is the argument for infant baptism in a nutshell. There is certainly a lot more that could be said, and I would direct inquisitive readers to my annotated bibliography for more detailed treatments. For now, I will move on to address some issues closely related to infant baptism.

Children in the New Covenant

I trust I didn’t ruffle too many feathers when I spoke of children being included in the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants. But some would deny that children are likewise included in the new covenant. They hold that the new covenant is different from the old in that the old covenant people was a mixed community, consisting of both regenerate and unregenerate, true believers and false ones. The new covenant, by contrast, is a fully regenerate community, and so it excludes children who are not to be viewed as regenerate before they profess faith.

They would find basis for this view in the new covenant passage of Jeremiah 31:31–34:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

This passage forecasts that in the new covenant God will regenerate his people, putting his law in them and writing it on their hearts. It teaches that all of them will know the Lord, and their sin will be forgiven. So, these objectors might argue, unlike the old covenant community, which was a mixed bag, the new covenant community is un-mixed—it consists only of the regenerate, who know the Lord and whose sins are forgiven; thus, children are now excluded, since they are not regenerate, do not know the Lord, and their sins are not forgiven, until they believe.

I myself held to this view for a time. It is advocated prominently by the likes of Stephen Wellum and James White. But I came to see that it had some problems.

Note with whom this covenant is made. It is not made with an amorphous group called “God’s people.” This covenant is made with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (v. 31). But the house of Israel and the house of Judah are not just a collection of true believers; they are the visible church, a mixed group. They are also not all adults, either. Children too are members of the house of Israel and the house of Judah. And this group is the one that the covenant is made with.

To put it simply: the new covenant promises include children. Children are included by implication in the new covenant promises given in Jeremiah 31:31–34, since the promises are addressed to a group of people that include children—both young and old, small and great, infants and adults, “from the least of them to the greatest.”

For confirmation of this, look at the very next chapter. In chapter 32 the Lord promises to return Israel to the land and make with them an “everlasting covenant,” which commentators agree refers to the same new covenant as in chapter 31. But notice who is included in this new covenant promise:

And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

Children are implicitly included in the new covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:31–34. Here in 32:37–41, their inclusion is explicit. The Lord promises that he will give his people one heart and one way, so that they will fear him forever, for their own good and the good of their children. The idea here is that this fear will be multi-generational. It is not a fear that terminates in parents, but that the Lord promises will pass down to the children.

Nor is this an isolated occurrence.

  • Back when the new covenant was first envisioned, way back in Deuteronomy 30:6, we find the inclusion of children in the promise: “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
  • Isaiah 59:21: “‘And as for me, this is my covenant with them,’ says the Lord: ‘My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,’ says the Lord, ‘from this time forth and forevermore.'”
  • Ezekiel 37:25–26: “They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.”

So, putting all the relevant texts together: in the new covenant, all of Israel will be regenerate, all of them will know their Lord, from the least of them to the greatest—including their children.

These promises are great indeed. But how do we reconcile these glorious promises concerning the regeneration and salvation of the children of God’s people with the fact that many children of professing Christians walk away from the faith?

One way that some credobaptists may try to solve this difficulty is by spiritualizing every referent to “children” in the above passages. For example, when Moses foretells that in the new covenant “the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring,” he really just has in mind spiritual offspring. You could then go on to read the remainder of these passages as simply teaching that spiritual children and spiritual offspring will be saved in the new covenant, not necessarily physical children or physical offspring. “Spiritual” children are then presumed to be referring to regenerate children, or regenerate believers more generally. Or perhaps it refers to elect children.

But there is an enormous difficulty with this interpretation: it makes the promise redundant. Moses would then be saying, “In the new covenant, all of your regenerate children will be saved.” But this was already the case; in fact, this is Paul’s very point in Romans 9:6–13, 11:1–7. All along the way God was faithful to save his true elect people, the Israel within Israel. It has been, is now, and always will be true that the Lord will save all the elect children, or all the regenerate children, of his people. This turns the promise into a tautology.

I think it is very unlikely that an Israelite would have heard Jeremiah’s words and thought to themselves, “Wow, I can’t wait for the day when we will all know the Lord—that is, when we’ll exclude our children from the covenant altogether until we see evidence of saving faith, and even then still have to root out false members from our midst!” That’s not quite what I think the new covenant promises are envisioning. Under the new covenant, all covenant members would be saved because God was at work, not because Israel stopped viewing their children as covenant members or adjusted the entry requirements.

Another important factor to bear in mind is that regenerate church membership was always the ideal. Sometimes the impression is given that the Old Testament people was an intentionally mixed people, while the New Testament people is an unintentionally mixed people. But this is mistaken. It was not “just fine” to be an unregenerate covenant member in the old covenant: “To the wicked God says: ‘What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?'” (Ps 50:16). In the Old Testament the unfaithful were excommunicated via stoning, while in the New Testament the unfaithful are excommunicated via church discipline. In both cases it is flagrant, noticeable, visible, recalcitrant sinners who are excommunicated; only the mode of the excommunication differs. This never excluded children because throughout Scripture children are not viewed as pagan unbelievers but as members of the faithful who would grow up professing faith in the Lord from the very earliest stages: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Psalm 22:10). For further examples, see Psalm 71:5–6; Matthew 18:5 (compare 10:40–42), Luke 18:16, Ephesians 6:1–3 (compare 1:1), Colossians 3:20 (compare Rom 8:8). Herman Bavinck captures the idea well: “Therefore, in general the children of believers should, in accordance with the judgment of charity, be regarded as elect and regenerate until from their ‘talk’ or their ‘walk’ the contrary [is] evident.”

When it comes to the new covenant promises, it seems we have to embrace the following points:

  1. The new covenant promises were made to Israel: “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31). As such, they included their children.
  2. Gentiles come to share in the new covenant promises because they are grafted into Israel by faith (Rom 11:17–24). Once grafted in, they really are in. The new covenant and its promises really are theirs—even those parts about children (such as Deut 30:6; Ps 103:17–18; Jer 32:38–40; Ezek 37:25–26; Isa 59:21). Paul views even the children of believing Gentiles as in some sense holy (1 Cor 7:14). He addresses them directly as members of the church who are to obey their parents “in the Lord” (Eph 6:1–3) and whose obedience “pleases the Lord” (Col 3:20). In both old covenant and new, children should be viewed as elect and regenerate until they demonstrate themselves otherwise by high-handed sin and rebellion.
  3. It seems to me that we have to acknowledge that these promises are not yet realized in their fullness. However much these promises may have initial fulfillments along the way, the new covenant promises ultimately have an “already-not-yet” character, along with many other Scriptural promises. Even credobaptists must acknowledge that we are not at the point where the visible church is just the same as the invisible church—even against their best efforts, false Christians still get in. The new covenant will not be perfectly fulfilled until the eschaton. Jesus inaugurated it in his first coming, and will bring it in its fullness of glory at his second coming.

The Nature of Covenant Membership

The reality of apostasy also raises the question of the nature of covenant membership. Were apostates ever covenant members, or were they never really a part of the covenant people in the first place?

Stephen Marshall, a Westminster Divine, addresses this very question, articulating a twofold way of understanding the covenant of grace and covenant membership. In pages 106–107 of his Defence of Infant Baptism (https://archive.org/stream/defenceofinfantb00mars#page/104/mode/2up), he writes:

The Covenant of grace is sometimes taken strictly, sometimes largely; as it is considered strictly, it is a Covenant in which the spiritual benefits of justification, regeneration, perseverance, and glorification are freely promised in Christ. Secondly, as the Covenant of grace is taken largely, it comprehends all Evangelical administrations which do wholly depend upon the free and gracious appointment of God, and this administration is fulfilled according to the counsel of God’s will; sometimes it was administered by his appointment in types, shadows, and other legal Ordinances; this Covenant of administration, God said, Zechariah 11:10 he did break with the people of the Jews, and at the death of Christ he did wholly evacuate and abolish, and in stead thereof brought in the administration which we live under, where also he rejected the Jews or broke them off from being his people in Covenant, and called the Gentiles, and grafted them … into the place of the branches broken off.…

Now according to this different acceptation of the Covenant are men differently said to be in covenant with God, or to be members of his Church and family; some are mystical members by inward grace, the inward grace of the Covenant being bestowed upon them, being made new creatures, &c. others are members in regard of the external and visible economy; accordingly among the Jews some were said to be Abraham’s seed according to the promise, and not only after the flesh, who had the Circumcision of the heart as well as that which was outward, others were Jews in propatulo [in the open], Jews only in foro visibilis ecclesia [in the forum of the visible church]: and in like manner is it under the Evangelical administration in the Christian Chruch, some are in Christ by mystical union, so as to be regenerate, &c. 1 Cor 6:17; 2 Cor 5:17. others are said to be in Christ by visible and external profession, as branches which bear no fruit, John 15:2. and these also are called branches of the Vine, though such branches, as for unfruitfulness shall at last be cut off and cast away; and oftentimes tells us many are called, but few are chosen: Unto both these do belong great priviledges, though the priviledges of the one be saving, & the other not, as shall by and by appeare.

According to Marshall, the covenant of grace can be taken strictly or largely. Taken strictly, the covenant is made with the elect alone and consists in God’s promise to effectually save his elect through Christ’s atonement and the Spirit’s regenerative work. The spiritual benefits of regeneration, forgiveness, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification are saving benefits and cannot be lost. All who receive these benefits will persevere to the end, according to God’s eternal purpose (Rom 8:28–30). Taken strictly, the covenant of grace cannot be broken, because it is God’s promise to effectually save his elect and includes his working in them to repent and believe and persevere to the end.

Taken more largely, though, the covenant of grace includes all “Evangelical administrations.” In order for the covenant of grace to manifest itself in history, it must enter into that history and take up some tangible form. There must be an external gathering of people, with the administration of the word, sacraments, and prayer. The various specific covenants that God makes with his people in Scripture after Adam’s fall (Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, Mosaic, New) can be viewed as so many differing outward administrations of the covenant of grace. Though there are differences between these administrations, they are all an external means by which we come to share in Christ and all his benefits.

This twofold conception of the covenant of grace implies a twofold conception of what it means to be a covenant member or church member. Only the elect are members of the covenant of grace in its stricter sense. They alone are members of the invisible church and mystical members of the body of Christ. The benefits they possess are saving benefits. The inward graces of the covenant are bestowed on them, they are made new creatures, and will spend eternity in heaven with God. 

But taken in the broader sense, both elect and non-elect can be members of the covenant of grace in its external administration; both can be members of the visible church. The benefits of the covenant’s outward administration are great, though they are outward benefits held in common with both elect and non-elect. These benefits include regularly sitting under the reading and teaching of God’s Word; acquaintance with the sacred history and divine promises; participation in the sacraments, public prayer, and corporate worship; fellowship with believers; and many other benefits implied in these things. It is possible to participate in these outward benefits and lack salvation itself, but it is not ordinarily possible to have salvation apart from participation in these benefits.

One thing I would add to Stephen Marshall’s account is the idea that being a member of the visible church entitles you to be viewed and treated as a member of the invisible church. All who are within the pale of the covenant’s external administration should be viewed, according to the judgment of charity, as elect and regenerate until they demonstrate themselves to be otherwise by unbelief or rebellion. When this occurs, we may well question their spiritual state, and should they harden themselves against correction and continue in unrepentant sin, we are to move toward church discipline.

When a member of the visible church apostatizes, they do not fall out of mystical and saving union with Christ; rather, they fall out of membership in the visible church. They do not personally lose any spiritual and saving benefits, such as regeneration and justification, though they do forfeit many great outward benefits. They do not turn from saving faith, but from a temporal or historical faith (cf. Jas 2:19). This is the best way to understand texts which speak of apostates as unfruitful branches being broken off (John 15:2; Rom 11:20) and of apostasy as falling away from grace or other benefits (Gal 5:4; Heb 6:4–6; 10:26–31; 2 Pet 2:21). These texts are describing the loss of membership in the covenant’s external administration in the visible church, together with its many outward and common benefits.

To summarize: we can distinguish between mystical (or inward, invisible) covenant membership and visible (or external) covenant membership. All who possess the latter, either by birth to Christian parents or by profession, should be viewed as also possessing the former until apostasy proves otherwise. Apostasy is from the reality of the latter and from the presumption of the former.

It is worth noting in this connection that the Westminster Directory for Publick Worship does call the children of Christians “Christians,” and describes them as federally holy before baptism:

…That children, by baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh: That they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized.

This transitions us into our final topic.

Baptismal Efficacy

The topic of baptismal efficacy is an important one, even if controversial. A helpful place to start is the Westminster Confession of Faith, 28.6:

The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.

Note: baptism is not just a sign of grace, but a means of grace. Grace is conferred “by the right use of this ordinance.” This is why the Bible often talks about baptism in high terms: that by it we are grafted into Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom 6:1–5; Col 2:11–12), that all who are baptized have put on Christ (Gal 3:27), that it is a washing of regeneration (Tit 3:5), a baptism that brings forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16), and a baptism that saves (1 Pet 3:21). We need to stop being afraid of the statements found in these texts and instead seek to understand in what sense these texts are true. That’s just what the Westminster Confession of Faith attempts to do.

Baptists are concerned that a wrong notion of these texts will communicate two falsehoods: (1) that baptism confers a grace which, absolutely speaking, the believing participant did not possess before; and (2) that all who are baptized are necessarily saved, forgiven, justified, and elect. They are right to be concerned. These two views are mistaken and should be opposed. But we must not overcorrect against these errors by failing to affirm any notion of baptismal instrumentality or conferral of grace through the right use of the sacraments.

Saving faith may either precede or follow the moment of baptism. For those who have come to faith before baptism, baptism as a visible word of promise re-offers, re-exhibits, and re-confers the graces signified—union with Christ, cleansing, forgiveness, the gift of the Spirit, etc. In the act of baptism believers are not receiving these graces for the very first time, but they are receiving them anew in a unique way, a way that accords with the nature of a sacrament as a seal of grace.

In the case of someone who comes to saving faith later in life, by this act they then realize the meaning of their baptism and receive all the benefits promised to them in it. It is just as effectual for them as it is for the one who believes before being baptized. For more on this beautiful concept, see Alastair Roberts’ helpful article “Infant Baptism and the Promise of Grace.”

While all recognize that God in his sovereignty may bestow regeneration upon a child whenever he chooses, there are differences among the Reformed about when, ordinarily, God regenerates the children of believers. Some of the Reformed hold that regeneration is ordinarily conferred upon infants prior to their baptism. Some think that ordinarily regeneration is conferred upon infants at the time of their baptism. Others hold that regeneration is ordinarily conferred after baptism, when the child reaches the age of reason and makes profession of his or her faith. All three views were represented at the Westminster Assembly, and the Westminster Confession does not attempt to adjudicate this debate.

In my judgment, Herman Witsius makes a compelling case for the view that regeneration is ordinarily conferred upon infants before their baptism. (This view was represented at the Westminster Assembly by Thomas Goodwin.) As I argued above, generally speaking, Christians should regard and treat their children as Christians—as regenerate believers and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Faith is to be nurtured in children. As Calvin, Turretin, Ursinus, and the Leiden Synopsis put it, faith may be viewed as a seed or principle planted in regenerate infants by the Spirit—not yet active, but an inclination ready to manifest itself in time as the children grow and develop and come to profess their faith. At the time of their profession, they then transition from inclination/seed-faith to active faith, as they personally and knowingly embrace for themselves the benefits of the gospel.

Infants who grow up to renounce the faith are in the same category as mature, professing believers who later renounce the faith. They are rejecting for themselves the meaning and import of their baptism, by which they show that they never truly were regenerated, cleansed from sin, or mystically united to Christ. Baptism is of no help to them while they remain in unbelief, though it does continually hold forth to them the promise of grace and mercy should they return to the Lord in faith and repentance.

On the topic of baptismal efficacy as it relates to infants especially, the following quote from Charles Hodge is very helpful:

Infants are the objects of Christ’s redemption. They are capable of receiving all its benefits. Those benefits are promised to them on the same conditions on which they are promised to their parents. It is not every one who says Lord, Lord, who shall enter into the kingdom of God. It is not every baptized adult who is saved; nor are all those who are baptized in infancy made partakers of salvation. But baptism signs, seals, and actually conveys its benefits to all its subjects, whether infants or adults, who keep the covenant of which it is the sign. As a believer who recalls some promise of the Scriptures which he has read or heard, receives the full benefit of that promise; so the infant when arrived at maturity receives the full benefit of baptism, if he believes in the promises signified and sealed to him in that ordinance. Baptism, therefore, benefits infants just as it does adults, and on the same condition.

It does not follow from this that the benefits of redemption may not be conferred on infants at the time of their baptism. That is in the hands of God. What is to hinder the imputation to them of the righteousness of Christ, or their receiving the renewing of the Holy Ghost, so that their whole nature may be developed in a state of reconciliation with God? Doubtless this often occurs but whether it does or not, their baptism stands good; it assures them of salvation if they do not renounce their baptismal covenant.

Annotated Bibliography

What follows is an annotated bibliography of resources I have found helpful as I have researched the topic of infant baptism. This is certainly not exhaustive and I am sure there are other great resources out there as well. But this is as good a place to start as any.

Note: I have already linked to some excellent articles in what I have written above. I did not repeat these a second time down here, so be sure to check those out as well.

  • (Short Article) Steven Wedgeworth, “Should We Baptize Infants?”https://christchurchlakeland.com/should-we-baptize-infants/. Compact, general, accessible summary of the position.
  • (Article) Alastair Roberts, “Transcript of Video on Jeremiah’s New Covenant.” The one thing that had me convinced of credobaptism was the Baptistic argument from the nature of the new covenant promises. It goes like this: Jeremiah 31:31–34 is about the new covenant, and Hebrews 8 quotes it so it is important. It says that the old covenant is not like the old, because in it God writes his law on his people’s heart, and his people shall all know the Lord. This means that the new covenant is an entirely regenerate community. The covenant sign, therefore, should now only be applied to those who are regenerate, and we identify those by their credible profession of faith. I no longer find this reading of the NC compelling, and in fact I think the paedobaptists have a better, more robust and biblically-faithful reading of it. Alastair gets at some of that here: https://alastairadversaria.com/2018/07/26/transcript-of-video-on-jeremiahs-new-covenant/. See also Pratt’s chapter in The Case for Covenant Infant Baptism (which I reference below).
  • (Article Section) Joseph Minich, Sections 8–9 of “Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of Covenants”: https://calvinistinternational.com/2012/11/05/kingdom-through-covenant-a-biblical-theological-understanding-of-covenants/In this article Minich reviews Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum’s book Kingdom Through Covenant. Gentry and Wellum are professors at Southern, and Wellum’s new covenant argument for credobaptism is what had me convinced of credobaptism for a while. Minich reviews their whole book here, but the relevant section for paedobaptism is sections #8–9 (if you scroll down, you’ll find the “Response” section, and he numbers his critiques of the book: so it’s critiques number 8 and 9 that I’m talking about.) He interacts well with the new covenant credobaptist argument.
  • (Long Article) David Gibson, “Fathers of Faith, My Fathers Now”http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/fathers-of-faith-my-fathers-now-on-abraham-covenant-theology-paedobaptism. Gives theological, sacramental, and anthropological observations in support of infant baptism.
  • (Short Articles) Mark Jones, “The Mode and Meaning of Baptism”:  https://calvinistinternational.com/2018/09/24/the-mode-and-meaning-of-baptism/. Jones discusses here both the mode of baptism and the application of baptism to infants. One of the unique things about Jones is his emphasis on coming at it from the perspective of parenting. He argues that credobaptists are being inconsistent when they teach their children to pray to God as “our Father,” tell them that Jesus loves them and died for them and that their sins are forgiven, and teaches them to recite catechisms that say stuff like “I believe” etc. If we can do that, then we should baptize them too. If we can’t baptize them, then it seems we shouldn’t raise them like that. Along the same line of thought, we need to think carefully about the kind of “conversion story” we expect our kids to have. Do we assume they will wander away and be totally lost for some span of their lives, only then to really “learn” their sin and see their need for Christ, and eventually come back to him (some sooner, some later)? Or do we trust and pray for and hope and faithfully anticipate that they will not remember a day that they did not love and trust Christ? Gregory Shane Morris’s short article is relevant to this, and he discusses “testimony-envy”: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/troublerofisrael/2016/11/the-real-reason-evangelicals-dont-baptize-babies/
  • (Short Articles) Peter Leithart, “Do Baptists Talk to Their Babies?”: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leithart/2017/10/baptists-talk-babies/ and Alastair Roberts (https://curiouscat.me/zugzwanged/post/203281968) and Steven Wedgeworth (https://curiouscat.me/wedgetweets/post/213342660). On infants being included in faith of parents. Corporate solidarity.
  • (Book) O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants: http://a.co/ass6h2A. Robertson takes a step back from the paedobaptist issue specifically (though he does say things that are relevant to it) and talks about the covenants. Understanding the covenants has implications for how one understands the application of covenant signs, such as baptism. Grasping the Presbyterian view of the covenants is essential to understanding their convictions about paedobaptism.
  • (Book) Doug Wilson, To a Thousand Generationshttps://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Generations-Baptism-Covenant-Children/dp/1885767242. Good on biblical evidences, and some good stuff on theology of children.
  • (Book) Gregg Strawbridge (ed.), The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptismhttps://www.amazon.com/Case-Covenantal-Infant-Baptism/dp/0875525547. It has an array of contributors assessing it from a number of angels: biblical, theological, historical, practical, etc. The best chapters in my opinion are Pratt, Wilson, Leithart, and Beeke and Lanning.
  • (Book) Robert Letham, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Baptism: The Water that Uniteshttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1845509684/ref=x_gr_w_glide_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_glide_bb-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1845509684&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2. Really short but really informative. It is endorsed by Michael Haykin, one of my Southern professors: “Rightly Letham seeks to understand the issue of baptism within the canonical framework of Scripture. He is hopeful that this is the way forward beyond the impasse that has stymied the church for centuries regarding this precious ordinance ….if you are searching for a well-argued, and irenic, approach to this subject from the vantage-point of infant baptism, this is the book for you.”
  • (Book Section) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Section 16. Calvin’s defense of paedobaptism. He gets a bit feisty, but then the Anabaptists who he was writing against back then had a lot of other weird beliefs, some of which were even heretical, so this in part explains why he writes the way he does. Available online: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.vi.xvii.html. But the McNeill (ed.) in-print version is a better translation.
  • (Book Section) Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology. See Turretin’s section in defense of infant baptism. It is a more orderly, condensed, and scholastic presentation than Calvin’s, though substantively the same.
  • (Book Section) Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics. Bavinck’s sections on regeneration and on baptism are solid. He also summarizes the various views of the Reformers on these topics.
  • (Video) “The Baptism Debate”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoVXoH585gw. James White vs. Bill Shishko. Shishko argues better than Sproul did in the Sproul vs. McArthur debate.

3 thoughts on “On Baptizing Babies”

    1. Hi Elbert – thanks for the comment!

      Not explicitly. But we do have examples of Gentile converts assimilating into Israel, and they would have been circumcised (the Hivites in Genesis 34, Rahab’s male offspring, Ruth’s male offspring, etc.). The Judaizers’ insistence that Gentile Christians be circumcised in the NT seems to presume that Gentiles converts to Judaism ought to have been circumcised as well.

      I certainly want to think this issue through in greater detail. It may have been possible in the OT to be a true and faithful Gentile convert without being circumcised. But to be a true and faithful member of the church you do need to be baptized, so perhaps there is an intensification and expansion in this regard. It could be the case though that Gentile converts ought to have assimilated all the way and been circumcised, I’m not sure.

      I do acknowledge that there are differences between circumcision and baptism in terms of their function and symbolism. But I think there are also significant theological and symbolic similarities, as texts like Deuteronomy 10:16, Romans 4:11, and Colossians 2:11-12 seem to suggest.


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