On the heals of yesterday’s entry, we can now move on to the next portion of the membership class outline from which I’m working.
This is a very simple portion of the outline, listing five objections. I didn’t take notes, so I’ll be providing the answers as best as I can recall them. I apologize in advance for whatever headache I may cause you!
The New Testament does not command infant baptism!
You’re right, it doesn’t. However, it also never precludes the practice.
Remember that the majority of the first Christians were Jews. An important part of their culture involved the circumcision of their households, infants included. They were accustomed to applying a sign of faith to their infants, and it is highly unlikely that practice would have disappeared with any speed as the Jews were converting to Christ. Rather, we would expect them to have applied a sign of faith to their households just as they did with circumcision. We saw yesterday that baptism replaced circumcision as God’s appointed sign of the faith, and so that would be what these converts would be applying to their households — infants included.
In fact, that infant baptism isn’t addressed at all in the Scriptures is a great argument in its favor. If it was a big deal that these converted Jews were applying a sign of their new faith in Jesus Christ to their infants, why was it never addressed? The practice is simply taken for granted!
Also, it must be pointed out that the objection is a logical objection to itself and thus is made null: If your basis for not doing something is that Scripture never commanded it, could it not also be argued that one should baptize infants because the Scriptures never commanded not to do it?
The New Testament records no instances of infant baptism!
That line of reasoning can be used against many things, several of which I bet your church makes ample use of: choirs, pulpits, offering plates, ushers, baptisteries, church secretaries, church nurseries, Sunday school, missions counsels, hymnals, steeples, midweek services, youth outings, multimedia presentations, and so very much more. Do you really want to stand against infant baptism simply because no instance of it is recorded in Scripture?
As I said above, it is very likely assumed that infants were baptized.
Indeed, twice in Acts we have examples of entire households being baptized: Lydia’s and the jailers, both in Acts 16. Commentators, such as John Gill, claim that to believe infants were involved is to make too big a leap of faith; however, reading such commentary it is rather clear that similar leaps in logic are being made.
Again, what would have been the practice? It was custom to apply a sign of faith to infants. They were never told to stop doing that.
A child cannot profess faith, so he should not be baptized!
That’s interesting; why then do we see infants being circumcised in the Old Testament? Circumcision was done as an obedient act of faith, but can infants exercise faith? Of course not, yet still they had the sign applied to them. Indeed, many circumcised Jews would grow up with an “uncircumcised heart” and die without faith, lost in their sin. Certainly, the same would be true of infants who are baptized.
Simply, to claim the “cannot exercise faith” argument” is to directly oppose God’s commands under the Abrahamic Covenant to circumcise infants. Both are matters of obedience, not faith! Truly, an obedient Jew is a circumcised Jew; yet it is performed on infants as well.
It is impossible to oppose infant baptism then without also opposing circumcision. Further difficulty is introduced when we recall that baptism is the direct replacement of circumcision.
Roman Catholics believe baptism saves a child. So we should not do what they do!
This objection borders on the ridiculous. To extend the same logic, the Mormons practice baptism for the dead, so should we not baptize? The Roman Catholics believe that the elements of the Mass become the very substance of Jesus Christ, so should we eschew the Lord’s supper as a result?
Just because the Roman Catholics or other pseudochristian cults corrupt biblical practices does not mean we should abandon the pure practices. Indeed, it makes it ever more important that we do embrace them.
Also, in discussion infant baptism, at least from a Presbyterian point of view, it must be emphasize that baptism is in no way efficacious for salvation — a baptized infant is an unsaved infant, in need of faith in Jesus Christ just as anyone would be.
There is no benefit in baptizing a child!
What was the (religious, not medicinal) benefit of circumcising an infant? The same benefits exist with baptizing an infant.
Baptism is a privilege, just as circumcision was. Both acts identify the person outwardly as one of Abraham’s offspring. The emphasis has always been on the inward, certainly — circumcision didn’t make a Jew saved any more than baptism makes an infant saved — but it does identify the infant as a member of a group of others who are living for God. To baptize an infant is to proclaim for all present, “This is a Christian’s child!”
And in that regard, it is also a pledge, a pledge that the child will be reared in a manner consistent with the Scriptures. “This is a Christian’s child, and he is going to be raised in the ways of the Lord!” Just as circumcision was the first step in an infants’ being raised in light of the Abrahamic Covenant (and subsequently the Mosaic Covenant), so is baptism a first step.
It could be argued that people in the New Testament were only baptized after they believed. To that, I say “Duh!” Why would anyone be baptized if they weren’t a part of the churches? These were all newcomers to Christianity, and it makes sense that when they were saved, they would subsequently be baptized. They then would have their children baptized, just as they would have had their children circumcised if they had just converted to Judaism.
Again, infant baptism only makes sense when viewing the Scriptures from a covenantal perspective. The unity of the Testaments cannot be ignored, especially when Paul makes it ever so clear, as we saw yesterday, that baptism is the circumcision of this age.
I may still do a part three, on the various modes of baptism, but I’m not for sure. Stay tuned!