Thursday, January 05, 2012

Another reason why I'm a Baptist

So, today I was looking for some information on the web regarding different practices and procedures other churches use for church membership.

At one point, I came across the site of a fairly well-known Presbyterian church that included information on its policies for children baptisms. It had two sections listed. In one section it listed that any member of the church could have their "infant" baptized during an upcoming service after completing a few house-keeping details. In the next section they had information that indicated that all "older children" could not be baptized unless they had made their own public profession of belief in Jesus Christ.

Now as a thorough-going baptist (at least now, sorry Mom :), I couldn't agree more that baptism should follow after a person expresses saving faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism is to be the public and outward declaration of inward faith and saving grace. I find it interesting, however, that those churches who practice infant baptism can at the same time put some sort of age restriction on when it's inappropriate or not. I see an inconsistency in saying infants can be baptized and older children cannot be. Why not? The infant has no choice whether they get splashed or not. They are making no volitional response. So, why is it inappropriate to splash water on a 10 year old? Who cares if the kid doesn't believe? His 2 week old sister doesn't beleive either. If I believe baptism is the sign of the covenant, should I really care if my 10 year old would prefer not to be marked? Isn't it the parents' decision anyway?

Baptists believe that baptism follows an individual's personal decision to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. Infants should not be baptized because salvation and entrance into the covenant community is received by faith, not through any church ritual. Repent and believe and then be baptized is the natural order (Acts 2:38). It's clean, simple, and less confusing than the practices of my Presbyterian and other infant-splashing brothers and sisters.

Note: I have a lot of love for many of the denominations and Christian traditions that baptize babies. I do not doubt their salvation and in no way doubt their sincere attempts to obey the Bible as honestly as possible. I just found the paradox in my reading today worth blogging about.


Jack said...

This is another illustration of how Presbyterians really do not follow the circumcision = baptism justification for their practice of infant baptism. Under the Old Covenant, any male of any age who wished to become a member of the nation had to be circumcised. You might be 85 years old, and you still had to be circumcised -- it was mandatory. All you had to do was confess agreement with the Shema ("The Lord God of Abraham, he is One", Dt. 6:4), and by being circumcised you bound yourself to the Law. Presbyterians ignore all these discrepancies, but then they crop up in examples such as the one you note.

David Strunk said...

For what it's worth, this is probably an individual church's attempt to practice inconsistent covenantal views on Scripture. Our denomination as a whole does not believe or accept (indeed, it might be a matter of church discipline to deny baptism such as this) the example you use. So, let's be wary of the examples we use to extrapolate to an entire argument and view of Scripture. One person's inconsistency does not a theology make. By the way, this is called the straw man fallacy. ;) I miss you, Proctor.

Matt and Carrie Proctor said...

Dave, I'm confused. Would your church baptize a 10 year old if the parents requested it? Or would you only baptize the 10 year old if s/he was a confessed believer?

As mentioned in my post, it appears the PCA church I mentioned would not baptize the 10 year old only at the parents' request. They would require a profession of faith. (rightly so, I believe, but to me they are showing that professed faith is central to the outward sign of covenant membership)

Help me understand covenant theology...who decides at what age a child is marked by the covenant at the parent's decision? And at what age is the child expected to choose the sign of the covenant themselves?