[#] Say it, don't spray it

I'm dragging this over here so Brad Williams can again call me his friend. I am also enjoying it, and I want to share the joy.

To begin, let me thank Pastor Wilson for being attentive to this discussion and paying it the respect it deserves. I doubt I will convince him he is wrong, and I am sadly-confident that I am an intractable Baptist. My goal in interacting with him on this matter is to line out the pros and cons of both sides for the sake of the edification of the body.

If this debate turns into a shouting match or someone decides to turn over the card table in order to avoid admitting he doesn't have God's shekinah around his head to strike fear into the rest of us, this debate is a failure and an embarrassment. God forbid we embarrass ourselves in that way.

| With regard to the baptism of infants, I no longer accept the
| requirement for "express warrant" that I used to hold to
| when I was baptistic in my convictions. The "express
| warrant" hermeneutic winds up prohibiting way too much -
| - worship on the Lord's Day, women taking communion,
| and so on. At the same time, when I was baptistic I really
| wanted the question to be settled by an express statement of
| the Scripture. It would be really cool, thought I, if there
| were only a verse recording Paul baptizing an infant from
| the household of Demetrius.
I agree that this would be cool – way cool. The flip side is that Scripture is also sufficient when we wish we got more direction from it. Everybody would be much better served by Scripture if they didn’t draw lines between themselves and other men when Scripture gives us a certain degree of liberty by not telling us that we are supposed to wear socks to church or that we ought to avoid plaid flannel because it is an affront to Jesus' aesthetic sensibilities.
| When I was working through the material for my book on
| infant baptism, I came across what I believe is express
| warrant for infant baptism (by good and necessary
| consequence). Those who want the fuller development can
| find it in the book, but here is the outline of the argument.
| Like I said, I don't believe express warrant from the New
| Testament is necessary, but it turns out we do have express
| warrant. Gravy.
Let me first say that I am treating this argument without reading Pastor Wilson's book first, and I may live long enough to regret that. I will read it when it arrives next week.

And I would point out that if I were to line out the argument against infant baptism, it would include the warrant (by good and necessary consequences) that only the believer is to be baptized. The question would then not be "well, who decides?" without any regard to what the Roman Catholic apologist might proffer: the question is whether we are correct in claiming an "express warrant" on either side when what we have done is elevated our opinions to the status of God's Word.

| The New Testament identifies believing synagogues as
| churches. James identifies the two in his letter. If a man in
| filthy rags comes into your synagogue (Jas. 2:2), don't do
| thus and such. And if anyone there is sick, let him call for
| the elders of the church (Jas. 5:14).
True. No question that if one belonged (or belongs) to a synagogue that recognized the Messiah that it is rightly counted as a church. No question. Let's remember, however, that there are also synagogues of Satan. (Rev 2:9, 3:9) That is to say, being a synagogue does not make a community a church.
| Now when Paul came
| to Jerusalem (where many of these believing synagogues
| were), he went out of his way to reassure everybody that he
| was not teaching Jews to discontinue circumcising their
| infants. This means, in the short form, that there were New
| Testament churches that had infant members.
No. That means that there were Jewish churches who counted infants among those who were part of the nation of Israel. There is a difference.
| A circumcised infant in a believing synagogue was a member
| of that church. Now if Jewish churches/synagogues had
| infant members, on what grounds could we exclude infants
| from membership in Gentile churches?
I think there is a giant leap here, Pastor Wilson, that is conformed to your view of what makes one a "member of a church" which requires some unpacking.

In the first place, there is no doubt that the circumcision is the mark of being a Jew – a member of the nation. No question. This mark is itself instituted by God and required of every male in any household in Israel. It is part of what sets Israel visibly apart from the other nations.

But in the second place, proving that the synagogues which call Christ Messiah also continued to perform the circumcision proves too much. It is a palpable demonstration that baptism doesn't supercede or replace circumcision. If Paul – who we would agree does not demand that all men become Jews to become disciples of Christ – was willing to encourage circumcision among the remnant who gained faith in Jesus, and was not willing to enforce circumcision on the gentiles, but taught baptism to all of them, baptism is "something else" and not the same thing and circumcision.

| We could not
| exclude them. But we could say that circumcision was not
| required for them, because the sign and seal of the covenant
| was in the process of being changed to baptism. "For as
| many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on
| Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . And if ye be
| Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to
| the promise" (Gal. 3:27-29).
I think this conclusion ignores the problem that the synagogue church must have been performing both. If baptism is the sign and seal of the covenant in the same way, for the same purpose as circumcision, doing both (as the synagogue churches must have done) was somewhat extravagant.

I think it is much more plausible to admit that circumcision means something different than baptism because it is not required of the non-Jew.

| The question for our baptistic brethren is this. Are you
| prepared to maintain that an infant brought to your
| congregation (formally and covenantally excluded) is in the
| same position as an infant brought to a believing synagogue
| in Jerusalem in AD 52?
I would say, "that infant is unequivocally in the same position if he is to be baptized and also circumcised." If he is not to receive both, then the comparison is not an express warrant but an implied warrant. It gives one the liberty to do this in good conscience, but not the liberty to claim that this is exactly what Scripture teaches because one is not doing what one claims was done: one is doing less.
| Not only would the believing
| synagogue not exclude such an infant, I believe that they
| would have difficulty even comprehending the concept of
| excluding the infants. And if there was such a generation-
| long uproar over the inclusion of the Gentiles, what would
| the commotion have been if the apostles really were
| teaching the Jews that not only must you start admitting the
| Gentile adults, but you must start excluding your own
| children? I have trouble believing that this would not have
| caused the Mother of all Theological Controversies. But
| there is not a word about such a controversy in the New
| Testament.
This application of the implicit warrant is still the part I have the most problem with. Let's assume for one minute that the Baptist (in this case, me) is unequivocally wrong in not baptizing the infant in his family. Let's assume that there is not just warrant but command to baptize infants. So we have all these kids in AWANA and Sunday school who do not have the visible seal, but we have all these kids in AWANA and Sunday school and church! What is completely incongruous to me is claiming "you must start excluding your own children". Excluded from what? From election? Not hardly. From salvation? In what way? From the teaching of Christ and the word of God? When? How?

Let's make sure I am not accused of saying, "Boy, we Baptists do a great job of catechizing our kids," because we are not the most rigorous bunch of catechists on the planet. I will be the first to admit that Baptist Sunday school is, in the largest aggregate picture, not a weekly session in systematics. But the question is if we are giving our children any more or less than their parents are getting, and unequivocally the answer is "no way".

In same ways that's something to be ashamed of for the sake of the adults, but to say that children in Baptist churches are "excluded" from something is overstated. I go back to the original complaint I made a few posts ago when I recognized that Pastor Wilson would call refusing them the sacraments a serious kind of exclusion (cf. the WCF), and in that ask again to explain how that is an exclusion in fact without resorting to a semi-sacerdotal position.