[@] Baptism and Fellowship (3)

There are a lot of loose ends in the paedo/credo baptism discussion running around, and because we have all managed to keep the snark to a minimum I can manage to try to get all the loose ends into one bucket to (at least) recognize that questions have been asked that have not been addressed (which is to avoid trying to say I can answer all the questions that come up here).

Regarding your question "what is the harm in putting the cart before the horse and baptizing an infant in faith that God will save....", I know you can do better than this. It's as though you've deprecated baptism to the realm of some utilitarian schemata. I would hate to see the ReBaptizer come here and ask you the same type of Kriptonic question, like for example, "what was the harm in being rebaptized together with my newly saved wife, after all, it was such a spiritual experience we got to share?"
That's a great question -- but it really ignores the reformed baptist definition of Baptism compared to the traditional Presbyterian definition of Baptism. Let's look at them side by side for a minute, shall we?

WCF — Chapter XXVIII: Of BaptismLBCF — Chapter XXIX: Of Baptism

1. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.

1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

2. The outward element to be used in the sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.

3. The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

3. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.

4. Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance.

4. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.

2. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.

5. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

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 ordinancy 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 belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

7. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered to any person.

One of the important similarities of these two definitions is item 1 on each side: Baptism is the ordinance/sacrament from Christ which initiates the party baptized into the life of the church.

On the Baptist side, that life (which I take to be correspondent to the term "of regeneration" in the WCF) is for the confessing believer only (as in point 2, which is last in this comparison) with the demand that the subject be dipped. On the WCF side, there is less-rigidity on the ritual (which is to say, dipping and sprinkling are both accepted) and a clear exhortation that in baptism "the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost ... according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time." That is to say, the Baptist practices this ordinance to bring only the believer into the church's life based on the ordinance administered after a (fallible) confession of faith; the Presbyterian practices the sacrament on the new adult believer but also his children based not on man's fallible confession but on God's promise. The Presbyterian view does not say, "we baptize because we know this child is saved" and is CERTAINLY does not say, "we baptize this child in order to save her," but "we baptize in order to publicly offer God's grace to this child in order that God's promise may be fulfilled." (again, my Presby readers who are informed on this subject ought to correct me if I am dropping the ball here)

That does not overturn an important historical fact: adult baptism was the rule of practice in the first 3 centuries of the church. Somebody someplace may want to kvetch about ad fontes claims at this point, but facts is facts. But even in that light which says that the practice of those instructed by the apostles was overwhelmingly adult baptism, infant baptism was never rejected of forbidden. Schaff says this:
Among the fathers, Tertullian himself not excepted—for he combats only its expediency—there is not a single voice against the lawfulness and the apostolic origin of infant baptism. No time can be fixed at which it was first introduced. Tertullian suggests, that it was usually based on the invitation of Christ: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” The usage of sponsors, to which Tertullian himself bears witness, although he disapproves of it, and still more, the almost equally ancient abuse of infant communion, imply the existence of infant baptism.
Schaff also admits that there were abuses of infant baptism and communion, but that is not enough to be an intransigent Baptist and say we cannot accept the infant baptisms others have received -- especially when they are evidenced by other outward manifestations of spiritual regeneration.

And that leads to these comments from Daniel -- who, btw, has argued forcefully and excellently in this thread. He commented:
The imperative to be baptized is sufficiently coupled to repentance in the NT that thedependencyndancy becomes self evident. The "harm" is that if only believers are commanded to be baptized, then we make a mockery of the ordinance every time we ordain an unbeliever. Nadab and Abihu offered fire to God inappropriately - and they were rewarded for this breach in ettiquette with fire from God. Surely it is no small thing to be wrong on this point. In putting the "baptism" cart before the "repentance" horse we may well be offering "strange fire" to God.

The question I am content to reason from is, "Did the apostles teach it?"If the answer is no. The next question is begged, "then who did?"
The first italic section, above, is the quintessential Baptist position on the matter: for the believer only, which is to say that the act of regenerate repentence is the prerequisite of proper administration of baptism. I'll say this about a million times before we're done here, so forgive me for repeating myself: this is one of the reasons I am a Baptist -- because I believe the church is for the faithful, and the faithful should receive baptism.

However, it is philosophical tunnel vision to say that everyone we baptize has confessed in regenerate repentence. There is no way from a human perspective to say we have achieved this practice to any degree at all. What we really do is accept in faith that they have confessed through the working of the Holy Spirit, and then administer baptism. That is not to say we are careless with baptism: it is to say that we accept our human limitations in administering baptism. We offer the sign in the place we believe it glorifies God by honoring His word on the matter.

If this is true about Baptist practice, we have to concede that our theology does not cover all the bases -- like the clear demonstration of the faith of John the Baptist in his mother's womb, or the consecrationation of Samuel to God's temple from birth, or the baptism of households in the NT. We have to admit that we administer the ordinance in faith, and that others may offer it in faith with essentially-identical objectives prior to overt regeneration. We may decide not to do such a thing -- but are we being intransigent to say that when they do it they are doing something which is intolerable and worthy of church discipline?

Surely, if they are baptizing because the water is magical or that it is the only way sins can be forgiven (which was certainly one reason some baptized infants in the earliest centuries), we hold that practice in doctrinal contempt -- it is one of the strict reasons to reject Catholic baptisms, if you ask me (and there are others which are more important). Surely, if they are baptizing in order to instigate spiritual regeneration, we repudiate their doctrine and reject that as true baptism because into what does that baptize?

But when baptism is offered in faith for the purpose of fulfilling God's promise and also to initiate one to the life of the church, why should we reject that baptism as substantially different than the one we provide?

Daniel's second italics section is covered by the Schaff links, above.

But let's not forget our Presbyterian brethren who have chimed in! Hobster said:
Personally, I think any Baptist church that lessens their stance on their erroneous view of baptism to allow Presbyterians/Reformed/Lutherans as members doesn't deserve the name. Fairly surprised to see Piper watering down this much ('tho maybe it's a sign that he's on the road to embracing what the Scriptures actually teach).
I found this comment to be somewhat ironic -- to say Baptists who accept (but do not practice) other modes of Baptism "lessen their stance". Lessen in what way, Hobster? I think it is an admission of our actual detailed theology of Baptism to say, "the promise God makes in baptism is one we honor with obedience and faith". In what way is confessing that baptism offered in faith for the purpose of fulfilling God's promise and also to initiate one to the life of the church lessening Baptist theology of baptism?Pastor Brad insightfully posted:
Here are a couple of questions that I am prayerfully meditating on:1. Is it true that the door to the local Church should be as wide as the Universal Church. Right now, I think not.
If the right argument for excluding infant baptisms is that the Bible never explicitly endorses infant baptisms, I'd like to see where the Bible says that the local church should be more discerning than God is when it allows people to fellowship together.

That's the thesis you're advancing here, Brad: God's church has a "wide door", but the local church is obliged to have a "narrow door". That sounds a little too much like Mt 23 to me for me to accept that as the right process of elimination here.
2. Is it true that exclusion from the Lord's Supper equates with denying that someone is saved? It certainly does not have to. There is an old understand of communion called "closed communion." This was a view that only those within a particular local Church should share the Supper with one another. These churches do not deny that by "excluding" someone from the Table that they are not a part of the universal body. They understand it as a matter of local fellowship, under a local body, understanding that particular church's policies and government, and most importantly, that they hold to the doctrines of the apostles.
That may be an "old understanding", but "old" in what sense? The earliest understanding was that all the baptized may partake of the Table -- baptism making them part of the church.

And let's be careful here: I didn't say, "If not, aren't we saying they are not saved?" I said: "If not, in what way are we able to confess that we 'pledge our communion with [Christ], and with each other' in respect to those we otherwise call brothers in Christ and members of the church universal?" I can see how using the phrase "church universal" here can imply "saved", but that's not my meaning, so I apologize for not being more careful with my words.

If we refuse to share the table with the paedobaptized, are we not saying that they are no members of the visible church? We are not making a statement of their current soteriological state: we are making a statement about their ecclesiological state. I reject the idea that Presbyterians are not our brothers in Christ.
3. In Acts 2:42, we learn that the people were breaking bread together (I believe that this is likely a reference to observing the Lord's Supper) and that they continued in the Apostle's doctrine. Is paedo-baptism a doctrine of the apostle's? If we are convinced that it isn't, then we should we eat at the Table together? Is the Scripture unclear here?
I don't think Scripture is unclear, but I also don't think that this doctrine is explicitly excluded by Scripture, and it is certainly present in the first generations of the church. See the Schaff stuff above.
In my mind, I picture myself sitting at the Lord's Table with my brethren who are paedo-baptists. We have fork in hand. We both are eager to enjoy this meal together because we love one another. But before I lift the cup to sip I want to know exactly what they believe is happening when they sprinkle the baby.
Oh, I agree. See the stuff to Daniel, above.

Brad also said:
1. What makes CredoBaptism better than infant baptism if we sometimes baptize unbelievers unaware?Here's what I am thinking:You mention that baptizing a person who was baptized as an infant is not rebaptism because the first baptism was no baptism at all. At least, that's how the Baptists see it. (How many times can YOU use baptism in a sentence?;P)How is it any different if the person baptized after a false confession?Isn't the real question here, "What constitutes a legit baptism? When does "baptism" occur?Right now, unless I am rebuked, I view baptism as a means of sanctification. That is, it takes both faith and work to be legitimate. (Please do not confuse this as me saying it is a means to justification. That's different.) I believe the same about the Lord's Supper. If this is true, then it is right to deny that baptism has not taken place until it is mixed with the faith of the candidate.
This is exactly what the Presbyterians do. There is no doubt that this is their confessional model.
2. You are cautious about this because the Scripture does not explicitly exclude paedo-baptism.

I can't understand this argument, my friend. You said, "I think we should be baptizing believers -- which is the explicit teaching of Scripture." We are not talking about anointing with oil here; we are talking about baptism.

Then you say, "we take that to implicitly exclude those who are not able to believe because of human limits. But I also think that where the Bible is not explicit we have to allow some grace, and the Bible does not explicitly exclude infants from baptism."Here is what I hear in that:I believe that it is possible that the apostles baptized infants based on Scriptural argumentation from paedo-baptists.
I would agree that this is a fair summary of what I have proposed so far. It doesn't approach the issue of the role of faith in the administration of baptism that I have covered above, but it is a fair summary of where I end up based on that stuff.
This is not really a belief that it is okay to do this because the Scripture doesn't exclude it. That just can't stand. What if I told you that I believed in Believer's Baptism by immersion, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that I administered this while tied to the candidate on a bungee cord over a bridge and we plunged in that way. We've got fun, immersion, believer's baptism, and public testimony rolled into one. This is ridiculous of course. But if you said to me, "This is ridiculous!" I would say, "Well, Scripture nowhere prohibits this. What's the problem?"How would you argue against that?
Like a argue agin' anything else that is repulsive: with relish.

The problem with bungie-baptism, Brad, is that it is irreverent. One of the criterion of baptism is reverence for the ordinance. As in the Table, where we are to rightly discern the body and blood of Christ and take our lives into account so that we do not eat and drink unworthily, we must hold baptism in the proper reverence. John didn't want to Baptize Christ because John knew he was not worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus' feet, but Christ encouraged him to do it in order to fulfill all righteousness. If we do not approach baptism with the fulfillment of all righteousness in mind, we are doing what someone who would take 2 crackers at communion is doing: dishonoring the ordinance.

With those loose ends tied up, I'm going to go on a working vacation next week. For those of you who are stalking me, I will be in Nashville at the Munce marketing Group's Christian Products Expo buying my catalog items for Christmas at the bookstore. I'll have internet access at the Opryland Hotel, but blogging might be sparse as I expect to be busy.

Do try to keep thing in order until I get back.