The first episode and introduction to the series ‘I Will be a God to You and to Your Children’ lays out the basic premises and foundation that Dr. Clark will focus on to build the case for infant baptism. He also establishes why this is such an important issue that we cannot just ignore for the sake of peace.
This will read a lot more like student notes than an actual blog post. These are the Big Points I took away from listening to the program.
As a former evangelical Baptist himself, I appreciate that Dr. Clark always refers to those who disagree with us the most, the baptists, as “Our Baptist Friends” while also noting that this isn’t just something we live and let live on. We must still be friendly and charitable with our Baptist brothers and sisters, but this distinction on who may (or must!) be baptized is an important issue that rightly divides us. It is not mean-spirited to acknowledge that.
The practice of infant baptism is not just traditional, but also historical and (most importantly) biblical. While there is no proof verse that explicitly states that infants must be baptized, that should not dissuade us. There is no proof text for the Trinity either (an even more important and vital doctrine). Rather, both infant baptism and the Trinity is a good and necessary consequence of applying proper and consistent hermeneutics to the whole of Scripture.
Infant Baptism has been a doctrine of the Reformed Faith from the beginning. This is established in the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Lord’s Day 27:
74. Are infants also to be baptized?
Yes, for since they belong to the covenant and people of God as well as their parents,1 and since redemption from sin through the blood of Christ,2 and the Holy Spirit who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents,3 they are also by Baptism, as the sign of the Covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers,4 as was done in the Old Testament by Circumcision,5 in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is instituted.6
1 Gen 17:7. 2 Matt 19:14. 3 Luke 1:14,15. Ps 22:10. Acts 2:39. 4 Acts 10:47 5Gen 17:14. 6 Col 2:11-13.
as well as the Belgic Confession (1561), Article 34 :
…we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.
And truly, Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than he did for adults. Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them, just as the Lord commanded in the law that by offering a lamb for them the sacrament of the suffering and death of Christ would be granted them shortly after their birth. This was the sacrament of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the “circumcision of Christ.”
This is not simply a repetition of the doctrine of Rome, but a distinctly Reformed understanding of the sacrament, with Scripture as the source of the doctrine.
The majority of evangelicals, even those who don’t identify themselves as “Baptists” believe in “believer-only” or credobaptism (Baptism due to belief). However most of these are unfamiliar with the Reformed perspective on baptism and our arguments. Some of these evangelicals claim their belief is based simply on what the Bible clearly says without trying to read more into it or relying on tradition. This is not true. No one, not even “just me and my Bible” types truly reads the bible in “splendid isolation”. We all read the Bible with others and are informed by others.
The question we should have for our Baptist friends is how are we in the New Covenant related to Abraham? Romans 4 and Galations 3 touch upon how the Abrahamic Covenant relates to us as children of Abraham. Baptist teaching doesn’t reflect the truth of believers in Christ being Abraham’s heirs very well. They tend to treat Abraham as a proto-Moses, but he is the father of many nations (us believing Gentiles) and the Covenant established with him and his children is an everlasting Covenant. According to Paul and Jesus, Christians are Abraham’s successors and in Acts when Peter is preaching he echos God’s words to Abraham “This promise is to you and to your children, and to those who are far off.”
Dr. Clark summarizes the various views on the sacrament of baptism in the following way:
Roman Catholic– Baptism is the means of spiritual renewal and initial justification and sanctification through the infusion of grace received in baptism. Without it one cannot be saved ordinarily without it. Baptism gives us saving grace.
SBC – Baptism is a public testimony of faith in Christ. You must have reached the age of discretion. Article 29 of the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) echos this. Anabaptists, evangelical baptists and 1689 particular baptists agree on this issue.
Lutheran – According to article 9 of the Augsburg Confession (1530), Baptism is so closely related to the gospel that through it Christians receive eternal life and without it Christians cannot receive assurance of salvation
Reformed – Baptism is a means of sanctifying grace and a gospel ministry to the people of God. It is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, illustrating what Christ has done for his people and sealing salvation for those who believe.
Each of these views is built on assumptions about how God works in the lives of his followers.
The Roman Catholic view confuses the Thing (salvation) with the Sign of it (Baptism). They don’t confess that baptism is the Sign of the Thing but it is in fact the Thing itself. This is summarized by the Latin phrase “Ex opere operato” (from the work worked). Unfortunately for this view, Scripture does not teach or imply that baptism necessarily confers what it signifies to all who receive it.
The Baptist view treats the entire Old Testament as if it were part of the Old Covenant. Paul and Hebrews however clarify that the Old Covenant lasted from the time of Moses to the Cross. Thus, Abraham is not an Old Covenant figure. Adam is not an Old Covenant figure. Noah is not an Old Covenant figure. Moses, Joshua, David, etc… they were all Old Covenant figures. The Old Testament is full of imperfect types and shadows that are illustrations of and anticipation for Christ.
The National Covenant that began with the Mosaic Covenant is now over, that’s what the Mosaic Covenant was. The moral law given to Moses, the 10 Commandments is still in effect, just as it was in effect before the time of Moses. However, the Civil and Ceremonial law (types and shadows) are no longer applicable as their entire purpose has been fulfilled in Christ.
The establishment of the New Covenant does not mean that infant initation into the covenant community (Baptism) must be explicitly reinstated. Abraham is still the paradigm. If anything, infant initiation must be explicitly revoked. The Baptist view tends to assume that Abraham is like Moses, and since Moses has expired so has Abraham. While it’s true that circumcision is no longer required, that is because it was a bloody shadow of Christ’s death on the cross. However, infant initiation is still an important aspect of the New Covenant.
New Covenant does not mean that infant initiaiton be explicitly re-established. Abraham is still the paradigm. It must be explicitly revoked. Baptists assume Moses = Abraham and since Moses has expired so has Abraham. Circumcision is no longer required. It is a bloody shadow of Christ’s death on the cross. But infant initiation is still an important aspect.
The Baptist view tends to treat the apostles as having said, “I know for 2000 years we’ve been initiating our children, but it’s the new covenant and we don’t do that anymore.” If you were Jewish and heard that you would be alarmed, that would have to be explicitly addressed.
We in the Reformed camp treat Moses and Abraham differently. Everything distinctly Mosaic has been fulfilled and abrogated. -But not everything God told Moses has been abrogated because not everything God told Moses is distinctly Mosaic. Some a repeating of what he said to Moses is a repeating of what he told Adam, what he told Noah, and what he told Abraham. This never expires.
We must remember that the New Covenant is new relative to Moses, not but not the everlasting Covenant of Abraham. The New Covenant is a new adminstration of the Abramaic Covenant.
This episode made me realize how ignorant I am of the general message and theology in Galations. I need to correct that pronto. But it also reinforced how a proper reading and understanding of the administration and nature of the various covenants between God and his people is critical to understanding our relationship to God and how he treats us.