Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hitting the Bull's Eye in the Baptism Debate

  When  I was about 20, I realized not all Baptists were Arminians as I was told for many year. Some Baptists were Calvinists. I felt that I was lied to and this made me search for answers that eventually led some 6 years later to me rejecting infant baptism. It took me years of study to understand what lies at the heart of the differences between infant baptism and believer's baptism. It was often very confusing and frustrating. Part of the problem is some people don't understand the other side or they set up a straw man argument. Anyone can destroy a straw man. A straw man doesn't fight back. He can't defend himself.  Too often in theological debates, we make straw men of the other side's position. We make their position look simplistic or we misrepresent it and so make our position seem more logical or biblical. Then we seek to do battle with the theological straw man. We cut and hack that idea to pieces. Then we raise our hands in triumph and celebrate our glorious victory. Surely we have won, haven't we?

 In the baptism debate, I have seen straw men made on both sides. Unfortunately when this happens real understanding of the issue is lost. In this blog post I want to mention the straw men often used by paedobaptists and then I want to show where the bulls eye in the baptism debate is. I hope this will benefit both sides of the debate from wasting time and energy on the secondary issues.

This debate over baptism is not about Calvinism vs Arminianism. It is not about God choosing you or you choosing God. Too often I have read people saying that believer's baptism is a testimony to a person's faith. It is about the individual choosing God rather than God choosing you. Or it is said that believer's baptism is  a sign of your faith. On the other hand, it is stated, infant baptism is all about God choosing you. But this debate has nothing to do with Calvinism. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand the Baptist's position. This debate is not about Old Testament vs New Testament. Paedobaptists believe the Old and New Testaments and Baptists believe only the New Testament, or so I was told. People have said that Baptists believe they can obtain a perfect believer's only church. This also is not true. This debate is not about the salvation of our children. Baptism doesn't save anyone. There are likely other ideas not mentioned. But let us get to the very heart of the issue, the bull's eye.

Covenant. Baptism is all about how we understand the covenants. This is the key that unlocks the door to really understanding this debate. Infant baptism is based on an understanding of the covenants.  The Baptist's understanding of the covenants differs. Both these understandings of the covenants lead to different conclusions on who should and should not be baptized. Before we debate on baptism, we need to remember to start at this crucial issue. You need to look at the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants and then move on to discuss the New Covenant. In fact we don't even need to go to the New Testament in this debate. For when we understand the covenants rightly, all the other pieces will fall into place. There will be no need to discuss the household baptisms, 1 Cor 7:14, or any of the other texts. The debate over infants being baptized  needs to start here at the covenants.  This is the bulls eye that we need to aim for. 

In the next week or two, we hope to put on our blog a revised article by my wife which critiques infant baptism. The truth matters, even on a secondary issue like infant baptism.

Note: The infant baptism that I am referring to is that which is held by most Reformed/Presbyterians. Catholics, Lutherans and some others baptize infants for other reasons.


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