Monday, March 31, 2008

The views of Baptism.

For awhile now, I have been wrestling with the topic of Baptism. I know what I was taught at Bible School. I can tell you why we do it. I can tell you the Scriptural warrants behind the Baptist tradition. I can even tell you how and why I was baptized when I was converted. I know the theological jargon for it all.

It wasn't until recently however (recently meaning the past two years), that my view of baptism was brought into question. Like all young thunder puppies who come out of Bible School (like a bullet out of a gun) I was well armed. With what? With everything I needed to put the world straight. I had ALL the answers and I could not believe everyone in the world was so naive. I believed I was well armed with the truth, with spiritual insight, and I could take a pulpit on any Sunday and preach a sermon.

The truth of the matter...I was armed with pride, self centeredness, judgemental tendencies toward any other branch of "Christianity," and a whole lot more!

All of that to say, as I went through Bible School, I didn't spend much time figuring out the doctrines I was taught. I didn't make them mine so-to-speak. That is one of the major fallacies of any para church educational institution.

As I got back into the real world and left the oasis of Bible School I was challenged. First with the doctrine of election (or to put it in other terms that I am not so crazy about any more-Calvinism). Later I was challenged with issues such as Spiritual Gifts, Interpretation, End Times, and the like. Baptism was one such issue I was confronted with and that brings me to where I began this post.

A quote from Mark Twain, I don't remember the exact words, goes something like this, "The majority of what we believe was put there by others." This is an unusual statement with profound Scriptural implications if you take the time to consider it. So, onto the issue of Baptism.

The Church of Rome has it wrong, because they attribute to Baptism a partial justifying element. I don't believe Baptism can save a person. Only the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ is justifying for His elect. The so-called Believers Baptism is another route which many if not the majority in the church go. It must be stated that a majority doesn't make it necessarily right. The issues are many and the defenses are numerous as well for the "believers baptism." Another view of Baptism is infant baptism or Paedobaptism. That is the route I will be "defending" as it were. Leaning towards for the past couple of months for insights. Why is this a more convincing argument from Scripture for certain Christians than that of Believers Baptism? We'll look at the arguments below. Next time we'll see the defense of a believers baptism.

1. The Baptism seen in the New Testament begins under the Old Covenant. Proselytes who converted to Judaism were baptised. We see it in John's ministry as he is in the wilderness, baptising people in the Jordan river. He was preaching a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." In his ministry he continually spoke of, "Him who was to come,...He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." It isn't a strong argument that it is part of the "New Testament." The prophet who prepared the ministry of the Christ was baptizing people preparing the way, making ready a people for the Lord.

2. Jesus was baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness. What is the significance of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River by John? We know that it marked the beginning of His earthly ministry as the Son of Man. It was the event where the Trinity is revealed to us. We know that Jesus never sinned. Why then was He baptized? Is it possible that baptism carries more symbolism of holiness and sanctification than we have considered?

3. As the New Testament progresses and we see the Holy Spirit poured out on the Day of Pentecost baptism was included for those who were proselytizing to "The Faith." As Peter preached his Pentecost sermon the hearers were cut to the quick and said, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." At that time the way of Jesus was still Jewish to the eyes of everyone. Paul's ministry to the gentiles had not yet began. We see here people who had not been believing Christians repenting of their sins. What this represents to us is a stage of transition. The New Covenant was instituted. We see in Acts the transition being played out before our eyes.

4. Circumcision is done away with under the New Covenant. Christ who is the Pass over lamb was slain. All the bloody ceremonies and rituals are gone. There is no longer a need to shed blood. What remains is a picture of cleansing. This is the most prominent and argued reason among paedobaptists. It is the new ceremony of the Church. Now all children are brought to the Lord for this right of passage into the covenant community. It doesn't imply salvation. It only implies that this child becomes a part of the covenant community of God. They will be the ones to display true saving faith down the road. Just as in the Old Testament, some fell away and perished in the wilderness...why? Because they didn't believe.

Moving away from my own thoughts and into someone else's I will paste a section from Justin Taylor' Blog below. It contains the summarizing of two excellent books on the Paedobaptist view. (I would add as a side note, I am not aware of what Justin Taylor believes on this issue, I am only posting this because I found it helpful). Here it is:

The first (and briefer) summary is from credo baptist-turned-paedobaptist pastor Randy Booth, from his book, Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism, p. 8. He summarizes the case under five headings:
Covenant Theology. Throughout the bible, God relates to his people by way of a covenant of grace. Covenant theology provides the basic framework for rightly interpreting Scripture.
Continuity of the Covenant of Grace. The Bible teaches one and the same way of salvation in both the Old and the New Testaments, despite some different outward requirements.
Continuity of the People of God. Since there is one covenant of grace between God and man, there is one continuous people of God (the church) in the Old and New Testaments.
Continuity of the Covenant Signs. Baptism is the sign of the covenant in the New Testament, just as circumcision was the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament.
Continuity of Households. Whole households are included in God's redemptive covenant.The second (fuller) summary is from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 632-34:
Although the Abrahamic covenant had national aspects to it, at its heart, it was a spiritual covenant which signified spiritual realities, including its sign and seal, that is, circumcision.
The Abrahamic covenant is still in force and is essentially identical with the "new covenant" of the present dispensation. The unity and continuity of this one covenant of grace in both testaments follows from the fact that the Mediator is the same; the condition of faith is the same; and the blessings are the same, namely, regeneration, justification, spiritual gifts, and eternal life.
By God's appointment, infants share in the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant and therefore received circumcision as a sign and seal. Since the "new covenant" is essentially identical with the Abrahamic covenant, infants of believing parents who receive the sign of the covenant are not excluded from covenant or church membership.
Even though the Abrahamic covenant is essentially identical with the new covenant there are some changes that have taken place. In the new dispensation, baptism is by divine authority substituted for circumcision as the initiatory sign and seal of the covenant of grace. Baptism corresponds with circumcision in spiritual meaning so that both signs signify the washing away of sin and the need for regeneration. Furthermore, given the essential unity of the covenant across the ages, baptism, as the new sign and seal of the new covenant age, does not exclude infants of believing parents.
Although the NT contains no direct evidence for the practice of infant baptism in the church this is due more to the fact that the apostolic age was primarily a missionary period which focused on the baptism of adults. But, given the unity of the covenant of grace, there is also no text in the NT which specifically abrogates the demand that the covenant sign be applied to the infants of believing parents in the new covenant era. Household baptisms probably, though it cannot be established with certainty, bear witness to this fact.

More to follow.

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