Almost Thou Persuadest Me to Become a Pedobaptist

Or: A Few Thoughts on Infant Baptism

Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been a practitioner of infant baptism. I have never baptized anybody. I was raised in the rural parts of Southwest Oklahoma, first among Southern Baptist churches, and finally among non-denominational charismatic churches. To my knowledge, there are no pedobaptists of any stripe in Southwest Oklahoma. Quite frankly, the very idea of infant baptism gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Nevertheless:

  1. Infant baptism is the practice of the ancient church.

    There are no denominations that trace their origins to before the Protestant Reformation, either “Orthodox” or “Catholic,” and which also practice credal baptism.

  2. If infant baptism was an early innovation that differed from the practice of the apostles, it occurred so early and so quietly that there is no record of it whatsoever in church history.

    If differences between between credal and infant baptism have caused such difficulties in our time, surely they would have caused a stir in an era that was willing to commit murder over a difference of one word in the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet there is no record of such a fight.

  3. If infant baptism is unscriptural, so also are the use musical instruments and art of any kind in worship.

    The modern practice of credal baptism stems from a radical application of Zwingli’s “regluative principle,” which says that only those practices which are specifically prescribed by scripture may be allowed in the church. It is on the basis of this principle that Zwingli banned art and music from his church’s worship. The Anabaptists were those who insisted Zwingli had not gone far enough, and wished to also ban infant baptism on the basis that it wasn’t clearly prescribed by scripture. Since there is marginally more support in scripture for infant baptism than for art and music, those who use these things in worship should not argue that infant baptism isn’t mentioned in scripture. Else, those who argue against infant baptism should also argue against art and music.

  4. Credal baptism attempts to do the work of God by removing all the tares from the field before the harvest.

    The effect, and usually the intent, of credal baptism is to ensure that the church is composed entirely of believers whose salvation is assured. Yet Jesus compared the church to a field in which an enemy had sowed tares in with the wheat. Credal baptism, then, is an effort to “weed out” the tares. This is a futile effort (there are always tares), and potentially harmful: Jesus himself said that removing the tares before the harvest could destroy some of the wheat.

  5. Baby dedications are either infant baptism in disguise, or an unscriptural sacrament

    Among churches which practice believer’s baptism, a new practice has arisen, which has all the effects of a sacrament: A newborn infant is taken before the church and blessed by the elders. Sometimes the child is annointed with oil; always they are prayed for. Often the congregation is invoked to support the child’s Christian development. The only discernable difference between this practice and that of infant baptism is the presence of water.

    If baby dedication is a form of baptism, then these churches are guilty of performing two baptisms, and possibly creating a church within the church. If it is not a form of baptism, then they have created a new sacrament to replace infant baptism, and which has no support in scripture.

As I said in the title, these things *almost* persuade me to become a pedobaptist. There are other arguments in support of credo-baptism that are persuasive for me – particularly the fact that Jesus based his baptism on John’s, which was clearly performed on those who were themselves repenting, and also Paul’s comments on Christians and circumcision.

Nevertheless, the strongest motivating factor for me is tradition: baptism upon confession is the system that I grew up with and which I have known my whole life. I can’t imagine offending all my friends and family over this issue. But this is a pitiful appeal on an issue where the opposition has a **much** stronger tradition.

If tradition is my strongest point, then there is little doubt that if I had lived in Luther’s time, I would have been a pedobaptist.

4 thoughts on “Almost Thou Persuadest Me to Become a Pedobaptist”

  1. wish to stick in oar: Zwingli was talking through his hat — I’m no Greek scholar but the scripture of speaking to one another in psalms, hymns & spiritual songs….my understanding of the the word psalm is “to pluck” [and Ray Hughes adds…and to twang]. And to assume that God meant for there to be no musical instruments requires you to remove the last two psalms from the Bible…and that seques very neatly into a discussion on the use of dance in worship.

    In the area of “art” — who were those two craftsmen that God annointed especially to do the “fancy art work” for the tabernacle?[all that sculpting & engraving & weaving]….and then of course Solomon had to go and do them even better with all his bulls & carvings overlaid with gold….

    What are they teaching in schools these days?

    none of which has anything to do with infant baptism…..Actually I listend to tapes by Malcolm Smith on the Blood Covenant and he mentioned a historical Jewish aspect of blood covenant. That when one family entered into blood covenant with another that included the later [as yet unborn] members of the family. When these children were born they were considered part of the blood covenant. However, as adults they had to make their own choice as to whether they would be within that covenant — which makes a nice argument for both infant & credal baptism.

    Now let’s address that word credal — I understand what it’s supposed to mean but I certainly hope that what is taking place at baptism [the remission of sin] goes a little deeper than a mere creed.

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  2. mom – in reverse order:

    That’s actually one of my problems with the classic Baptist (Zwinglian) teaching: By calling it an ordinance (which it is) and deying its sacramental nature (which it also is), we insist that the ritual has no real or spiritual value whatsoever. Of course by saying it has no spiritual value you also say that it must therefore be filled with meaning – *by us*! When I first heard something like this drop from the lips of a pastor, my jaw dropped with it. Calvin said it better. He recognized that the ritual itself has no power, but that God’s spirit, working in conjunction with ours, gives it its spiritual effect. But as I was using the word, I merely meant to indicate *when* baptism was administered: as an infant, or upon confession of faith (i.e. credo, meaning “I believe.”)

    As for Zwingli himself, I have a lot of problems with him. I’m much fonder of Calvin, though Calvin adopted a lot of Zwingli’s positions. But my point is still this: The theological principles which led Zwingli to ban music and art were the very same principles, taken to their logical conclusions, which led the Anabaptists to first start practicing adult baptism “upon confession of faith” in order to ensure that the church was a wholly separate community, made up only of “real” Christians. If hearing Zwingli’s position on music makes us go slack-jawed in amazement, how then can we continue to practice credal baptism, which is based, even more tangentally, on the same premises?

    Hopefully a zealous Baptist theologian will now lean into the argument… 🙂

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  3. Kyle,

    Great stuff – of course with me being a paedobaptist it warms my heart to see the things you are writing here. I hadn’t really looked at credobaptism from the angle of the regulative principle but your point is well – the credobaptist position in many ways follows from the credobaptist application of the regulative principle.

    Most paedobaptists that I know of will admit that there is no explicit command to baptize infants – we see it as a theological deduction, or to use confessional words, a “good and necessary inference.” I think that is where the debate rests – is infant baptism a good deduction or inference, and is it is a necessary deduction or inference.

    A couple of minor quibbles. I don’t believe that the parable of the wheat and the tares is a parable of the church – Jesus says that the field is the world, thus the wheat are citizens of the kingdom, i.e. the church and the tares are citizens of the city of man, i.e. sown by the devil. I think the upshot of that parable is that the citizens of the city of God are not to engage in armed conflict against the citizens of the city of man, but that’s the N.T. Wright influence on me talking. But back to this discussion, I think there is another way of making your same point. I would just say that creedal baptists can (not that they always do) assume an ability to see into the heart that they don’t possess, and can also imply a kind of decisional regeneration view, whereas paedobaptism reflects a better view of God’s sovereignty in salvation. Regardless, your point is still right that credobaptism can reflect an attempt to protect the purity of the church in a way that is not possible for us this side of eternity.

    Also, the argument based on circumcision seems to me to be one of the strongest ones for paedobaptism.

    Thanks for the post.

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