Quite frankly, I have ignored the subject of baptism for a long time, only dipping my toes into the topic now and then. If you read some of the comments in my posts recently on baptism, you will see why. It is frustrating to see dear sisters and brothers railing against something, in such a way that if they applied the same hermeneutics (a method or principle of interpretation), to any other doctrine of the faith, we would become doctrineless.
For instance, many who oppose paedobaptism do so because the Bible never says “baptize your children.” What is so sad is that so many erroneously think because the Bible doesn’t say things in an express way that is pleasing to their minds, that the Bible doesn’t speak to the subject at all.
Yet, if we applied the same hermeneutical practice to the deity of Christ, we would lose the deity of Christ. The same goes for the Trinity because the Bible never says: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” That was taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter II, paragraph 3. Please note that the London Baptist Confession of 1689 says basically the same thing. Orthodox Christians have held to the Trinity for centuries even though the Bible never tells us explicitly: “God exists in three Persons of one substance…etc.”
Yet, Baptists continue the charade of thinking they have the upper hand when it comes to the subject of baptism. (By the way, I’m not saying all Baptists do this, just the typical, run of the mill Baptist, who thinks by dropping a verse, or asking one question without listening to the answers provided.) Reformed thinkers all along have tried to patiently tell them that they do not, yet, they continue to argue the point. As I pointed out in an earlier post, infant baptism is exactly what a first-century Jew would expect to do with his children since the promises were to him and his children. Yet, nowhere, do the apostles ever say, “Nope. The promises are not really to your children, just those of you who repent and believe. Your children are still Philistine dogs.” Perish the thought; what anathema.
But here we are, still making the case. We do come to our position by the following mode of interpretation:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
In other words, we are making inferences when it comes to our faith. This is nothing new, and has been in practice since Paul started writing his letters to the church. Even Baptist theologians make good and necessary inferences from Scripture. The true test is to see if the inference being made is backed up by Scripture.
Since much of our our position for infant baptism is based on the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 17, then we can safely say we are not out of bounds, given that that our view is in continuity with the Old Testament. In fact, that is what many Baptists today lack in their understanding, continuity between the two testaments. This has not always been the case. Baptists have always disagreed with our view of Genesis 17. However, with the arrival of dispensationalism, the problem has intensified because so many see a difference between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God in the New Testament. (Just think about the phrase “people of God.” Is there room for one people, or two people?)
Given that Genesis 3:15 shows a clear demarcation between those who are of the seed of the woman (through faith), and the seed of the serpent (through disbelief), we see that in all dispensations, there is only one people of God: those who believe in YHWH/Christ for salvation, and those who do not believe at all.
The point is that, as Reformed Presbyterians, we do admit we do not come to the position of infant baptism because of a single verse here or there. We do so based on many verses throughout scripture, that point to the continuity of our faith with that of believers in the Old Testament. We readily admit that there is no passage saying, “baptize your children.” But there are passages that lead us to believe we should do so, just as those in the Old Testament had their 8-day-old sons circumcised. As faithful parents under the New Covenant, we want to include our children in the covenant as well, just as Abraham did in his day.