Thursday, July 06, 2006

Infant Baptism

Infant Baptism

The soon to be baptism of my daughter has brought me to a further deep study of Infant Baptism, specifically focusing on the regenerational effect of baptism on the child. As is my usual study habit I first looked at Scripture then the WCF and its scriptural backing then to Calvin then to Edwards. What I found was an agreeing view on the basics: (from the WCF)

Of Baptism

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, or his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his Churchy until the end of the world.
IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.
V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

But what I found was a very divergent opinion on the regeneration of the infants who died in infancy. While Edwards was clear on his opinion of the questioned validity of the Baptism if the parents were not believers, neither Calvin nor the WCF are very clear on this point. Calvin when he does speak of Baptism refers almost exclusively to Adult Baptism and the sincerity of the Adults and very briefly mentions the regeneration of infants. Edwards believed that by no means that all children bap­tized in infancy-even those of godly parents-or even those who died, were regenerate. This is interesting because it mirrors many beliefs of Adult baptism, in other words, why should Adult baptism be seen in a different light than Infant baptism? Because of age or ability or is it because of human sensibilities? There is no biblical evidence for a so-called “age of consent”. What we find in the biblical accounts of baptism is of salvation that derives from an inward calling by the holy-spirit not from the actual baptism itself. As the WCF says, “Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.” Calvin says that "God's truth everywhere opposes all these arguments"(Inst.4, 16, 17). Calvin shows that if infants are regarded as the children of sin, "they are left in death, since in Adam we can but die (Rom.5:12), (Inst.4, 16, 17). This baptism is an outward sign of an inward movement. Infant baptism-as the WCF says without actually stating-is an outward sign of an inward movement on behalf of the congregation and the parents that they will bring up the child in the Christian Faith not that the actually baptism guarantees nor even leads the child to salvation. While it may seem unfair to require children under age x to believe for their sake I am still unable to find any biblical witness as to their being a certain age where God says, “You are now accountable”. Anyone who believes in Original Sin must recognize that from the moment of conception the child is reprobate in the eyes of God and therefore is responsible from conception for their own salvation. Edwards makes a good point when he says:

A person who comes to faith in Jesus Christ becomes, on credible profession of that faith, a communicant member of the church. Then, and then only, is he entitled to have his children baptized. They are not only baptized on the basis of the parents' Christian profession and life, but the efficacy of their baptism seems to be very intimately related to the thoroughness of the Christian parents' living on the child's behalf. The children in turn are regarded as Christ's own, dedicated to Him, virtually confessing faith in Him, and called upon as they come to years of discretion, if they do not turn away and renounce that faith, explicitly to profess it, and to live according to it.

Again we must look at what is the point of baptism? Are we baptized so that we might be saved or are we baptized so that we may show our regeneration as true? While we can all agree that baptism is absolutely necessary for those that claim to be reborn in Christ those who are not baptized cannot be said to have not been regenerated. We need only look at the robber whom Christ promised would be with him in heaven. When was he baptized? Obviously he wasn’t so we must conclude that the actual physical baptism is a requirement but not necessarily a pre-requisite for salvation.
So what does this have to do with Infant baptism? The point to be made is that the child-though still an infant-is still responsible for their own salvation. I am interested to hear others opinions on this. Please feel free to disagree.


Moderator said...

Baptism is not absolutely required in order to be saved. However, Christ commands believers to be baptized. Salvation itself is an invisible act of grace by the Spirit of God. As such, it can happen to infants as well as adults.

Backwoods Presbyterian said...

I believe your statement agrees with what I said...

dan said...

I think that baptism is first and foremost "a sign and seal" of who's in a covenant relationship (Covenant of grace) with God. But within the covenant of grace, there are covenant blessings and curses, so being in the covenant of grace doesn't automatically give a person "regeneration, justification, and etc". So when an infant is born in a Christian home, the child is in the covenant of grace, with baptism being the sign of that relationship, but as the child grows older he/she is responsible for their own faith, which connects them to the blessing of the covenant (justification and etc.), but if they fail to do so, they will receive the covenant curses (they will be judged more harshly). (some months ago, I had a friendly debate with a friend, who attends Southern Seminary, about infant baptism. you can check it out here:

Children who die in infancy is a tougher question. I am inclined to believe that all children in the covenant of grace will be saved because of God's immense mercy to them, but for nonbelievers i am inclined to say the same, but i don't real know

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. thnx!

Anonymous said...

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