20pluscommunitydigestion

There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

new thread on an old subject: the baptism of babies

You’re a member (or at least a visitor) of a Reformed Church, a designation having an historical dimension (The Reformation of the 16th century) as it relates to its theological dimension (salvation is by faith alone).  In this Reformed church you see the monthly practice of baptism, and usually the baptism of infants.  That is what you find here.

But as one located in the “buckle” of the Bible Belt, you find yourself surrounded primarily by churches of a Baptistic nature.  If in a baptistic church, then baptism is reserved for those who can make a personal profession of faith; it is therefore not to be extended to infants or children who cannot enunciate their profession of faith because they do not know that profession.

And if you’ve spent any time in the baptistic wing of the church, then, perhaps, you are at least a bit confused by what happens each month when an infant is baptized.  Why is there a difference in practice between Baptistic churches and Reformed churches? (Now, I should say Reformed Covenantal churches to be more precise, since there are in fact Reformed Baptist churches: those that hold to the historic confessions of the Reformation and, largely, to the doctrines of grace as articulated by Calvin, but do not extend the rite of baptism to those who cannot make public profession of their faith.)

This post will not attempt to line out those differences, nor in what ways those differences may or may not be significant.  But, if you’d like a bit of historical context, at least from the context of the Reformation in England, as it relates to the understanding of baptism; and thus, why PCPC as a Reformed Church believes baptism is to be both for believers and their children, then you might set aside a little over an hour to hear from Dr Sinclair Ferguson, erstwhile presence here at PCPC and now senior pastor at First Pres, Columbia, SC.  You might find this duller than actuarial tables (with apologies to those of you in that profession), but if you have the slightest interest in why we baptize babies and why we think it matters, have a listen here.

And once you’re done listening and cogitating on what you’ve heard, I’m sure we’d benefit from hearing from you–either of your assessment of his lecture, or of the questions it poses.  Believe me, no question is dumb when it comes to this matter.  I’d like to say the basis for belief in baptism only for believers (credo-baptism), or baptism for children too (paedo-baptism) is a simple set of arguments.  But you will find that it involves a much larger discussion of how we see the history of redemption outlined, and how the Old and New Testaments fit together. 

Live a little: engage in this mind-stretching matter, and if need be, imagine Michael Scott sitting on the front row laughing at Sinclair’s jokes while trying not to let on that he doesn’t get them.

37 Comments»

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