Read Part 4:
In this post I'd like to offer my opinion of the effects (or lack thereof) of Christian parents or churches having baptism administered to their children. In other words, just how "effecatious" is infant baptism?
Each side in the Protestant baptism debate has its criticisms of the other with respect to the baptizing of children. Paedo-baptists often make the claim that Baptists' refusal to baptize their children has negative results. Because children are not baptized in Baptist churches, Baptists are sometimes accused of neglecting would-be elect children and are denied the very sign of the covenant itself. The failure to baptize children is then viewed as the worst thing that one could do to them. God's blessings come through obedience to the covenant, so Baptists are cutting blessings off from their children. Because Baptists sometimes view their children as unregenerate until a profession of faith is made, parents are tempted to be lax in their teaching and preaching to children because they're looked at as being not yet in the covenant; in other words the presumption of unregeneration until proven false through profession of the faith takes away from the church's duty to the children. Their churches, the argument goes, are then overrun with worldly people within a generation or two, and apostasy soon results. If this is the case, then it stands to reason that we should see a greater conversion rate of children in paedo-baptist churches.
Baptists, on the other hand, often criticize paedo-baptists for baptizing infants because these infants include all future false professors as church members from birth. Their churches, the argument goes, are then overrun by worldly people within a generation or two, and apostasy soon results. This supposedly explains to some degree the problems with theology in mainline denominations. The conclusion is sometimes that baptizing infants is the worst thing one could do to them. The baptizing of only professing adults (or children old enough), safeguards the church from these problems because the non-professing are never allowed heavy influence in church matters. Also, paedo-baptism can lead to a false assurance of salvation because of the "covenant promise." I've heard from Baptists who happen to have attended paedo-baptist churches (maybe because it's the only good church in the area) that a covenant smugness can take over and parents are tempted to be lax in their teaching and preaching to children because they're looked at as being already in the covenant; in other words the presumption of election until proven false through denying of the faith takes away from the church's duty to the children. If this is the case, then it stands to reason that we should see a greater conversion rate of children in Baptist churches. The argument each side levels at the other is essentially the same.
But I've had enough experience with both types of churches to know that neither has the corner on their children growing up to be true Christians. Baptists are just as good at placing their children as recipients of the blessings of the covenant, i.e. teaching, bible memorization, church attendance, prayer, education, and the rest, as are paedo-baptists. Paul takes up the argument in Romans 2 that when Gentiles do the law, their uncircumcision is counted as circumcision. "If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?" Rom. 2:26. Both sides see that their children are to be discipled according to the Great Commission. So, then, I don't think that whether children are baptized or not is the real issue, but whether the parents and churches raise their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.
I've certainly heard of many wayward paedo-baptists who were not born again until adulthood, after straying from the faith, give testimony to God's remembering them because of the promise through baptism, because their parents had them baptized. Well, there are many wayward born-again-as-adult Baptists who make the same claim with respect to their parents raising them well in the faith as children. I believe it's about adherence to the New Covenant itself, and not a supposed sign, that God honors. Not that baptism isn't important, as both sides agree that it is, it's just when children are to be baptized that is closer to the center of the argument.
Read Part 6.
Read entire series in a single post.