Thursday, January 06, 2011

Baptism: Another View (Part 6)

Read Part 5.

One problem I have with both Baptist and paedo-baptist theology regarding baptism is the lack of clear scriptural descriptions of their views. It seems to me that if baptism is supposed to be administered to only adult believers after conversion, then I think the bible would say so in no uncertain terms. If it is to be administered to infants, then the same should be true. It's that way with circumcision. It's that way with church discipline. It's that way with how to pray, how many times to forgive, who to visit in their distress that describes true religion. It's that way with all duties of man before God. Man's duties are spelled out relatively clearly so that most of us can either "get it" or have somebody easily explain it to us.

Take circumcision for example. In Genesis 17:11-12, a great deal of information is packed into less than two verses:

And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.  And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.
What, where, how, to whom and when are all answered. No guesswork. No thousand page systematic theology volume. No ecclesiastical traditions. It is named "circumcision", it is to be "in the flesh of your foreskin", it is called "the sign of the covenant", it is to be administered to "every male", "who is eight days old." Not seven days, not nine, not in the flesh of your knee, and it's not called "surfing." Church discipline is "if your brother sins" and is "in private", then with "one or two more", then "tell it to the church", then excommunication.

Okay, it's true that many points of theology are quite arduous in their developments and have been hammered out over millennia, and the wisdom necessary to live everyday life is constructed line upon line, precept upon precept and isn't even complete by the time we die. But the basics of our religion are simple, to the point and spelled out by God. Baptism, I think, is no different. The great commission commands that disciples are to be made of all the nations, and they are to be baptized. But...

All the information we need about baptism is spelled out. It is to be done with water, believers should be baptized, it should be done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Liberty as to mode (sprinkling, pouring, immersion) and subject (infant/adult/professor, family/household member/church attendee) I think is allowed for the simple reason than none of these things are clearly spelled out. What is clearly spelled out with respect to children is instruction in the Lord - educating them in the Word, obedience to parents, not provoking them to wrath, etc.

It is interesting that claims of these baptismal things being spelled out are really nothing more than sectarian theological conclusions of non-baptismally specific passages applied to baptism. Theological presuppositions about other doctrines are brought to baptism. When Jesus said, "suffer the little children", he was not speaking about baptism specifically. Only a theological leap in logic does this. Also, nowhere in the New Testament is baptism spoken of as either the sign or seal of the New Covenant, even though circumcision is spoken of as a sign to Abraham (Rom 4). Colossians 2:11-12 doesn't equate circumcision and baptism either. Only the same theological leap does this.

A final word for this post. I'm not against baptism at all. We should be baptized with water. What I'm saying is that Baptists and paedo-baptists should learn not to condemn each other for their non-biblical (I'm careful to not say "un-biblical") traditions of baptism.

Read entire series in a single post.

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