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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

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Chapter 29: Of Baptism

What is baptism? What does it symbolize? Can I be saved without being baptized? Are professing believers alone to be baptized? What about Infant Baptism? What is the baptismal formula? How is baptism to be performed? Is it by sprinkling, pouring or immersion?

Let me start with a personal testimony. I was born in Iraq to an Armenian (not Arminian) family. The church of the Armenian people is the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is an Orthodox church and it is very much similar to Roman Catholicism. Infants would be baptized around 40 days old or something around that time. That was not different in my case. Throughout my youth, I saw my Infant Baptism as the basis that I was a Christian. What made it also difficult was the fact that in Iraq, everyone would have their religion on their ID card. I even served as an altar boy in the church when I was little. But to be honest, I did not know the Gospel, yet I was not ashamed to proclaim that I am Christian, but don't ask me what the Gospel is! Thus, throughout my youth, I saw my baptism as the ground that I am a Christian, even though I did not pray often or did not know why Christ died. The Armenian Church, by the way, believes in baptismal regeneration and baptism by dipping the infant thrice in a bowl of holy water. My family came to the Netherlands in 2008 and I finally knew what freedom was, but not the freedom of the Gospel (yet). Two years or so after that, I met with an old friend and stayed with him a few days. He saw that I did not pray before bed, so he questioned me. He told me about prayer and how proper is it to pray to God and thank Him for everything. I told him that I don't want to be religious. He directed me to videos and episodes of Zakaria Botros (Arabic), who shares the Gospel with Muslims via TV and exposes Islam. Through his videos and episodes, I came to know the true Gospel and was saved by God's grace. After that, there grew in me a desire to study His Word, so I bought Bibles and study Bibles and started reading the Scriptures daily. Around that time, I started attending a Baptist church. I did not know that it was a Baptist church. We went there with some friends of mine and by God's grace, kept attending church on the Lord's Day.

I started reading the Bible and I could not find anything about the baptism of infants or that baptism as the basis of my faith and all the things which I had simply assumed in my youth. So I set out to study this matter and came to the conclusion that Infant Baptism was unscriptural and what happened to me as an infant, was not biblical baptism. On a Saturday night, I fell on my knees and asked the Lord if He wanted me to be baptized that He would give me some sign. The next day, the Lord's Day, the preacher talked about discipleship and following Christ no matter what and he said something like, “It doesn't matter what your family will think of you if you want to be baptized”, which I saw as a sign from heaven. My family would not have been happy about my baptism because they think that my baptism as an infant was valid. Moreover, the Armenian Church is a national church. It does not get new converts, for example. Most infants are baptized and declared Christian, even if they know not the Gospel. Therefore, the only baptism that is practiced and that I have heard of is Infant Baptism.

I still feel guilty for asking the Lord for a sign when I had already concluded that believers’ ...


A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw

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The Fatal Flaw

Of the Theology behind Infant Baptism

For some time I have tried to get my hands on Jeffery Johnson’s book, but Amazon did not provide it as new. That is, until I saw it on Solid Ground Books. I was able to get it along with the Kingdom of God and Hercules Collin’s Catechism.

I’ve heard a lot of good about this book and I’ve also listened to Jeffery Johnson’s sermons/lectures on Covenant Theology especially the most recent with Pascal Denault. I’ve read his chapter in Recovering Covenantal A Heritage and listened to his sermon on the dual nature of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants which helped me a lot. I was eager to get started on this book and see what I could learn more.

The Paedobaptist Positions

To start, he lays down all the division of Paedobaptism. He numbers 8 –

  1. Fides Aliena (Faith of Another) – the church supplies the faith necessary for the infant. Those who hold this position understand that faith is a necessary prerequisite for baptism. But this faith could not come from the infant, thus the Church supplies the faith that is necessary. Those who take this position also believe that baptism removes Adam’s guilt and “cleanses the heart of its inward depravity.” (p. 6, Augustine, Origen)
  2. Fides Infusa (Infused Faith) – Faith is given at the point of baptism. When the infant is baptism, they are also given faith in that act.
  3. Fides Infantium – Luther said “In baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” Luther was the proponent of justification by faith alone and thus for infants to be saved they had to believe. The faith of another could not do it for them. Faith is not transferable.
  4. Sacramental Symbolism – This is Ulrich Zwingli’s position which taught that water baptism had no bearing upon the Spirit’s internal work. It was merely an external sign and symbol. Unlike the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Zwingli did not believe that water baptism administers faith.
  5. Pre-credobaptism – Baptism comes before the infant having faith. It does symbolize faith and union with Christ, but does not guarantee it. This is the Reformed Paedobaptist position. The Westminster says: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.” (chapter 28, paragraph 6)
  6. Presumptive Regeneration – I’ve not had much interaction with the Dutch Reformed position here in Holland and I’ve heard only mischaracterizations of it, so I can’t say if this is the position of every church here (I live in the Netherlands). But through the influence of Abraham Kuyper, the church sought to bring baptism closer to faith. This position basically says that we believe that infants have faith and are Christian until proven otherwise. “Although it is not certain that baptism regenerates all infants, the church assumes regeneration until proven otherwise.” (p. 15)
  7. Baptismal Regeneration – This is the position which Johnson identifies with the Federal Vision theologians, which basically says that baptism impart faith to all infants to whom it is administered, elect and non-elect. Baptism regenerates all covenant children. Zwingli divided the sign and the sacrament, Federal Vision says “God...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

...o the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.

What they meant by "administration" is that the substance of the all the covenants in the Old Testament are the same, namely, the Covenant of Grace, but the administration of the particular covenants is different. The substance is the same, but the (outward) form is different. This distinction justifies the practice of Infant Baptism when understanding their position on the Covenant of Grace...it kind of makes sense. If the Abrahamic Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Grace and it had the sign of circumcision, which was administered to both Jacob and Esau when they were infants (i.e., believer and unbeliever), then it makes sense that if the New Covenant has the same substance as the Abrahamic Covenant to baptize infants. This point would be carried over to the New Covenant and there we would also baptize our infants since they are part of the covenant just like in Abraham's time. Circumcision is replaced by baptism in the New Covenant administrations of the Covenant of Grace. The outward form is different, but the substance is still the same. Therefore, the promise of "you and your seed" applies to believers in the New Covenant and their natural offspring (as they interpret Acts 2:39). Such is the reasoning of our Presbyterian brethren. With such thinking, I can see some possibility of Infant Baptism being right, but there is more that needs to be examined before declaring Infant Baptism biblical. See chapter 29 for more on baptism and the Covenant of Grace.

This is not only the Presbyterian understanding but even some Reformed Baptists' understanding. I think Richard Barcellos was right in observing that many Reformed Baptists assumed a Covenant Theology like their Presbyterian brethren, while not looking at the distinct Covenant Theology of our Baptist forefathers. In a recent Reformed Baptist book, this idea was promoted:

It is absolutely imperative to understand that while there is just one Covenant of Grace, there are different methods of administrating it; each being of gracious promise serving the first manifestation of the Covenant of Grace (Genesis 3:15), culminating in the New Covenant, and enjoyed in eternal glory. This is not a flattening of Scripture nor is it “a reductionism which has the tendency of fitting Scripture into our theological system rather than the other way around.” On the contrary, the one Covenant of Grace exponentially builds, increases, and heightens throughout redemptive history until it crescendos in heaven.[23]

Other Reformed Baptists contend that this view of "a single covenant, multiple administrations" is not the view of the signers of the 1689 Confession, but the Westminster Confession. There is a lot of similarity between the two Confessions, therefore, it is not strange for some Reformed Baptists to believe that our Confession (whether they've compared the two chapters or not, I do not know) must probably say the same thing as the Westminster Confession minus Infant Baptism. Therefore, they still operate according to the "one covenant, multiple administrations" model of Covenant Theology and not what we will now discuss, which we believe is the actual v...


A Short Review of Sam Waldron's Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith

...to go through it with Sam Waldron which I though he did a very good job.

Introduction to Covenant Theology

Before beginning my study of the confession, through a brother I got into the subject of Baptist Covenant Theology, I got the work of Pascal Denault The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology and Waldron's A Reformed Baptist Manifesto. Sometime later I got the recent Recovering a Covenantal Heritage volume. I have been more and more interested in this stream of Reformed Theology.

Introduction to Baptistic Convictions & Calvinism

I first became baptistic simply through reading the New Testament and finding no evidence of any Infant Baptism. I was baptized in the Armenian Church as an infant and was attending a Baptist church in Holland and was convinced that my baptism was no baptism. So on 14-06-2013[1] I was baptized after a profession of faith. At that time I was in the process of studying the Doctrines of Grace. Sometime later, by the grace of God I came to embrace and glory in them.

The Confession

The first and foremost thing that I love about this Confession is it's high, high, high view of God's sovereign freedom. I love it and that is exactly how I believe that God is, the Sovereign King over every molecule. 
I love the fact of the Baptists' deep commitment to the truth and the sole authority of the Bible and their appeal to the Bible. I could not really find any disagreements with the Confession, so I feel home in it and I'm not ashamed to identify myself as a Reformed Baptist.

What I loved about Dr Waldron's work is his way of explaining the Confession and going through the biblical evidence (as I have been reading Grudem, I would have loved it if Dr Waldron would cite portions of the passages that he was using as proof, rather most of the time, only references were given).

When I started studying the Confession I didn't realizes that a confession is actually a Systematic Theology! :)

Dr Waldron explained things very well, I especially liked his extensive treatment of chapters 29 (Of Baptism), 31 (of the state of man after death and of the resurrection of the dead) and 32 (Of the last judgment). There he interacted with the other side and provided some answers. With the explanations he went also through more detail.

During my study of the 1689 I left some comments about my thoughts on each paragraph that can be viewed here: https://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Second-Baptist-Confession-Of-Faith-With-Commentary-And-Highlighting/922 

Also I have opened a new section wherein I try to go in detail to explain why I agree with the formulation of doctrines in the 1689. The section is found here: https://www.thecalvinist.net/1689 

Few minor problems with the book

One thing that was frustrating me, was the load of typos there. It's not that I'm a grammar nazi, but the quality of the work is so great that the multitude of the typos, wrong headings above pages (pages 103, 381), no spacing between words, wrong numeration really were the only downside, which could have been prevented. Hopefully, they will update it in the future, otherwise we'll just have to wait for James Renihan's exposition of the 1689 that is in progress!

Footnotes

  1. ^ Here is a picture of my baptism back when my hair was long. 

 

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures - Commentary

...to believe these. But if in the Word we find doctrines which we don’t want to believe, we are sinning and are disobeying God Whose Word Scripture is. Sola Scriptura teaches that the Bible alone can bind the conscious to obedience, since it alone is the Word of God, and God alone is the Lord of the conscious (see chapter 21).

On the other hand, Roman Catholics believe that sacred tradition and Scripture share the same authority. That’s why these can believe unbiblical doctrines and practice unbiblical things as prayers to the dead, Infant Baptism, penance, the assumption of Mary, the ever-virginity of Mary, Mary as Queen of Heaven, Popery, infallibility of the Pope, Purgatory and the list goes on, which have no warrant in Scripture, but they find in “Sacred Tradition.” Lest I be accused of misrepresenting them, here are a few statements from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. First, they say that they have the same source:

"Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal." Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".[11]

Sacred Tradition is described to be divine and together with the Holy Scripture “to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.” I beg to differ. You would be hard-pressed to find a single passage in Scripture which attributes the things attributed to Scripture to “Sacred Tradition.” It is interesting at this point to note, that it was Sola Scriptura, dependence upon the Scripture alone as the highest authority, which ignited the Reformation. Scripture and Sacred Tradition allows the Roman Catholic Church to bind the consciousness of men with man-made doctrines, which the Holy Scriptures know nothing about. But since it is the assertion of the Roman Catholic Church that both Scripture and Tradition have the same divine source, then it is reasonable to assume that Tradition is to be obeyed also. Our problem really is that tradition is nowhere described in such a way in the only special revelation of God—the Bible, therefore, “Sacred Tradition” is not of God. Moreover, this “Sacred Tradition” is binding only as interpreted and explained by the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, basically, they accept as tradition what accords with their doctrine and deny that which disagrees with them. The words of Jesus to the Pharisees come to mind, "in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8). And by teaching the tradition of men they make “void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:13). Since Scripture is not the sole and final authority for the Roman Catholic Church, they can teach their false doctrine as authoritative and as binding upon the consciousness of their members, without any warrant from Holy Writ. In this way, by teaching “Sacred Tradition” and attributing to “Sacred Tradition” the same things as attributed to Scripture, i.e., having God as its source, they make void the true Word of God and worship Him in vain. This is a solemn word from the Lord Jesus Himself to caution us that when tradition, i.e., something which does not have a warrant in the Scriptur...


Quotes from A. W. Pink's The Divine Covenants

...e “everlasting covenant of grace”, was “made” with Noah and not simply a gracious covenant. In light of everything else that he says it seems to me that he may have the idea of “renewal” in mind, or maybe a gracious covenant and not the Covenant of Grace absolutely being made with Noah. But I'm unsure.

While I may have my doubts about certain points in Pink's covenant theology, it very clear to me that his model is very different from Westminster Federalism. In fact, it seems very clear to me that he was a Baptist and provided counter-exegesis to passages as Genesis 17:7; Romans 4:11; Colossians 2:11-12 which are often used in support of Infant Baptism, although he did not desire to pick up the topic of baptism specifically.

If you can't see the iFrame below, take a look here.

Footnotes

  1. a, b Arthur W. Pink. The Divine Covenants. (Memphis, TN: Bottom of the Hill Publishing, 2011). p. 48.
  2. ^ ibid. p. 44.
  3. ^ Ibid. p. 52.
  4. ^ Ibid. p. 9.
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Review of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

...I've read about before.

Being a baptist, he argues for a congregational and independent type of church and makes the case for the consistent plurality of elders in NT congregations.

What I also liked was the distinction that he made with with more and less pure churches. He admits that in the present time there will not be a church which is perfect in doctrine, but there will be churches which are more or less pure churches. There are no perfect churches.

Being a Reformed Baptist myself, I loved his treatment of Baptism (chapter 49) and his interaction with Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology on Protestant Infant Baptism. I though that his case for Credobaptism was strong and he was gracious toward our Padeobaptist brethren.

An important doctrine which he got me more thinking about was the Gifts of the Spirit. He being a continuationist and I...kinda undecided, but was practically a cessationist, but couldn't make up my mind from the Scriptures because according to my judgment I didn't see any where in the NT the idea that the spritual gifts would stop.

A few things should be said, Dr. Grudem is an excellent theologian, so he is not like the prosperity preachers and the Benny Hinns. He does not believe that “NT congregational prophecy” is the speaking of the very words of God, but he defines prophecy as “telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.”[3] He does not believe that NT congregation prophecy is predicting the future. Further, he believes that in the OT the prophets spoke the very words of God and to disobey a prophet was the same as to disobey God. But this is not the case in the NT. In the NT, the prophets are replaced with the Apostles (which is an office limited to the first century he believes) which are given the authority to write the God-breathed word of God. It is the Apostles, not the prophets in the NT which write and speak the very words of God. At first I found this rather strange and I was committed that the prophets were God's mouthpiece as that is the case in the OT, but Dr Grudem argues that the Apostles replace the prophets in the NT.

As for healing, Dr Grudem believes that God heals through the prayers of people. He does not believe that the reason why people are not healed is caused by lack of faith, as the prosperity heretics do. But that it is the sovereign and free will of God which grants healing.

I found it strange that Dr. Grudem believes that tongues can in fact be a nonexistent language, but in the words of John MacArthur “gibberish.” I have not studied this very deeply, but I cannot say that I agree. Dr Grudem argues that just because in Acts 2 tongues were actual languages, does not mean that that will always be the case because he believes that 1 Corinthians14 supports the idea of tongues not actually being a language sometimes.

I cannot say that now I'm fully a continuationist, but I can say that I see now more support for continuationism and weakness for cessationism.

The Doctrine of the Future

Part 7 of this Systematic Theology deals with the study of the last things, Eschatology.

Dr Grudem shows convincingly for me the support for the coming of Christ, the Final Judgment and Hell, the New Heavens and New Earth. With all these I agreed on most points, except the Millennium.

Dr. Grudem is a Classic Premillennial. He fairly represents the four major views today:

  1. Amillennialism
  2. Postmillennialism
  3. Classic Premillennialism
  4. Dispens...