Had a friendly scuffle with Tur8infan in his combox over infant baptism. The exchange can be read here. I’m writing these thoughts out in this post as I have never seen this line of thought argued in a debate.
I’m a credo-baptist, I believe that the proper subjects of baptism are those who repent and believe. That does not mean that I deny that God can, and does, regenerate infants or the infirm who cannot verbalize their faith/new birth. We, Reformed Baptists, do not exclude infants or the infirm from church or the hearing of the Gospel, but we do wait until a profession is made before we administer baptism or the Supper. We believe that both baptism and the Supper require one to be conscious of their significance.
(Note: I’m sure there are examples in Baptist churches where this is ignored, but I’m speaking firstly of self-proclaimed Reformed Baptist, or credo-baptistic churches who hold to the doctrines of grace.)
Reformed paedobaptists believe that the basis for baptizing infants lay in the concept of Federal Headship and, as Tur8infan states it: “The declaration of faith and repentance for baptism is either the individual’s own, or (in the case of infants) that of the parent(s), just as with circumcision.” Thus, because a parent believes, an infant should be baptized.
Reformed paedobaptists (who do not practice paedocommunion) claim that Scripture demands that one who partakes the Supper examine themselves and discern the body. Thus since an infant cannot do these things, they should be excluded from the meal.
Those who do practice both paedobaptism and paedocommunion claim that federal headship applies to both covenant rites and thus infants of believers so baptized and communed are true members of Christ and the New Covenant.
From my perspective, the paedocommunionists are more consistent at least with how they handle federal headship. I would argue that if baptism = circumcision then the Supper most closely resembles the Passover meal. Yet the Passover meal was provided to all who had been circumcised as long as they could partake (milk-fed infants not withstanding). They did not need to discern the body, as they most likely saw it slain.
Yet, since there is as much demand in Scripture for one to believe and repent before being baptized and afterward to walk in the newness of life, as there is for one to examine oneself and discern the body prior to partaking of the Supper, if you are to apply one standard to baptism, it must be likewise applied to the Supper.
If the faith of the parent enables one, it should enable the other. If however the command for examination and discernment is required of one, and thus prevents an infant from participating in one, it must likewise prevent the other.
My questions, for non-paedocommunionists are these:
1) Into what covenant are infants baptized?
2) Where are the stipulations of said covenant found?
3) Do infants baptized into said covenant receive all the benefits thereof as described?
4) On what basis are infants, baptized into said covenant, excluded from the one rite/object actually identified with that covenant?
5) If circumcised children/infants participated in the Passover meal why are baptized infants prevented from participating in the fulfillment of that meal?
I may think up more questions in the following days, but one other issue must be addressed.
In almost every credo/paedo debate, the paedobaptist side brings up the fact that John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb, that Jesus told the disciples to bring children to him, that one has to have faith “like a child” etc. as some sort of argument for their position.
The problem, of course, with this is several fold. Firstly, since the paedobaptist argument lies in the fact of federal headship and the faith of the parent, not that of the child or infant, the potentiality of faith/regeneration of infants does not make a case for federal-headship-infant-baptism. Leaping babies, blessings from Jesus and faith “like a child” are emotional appeals that speak to the nature of the child and/or God’s care for the child, not to the correctness of baptising them. If one is arguing for paedobaptism on the basis of federal headship, the infant’s faith, or even ability to have faith, should be of no regard.
To this, Tur8in fan wrote:
The John the Baptist example demonstrates that young infants can, in theory, have faith, repentance, and a regenerate heart. (and you wonder why it keeps getting trotted out in debates …)
But this still doesn’t answer the question or explain the usage. No Reformed Baptist denies that infants can be given the gift of faith, or a regenerate heart… so the only purpose therefore in a debate is as an emotional appeal without consistent basis in the Paedobaptist’s federal headship argument.
Finally, I wonder if the fact that we seem to have reduced the Supper to a rite of drinking a thimble of juice/wine and a little piece of bread alters our opinion of what is to be done. I don’t believe that the 1 Cor 11 version of the Supper was merely the clinical ceremony it is today.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.