Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Technical Point About Baptism

Well, it is technical, but it is also a vital point.

Being broadly Reformed in my theology, and yet a committed adherent to the biblical doctrine of Believer's baptism (credobaptism), I sometimes have to deal with the arguments that some put forth in favour of Infant Baptism from a Reformed Protestant perspective.

Recently I have been reading a discussion wherein a Presbyterian is arguing for "Baptismal Forgiveness/Justification." I won't go into teh details, but it is interesting to me that this Presbyterian does seek to answer the question "What does Baptism do?" At this point it is a good idea to quote Wayne Grudem:

"Roman Catholics have aclear answer to this question: Baptism causes regeneration. And Baptists have a clear answer: Baptism symbolizes the fact that inward regeneration has occured. But paedobaptists cannot adopt either of these answers. They do not want to say that baptism causes regeneration, nor are they able to say (with respect to infants) that it symbolizes a regeneration that has already occurred. The only alternative seems to be to say that it symbolizes a regeneration that will occur in the future, when the infant is old enough to come to saving faith. But even that is not quite accurate, because it si not certain that the infant will be regenerated in the future-some infants who are baptized never come to saving faith later. So the most accurate paedobaptist explanation of what baptism symbolizes is that it symbolizes probable future regeneration. It does not cause regeneration, nor does it symbolize actual regeneration; therfore it be understood as symbolizing probable regeneration at some time in the future.

But at this point it seems apparent that the paedobaptist understanding of baptism is quite different from that of th New Testament. The New Testament never views baptism as something that symbolizes a probable future regeneration. .. This is simply not the way the New Testament speaks of baptism. Baptism in the New Testament is a sign of being born again, being cleansed from sin, and beginning the Christian life. "
It seems to me that two things are happenning in the discussion with the Presbyterian. One is that he is adopting a view that is not actually Reformed. His view seems closer to the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, or Lutheran. That it is very akin to Lutheranism may be the most accurate since the Presbyterian has cited Luther often in his comments.

But here is the secnd thing that I see happening. The Presbyterian seems keen on denying Reformed Baptists the title of being "Reformed" because they stream from the "Radical Reformation," regardless of the fact that the only point of differnece between their beliefs and those of Calvin is in the area of Baptism, and of course the related issue of Covenant Theology. But Prebyterians also disagree with Lutherans on the issue of regeneration, as Lutherans hold that regeneration actually occurs at baptism. Is this not a double standard? Is no the difference between Luteran and Reformed views of baptism not great enough for Lutherans to not be "Reformed" (which the Pesbyterian sometimes broadens to refer to "major" groups arising out of the Reformation, and sometimes narrows to "pure" Reformed theology)? Or is the fact that Reformed Baptists come from Anabaptism merely a comfortable pretext which allows the Presbyterian to pick and choose those whom he considers Reformed?

We'll see how the conversation unfolds.

3 comments:

Kim said...
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Kim said...

If we look at the roots of baptism in the Jewish culture, we will find that it symbolized an inner change in the individual not a promise for the future. I feel sometimes that the Reformists try to re-invent the wheel in defining baptism when it wasn't a "new" thing in Jesus time. Christ re-defined what baptism meant to His followers.

Kim said...

Here is an article that outlines the roots.

http://www.bebaptized.org/Jewishroots.htm