I am a paedo-baptist. That means I believe that children of believing parents are born into the Covenant and therefore have a right to the covenant sign, baptism. However, I know many of you at Christ Church are Baptist and disagree with me on this particular point. Earlier this week Tim Challies posted a list of when baptist churches allow a child to baptized. I encourage you to read the post here. As I read the quotes from various churches questions began to buzz in my mind like so many flies. So here is my attempt to swat at those flies. By the way, I love my Baptist brothers. This is not an attempt to start a fight, but rather I am trying to help you think more Biblically about your position.
First and foremost, what is the biblical basis for putting off baptism until well after a profession of faith? Most churches on the list said they would not baptize a child solely on his profession of faith. (Ted Christman’s was the exception. My guess is that Christman’s church is not the norm in Baptist circles.) There must be a period of time until the child matures. Mark Dever’s church in Washington D.C. implied that baptism should be put off until a child is out from underneath their parents’ authority. Both John MacArthur’s and John Piper’s church said that a child must be eleven or twelve until they are baptized, no matter when they make a profession of faith. My question is: Do they have a Bible verse for that? In the Bible as soon as a profession of faith is made the person is baptized. There is no waiting period for anyone. Peter and Paul were apparently not worried that a man’s profession of faith might not be real. (See Acts 2:41, 8:12, 8:38, 16:15, 16:33, 18:8) Even Paul’s baptism was only a few days past his conversion. (Acts 9:1-9 and 18) So again, why wait?
Second, what does this particular practice say about the Kingdom of God? I want to be very careful here. I love Pastor MacArthur, Pastor Piper and many others who have similar views. They have taught me much. But still the question buzzes around in my head: Does pushing off baptism until a child has shown sufficient maturity or fruit give an accurate picture of God’s Kingdom? Is God’s Kingdom only for the mature, for those who have shown sufficient fruit? Why then did Jesus say you must become as a little child? Is intellectual understanding and holiness the way we get into the Kingdom? Or is it what happens after we have arrived? To me, this practice undermines grace by implying that the Kingdom is earned through maturity. I know these men would disagree, but their baptismal practice works against their views of grace. By the way, I also think it is wrong to put off an adult baptism until they have had a membership/baptismal class. When a man professes faith he should be baptized. Teaching is what happens after the baptism, not before.(Matthew 28:18-20)
Third, any argument against baptizing children upon their profession of faith is also an argument against baptizing adults upon their profession of faith. One church worried that a child might be coerced by the parents? But can’t the man at the mall be coerced by the street preacher? Some worry that the child might not know what they are committing to? Did Lydia know what she was getting into? (Acts 16:15) Some worry that a child might not understand the cross well enough? Did the Philippian jailer understand the cross? (Acts 16:33) Now of course, Paul preached to both Lydia and the jailer, but a four year old in a typical Christian home has probably heard as much, if not more, about Christ and the cross as those two people did. So again, why wait?
There are more questions that will have to wait to a later date. Like what would happen if Baptist churches baptized solely on a profession of faith? How would that change Baptist culture? Does waiting breed doubt or assurance? Does waiting on baptism actually make it statistically more likely that a person will persevere to the end? Are children in Baptist churches treated as unbelievers until they profess faith and if not why not? Is there Biblical justification for the age of accountability, which seems to be underneath this type of thinking?