Here is an interesting article by Tim Challies on when credo baptists should baptize their children. He is gracious with those who believe that young children can believe and be baptized, but he suggests that we should wait until children are older, particularly later teen years. This position is similar to Mark Dever’s. There are several points I want to make about this article.
First, Pastor Challies’ definition of “credible profession of faith” is not found in the book of Acts. He argues from Acts that someone must have knowledge and maturity in order to have a credible profession of faith. But almost every baptism in Acts immediately follows a response to the preaching of the Word. There is no delay to determine whether or not someone has knowledge or is mature enough to receive baptism. In Acts 2:41 3,000 people are baptized the very day that Peter preaches to them. In Acts 8:12 we see that Philip baptized people who heard him preach the same day. At the end of the same chapter Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch. There are numerous other examples in Acts (10:48, 16:15, 16:33, 18:8) of baptisms quickly following a profession of faith. There does not appear to be any biblical reason to delay baptism following a profession of faith. Certainly in some of these cases, like Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, there could have been discussion about the faith. But in most cases there is nothing other than preaching and response. And certainly with the 3,000 on Pentecost there would not have been time to evaluate the participants knowledge and maturity. May be he is pulling his definition of credible profession of faith from another book of the Bible. If he is, he does not say so.
Second, Pastor Challies does not mention a single passage that talks about children. The New Testament mentions children numerous times. It would seem odd to develop a thesis about baptizing children without at least referencing passages on children.
Third, he seems to think the only problem is baptizing children too early. But what if a child really does profess faith in Christ and we refuse to baptize him? Doesn’t that create doubt in his mind about his own conversion? What if credo-baptists imply to their children that “your profession is not good enough?” Maybe we create doubt by making them wait and then they fulfill our prophecy by acting unregenerate. His example of a child responding to questions is a straw man. My three year old can answer his questions just fine. Once a child talks why should we not take their profession seriously? Why would the profession of a three year old not be valid, but that of a 23 year old is?
Fourth, it sounds like he is arguing that we cannot know if someone is truly saved until they leave their parents’ instruction behind. They must decide for themselves. Again, give me Scriptural proof of this particular point. No where in the Bible are children seen as needing to decide for themselves. Parents are told to instruct them in the faith and the ways of Christ. If a parent does this well then Christ will be present in the child’s life from the moment they are born. An obedient child is one who listens to their parents and obeys their commands. This would include the command to trust in Christ.
Fifth, it is not inevitable, but there is a danger that his perspective leads to baptism by works. If you stay faithful after you leave your parents then we will know you are really saved. If you show enough theological knowledge then we will know you really believe. If you show enough maturity then we will know your trust in Christ is true. Under this view baptism is no longer an entrance into the Christian life. It becomes a sign of spiritual maturity. Maybe this is because we have differing definitions of baptism. But it is still problematic.