To the Paedobaptists Among Us: A Question

Earlier today, a colleague and I–both of us credobaptists–were discussing infant baptism and 1 Corinthians 7:14, in particulary, with yours truly trying to argue the paedobaptist position.  But I may have missed a few points here and there.  1 Corinthians 7:14 reads:

 For the unbelieving husband is set apart for God by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart for God by the husband. Otherwise your children would be corrupt, but now they are set apart for God.  (HCSB, emphasis added)

Why don’t you baptize your unbelieving spouse since they are “set apart for God” by the believing partner?  This is the question that baffled my colleague and I.  We shouted, “Inconsistency!”

Why this question?

Well, I’ve heard you, paedobaptists, use 1 Corinthians 7:14 to justify the baptizing of infants.  You say that since infants are “set apart for God” by a believing spouse, and baptism, like circumcision, its Old Testament counterpart, is the New Testament sign to signify who has been “set apart” as God’s covenant people–so you baptize your infants, correct?

But not your unbelieving spouse.

Now you know why we both shouted, “Inconsistency!”

As I said above, there were no paedobaptists around to give a more reasoned and structured position–so our shout of “inconsistency” may not have been well-founded.

But I ask, Why not the charge of inconsistency?

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8 Responses to To the Paedobaptists Among Us: A Question

  1. Simon says:

    Adults can make the decision for themselves. But, the question remains. Why should the Church hold children of believing parent/s at arm’s length for the sake of waiting until they are old enough to make a conscious decision? People who come to faith as adults necessarily make a conscious decision to believe and be baptised. But the concept of individual decision, I think, is foreign to the the culture of the pre-Enlightenment world. I don’t think this passage decides anything about baptism, despite misguided attempts from paedobaptists to use it as such.

    The Bible records “adult baptism” because it was the first generation after the disciples and the Gospel was going out for the first time. The Scriptures simply do not address the question as to whether it is right to baptise infants. You have to infer this from the text. But what assumptions are you using? Often, Baptists look through the post-Enlightenment, individualistic lens without acknowledging this assumption. Would people in the ancient world really withhold full participation in Church life from their children based on an Enlightenment notion of individual rights/choice. Such a concept would have been foreign to them, it’s an anachronism. Further, there are Scriptural hints that whole households were being baptised on the conversion of the head of the household. Now it doesn’t say specifically that this included infants. Nor does it specifically say that each member of the household made an individual decision to accept the Gospel. These are assumptions interpreters make. But what is, or became, the universal practise of the Church? This is the relevant question in my opinion.

    • TC says:

      Simon, you’ve made several points of note here: first, Baptists looking through the lens of post-Enlightenment rather than the Scriptures for their interpretation. Second, that those who withhold baptism from their children and are consequently withholding “full participation in church life” and are therefore anachronistic. And third, that a universal practice should somehow win the day.

      I can offer Scripture to establish the very things that you have raised. But why bore you with that. And the two shall coexist until that Day… 🙂

  2. Jim Killion says:

    We have examples in the Torah of both voluntary (Abraham) and infant circumcision (on the 8th day). We have zero examples of baptism, whether it be mikvah in Torah, or immersion in the NT, of anything other than a choice being made by the one being baptized.

  3. Lon says:

    Just a side note that although I’m not sure how to rightly interpret and apply 1 Cor 7:14, I think it’s a stretch for anyone to leverage it to support either view of baptism, nor have I heard it used that way before by paedo- or credo- baptists.

    • TC says:

      Jim, it’s not an easy to establish. I believe church history remains paedobaptist best hermeneutic.

      Lon, but they do use it. I know. Paedobaptists take off on the expression “set apart” or “made holy,” depending on the Bible translation.

  4. Johnny Bain says:

    If believers baptism is understood as baptism based on the best available evidence that a person is united to Christ then my four sons received believers baptism as infants.

    The evidence we used was the promise God made to our father Abraham (“to be God to you and to your offspring after you”) repeated throughout bible history and demonstrated in the lives of children in the bible.

    At their baptism we read the promises and biblical examples asking God to fulfill these promises and answer our prayers on behalf of our boys. We asked him in faith in the name of our Savior who taught us to receive the kingdom as little children for of such is the kingdom of God.

    We know regeneration to be a sovereign act of God and that as our boys work out their salvation with fear and trembling it is God who works in them to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    We consider this evidence to be stronger than of any “fresh convert” confessing Christ as Lord.

    Therefore, as infants they received believers baptism.

    • TC says:

      John, thanks for sharing this. One question though: it seems like “faith” here is something of proxy, you exercising faith for your children, correct? If we’re talking evidence here, from NT examples, it’s those who came to faith that submitted to baptism, correct?

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