Why I Changed My Mind about Baptism?

It has been quite a journey for me.

I often debated Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians on the matter of baptism, and concluded that their practice of infant baptism was based on weak arguments–derived from the Old Testament.

baptism-by-pouringThe Mode of Baptism.  I’ve blogged here that the import of baptism in the New Testament is not its mode–whether immersion or sprinkling or pouring–but rather its symbolism as a ceremonial cleansing.  The amount of water used is inconsequential.

When it came to baptism, as a Baptist, I could only think of going under and coming out of water, to symbolize dying and rising with Christ, with Romans 6:3-4 as proof text.  But I’ve come to learn that baptism in the New Testament is so much more than its mode.

The Subjects of Baptism.  The proper subjects of baptism could only be those who have made a profession of faith in Christ.  This is what I saw in the New Testament and continued to see for a very long time.  I could see nothing else.

But then I continued to study and pour over covenant theology.  I began to make several discoveries: (1) the unity of Scripture–both Old and New Testaments are held together by covenant theology.  (2) the people of God.  There is only one people of God under both Old and New Testaments.  (3) the essence of the sacraments (circumcision and Passover in the OT and baptism and Lord’s Supper in the NT).

Moreover, in redemptive history, God calls whole households and covenants with them.  This is the evidence of the Old Testament.  And I’m now convinced that this is how we should read those household baptisms in Acts and Paul’s writings.

Who should be baptized?  Baptism is not only to be administered to those who profess faith in Christ, but to their infants as well.

Conclusion.  I did not come to these conclusions lightly.   Over a period of time I wrestled with these issues until I had to follow my convictions.  I will continue to look to the Lord for his guidance and shalom in all matters of theology.

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This entry was posted in Anglican, Believer's Baptism, Covenant Theology, Infant Baptism, Miscellanies, Presbyterian, Water Baptism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Why I Changed My Mind about Baptism?

  1. Jon Hughes says:

    As always, TC, you are open and honest and not afraid to go where the evidence leads you. It’s that old chestnut of continuity vs discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New. I’ve always liked the notion that the N.T. equivalent of circumcision is circumcision of the heart rather than baptism, but then again in the O.T. the Israelites are admonished to circumcise their hearts also!

    But that’s the key question: Is baptism the equivalent of circumcision or not? And what about Jewish believers in Jesus who are both circumcised and baptised? As far as I’m aware, Messianic Jewish fellowships wherever they may be found practise believer’s baptism. Why don’t these Jewish believers in Jesus see the covenant connection as it relates to baptism in the way that you describe above?

    I’m a Baptist, hence my two children (aged four and two) are not baptised. My wife and I are both believers. Would you now say that we are withholding blessing and privileges from them by not having had them baptised? How about your own kids? I was sprinkled as a baby, and my parents were non-church-going nominal Anglicans. Aged twenty-seven, I came to faith in Christ and was baptised as a believer. In terms of personal experience and meaning, that was my real baptism. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    As for the significance of baptism (an important question by implication of what you write above), I guess those on both sides of the debate would agree with the sentiments of the apostle Paul: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…”

    All the best, brother.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Jon,
      As always, I appreciate your feedback (Prov. 27:17 comes to mind). (1) Yes, physical circumcision was always meant to point to spiritual circumcision – circumcision of the heart (Deut. 30:6; cf. Rom. 2:29).

      Regarding NT baptism being the equivalent of OT circumcision, I would say that there are similarities and dissimilarities. For example, there was an ethnic and physical role that circumcisiion played in the OT, which NT baptism certainly doesn’t play. But as an initiation rite, yes. Another dissimilarity, from only males to include females as well. Also, many Baptist scholars have conceded on the basis of Colossians 2:11-12 that NT baptism has replaced OT circumcision.

      (2) I’ve never engaged a Messianic Jew on the matter. I hope the opportunity presents itself at some point.

      (3) As you’re aware, not all paedobaptists believe the same things when it comes to what happens to children of believers who are baptized.

      I respect the questions that you raised about your own children, but I really can’t answer for you and your family. It’s a matter of conviction. However, I will add the following: a. paedobaptists believe that by administering baptism to their children (1) they are marking them off as children of the covenant, who are pledged to the Lord (similar to baby dedication that Baptists practice, which JI Packer refers to as dry baptism). (2) They enjoy the benefits of non-communing members, but at some point, they too will have to make a profession of faith and make a reality in their own lives, by the mediation of the Spirit, what the sacrament of baptism pointed to all along.

      Jon, I’ve had to rethink the meaning of baptism. It’s not so much what I do, the subjective, but baptism as a sacrament, a means of grace, is more about the objective, what the Lord does – hence sign and seal. That Jewish child who was circumcised, the sign of the covenant, was promised by God that when the conditions were meant, what was signified in the physical rite, would become a reality. God’s covenant faithfulness.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        TC,

        Thanks for your lengthy reply. Yes, we had our children dedicated. Were I to share your present convictions, I would have to view unbaptized children as being deprived of spiritual privileges. A further journey could then be taken toward the Roman Catholic position on baptism (i.e. baptismal regeneration), based on passages such as 1 Peter 3:21. We’re all somewhere on the theological spectrum when it comes to baptism.

        God bless, brother.

  2. Admin says:

    Went through that process myself

  3. Lon Hetrick says:

    I admire your commitment to persue understanding Scripture wherever it leads you. What impact will this have on your ministry?

  4. Colin says:

    You have clearly done a lot of searching, which has challenged the sincerely held convictions you have held for many years. The position you set out is near enough the same as my own. Brought up in a Baptist church but not coming to faith until I was in my 20s after a few years of drifting. And that in the context of the CoE. So I was baptised as a believer, by 3 fold sprinkling; by the Bishop who a few minutes later confirmed me, along with ,many others, in accordance with our practices.

    To pick up on Jon’s position, I have no issue with Christian parents who consider that baptism is a response to faith already owned and professed. I am clear that the children are in no way at a disadvantage. my own Vicar did not baptise his 2 sons as infants. One has come to faith, received immersion and later confirmation, the other so far has not. I am pleased that the CoE along with other older established denominations are able to recognise varied preferences.

    It was an interesting experience a couple of years ago over on Robert Darby’s blog. I found myself, as an Anglican whose children were baptised as infants, supporting those Christian parents who choose not to, from the vigorous concerns of a contributing brother of the Orthodox Church, who felt that if you did not want to baptise your children you should only be in those churches which do not practice it.

  5. TC Robinson says:

    Lon,
    Thanks. As for your question relating to my ministry, the Lord has already made a way. My family and I are forever grateful.

    Colin,
    Thanks for sharing from your own journey. A thorough understanding of baptism should lead one to covenant baptism, meaning, administering it to their infant children. My take. But I respect these denominations that all latitude on the matter.

  6. TC Robinson says:

    [Thanks for your lengthy reply. Yes, we had our children dedicated. Were I to share your present convictions, I would have to view unbaptized children as being deprived of spiritual privileges. A further journey could then be taken toward the Roman Catholic position on baptism (i.e. baptismal regeneration), based on passages such as 1 Peter 3:21. We’re all somewhere on the theological spectrum when it comes to baptism.

    God bless, brother.]

    Jon,
    (1) You don’t share my present convictions, so no need to think you’re depriving your children of spiritual privileges. (2) Regarding covenant baptism and baptismal regeneration, one would have to argue the same for OT circumcision. But such is not the case. So no need to take the journey to Rome.

    Blessings.

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