In The Ghetto
Doug Wilson writes:
“This objection misses the point that Peter is making. The issue with Cornelius and his household was not whether they were old enough to receive water baptism, but whether they were Jewish enough. If this household had contained an infant, the members of the ‘circumcision’ who were there would not have objected to baptism on the grounds of infancy, but rather because the infant was Gentile and uncircumcised” (To a Thousand Generations, p. 55).
Certainly, the issue was whether Gentiles should be baptized, but it was never a pitting of circumcision against baptism. They understood that circumcision was a beginning and baptism was a new beginning. Circumcision was replaced not by baptism but by the death of Christ, which united Jew and Gentile. Jesus tore down that wall, and paedobaptism unwittingly puts it up again. Circumcision marked out flesh as a plot of Land. That is entirely done with. Spirit water overflows all human barriers, it wipes out every distinction with a new one – Repentance and Faith.
A Christian is a tree with fruit, linking the Land (Bronze Altar) with heaven (Incense Altar) via the Laver. Circumcision marked out a plot of Land. It classified Adamic caterpillars, not Evian butterflies. There’s a death and resurrection in the middle.
So, our children can be “Christian” even if they are not yet Christians. They are marked out by the gospel, but all nations are now marked out. There is an outflow from the source of the Spirit into family and culture. But the young are receivers, not the springs. Spirit-filled Christians are the only true fonts.
It’s not the paedobaptistic churches which are known for their cultural diversity. Paedobaptism sends exactly the wrong message. It builds a ghetto. Credobaptists can do this too, with different means. Closed Brethren, like the Pharisees, confuse the Lord’s table with the dinner table, all for the sake of preserving their physical heirs. Their Pharisaic inhospitality has the same result — a spiritual and cultural ghetto. (However, in my experience they do business like postmillennialists — innovative, hard-working and honest!)
So, we have the exclusives who want to keep what they have in concentrated form to preserve it. They build a watery fence. Then we have the inclusives who think spreading what they have can only be achieved by diluting it. They break down the barrier of bloody repentance. Both are wrong. Both fail to understand God’s architecture. If we are really trusting in Jesus for the increase, we can cast our bread on the waters and still end up with twelve baskets of leftovers. An incorruptible outflow takes faith.
In Christ, we can keep all the strange Dutch surnames and have strange names from every other nation as well. Paedobaptism gets inbred. Credobaptism can get mongrelized. The New Covenant is actually about tough hybrids, a constant supply of fresh faith and first love, a place where the “honeymoon” is never over.
Train of Thought
[Concerning Acts 21:18-25] “A false report concerning Paul and his teaching had arrived in the Jerusalem church before Paul had. This report was that he taught Jewish Christians to cease circumcising their infant sons.” (To a Thousand Generations, p. 62).
Pastor Wilson begins this chapter of his book by stating that the duties of Covenant parents did not change with the New Covenant. This is true (with obvious minor qualifications).
He uses Timothy’s training under the Law since infancy as an example. But then he sees the Covenant sign as something to be applied to all Covenant children. This is where the logic falls down, because baby girls did not qualify. So, the reason for the disconnect between Covenant parenting and the Covenant sign must be identified, otherwise the rest of the argument is founded on a cracked slab.
Pastor Wilson admits that there are no explicit cases of infant baptism in the New Testament, and that making a strong case for it from the Old is not enough. But, as mentioned above, this “strong case” only applied to males, and not just infant ones. When it came to individual Covenant members, circumcision clearly signified something other than Covenant childhood.
He then looks for evidence of infant baptism, assuming that the New Testament writers also assumed that such a practice was an obvious and logical extension of the Old Order into the New. This brings us to the quote above. Pastor Wilson’s logic is this:
Paul did not teach that Jews should cease circumcising their sons.
Paul’s continued practice of circumcision (of Timothy) and his taking of a Nazirite vow were not compromises because the Temple was still standing and Paul and Timothy had Jewish blood.
Agreed. We are on the same train here.
Circumcision was not a cultural badge but a Covenant act to be practiced in faith.
Yes, it was to be practiced in faith, but it was also a cultural badge. Although temporary, Judaism was a prepackaged God-given culture, a schoolroom designed to raise a nation with a knowledge of God through object lessons and discipline. If this were the Super8 movie, Doctor Woodward just drove his pickup onto Pastor Wilson’s traintracks.
Then he writes:
“…circumcision remained an ordinance of God, marking the initiation of the one who received it as a member of the visible Covenant community. Circumcision continued to mean that the one who received it was under an obligation to be a true son of Abraham, –i.e. a Christian.” (TATG, p. 64).
This is where the train comes off the rails.
Circumcision only marked the males. It was not for all Covenant members, nor heads of households (although this was related). It marked out one genealogy of Adamic flesh that was continually innoculated with small doses of death to keep it from dying out under God’s judgment. It was entirely about seed, as if that needed to be pointed out. It was Adam’s nakedness uncovered, and blood-covered, as Covenant Head, so that he could one day be crowned with glory and honour, i.e. qualify as Mediator for a truly integrated, bridal Covenant Body.
Circumcision did not ever mean that one was to be a Christian, but a believing male Jew, one who faithfully carried on the physical lineage in faith until Messiah arrived. That’s why the term Christian was coined, to describe something new. These Christians were some strange sort of hybrid, like broccoli. Initially, the Jewish Christians demanded Gentile males be circumcised because they thought these Gentiles were joining Israel in the same manner as Caleb the Kenizzite did, or the Shechemites attempted to. It was primarily about intermarriage and physical seed; a culture of faith, yes, but nevertheless a culture.
To a certain degree, the logic of these Jewish Christians was actually sound. If baptism meant you were a “true Jew,” then you had to have the “Jew” bit in place first before baptism could justify the addition of the adjective “true.” They understood circumcision as an initiation into a culture of flesh, and baptism as vindication of faith. But the apostles made it clear that the “flesh” wall was actually now redundant. If your heart was circumcised, your flesh didn’t need to be.
[There is] therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
Jesus, a Jewish male, had condemned sin in the flesh. That’s what circumcision signified. With that completed, the Jewish culture was coming to an end, the childhood Temple outgrown like an eggshell. Paul’s observance of circumcision and vows were simply what every preacher does for his audience. He starts where they are, and brings them to where he is, from circumcision to baptism, from death to life.
A Bleeder or a Splasher
If it were true that infant baptism was the norm in the apostolic churches, the Jews wouldn’t have had the problem with it that is described in Acts 21. It would have been an entirely different problem:
“Paul, you affirm circumcision for Jews, but that leaves us with a problem. The pregnant Jewesses in our church are no longer asked if they are expecting a boy or a girl. Some tactless Gentiles are asking them if they are having a bleeder or a splasher! Are you entirely certain that we are supposed to carry out both rites on the baby boys? And if so, do we do it on the same day? And seeing as we only baptize the baby girls, are we to sprinkle the girls on the eighth day?”
No, circumcision was one of the “elementary things” that Peter said would soon be burned up. It would leave faith, hope and love. Baptism vindicates repentance and faith, the beginning of a new life.
A Helpful Picture
Back to Super8. There is a wonderful picture of the contrast and unity of the Old and New Covenants towards the end of the movie. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen it.
The alien is down in Hades, the insatiable Tabernacle of death. He’s munching on the living dead, and cutting up the “raw materials” of the world to build his new star-house. When he’s ready, he is “lifted up” into the cockpit, the throneroom, and starts to draw all sorts of strange Gentile bric-a-brac. They don’t need to be cut up (circumcised) because they are not forming the house, they are filling it, glorifying it. Finally, when the time for corporate resurrection arrives, the water tower bursts (passing through the crystal sea) and the entire apostolic hybrid church meets the Lord in the air. Baptism promises resurrection.
Baptism is the vindication of the completed mediatorial body, not the setting apart of the Adamic raw material. Infants do not qualify. If Paul had encountered Lois and Eunice when Timothy was an infant, he would not have baptized him. He was still being formed under the Law.
The New Covenant is not about carnal genealogies. God is faithful to a thousand generations, but the definition of “offspring” has been transcended. Timothy was Paul’s son “in the Lord.” That’s the kind of offspring God wants. It is a spring of faith, not flesh. Faith is the qualifier. It doesn’t replace the flesh, whether that is godly parenting or any other Covenant responsibility. It fills the flesh and wipes out every other division, cultural or otherwise, other than faith.
“The advent of Christ did not result in Jewish parents starting to wait until their children made a profession of faith before they were circumcised. The Jewish Christians did not suddenly switch to ‘believer’s circumcision.’” (TATG, p. 65.)
Of course they didn’t. They understood that circumcision was about heredity, and baptism was about faith. Walking in the Spirit negates the requirement for any type of cultural or racial ghetto. Pastor Wilson’s book has a lot of well-argued, logical progressions, but it’s facing the wrong way at the starting line. 
 See An Atheist ‘Gets’ Baptism.