The Case for Covenantal Animal Baptism
A Guest Post by Chris Wooldridge
I’ve been looking at the usual places in the Old Testament from where Paedobaptism is normally defended and I think I’m leaning fairly solidly in the credobaptist direction now. Here’s why:
A CASE FOR COVENANTAL ANIMAL BAPTISM
Genesis 1 – God gives animals, birds and fish the same commission as humans – “be fruitful and multiply”. This is the foundation of God’s covenant with mankind, which is recapitulated in a new way in the great commission (Matt 28). Animals are part of the nations, so they should be baptized along with humans, on a household basis of course (as per the household covenant with Abraham). Baptism is a redemption of all creation.
Genesis 6-9 – Noah brings animals with him on the ark. The flood was a baptismal event, as the apostle Peter teaches us (1 Peter 3). On this basis as well, animals (and birds) should be baptized along with humans. Not only that, but the new covenant that God formed with Noah includes the whole of creation, including animals, who have life in their blood (Gen 9:4).
Exodus 10-12 – Animals were needed to serve God and Moses would not leave Egypt without them (Ex 10:24-26). They were included in the crossing of the Red Sea, which was a baptism according to Paul (1 Cor 10), and of course they would also have crossed the Jordan when the nation of Israel entered Canaan, an even greater baptism.
Leviticus – In the sacrifices of Israel, the clean animals were able to mediate for the Israelites as sacrifices ascending to God’s heavenly throne (although in the new covenant, both clean and unclean animals can be mediators for God eg. Acts 10:9-16). As we see in passages like Numbers 22, animals can be mediators on behalf of humans and even exercise a kind of faith in God. Psalm 104, for example, teaches that animals trust in God for their food rather than looking to their own strength (Ps 104:21).
Deuteronomy 28 – If the people of Israel are obedient, their animals will multiply along with them, further evidence that animals are included in the covenant with Moses. This promise to bless both animals and humans is recapitulated in the New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament (eg. Jer 31:27-28, Ezek 36:9-12). See also Zech 14, where we see a gospel message carried by horses.
Jonah 3-4 – The book of Jonah proves the reality of animal salvation, since everyone in Ninevah repents, including both humans and animals – they are all covered in sackcloth (repentance).
The Gospels – Jesus repeatedly uses sheep as examples of true disciples. Sheep are model kingdom citizens and should therefore be baptized.
Acts 2 – Peter’s promise that God will be God to them and their children (Acts 2:38-39) echoes earlier promises which also include animals along with human children (eg. Jer 31:27-28). Later on in Acts, we discover that whole households were baptized (Acts 10, 16 & 18). Households in the Roman world included animals as well as humans.
1 Corinthians 15 – Animals have a glorious inheritance in Christ, since they will rise again and populate the New Creation (vs 35-39). Why should they be refused a real relationship with God now? In baptism that future justification (resurrection) can be brought into the present.
So when we consider the teaching of the whole bible, not just a few passages from the New Testament, we can start to see things differently. We can build a biblical theology of baptism that includes all creation.
APPENDIX – A SOCIOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
In our modern, post-agricultural and individualistic society, it’s easy for us to forget the crucial role that other creatures play in our lives. And it might seem offensive to a postmodernist to be imposing an identity onto them apart from their own choosing. But don’t we speak to animals? And don’t we even give them a name, apart from their choosing? And don’t we train many of them to be obedient to us? Baptism is just like these things. It’s God speaking to animals in water; it’s the giving of a new name; it’s the beginning of a life of learning.
I hope you enjoyed my feeble attempt at satire,