Paedobaptism Is Identity Theft


Christ’s Claim Upon Us, Or Our Claim Upon Him?

I am not worthy to untie the shoelaces of my theological betters, but it is my duty to point out to them when they have tied them together.

It has been a little while since we’ve had a baptism rant around here, mostly because I’ve written everything I could possibly write, refuting not only paedosacramentalism’s flawed foundations but every storey of the house of cards built upon them. Behold, the steel studded gauntlet remains on the ground right where I threw it down.

Peter Leithart has posted some quotes concerning baptism from Michael Horton’s The Gospel Commission, and although responding to them requires some repetition on my part, it can be done with a few quick flicks of my razor sharp credobaptistic rapier.

In his book on The Gospel Commission, Michael Horton includes several insightful pages on baptism. “Like circumcision,” he writes, “baptism is represented in the New testament as God’s decision and claim on us…

Insightful is not the word I would choose. Perhaps inventive. For a start, where is baptism ever represented as God’s claim upon anybody in the way that circumcision was a claim upon the males of Israel? Isn’t the point of the end of the circumcision that God now claims absolutely everybody on the planet?

Is the correlation between baptism and circumcision of heart in the New Testament not blindingly obvious? The Father was pleased with Jesus’ obedient faith at His baptism. Why did He not ask Jesus to marry and baptize His offspring in the way Abraham circumcised his offspring? Could it be that baptism concerns a different kind of birth, one which results in repentance and faithful obedience?

To assert that God chooses the children of believers as inheritors of the faith based upon their heredity means your theology is behind the times by about two millennia. And by implication, it claims that Christ has not yet come in the flesh.1See Children of Heaven. The problem is that paedobaptists still have not really thought all this through in biblical terms. Their assertion that their baptised infants are “the offspring of Abraham” belies belief.

Although it obligates us to respond in faith and obedience, baptism is God’s sign and seal of his covenant oath. In this act, as in the preached Word, God pledges his commitment to us” (172). Instead of seeing baptism as a sign of my choice of God, it is God’s act toward us.

Another false assumption. Are there really obligations which bind those within the Church but not those outside the Church, in the way that Israel was bound by the Law of Moses but Gentiles were not?2See Because of Transgressions. Are those outside the Church not obligated to respond to the Gospel in faith and obedience? Is everyone not already under the rule of Christ and therefore accountable to the stipulations of the New Covenant?3See The Myth of Covenant Membership. If they are, then paedobaptism is entirely redundant.

If we actually read the baptismal accounts in the Bible instead of disparaging every single facet that we observe (purpose, mode, qualification) by importing obsolete Abrahamic definitions, we can see that it is the Gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ which is objective, something carried out on behalf of all nations, but that baptism is for those who personally respond to it.4See Baptism: God’s Work and Ours. God has not pledged His commitment to a renovated Judaistic demarcation.

This shift of perspective has enormous practical consequences: “When baptism is understood chiefly as a promise that I made on a certain date in the past, it loses its relevance for my life in the present, as God’s saving promise to which I continually return. . . . When faced with confusion, temptation, or doubt, I cling not to a decision that I made but to Christ’s public certification that he has claimed me and will not let me go. He will not forsake me, and he will not allow me to surrender myself to another lord who would bind and destroy me” (173-4). When baptism is neglected, “you can gain the impression that Jesus has to take you out of the church, alone in a garden, to really experience his grace. However, according to Scripture, the public ministry of the church is the garden!” (174).

The claim that some see baptism as a sign of my choice of God is not a diagnosis of the actual problem when it comes to assurance. Many, many Christians who were paedobaptized and told that because of this act they are Christians and “saved” also struggle with assurance. That is because “Christ’s public certification that he has claimed me and will not let me go” is a claim foolishly founded on the first birth, not the second, and plenty of sprinkled babies grow up to be history’s most hostile unbelievers.5See Raising Cain.

And honestly, how is a deliberate decision I made in the past any less relevant than an event I cannot even remember? The New Covenant is not about physical seed and hearing the law, but about the seed of the Word and the resulting legal testimony, beginning with one’s baptism. The call and the commission are both “objective,” but between call and commission there is a subjective response by each saint.6See Sealed for Witness. If baptism is a commission, a public delegation of authority, how many millions of Christians have been robbed of their baptismal commission?7See Christendom’s Great Unwashed.

Pointing those who struggle to somebody else’s decision for Christ on their behalf (the time when they had some water sprinkled on their head because they were “born into the right family”) is no better than pointing them to their own decision for Christ. The solution is to point them to Christ Himself. The solution to the flaws in credobaptistic theology is not an even more flawed theology of baptism. Paedobaptism says “You are special.” Credobaptism says “Christ is special.”

He cites a conversation he had with a youth minister: “Youth ministries are so important, he said, because they relate to kids on their own level, ‘where they are.’ ‘That’s just it, isn’t it?’ I asked. ‘Where are they?” Presumably, their location is ‘in Christ.’ They are baptized and are therefore members of the visible body of Christ, the covenant community. That’s their primary location” (174).

Paedobaptism seems to be the panacea for all ills. The problem is that it is a distortion of a biblical vow and thus requires the redefinition of everything around it, much like same sex marriage does. If I were this youth pastor, I would have patiently, slowly explained to Michael Horton that when I said, “Where they are,” I meant the young peoples’ level of understanding. The best preachers and teachers know that the only strategy that really works it to take people from where they are to where you are. You have to meet them on common ground. The Bible makes it clear that children and adults are different, both in understanding and in accountability before God. That is why only those men and women who took the oath at Sinai and broke it were held accountable. They were being prepared for ministry to the nations.

Now, if these children are Church kids, they already have a foundation, but that is not what Horton or Leithart are getting at here. What they are getting at is their desire to erase some natural human demarcations in their quest for “unity in Christ,” which is similar in some ways to the sexualisation of children and the blurring of genders in modern secularism. It is a grasping of the eternal state before God’s time. Same sex marriage does something similar in its idiotic quest for inclusiveness. It renders the marriage vow meaningless. A “blanket Covenant membership” that ignores even the distinctions within Old Covenant Israel and says that because everyone ate the Passover meal, everyone should take communion, including the infants, really should notice that even in the Old Testament, the Israelite household table was not actually God’s table.8See Covenant Renewal Worship vs. Paedosacraments.

Conflating the two births means that infants are somehow automatically “mature in Christ,” that they cannot only chew the bread but also swig the wine like troopers, and their cries are as terrifying to the devil as saints singing the Psalms. This placing of all ages “into Christ” regardless of any actual personal repentance and faith means that instead of the Church being the nursery of culture, it becomes an actual nursery.9See Exposed to the Elements. I’m not against having children in my car, but that doesn’t mean I will let them have the steering wheel. I’m not against having infants and children in the worship service, but concluding that their spiritual needs are identical to those of the adults based on an ideology of inherited “Christianity” is ill-considered. Moreover, it makes the precious Gospel of Christ somewhat irrelevant. If baptism is, rather, a rite of investiture, a “license to die” as a witness, and everyone else is already “in the Covenant,” then all of these definitional problems disappear.

Finally, nowhere does the New Testament speak about a “Covenant community.” It simply does not speak that way, because Jesus Himself is the Covenant.10See Looking God in the Eye. We are not set apart like the Jews were because the only Jew that really mattered is now in heaven. The Church is not a tribe. Let me repeat that. The Church is not a tribe, so let’s stop turning it into one. This is inherently carnal if not an outright satanic deception. A tribal identity says “KEEP OUT.” An assembly, however, like a political assembly, or even a rock concert, says “COME IN.”

Baptism is not a social demarcation. It is a demarcation of allegiance. It is a circumcision of heart, not of flesh. A communist understands baptism better than paedobaptists do.11See An Atheist Gets Baptism. Do those in the US Navy, when faced with confusion, temptation or doubt, look to the fact that they were born into the Navy (nobody is!) or even their own personal military pledge for assurance? No. They look to the promises, power and authority of the leaders of the force in which they serve. In our case, this is Jesus Himself via the apostolic testimony. In our individual baptisms, we voluntarily identify with them.


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