Baptism and Nationalism Part I – Comparing Paedo vs Credo Baptism

I have been studying baptism for a while now. Though I only recently joined the Baptist church, it wasn’t the only time my beliefs on baptism had been challenged. My first debate on Baptism was at a meager 10 years old. My second true debate was at 23, after spending my teen years trying to understand the meaning of my own baptism and what it means to be a born-again Christian. I’ve revisited it multiple times in the last 12 years, as I have been re-introduced to the debate and teaching my children the apologetics to justify their own baptisms when I find credo-Baptists the best at teaching kids to read the Bible.

Over the last year, it has struck me that the theologies of Credo and Paedo baptism follow the arguments on nationalism really closely. I’d like to share my thoughts with you on this subject. First, I’ll start with outlining the different theologies of baptism.

Credo-Baptism

I’m going to do my best to accurately reflect this theology. I have incredible issues with it, so if I fail to adequately represent it, please let me know.

First, Credo Baptists take a very literal view of scripture in their justification for refusing baptism to the infant children of believing parents. They strongly believe that without any examples in scripture of infants being baptized, then infants must not have been baptized and so it is not a valid baptism.

The credo-Baptist believes that repentance and receiving of Christ must come before baptism. To the credo-baptist, once you have confessed Christ as savior, nothing can separate you from Him. If you fall away and deny Christ later in life, then your salvation wasn’t a true salvation and your baptism was a false baptism. To avoid apostasy and to ensure that a proper confession of faith has been reached, they have placed age-related boundaries around baptism so as a false or immature and coerced confession does not result in a false baptism. They guard baptism the same way the Lutherans guard communion without believing in the same damning consequences that Lutherans believe in with regards to communion.

I have yet to meet a fundamentalist credo-Baptist who believes that you can’t go to heaven if you have not been baptized. I believe these are Congregationalists and they are more a North Mid-Western denomination, not a Southern one. All the credo-Baptists I have met believe baptism is an outward sign of an inward condition and that that inward condition is what ultimately determines our salvation. Failure to be baptized after confession does not take away your salvation, but it does call it into question as it then becomes a matter of obedience to Christ – that we should be saved and then be baptized.

Paedo-Baptism

Being convicted on this after a great amount of study and attempting to be convinced otherwise (I follow a lot of credo Baptists and even listened to a MacArthur debate on it), I admit to bias.

Paedo-baptists do not conflict with credo-Baptists when it comes to the baptism of new adult believers. It is only where it concerns the infant children of believers that conflict arises, of which we have no examples in scripture as they were all new adult believers to the Christian faith.

Paedo-baptists come by their conviction via inference of scripture. Paul makes it clear several times that Baptism by water is the sign of the new covenant the way that circumcision was the sign of the old covenant. In many ways, they parallel each other except baptism is more inclusive in that women can be baptized, where-as they could not be circumcized. The paedo-baptist believes that because circumcision was offered (and commanded) for the infant children of members of the old covenant, then to limit the infant children of members of the new covenant from being full participants in the body of Christ in communion with their families would require the New Testament writers and apostles to actually say so. The burden to deviate from what has been is on those proposing a change to say the change is necessary. In absence of the command not to baptize infants, it should rather be assumed that infant children of believers are welcomed into the church via baptism the same way infant children of the Old Covenant were welcomed into the covenant via circumcision.

The Contrast

The paedo-baptist must necessarily accept that it is possible for a baptized Christian to leave the faith and suffer the way an unbeliever would. Hebrews 6:4-6

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Hebrews 6:4-6

stands in stark contrast to the general credo-Baptist interpretation of Romans 6:38-39.

 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:38-39

However, the credo-Baptist has to come to terms with Hebrews 6:4-6 in that even a genuine believer can leave.

Other verses like that of I Corinthians 7:14 make more sense in light of paedo-baptism where credo-baptism voids them of meaning:

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

1 Corinthians 7:14

In this, sanctification of the husband is for the purpose of his offspring with his believing wife. This says those children are holy.

Credo-Baptists believe they are basing their beliefs solely on scripture, but in order to justify not baptizing infants, they have had to create a fence around baptism that can’t be breached until a certain accepted “age of reason” has been reached or they can justify their faith in just the right words. It does not accept a three-year-old’s confession of faith as a genuine expression in order to be embraced as a member of the church body. Even if the children of believing parents exhibit passion and excitement, and a hunger and thirst for the Word, if they have not yet reached that maturity, they can not be baptized. This, in my experience, creates confusion.

It is taught that a born-again Christian exhibits a change when they come to salvific faith in Christ. But if a child has been so since they were young children, the passion and thirst they have for God now may not be all that different from what they had before. These children go through crisis of faith that results in multiple confessions, believing it didn’t take the first time around. It becomes about them and what they have done rather than what Christ has done, and that shifts the focus off the Gospel to a lie.

For more information on this debate, if you are interested, I sourced the format of this essay largely from the Ligonier’s baptism debate between R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur.

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12 thoughts on “Baptism and Nationalism Part I – Comparing Paedo vs Credo Baptism”

  1. What about original sin? You didn’t mention that in the summary, unless it isn’t part of the argument. I’m Catholic so we have a different view of baptism, I think.

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  2. The interpretation of Romans 8:38-39 is crucial to this argument.  (Not 6:38-39, as indicated.)  It seems to me, in the context of the whole chapter, the grace of God indeed guards us from all forces that would break our bond with our Lord.  None can charge us or condemn us, nothing can separate us from God.

    But alas, this chapter uniformly describes our protection as from external forces.  It does not in any way eliminate our own free will, and need to continue to love God.  On the contrary, it exhorts us to live in the Spirit, not in the flesh, as living in the flesh leads to death.  We are indeed free to change our minds, reject God, and lose our salvation.

    It is my firm belief that “Once saved, always saved” is tool of the deceiver, to lead souls away from the path to heaven.  Heresy, I believe, is the appropriate word.

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  3. Mate De:
    What about original sin? You didn’t mention that in the summary, unless it isn’t part of the argument. I’m Catholic so we have a different view of baptism, I think.

    Catholics are paedo-baptists. This post isn’t about coming to a salvific relationship with Christ, or why we need one, as you can have one with or without baptism (thief on the cross) and you can be without that relationship regardless of baptism (atheist and agnostic priests are baptized).

    The means of salvation are different than baptism, even to the catholic church; granted the catholic church has a history of promoting baptism to get to heaven. I do not know if that was doctrine or not.

    Is WC here? She would have good information on the catholic position, but I think the paedo view of baptism is very close to the catholic view.

    My next post will touch a bit more on the catholic vs protestant – in a respectful way. I’m not a pit one against the other kind of person. I have a rather inclusive view of catholic, protestant, and evangelical. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

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  4. Stina:

    Mate De:
    What about original sin? You didn’t mention that in the summary, unless it isn’t part of the argument. I’m Catholic so we have a different view of baptism, I think.

    Catholics are paedo-baptists. This post isn’t about coming to a salvific relationship with Christ, or why we need one, as you can have one with or without baptism (thief on the cross) and you can be without that relationship regardless of baptism (atheist and agnostic priests are baptized).

    The means of salvation are different than baptism, even to the catholic church; granted the catholic church has a history of promoting baptism to get to heaven. I do not know if that was doctrine or not.

    Is WC here? She would have good information on the catholic position, but I think the paedo view of baptism is very close to the catholic view.

    My next post will touch a bit more on the catholic vs protestant – in a respectful way. I’m not a pit one against the other kind of person. I have a rather inclusive view of catholic, protestant, and evangelical. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

    The Catechism says that “God has bound salvation to the Sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments” (No.1257).  So, That would mean that baptism is required for salvation but obviously God’s mercy can prevail.

    Interesting takes on the differences in regards to the doctrine of baptism.

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  5. Mate De:

    Stina:

    Mate De:
    What about original sin? You didn’t mention that in the summary, unless it isn’t part of the argument. I’m Catholic so we have a different view of baptism, I think.

    Catholics are paedo-baptists. This post isn’t about coming to a salvific relationship with Christ, or why we need one, as you can have one with or without baptism (thief on the cross) and you can be without that relationship regardless of baptism (atheist and agnostic priests are baptized).

    The means of salvation are different than baptism, even to the catholic church; granted the catholic church has a history of promoting baptism to get to heaven. I do not know if that was doctrine or not.

    Is WC here? She would have good information on the catholic position, but I think the paedo view of baptism is very close to the catholic view.

    My next post will touch a bit more on the catholic vs protestant – in a respectful way. I’m not a pit one against the other kind of person. I have a rather inclusive view of catholic, protestant, and evangelical. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

    The Catechism says that “God has bound salvation to the Sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments” (No.1257).  So, That would mean that baptism is required for salvation but obviously God’s mercy can prevail.

    Interesting takes on the differences in regards to the doctrine of baptism.

    My understanding of the sacraments is that to partake in them is obedience to Christ and that the salvation binding is an inference from James in that faith without works is dead.

    The foundation of Christian Baptism is that if you have indeed proclaimed Christ as King, then that working in your life should manifest in the participation of the sacraments (baptism in this particular case). All of the largest denominations believe this where baptism is concerned.

    The sticky part is, as I note above, what do you do with the babies of believers? Do you wait for their proclamation before baptism or do you baptize them as babies? That is the primary focus of my post. Catholics baptize babies so the arguments made above also apply to the Catholic church.

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  6. Part of the reason Catholics baptize their babies is because of what baptism does. It does something objective to the soul. Since parents have charge over their children, this gives them authority to decide if they want that objective thing done to their child’s soul. Catholics believe this for all trinitarian baptisms, not just baptisms that are performed in a Catholic church.

    I don’t think credo-baptists believe that baptism has an objective effect on the soul.

    Am looking forward to part two of this series. 🙂

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  7. Baptism is a topic that separates Baptists and all the other Arminian churches from the rest of Christendom.   Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican. Lutheran, and Presbyterian and most Methodist churches are paedobaptist.

    That leaves about 15 percent of global Christianity holding the credobaptist position:  Baptists, Campbellites, most Pentecostals and most Evangelicals and some Methodists.

    The credobaptist view is most commonly called “Believer’s Baptism,” while, when making distinctions about this issue, it is common to refer to paedobaptism as “Infant Baptism.”   Those terms are generally accepted and used by both sides without rancor.

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  8. The problem, which makes this topic an intractable argument, is that the two sides do not engage directly.  I listened to the John MacArthur lecture.  It is a pretty straightforward presentation of Believer’s Baptism.

    I have heard R.C. Sproule before; perhaps I will come back and listen to his presentation in the morning.

    But I can say that I have not found much in the literature where I thought the Infant Baptism apologists were directly engaging with the Believer’s Baptism points, and the reverse is also true.  I have not found a Believer’s Baptism apologist that directly engaged with Infant Baptism arguments.

    The reason for this, I think, is that the two sides have differing definitions of the word “baptism.”

    The key to the two definitions is found in who is the principle actor.   To the Believer’s Baptism side, “baptism” is something done by the believer.  To the Infant Baptism side, “baptism” is something done by the Holy Spirit.

    Thus, in their two definitions, each side imports their theology.  It is no wonder that these “debates” do not bear fruit.

    As for me and my house, we are on the Infant Baptism side.

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  9. Howdy, Stina.  As an agnostic, I’m a non-combatant on matters of theology, but not on morality or logic, so I offer a point for consideration solely on logical grounds, and will rely upon your post above and my sense of things.  Please do not take this as actual theological argument — I am unqualified.

    By allowing a parallel between OT circumcision and NT baptism, specifically by saying that since infant baptism is not proscribed, then it is the logical equivalent to circumcision and therefore required, aren’t credo-baptists discarding part of the heart of the NT position; namely the primacy of belief over works, and certainly over works done by another?

    Credo-baptism must fall apart if there is no role for the individual acceptance of salvation, the personal relationship with Christ.  If the difference between OT and NT is one of details rather than fundamentals, then a simple book should have sufficed rather than an entire new testament.

    Also, do I take your description of the infant-baptist position correctly, that you only get one baptism, and falling from the path leaves the apostate stranded with no path to recovery?

    p.s., I realize that any conversation relies upon a certain competence on the part of the participants.  Please let me know if the point under discussion has flown above my head, and I won’t object or ask for reiteration of the basics.

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  10. Stina:
    Over the last year, it has struck me that the theologies of Credo and Paedo baptism follow the arguments on nationalism really closely.

    I am looking forward to your thoughts.

    Lutherans have said that Believer’s Baptism seems an ideal match for American individualists, and say it is not surprising that Arminianism took root and thrived on American soil.

    But, of course, you can be a determined individualist and still practice infant baptism.

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  11. Haakon Dahl:
    By allowing a parallel between OT circumcision and NT baptism, specifically by saying that since infant baptism is not proscribed, then it is the logical equivalent to circumcision and therefore required, aren’t credo-baptists discarding part of the heart of the NT position; namely the primacy of belief over works, and certainly over works done by another?

    It is an interesting Chicken-egg conundrum.

    For the credo baptist, they necessarily believe that belief takes primacy, but in their treatment of baptism and refusal to baptize the simplest confession of faith, they then make it more works based.

    MJBubba:
    That leaves about 15 percent of global Christianity holding the credobaptist position:  Baptists, Campbellites, most Pentecostals and most Evangelicals and some Methodists.

    I had no idea it was such a small group. That explains MaxArthur being the only one there.

    MJBubba:
    Lutherans have said that Believer’s Baptism seems an ideal match for American individualists, and say it is not surprising that Arminianism took root and thrived on American soil.

    That is fascinating. It really is very individualistic. It is true that new members arrive by taking individual responsibility for their soul, but once within the communion of saints, it is anything but individualistic, including how your future children are included.

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