Presbyterians and Household Baptisms


The Baptism of CorneliusHaving recently listened to a debate on infant baptism between James White and Gregg Strawbridge, I was revived in my frustration with Reformed theologians who continue to appeal the examples of household baptisms in defense of paedobaptism. When I was a Baptist there was always a hint of bemusement to my frustration since I didn’t have any investment in the view that the Reformed defend. Now as a Lutheran, however, it is no laughing matter to me. Naturally, when one finds that a view he holds dear is being defended on shaky ground, he will be stirred to greater concern. I don’t like to see something that is true being rejected as false because people aren’t doing it justice.

 The biblical case for infant baptism is too great to build it on texts that are at best inconclusive if not altogether irrelevant.

Here are excerpts of the household baptism texts to which I refer:

And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us (16:15).

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God (Acts 16:32-34).

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8).

I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else (1 Cor 1:16).

The significance of these texts for infant baptism usually revolves around the question of whether these households had infants in them. Baptists commonly argue that since we don’t know whether these households had infants in them we can’t be sure that infants were baptized. Meanwhile, Presbyterians often assert that given the number of household baptisms mentioned in Acts it is unlikely that none of them had at a least one infant. But even if we could somehow know with certainty that there were infants in these households (or even if we knew with the same certainty that there weren’t any infants) it wouldn’t make these texts any more useful for the debate over the recipient of baptism. Why not?

Imagine that you’re telling your friend what you did over the weekend and you mention that you and your family raced go-karts at some kind of family fun center. Suddenly your friend recalls that you have a newborn in your household. It is unlikely that you’ll have to explain to him that when you said that your family raced go-karts you were not saying that your newborn was among those who got behind the wheel. It goes without saying because it is common knowledge that infants can’t drive a go-kart. Similarly, if it is common knowledge in the NT that infants are not to be baptized, when Acts refers to whole households being baptized the reader will not need to wonder whether infants were among those baptized she will assume that the infants were not. Likewise, if it is common knowledge that infants are proper recipients of baptism, knowing that the households in Acts had no infants wouldn’t be a strike against infant baptism.

This does not mean that references to household baptisms exclude infants but simply that these texts are inconclusive for aiding us in the debate over the recipient of baptism.

Baptists sometimes point out that infants couldn’t have been included because of the references to the effect that the whole household rejoiced (Acts 16:32-34) or the whole household believed (Acts 18:8). Yet this argument runs up against the same problem as the Presbyterian argument. There’s no way to conclude that the ones who were baptized in the household are the same ones who rejoice. Perhaps infants were baptized but didn’t rejoice. Or (given the Baptist view of children) maybe the little ones got very excited for everyone else but were too young to believe themselves. We simply can’t say.

Gregg Strawbridge argues that his use of these texts in defense of infant baptism doesn’t require that there were infants in these households mentioned in Acts. The text says that the whole households were baptized. According to Strawbridge, this means that even if these households didn’t have infants, had there been infants in them they would’ve been baptized as well. This is, however, a miscarriage of exegesis. One can only say this if he knows and has shown that the Baptist view is false. Otherwise, one has to assume the legitimacy of infant baptism in order to say that “household baptism” would necessarily include infants had there been infants in the family.

I am amazed that many Presbyterians don’t interpret “all/whole/every” to be terms without exception when it comes to the question of the extent of the atonement, but do think these words are terms without exception when it comes to household baptisms. It is inconsistent. The parameters of the inclusion of “all” and other inclusive words is delimited according to the understanding of the speaker and the audience. So if it clear to the speaker and the audience that infants are not to be baptized, when it says the whole household is baptized it obviously doesn’t include infants.

But why call it a Presbyterian argument? Why haven’t I been speaking more generally of it as a paedobaptist argument? The reason is that the emphasis on households is a thoroughly Presbyterian fixation. As my friend, Richard Lucas, reminded me recently, there’s been a shift in conversation among Presbyterians toward speaking of baptism as oikobaptism (household baptism) and away from paedobaptism (infant/child baptism). According to many Presbyterians, baptism is God’s covenant with the household leader and not just with an individual. You will not hear this argument made commonly by other paedobaptists such as Lutherans, Anglicans, or Catholics. Undoubtedly, in first-century culture a man expected his wife, children and servants to believe as he did, but this fact does not overcome the Baptist view. The baptism of the household is still consistent with the claim that each individual must believe.

These texts do not offer enough data to support the claim that God makes a covenant with all in the household by virtue of making it with the head of the household. The debate concerning the proper recipient of baptism must take place elsewhere. Strawbridge’s view of the New Covenant assumes a near complete continuity with the Mosaic Covenant and this drives his reading of Acts. However, because Baptists employ a different understanding of the continuity of the covenants they are moved in a different direction on the household baptism texts. It is the continuity of the covenants where the debate really lies and this makes it a whole Bible issue which can only later affect how we read these texts in Acts.

So where does this leave us?

I find that there are at least three conclusions we should make about the household baptisms in Acts (and 1 Corinthians):

First, the household baptism texts do not supply enough information to draw a prescription for or against infant baptism.

Secondly, the household baptisms do not establish that God made a covenant with the households qua households. It is just as fitting with these texts to suppose that only those who had faith were the ones with whom God established a covenant, even if it was everyone in the household.

Third, this means then that we have to decide who is the proper recipient of baptism apart from these household baptism texts and then let that conclusion affect how we read the household texts without basing our defense of infant baptism or believer’s baptism on them.

It is my opinion that even if Presbyterians who lean heavily on the household baptism texts agreed with me, they should be (and probably would be) more inclined toward a Lutheran view of baptism than the Baptist view, but keep in mind that this is coming from a Lutheran.

You may be interested to know that I don’t just defy other views of baptism but that I also explain what I believe about baptism. So for a positive statement, see my paper “A Brief Articulation and Defense of the Lutheran View of Baptism”.

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About Rev. John Fraiser

Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church - LaGrange, KY htlc-lagrange.org
This entry was posted in Covenant Theology, Exegesis, Lutheranism, New Testament Exegesis and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Presbyterians and Household Baptisms

  1. ZZMike says:

    A hasty response: I think the idea of infant baptism came up during a time (a very long time ago) when infant mortality was quite high. It was a way of insuring that the child wouldn’t die unbaptised – which at the time meant he woudn’t get to heaven.

    It makes sense to me that a baptism ought to include an understanding of the person of what it means.

    I seem to remember that there’s a difference between the Protestant and Catholic views of what baptism really means. I don’t have a source handy – a topic for more research.

    Beyond that, there’s the disagreement between Protestants and Baptists as to whether it has to be by immersion or by sprinkling. Our pastor (Presbyterian) says that the essential ingredient is water.

  2. OFelixCulpa says:

    John,

    I have missed your thoughtful posts! Thanks for putting this out.

    As you know, I agree with everything you say here. Baptists make one point that you have not specifically mentioned….though it is not conclusive, I think the fact that the New Testament contains no conclusive examples of infant baptism does have some weight.

    As you point out, though, the question is really decided at a more basic level. Examples or lack of examples here only serve to support or challenge whatever view of the covenants a person has already taken.

    I love your example of the go-karts. It sounds a little familiar 8)

    KWR

  3. Truth_Be_Told says:

    [Why the moderator edited this ridiculous comment: the writer of this comment is a "blog dumper." A "blog dumper" simply cuts and pastes a prewritten propaganda piece on blogs. He/she has no interest in discussing the issue at hand. He/she is a very insecure person who has a desperate compulsion for people to read his "work." Obviously this person did not read anything I wrote in this post, otherwise he/she would not have written the mindless drivle that I removed, but I have kept in tact below evidence of the fact that he/she has not read what I wrote. Truth be told, he/she is waisting our time.]

    The issue of infant Baptism is not discussed explicitly in the Bible, but it is likely that there were babies in the households of Lydia, Stephanus and the jailer at Philippi, where Paul baptized entire families (Acts 16:14-15, Acts 16:29-34 and 1 Corinthians 1:16). In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul alludes to infant baptism when he tells us that Baptism has replaced circumcision. Circumcision took place on the eighth day after birth (Genesis 17:12). We know that early Christians baptized their infants on the eighth day after birth because the third Council of Carthage decreed in the year 252, “that baptism of children need not be deferred until the eighth day after birth as some maintained, but might be administered as soon as possible” (Cyprian, Epistle 64 (59), 2).

  4. Personally, I’ve always found Baptist/credobaptist arguments against baptizing infants to be ahistorical, with a theological starting point originating with the NT, then going forward (typically ignoring the OT for a while, since it rather inconveniently prevents the desired theological conclusion from being reached easily, and requires–gasp!–greater research). Most works I’ve read detailing “conversions” to the paedobaptist position come from those who’ve done the drudgery of studying covenantal archetypes. “Children of the Promise” is one such work worthy of examination in this field.
    Some good points on this, Ioanneis. Thanks.

  5. OFelixCulpa says:

    Kenneth,

    It would be good to have a Presbyterian perspective in this particular discussion, but only if those Presbyterians are willing to contribute more than the typical “Baptists are so stupid/lazy/etc.” sort of argument. The whole world knows that you think we’re stupid–it’s not really worth saying again, even if it were relevant to the discussion (but it’s not).

    In this post, a Lutheran has challenged the validity of Presbyterians’ reliance on “household” baptism accounts in the New Testament to support their understanding of what Baptism is and whom it if for. If you disagree with his points, then tell us why you think people should agree with you.

    KWR

  6. brianmclain says:

    John,

    I haven’t listened to the debate yet – so I may be offbase – but I am familiar with Strawbridge’s other writings and it is my understanding that he is probably much closer to a Lutheran view of baptism than a Presbyterian view – at least the typical PCA “baptistic” view. I’ve never heard him make the household baptisms a central argument – I’ll be interested to hear the debate. I’m pretty sure that he holds the unpopular view (at least among PCAers) that infants are regenerated -by faith- at baptism – not just covenant members who are potential Christians.
    As for me, I agree with your conclusions – I wouldn’t make the household conversion a foundational argument for paedobaptism – but I don’t necessarily think that these passages can be used for either doctrine. I think these passages add more weight to the paedo argument, while they weaken the baptist position.

    Brian

  7. Fraiser says:

    Brian,

    I was fimiliar with Strawbridge’s views on baptism prior to listening to the debate. When it comes to the effect of baptism, you are correct that he is much closer to a Lutheran view than a (contemporary?) Reformed view. However, I’m not criticizing Strawbridge on the effect of baptism but on the reason for baptism. On this point Strawbridge is quite typically Presbyterian. According to Strawbridge, when God makes a covenant with the head of the household he makes it with the whole house and thus all are to be baptized. This is certainly not a Lutheran argument (though I can’t say that no Lutheran has ever argued it). My desire is to put forward the best case for infant baptism and I don’t find that Strawbridge helps the case for infant baptism with arguments based on the household baptisms.

    I’m a little confused when you say you agree with my conclusions but go on to say that the household passages add more weight to the argument for infant baptism and weaken the Baptist position. One of my conclusions was that these texts are inconclusive for either view because how we read these texts depends on what we believe about baptism based on other texts.

    It’s great to hear from you. I hope that you, Denise and the children are doing well.

  8. brianmclain says:

    John,

    You said, “Third, this means then that we have to decide who is the proper recipient of baptism apart from these household baptism texts and then let that conclusion affect how we read the household texts without basing our defense of infant baptism or believer’s baptism on them.”

    I agree with you that our defense of paedobaptism should not come from these household passages. I also agree that one can read these passages as either/or, based on their doctrinal beliefs about baptism – the argument cannot be won or lost on these passages. I’m just saying that I think credobaptists – and even (contemporary?) paedobaptists – have a more difficult task to fit these passages into their biblical theologies (notice I didn’t say systematic theologies, mind you), as opposed to (traditional?) paedobaptists. Does that make sense?

    Anyways, as a Presbyterian, I’m a little ashamed of how baptistic our contemporary theology has become – and yet we hold Calvin in such high esteem :)

  9. OFelixCulpa (KWR):
    Actually, I wasn’t trying to call anyone stupid. I spent three years of college debating the finer points of Reformed theology, baptism, and the like with our very own John Fraiser, and a host of other then-fundie students (some of which I might call stupid, but likely no one reading this). We rehashed all these points again and again.
    At best, the household baptism point is an argument from silence, on either side. It’s an argument from history, and it’s not one I’ve ever relied on. Covenant archetypes (given my reliance and love of covenant theology) IS one I rely on. Like it or not, much Baptist deep-core theology fails the presuppositional exam…but then, much of the theology from many other traditions (including much contemporary Presbyterianism) does as well. Apologus (Uri) has noted this as well other places.
    I was agreeing with John here, and not trying to bash Baptists or anything. It was an academic point I was making. Besides, all the smart guys on this subject have written the books to be read on this subject. Either the Spirit will use them to convince you, or not.
    If you’ve got some disagreements you’d like to raise with Presbyterians, well, I’m probably not the one to be angry with, but I’ve got two ears to listen with. :)

  10. Darlene says:

    Brian,

    What do you mean exactly by your last statement, “I’m a little ashamed of how baptistic our contemporary theology has become-and yet we hold Calvin in such high esteem.”

    I started reading Calvin’s “Institutes” just recently for the first time, even though I attended a Reformed Baptist Church for 10 years. I thought it sufficient to know the 5 points of Tulip. And I always struggled and could never quite accept the third point: Limited Atonement.

    In reading the Calvin’s “Institutes” I discovered that he was against rebaptizing a person. He believed that even if a person was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church that he need not be baptized again. Once was sufficient. I know that the present beliefs of the Reformed Baptists are quite different, since all those who had been baptized as babies were rebaptized. Also, Calvin defended baby Baptism, and was adamantly against the teaching of the Anabaptists. This really surprised me since the Reformed Baptist Church I attended only held to Credobaptism.

    So is this what you making reference to regarding the Presbyterian faith? Do you think that your faith tradition has strayed from Calvin’s original beliefs, and if so, how?

    Darlene

  11. John Meade says:

    John et al.,

    I agree with your conclusions on the household baptism texts, but I have some questions regarding your post. I think I have asked you this question before, but I am not sure.

    If the covenant does not serve as the basis of paedobaptism in the Lutheran scheme, then what is the basis for Lutheran infant baptism?

    Is it simply because they are infants (via the paedobaptist interpretation of Jesus and the children texts)? What principle causes Lutherans to discriminate who comes to baptism and who does not? I realize Luther quotes the Commission at this juncture (“Baptize all the heathen”), but if one finds his exegesis of this text unsatisfactory, what recourse would a Lutheran take?

    The Presb. argument provides a limiting scope and a basis for baptism (household baptism texts may or may not contribute to their argument), but what is it for the Lutherans?

    John

    Maybe an overnighter sometime next week. Call me.

  12. brianmclain says:

    Darlene,

    In my last statement, I was attempting to sum up in one brief statement why I try to defend my denomination, even though I usually agree with those who are taking issue with it. Here’s a brief history of where I’m coming from:

    I grew up a Southern Baptist and attended a baptist Bible college and seminary. I was a calvinist and admired all the usual calvinist suspects :). I had many doctrinal questions that I felt the Baptist position was insufficient to answer, but when I read the contemporary Presbyterian answers they also seemed inadequate. Then I actually read Calvin (not just snippets from other contemporary reformed authors) and things began to make sense. I then went to the only PCA pastor in a 30 mile radius of my home with some questions… he happened to be one of the few PCA pastors – in America – who was truly Calvinistic (By this I mean the majority of Calvin’s theology – not just the five points… which is another issue for another time). Anyways, when my family and I moved to another city, this pastor recommended another Presby church with the same worship and doctrinal beliefs. I was nieve and thought this was pretty common… over the last few years I’ve seen that this is not the case.
    Calvin’s doctrine is very influential in the Presbyterian denomination… or at least it was. Today, though, your typical PCA church resembles your Southern Baptist church: Contemporary pop services, Over emphasis on preaching to the detriment of the sacraments, Heavy emphasis on conversion experiences, low view of communion, a view that baptism is only a sign, etc. Now, I know that not every Presby church is like this, and not every Baptist church is like this. In fact, I’m not knocking Baptist churches per say… it is what it is. I am knocking Presby churches, though, that have been heavily influenced by baptist doctrine and have steered away from Calvin’s doctrine (and the majority of the early reformers).
    Since this discussion is about baptism, let me use that as an example. You’re right in saying that Calvin did not believe in rebaptizing – he believed that any baptism done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was legitimate. He also believed that baptism was effectual – it’s not just a sign, it actually accomplished something – regeneration. Also, He believed that baptism was an act of God, not an act (testimony) of the person being baptized. He believed that infants who were baptized were Christians, not just quasi-members of the “visible church.” I could go on. The majority of contemporary presby churches do not believe some of these things about baptism. Their baptism practices resemble credo-baptism. Sure, they baptize infants, but on the basis of the household/covenental arguement that John wrote about above. They might say that baptism accomplishes a certain grace associated with being a part of the church, but the salvific benefits do not take effect until that infant grows into a mature young person and has that conversion experience/confirmation.
    Anyways, there’s a lot more I could say about this, but I’ve already taken up too much space. Even as I write this, though, it always occurs to me that I may not be a Presby if my doctrine differs so much from presbyterianism :) I need John to direct me to some good Lutheran websites… I may be a Lutheran and I don’t even know it! :)

  13. Fraiser says:

    John (Meade),

    “What principle causes Lutherans to discriminate who comes to baptism and who does not? I realize Luther quotes the Commission at this juncture (Baptize all the heathen”), but if one finds his exegesis of this text unsatisfactory, what recourse would a Lutheran take?”

    I don’t have a standard Lutheran answer. In fact, I don’t think there is a standard Lutheran answer. The most common answer, I suppose, is one that Gerhard Forde mentions in his article on infant baptism in the book The Preached God.

    I disagree with Luther on his use of the Commission. We are to baptize the nations, but of course, this can be fulfilled without baptizing just anyone and everyone.

    I think that there needs to be a further delimiter besides being a heathen. Incidentally, one of the positive things I find in Luther’s use of the Commission for baptismal candidates is that it reminds us that baptism isn’t something we should desire to withold. We should regret that we have to withold baptism. As Forde says, wouldn’t it be nice if we could go out and baptize anyone and everyone.

    The reason we should not baptize just anyone is because baptism is not a rogue sacrament. God intends that the sacraments work in concert and not off by themselves. We don’t just grab people off the streets and baptize them because they have no participation in the other sacraments and no promise of participation in them.

    We baptize people who are in a place to receive God’s spoken and written word and who will be raised to receive the Lord’s Supper. Children of believers fit this scenario, but they are not the only group that does (which is yet another reason beyond what I have written in the post that I don’t think that we should appeal some sort of household covenant as many Presbyterians do). There are all kinds of practical problems that complicate the criteria of covenant households: grandparents who are raising children but do not have legal custody of them, children who split time between their divorced parents, foster children etc. How would the covenant household model answer these issues? I think the model unravels even more here.

    According to the covenant household model, even in cases where a grandparent is bringing a grandchild to church who is being raised by unbelieving parents, the child should not be baptized. The same goes for neighborhood children who are brought and are under the preaching of the word. Where do they fit in a covenant household model? There’s a conflict of doctrine since they include them in the “visible church” or covenant community but do not have a theological basis on which to give them the so-called covenant sign (and seal) since qualification for baptism is according to household covenants.

    Once again, I find the household covenant model getting in the way more than it helps. Lutherans can baptize anyone who is in the community of the sacraments without preoccupation with covenant household restrictions. A grandmother can bring her grandchild and have this child baptized if the church has reason to think that this child will be raised to receive the other sacraments. The same goes for neighborhood children. This is similar to how Forde explains it and I find it a sufficient explanation.

    Many Baptists, I think, have a somewhat similar requirement. They would not baptize someone who made a profession of faith but didn’t have reason to believe that this person would participate in the community of faith. They wouldn’t just withold baptism because this person didn’t give enough evidence for their faith in a desire to be a part of the community, but also because baptism is baptism into the church. Though not a sacrament according to Baptists, it is a sign that identifies the person as a believer and a member of the community of faith and it is meant to cooperate with the other “signs,” ordinances and the single professed means of grace in Baptist churches – preaching.

  14. John Meade says:

    John,

    Your comment raises several issues, but I will try to focus on a couple of them.

    1. I should read Forde, but if I understand you correctly, you are saying that proper candidates for baptism include believers (assumed in the case of adult converts) and un/believers (mainly children) who will have the privilege of growing up in the context of the church and her sacraments. Thus not all unbelievers are candidates for baptism, though this fact is regrettable. How does Forde/you justify this teaching from Scripture? Acts 8 with the Ethiopian eunuch seems to treat baptism a bit more “roguely,” since there is no promise that he is going to a church to participate in the sacraments. It seems to me that Lutherans need some other basis, unless, one simply adopts Luther’s conclusion, the command of Christ to baptize all heathen.

    I was actually a little surprised by this response since it seemed baptistic in that the ordinance of baptism was being restricted by the context of the local church. I expected it to have little restriction if any. I do not think restriction is a bad thing in itself, but apparently Lutherans find a real problem here.

    I am no expert on the Presb. view, but it seems that this view still provides a proper basis. I am not sure that the questions you raise concerning this view stick. Again, I am no expert, but I think the covenant principle would extend through generations, thus grandparents may bring their grandchildren. The question of foster children (not adopted children, for they are members of the household) remains a problem only if one assumes that Presby. want to baptize all children outside of the covenant. They are mostly concerned with baptizing the children of covenant members, and according to their system, they have a proper basis for doing so.

    2. You said, “Lutherans can baptize anyone who is in the community of the sacraments without preoccupation with covenant household restrictions.” Why can Lutherans baptize according to this standard? The standard is not expressly set down in Scripture, so what authority commends it? The strength of the covenant household argument is that it has tapped into a rich biblical theological theme (Gen. 17), and can be demonstrated throughout the canon, even under the new covenant according to Presbyterian synthesis. Where is Forde’s principle demonstrated in Scripture itself? Does it have to be, or does it simply need to be argued that it is a later development that is consistent with Scripture?

    This position has agreement with the baptist position because of the close tie of baptism to church. Of course baptists maintain a believers church and will only admit baptism to those who believe or at least confess the name of Christ.

    3. You must be using the means of grace in a specialized sense, since baptists historically (and at least some Reformed baptists today) have affirmed the Lord’s Supper and Baptism and Prayer etc., and not simply preaching, as means of grace.

    Anyways, this became longer than anticipated, and I am sure that I wrong in many places, so feel free to tell me where :).

    Blessings,
    John

  15. Darlene says:

    Brian,

    Thanks for your speedy reply. This topic of Baptism is one of great interest to me. At some point, I began to discover the Evangelical Protestant view (which encompasses a gamut of denominations as you know), of Baptism wanting. So I familiarized myself with the Early Church Fathers on this subject. It is quite evident from history that the Early Church all the way up to the 16th Century was in favor of paedobaptism. In other words, historical Christianity prior to the Protestant Reformation, bears witness to the fact that paedobaptism was a common and acceptable practice. This discovery (among other things), at first led me toward the Roman Catholic Church. One of the main problems within modern Protestant Evangelicalism, is the willingness to slough off history. Sometimes I think it is due to ignorance (certainly was in my case), but in other cases it is arrogance. The result is always trying to re-invent the Christian faith. Yet, why improve upon something that is not deficient?

    You mentioned that Calvin believed that “baptism was effectual – it’s not just a sign, it actually accomplished something – regeneration.” Can you direct me to the exact article in Calvin’s writings where he said this? Did Calvin always believe this to be true about Baptism, or did he change his view later in life? While reading his “Institutes,” specifically on Baptism, I thought he was saying that Baptism was more than just a sign as well. But as I recall, I wasn’t certain due to the nature of the language he was using.

    Just this past Thursday evening, we were studying this very topic of Baptism in the adult instruction class. I have been attending a Lutheran instruction class for several weeks now, and find that Lutherans (Missouri Synod), have a great respect for historical Christianity and tradition. The pastor made a comment that confirmed my discovery into Christian history: “From the time of the 1st Century to the 16th Century, the practice of infant Baptism was undisputed.” Another thing he said that really made me think: “If Jesus mandated Baptism, then it must be of some benefit.” This was in response to the common Evangelical view that it is just a symbol and not necessary for salvation.

    My credobaptist view of former times was found wanting even moreso as we read a passage from scripture that I had never really noticed before. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin….” Matthew 18:6. Here Jesus is saying that these little ones believe in Him. And in Luke 18:15, people were bringing “even infants” to Him, as the text says. Yet, in the faith tradition from which I come, infants are denied the sacrament of Baptism. Why? Because credobaptists teach that infants and little children cannot believe. Yet, Jesus teaches quite the contrary. Afterall, He says that we must all become like children in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven. While we cannot understand with our minds how it is that a child can believe in Christ, faith enables us to receive things that are contrary to human reasoning. Afterall, how can a virgin conceive and bear a child? How can God create something out of nothing? How can a large body of water, such as the Red Sea, be parted in an instant? How can a person die and come back from the dead? Faith takes over where reason is defective.

    I think I might be a Lutheran in my beliefs as well.

    Darlene

  16. Michael Neal says:

    Darlene,

    I really appreciate your comment. I always find it interesting that people can object to infant faith, the bodily presence in the Supper, etc. on the grounds that “those ideas are absurd and offensive to reason…” But the same people who make this claim also maintain that Christ rose from the dead, created the world out of nothing, etc. (as you rightly point out). I guess they think we’re all idiots and can’t recognize “special-pleading” when we see it.

  17. John Meade says:

    Darlene,

    In your response to Brian, you (or the Lutheran instructor) seem to be confident that the church has practiced paedobaptism from the 1st century through the Reformation. I realize that Augustine and Luther after him claimed this for their position, but the facts simply do not support such bold and general claims.

    I would encourage you to go back and re-read the Didache and Justin Martyr’s 1st Apology (2nd century sources), where they describe the Christian practice of baptism. Martyr claims to be defending Christian practice, while the Didache is probably better understood as a local church manual, which may or may not be describing a general church practice in the early second century. Neither of these sources mention paedobaptism (which is significant since these sources are trying to describe the practice of Christians), and their positive description of the practice would definitely disqualify infants (e.g. the Didache prescibes six chapters of instruction that the catechumen would need to know followed by fasting before baptism).

    At the very least, I think the historical argument needs to be tempered. Kurt Aland has a reasonable interpretation of the evidence in his book on this subject.

    At the end of the day Scripture must decide the question, but the history of the church does indicate that paedobaptism was not practiced at all times and at all places.

    Blessings,
    John

  18. Darlene says:

    John,

    I have read the Didache and Justin Martyr (quite some time ago). I do recall the instruction about fasting in the Didache, but my understanding of this would be for adults. As far as Justin Martyr is concerned, could you direct me to the exact places in his writings about this matter? Oddly enough, the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans also, use the Didache to defend liturgical worship, which Protestant Evangelicals have done away with.

    I think the point to emphasize here is that the practice of paedobaptism was, as the pastor said, “undisputed.” There weren’t large communities of Christians preaching against this practice as being unbiblical. And the fact that even Calvin himself spoke against rebaptizing a person, even if they had been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, shows that the view on Baptism was different then than it is now.

    There is no question that adults were baptized throughout history, because many heard the Word of God preached when they were older. However, those families who were already Christian had their infants baptized. There are actual drawings on caves in the Middle East that testify to the fact that babies were baptized.

    BTW, what kind of church do you attend, John? Please remember to direct me to the source you mentioned in Justin Martyr.

    God’s Blessings Upon You,

    Darlene

  19. John Meade says:

    Darlene,

    I am credobaptist if you have not guessed by now.

    The reference to Martyr can be found here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.lxi.html

    What do you mean by “undisputed”? Do you mean silence? What accounts for the silence in the second century sources? Secret practice? Or not practiced at all? I favor the latter based on the nature of the evidence we have at our disposal.

    The evidence we have claims to be describing Church practice. The documents give detailed accounts of what Christians do in baptism and the Lord’s supper etc. Either they (Martyr in the West and the Didache in the East) accidentally omit the practice of infant baptism, or the practice is not known at this time.

    Based on the thoroughness of these documents, I favor the latter conclusion. Near the end of the 2nd century, things become more difficult to interpret, but I think there is good reason to believe that the practice begins circa. 200, and Tertullian is reacting against a novel practice.

    The Scriptures still need to guide everyone on this issue. Paedobaptists can simply say that the 2nd cent. got it wrong. I can’t defend everything found in the above sources from Scripture.

    Blessings,
    John

  20. Fraiser says:

    John (Meade),

    I’ll address your points in order.

    “I should read Forde…

    Yes, you should.

    How does Forde/you justify this teaching from Scripture?

    So as not to confuse what I believe with what Forde believed, I won’t try to speak for Forde at this point. The textual support is rather strong. I didn’t offer very much support because, honestly, I expected you would agree with me. I’m rather surprised that you dispute what I said. I appeal to the same text that Luther does: Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus states that baptism and teaching one to observe Christ’s commands are involved in disciple-making. From this I conclude that we shouldn’t baptize someone without reason to think that they will hear the teaching of Christ’s commands. Is it really so novel to you that I believe this? I would have thought you wouldn’t agree with baptizing someone who isn’t also coming into the church, but perhaps I had your view wrong. In this case, I think that you’ll have a fair bit more to explain for why you believe that we should baptize someone who isn’t coming into the church to participate in its sacraments.

    Acts 8 with the Ethiopian eunuch seems to treat baptism a bit more “roguely,” since there is no promise that he is going to a church to participate in the sacraments.

    From what I knew of your view I wouldn’t have thought you would say this. Do you really believe that baptism is a rogue sacrament or do you just want to argue? Baptism is always presented in the NT as an entrance into the people of God. It is union with Christ in Romans 6 and baptism into his church (Acts 2:41). Thus if we have reason to think that a person is not coming into the people of God as one under grace we shouldn’t baptize them anymore than we should give them the Lord’s Supper or instruct them as a Christian. As far as the eunuch is concerned, there’s no reason to think that Philip gave him an understanding of baptism that is any different than the rest of the NT. You should know that the passage doesn’t have to mention his participation in the sacraments of the church in order for one to legitimately hold that he did so. Participation with Christ and his people and the meeting places of grace are built into the very nature of baptism.

    I want to be very clear on what you are claiming about the eunuch’s baptism in Acts 8. Are you saying that Philip baptized the eunuch without regard for his relation to the people of God?

    I was actually a little surprised by this response since it seemed baptistic in that the ordinance of baptism was being restricted by the context of the local church.

    What makes this baptistic (other than that we don’t refer to it as an ordinace)? Are you saying Lutherans borrowed this from Baptists, or that Baptists have some sort of claim on this point that Lutherans don’t?

    I do not think restriction is a bad thing in itself, but apparently Lutherans find a real problem here.

    It’s no problem. It’s not as though we’re trying to wiggle out of anything. It’s the command of Christ and we desire to obey it. We want people who are baptized to participate in the other sacraments. As I said in my previous post, we don’t relish in withholding baptism from people, but we do relish upholding Christ’s commands to baptize AND teach in order to make disciples.

    I am no expert, but I think the covenant principle would extend through generations, thus grandparents may bring their grandchildren.

    When you say “bring their grandchildren” I assume you mean bring them to baptism. If so, provided they are raising their children, and given the household covenant principle, I agree. But in the case I presented, the grandparent is not raising the child. The child is under the household authority of parents that do not believe and the grandparent is bringing the child to church regularly. There’s no basis on the covenant household principle to baptize this child since God has only made a covenant with those in the grandparent’s household. A covenant which would not extend to the grandchild raised by unbelieving and unbaptized parents. I think that this calls for dismissing the household covenant principle.

    I also noticed you didn’t address the case which I raised of neighborhood children that are brought to church. If a child is going to participate in the community then they should be baptized regardless of who their parents or guardians are. Unless Presbyterians are willing to forego the household covenant principle they are going to have to postpone baptism until all of these children make a “profession of faith”. I don’t think hardly any Presbyterians are going to go as far as postponing these baptisms and thus are violating their own theological view.

    You said, ‘Lutherans can baptize anyone who is in the community of the sacraments without preoccupation with covenant household restrictions.’ Why can Lutherans baptize according to this standard? The standard is not expressly set down in Scripture, so what authority commends it? The strength of the covenant household argument is that it has tapped into a rich biblical theological theme (Gen. 17), and can be demonstrated throughout the canon, even under the new covenant according to Presbyterian synthesis.

    Your bias against the Lutheran view is really hanging out here. Your comment tells me that your rejection of the Lutheran view stems not just from the perceived lack of biblical support but also from your own dislike of the view. You expect me produce biblical texts that “expressly set down” my view, when you know that there are no such texts that do this for the Presbyterian view (if there were, you’d be Presbyterian). Gen 17 does not “expressly set down” that we are to baptize the children of believers. As I pointed out in the post, the Presbyterian view stems from a holistic reading of Scripture and a method of relating the covenants by weaving a variety of Scriptures together. So I don’t think it’s fair to hold the Lutheran view to a standard to which you don’t hold the Presbyterian view. As it is though, I do have biblical support and I have shared the major texts on which I base this view.

    This position has agreement with the baptist position because of the close tie of baptism to church. Of course baptists maintain a believers church and will only admit baptism to those who believe or at least confess the name of Christ.

    Lutherans maintain a believers church as well. That is, we do not admit anyone who is knowingly an unbeliever.

    You must be using the means of grace in a specialized sense, since baptists historically (and at least some Reformed baptists today) have affirmed the Lord’s Supper and Baptism and Prayer etc., and not simply preaching, as means of grace.

    You know Baptist history better than I do, but what Baptists have treated baptism as a means of grace? I agree that historically Baptists have taken the Lord’s Supper to be a communication of grace, but this view is by far the minority position among Baptists today.

    John, my questions to you are: if you take baptism, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper as means of grace, would you baptize someone who you have reason to believe will not participate in all of these and participate in the community of faith? If you would, then why does your local church not do so, and how do you explain Christ’s command to baptize and teach in order to make a disciple and Acts 2:41 in which those who were baptized were added to the church? If you would not baptize in the scenario I have presented, then why do you make comments about baptism functioning as a rogue sacrament in Acts 8 and why do you find my view of the cooperation of the sacraments to be so ungrounded in Scripture?

  21. Troy says:

    Frasier,

    When I listened to the debate, I initially had the same reaction to the weakness of the household baptism texts. However, the more I thought about the more I understand why this is important to the Presbyterian argument. As Meade said, the Presbyterian is trying to give a rationale for baptizing their children.

    Presbyterians will argue that in all previous covenants, God has always included their children in the covenant. Adam’s household was included in the creation covenant. Noah’s household was included in the Noahic covenant. Abraham’s household was included in the Abrahamic covenant. This is also true throughout the Mosaic covenant. Thus when we come to the new covenant, and see a number of households being baptized, this is strong evidence that nothing has changed, thus providing positive evidence for giving your children the entrance sign into the covenant. Proving that there are infants in the household is irrelevant; it the idea of the household that is significant.

    Strawbridge also used Old Testament prophecies about the new covenant, which say that their children are included in the new covenant. Thus Strawbridge thinks that he has explicit texts that include children in the new covenant. And if their children are in the new covenant, then they should certainly receive the entrance sign into the covenant.

    Although, I certainly agree that Baptists, like myself, will argue that there is more biblical evidence to consider besides these two things, namely, the nature and structure of the new covenant. Even though this issue (nature and structure of new covenant) is vital, without the household passages or the Old Testament prophecies about the new covenant (and other related evidence), there is still no positive support for infant baptism. In other words, even if someone could prove that the new covenant is breakable and therefore mixed like the Mosaic covenant, this would not necessarily prove that infants should be baptized. Perhaps God only wants professing believers to be baptized in the new covenant. Likewise, if a Baptist shows that the new covenant is unbreakable, this does not necessarily prove that infants should not be baptized. Depending on how one sees the relationship between faith and baptism, if someone could give biblical evidence that we should presume the children of believers are regenerate until they prove otherwise, no Baptist could object to infant baptism.

    Also, I do not find the supposed practical problems against the covenant household idea to be persuasive because if they provided good reasons to reject the covenant household idea, then they would be equally persuasive against the covenant household idea in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.

    In the case of neighborhood children, Presbyterians would not baptize the child unless he made a profession of faith. I do not think they would view this as problematic. Also, I do not see how your view would be any different. If a ten-year-old child, who parents are atheists, was brought to church, would Lutherans require a profession of faith? I think your answer would be ‘yes,’ since you said, “Lutherans maintain a believers church as well. That is, we do not admit anyone who is knowingly an unbeliever.” And in the case of a neighborhood infant who is unable to profess faith, I highly doubt such neighborhood kids would be coming to your church. Therefore, I am not sure how you would differ from Presbyterians at this point.

  22. Troy says:

    Oops, I committed a mortal sin. I spelled your name incorrectly. Sorry :(

    Troy

  23. John Meade says:

    John(Fraiser),

    Thanks for your response and for pointing out some of my more unclear points, which I will try to make more clear. I would like to begin with the second to last point you make.

    You say: Your bias against the Lutheran view is really hanging out here. Your comment tells me that your rejection of the Lutheran view stems not just from the perceived lack of biblical support but also from your own dislike of the view. You expect me produce biblical texts that “expressly set down” my view, when you know that there are no such texts that do this for the Presbyterian view (if there were, you’d be Presbyterian)…

    I may have been unclear here, but I never said the Presb. argument is expressly laid down in Scripture with a proof text or some other such text. They know this, and we know this. That is why they claim to have the market on biblical theology and they claim to know how to read the bible in a wholistic way which synthesizes the texts in such a way as to make the transfer of circumcision to baptism via God’s covenant seem compelling. Regarding Lutheranism, I saw no such claim from biblical theology (through covenant or any other biblical theme) to justify infant baptism. In your paper, you admit that there is no proof-text for infant baptism. You even admit that Jesus and the children texts are not texts dealing with baptism. AS I see it then, you have no biblical theological framework or explicit didactic text to justify infant baptism or provide a basis for the same. Let’s go further. Without household baptism texts (and I agreed with your point here), there are certainly no examples of infants being admitted to the waters of baptism in the NT.

    That is why I asked on what basis Lutherans baptize infants. Is it a further development that is consistent with the NT? And by this, I do not mean something necessarily extra-biblical. This development may include a synthesis of other theological givens, such as original sin or the like. However, you answered by saying that the context of the church and her sacraments provides the basis. I wanted to know, then, on what basis, Lutherans say that, since the example from Acts 8 does not seem confined by such criteria. Regardless of what Phillip teaches or tells the eunuch (we don’t know), the eunuch is still going back to a place that has no church and no sacrament. There is no promise that the eunuch will partake of these things. He may have gone back and started a church there, he may not have. We simply do not have confidence at that moment of baptism, that he will partake of the sacraments in the context of a church. Incidentally, we do know he believed in Christ evidenced by his willingness to receive baptism. There was nothing that should keep him from the waters, since in faith he asks to be baptized.

    This sort of scenario is not too uncommon in a missions context. For members sojourning from other surrounding villages may come under the preaching of the gospel,and the full conviction of the Holy Spirit, and they may believe and desire baptism, but they will go back to a place where there is no established church and there is no administration of the sacraments. What now? I would baptize the one who confesses his sins and trusts Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. I assume you would too, but now, on what basis? What if a family is involved in this type of scenario? Does one baptize the children? The Presbyterian would, based on the covenantal principle. Would Lutherans baptize the family in this context? In the first scenario, there is an adult wanting baptism, so Lutherans and baptists may not disagree on this point. But the last scenario causes trouble for your view because you invoke not only an ecclesiastical restriction [baptism must be carried out with in the context of the church, which I agree happens normally], but you also seem to suggest an extension of this principle in the case of infants, who will be baptized if they are to be raised in the context of the church [which I disagree with]. Are there two views of baptism here? You will remember that Nettles concludes this from Kolb’s essay.

    Is this clear? Acts 8 does not fit the normative pattern of Acts 2:41ff, but baptism seems to be a “Christ” ordinance primarily, that normally has church implications, but not always.

    I realize that not all baptists would hold to my position, though some of the elders of my church and others have told me that they would disagree with “the baptist position” at this point, especially in these missionary type contexts. It’s not neat, but that is my position at this time.

    The reason I raised this text is because it seems to contradict your criterion for baptizing infants, since this text indicates that faith leads to baptism, and baptism does not rest on the church context of the eunuch. Lutherans do not baptize based on faith or confession of Christ or the covenantal principle. You’re telling me they baptize infants on the basis of the church and her sacraments and upon the potential participation in the Lord’s Supper, but I think Acts 8 shows that this basis is faulty, and that there is another principle that is more primary than the church (but normally includes the church), namely belief in Christ and confession of Christ.

    So I am not biased against the Lutheran view simply because it is the Lutheran view. I am not biased against any view simply because it is X view. I disagree with the view as I understand your presentation of it because I do not see it based on Scripture in any of the ways I mentioned above (biblical theological principles, proof-texts, examples, clear didactic). I could be misunderstanding you, and we will have to work together at greater clarity :). I disagree with the Presby. view as well, but I am not biased against it because it is the Presby. view. I simply do not see Scriptural support for the view, though I see more support for it since it is trying to construct a whole Bible theology of infant initiation into God’s covenant.

    I will respond to your questions to me.

    You asked: if you take baptism, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper as means of grace, would you baptize someone who you have reason to believe will not participate in all of these and participate in the community of faith? If you would, then why does your local church not do so, and how do you explain Christ’s command to baptize and teach in order to make a disciple and Acts 2:41 in which those who were baptized were added to the church? If you would not baptize in the scenario I have presented, then why do you make comments about baptism functioning as a rogue sacrament in Acts 8 and why do you find my view of the cooperation of the sacraments to be so ungrounded in Scripture?

    I think I have answered your first question. Yes, I would, although I and baptists would define “means of grace” differently than Lutherans (see Michael Haykin’s article on this subject in SBTJT v. 10 n. 4 Winter 2006, for a perspective on this issue in baptist history).

    I am not exaclty sure where my local church is on this question, though you seem to be more certain that they would not. I will investigate further, and get back to you. However, I have talked with some of the elders, and they would baptize in these missionary contexts, which I described earlier.

    Your last questions run together, but I will try to sort them out. Your question is worded in a way that assumes the Lutheran understanding of the Commission, particularly with the emphasis on baptism’s role in “making” disciples. I will return to this later. Acts 2:41ff presents the normal way it happens. The baptized should partake of the sacraments or ordinances upon their conversion (union with Christ) and entrance into the church. The Commission’s command on teaching also indicates this. I agree with you, but Acts 8 indicates to me that there are exceptions to this pattern. I think I have addressed these issues above.

    Concerning baptism’s relationship to discipleship. I hold that baptism is a necessary characteristic of a disciple of Jesus. There is no such category in the NT of an unbaptized disciple of Jesus. The commission may indicate baptism as means, but the grammar does not have to be read in this way. Jesus’ own example in John 4:1 clearly states that, Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John. This text does not rely on an interpretation of participles as Matt. 28, but makes very clear that Jesus was baptizing disciples. Mark 16 may not be original to Mark, though one could argue for its canonical anthenticity (not sure where I am here), but this text seems to make clear that preaching to every creature is at least part and parcel of making disciples, would then believe and be baptized. Discipleship in the gospel of Matthew is something very intricate, and not accomplished immediately upon baptism. Matt. 11:28-30 gives a great description of discipleship. Come to me… Take my yoke…Learn (the root linkage [math] in this verb to disciple [mathetes] is clear) from me… More examples could be given. The disciples (the word is used 72x in this gospel alone) themselves would have to inform the reader of what making a disciple means.

    Acts 2:41 fits this paradigm as well. I noticed that you did not quote the first part of the verse, “Therefore those who accepted the message were baptized… The text indicates that only the ones who accepted Peter’s sermon were baptized. We could argue about whether infants can accept a message preached, but we will disagree on this point. The text simply limits the sacrament to those who received the message, not just to those who would remain in the context of the church at Jerusalem. I already said that I think this text provides the paradigm, which may have exceptions. However, I am a little surprised that you raise this text as a paradigmatic text for the Lutheran view. Acts 2:42 also indicates that the baptized were devoted to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship, and to the breaking of bread… If this is the paradigm, that the baptized partake of the Lord’s Supper without delay, then why do Lutherans establish a new principle for infants? I assume you will point to 1 Cor. 11 and say that they cannot discern the Body, but I will await your response.

    In summary, some questions I have for you: How do you fit Acts 8 into your system? Are you assured from this text that the eunuch is about to enter into the community of faith and that he is about to partake of the sacraments? Second, since you raise Acts 2:41ff as a text which teaches on the relationship of baptism to the church and sacraments, why does your church not offer the Lord’s Supper to all the baptized of the church? That text seems to indicate that the baptized also submitted themselves to the apostles teaching, the breaking of bread etc.

    Blessings,
    John

    PS We had a great time with you and Em on Saturday night! When we get back from MA, Lord willing, we would love to do it again!

  24. OFelixCulpa says:

    Meade,

    Of course you know that I too disagree with Fraiser on the issue of baptism. However, I think I might be able to clarify a bit just what is the disagreement that Lutherans have with us.

    The question that you are asking is: If you don’t agree with the Presbyterian rationale for baptizing infants, and you don’t have scriptural command, example, etc. for baptizing infants, how do you justify doing so?

    Actually Lutherans (as I understand them–Fraiser can correct me on any points regarding Lutheranism) are not all that different from Baptists on this point—they baptize believers in Christ. The more basic question to be asking them is, “On what basis do you conclude that someone is a believer?”

    For us Baptists, there is a single basis for such a conclusion—profession of faith in Christ. Because infants are not capable of making such a profession, we have no criterion by which to judge whether or not they are believers. Therefore we do not Baptize them. Many Baptists also hold that infants cannot be believers.

    Lutherans also look for a profession of faith in Christ, and when it is possible (e.g., for adults) they require it. However, when a profession is not possible (as with infants), they hold that there is another basis on which the judgment of whether or not one is a believer can be made. That is why Fraiser writes “We baptize people who are in a place to receive God’s spoken and written word and who will be raised to receive the Lord’s Supper.”

    Lutherans admit that this test (perhaps even more so than the profession test) is fallible—not all children who receive the word and are raised to receive the Lord’s Supper are really believers–some will even go on to actually denounce Christ. However, they do not see that fallibility as a deterrent for baptism, because they come at the thing from a different angle. We Baptists baptize only if we find reason to conclude that the person is a believer. Lutherans baptize unless they find reason to conclude that the person is not.

    Here are some questions which I think better address the disagreement between Baptists and Lutherans: 1) Is it possible for God to grant faith to infants? 2) Does God ever grant faith to people when they are still too young to comprehend the preaching and teaching of scripture and to profess faith? 3) Is there Biblical warrant to consider criteria other than a profession of faith when judging whether or not a person is a believer? 4) Which standard of evaluating a person for baptism (the only if belief is evidenced of Baptists or the unless unbelief is evidenced of Lutherans) is better supported by the teaching and example of the New Testament?

    This is meant to clarify a disagreement rather than to solve it, so I will leave it there. Hopefully it helps to clarify a bit.

    KWR

  25. John Meade says:

    Kevin,

    Thanks for your clarification. Your questions at the end of your comment are helpful, it seems to me. However, I am not entirely sure you hit the mark concerning baptismal basis and what the Lutheran concern is (of course John is the judge here :).

    You suggest that the more basic question is “On what basis do you conclude that someone is a believer?” It seems to me that the Lutheran will say, “I have been baptized” and God tells me that I am a believer, and He does not lie. Your question is still looking for criteria or basis, with which Luther, at least, did not seem concerned when it comes to baptism.

    Luther himself was, however. still concerned with the basis or on what baptism does depend, and he is very clear that baptism does not depend on faith:

    Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God (Larger Catechism).

    Luther saw baptism as the place where God would grant faith to the infant, not something done upon faith or profession of faith:

    We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err (LC).

    This quote seems to indicate that Lutherans may not be so concerned to baptize believers as you said in your comment. Luther, at least, was concerned to baptize all the heathen in accordance with his understanding of the Great Commission (cp. Luther’s Concerning Rebaptism).

    This is the rub of the Reformation as I understand it: on what basis did they keep infant baptism? Zwingli and his children invoked the covenant principle (irrespective of faith), Luther seemed to hold to faith by proxy and infant faith at different times, finally, it seems resting on the basis of the command of God, hoping that the infant believes and that God will grant it faith (I am not sure what this means. Did the infant believe before or after? At the end of the day it is not the basis of baptism for Luther, and so a non concern). The anabaptists maintained faith’s connection to baptism through the baptismal confession of the individual but in this case it was the actual subject of baptism answering the baptismal questions (Do you believe…?) in his/her own tongue (ich glaube for credo).

    Also, Kevin, are you suggesting that Lutherans do baptize on two different bases when you say: Lutherans also look for a profession of faith in Christ, and when it is possible (e.g., for adults) they require it. However, when a profession is not possible (as with infants), they hold that there is another basis on which the judgment of whether or not one is a believer can be made. That is why Fraiser writes “We baptize people who are in a place to receive God’s spoken and written word and who will be raised to receive the Lord’s Supper.”?

    I am not sure Luther would agree with you here, but I guess we are dialoguing with John now :). This paragraph hits on the substance of my last two comments. I am questioning the second basis. I realize John is claiming this basis and it seems Forde before him, but I am still seeking the proof that the church itself provides such a basis for baptism.

    Blessings,
    John

  26. OFelixCulpa says:

    Meade,

    I’ll have to defer to Fraiser on most of the points you bring up, especially since he hasn’t weighed in on whether I have accurately represented Lutheranism or not.

    I have only spoken with two Lutherans about this; both of them affirmed two things to me: 1) that they are not so concerned that they agree with Luther as they are that they agree with scripture, and 2) that they do not knowingly baptize unbelievers.

    I’m not sure if they disagree with Luther on this or not, but I suspect they would argue that they do not. Perhaps they would say that the portion of Luther you cited does not provide the context needed to fully understand his view–especially for those of us who think in a Baptist framework. But I’m just guessing.

    Your points do hint at another part of disagreement: It seems that Baptists and Lutherans have a somewhat different understanding of what it is to be a believer. My own understanding of Lutheranism is sketchy here so Fraiser will have to fill in. From what I understand, Lutherans do hold that Baptism should not be given to unbelievers, but they also hold that Baptism is a part of the work which God does to make someone a believer. If I am correct, they are either overtly self-contradictory, or they are working with different definitions than we are.

    But, before I risk any more misrepresentations, I’ll give Fraiser a chance to evaluate and correct what I’ve already said.

    KWR

  27. Fraiser says:

    John (Meade),

    I fear our responses are growing exponentially with each one. I am constructing my response off-site and your last comment went onto four pages. I have no expectation that mine will be shorter.

    The grounds for seeing a bias in you against Lutheranism is that you let Presbyterian get by on an implied restriction of baptism according to their holistic biblical hermeneutic and I’m expected to produce biblical texts that expressly set down my view.

    I think there is quite a bit of confusion on your part over what the issue is that we’re discussing. Originally, you challenged me to explain the rationale for restricting baptism for some and not others, and you asked whether I agreed with Luther’s use of the Commission. I explained my view, and offered the biblical basis on which I restrict baptism only to have you bait and switch the topic and complain that you “saw no such claim from biblical theology (through covenant or any other biblical theme) to justify infant baptism.” I thought we were talking about the basis of restricting baptism (given the Lutheran view of baptism), not whether I had given enough evidence to justify infant baptism. Had I not answered your questions regarding my reasons for restrict baptism and chosen to argue generally for infant baptism, I have to wonder if you wouldn’t have accused me of not answering for my view of restriction. So you can balk that I “have no biblical theological framework or explicit didactic text to justify infant baptism or provide a basis for the same,” but this is not what we’ve been debating and it’s not where this post started.

    That is why I asked on what basis Lutherans baptize infants.” I can’t find any place where you ever asked me this question on this thread. I think you are confusing the issues. I’m happy discuss either one, but I’m not going to be faulted for not answering questions that weren’t asked. For the record, you asked me, “Why can Lutherans baptize according to this standard?” “This standard” referring to the restriction that I proposed and “baptize” referring to baptizing anyone not just infants.

    Clearly you put a lot of weight on what Acts 8 says, or, rather, doesn’t say. But you’re very selective about what you conclude from the silence of Acts 8. The text doesn’t tell us that he “believed in Christ” as you claim. This is likely why there is an interpolation of a confession in several manuscripts. All the text tells us is that he asked Philip a question, hears Philip’s answer, they traveled a while, and the eunuch asked to be baptized. The rest is inference. You make inferences for your view and I make some for mine. But you’re passing your inferences of as cold, hard facts and mine as going beyond the text. I’m concluding that we should defer to the rest of the NT on the question of what Philip understood baptism to be. When we do so, we conclude that baptism is union with Christ and his church. You say “we simply do not have confidence at that moment of baptism, that he will partake of the sacraments in the context of a church.” Fine. I can’t have confidence that he did, but you can’t have confidence that he didn’t, so you can’t dismiss my explanation of restriction on the basis of the eunuch’s baptism in Acts 8. As you say, “we don’t know” what Philip taught the eunuch. But if we don’t know then it means we don’t know in either direction – yours or mine. But I’m not arguing that Acts 8 proves my view, only that it doesn’t disprove it. You’re the one who is going to need to prove that Acts 8 contradicts my view, which means that you are the one who is going to have to know what Philip did or did not say. Incidentally, the eunuch was traveling from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship when he met Philip. I think this says something about the lengths (literally) to which he would go to participate in the people of God.

    To take up your example of mission contexts in which a sojourner comes to faith who does not live near a church, let me say that I would baptize his children (or instruct him to baptize his children), not because of a household covenant belief but because together the man with his baptized children can comprise the community of faith, albeit not an ideal one, but one nonetheless. Not sure where you see that I have two views of baptism here?

    Yes, I remember Nettles conclusion on Kolb’s essay. He concludes that Lutherans must embrace two views of baptism because infants are baptized on the basis of a sacramental promise while the adults are baptized on the basis of their response to the word heard. I think Nettles misunderstands the Lutheran view here. Neither adults nor infants are baptized on the basis of their profession of faith. We baptize on the basis of the command to teach and baptize. Someone’s rejection of Christ may keep us from baptizing but the baptism is not on the basis of their profession because this tries to make what is stronger (the word of God in baptism) rest on something that is weaker (a person’s faith). But if someone is deliberately rejecting the word of God in the gospel it is reckless to offer them the word of God in baptism. Nettles criticism lacks bite because it relies on the mistaken notion that Lutherans baptize adults for their confession and infants for other reasons. Not so. Luther is worth quoting at length on this subject,

    “If an adult wants to be baptized…you ask, ‘Do you believe?’ Just as Philip asked the chamberlain in Acts 4 [Luther is wrong on two accounts here but can only be faulted for one. He didn’t have the critical edition of Novum Testamentum but he should’ve known that the story is found in Acts 8]. Then he will not blurt out and say, ‘Yes, I intend to move mountains by my faith.’ Instead he will say, ‘Yes, sir, I do believe, but I do not build on this my faith. It might be too weak or uncertain. I want to be baptized because it is God’s command that I should be, and on the strength of this command I dare to be baptized. In time my faith may become what it may. If I am baptized on his bidding I know for certain that I am baptized. Were I to be baptized on my own faith, I might tomorrow find myself unbaptized, if faith failed me, or I became worried that I might not yesterday have had the faith rightly. But now that doesn’t affect me. God and his command may be attacked, but I am certain enough that I have been baptized on his Word. My faith and I make this venture. If I believe, this baptism is of no value to me. If I do not believe, it is not of value. But baptism in itself is not therefore wrong or uncertain, is not a matter of venture, but is as sure as are the Word and command of God” (“Concerning Rebaptism” taken from Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. Timothy F. Lull, 1st ed., 1989, p. 365).

    Incidentally, I don’t think we need to ask “Do you believe” to the baptized [though it’s fine if one does], rather the person’s ambition to make a venture in the waters founded on the command and promise of God IS faith itself, and this persons faith can grow through baptism. But the important point here is that Luther is quite consistent on the basis of baptizing both adults and infants (he may be consistently wrong, in your view). No two views here.

    Here’s another Luther quote for you to incorporate into your attribution of Luther’s view of baptism.

    “Even though they [infants] do not hear the word through which faith comes in the same way that older people do, they still hear it as little children do. The older people grasp it with their ears and their reason but often without faith; children, however, hear it through their ears without reason and with faith. And the less reason one has, the closer faith is” (WA 17:2, 87).

    Back to Acts 8, though.

    The reason I raised this text is because it seems to contradict your criterion for baptizing infants, since this text indicates that faith leads to baptism, and baptism does not rest on the church context of the eunuch.” You’ve admitted you don’t know what Philip said or didn’t say. So it only contradicts my criterion if you know what Philip said and what the eunuch did later. I’m not building my view off of Acts 8 but there’s nothing in Acts 8 that contradicts it and you can’t rightly make the case that it does.

    So I am not biased against the Lutheran view simply because it is the Lutheran view.” I never said you are biased simply because it is the Lutheran view. I said that this is part of it. This accounts for why you hold the Lutheran view to a standard to which you don’t hold the Presbyterian view.

    Can you share with me any Baptists who have historically held baptism to be a means of grace? Does the Haykin article answer this?

    Thank you for answering my other questions. Honestly, I’m not sure what point you’re using the examples of baptism and discipleship in the gospels to argue. Mark 16 is quite consistent with my reading of Matt 28: Go and preach to creation and the ones who believe and are baptized will be saved. But again, I’m not sure what you’re arguing here. For the record, I’ve never argued that anyone who’s baptized is whip-bam-boom a disciple. As I stated in my previous comment, disciples are made through teaching and baptism.

    I’ll selectively respond to your questions and pose another set for you.

    I’m not going to answer the question about Acts 2:41 at this point because it doesn’t address what we’ve been discussing here which is the basis on which a Lutheran may restrict baptism. But if we reach clarity on this topic I’m happy to answer the question. I’m also not addressing questions about communing infants this is a topic all its own.

    How do you fit Acts 8 into your system? Aside from what I said above, let me say that I do indeed fit this text into my system. That is, it doesn’t establish my view, but I think I’m at least consistent with it. The story of the eunuch doesn’t tell us anything about his life after baptism. Even if it’s possible that there are exceptions for people who do not live in an area where there is no church (which at this point I’m not inclined to grant) this hardly parallels to people who do live near the faith community. Either way the eunuch example doesn’t unseat my view that the basis on which I don’t go out into the community throwing water on people is that the sacraments are meant to cooperate. It doesn’t unseat it because its an unparallel example. As you affirm, “baptism must be carried out with in the context of the church, which I agree happens normally.” So I can’t see that the sojourner/Ethiopian eunuch example poses any more problems for my view than yours. You make an exception to your view in the case of the sojourner perhaps I may end up making one to mine. So how would the Acts 8 text invalidate my view at this point? (this is officially one of my questions to you)

    Are you assured from this text that the eunuch is about to enter into the community of faith and that he is about to partake of the sacraments?” No I’m not assured. But, again, I do not need to be assured. I only need to not be assured that he didn’t enter the community of faith. But even if I were assured this wouldn’t be a reason to give up my view. As far as I can see it, this text in Acts 8 is the major basis on which (given the Lutheran view of baptism)you object to my rationale for restricting it as I do.

    My other questions are: do you have another basis on which you object to my view of the cooperation of the sacraments other than the example of the eunuch’s baptism? If so, is it a biblical theological example which you apparently require from me in order for my view to gain the level of respect in your mind that the Presbyterian view has (though I’m not after your respect on this matter)?

    Lastly, if your only restriction on baptism is profession of faith then does this mean you would agree with baptizing someone who professes faith but doesn’t want to join a church (such as those whom George Barna discusses in his book Revolution)?

    Following our discussion on the issue at hand, I’d be happy to move on to discussing the biblical grounds for infant baptism. Perhaps I should write a post on it to kick off that discussion.

    -John

    PS: Thanks for having us over. We had a great time as well. We will be praying for you as you travel to MA. Have a great time and we look forward to getting together when you return.

  28. John Meade says:

    John (Fraiser),

    I am short on time this week, so I cannot interact with all of your questions and comments, and I am aiming to make more clear what has already been said, rather than attempting to advance the discussion.

    We probably could argue about who is confused in this discussion, and I admit that I could be confused about the issue(s) we are discussing, but let me at least offer up my interpretation of the discussion thus far.

    To quote from your post, “The biblical case for infant baptism is too great to build it on texts that are at best inconclusive if not altogether irrelevant.” It seems to me that your post attempts to disprove the Presbyterian basis for baptism or at least a major part of the structure, household baptisms. At the end of your post, you point readers to your paper for a Lutheran formulation of baptism. Of course this paper treats the basis and scope of baptism.

    My very first question to you can be found in comment #11, “If the covenant does not serve as the basis of paedobaptism in the Lutheran scheme, then what is the basis for Lutheran infant baptism?” I then raised Luther’s basis, but then realized that their was no limiting feature to it [at least prima facie]. Then I asked, “What principle causes Lutherans to discriminate who comes to baptism and who does not?” I then conclude with what I thought was the strength of the Presbyterian view [the covenant provides basis and restriction] and a final question for you, “The Presb. argument provides a limiting scope and a basis for baptism (household baptism texts may or may not contribute to their argument), but what is it for the Lutherans?”

    So from the beginning, I have been keeping these two issues together. When you chose to answer my question concerning restriction, I then asked why Lutherans restrict baptism to those in the church or who potentially will be in the church, but I have had an eye on the biblical basis question as well. These issues cannot be too distinct for one’s formulation, since the restriction question flows from the basis question.

    Concerning Acts 8

    You said, “The text doesn’t tell us that he “believed in Christ” as you claim.” I never claimed the text explicitely said the eunuch believed, I said, “Incidentally, we do know he believed in Christ evidenced by his willingness to receive baptism.” I am not sure how this answer differs from your own, “…rather the person’s ambition to make a venture in the waters founded on the command and promise of God IS faith itself,..” By identifying ambition to make a venture into the waters with faith, I am not sure what you are attempting to conclude. I would still want to say [as you say elsewhere in the comment, and Luther seems to indicate as well], that in hope a believer is being baptized. Bottom line, we still agree that the eunuch was believing at his baptism, so I am not sure how this is a problem.

    Although the text is silent on the outcome of the eunuch, and I am speculating at this point, I still believe that I am more warranted in my conclusion. You originally worded the restriction in this way, “God intends that the sacraments work in concert and not off by themselves. We don’t just grab people off the streets and baptize them because they have no participation in the other sacraments and no promise of participation in them.” As a member of the royal court, the eunuch would have to return to Ethiopia, where there is no church, and so we have no assurance that he meets the ecclesiastical criterion. The text does not say this, but I think it is the more probable conclusion. I am not sure where you think the eunuch goes. Would you agree that Matt. 28 and Acts 2:41 do not necessarily conclude that baptism always leads to participation in the church and sacraments, but that baptism usually does lead to church fellowship?

    I think you know what I would say to the ones spoken of in Barna’s book. He surveys Americans and Westerners, where there are churches on just about every street corner. My objection had to do with places where the gospel has never been heard.

    Finally, I officially retract that bit on discipleship near the end of the post. I am not sure why I put that in there :).

    If you feel inclined to write a post on the biblical basis for infant baptism, go for it. I am not sure I would be able to participate at a high level, but I could comment a little :). Would others be interested in a post on this issue? Weigh in and tell John F.

    Blessings,
    John

  29. Troy says:

    Fraiser,

    I am still trying to understand the Lutheran view of baptism. I ask you to be patient with me as I ask what may seem like some silly questions.

    First, you said, “Lutherans maintain a believers church as well. That is, we do not admit anyone who is knowingly an unbeliever.” I am not sure how this is any different than the Baptist view that requires a profession of faith before baptism. If everyone is born in sin and thus an unbeliever, how do you avoid “admitting” or baptizing adult unbelievers without asking them for a profession of faith? If they have given no profession of faith, then should it not be our assumption that they are still unbelievers, and thus should not be baptized? This is very confusing to me.

    Also, when Lutherans baptize babies, would they not be “admitting” someone who is knowingly an unbeliever, if in fact, we believe infants are born in sin? Lutherans do not believe infants are believers before they are baptized. Or do they? I thought the Lutheran position is that faith may be the result of the baptismal rite in the case of infants. This would not be a problem for Lutherans who believe that the baptism of infants always produces faith, but it may be a problem for those who believe that it may or may not produce faith in the infant.

    Second, you said, “Neither adults nor infants are baptized on the basis of their profession of faith. We baptize on the basis of the command to teach and baptize. Someone’s rejection of Christ may keep us from baptizing but the baptism is not on the basis of their profession because this tries to make what is stronger (the word of God in baptism) rest on something that is weaker (a person’s faith). But if someone is deliberately rejecting the word of God in the gospel it is reckless to offer them the word of God in baptism.”

    If someone rejects the word of God in the gospel, and it is therefore reckless to offer them the word of God in baptism, then are you not saying, in essence, that someone needs to first embrace the word of God in the gospel before we should offer them the word of God in baptism? How is this different than the Baptist view? How do you have any idea whether or not they have rejected the word of God in the gospel if they do not ask them? And if Lutherans do ask, then how is this different than requiring a profession of faith?

    One possible way to escape this is to say that some people are opposed to Christ, some people are neutral in reference to Christ, and some people embrace Christ, and Lutherans are willing to baptize those who are neutral in reference to Christ and those who embrace Christ, whereas Baptists are only willing to baptize those who embrace Christ, thus Baptists require a profession of faith and Lutherans do not. The problem with this is that this neutral category does not exist. You are either for Christ or against him. I am pretty sure you would not suggest this neutral category.

    Another possible escape is to say that Lutherans do not need to talk with them because their very willingness to be baptized is seen as an act of faith, which tells you that they have not rejected the word of God in the gospel. The only problem is that many people may be willing to be baptized for all the wrong reasons (they do not understand, peer pressure, desire to belong, to gain favor in the community, etc.), which means a mere willingness to be baptized may not be an act of faith. If Lutherans desire a believer’s church, is it not more effective to ask for profession of faith before baptizing the adult? Perhaps Lutherans do not mind baptizing these kinds of people (those seeking baptism for the wrong reasons), since the waters of baptism may cause true faith to result.

    I understand how Lutherans can hold to a believer’s church if they believe the waters of baptism always regenerate the infant and the adult. A profession of faith is not necessary then. However, if some Lutherans believe that the waters of baptism only regenerate the elect (thus wanting to avoid having some doctrine of falling away), then not seeking a profession of faith in adults (and perhaps children) seems counterproductive to a believer’s church. This is because they would baptize some adult who they are not sure is a believer or unbeliever (because they do not ask for a profession) and the waters of baptism may or may not produce faith. It seems like this method is doomed to allow unbeliever after unbeliever into the membership of the church.

    In the end, it seems like the Baptist view, which requires a profession of faith before baptism, is more consistent with a believer’s church (unless someone adopts the view that the waters of baptism always regenerate the infant and the adult, in which case this view guarantees a believer’s church until someone falls away). The reason this is significant is because we hold to the believer’s church based on, at the very least, the reality that the new covenant only contains regenerate people. Because of this, our desire is not to allow unbelievers into the church. We all agree that there is no full proof method; however, any view that unnecessarily allows unbelievers in the church is not being consistent with the truth of new covenant. I understand that some people may object and say that maybe we should go way beyond a profession of faith and require all kinds of other things and that such a view is even more faithful. I would be more than willing to hear what those options are; however, many of those views can be rejected on the basis that they conflict with other biblical truths. In any case, I more than willing to have you show me where my Baptist blinders may be getting in the way.

    Thanks for the discussion on this thread. It has been helpful.

  30. Fraiser says:

    Troy,

    I apologize that I never responded to your previous comment on this thread. I crafted about half of a response, some of which I’ll incorporate here. I’ll try to answer your questions as clearly as I am able.

    I am still trying to understand the Lutheran view of baptism. I ask you to be patient with me as I ask what may seem like some silly questions.

    I don’t think that your questions are silly at all. I appreciate the time you have taken to challenge my view and I appreciate how serious you take this subject. Still, I have to admit that I feel like I am repeating myself. Some of what I have already said will show up here again, because I don’t know any better way to say it. Much of what I’ve said in my paper will show up here as well. I have already answered many of your questions in my paper (which I know you’ve read) but I am learning that the Lutheran view of baptism is so foreign and so caustic to Baptist ears that what I say does not stick with them very well. For example, John asks me on what biblical grounds I defend infant baptism when I have written a forty-page paper explaining the biblical basis and had many hours of conversations with him and he throws this question at me as though I had never spoken on the matter. With little expectation that what I say will satisfy, here’s my response to your questions.

    ‘Lutherans maintain a believers church as well. That is, we do not admit anyone who is knowingly an unbeliever.’ I am not sure how this is any different than the Baptist view that requires a profession of faith before baptism.

    It’s different in a lot of ways. One, we don’t hold that only adults and children who first cross a certain threshold of human reason can believe. And, two, we conclude that someone is a believer on more objective grounds than Baptists do. That is, we conclude someone is a believer on the objective word and promise of the word of God. We only withdraw this conclusion when strong evidence to the contrary is present. So, that one’s profession is not the basis on which we conclude anyone (adult or child) is a proper candidate. The objective word and promise of God is the basis on which we baptize someone. If someone is willing to come on that basis, then they should be baptized. This does not mean that we may not ever ask if they do believe. But withholding baptism because of an unbelieving rejection is not the same as baptizing someone because of their belief. To baptize on belief is to make the persons faith the center of the ceremony. It makes baptism the person’s response and not God’s. The Lutheran view differs little from the Baptist view but only in the sense that it is common for Lutherans to ask baptismal candidates if they believe (though as I’ve said, I don’t think that we have to). Even when an infant is baptized in a LCMS congregation, the pastor asks the infant a series of questions which the congregation and parents/guardians answer in unison. But the place where I think you might be missing the distinction between the views is the reason for asking whether someone believes. Lutherans ask because professing the gospel and renouncing sin is important. It’s commanded. We should desire to know if someone agrees with the word of the gospel, but we do not ask because this is the basis on which someone is baptized. Baptists, on the other hand, take a profession as a necessary precondition to legitimate baptism. No Lutheran who holds to Lutheran theology would ever agree with this.

    If everyone is born in sin and thus an unbeliever, how do you avoid ‘admitting’ or baptizing adult unbelievers without asking them for a profession of faith?

    Can we not take the person’s baptism as their profession and as their faith? If any baptismal truth is clear from the eunuch’s baptism in Acts 8 I trust that this is it. If someone desires to be baptized on the command of Christ then I take baptism as trusting in the command and promise of Christ, and when there’s no obvious demonstration of unbelief I see no reason that we should require that someone profess and that only those who profess be baptized. Also, I think there are a fair many Baptists that would disagree with you here that profession is always a necessary prerequisite to baptism.

    If they have given no profession of faith, then should it not be our assumption that they are still unbelievers, and thus should not be baptized?

    No. For at least two reasons: we may conclude that someone is a believer without them making a profession, and the command of Christ and their coming into the church to receive the other sacraments is the proper basis on which to baptize someone.

    Also, when Lutherans baptize babies, would they not be ‘admitting’ someone who is knowingly an unbeliever, if in fact, we believe infants are born in sin?

    No, because we are admitting them through baptism, not before baptism. Yes, infants are born in sin and share in the original sin of Adam, but in union with Christ we are no longer in Adam. Lutherans believe that baptism is the word of God and that it is powerful. Baptism can remove original sin when one believes the word of God’s promise spoken in baptism. We should presume in favor of the power of God’s word to transform a person and create faith. Thus, without reason to think that it has not created faith, we should by default presume that faith is present. This is the objective basis on which we treat a child as a believer. That presumption should only be overridden in the face of strong subjective evidence that faith did not result. We baptize children on what we are told about the power of the word of God not on what we have empirically observed about infants (revealed in comments like: “It doesn’t look like they believe.” Or “How can an infant believe when they can’t even talk?” Or “You’ve got to be able to understand the gospel before you can believe it, and infants can’t understand it.”, etc.) We believe that the word of God is so powerful that it creates faith in the hearts of infants. Everytime? No. But we’re have no basis on which to pick out infants that don’t have faith. And just because we know that there may be some that don’t believe we’re not going to treat them all as though they are unbelievers. Similarly, just because a Baptist pastor knows that there are probably some in his congregation (perhaps even those who seem to be model Christians) who are unregenerate, he’s not going to treat them all as though they were unbelievers.

    Also, Lutherans believe that the faith of the community may carry the faith of weak people such as infants. This is why the community answers the questions asked to an infant. Since the infant cannot speak for himself/herself we may answer for them. God dealing with a person and forgiving sin on the basis of another’s faith can be found in Scripture (Mark 2:5; James 5:14-15). The person must eventually have a faith of their own. We cannot stand before God on the basis of another’s faith, but the community’s faith may carry our faith in times when it is weak.

    If someone rejects the word of God in the gospel, and it is therefore reckless to offer them the word of God in baptism, then are you not saying, in essence, that someone needs to first embrace the word of God in the gospel before we should offer them the word of God in baptism?

    I’ll try to draw an analogy. If I desire to give my child an inheritance, it is not on the basis of her profession that she wants to receive it and that she professes to be my child that I give it to her. It is on the basis that I love her and want to bless her. But if she does not want to receive it, or rejects other inheritances that I have given, or does not want to be my child then this is a proper reason not to give it and is in fact impossible to give it. Withholding baptism from adults because of their denial of the gospel is not the same as baptizing them on the basis of their profession of believing it. Their denial may disqualify them but that doesn’t mean the belief in it qualifies them.

    I offer another example, hoping to make it clearer. I am considering you for a job. In spite of the fact that you have a history of laziness and not cooperating with your previous bosses I want to take pity on you and hire you anyway, but you are one who rejects offers of pity and beneficent aid. This causes me not to hire you. But this does not mean that your reception of offers of pity and beneficent aid was ever the basis on which I offered you the job, it was always my pity and beneficence. The difference seems clear to me.

    How do you have any idea whether or not they have rejected the word of God in the gospel if they do not ask them?

    Do you really have no other way of discerning whether a person rejects the gospel apart from asking them? I know all kinds of people who reject the gospel and I never had to ask them.

    Furthermore, I never said we shouldn’t ask, I said we don’t need to ask. If someone wants to ask that’s fine, but my point is that we don’t baptize someone “upon their profession of faith” (as Baptists are wont to say during the baptism with hankerchiefed-hand high in the air).

    And if Lutherans do ask, then how is this different than requiring a profession of faith?

    Lutherans do ask (at least LCMS churches do), but that doesn’t mean that we require a profession of faith. I thought the Luther quote on adult baptism that I offered in my previous comment covered this well.

    I am pretty sure you would not suggest this neutral category.” Like you I reject the notion of neutrality toward Christ. This idea would threaten Lutheran baptism not aid it. Baptism is not the baptism of neutral people it is the baptism of wicked sinners who can only take refuge in Christ. We may consider the possibility that Baptist theology is more consistent with a belief in neutrality than is Lutheran doctrine. In Baptist theology one must first understand the gospel with human reason before being able to grasp it by faith. That is, before a person can believe it, their mind must be disposed to understanding it. But the gateway to faith is not human reason. To declare so would require a neutral mind. I need to think about that more though.

    Another possible escape is to say that Lutherans do not need to talk with them because their very willingness to be baptized is seen as an act of faith, which tells you that they have not rejected the word of God in the gospel. The only problem is that many people may be willing to be baptized for all the wrong reasons (they do not understand, peer pressure, desire to belong, to gain favor in the community, etc.), which means a mere willingness to be baptized may not be an act of faith.

    I don’t like talk of escape. I’m not looking to escape anything. I’m happy to explain why your charge doesn’t hold. If it doesn’t hold, it doesn’t hold because your accusation never captivated the Lutheran view in the first place not because it had to escape your accusation.
    I find it odd that you don’t see baptism as a proper act of faith because people may do it for the wrong reasons but you somehow think that verbal profession makes it better. People are just as prone to make a verbal profession for the wrong reasons as they are to be baptized for the wrong reasons, and every “rebaptism” in Baptist churches is a witness to my point.

    Perhaps Lutherans do not mind baptizing these kinds of people (those seeking baptism for the wrong reasons), since the waters of baptism may cause true faith to result.

    We mind these kinds of baptisms because when baptism does not effect faith it is a cause of judgment, just as all acts of rejecting the gift of the word of God are causes of judgment. Baptism may cause faith to result, but it is supposed to work in concert with the other sacraments not given to anyone in hopes that it will lead to faith.

    It seems like this method is doomed to allow unbeliever after unbeliever into the membership of the church.
    Only if you think that baptizing because of profession is more of a guarantee. I don’t think you’ve made a strong case that it is. According to the Lutheran view Baptists are not properly professing the power of the Word of God in baptism and are elevating the baptized person’s faith as the power which qualifies them. So we find your diminishing of the power of baptism in the lives of your people and the elevation of the power of that which is weaker (faith) less of a guarantee of a believer’s church.

    But I don’t think having the highest concentration of believers in one’s church should be the highest aspiration of our ecclesiology. As you point out, some people could – and do – go to all kinds of unbiblical lengths to achieve this. Accordingly, if baptism has to be built on the power of one’s profession in order to maintain a higher concentration of believers (which as I’ve said I don’t think it necessarily does) then I would add this to whatever list you would give of unbiblical methods to maintain the highest concentration.

    We all agree that there is no full proof method; however, any view that unnecessarily allows unbelievers in the church is not being consistent with the truth of new covenant.

    You and I can agree on this statement and still get nowhere because what you and I consider to be a “view that unnecessarily allows unbelievers in the church” is going to differ. You consider my view of baptism to unnecessarily allow unbelievers, but if the Lutheran view is biblical then it isn’t unnecessary. I consider your demand of verbal profession (or written, I suppose) as a necessary prerequisite to baptism to be one of those unbiblical methods to maintain a pure church. So where does this leave us?

    My question is whether you can see that rejecting the gospel can disqualify a person without meaning that one’s belief in the gospel is what qualifies them? Also, do you see ways in which the Lutheran view differs from the Baptist view aside from baptizing infants?

  31. OFelixCulpa says:

    John,

    I guess we are all still trying to figure you Lutherans out. At least I’m questioning my understanding now.

    Though you agree with Troy that there is no such thing as “neutrality” toward Christ, it seems difficult for there not to be three categories in your view (those who overtly reject Christ, those who profess Christ, and the ‘baptizable’ middle group which does neither. Perhaps the middle category isn’t technically “neutral,” but it must be something similar to that.

    I’m also puzzled about the dividing line between those who may and those who may not be baptized. If I understand correctly, you hold that those who openly deny Christ may not be baptized, but those who deny him (but not openly) may. Why is baptism powerful for the second group but impotent for the first? Isn’t this elevating the person’s lack of faith and diminishing the power of baptism the same way that you accuse Baptists of doing with their demand for professions of faith?

    Obviously, this post has not stayed to it’s purpose at all; it seems the Presbyterians may not be up to the challenge! But, perhaps this discussion is more fruitful anyway.

    KWR

  32. Troy says:

    Fraiser,

    There are many things in your last comment that provoke new questions, as well as, challenges from me. However, in order to avoid really long posts, I will ask one question at a time.

    You wrote, “And, two, we conclude that someone is a believer on more objective grounds than Baptists do. That is, we conclude someone is a believer on the objective word and promise of the word of God. We only withdraw this conclusion when strong evidence to the contrary is present. So, that one’s profession is not the basis on which we conclude anyone (adult or child) is a proper candidate. The objective word and promise of God is the basis on which we baptize someone. If someone is willing to come on that basis, then they should be baptized.”

    So you seem to be saying that Lutherans conclude someone is a believer on more objective grounds than the Baptist does. Lutherans conclude someone is a believer on the objective word and promise of the word of God, whereas the Baptist by implication does not. Okay. What is the objective word and promise of the word of God upon which we can conclude that someone is a believer? The Scriptures, baptism, both? What is the content of this objective word and promise of the word of God?

    Sorry, that was two questions. Hopefully these will be quick and easy to answer. I just want to make sure I correctly understand what you are saying before we proceed.

  33. Fraiser says:

    To my detractors:

    John (Meade),

    I apologize for missing your question. Clearly you did ask me to explain the Lutheran basis for infant baptism, but I overlooked it. Still, I don’t understand how you could ask me to explain “the basis for Lutheran infant baptism” when I have done so on numerous occasions. You and I have had many hours of conversation and exchanged numerous emails on this subject. I have written over 40 pages defending the biblical basis for infant baptism without appealing to a household covenant model. Now you are excused for disagreeing with my explanation, but you’re not excused for asking what the explanation is, as though I’ve never offered one. If all of those conversations have not fostered any understanding of the basis on which Lutherans defend infant baptism then I will not waste another moment of my time trying to explain. My paper already provides that explanation. If you want to work through the material I’ve spent numerous hours writing and then ask me to defend specific parts of it then I’m happy to do so, but I’m not going to validate your demand for an explanation by laying out my arguments all over again.

    Regarding more substantive matters, in the account of the eunuch’s baptism in Acts 8 I certainly hold that he believed in Christ, and I don’t criticize you for believing this. I criticize you for dismissing my conclusions as inferences which cannot be found in the text when you do the same.

    You believe that your speculation from Acts 8 is more warranted than mine. I’m glad you admit it was speculation. I don’t think you’re explanation is taking into account the fact that the eunuch was on a long journey from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to take part in a religious ceremony. The man even had a copy of the Scriptures (or of Isaiah at least). These facts argue against your conclusion that it’s unlikely that he would take part in the other sacraments. You say I can have “no assurance that he meets the ecclesiastical criterion.” I’m not looking for assurance. My only point is that it seems probable given what we know about baptism in the NT and given that this man was already traveling to take part in a religious ceremony. I lack a compelling reason to overthrow this paradigm found in Scripture. You raised the eunuch’s baptism as evidence that my basis for restriction is biblically misguided and I think you need to concede that you can’t demonstrate this from Acts 8.

    Yes, I agree that “Matt 28 and Acts 2:41 do not necessarily conclude that baptism always leads to participation in the church and sacraments,” but they don’t have to. Without a compelling reason to make an exception I take these texts to be the word on the matter. Of course these are not the only texts that give us this picture of baptism into the church and participation in the sacraments. First Cor 12:13 says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” The reference to drinking the same drink likely alludes to sacrament of the altar, and baptism into one body tells us that we are baptized into a community not as individuals. I don’t see your argument from Acts 8 outweighing these texts.

    However, even if you could prove from Acts 8 that Philip baptized someone with no reason to think he’d partake in the other sacraments, it wouldn’t do much to upset my reasons for restricting baptism. I could just claim an exception like you do in the case of a sojourner from an unreached area. You think that my basis for restriction is fine in non-sojourner cases, so I have to ask: what’s wrong with my ecclesiastical restriction if I make an exception for sojourners? Has all of this debate been over cases identical to the eunuch’s baptism? If so, then we agree strongly in principle here and I think that should gain some attention in our discussions. As it is, I don’t make an exception for the sojourner, but so what? Do admit that in all non-sojourner cases that Lutherans have a biblical basis for not going out and baptizing every person they can find? If you don’t, whatever it’s going to have to be a new objection that you haven’t raised before, and I’ll be curious to see whether it is a criticism that won’t equally apply to your view.

    Since you’ve given me permission to speak for you on how you feel about those Barna talks about in Revolution, then I say that you would have a problem with baptizing people into the church even though they aren’t interested in taking part in it. Since you do feel this way, I ask again, why do you object to my reasons for restricting baptism to only those who we have reason to believe will take part in the other sacraments? Seems you would withhold baptism for similar reasons. The sojourner example doesn’t invalidate my principle. The two cases are unparallel: the sojourner isn’t choosing to refuse the sacraments, those in Barna’s book are. I think that I have biblically defended why I don’t go out into the neighborhood with a water hose performing mass baptisms, and I don’t need a covenant household model.

    Kevin,

    I can’t see where the Lutheran view requires a neutrality. No one is neutral. They are either in the kingdom or not; they are either on the Lord’s side or they aren’t. However, we can’t confuse this fact with our ability to always discern who is and who isn’t. What do you call a person who wants to be baptized but isn’t clear on the gospel? I don’t call him neutral but I recognize the difference between someone like this and a person such as, say, Sam Harris who is an antagonistic atheist. Does this mean that he’s neutral? No, but Lutherans may well consider him a candidate for baptism. Since Lutherans believe that baptism is a sacrament we don’t expect someone to get grace apart from that which gives grace. So I don’t think someone should tell him: go receive grace somewhere else, figure out the gospel, make a strong profession of faith and then God will give you grace in baptism. Still, someone who evidences a hatred for Christ and has no desire to take part in the body of Christ and the other sacraments should not be given the sacrament of baptism which is a baptism into the one body and into participation in the other sacraments.

    Baptists also have the kind of people who aren’t sure what to think about the gospel just yet, (sometimes they call them “seekers”). Lutherans don’t create these people. They exist in Baptist churches as well. It’s just that Lutherans are willing to baptize some of them. Furthermore, as I have argued Baptists treat their children in ways that they would never treat an ordinary unbeliever or a non-neutral person. So I can’t see that Lutherans establish the category of a neutral person (or a neutral person by another name) anymore than Baptists do (in fact, given the inconsistency of Baptist theology and Baptist practice when it comes to children one may argue that Baptists establish this category more than any other group).

    Conversion is a process and for many people this process can take quite some time to unfold. Because it is a process, I think that we can recognize that people are in different places in the process. Baptists won’t baptize someone until after process is complete, while Lutherans are willing to baptize people in order to aid the completion of the process of conversion. Similarly, in Acts several people are baptized prior to receiving the Spirit. I can’t see that Acts upholds some sort of neutral category. I think it simply reflects that some people are in a different place in the conversion process than others. So maybe I do see three categories of people, but it seems that you must as well unless you can’t see any distinction between someone who professes their strong rejection of the gospel and someone who’s interested in the gospel and wants to examine further.

    Now each person is either saved or unsaved. In this sense there are only two categories. Here I think Lutheran theology has been very clear. Once again, the difference between the Lutheran view and the Baptist view is not whether these three categories of people exist but whether we should only baptize someone who professes the gospel. Lutherans say no, Baptists say yes.

    So do you grant that there are people are in a process of not being sure what to believe about the gospel? Of course they are only believers when they put their faith in the message, but it is my belief that such a person may be given faith in baptism. If you do grant that there are people in process then it seems you have to own up to three categories yourself. You wouldn’t call them “the ‘baptizable’ middle group” but they can be distinguished from openly defiant unbelievers.

    Troy,

    The objective word by which we conclude that someone is a believer is baptism. Without an overriding reason to conclude that they are an unbeliever we conclude that baptism does what God has promised it does. Scripture is what declares to us the work and power of God in baptism. The content of this objective word is that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16). We are “buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God.” Because God has joined this word of promise to baptism we must trust that it is so when we are baptized. We can trust that we have salvation in baptism because his word has declared it and it does not lie.

    Luther shows many of the ways in which God joins his word of promise to work such as Mark 6:14-15: “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Baptism is unique because here God ties his word of promise to his own work. If we trust his word in our baptism we will be saved.

    I hope this answers your question, perhaps it still doesn’t.

  34. Troy says:

    Fraiser,

    Thanks for the further clarification. It was helpful. The objective word by which Lutherans conclude someone is a believer is baptism. God has promised salvation in baptism. Thus when someone is baptized, Lutherans trust that the person is saved until proven otherwise.

    With this in mind, you wrote, “That is, we conclude someone is a believer on the objective word and promise of the word of God.” In other words, Lutherans conclude someone is a believer on the basis of THEIR baptism, in which God has promised to save.

    But then you also say, “The objective word and promise of God is the basis on which we baptize someone. If someone is willing to come on that basis, then they should be baptized.”

    The objective word and promise of God seems to be functioning differently here. Before, it served as a basis upon which we conclude someone is a believer (after they are baptized). Here, it serves as a basis upon which Lutherans baptize someone (before they are baptized). Is this correct?

    When you speak of the objective word in the former case, it seems to be referring to the person’s baptism. When you speak of the objective word in the latter case, it seems to be referring not to their baptism exactly, or else you would be saying that their baptism is the basis upon which you baptize them. I would guess you mean that the promise of God to save in baptism is the basis upon which you baptize someone. The difference seems to be on what we believe the baptism actually did (in the former case) and what we believe the baptism will do (in the latter case).

    Let me know if I am understanding you correctly or if I am way off base or somewhere in between.

  35. Fraiser says:

    Troy,

    I understand your initial confusion, but the understanding that you come to of the Lutheran view is correct. I couldn’t have said it better. I await the conclusions you will draw from this.

  36. Troy says:

    Fraiser,

    Okay, I am back. You wrote, “The objective word and promise of God is the basis on which we baptize someone. If someone is willing to come on that basis, then they should be baptized.”

    What do you mean when you say, “if someone is willing to come on that basis?” Are you saying that adults must believe that God will save in baptism, and if they do not come on this basis, then they should not be baptized?

  37. Troy says:

    Fraiser,

    My last comment may be another frustrating comment. I did not intend this. My problem is that once I think I understand what you are saying, you say something else that is difficult for me to reconcile with your previous statements. I am not looking for some big explanation, since much is just repetition at this point. I have a few ideas about why you said what you did, but I thought it would be better to let you clarify.

  38. Fraiser says:

    Troy,

    I take no offense at your questioning. I understand that you’re looking for clarity on my view. It seems perfectly clear to me, but it is perfectly reasonable that you question me as you do. I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m so easily frustrated. My feeling is not frustration. It is one of knowing that I’m trying to be trapped by those who believe that I’m wrong. I know that you’ve got to press me and pin me down like a butterfly on a motarboard to make you’re point that you’re in the process of making but I’m as certain as can be of what I’m saying and I sometimes feel as though I’m speaking in a foreign language to you (and others). At any rate, don’t feel that you need to tread so lightly with me and forgive me if I’ve given you the impression that I’m so irascible.

    Sentiments aside, my view toward your line of questioning is expressed in the words of Gerhard Forde:

    Such questions [as those you continue to ask] expose the peculiar difficulty of setting questions about acts of grace, and especially about infant baptism, properly. Most of the time, the questions presuppose a legal framework and so turn out to be traps. Ther is no way to answer them without imperiling the close but subtle relationship between unconditional grace and faith. Is baptism necessary to salvation? Can we simply depend on the fact that we have been baptized? Does baptism work ‘automatically’? So the questions go. But they are traps. If, in the attempt to protect individual choice, one hurries to say, ‘No,’ one simply negates the grace of it. The pastor saws off the limb on which he or she is to stand. If, in the zeal to protect grace, one hurries without further ado to say, ‘Yes,’ one will likely be accused of ignoring or belittling the place of faith. Then the aim of baptism will be shorted out. The questions must be put more carefully. Perhaps the best immediate response to questions about the necessity of baptism would be: ‘Speak for yourself. But beware, the answer will be a confession!’ Questions that are traps are best turned back to expose the questioner. In other words, one has to make it clear that the answer itself is already a faith statement (“Something to Believe: A Theological Perspective on Infant Baptism,” in The Preached God [Eerdmans, 2007], 134).

    I know that in my conversations with you, you always like to do the questioning and expect me do the answering, but the question is getting put back on you. Not that I’m asking you to answer to me but I’m asking you to answer to yourself. But be sure that however you answer the yes/no questions you like to ask me, your answer is a confession of what you believe about baptism. Now perhaps you might say that you aren’t quite sure what to believe about baptism. If not, then don’t pigeonhole yourself or anyone else into placing a law on grace. God gives it as he wills and we trust it. You seem to want to turn grace into law, to pin God down on where he’ll apply his grace before you’ll accept that he does give it. As I have pointed out in numerous places, you’ll have the same problem with talk about the gospel. Are you going to find the logic of when the gospel works faith and when it doesn’t? What about when someone asks you to explain if God gives grace conditioned upon faith? Perhaps you’ll fall into the trap of explaining the full condition upon how God gives his grace, but I won’t fall into the trap. Instead, I’ll let Luther respond for me here.

    Our know-it-alls, the new spirits [i.e. Baptists such as yourself!], assert that faith alone saves and that works and external things contribute nothing to this end. We answer; It is true, nothing that is in us does it but faith, as we shall hear later on. But these leaders of the blind are unwilling to see that faith must have something to believe — something to which it may cling and upon which it may cling and upon which it may stand. Thus faith clings to the water and believes it to be Baptism in which there is sheer salvation and life, not through the water, as we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God’s Word and ordinance and the joining of his name to it. When I believe this, what else is it but believing in God as the one who has implanted his Word in this external ordinance and offered it to us so that we may grasp the treasure it contains (“Large Catechism.” Emphasis added.)?

    If this doesn’t help answer your questions then I can’t help you. Trusting in the power of God’s word in baptism is the right way to come to baptism, but it is not what makes baptism what it is. Even if someone were to cruelly come to baptism as a joke, that person is still baptized. But that doesn’t mean that I should baptize someone who I know has come to baptism as a joke. Baptists condition the legitimacy of baptism upon the legitimacy of faith. Faith is not only basis on which Baptists choose to baptize a person, but also the basis on which baptism is considered baptism. You seem to want establish that I am conditioning baptism upon faith because I said if someone is willing to come on the basis of being compelled by God’s word in baptism then we should baptize him. However, this overlooks what my words are saying. Baptizing someone because they come in faith to God’s word in baptism does not make baptism what it is and it isn’t what qualifies a person for baptism, it is the basis on which they come compelled to be baptized. I wonder if in your work of disecting my words your are missing what they are plainly saying on the face of it.

    Are we getting anywhere here?

  39. Michael Neal says:

    Fraiser,

    Absolutely! Baptism cannot be what it is by somehow being contingent upon what men do. I thought the whole point of baptism was that we can’t do anything. We go to the waters TO BE washed (Eph. 5). As Jesus washed Peter’s feet and cleansed him entirely (Jn. 13), God washes us, as we are passive in the situation, and cleanses us entirely. To say that baptism is somehow dependant upon man for its efficacy or its nature is absurd. It is simply to reserve some place for man in the salvation process. It is nothing more than reserving “something” for man to do. This idea turns the Gospel on its head. Free grace is treated as though it is cheap when we put conditions upon it. The baptism of the N.T. knows nothing of such conditionality. Baptism is God’s grace and in that way it is FREE!!!! It’s not cheap. It’s even better than that. It’s FREE!!!!!!!!

    I’ve got a Forde quote that goes well with what you have said…check this out.

    “Remember an episode from ‘All in the Family?’ Archie Bunker insists on having the baby baptized and plans to take it secretly if necessary to have it done. His son-in-law Michael protests that he does not want the baby baptized. Archie retorts, ‘What’s the matter, you were baptized, weren’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ Michael says, ‘but I renounce my baptism.’ Archie astutely replies, ‘You cannot do that. You can renounce your belly button, but it’s still there!’ In spite of all the nonsense, Archie is a better theologian than most of us on that point. It is an alien word. It has happened, and there is nothing we can do about that. No doubt that is one of the things that rankles. That is part of the offense. Just so it also stands against the devil because he can do nothing about it either. In the end that may be our only defense. When Luther was demolished by the devil in the Anfechtungen, unable to escape wallowing around in his own subjectivity, he could at last only cry out, ‘I am baptized!’ The word from without, the alien word, at the last may be all we have.” (“Preaching the Sacraments” in “The Preached God” pg. 104).

    As you said, “Trusting in the power of God’s word in baptism is the right way to come to baptism, but it is not what makes baptism what it is.” Baptism is what it is! So for those of you who are still looking for something to do…there’s nothing left. God has defined it all. Christ has done it all. So go do something!

  40. Troy says:

    Fraiser,

    Are we getting anywhere? I think we are. I believe I am starting to understand the Lutheran view of baptism (as you present it). I did make a mistake when I initially began to give a critique of your view. The reason this was a mistake is that I did not fully understand your view, and if I do not fully understand what you are saying, then there is little chance of an accurate critique and there will be a lot of talking past each other. Therefore, in my shorter comments that followed, my goal has simply been to understand exactly what you are saying.

    Also, I agree that I have a view of baptism that is heavily influenced by Baptist theology. Most people that know me understand that I am not completely satisfied with any of the views of baptism. I am still trying to figure these things out. It has been helpful to me to contrast and compare differing views of baptism as I think through the issue. I want to understand the force of the Lutheran view. I think I am beginning to understand, and your answers have been helpful.

    Moving on, during this whole discussion, many have used the phrase ‘on the basis of.’ We have discussed on what basis we baptize someone. I think this language has been a little ambiguous. You have said,

    “The objective word and promise of God is the basis on which we baptize someone.”

    And,

    “We should desire to know if someone agrees with the word of the gospel, but we do not ask because this is the basis on which someone is baptized. Baptists, on the other hand, take a profession as a necessary precondition to legitimate baptism.”

    And,

    “No. For at least two reasons: we may conclude that someone is a believer without them making a profession, and the command of Christ and their coming into the church to receive the other sacraments is the proper basis on which to baptize someone.”

    It seems like you have said that Lutherans baptize people on the basis of the promise of God to save in baptism, the command of Christ to baptize, and the necessity of the person being baptized to be within the community of the church to receive the other sacraments. The first one seems to be dealing with the purpose and goal in baptizing someone, namely, salvation through baptism. The second deals with the authority or the right that we have to baptize people, namely, Christ’s command. The third deals with a qualification that must be met before we baptize anyone. There seems to be another qualification, though it is a little ambiguous in my mind. You have said that Lutherans will not knowingly baptize an unbeliever. Although, at other times you have said that Lutherans will not baptize someone who openly rejects the gospel. In my Baptist mind, these two things are slightly different. While all people who reject the gospel are unbelievers, not all unbelievers have openly rejected the gospel (some have not even heard it). In other words, you can be an unbeliever who has not openly rejected the gospel, and you can be an unbeliever who has openly rejected the gospel. I will return to this later.

    It is obvious that Baptists and Lutherans disagree with the first point. However, both Baptists and Lutherans agree about the second point. We baptize people because Christ commanded us to. There also seems to be much agreement on the third point as well. In normal non-missionary contexts, neither group would baptize someone who was not going to be involved in the community of the church and the Lord’s Supper. Baptists would also not knowingly baptize an unbeliever, either in the case of someone who has openly rejected the gospel or an unbeliever who has not.

    Where part of the disagreement (according to our discussion) seems to come into focus is this third area, which is then tied to the first area. Baptists think that profession of faith is another important qualification that in normal circumstances should be met before we baptize someone. You have made it clear that Lutherans do not think this should be a qualification.

    One reason Baptists think a profession of faith is important before we baptize is because we hold to a believer’s church, which is in turn based on the fact that the new covenant only contains regenerate people. If baptism is the entrance sign into the church, and thus the new covenant community, then we need a reason to think that a person is regenerate before baptizing them, or else Baptists would be opposing the very nature of the new covenant. An evidence of regeneration is faith. Therefore, Baptists have looked for a profession of faith as an indicator that the person believes.

    You have said that Lutherans do not knowingly baptize unbelievers, which means both Baptists and Lutherans are concerned that they do not baptize unbelievers. In the case of adults, Lutherans think the very willingness to be baptized is enough indication to think people are believers. Therefore, it seems like part of the disagreement between Lutherans and Baptists is that Lutherans think a profession of faith before baptism is unnecessary to have sufficient reason to think someone is a believer. The willingness to be baptized is enough.

    Part of my confusion came in at the point of baptizing an infant and also your last response to Kevin. If infants are born in sin and we have no reason to think that God has worked in their hearts before they are baptized, then Lutherans would be knowingly baptizing an unbeliever, which is something you said they do not do. You responded, “No, because we are admitting them through baptism, not before baptism.” I was not sure how this answered my point. The infant is an unbeliever before they are baptized. You then say that the infant is a proper candidate for baptism. But I still wondered how this was the case. I understood that Lutherans would appeal to Christ’s command to baptize, and Baptists would agree. However, both Baptists and Lutherans agree that one qualification to baptizing people is that they cannot knowingly be unbelievers, which seemingly implies that infants are not proper candidates for baptism.

    Also you said to Kevin, “So do you grant that there are people in a process of not being sure what to believe about the gospel? Of course they are only believers when they put their faith in the message, but it is my belief that such a person may be given faith in baptism.” I initially had problems with this because you are saying that baptism is administered to an unbeliever, even though previously you have said that Lutherans do not knowingly baptize unbelievers.

    I now think I may understand how Lutherans explain this. Correct me if I am wrong. Part of my problem was remembering that Lutherans, unlike Baptists, believe that the word of God in baptism creates faith. Also, when Lutherans say that they will not baptize unbelievers, they only mean they will not baptize someone who openly rejects the gospel, and since infants do not openly reject the gospel (nor do the adult seekers), we are not hindered from baptizing them. And since Lutherans presume God’s word in baptism will create faith until proven otherwise, they are not knowingly allowing unbelievers to be members of the church.

    The point of this comment is not to provide a critique of the Lutheran view of baptism. My goal is to properly understand the Lutheran view and the consistency of what they claim and to bring some clarity to the discussion between Lutherans and Baptists. I welcome any corrections from you or Michael Neal.

    I will be out of town through this Sunday, and I do not know if I will have internet access, which means any further comments from me will be delayed.

  41. Pingback: Baby Stuff » Blog Archive » Presbyterians and Household Baptisms Chaos & Old Night

  42. Just stumbled on this post while I was out surfing. I’m a Lutheran though not by birth, for anyone keeping track.

    I’m not sure the “household baptism” argument is so weak *because* household baptism (like baptism in general) was a practice inherited from Judaism. Judaism practiced proselyte baptism, and a household conversion would involve the baptism of all members including infants. It was established practice. So the force of the texts in the NT about household baptism is that it’s completely irrelevant whether those particular households contained infants, and more relevant that there was acceptance / continuance of the Jewish practice of household baptism, a practice which included infants.

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

  43. Fraiser says:

    Troy,

    You are correct that I have not always been consistent with my use of terms. You accurately represent the Lutheran view (or my view at least) when you say:

    Part of my problem was remembering that Lutherans, unlike Baptists, believe that the word of God in baptism creates faith. Also, when Lutherans say that they will not baptize unbelievers, they only mean they will not baptize someone who openly rejects the gospel, and since infants do not openly reject the gospel (nor do the adult seekers), we are not hindered from baptizing them. And since Lutherans presume God’s word in baptism will create faith until proven otherwise, they are not knowingly allowing unbelievers to be members of the church.

    I’m glad that this discussion has helped you gain an understanding of what I’m saying. The bigger question now is: do you agree, and if not, why not?

  44. Troy says:

    Fraiser,

    If the spoken gospel is the word of God heard, and if baptism is the word of God visible, then there may be some initial plausibility to the Lutheran view. You wrote:

    “Lutherans believe that baptism is the word of God and that it is powerful. Baptism can remove original sin when one believes the word of God’s promise spoken in baptism. We should presume in favor of the power of God’s word to transform a person and create faith. Thus, without reason to think that it has not created faith, we should by default presume that faith is present. This is the objective basis on which we treat a child as a believer. That presumption should only be overridden in the face of strong subjective evidence that faith did not result. We baptize children on what we are told about the power of the word of God not on what we have empirically observed about infants (revealed in comments like: “It doesn’t look like they believe.” Or “How can an infant believe when they can’t even talk?” Or “You’ve got to be able to understand the gospel before you can believe it, and infants can’t understand it.”, etc.)”

    You say that in baptism we should presume in favor of the power of God’s word to create faith. This should be our default position until proven otherwise.

    Since this is how the word of God in baptism is treated, is it also the case that the word of God in the gospel is treated the same way? Do Lutherans presume in favor of the power of God’s word to create faith in every person that hears the gospel, until proven otherwise? For example, if the gospel is presented to a group of unbelievers, should the preacher assume that after the closing prayer that every single person is now a believer, until they give strong evidence to the contrary?

  45. Fraiser says:

    Troy,

    Here’s my outdated response to your question from months ago. Better late than never, I suppose.

    Once again, I can’t speak for Lutherans. I don’t have any Lutherans I can cite in support of my view, but I think what I am about to say is consistent with Lutheran theology and in my judgment is the most responsible view that a Lutheran can take on the matter.

    I think that we should presume in favor of the word of God in every manifestation of it. All things being equal, if a preacher presents the gospel (mind you, I think few preachers actually preach the gospel, even when it is there intention to do so) to a group of people he should believe that the word of God is greater than the evil hearts upon which it fell. I take this to be a fairly uncontroversial point in our discussion. Yet the Lord in his wisdom may not have chosen to penetrate the unbelieving heart, and so the one who gave the gospel should seek to find out what he can about the impact of the message on the unbeliever. We shouldn’t presume more than we have to. Yet even after we have discovered as much as we possibly can and decide that someone is a believer, we are still presuming. We simply don’t know for sure. There have been people that gave as much evidence as anyone could and they eventually apostasized. Yet until they apostasized it was right to treat them according to the evidence that was available. With baptized children we presume in favor of the power of God’s word until we have reason to think otherwise. When it comes to evidence of their salvation, baptized children typically demonstrate a greater faith and trust than do adults. This is partly the reason for Christ’s admonition that adults must become like children/infants to enter the kingdom (it’s ironic to me that Baptists seek to make children more like adults before they can be converted when Christ says just the opposite).

    My conclusion then is that in cases of both baptized infants and adult converts we have to presume in favor of the word of God in conjunction with the evidence that we have available. However, by way of comparison, baptized infants offer better evidence of salvation than adults do typically.

  46. Troy says:

    John,

    It seems as though you have modified your view, or you are simply going into more detail. In my last comment, I quoted you as saying that, “We should presume in favor of the power of God’s word to transform a person and create faith. Thus, without reason to think that it has not created faith, we should by default presume that faith is present. This is the objective basis on which we treat a child as a believer.” However, in the last comment you now say that we should presume in favor of the word of God, “in conjunction with the evidence that we have available.” This last part seems to be an addition to what you said previously. This seemingly changes things a bit. For example, in the case of adults who hear the word of God in the gospel, you said that God may have chosen not to penetrate the heart of the unbeliever, which means we should not presume more than we ought to. I take this to mean that the mere fact that the word of God in the gospel was presented does not give us a basis in and of itself to think God has transformed and created faith in them. Some other kind of positive evidence is required before we can presume such a thing. This understanding of the adult and the word of God in the gospel seems to be much different than what you said previously about the infant who has received the word of God in baptism. In that case, as I said above, the mere fact that the child was baptized was enough to presume transformation and the creation of faith, until some negative evidence proved otherwise. In the first case, evidence is required before we can presume, whereas in the other case the evidence only functions to overthrow the presumption.

    I thought this difference between the adult and the infant may be because you are treating the word of God in the gospel and the word of God in baptism differently. However, in your last comment, even in the case of infants, you seemingly added the idea that there should be some kind of positive evidence before we make the presumption that the Spirit has transformed and created faith in them.

    At this point, none of this is really a critique. I am only trying to understand what you are saying. So, have you changed your view, or am I misunderstanding something?

  47. John says:

    John (Fraiser),

    Is there a forthcoming answer to Troy’s question(s), or should we cease checking this thread? Personally, this dialogue has been helpful, because there seems to be genuine interest in clarifing the issues that separate baptists and lutherans. I encourage you to continue the dialogue, but I realize that there are restraints on yours and Troy’s time.

    John (Meade)

  48. rjs1 says:

    A good article on baptism is here.

  49. Fraiser says:

    Troy,

    I don’t think I’ve modified my view. I’m simply giving further explanation because of the questions asked. I think you may have misunderstood my last answer. My conclusion was “that in cases of both baptized infants and adult converts we have to presume in favor of the word of God in conjunction with the evidence that we have available.”

    You take this to mean that I “seemingly added the idea that there should be some kind of positive evidence before we make the presumption that the Spirit has transformed and created faith in them”

    I do not believe this. When I say that we should presume in favor of the word of God in conjunction with the evidence that we have available, I’m simply saying that we may have evidence that overrides our presumption. I nowhere stated that we have to have positive evidence. The evidence functions negatively in my vew. If we have strong evidence that indicates that the person doesn’t have faith (such as denying Christ) then we must work in conjunction with this evidence.

    Somehow you took my statement that we shouldn’t assume more than we have to with an adult who hears the gospel to mean that “the mere fact that the word of God in the gospel was presented does not give us a basis in and of itself to think God has transformed and created faith in them. Some other kind of positive evidence is required before we can presume such a thing.”

    The conclusion you draw is in no way implied in what I said. I don’t think some type of positive evidence is required. If an adult wants to be baptized I don’t expect that there be some body of good works present before he should be baptized. Yet, I would never consent to the baptism of someone who denies Christ or believes that Christ is not divine.

    I stated that infants are in a better place than adults because we can’t find in them the denial of Christ found in so many adults. Also, in terms of positive evidence (which I don’t suggest we need), infants are in a better place than adults. I say this more for the benefit of Baptists who think that we have to have positive evidence and that infants are somehow worse off than adults when it comes to gettting into the kingdom (though Jesus teaches to the contrary).

    My comment led you to say, “…in your last comment, even in the case of infants, you seemingly added the idea that there should be some kind of positive evidence before we make the presumption that the Spirit has transformed and created faith in them.”

    I do not accept this. Any positive evidence that infants have is evidence that all infants have. So I don’t go looking for something in one infant that I don’t find in another. And so when it comes to works, Lutherans don’t go looking for all kinds of positive works before they’ll baptize because inevitable and unsolveable problems arise: How many works does one have to have? How do I decide how many he has to have since the Bible does not say? How do I know that they are Spirit-produced works and not done out of guilt or pride? We simply don’t know, and this leads to a confusion of law and gospel.

    But when it comes to denying Christ, I don’t have to ask, “what does denying Christ say about this person’s faith?” So the negative test doesn’t have the same problem that the positive test does.

    Good works must accompany faith but I don’t presume to know how many or necessarily when they are present and I don’t think anyone else can know this either. So I don’t propose to know what amount of positive proof one must offer. If you have an approach to determining the amount of positive evidence then I’d be interested to hear it.

  50. John M says:

    John,

    I don’t want to interrupt your conversation with Troy, but based on this last post, Troy’s former question about presuming in the power of God may still be warranted. In the case of the preached word and an adult, would you consider an adult, who has heard (or been in the presence of) the preached word and shows no negative evidence to be converted truly? Or would that adult eventually have to come forward for baptism and the sacrament etc.?

    The former scenario would seem to fit your description of faith as non-resistance, but the person may never receive baptism, if all he needs is to be in the presence of the preached word. Baptists would interpret the adult who seeks to be baptized as “positive” evidence of his conversion, and would baptize him and bring him into the church.

    John (Meade)

  51. Troy says:

    John,

    It seems as though I have really missed the mark in my last comment. You wrote,

    “When I say that we should presume in favor of the word of God in conjunction with the evidence that we have available, I’m simply saying that we may have evidence that overrides our presumption. I nowhere stated that we have to have positive evidence. The evidence functions negatively in my view. If we have strong evidence that indicates that the person doesn’t have faith (such as denying Christ) then we must work in conjunction with this evidence.”

    Okay. So the evidence functions negatively, such as someone denying Christ. I am a little surprised by this since you previously wrote,

    “Yet the Lord in his wisdom may not have chosen to penetrate the unbelieving heart, and so the one who gave the gospel should seek to find out what he can about the impact of the message on the unbeliever. We shouldn’t presume more than we have to.”

    So, when you said we should seek to find out what we can about the impact of the message, you were focusing on the discovery of negative evidence, not positive. You continued on,

    “Yet even after we have discovered as much as we possibly can and decide that someone is a believer, we are still presuming. We simply don’t know for sure.”

    So, the discovery of as much as we can is referring to whether there is any negative evidence. You continued on,

    “There have been people that gave as much evidence as anyone could and they eventually apostasized. Yet until they apostasized it was right to treat them according to the evidence that was available.”

    Is the “discovery of as much as we can” in the previous quote the same as the people giving “as much evidence as anyone could”? I have tried and tried to figure out how to take the latter phrase as negative evidence, but it no longer makes any sense when I do. If someone gave as much negative evidence as anyone could, we would not need to wait until they apostatized before we started treating them like an unbeliever.

    Is not your point that they gave as much positive evidence as anyone could, but they still apostatized. And given all the positive evidence they gave, it was right to treat them according to the evidence that was available until they apostatized. This, then, ties back into the previous quote, explaining that even with the discovery of as much positive evidence as we can, we can still only presume they are a believer at that point, because some people do in fact apostatize.

    I suppose it is possible that you are taking “evidence” in this quote to simply mean not denying Christ or the gospel, but this would still be different than saying the evidence only functions negatively to overthrow the presumption. In this case, the evidence functions positively by us knowing what they do not deny (rather than what they affirm).

    I will stop at this point, since it would probably not be worthwhile to continue until I understand you on this point about evidence.

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