A Defense of Reformed Paedobaptism
On the whole, modern evangelicalism supports what is usually termed "believer's baptism," the view that only those who are actually converted or, at least, actually profess faith in Christ may legitimately be baptized. Because infants cannot offer such a profession, this majority of evangelicals opposes infant baptism. In fact, a large new systematic theology by a leading Baptist theologian cites a 1955 study by the Church of England which concedes that there is little or no basis in Scripture for paedobaptism (infant baptism). In truth, the practice of paedobaptism, particularly its practice as understood in Reformed and Presbyterian churches, has been greatly overshadowed by modern antipaedobaptist views. Gratifyingly, the recent Reformed renaissance includes a revival of interest in and practice of paedobaptism. This essay aims to summarize the Biblical basis for paedobaptism and refute the major and frequent objections to this practice.
It must be understood that the Reformed justification for paedobaptism stands squarely on the written word of God, and not on ecclesiastical tradition. Some antipaedobaptists may give the impression that the Reformed must rely on tradition as a support for their position; but given the Reformed dedication to the Protestant dictum of sola Scriptura, that the Bible alone is the absolute authority for faith and practice, it seems incredible to assert that we would base our defense of paedobaptism on such a shifting foundation as human or ecclesiastical tradition. Indeed, Calvin remarks:
They [papists] say that the baptism of infants arose, not so much from any express command of Scripture, as from the decree of the Church. It would be a most miserable asylum, if, in defence of infant baptism, we were compelled to have recourse to the mere authority of the church; but it will be shown in another place, that the fact is very different.
It should be noted, in addition, that the charge by antipaedobaptists that we should base our position in this issue on the Scriptures alone and not on the history or testimony of the church should be accompanied by their willingness to avoid an appeal to ecclesiastical history in support of their own view. In actuality, some antipaedobaptists are not above criticizing the paedobaptists for appealing to tradition or church authority, while themselves arguing that one reason paedobaptism is invalid is because it supposedly was not practiced in the post-apostolic church!
It is the Holy Scriptures that are our final authority and thus to them alone that we appeal.
1. Children of the covenant. Supporters of the Reformed view of paedobaptism unashamedly baptize the infants of professedly Christian parents because those children are deemed members of the covenant of grace. The covenant given to Abraham, according to which God promised to be a God not only to him but also to his seed (Gen. 17:7), is the basis of this covenantal understanding. We discover in Paul's writings, however (Gal. 3:29), that the Abrahamic promises apply to all those united to Christ by faith (v 26); and since one of the promises given to Abraham was that God would be a God to his seed and not only to Abraham himself, we know that the children of Christian parents are heirs of the Abrahamic covenant, and therefore salvation in Christ. Because, further, those who are the recipients of God's gracious salvation are entitled to be baptized (Mk. 16:15, 16), we believe the infants of parents in the Abrahamic covenant may and should be baptized.
One of the clear promises of the Abrahamic covenant is the redemptive blessing bestowed on the physical seed. If all those united to Christ by faith are heirs of the Abrahamic covenant and the promises attached to that covenant, then they are heirs of the promise that their seed will be the object of God's redemptive work in Christ in salvation. If we are willing to take away this promise about our physical seed, we may as easily take away all the promises of the Abrahamic covenant that apply to Christians, and thus make a mockery of the covenant itself.
2. The sign of the covenant. This idea of children's participation in the Abrahamic covenant leads naturally to a consideration of the mark or sign of that covenant. The external mark or sign of that covenant by which the covenant member could be physically identified, was circumcision (Gen. 17:10-14). After Christ's atoning death by which God's explicit redemptive dealings were expanded to include Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22); after which most of the ethnic Jews were spiritually blinded and abandoned (Rom. 11:15-24); and according to which the "new" nation of the church was to replace ethnic Israel (Mt. 21:33 f.; Rom. 2:28, 29; 9:6-13, 25-29), circumcision lost its covenantal significance (Rom. 2:24-26; Gal. 5:6).
The Bible implies that baptism has superseded circumcision (Col. 2:11, 12). The new circumcision is baptism. It is the new physical mark placed on the children of covenant parents marking them out physically as the heirs of the Abrahamic covenant.
Besides the statement in Colossians, several other texts indicate baptism has replaced circumcision as the mark of the Abrahamic covenant. We can infer this from the fact that baptism under the newer administration of the Abrahamic covenant signifies exactly what circumcision did under the older administration of the covenant.
Circumcision, according to Paul, was a sign of righteousness already present (Rom. 4:9-12): Abraham was already justified; therefore, he was circumcised on the basis of his already-existent righteousness. This is just as true of baptism (Mk. 16:16). Individuals are baptized on the basis of the sound assumption that they are already justified by the grace of God.
Similarly, circumcision signifies cleansing from sin (Dt. 10:16; 30:6), just as baptism does (Ac. 22:16). Circumcision signifies the casing away of the old man and old life and the assumption of the new life in God; baptism signifies the casing away of the old man and old life and the assumption of the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1-6).
Likewise, just circumcision was a mark signifying the inclusion of the subject in the visible covenant people of God, national Israel (Ex. 12:44 f.; Phil. 3:5), so baptism is a mark signifying the inclusion of the subject in the visible covenant people of God, the church (1 Cor. 12:12, 13).
3. Household salvation and baptism. A third reason the Reformed baptize infants of Christian parents is because the Bible teaches both household salvation and household baptism. The idea of household salvation may be observed as early as the institution of the Abrahamic covenant noted above, and it is clearly implied at the institution of the Passover (Ex. 12:13). The efficacy of the sacrificial passover lamb applied to the whole household, not just believing adults and teenagers. That there is a continuity between the passover salvation and that of the multi-racial church is proven by the statement that Christ Himself is our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7).
In the New Testament too salvation, and therefore baptism, is applied to households (Ac. 2:37-42; 11:14; 16:15; 31-34; 1 Cor. 1:16). The idea that children of covenant parents enter into a covenant relationship with God flows naturally from the OT to the NT; there is no indication of any radical change, by which natural offspring of the Jewish parents in OT were included in the covenant but that the natural offspring of the Christian parents in NT were excluded from the covenant. It is true that mere physical lineage was not sufficient to include one forever in the covenant of grace; if he apostatizes-as much of ethnic Israel did-he was not reckoned among the people of God (Rom. 9:6-8; 11:17-20). But the fact that some or even many may apostatize from the covenant does not eliminate all the promises of God to the parents of the covenant seed both in the OT and the NT.
We may baptize infants of Christian parents, in fact, because there is every reason to believe children of covenant parents are elect. In Ac. 2:37-39, for example, Peter assures his listeners that the promise of salvation extends to their children. In 1 Cor. 7:14 we note that the children of but one Christian parent are "holy." Interestingly, in no case in the NT does the word translated "holy" in 1 Cor. 7:14 refers to merely "set apart" people; it is interchangeable with "saints," that is, saved individuals. In other words, the "holy" child is not comparable to the "sanctified" unbelieving spouse.
Indeed, one way in which the new covenant of Christ's blood is superior to the old Mosaic covenant is that in the former which is now operative "they [the covenant people of God] shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me [Jehovah], from the least to the greatest" (Heb. 8:11). While under the administration of the Mosaic covenant many Jews apostatized, God has promised to alleviate that problem under the new covenant by placing in His people a heart inclined to love Him and obey His commands (Ek. 11:14-20). We can expect, therefore, that God's elective purpose includes an overwhelming number of individuals in the visible church and covenant.
4. The increase of God's redemptive purpose. A final justification for paedobaptism by the Reformed, in fact, relates just to this expansion of God's redemptive purpose under the new covenant era. The united testimony of Scripture (see Eph. chapters 1, 2) reveals that God's plan with the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and session of Christ includes the expansion and increase of God's redemptive purposes. The whole tenor of the NT, as well as of predictions regarding the coming of Messiah in the OT, supports the idea that God's redemptive purposes increase with the advent of Jesus Christ. The concept of antipaedobaptism, nevertheless, seems directly to contradict the testimony of this expansion. It seems to say that while God's redemptive purpose was broad enough to include covenant infants in the OT, it is so narrow as to exclude them in the NT. It seems to insist on diluting, rather than expanding, its understanding of God's redemptive purpose in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paedobaptists, however, hold that, if anything, even more infants (as well as others) will be-must be-regenerated as a result of Christ's redemptive work in His incarnation than as a result of His redemptive work in prospect before the incarnation in national Israel.
We hold, therefore, that, far from excluding covenant infants from the work of grace, the new covenant includes an even greater number and that, since they are included in the covenant of grace, they should be baptized.
Common Antipaedobaptist Objections Answered
1. No explicit references. The most frequent and obvious objection to the Reformed view of infant baptism is that no obvious, explicit reference to it is found in the Scriptures. To affirm infant baptism, it is charged by antipaedobaptists, is to go beyond the teaching of the Scriptures themselves and append a humanly contrived tradition to the Biblical faith.
But those who hold the Reformed faith do not agree that infant baptism should be rejected on the grounds that it is not taught obviously and explicitly in the Holy Scriptures, for they do not hold that a doctrine or practice need be expressed in obvious, explicit terms to be valid. Supporting as they do the assertion of the Westminster Confession that those teachings which "by good and necessary consequence" can be deduced from Scripture are as binding as those taught plainly and explicitly (chapter 1, section 6), they deduce from the relation between circumcision and baptism, from the covenantal character of the gospel and the Christian faith, and from statements regarding household salvation and baptism, the practice of paedobaptism.
Antipaedobaptists often frame the issue thus: Since there are clear examples of adult baptism in the Bible but no clear examples of infant baptism in the Bible, we are on sure footing when we affirm adult baptism and reject infant baptism. That manner of framing the issue is misleading, however. A more accurate way of framing this issue is, Since the Bible does not clearly and explicitly set forth either the baptism of infants or the rejection of the baptism of infants, what additional evidence does it provide that bears on the issue by which we can arrive at a Biblical answer to the question?
It should be noted initially that this objection, if valid, proves too much for the antipaedobaptist cause. If paedobaptism should be rejected because there are no explicit examples of its practice in the Bible, the partaking of communion by women should be rejected on precisely the same grounds. There are no obvious examples of women partaking of communion found in Holy Scripture, yet there are few if any antipaedobaptist pastors who would exclude women from communion. No doubt antipaedobaptists would respond, "But there is every reason to believe that women partook of communion in the NT church, since they were members of and therefore worshipped with the church." With this logic all Reformed paedobaptists agree, and state with equal force, "There is every reason also to believe that infants were baptized in the NT church, since they were members of and therefore worshipped with the church" (Ac. 2:38-42; 1 Cor. 7:14; Eph. 6:1-3).
The argument that paedobaptism is not taught obviously and explicitly in the Holy Scriptures proves too much for the antipaedobaptist cause even more specifically in the practice of baptism itself, for there is no clear, explicit example of the baptism of any youth of any age in the Bible. Yet most antipaedobaptists baptize older youth and teenagers, so long as they profess faith in Christ. There are no explicit Biblical instances of such children's baptisms, though, and to maintain consistency antipaedobaptists would need to limit baptism to adults. Antipaedobaptists may respond, of course, that the real issue is not age but ability to offer a public profession of faith, an act an infant cannot of himself perform. Yet this argument is equally self-defeating, for there is no clear, explicit example of all subjects of baptism recounted in Scripture offering such a profession. We find no clear, explicit statement that all of the members of Cornelius' household who were baptized offered a profession of faith (Ac. 10:44-48). The same is true of the household of Lydia (Ac. 16:14, 15), and of the Philippian jailer (Ac. 16:31-33). If we may not practice paedobaptism because there are no clear, explicit examples of it found in the Bible, we must equally avoid the adult baptismal requirement of a profession of faith, because there are no clear, explicit examples found in the Bible that ministers required all baptized to offer a profession of faith.
The antipaedobaptists' argument would maintain greater force if they limited the administering of baptism to adults and dropped the requirement of a profession of faith, but these policies they would never adopt, for they would undercut the antipaedobaptist position, based as it is so strongly on the necessity of a profession of faith, even though it is not at all explicit and clear from Scriptural examples that all-or even most-who were baptized offered such a profession.
A third flaw in the antipaedobaptist argument from the lack in the Scriptures of any explicit reference to infant baptism is that the lack of evidence for those of a certain age being baptized is equally-perhaps even more cogently-supportive of paedobaptism. For there is no example in Scripture whatsoever of a child who has lived in a Christian family growing up and later being baptized. All clear instances of baptism in the Bible pertain to proselytes. If the argument from silence is to be decisive, this particular silence is quite compelling for the paedobaptists, because the lack of any reference to Christian children growing to maturity and then being baptized is precisely what one would expect if paedobaptism is valid, that is, if children in Christian families were baptized as infants.
2. Infants cannot profess faith. A second objection to paedobaptism is related somewhat to the first: Infants cannot profess faith in Christ; therefore, it is inconsistent to demand a profession of faith of adults for baptism but not for infants. This charge seems to be easily defused by recalling that Jewish infants under the old covenant could not profess faith in God either, yet they were circumcised and enrolled among the people of God. If, as Col. 2:11, 12 indicate, baptism has superseded circumcision, it follows that the inability of infants to offer profession of faith in Christ is no more a barrier to their being enrolled in the visible church than the inability of Jewish infants to comprehend the terms of the covenant and assent to them was a barrier to their being included among covenant Israel.
Before the institution of baptism and under the old covenant, adults like Abraham professed faith before circumcision and infants like Isaac after circumcision; similarly, under the new covenant adults profess faith before baptism and infants after baptism. Isaac and all other covenant children could not be expected to offer a formal profession of their faith at the time of their circumcision as they were when they became of age (Heb. 11:23-28). It is critical to recognize that profession of faith is not an absolute requisite of membership in the covenant community, for that membership is based ultimately not on human response but rather on gracious divine initiative (Gen. 17:7). The objection that enrollment among the covenant community of the church (Lk. 22:20; 2 Cor. 3:6 f.; Heb. 8:9-13) must of necessity depend on profession of faith is at root an Arminian objection; it is a denial of God's prerogative to select sovereignly those who will be the recipients of His gracious love and redemption. This objection highlights an ecclesiological difference between the Reformed and most antipaedobaptists. The latter consider as fundamental to the church the idea of a body of professing Christians, baptized on the strength of that profession. The Reformed, by contrast, consider as fundamental to the church the idea of God's gracious elective purpose. If He has determined that the covenant seed of His elect belong to Him (1 Cor. 7:14), we may not erect the requirement of public profession for their inclusion in the church.
3. Infants cannot repent and believe. It is objected by antipaedobaptists, further, that all of the accounts of baptism in the Bible indicate that the subject had repented and believed, implying that repentance and belief are requisites to baptism (Ac. 8:36, 37). But paedobaptists hold as strongly as do antipaedobaptists that the church should require of adults profession of repentance and belief before baptism, but we do not hold that the contexts of adult baptism in the NT are designed to apply to covenant children.
Further, it is not clear at all in the Scriptures that repentance and belief are requisites of baptism, even for adult baptism. For example, in the cases of both the Ethiopian eunuch (Ac. 8:35 f.) and the Philippian jailer (Ac. 16:30 f.), there is no evidence that the administrator of the baptism was absolutely certain of the profession of faith before he baptized the subjects. In each case, he was, however, certain of the subject's profession, and a credible profession is the only requisite for adult baptism indicated in Scripture. That belief and repentance are not requisites for baptism is proven by the case of Simon the sorcerer (Ac. 8:9-24), whose profession was shown to be spurious after his baptism. If antipaedobaptists assert that repentance and belief are requisites for baptism, they will need to account for all those adults baptized by their churches who later apostatize, as well as to explain how their pastors and other church leaders can determine with infallible accuracy if a professing believer is a genuine Christian. With respect to adult baptism, we baptize professors, not believers.
When, therefore, antipaedobaptists declare that infants cannot be baptized because we cannot be sure they have repented and believed, we Reformed respond that they cannot be sure any of their own professors have repented and believed and that, consequently, their argument is self-defeating.
If, in fact, we were to reserve baptism for those about whose belief and repentance we have the greatest assurance, we would be compelled by the Scriptures to baptize only the infants of Christian parents, for of them alone do we have the Biblical assurance that they belong to Jesus Christ (Gen. 17:7; 1 Cor. 7:14). For instance, if an adult were to walk into a Christian church and request baptism, offering a credible profession of faith and willingly submitting himself to the terms of the new covenant, the elders would be under compulsion to baptize him. The fact that they have absolutely no assurance of his salvation apart from his profession is no legitimate barrier to baptism. On the other hand, when Christian parents offer their infants to the elders, the elders have a much more objective assurance of the election and salvation of the infant than they do of the proselyte adult-the promises of the word of God that He has chosen the seed of the righteous after them. In other words, if the elders' lack of assurance of the genuineness of profession is no impediment to the baptism of adults, how much less is the inability of the infants to offer a profession an impediment to their baptism, particularly when God has given precious objective promises regarding the salvation of the children of Christian parents.
A variation of this objection is that paedobaptists cannot be sure of the regeneration of the infants of Christian parents and that therefore we should wait to see the signs of grace before we baptize Christian children. But it is not clear from Scripture that the administration of adult baptism was limited to those who showed evidence of grace; all that was required was a credible profession of faith. In the case of infants, we have an even more certain assurance of their salvation-the objective promises in the word of God to covenant parents. But even if the idea of requiring the signs of grace were valid, it is not certain that they could be properly and infallibly read by the church in the case of adults any more than in the case of children. In fact, such signs may be even more difficult to judge in the case of adults, who can more easily feign them than can most children, who tend to be more naive and less self-conscious about such matters.
4. Reformed paedobaptism is akin to Roman paedobaptism. Some object that infant baptism is an invention of Romanism and assert that infant baptism administered by the Reformed differs little from that practiced by the Romanists. We Reformed defenders of paedobaptism respond that we do not base our views on the tradition of the church but on the testimony of Scripture. If paedobaptism is a valid deduction from Scripture it cannot be an invention of Romanism.
The idea that Reformed paedobaptism mirrors Roman paedobaptism is simply mistaken. The Romanists creedally affirm that baptism effects regeneration and washes away original sin. The Reformed, by contrast, hold that baptism is a sign and seal of the benefits of salvation.
The fact that Reformed paedobaptism may appear like Roman paedobaptism is no valid argument against the former, any more than the recitation of the Apostles Creed and singing of hymns by the Romanists, both of which the Reformed practice, constitute a valid argument against these practices in Reformed churches.
A related argument by antipaedobaptists is that infant baptism looks like the baptismal regeneration of Romanists, Anglicans, and Lutherans. But this argument is self-defeating, for the infant baptism in Reformed churches no more resembles the baptismal regeneration view of Romanists, Anglicans, and Lutherans than the adult baptism of antipaedobaptism resembles the baptismal regeneration view of adult baptism in those or in Church of Christ churches.
5. Only the regenerate can be baptized. Antipaedobaptists often contend that, according to Scripture, only regenerate people should be baptized and that since infants cannot be regenerate, they should not be baptized. There are two immediate problems with the objection. The first is that, as noted above, we cannot be absolutely sure any of our baptismal subjects has been regenerated and that, therefore, if certainly of regeneration is a prerequisite of baptism, no one-adult or infant-would ever be baptized. The second problem is the assumption that infants cannot be regenerated. While the Scripture does not contain abundant examples of regenerated infants, it does, however, contain indications that infants may be regenerated.
An aspect of the antipaedobaptist argument, however, is valid and is quite persuasive against the more modern Reformed conceptions of the chronology between regeneration and infant baptism. There are two distinct views of the Reformed with regard to this question. Berkof summarizes the two views:
The question is raised on what ground children of believers are baptized. A twofold answer has been given to this question in Reformed circles. Some have said that they are baptized on the basis of a presumptive regeneration. They who take this position do not pretend to know that the infants offered for baptism are regenerated, but proceed on the assumption that they are, and baptize them on the strength of that assumption. They regard those children as regenerated until they give evidence of an unregenerated heart. Others have taken the position that children are baptized on the ground of the all-comprehensive promise of God in the covenant, which also includes the promise of regeneration. This would seem to be the only tenable position. The covenant and the covenant promise afford the only certain and objective ground for the baptism of infants. Children of believers are baptized, because they are in the covenant, irrespective of the question, whether they are already regenerated or not.
It is not at all clear, however, that the argument "on the ground of the all-comprehensive promise of God in the covenant" is necessarily incompatible with "presumptive regeneration." Indeed, we supporters of "presumptive regeneration" argue precisely "on the ground of the all-comprehensive promise of God in the covenant." Since the new covenant is inherently redemptive (Heb. 8:10-12), and since baptism is a sign and seal of the benefits of regeneration, we have every reason to assume that the infants of Christian parents are regenerate and baptize them on that basis, which is, after all, only a crucial aspect of the "all-comprehensive promise of God in the covenant."
It should be mentioned that this view of "presumptive regeneration" was that of the earlier continental reformers and that the view Berkhof holds represents a deviation from that earlier view. Vos observes:
Another point of difference [among the Reformed with respect to the covenant] concerns the time when the promises of the covenant are usually realized by regeneration in the children of the covenant. Three schools of thought can be identified: the first school (including Ursinus, Polanus, Junius, Walaeus, Cloppenburg, Voetius, and Witsius) not only assumes that the children of the covenant who die before they reach the age of discretion, possess the Holy Spirit from their earliest childhood and so are born again and united to Christ, but also maintains this thesis as generally valid for the seed of the promise without distinction. They use it as an argument in defense of infant baptism in their polemics with the Anabaptists.
Vos then cites passages from these early continental Reformed writers in which they argue that infants are baptized precisely because we assume they are regenerate. For example, he quotes the comment by Ursinus that "it is not [God's] intention to make them [covenantal heirs] Christians by the sacraments first, but rather to make those who are already Christians to be Christians more and more and to confirm the work begun in them... . Next let him consider how he will permit them [children of Christians] to be baptized with a good conscience, for knowingly to baptize a pagan and unbeliever is an open abuse and desecration of baptism."
Likewise he cites Walaeus:
We reject the opinion of the Lutherans who tie the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit to the external water of baptism in such a way that, either it is present in the water itself or at least the principle of regeneration will only work in the administration of baptism. This, however, is opposed to all the places in Scripture, where faith and repentance and hence the beginning and seed of regeneration are antecedently required in the one who is baptized.... Therefore we do not bind the efficacy of baptism to the moment in which the body is sprinkled with external water; but we require with the Scriptures antecedent faith and repentance in the one who is baptized, at least according to the judgment of love, both in the infant children of covenant members, and in adults. For we maintain that in infants too the presence of the seed and the Spirit of faith and conversion is to be ascertained on the basis of divine blessing and the evangelical covenant.
To the charge by antipaedobaptists, therefore, that in Scripture only those presumed to be regenerate were baptized and since infants cannot be regenerate they cannot be baptized, we respond, We agree that only those presumed to be regenerate are considered suitable subjects of baptism in Scripture, but we disagree that infants cannot be regenerate; therefore we believe that infants may be baptized. The fact that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit "even from his mother's womb" (Lk. 1:15) is proof that the regeneration of infants is not an impossibility. In addition, the statement in Mark 9:42 that "little ones" "believe" in the Lord Jesus demonstrates that infants are capable of belief. The etymology of term child (paidion) used in this context reveals it refers to "a little child up to 7 years... , [or] the newborn child." In fact, in Mt. 2:8, 9 (Jesus); Lk. 1:59 (John the Baptist), Jn. 16:21 (an unborn child, used parabolically by Jesus) and Heb. 11:23 (Moses), it refers quite specifically to infants.
The modern evangelical idea that children must offer an adult-like profession before they are baptized seems to reverse the Scriptural order. Jesus said, quite the contrary (Mk. 10:15), that adults must become like little children if they are to experience the kingdom of God. Colon Brown notes: "Instead of insisting that men should be mature enough to make a responsible commitment, Jesus is saying that there is a sense in which the reverse is true. The reason why the kingdom belongs to children is not because of any subjective qualities that they may have; it lies in their objective helplessness." While acknowledging that "there is no solid evidence for inferring that the early church linked [this] event with baptism," Brown insists that "Jesus' categorical statement that the kingdom belongs to such [infants] implies that they may be full members of the church and thus fit subjects to receive the sacrament of incorporation."
Drawing together these lines of argument, we may deduce that the idea the Scripture sets forth is that infants may be regenerate and believe and that, since they may believe, if they are children of Christians, they are appropriate subjects of baptism.
6. Covenant infants sometimes later depart from the faith. It is objected by antipaedobaptists that some baptized infants later apostatize, seeming to invalidate the promises of God and the institution of paedobaptism itself. This argument by antipaedobaptists is self-defeating, for some baptized adults in antipaedobaptist churches later apostatize, yet antipaedobaptists therefore do not invalidate their baptism. Any argument that can lodged against paedobaptism relating to the failure of the promises of God can be lodged with equal force against antipaedobaptists.
Our obligation, in both cases, is not to probe the mind of God as to why He has determined that some of the covenant seed apostatize but to lay hold of the promises of God and obey His word; perhaps He will explain the difficulties in our understanding in heaven.
7. Infant girls were not circumcised. Some charge that baptism cannot have superseded circumcision, because only male infants were circumcised while in Scripture both sexes are baptized. But this objection fails to take account of the significant nature of both circumcision and baptism-that is, both are external signs. Under the older administration of the covenant only the male infants were marked, no doubt, because they represented the female infants covenantally, just as it appears the slaying of the firstborn Egyptian during the institution of the passover was meant to signify the slaying of all of Egypt.
The alteration in the external form of the Abrahamic covenant (which is, after all, the least important aspect of the covenant relationship) is no indication that the source or nature of that covenant itself had changed-specifically since God declared that it has not changed (Gal. 3:14-16)
8. Everyone must act for himself. Perhaps the most fundamental objection to paedobaptism, or at least the sentiment that is at the root of most of the other objections, is that paedobaptism is not fair and just because it permits the parent to act for the child while in the Bible everyone must act only for himself in spiritual matters.
It is difficult to think of a more misguided objection than this, for the whole of our Christian faith rests on the premise that spiritual acts are federal, that is, they represent others. For example, in sinning in Eden, Adam did not act for himself. Paul plainly states that Adam acted for all humanity (Rom. 5:12 f.). In sacrificing Himself on the cross, Christ did not act only for Himself; He acted for all those who would believe (v 15 f.). The argument that an individual can act only for himself in spiritual decisions destroys the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, the imputation of our sins to Christ, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the elect. That is, the argument against paedobaptism that an individual can act only for himself in spiritual decisions destroys the heart of Christianity.
It is precisely because God has chosen to deal in a federal (representative) manner with mankind that paedobaptism is easily accepted.
Just as God honored the faith of both Abraham and the Jewish fathers at the passover by including their seed in His redemptive plan, so He honors the faith of Christian parents by including their seed in His redemptive plan. And because they are included in that redemptive plan, they are suitable subjects of baptism.
Andrew Sandlin for Chalcedon
Resist your time--take a foothold outside it--see other times and ask yourself whether the time of our ancestors is fit for us. --Lord Acton