Monthly Archives: June 2006

Why Baptize Babies? Part 1 of an Explanation of the Theology & Practice of the Reformed Churches

I. Introduction

Anyone who visits a Church in the Reformation Tradition will sooner or later learn that the children of Christians there are commonly baptized quite soon after they are born. Of course, many people know that liberal mainline churches baptize children, and many are aware that non-Protestant bodies baptize babies. Some realize that Lutheran or Episcopal denominations baptize babies and assume this is because these traditions didn’t quite break free from the grip of Roman Catholic traditionalism. But the fact is that sincerely Bible-believing, inerrancy-affirming Evangelical churches also baptize babies.

Babies are too young to give any sort of outward profession of faith, yet Reformed or Presbyterian ministers baptize them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. They do not baptize infants because they are sentimentally attached to them, nor because that is what was traditionally done in the history of the Church.

Of course, Reformed or Presbyterian pastors are sentimentally attached to their children, as are we all. And there is very little doubt that all the way back to the Apostolic age the Church has always baptized the children of Christians.

Nevertheless, as powerful as those reasons are, they are not the reason that we practice paedobaptism (“baptism of infants”). No, we practice paedobaptism because we are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible teaches us to do so.

Many other Bible-believing Christians, however, are sure that the Bible does not teach paedobaptism. On the contrary, they think only those who verbally and convincingly profess faith in Jesus should be baptized. Indeed, conservative Reformed congregations are often visited by Christians from good churches–who hold to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the infallible Word of God and the final authority for all of life–who also think that paedobaptism is unbiblical. They are convinced that only those who have made a credible profession faith, in a way that is only possible when a person has reached a certain age. All such believers are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are glad to have them among us. The Baptist tradition, whether that is in their official denominational name or not, has done much good in North America. When Christians disagree they must do so in a Christian manner and hopefully this brief booklet will do just that.

Perhaps, you are one of these people who believes and has always been taught that one must first reach a certain age and make a profession of faith before being baptized. If so, this little essay is written for you. It is not written so much to change your mind, as to show you the way our minds work: How is it that we Reformed Christians both believe the Bible and practice paedobaptism? There are many cults out there, after all, who also claim to believe the Bible as the Word of God; yet these false religions reject the true God by denying key doctrines like the Trinity or the Incarnation. You have a right to ask to be assured that our claim of loyalty to Scripture is not some sort of game but a sincere attempt to submit to the authority of God’s Word. You may not agree with us, but this is written so that you will at least know where we are coming from.


But who is the most perfect being?

It may be off topic, but reading this made me think that the ontological argument may have a similar problem to the cosmological argument. In the case of the Cosmological, when one says that God is the ground of all being, and then looks at the beings one finds in the world, one could just as easily say the cosmological argument proves some sort of devil as God. The attraction of the cosmological argument is that multiple worldviews allow for cause and effect. Thus, we have common ground to talk about First Cause. But, Christians want to talk about God as a society of divine persons with certain characteristics. And a bare first cause not only fails to prove this but opens up exact opposit conceptions of the divine nature. If we tell a nonchristian he can and should extrapolate from cause and effect, how do we limit him from making conclusions about who God is from the creation that he now witnesses?

So the ontological argument depends on the common ground that existence is superior to nonexistence. OK. But that’s an awful thin piece of common territory. Because what if I believe that no more perfect being can be conceived of than the feminine, or than a being who only does things in order to glorify himself. The reasoning of the ontological argument may say something is self-existent, but the argument seems to give permission to the unbeliever to feel free to conceive of God according to his own ideas of perfection. So again, we could end up with a Feminine or with a great glory-hound in the sky who uses others to his own ends rather than the divine Trinity.

I guess this all comes down to saying that these arguments are against atheism but aren’t so hot in dealing with idolatry.

Everything I have written on the Westminster Confession and Catechisms

In case anyone is interested, these are the things I have written about the Westminster Standards. Some of these are direct expositons. Others are Biblical studies that defend Westminster Doctrine.

CREDO on justification
Not much expositon. More a testimony about the lack of theological competence among theological guardians.
Justification & Salvation Quiz
Irony with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms being the answer key.
Law & Gospel in Presbyterianism
A pretty straightforward exposition of what the Westminster Confession actually states regarding the topic of “law and gospel.”
Pretty much similar content to “Law & Gospel in Presbyterian” but applied to someone offering a revisionist account. Arguably my own brief exegetical defense is also rather new.
The Moral Law Commands Faith in Christ Alone
As (the original movie version of) Buffy would say, “Does the word, ‘duh,’ mean anything to you?” I’m not going to make you suffer through an explanation as to why I wrote this piece, but points two and six are from the Westminster documents, so I must include it here.
The Necessity of New Obedience: The Westminster Standards, Repentance, & Pardon
The title is pretty self-explanatory as to content and why it gets included in this list. Not much Scripture (I’m embarrassed to admit) just an exposition of the content of Westminster’s faith related to this particular topic.
The God of Grace
An exposition of the Reformed view of grace that touches on the covenant of life and the basis of God’s relationship with Adam before the Fall. It is a general survey of the Reformed confessional tradition, but it shows that Westminster was perfectly consistent with this heritage, rather than an exception to it.
The Covenant of Works, the Mosaic Covenant, & the Necessity of Obedience for Salvation in the Day of Judgment
I almost left this out because the Westminster stuff is alonside many other confessions and catechisms and it is somewhat redundant with other stuff I’ve linked. It is an excerpt from my essay defending Norman Shepherd (yes, I know I need to put it through a major proofread, but who has time?).
Of the Church: An Exposition of Chapter XXV of the Westminster Confession of Faith
What the title says. I simply expound the chapter, writing a sermon of what the chapter teaches and applying it to the lives of a hypothetical congregation. This was a class assignment from Dr. David Calhoun at Covenant Theological Seminary for his course on the Westminster Confession of Faith. He gave me a high grade at the time, but Hogwarts was not under the wathful eye of the Ministry of Magic back then.
Charles Hodge’s Deficient Idea of the Church
Among other things, I hold up an essay by Charles Hodge to scrutiny according to what the Westminster Confession teaches about the church.
Heads of Household Membership & Male-Only Voting in the Church
I may have messed up my argument by dealing with what could be two separate things as one mistake to refute, but I’ve never had the energy to redo this as two different essays. I argue from the Reformed and Westminsterian doctrine of baptism against the practice of doing membership “by household” and restricting voting to the head of household and/or males only.
What is the Old Testament Precursor to the Pastor? How does the Former Illuminate the Latter?
Barely relevant but endnote #2 qualifies it for this list. I wrote this to get ordained into the Gospel Ministry by Pacific Northwest Presbytery.
Admission into the Church: Biblical Theology & Baptism
A defense that baptism is “admission… into the visible church.”
Baptismal Theology Within Reformed Evangelicalism
Deals with the Reformed heritage as a whole, but has some remarks about WCF 14.1 that qualify it for this list.
Is God the God of the Mature Professing Christians Only
Big ugly counterattack on a credobaptist critic of Reformed paedobaptism. Use the Westminster Confession and Catechisms to clarify the paedobaptist position in order to better defend it from Scripture. (As per my exception to the Standards, I agreed with the critic regarding the inconsistency of credocommunionism.)
Quest for a Converting Ordinance
Deals with an archaism and tangentially with Q&A #91 of the Shorter Catechism.
SACRAMENTAL ASSURANCE & THE REFORMED FAITH: The Biblical Perspective of the Westminster Standards
How and why the sacraments confirm our faith in the Westminsterian doctrine, with a defense from Scripture.
Samuel Miller, Baptism, and Covenant Theology
Criticizes this professor of old Princeton for ignoring Westminster in order to posit an unecessary gap between himself and the Evangelical Anglicans.
The Westminster Standards & Sacramental Efficacy
Title self-explanatory. Probably my earliest writing on this topic.
Trying to be Objective: A Short Test For Those Concerned About An Alleged “Baptismal Regeneration” Teaching
This was an attempt to try to diffuse some misunderstandings that are being diligently spread in conferences and on the internet. I probably need to edit the tone of this. It is all about Westminster.
Why Do We Baptize? A Provisional Attempt at Biblical Reformulation
Mostly exploratory Bible stuff, but also a vindication of Westminster on baptism.
Why I Did Not Baptize My Daughter: My Role as a Parent in My Children’s Salvation
Basically argues that my role is to provide for the need for salvation by bequeathing her sin and death. Mostly argumentation from the Bible but also uses Westminster for support. This is sort of related to my essay about households and church membership.
JUSTIFICATION BY UNION WITH CHRIST Only Through Living Faith: A Brief Comparison of Calvin’s Institutes with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms regarding the shape of imputation
A demonstration that Richard Gaffin’s views on union with Christ and the ordo salutis are quite familiar to anyone knowledgeable regarding the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.
Celebrating a Calvinist Christmas with a Clear Conscience: Is the Holiday Unpresbyterian?
Whatever some majority of Divines may have wished the Confession or Catechisms to clearly say, what they actually wrote provides an easy rationale for the voluntary observance of Christmas (and other celebratory Christian days). Since the entire Christian world has approved of Christmas–including the entire Protestant and even Reformed world outside of the Anglo-American stream–I argue it is not treason to celebrate. This is especially true because the Bible nowhere condemns such a practice and it is legalism to bind consciences where God has remained silent.

As far as I know, this is everything. But if you find anything that should be added here, please let me know.

John Murray audio resources

Perhaps I’m slow, but I just discovered that Third Millennium Ministries has put up a page of John Murray’s lectures/sermons. Highly recommended (but my advice is to download the larger files [16] because the combination of low quality recording and Scottish brogue can be hard to hear).
Also, Here are some more lectures (with some overlap, but not alot).

In my experience these are real lectures that require monotasking. If you don’t have a long car trip an mp3 player with car adapter or the ability to burn cds, I suggest you devote some resources to getting Murray in print. Redemption: Accomplished & Applied is a classic that, frankly, will set you ahead of a lot of pop-reformed radio preaching. But I like his collected works even better, especially volume 2 on systematic theology.

Anthony Burgess

I just ran across this witness to the doctrine of the Puritan preacher Anthony Burgess. I thought it was worth sharing.

Anthony Burgess’ book, “The True Doctrine of Justification” deals with the question of seeking daily pardon of sin in Lecture 14. Here is an outline which might be helpful:
Observation. It is the duty of justified persons to pray for the forgiveness of their sins.

  1. That God would not require of us the satisfaction of his justice for our sins.
  2. That God would lay our sins upon Christ.
  3. As we pray for justification, so for continuance in it.
  4. We pray for daily renewed acts of pardon and imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
  5. We pray for the sense of this pardon in our consciences more and more.
  6. We pray that as God doth forgives the sins, so he would release the punishment.
  7. We pray to be delivered from those effects of sin.
  8. We pray for pardon and the concomitants thereof.

Covert mac

I don’t subsribe to the WSJ, but here is an interesting summary of the company’s culture of secrecy:

“Apple mostly keeps its plans for new products to itself. It rigidly compartmentalises itself so that even its own employees don’t find out about coming products,” the report confirms. “While many tech companies assign internal code names to products, Apple goes a step further. It often gives different departments dissimilar code names for the same product, current and former employees say. If a code name leaks, Apple can more easily track down the department from which the leak originated,” it adds. Lists are kept of staff who know about new products.

Kind of spooky, but this actually hurts Apple’s business with corporations that are potential customers. They don’t know what they are investing in. Apparantly Steve Jobs decided to favor consumers rather than go for corporations–even though corporations are a larger market share.

Four rivers, and the false or temporary Eden-gardens

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

So Genesis 2 sums up the geopolitical/spiritual history of the entire Hebrew Scriptures. Two of these rivers are gone, but if they had a common source up near the present sources of the Tigris and Euphrates then we know that the Gihon traveled south through Egypt to Ethiopia (Cush) and the Pishon must have gone down through Canaan to get to Arabia (Havilah). This, incidentally, puts the garden on a plateau near Mt. Ararat.

These riverbeds apparantly maintained some garden-of-eden-like properties, even if the rivers after the flood flowed in different directions: “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar.” So the circle of the Jordan was comprable to the Garden of Eden and to Egypt. Of course, te situation drastically changes in the Jordan Valley and Lot must be rescued by angels from it (after eating unleavened bread with them and having his door protected from destroyers). Later, while the Israelites are sent to prosper in Goshen temporarily, they too have to leave to go to an entirely new place. Abram had initially be led from Mespolamia and later his desendants are housed there. But, again, eventually they must leave.

The old creation has to be left behind, even when it seems like it is blessed. At best these are temporary garden-shelters, at worst (and eventually) false Eden-sanctuaries.