In Defense of Paedobaptism

By a non-Paedobaptist - and a few comments about rebaptism.

In my theological travels it seems that infant baptism always comes up as a controversial subject. I for one misunderstood the various positions for a long time and was fearful of any position I viewed as implying baptismal regeneration.

I thought I would explore briefly the various views I have run across and attempt to draw lines of where orthodoxy is and where it isn't.

The view I was originally most familiar with was the believers baptism, as widely taught by the baptist denomination. The idea is simple, once you become a believer, you get baptized in water.

I for one was never worked up about the mode of baptism, and generally others are in agreement there, sprinkled or dunked, either is ok. I leaned towards dunked however since it covers both bases, you can't get dunked without also getting sprinkled a bit too. Also, Biblically and historically, dunked seems to have a lot more support. You wouldn't need a river to sprinkle for example, and Jesus got baptized in the river Jordan, that is good enough for me.

In which name is a lot more important: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is our Biblical mandate. The Oneness Pentecostals baptize in the name of Jesus, in direct opposition to the Biblical mandate and thus we should not recognize that as a valid baptism.

Now for the part I was confused over. Paedobaptism practitioners come in several forms:

The first group is a fully heretical position, and denies salvation by grace through faith, and so need not be considered further here, except to mention that those who follow it are not going to heaven at all.

The second position I originally equated to the first position until I understood the distinctions. I have since come to recognize that the second position (minus the what happens to children when they die debate) does not compromise the cross and does indeed appear to harmonize with scripture (almost) as well as the believers baptism.

The argument over whether children must be baptised to go to heaven is just an argument, we don't really know in my opinion. The soveriegn grace position which I subscribe to says that God can save all the children if He wishes, but nowhere does He promise that He does, but He does imply that He saves all children, and that is pretty much the end of the Biblical report in my opinion.

The scriptures used to justify paedobaptism are generally like this one.

act 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

There are three or so instances of where the head of a household believed and the entire household were baptized, in some cases the Bible records that the entire household believed, and in some it is silent. The problem is is that in none of those cases does it say whether children were present in those households. So one might say the argument for paedobaptism is weak, but one could also say that the argument against paedobaptism is equally weak.

The problem with that thinking is the command to believe and be baptized is very strong and clear. It is just as likely that those household had no children, or that the children just weren't meant to be included in that statement and we are assumed to be smart enought to figure that out. We resort to weak inferences when we try to deny the command in my opinion. Let the strong passages speak for themselves and don't use weak ones to overturn clear and obvious ones. I thought that was a basic hermaneutical principle personally, and I think that should be enough to settle the issue, but it isn't unfortunately.

In fact one could argue that household baptism is really what the Bible teaches when the head of the household believes. I know of small self-declared reformed churches who practice this very thing.

In addition Paedobaptism was also the majority practice of the reformation from Luther's time until Charles Spurgeon came out against in in the mid 1800's. Neither Spurgeon, nor the earlier reformation held that baptism conferred salvation, and the Westminster Confession of Faith (presbyterian statment of faith developed before Spurgeon) clearly supports paedobaptism, but also explicitly says regeneration is a seperate thing.

The position of the paedobaptists is that you only need to be baptized once in your life, either as a child, or as an adult.

So if you were baptized as a child, and you had Christian parents when that occured then a paedobaptist denomination would not require you be baptized again even if you converted to Christianity in later life. Similarly, if you were not baptized as a child, they would require it upon conversion.

The presbyterian belief agrees that a person need be baptized only once in their life. Some actually object to being asked to be rebaptized to join another church. Again, I think this is not a major issue before God, but to insist that one violate their conscience in order to join a church over a debatable doctrine, well that is clearly not biblical.

The main point here is that those who are orthodox in their position towards salvation (who do not require works or sacraments for salvation) have not in any way compromised the cross by either practicing or not practicing paedobaptism. Therefore I consider it a position that we are not to divide over.

There is also a sub-argument as to how much if any grace is communicated by the sacrament of baptism, and my take is that it is just an argument. But you wouldn't believe how much has been written on this subject. My take is that it is our job is to obey, God gets to worry about how much if any grace He communicates through such activities. My own position is similar to the baptist position in that no grace is in fact directly communicated, except possibly as would be communicated through any act of obedience. But I am not dogmatic about it. It isn't like I have an electronic grace detector I can whip out of my closet and prove it one way or the other.

Another helpful teaching in regards to baptism is that a person only need be baptized once, either as a child (if you believe in paedobaptism) or as an adult on ceonversion, as long as it is done in the proper name. This means that if you declare your faith in Christ, get baptized, fall away, and rededicate your life to the Lord, no rebaptism is necessary or appropriate.

That teaching was helpful to me as I have travelled in and out of fringe Christian and even heretical groups and wondered if I needed to be baptized again after I embraced the reformed faith. Since my original baptism was in the correct three names, I conclude it is not necessary. I also later found out that I was baptized as a child in a presbyterian church. So I have been baptized twice in my lifetime, once each for both the paedobaptist and the non-paedobaptist tradition, so I conclude that no further baptism is necessary in my case. So if I had to sum up what the Bible actually says I would make the following points:

This conclusion falls closer to the Presbyterian view than the Baptist view, and adds household baptism. It also finds both the Presbyterian view and the Baptist view acceptable: those who practice either are within Biblical Orthodoxy. That is my two cents as a committed credo-baptist.


Baptism: A Matter of Obedience - John MacArthur. Here John MacArthur describes the credo-baptist viewpoint (I hold to this viewpoint also).