Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is Refusing Paedobaptism a Sin?

Reformed Baptist congregations (those that are Calvinistic in soteriology and subscribe to the London Baptist Confession of Faith) are sometimes difficult to find depending on where you live in the U.S. and how far you want to drive each Sunday.  Therefore, some reformed Baptist worship in reformed Presbyterian churches and vice versa.  Recently, a question was posed the Puritan Board Forum from a credobaptist about parents who refuse to baptize their infants in paedobaptist congregations.
The original question (edited for length) posted on 11/03/2013 by Sherwin L.:
"...Do reformed Presbyterian denominations permit membership for those parents who deny infant baptism? I found an OPC [Orthodox Presbyterian Church] article on this matter:
...It is this estimate of baptism that underlies the statement of our subordinate standards when the Confession says that it is "a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance" (XXVIII, v) and the Directory for Worship that the children of the faithful "are holy in Christ, and as members of his church ought to be baptized" (IV, B, 4). It cannot be denied that the person refusing baptism for his children is delinquent in doctrine...
I understand the covenant promises argument of the paedobaptist view, but given that there are wonderful reformed thinkers on both sides of the issue, I am very surprised that the OPC would say that parents who deny their infants baptism are committing "a great sin" and that they are "delinquent in doctrine." Does anyone from the OPC want to shed some light on this issue? Is there no room for strict credobaptist parents in a reformed Presbyterian congregation?"
Here are two (of many) responses:

Response by Josh (Administrator):
"Well, it is not as if we confess that applying the sign of the NT Administration of the Covenant of Grace to children of professing believers is something we just dreamt up for our fancies. Rather, we believe such is by divine command; ergo, those failing properly and fully to execute -according to place and station- this sacrament (which includes, not only professing believer's baptism of new converts, but also the baptism of their seed) should be called sin. The Lord calls professing Christians His people, and He calls their children, His children. We believe it is a serious matter to neglect that which we believe God has commanded in His Word pertaining to His children. We would permit those who do not subscribe to infant baptism to join the church, I believe, but whether they agree or not, they *must* submit their children for baptism, because it's a Confessional matter, and we believe by divine mandate."

Response by Bill the Baptist:
"As others have pointed out, if you believe that this is a mandate from God, than you must equally believe that it is a sin to disobey it. The same is true of Baptist churches, while we may not refer to infant baptism as a "great sin", I am not aware of a single Baptist church that would allow someone into membership who had not been baptized by immersion upon a profession of faith."

The unspoken prerequisite among some reformed Presbyterians is that in order to be truly reformed, you must practice paedobaptism; therefore, by definition, Baptists cannot be reformed.  Reformed Baptists are in "great sin" because they do not practice the "divine command", as Josh calls it, of paedobaptism.  While reformed Baptists believe that paedobaptism is not a good and necessary inference from the Bible, they would not call it a "great sin", as Bill the Baptist points out, and they would still hold reformed Presbyterians as brothers in Christ; although I'm not so sure that the feeling is mutual.

First, let's establish the fact that baptism is part of the Great Commission in Matt. 28:19, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."  However, there is no explicit command to baptize infants.  In fact, there's no indication of the age of the individual to be baptized, so for the ecclesiastical polity of the Presbyterian church to classify non-paedobaptism as great sin is far-reaching at best.  As stated above, baptism is for all nations; in addition, baptism is for men and women, but it is preceded by belief:  "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women," (Acts 8:12).  Presbyterians will cite the verses that refer to household baptisms, such as 1 Cor. 1:16, and state that the word 'household' implies the inclusion of infants; baptists reject that inference.

At the core of the disagreement between reformed Presbyterians and reformed Baptists is the covenant theology underlying the proper subject, mode, and meaning of baptism.  Presbyterians believe that there is one covenant with two administrations:  circumcision of Jewish male infants in the Old Covenant corresponds to baptism of believers' infants in the New Covenant.  Reformed Baptists believe that the Old and New Covenants are distinct; and therefore, baptism, as a sign of the New Covenant, should be administered to believers only.

So, is refusing paedobaptism a sin?  I think not.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," (2 Tim. 2:15).