you’re a what?

Posted in: theological rants- Apr 07, 2014 No Comments

First, a couple definitions, both for the uninitiated, and so that I know we’re on the same page.

  1. Credobaptism (sometimes called “believer’s baptism”) is the belief/practice that baptism is a sacrament that occurs after salvation. It follows the examples cited in Scripture (particularly throughout Acts) of new believers in Jesus. It is generally not considered to have direct spiritual ramifications (e.g. it is not a requisite of salvation), but has been described as “an outward sign of an inner change.” Credobaptism is usually (though not exclusively) practiced as full immersion.
  2. Paedobaptism (sometimes called “infant baptism”) is the belief/practice that baptism is a sacrament that can (and usually should) happen to the infant child of a believer. The spiritual ramifications vary by denomination (and/or general belief system); some believe that there are salvific ramifications, while others do not. The form of paedobaptism with which I am most familiar is what is generally practiced in conservative Presbyterian churches (and it is this form to which I will refer in my post). There, paedobaptism is generally viewed as the New Testament analog to circumcision — it is a sign of the covenant of grace. The practice also has much greater spiritual significance for the parent(s) than the child, as part of the purpose is a sign of dedication to God to raise the child in a godly manner. Paedobaptism is generally practiced as sprinkling, because who wants to dunk an infant (except, maybe, an older sibling)?

One other note: I will use the term “baptist” here. Notice that I am using a lowercase “b”. With the term, I am referring to someone who practices baptism, not to a denomination (for which I would use an uppercase “B”).

Jim is a friend of mine. Jim spent the first 30 years of his life in credobaptist churches and ascribed to their beliefs regarding baptism. However, Jim started attending a paedobaptist church (of the Presbyterian flavor that I described above). Leadership of the church showed the reasoning behind their beliefs (based on their interpretation of Scripture) and Jim found it compelling. And so he changed his point of view, and each of his children have been baptized as infants.

Like Jim, I spent the first 30 years of my life in credobaptist churches and ascribed to their beliefs regarding baptism. Unlike Jim, I still do so. This difference has caused no division whatsoever in our friendship. Our views are based on our interpretations of Scripture — not merely dogma with which we grew up — and neither of us ascribes specific salvific ramifications to the practice. With all that in mind, we both regard baptism as a secondary issue.

Now, one of the reasons that I don’t believe in paedobaptism is that it is not entirely logical to me (“logical” being the key word in that sentence). In my view, paedobaptism skates close to (or in some practices, bounds merrily over the line into) “Jesus plus” territory, where “faith alone” is no longer a solid belief. Another factor that fails my logic test is that the early church leaders (all of whom were Jews) all but did away with circumcision, recognizing that Christianity wasn’t simply a subset of Judaism, but a whole new thing. And so if the old sign is no longer necessary, why do we want or need a new sign?

Note: I’m not looking for paedobaptists to better educate me, though I will not reject such education. But I’ve had these discussions with Jim and others and remain in my belief; so you may find your efforts to be Sisyphean. My point, though, is not to lay out a defense for credobaptism, but to point out that my interpretation of Scripture is (at least partly) influenced by human logic. This is not a Bad Thing — God gave us brains — as long as said logic remains subject to Scripture.

So here’s my question. What if I started referring to myself as a “biblical baptist”? And what if I did not use such appellation merely to note that I get my beliefs regarding baptism from the Bible, thereby using the term to distinguish myself from those who reject the Bible’s authority or veracity?

What if, instead, when I stated that I am a “biblical baptist”, I was stating that my interpretation of the scriptures regarding baptism specifically led me to a belief in credobaptism, thereby using the term to distinguish myself from paedobaptists?

What if I went further and specifically stated that the sole reason that a person is a paedobaptist is simply because s/he wants to curry favor with a larger portion of the population (including 1.2 billion Roman Catholics)? What if I even threw around words like “compromise” and stated that paedobaptist belief “undermines the authority of the entire Bible”? What if I state that a belief in paedobaptism can only be achieved by starting with a theory and then twisting scriptures to fit that theory? What if I said that those who believe in paedobaptism should be “marginalized” (which, by definition, means that they should be “treated as insignificant or peripheral”)?

Now, I would throw a few bones to the paedobaptists. I would not dispute or question the eternal destiny of someone who believes in paedobaptism. I would merely show that my interpretation of Scripture leads to credobaptism and that other views are illogical.

Here are the ramifications of such an action:

  • By sheer definition (calling myself a “biblical baptist”), I have implied that Jim (and millions of other paedobaptists) is unbiblical.
  • I have also implied — if not clearly stated — that Jim (and millions of other paedobaptists) is illogical.
  • I have also implied — if not clearly stated — that Jim (and millions of other paedobaptists) has not done his due diligence in studying this issue. Had he done so, his beliefs would align with mine.
  • I have definitively stated that I know the inner motives of Jim’s heart (and that of millions of other paedobaptists).
  • If Jim has an ounce of sense in his head, he’ll be at least mildly offended by these implications and statements.
  • I have created an entirely unnecessary rift between Jim and myself that surely will weaken (if not entirely break) fellowship between us.
  • I have weakened the veracity, authority and dependability of Scripture in the eyes of the unbeliever. After all, if Jim and I can read the same Bible and come to different conclusions that (apparently) are of utmost importance to me, why bother?
  • By my surety that my interpretation is the only correct one, I am displaying a level of narcissism rarely seen outside of the entertainment and professional sports communities.

With me so far?

OK, now read this and this, and tell me how they are any different.

No Responses to “you’re a what?”

Leave a Reply