12 thoughts on “Wrestling…

  1. Patrick says:

    Speaking of baptism, I believe you are writing a paper on the Federal Vision. How is it going? I would love to read it when it is finished.

  2. Stephen says:

    Patrick, I don’t have to submit anything till May next year. I am still doing background reading. To be honest I have not read as much as I would have liked, and certainly not understood all that I have read. Where does that leave me!! I will try and collect some thoughts together in the next month or so.

  3. Stephen says:

    Murray, Christian Baptism,
    Schenck, The Presbyterian Doctrine…,
    Calvin, Institutes,
    Systematic Theologies of Berkhof, Reymond,
    Lusk, various articles on baptismal efficacy,
    Bits and pieces from Jewett, Hodge, Warfield.

  4. Ant says:

    if you’re trying to find paedobaptism in the bible it would give you a sore head because it isn’t there!
    Sorry! Little Christmas wind-up I couldn’t resist!

  5. Stephen says:

    You mean, just like some people can’t see the Trinity in the Bible? 😉

    The problem is not whether paedobaptism is in the Bible (it is, but it is a point I do not feel free to argue in public with an elder of my church, I may add!) but rather what the variety of views within the Reformed umbrella say baptism actually does or implies. I don’t think there is the same range of views within the baptistic subset of Christianity, but I may be wrong!

  6. Ant says:

    Credobaptist versus paedobaptist…
    No, I’m just needling you really.
    But ref. ‘views within the reformed umbrella’ – some of us would call ourselves reformed and baptistic of course! But I appreciate that’s probably not within the aims of your paper.
    I wasn’t looking for a serious discussion on here right now – though I don’t think that it would be inappropriate to do that with me necessarily; this is a different forum to doing it, say, up front on a Sunday morning or something… and you’re going to express your views here anyway at some point I guess.
    It would be interesting to talk more about it in person some time…

  7. Stephen says:

    Yes, I know you’re having a chummy dig. No worries.

    I have to tread a careful line on this. As members of Woodlands, Susan and I were asked by the elders not to rock the boat on the issue of baptism. We had no problem with that – they were right to do so, and we have happily submitted. But I take this prohibition to apply to this blog too. So you will not find criticisms of the credobaptist position here. Generally I stay away from blogging on the issue of baptism altogether.

    This doesn’t mean I won’t answer questions if asked. So if you’re asking, bring it on (offline)!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think it is a very useful and profitable exercise to take all those resources on baptism, and to try to systematically trace out the differences between them, and then to ask some critical questions about the sources of those differences, and the way in which they arise.

    Given that they are paedobaptists, and convinced that the Bible is clear in teaching a doctrine of paedobaptism, it is very interesting to see how wide-ranging and fundamental their differences are on this doctrine and its implications. Do not the very many passages which teach paedobaptism also teach the answers to all these other questions in the same area, one wonders? Once you dig into this question and start teasing out these differences, it gets very interesting indeed.


  9. Alastair says:

    Over the last few years, I have probably (quite literally) read about two dozen books on the subject of Baptism from across the spectrum. Just about every book presents quite a different understanding of Baptism and its meaning. Whether one reads paedobaptist or ‘credobaptist’ defences there is no ‘classic’ position to be found on either side of the camp. There is no more agreement to be found on either side of the fence.

    It might also be pointed out that far more theological reflection on the meaning of Baptism had been undertaken in paedobaptist circles historically and so one should expect to find widely differing positions, particularly when one observes the various traditions in which such reflection has taken place.

    Arguments on the paedobaptist front can focus on a whole range of different central arguments: original sin. infant faith, the covenant, the sacramental nature of the Christian family, etc. The arguments presented for the position are not always complementary (most paedobaptists, outside Reformed circles, do not use the covenant argument, for example). Arguments from ‘credobaptist’ positions are also far from uniform. They can differ sharply on questions of efficacy, legitimacy and in the arguments that they put forward against the practice of paedobaptism. The argument put forward by most contemporary Baptists against paedobaptism differs considerably in certain regards from the original arguments put forward by the Anabaptists (the Anabaptist argument seems to me to be a stronger one).

    Both Baptists and paedobaptists are far too quick to claim certain theologians and Church Fathers for their side. Barth was no Baptist (as Jewett – as a Baptist – points out). Nor was Tertullian (as many others have appreciated). On the paedobaptist side it should be recognized that the argument from the covenant is relatively recent and novel (as many have argued, Standers and Louw being a good example). Presbyterian paedobaptists may be consistent with the early Church in baptizing infants, but they are hardly consistent in their theological understanding of the practice.

    Whatever way you look at it, the history of Baptism in the Church is complicated and does not underwrite the claims of either party as straightforwardly as some would like it to. The debate between Jeremias and Aland, Standers and Louw’s recent book, and helpful essays by Peter Leithart (“Infant Baptism in History: An Unfinished Tragicomedy”) and Mark Searle (“Infant Baptism Reconsidered”) all show some of the complications. I think that we should be wary of the temptation to make history more tidy than it actually is and commit ourselves to listening to the various voices of the Christian tradition in all of their distinctness.

    What can be said is that it is anachronistic to project either popular Reformed or Baptist understandings of Baptism into the historic tradition of the Christian Church. Both have tenuous claims to being classic positions. Indeed, it seems to me that popular Baptist views, unlike those of anti-paedobaptist authors like Beasley Murray and Barth, have little claim to being legitimate developments within the tradition (this does not mean that I agree with Barth or Beasley Murray).

    The fact that covenantal understandings of paedobaptism are relatively novel does not mean that they are wrong and the same can be said of Baptist understandings of Baptism. However, it seems to me that both are to a large measure products of particular historical eras and reflect their own historical and cultural milieu to a great measure and do not necessarily give us a clear picture of the text.

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