My Baptismal Sabbatical Bibliography (say that 5 times fast)

Posted: July 22, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Baptism

Okay, some folks have wondered what I have actually read on the topic of Baptism…perhaps suspecting that what I consider a worthy examination was something short of it. Such may be the case…that’s for you to decide, but these are some of the main works that I referenced in my reasearch:

Baptism in the New Testament Christian Baptism The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism
Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism Infant Baptism and the Covenant of GraceInfant Baptism in the First Four Centuries
Did the Early Church Baptize Infants?The Origins of Infant Baptism: A Further Study in Reply to Kurt Aland
Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries The Meaning and Mode of BaptismUnderstanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life) Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nac Studies in Bible & Theology)

The Water that Divides: Two Views on Baptism Explored

There are other books I read like:

Baptism: Sacrament of the covenant of grace by Pierre Charles Marcel…and others, but suffice it to say that it is Scripture which is the final arbiter on this issue and Christians have long disagreed. I don’t have time to delve into all of the lines of argumentation from all camps, but I would say that I am a generous and charitable ‘credo-baptist’. I will say that it was Jewett’s book which argued for ‘credo-baptism’ as a more faithful practice within a Covenantal framework. I am Covenantal, my theology of Children is much similar to my Reformed friends than that of Baptists, I encourage early baptism and communion, am Sacramental in that I believe God confers grace in Baptism, believe that ‘credo-baptism’ is what binds the beleiver to Christ and the Church, and I catechize my young girls (3 & 5) in the children’s version of the shorter catechism. I teach my girls that Jesus DID die for them from a presuppositional and propositional framework, viewing them as recipients of increasing grace through the means of the Word and Prayer. I see God’s grace operational in Kira (5) and am starting to think, “What forbids her to be baptized?”. She is growing in her understanding of the Lord’s Table and is starting to show a desire to receive Christ in that sacred meal. I do weigh heavily in my heart whether I am keeping her from Christ much like His disciples’ did. She is close to coming to the waters and making an appeal from her heart for a clean conscience and to be sealed by the Holy Spirit and brought fully in Christ’s Church (NOT by her relation to myself and my wife as believing parents, nor of the will of man, but by the will of God). Her baptism will attest to God’s saving, adopting, free grace in her. She will be bound to the Church community, to love her brothers and sisters, to care for them, to submit to the teaching of the Word and admonition of the elders. She will be bound to these duties as a full member in Christ’s Church, who by His grace decided to put her into His Body through faith and by faith and unto faith.

Cody, who is 15, has been baptized. For those of you who don’t know…he has downs syndrome and operates at a 5-8 year old level in some things like logic, etc, but he can hit a baseball like an 18 year-old!!! His ‘5’ year old comprehension of the Gospel is not despised, but wholly sufficient to enter the waters of baptism and receive His Supper. He loves the Gospel and is captive to it.
BTW, I need to wrap this up, but I think that the early Church required a profession of faith for baptism and even when they practicied infant baptism, they required a “sponsor” to make a profession on behalf of the one being baptized. I think that this was the exception and allowed for infants in fear that their death without baptism would result in damnation. I know that the views of the early church are much disputed. I think that an allowance would also be made for a severely handicapped individual to be received into the Church, even if they are unable to give profession of faith. Some might not like such a practice, but it would be an inferred practice that accomodates extenuating circumstances. There were also early Church fathers who grew into adulthood unbaptized as the Church thought that one should maximinze the cleansing of sin just prior to death.  The history of baptism is a tragic comedy of sorts as there is hardly a uniform theology behind its practice. I failed to mention that adult converts would be baptized naked after prolonged fasting and demonic deliverance. I know of none who are contending for that pratice today, but it actually started fairly early in the Church. Where does this all lead us? Back to Scripture where we do the best we can with the material given on this issue.
  1. joelmartin says:

    I actually embrace infant baptism based on the authority of the Church and the idea that she can decide things for me that I don’t have to decide.

    I’m curious as to what you make of circumcision, its function and what it accomplished? IOW, did one have to profess faith to join the OT church? Did their infants?

    You might like this:

    • I can actually respect deference to the Church on the issue of baptism. As a pastor, however, one needs to actually represent the Church and do so in hopefully good conscious…therein my responsibility in studying this issue while preparing for pastoral ministry.

      As for circumcision, I think that John Reisinger’s book “Abraham’s Four Seeds” sums up fairly well what I believe about circumcision…essentially that it had a multifaceted function under the Old Covenant:

      – it represented God’s promises to an ethnic people (natural seed) and was thus annulled in Christ, who is the true circumcision.
      – it represented the internal covenant of grace in pointing to Abraham’s faith, which was a necessary requisite for inclusion in the “Israel within an Israel”. God also commanded His people to circumcise their hearts, showing that the external sign really pointed to the need for faith.
      – there are some more nuances to what I have explained, but time permits me to condense it all.

      Jesus, as the true circumcision, HAD to be a Jew, from the lineage of Abraham…thus fulfilling the ethnic (promise to Abraham’s physical seed) aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. He is also the truly righteous one, whose heart was perfect in every way, whose faith surpassed that of Abraham, etc., thus truly being what circumcision pointed too: faith.

      John the Baptist, who was a forerunner to Christ, and the last prophet of the OT, was purposed by God to do two things: call for repentance and baptize. God was signaling that His people would soon be regarded by faith and no longer by ethnic descent from Abraham. Repentance was a necessary, and had always been a necessary requisite to become part of the “true Israel”. A new sign was introduced, baptism. This new sign would now mark God’s “true Israel”, the Israel of faith.

      As such, God constitutes His people today based on faith alone. He is no longer fulfilling promises to a particular ethnic people. Repentance and Baptism was necessary under John and so also under Peter on Pentecost. I would go on more on this point, but will stop for now.

      As for children and whether profession of faith was necessary to become part of the “OT church”, well, if you mean by “OT church” the Israel within Israel of faith and heart circumcision, then one truly had to bear such fruit. Ultimately, my soteriology would point to God as the one doing the heart circumcision, but this would inevitable lead to faith. In fact, John the Baptist was urging the people to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Children in the OT could be circumsized, taught everything, etc. but show a hardness towards God and bear no fruit in their lives, thus evidencing that they really don’t belong to God and never did in an internal fashion as part of his eternally elected Church.

      There was no confirmation or public profession of faith per se to examine whether one had truly repented…not until John the Baptist, which is significant to understanding the transition of the Covenant in God’s redemptive purposes. I don’t believe that infants were baptized under John’s ministry, nor do I think infants were baptized on Pentecost, nor the household baptisms recorded in Acts. As such, holding loosely to the regulative principle, I only do what is clearly commanded or inferred. In my case, I need more clear proof for the practice of infant baptism as well as a theology of it that I don’t see articulated in the NT.

      For others, an assumption is made that God has constituted His people in much the same way from Abraham to us…if children were included then, then why not now? For them, the burden would be to show where children are excluded in the NT Church and they don’t see convincing proof.

      I agree with both camps to a degree. What we are left with is “good and necessary inferences” (quoting John Murray). He lands on one side, while I land on the other. I have told people that my ‘credo-Baptist’ position is less like a slam-dunk and more like a 60-40 victory in a presidential election. The other side got many votes, but there is one president who must rule. Therefore I minister within a ‘credo’ paradigm, but am gracious to the opposing views.

      When more time permits, I will explain how I do argue that Children are conditionally placed in the NT Church. You might say that it was the same in the OT, but there are some differences. The children in the OT were guaranteed, irregardless of their faith, that God would bless the whole world through Abraham’s seed. Circumcision was also one’s birth certificate in Israel, a particular land with particular laws. As for truly belonging to God’s true Israel, then circumcision was indeed a sign for the need of heart circumcision. Circumcision therefore bound children to their responsibilities as a child of Israel and conditionally placed them within the true Israel, should they have faith. The children in the NT are bound to the Decalogue (Eph. 6), not only in that it speaks clearly of the promise of eternal life (“that it might go well with you and you may live long in the land” (earth)). These promises are spoken preveniently to our children from the womb. Should they evidence fruit of repentance and signs of faith, then they should be admitted to the waters of baptism and full inclusion and assurance within God’s eternal Israel. They would then be admonished to bear fruit in keeping with their repentance as a necessary litmus test to show that they truly are the Israel of faith.

      Therefore baptism corresponds to heart circumcision, doesn’t point to the need for it in the person baptized. It presumes it and must be evidenced before the administration of the new sign of baptism. While physical circumcision pointed to the need for faith and heart circumcision, baptism corresponds to it having already occurred. Of course baptism binds us and calls us to persevering faith, it never represents what potentially might or should happen. Since I am a sacramentalist in the Reformed sense, I think I preserve the efficacy of baptism as being tied to faith in the subject concerned. Therefore I have no problems with Peter who says that “Baptism now saves you”, only so far as it rightly represents the “cry of the heart for a pure conscience” in the one being baptized. I think I am a greater sacramentalist than my Reformed friends who qualify infant baptism by stating that nothing is effected by it “ex opreato” because the infant obviously hasn’t evidenced faith. At least Rome and Lutherans preserved something of fidelity to the fact that God actually does something in baptism. I am not arguing for their inclusion of infants, but only applauding their consistency in stating that the child being baptized is actually receiving something. I don’t believe that, but note their consistency.

      I actually believe more is effected in baptism than my Presby/Reformed colleagues. That is what makes me an oddball. I don’t fit in the baptist church for obvious reasons and don’t fit in the Presby/Reformed church, etc. Some people say I am confused…but I am just trying to understand Scripture and that is where I am at for now. As for other issues like ecclesiology, charismatic gifts, etc. I don’t fit in any one movement. It is what it is.

      Thanks for that reference you sent my way. BTW, I probably agree with most of the criticisms of American Baptist ethos. I also am critical of Baptist political engagement, worldview, asceticism, piety, etc in many ways. I also learn much from my Baptist friends, but I sometimes feel like we are on two different planets.

      Well, better stop now before this turns into a book. Hey, maybe we can write a dialogue book…or not. I am curious, if you were to asses your conclusions on baptism based on a popular election, how much did ‘pedo-baptism’ win by? Also, what do you do with the highly inconsistent theology regarding pedo-baptism in the history of the Church? When you say that you let the Church make that decision…what is the theology of pedo-baptism that you currently hold to?

  2. […] Comments Rick Hogaboam on My Baptismal Sabbatical Biblio…joelmartin on My Baptismal Sabbatical Biblio…al nieto on A Trip to the Donut Shop […]

  3. Scott Kistler says:

    Rick and Joel, from what you have encountered in your readings so far, when is the earliest time we can confirm the practice of infant baptism by Christians (after the disputed passages in the NT)?

  4. joelmartin says:

    Pelikan says that the “first incontestable evidence for the practice appeared around the end of [the second] century, in the writings of Tertullian.” This is in his book *The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition.*

  5. Scott Kistler says:

    Thanks, Joel. Does Pelikan shed any light on the earliest evidence of infant baptism becoming standard?

    I tend to agree with the believers’ baptism position because that’s what seems to be the NT biblical record, but the emergence of infant baptism in the life of the Church and its relation to circumcision are some powerful arguments for infant baptism too.

    I really want to read Everett Ferguson’s “Baptism in the Early Church.” Looks like he has done some important work on early Christianity.

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