I will be returning to my “Bad News” series in the near future. For now though, this is on my heart, and I think it needs to be said. Please note, I am NOT educated in theology, church history, or doctrine. I am a Christian though, and believe that God’s word is clear and understandable. I am willing to be taught, and to have my opinions refuted, but for now I strongly hold to what I write here below.
Glenn Chatfield is a Christian Blogger who pretty regularly gives away books from his library. He recently sent me a copy of “The Book of Concord”. I had requested it because I am interested in church history and the various denominations, and thought that this would be a great opportunity to look into the Lutheran Church. Inside the book were two newspaper clippings and a short tract. One of the clippings was about “proper” forms of contraception. It is an argument that while we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply, certain forms of contraception, those that prevent conception in the first place rather than preventing the implantation of a fertilized ovum into the uterus, are acceptable and not inherently sinful to use. The other clipping and the tract were on the subject of baptizing children. When I asked Glenn about it his response was that he hadn’t even realized that the clippings and tract were in the book, or he would have removed them, but that he thought that they were refutations of the Lutheran church’s stance on contraception and infant baptism.
Well yes, and no. A quick perusal of the second clipping from late 1992 or early 1993 which amounts to about two column inches, and of the the tract got me to thinking. The news clipping provides two arguments in favor of infant baptism, and we’ll look at those. The tract is entitled “Why Baptize Children?” and is from the Concordia Tract Mission, written by John Theodore Mueller, Th. D. It also advocates for infant baptism, giving a more extensive argument.
The news clipping argues that “the most obvious reason Jesus would have intended baptism to apply to infants… is rarely mentioned: Jesus was a Jew!” It goes on to argue that “Jewish male babies became a part of God’s covenant people at the age of 8 days.” The writer is, of course arguing that circumcision and baptism are essentially representative of people becoming God’s covenant people and that since male children were circumcised at 8 days this justifies infant baptism. This is an argument that is essentially repeated in the tract and we will cover it a little further along in the discussion, but for the moment I want to focus on another statement in that brief little clipping: “Even to raise the question about the age at which children can make some kind of rational personal commitment to Christ is to reveal the questioner as the product of a much later Western mindset guided by individualistic and rationalistic models.”
If so, I’m guilty. But I don’t think that’s such an unusual thing. Whether it’s missing the mindset of people in the middle east of Jesus’ day or not is another question but I don’t think that to the extent it’s true about me, that it’s in any way sinful or even necessarily wrong.
When the bible speaks about sin and its penalties it generally speaks to the individual, at least as I understand it. Why else does the Lord say “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”? (Ezekiel 18:20) In fact, pretty much all of Ezekiel 18 is discussing a man’s individual responsibility for both sin and righteousness. We each shall give an account to the Lord for our own actions, not the actions of another. (Romans 14:12)
Further God made us rational creatures in his own image. He says to us “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet,they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel,you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:18-20) When Paul preached and wrote his epistles, he was masterful at using logic and rational discourse. See, for example Acts 17:22-31, and the whole book of Romans.
Certainly God’s thoughts are far above our thoughts, and his ways are beyond ours, (Isaiah 55:8-9) yet God is rational and consistent. God wants men to believe in Jesus his son. He tells us through Paul that “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) He wants us to believe. And he says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17). And, lest we forget, “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.'” (Matthew 22:37-38) Clearly, God wants us to use our minds.
I do question whether a child of 8 days can make a rational personal commitment to obey and follow Jesus. This notwithstanding the prophet Jeremiah, or John the Baptist. Yes, the Lord wants us to come to him in simple, child-like faith, but an infant cannot typically even understand human language, let alone the words through which the gospel is communicated.
Well, here we are at over 1,000 words already and I’m just getting started. More tomorrow.