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.
Yesterday I began a discussion of a newspaper clipping and a tract that I received between the pages of “The Book of Concord”. In particular I addressed the statement, “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.” Today, I want to continue the discussion by addressing some of the content of the tract. Later on I will address the other claims in that short little newspaper clipping as well.
Yes, we baptize babies. All historical churches do: the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox Catholic, the Lutheran, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, and many others. Only the Baptists do not baptize babies, and such other denominations as have been influenced by them.
That’s the opening paragraph from the tract “Why Baptize Children?” written by John Theodore Mueller, Th. D. I really don’t believe that “all historical” churches practice infant baptism. The first two he lists are not, based upon the way they add things to the gospel, truly Christian churches (although there may be good Christians who attend these churches), and in his very next sentence he immediately has to begin adding exceptions. Or perhaps he’s excluding the Baptists, “and such other denominations as have been influenced by them” from what he calls “historical” churches.
He continues with an appeal to tradition, noting that Tertullian “was opposed to the Baptism of infants, just as he departed from the teachings of the church in other ways; nevertheless he witnesses to the fact that at the time the Baptism of babies was in universal use.” (emphasis mine) He notes that Origen, over 150 years after the time of Christ said that the “Baptism of infants was an ‘apostolic tradition.'” and that Augustine, nearly 300 years after Christ “wrote learned books against the heretics who disapproved of the Baptism of children.”
Just a page and a half in and Dr. Mueller brands anyone who does not approve of infant baptism a heretic!
There is certainly a place for tradition in our worship of God. As Christians we hold to many traditions. But before we use an appeal to tradition to declare others to be heretics we should, I think, examine our tradition carefully. We must be careful not to “for the sake of” our “tradition” make “void the word of God.” (Mark 7:6-8,13). We are not to honor God with our lips and teach as doctrine the traditions of men. So, rather than accept an appeal to tradition, let us instead go to what the word of God actually says.
Dr. Mueller goes on to attack the straw man that, “The objectors to the Baptism of babies say: ‘Show me a single Scripture passage in which the Baptism of infants is commanded, and we will baptize babies.'” He then argues that since we cannot show a single passage in scripture where God is called the “Triune God” this is a weak argument (which is true of any argument from silence.). He does not instead show us a single scripture in which the baptism of infants is commanded though, because he cannot, for there are none.
An argument from silence is not really persuasive. We can all agree that the doctrine of the Trinity is true even though there are no single scriptures that demonstrate it. We must look at all of scripture in order to see it, but scripture clearly does support the doctrine of the Trinity. We should be able to look at the whole of scripture to either support or refute this “doctrine of infant baptism.” So, let’s shy away from this argument from silence which proves nothing.
First of all, I am sure that whether you hold to infant baptism or to believer’s baptism we can all agree that believers are commanded by the Lord to be baptized. There are many scriptures that make this plain. I am not in any way denying that believers should be obedient to the word of God and be baptized. Further, I am sure that we can all agree on the basics of the gospel: we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, that our salvation is entirely of God and not ourselves so works are not required to purchase our salvation, that the way to our salvation is found only in the word of God and that our salvation is for God’s glory and not ours. We know that the Son of God came to earth, lived a perfect life in fulfillment of the law of Moses, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead so that we can have life in him. Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. That and much more..
There are at least two passages of scripture that, to the casual reader, appear to contradict this gospel and this view of baptism. One of these indicates that women may be saved through bearing children. (1 Tim 2:15) The other appears to indicate that is is the act of being baptized that saves us. (1 Peter 3:21) Before continuing to look at Dr. Mueller’s arguments I want to look at those, most particularly at the second, because it seems to me that its misapplication could do a lot of mischief.
This has again gone close to, if not over, 1000 words so I’ll break here even though we’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve already written up part 3 where I will discuss those two passages in a bit of detail and will publish it early tomorrow.