Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Dweam Within a Dweam Chapter 3: Babies are People Too

Please read the introduction and chapters 1 and 2 first.


Babies are People Too



Johnny: “Where should we start?”

Marty: “Y U No Baptize Baby?”

Johnny: “There isn’t any of this baby baptizing nonsense in the Bible. The Bible don’t know nothin’ about baptizin’ no babies. People are baptized after they have made a confession of their faith. The baptism of infants is a man-made tradition that is tied to baptismal regeneration. Even people like B.B. Warfield who support infant baptism admit that it’s not found in the Bible. Don’t try to confuse me with all that covenant theology mumbo jumbo either. The Old Covenant was with Abraham and his descendants but the New Covenant is with believers only. The children of the flesh are not children of God but the children of the promise.”

Marty: “People is people.”

Johnny: “What?”

Marty: “Typically Reformed and Presbyterian folks tend to defend the baptism of infants based on their understanding of the covenant. But that’s not the case with Lutheranism. Would you say that babies are people?”

Johnny: “Of course.”

Marty: “Jesus commands the apostles to disciple the nations by baptizing them. Babies are part of the nations and so they should be baptized.”

Johnny: “Then why not just go out with super soaker and baptize them?”

Marty: “Baptism makes the devil our enemy and if the faith given in baptism is not nurtured it will die away. Also, baptism isn’t just water but God’s Word with the water. Just throwing someone in a pool or pouring water on them is not a baptism. But we can talk about that more when we discuss the proper mode of baptism.”

Johnny: “But what good does sprinkling some water on a baby do the baby. The baby doesn’t know what you are saying.”

Marty: “The power is in God’s Word. God’s Word does what it says. The power is not in me. Don’t you believe that faith is a gift from God?”

Johnny: “Absolutely.”

Marty: “Why can’t God give a baby faith?”

Johnny: “I guess maybe He could, but how would we know? Unless the Bible specifically says that the baby had faith how would we know they have faith? How can a baby repent or call on the name on the Lord?”

Marty: “When you were a baby did you love and trust your mother?”

Johnny: “Of course.”

Marty: “Why didn’t you buy her a Mother’s Day card?”

Johnny: “I was just a baby, I couldn’t do that.”

Marty: “But if we love and trust people don’t we do nice things for them?”

Johnny: “Well yes, but I was just a baby.”

Marty: “Exactly. You demonstrate your love to people in different ways based upon your own abilities. Just because you might lack the ability to show your love and/or trust in certain ways doesn’t mean you do not love or trust the person. A baby loves and trusts his mother but couldn’t explain that to you or give you a definition of what a mother is.”

Johnny: “But it’s just silly to baptize people who don’t even know what’s going on. What’s the point?”

Marty: “We’ll get to the point when we discuss what baptism does, but didn’t parents bring their infants to Jesus to receive a blessing from Him.”

Johnny: “Yes, but that’s not baptism.”

Marty: “You’re right, it’s not baptism but a blessing can only be received through faith. The blessing wouldn’t do these babies any good if they were incapable of faith and Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like these children. The kingdom of heaven is received through faith and if the kingdom of heaven belongs to them, shouldn’t they receive baptism?”

Johnny: “Jesus didn’t say the kingdom of heaven belonged to these infants, He said that the kingdom of heaven belonged to people who were like these infants. He’s just telling us to show humility like these little children. He’s not actually saying that these little children are part of the kingdom of heaven. He’s just saying we have to be like them to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Marty: “Doesn’t it seem strange that these children would be used as examples of how the kingdom of heaven is received if they were incapable of receiving it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use someone as an example who is actually part of the kingdom of heaven rather than someone who incapable of receiving the kingdom of heaven? You wouldn’t tell someone to be a great baseball player by being like someone who couldn’t play baseball, would you?”

Johnny: “I think Jesus might be saying that the children are without actual sin and are part of the kingdom of heaven because they haven’t reached an age of accountability yet.”

Marty: “So Jesus is telling the disciples that they are all going to hell then? If the disciples have to become like these little children by somehow not reaching the age of accountability how they are supposed to do that?”

Johnny: “I guess I’m not sure how they would do that, but it doesn’t say that these infants have faith. If they had faith they would confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord.”

Marty: “So do all mute people go to hell because they can’t say that Jesus is Lord?”

Johnny: “No, that’s ridiculous. But mute people can communicate that they believe in other ways.”

Marty: “But if they lack all ability to communicate does that mean that they automatically don’t have faith? The Scriptures say that faith is a gift of God. So can’t He give to whoever He wants to give it? If you got hit by a truck and became a vegetable, would that mean that you no longer had faith because you couldn’t communicate it? Do you stop having faith when you sleep because you can’t communicate your faith at that time?”

Johnny: “I guess not, but we still couldn’t know that the baby had faith.”

Marty: “Doesn’t it say in the Bible that John the Baptizer leaped in his mother’s womb?”

Johnny: “It says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and that’s why he leaped. It doesn’t say he had faith.”

Marty: “Can you be filled with the Holy Spirit and not have faith?”

Johnny: “Maybe not. But he was unusual. That’s why the Bible makes such a big deal about him. That’s not the way God ordinarily works.”

Marty: “In the Psalms, David says he hoped in God while on his mother’s breasts.”

Johnny: “It doesn’t say he had faith. It says he hoped.”

Marty: “How can you hope in God if you have no faith?”

Johnny: “I guess you’re right, but that’s just David’s experience. He was pretty unique.”

Marty: “David wrote this as part of the Psalms. Every Israelite would have taken these words upon his lips. The Psalms became the hymnbook of the early church as well. This wasn’t just some private things that David wrote only about himself.”

Johnny: “But there’s still nothing in there about baptizing any babies. There’s not a single instance of a baby being baptized in the entire Bible.”

Marty: “What about 1 Corinthians 10:1-2? Paul says all Israel was baptized in the cloud and in the sea. Weren’t there babies present when they passed through the sea?”

Johnny: “I guess. But this isn’t Christian baptism. This is part of the old covenant. Only believers are part of the new covenant. In the New Testament we only find people being baptized after they have first believed. Believe and be baptized.”

Marty: “It doesn’t say “Believe and then be baptized. It just says “Believe and be baptized.”

Johnny: “But that’s the order we see in all the New Testament baptisms. First people show that they believe and then they are baptized.”

Marty: “I don’t think it’s right to read the stories as if they are commands. Just because Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch doesn’t mean that you have to be Ethiopian or a eunuch before you can be baptized. We don’t read any explicit examples of women partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Does that mean that women should not be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper?”

Johnny: “Of course not. But that’s different. Women are still able to show that they believe and in all the examples in the New Testament we don’t find a single instance where it says a baby was baptized.”

Marty: “What would have happened under the old covenant if a Gentile wanted to convert to Judaism? Wouldn’t the believing father make a profession of faith and be circumcised? And then all the eight day old males and up would be circumcised wouldn’t they?”

Johnny: “Well, yes. But that was circumcision. That was the old covenant. The new covenant is with believers only.”

Marty: “In all the New Testament examples, when we read about specific cases baptisms, we read of several household baptisms.”

Johnny: “Yes, but it doesn’t say there were infants in those households.”

Marty: “You’re right. It doesn’t specifically say there were infants but it doesn’t say infants were excluded either. It doesn’t say certain people in the household were not baptized because they did not believe. In the case of Lydia, we just read that Lydia believed and then her household was baptized.”

Johnny: “Obviously they all believed before being baptized.”

Marty: “The Bible doesn’t say that.”

Johnny: “But we can assume that they did because that’s what happened in the other cases.”

Marty: “I don’t think we can. The only instances we find of entire households not being baptized were the baptism of Jesus, Paul, and the Ethiopian eunuch. None of them had households to baptize. We don’t read of household members being denied baptism or of people growing up in Christian households and being baptized at a later date.”

Johnny: “In Acts 16 we read about the Philippian Jailor and his conversion and it says that his household believed. That’s why they were all baptized. This is the pattern in Scripture, people believe and then they are baptized. We can safely assume that Lydia’s household followed the same pattern. It just isn’t explicitly stated.”

Marty: “It doesn’t actually say that the whole household believed prior to baptism. The text says that they spoke the Word of Christ to them and then the household was baptized. In the next verse it says that the jailor rejoiced because he believed in God with his entire household. It doesn’t say that they all believed prior to baptism. Nor would it be unusual to refer to someone’s household as a believing household even if there were some members present who were incapable of communicating belief. If there were a family at your church with babies you would still call them a Christian family. You wouldn’t say they were a mixed family of believers and unbelievers. And we’re still dealing with narrative texts that tell us what happened. Just because Paul used to kill Christians and then was struck blind and received his sight again later doesn’t mean that every person must start by first killing Christians and then be struck blind by Jesus. And we don’t find anything within the texts about baptism that would lead us to believe that it’s something more exclusive than circumcision. We know that unlike circumcision, females are baptized, but we don’t read anything that suggests that while circumcision was applied to all household members, baptism is only applied to those who can articulate their belief. I just don’t see anything in the texts that suggests that baptism is more exclusive in its application. Jesus says to baptize the nations. He doesn’t say baptize believers only. The command given to the Apostles doesn’t say anything about making sure that they can make their belief known first. But the Baptist comes in and tries to tease out requirements from the baptism narratives.”

Johnny: “But the word ‘baptize’ means immerse. You can’t immerse infants.”

Marty: “We’ll deal with the issue of mode another day, but you can certainly immerse infants. The Eastern Orthodox immerse infants.”

Johnny: “That sounds scary. Won’t the baby drown?”

Marty: “They’ve been doing it for a long time and there are safe ways you can immerse a baby. You can sort of roll him in there cradling him in your arms or you can hold him by the armpits.”

Johnny: “I did not know that.”

Marty: “Now you know and knowing is half the battle.”

Johnny: “G.I. Joe. But I still think it’s wrong to try to tie circumcision to baptism in that way. Baptism is not just some new version of circumcision. Circumcision is part of the old covenant. What is the “new” version of offerings for the first born male and all that jazz?”

Marty: “Paul ties circumcision and baptism together in Colossians 2:11-12. Paul says that when we were baptized we were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands.”

Johnny: “That’s spiritual baptism. That’s not talking about water baptism.”

Marty: “We’ll talk about what baptism actually does another day but even if the water baptism could be separated from spiritual baptism the water baptism has to point to something and at least in an indirect way he would be tying baptism to circumcision.”

Johnny: “But why did they continue to circumcise then?”

Marty: “In order to avoid offending the Jews, Paul had Timothy circumcised. But when the Jewish Christians started saying that you had to be circumcised to be a real Christian Paul refused to have Titus circumcised. God almost killed Moses for not circumcising his son but it became a matter of Christian liberty after Christ came. Christ is the fulfillment of what circumcision promised. Jewish Christians were allowed to continue to circumcise as long as they didn’t look to it for their justification. In addition to pointing to Christ, circumcision was also about the cutting away of sin. Baptism is the washing away of sin. In some respects, circumcision is a shadow of baptism.”

Johnny: “But you people who practice infant baptism don’t give babies communion. Why would you baptize them?

Marty: “The Eastern Orthodox churches both baptize babies and give them communion. I think there are good arguments on both sides on the issue of infant communion. The Scriptures don’t give the same warnings about being baptized in an unworthy manner as they do for communion. They don’t warn people about being able to discern their baptisms when they are baptized. In the Old Testament people were circumcised on the eighth day but at least some people believe it wasn’t until they were much older that they partook of the Passover. If we should be allowing infants to partake of communion that doesn’t really prove that they shouldn’t be baptized.”

Johnny: “I guess it doesn’t prove that you are wrong to baptize but it does show that in the case of communion you recognize that people need to show they are believers before receiving but you don’t have the same qualifications for baptism.”

Marty: “The different practice is based on the different statements of Scripture about each.”

Johnny: “But the Bible doesn’t talk about babies being baptized or babies taking communion.”

Marty: “The Bible doesn’t specifically talk about women taking communion either, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t. You’re creating an artificial category. The Bible doesn’t say anything about left-handed people being baptized or 90 year old grandmothers being baptized. Jesus said to disciple the nations by baptizing them.”

Johnny: “But why didn’t infant baptism catch on until the fourth century which was around the same time baptismal regeneration caught on?”

Marty: “Infant was taking place well before this. The validity of infant baptism wasn’t questioned until the time of the Petrobrusians in the middle ages. Before that time we don’t find any record of anyone denying the validity of infant baptism. The church fathers tended to write about issues that were being disputed. You don’t find that much about infant baptism in the very early church fathers because infant baptism was not disputed. The earliest dispute about infant baptism in the church centered on whether babies should be baptized on the eighth day in order to correspond to the regulations about circumcision in the Old Testament or whether baptism can be performed sooner. The church decided that infants could be baptized sooner.”

Johnny: “What about Tertullian? Didn’t he deny infant baptism?”

Marty: “No, Tertullian did not deny the validity of infant baptism. He just didn’t think it was necessary. He didn’t believe the babies had any sin and he thought it put an unnecessary burden on the baptismal sponsors. He never denied that infant baptism was valid or taught that people needed to be baptized again as adults.”

Johnny: “What about The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll? Doesn’t he show that there were always Baptists?”

Marty: “What Carroll does is take just about any group that was rejected by the church and without any evidence declares them to be Baptists. The Petrobrusians are the first group in which there is evidence that they denied infant baptism. Even the Petrobrusians don’t meet the criteria that Carroll lays out at the beginning of his book defining what a Baptist is. Many of the groups that the Carroll says are Baptists denied the Trinity and many of the other central doctrines of the Christian faith.”

Johnny: “I’ll have to study all this some more.”

Marty: “Alright. Why don’t we meet tomorrow to talk about what baptism is?”

Johnny: “Ok. See you tomorrow.”

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