Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Debate Over Infant Baptism

The debate over whether or not infants should be baptized tends to happen most frequently among groups that are tied in one way or another to Calvin and/or Zwingli. This is no coincidence. Although Calvin and Zwingli both practiced infant baptism, they both to one degree or another denied the Scriptural teaching about what baptism is. In fact, the modern Baptist can find his own roots in some of the disciples of Zwingli. Zwingli denied original sin and denied that baptism was salvific and by his own admission was the first to defend infant baptism on primarily covenantal grounds. Calvin did not deny original sin but was unwilling to embrace the strong Scriptural language regarding baptism. The Reformed and Presbyterians speak of baptism as "sign and seal of of the covenant of grace." It may be possible to derive certain covenantal ideas from the Scriptural teaching about baptism but these are only secondary. The Scriptures primarily speak of baptism as salvific. Baptism now saves you, baptism is for the remission of sins, it is the laver of regeneration, we are begotten from above by water and Spirit, etc.

The Baptist then takes the denial that Baptism is salvific one step further. They claim that baptism is an act of obedience on our part that symbolizes our union with Christ. Just as is the case with the Lord's Supper, the Baptist view is actually simpler than the Presbyterian and Reformed view. All they really have to do is read "symbolizes" into every text. There is no reason within Scripture to read "symbolize" into the text but the Baptist reads his own man-made tradition and presuppositions into the text. Since the Baptist assumes that baptism is our work then it cannot be salvific since we are not saved by works. Since baptism is our work then infants should not be baptized because they are incapable of performing the work. But this very statement should cause the Baptist to doubt his own position. Even though the Baptist does not recognize the baptism of the infant as a valid baptism, babies are baptized in the same way that adults are. Water is applied to the person along with the Trinitarian baptismal formula. In both adult and infant baptism, the person being baptized isn't doing any work at all. They are being baptized. Something is being done to them. If I punch someone in the face it is not the other person's work to be punched in the face. They are merely receiving the punch. God does work through human instruments to baptize just as He does to preach the Gospel but in both cases it is God's work.not man's. The man is merely an instrument. Baptists and Reformed/Presbyterians will often argue over the interpretation of Acts 2:38-39.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV)
Both Baptists and Presbyterians/Reformed claim to have the proper interpretation of the text but neither one would actually say what Peter is saying here. Presbyterians/Reformed point to the promise made to children of believers and Baptists point to the need for repentance but neither affirm what the text actually says. The promise in the text is "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Both forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit are promised to all those who repent and are baptized. The promise applies to anyone who hears this promise which includes those standing there, their children, and anyone else who hears the promise later on. Both the Baptist and the Reformed/Presbyterian deny that the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins is given in baptism. Both deny the promise. Baptists say that repentance is required and that babies cannot repent. Although repentance often results in some outward display of repentance among those who are able to provide such a display at its root it is a change of mind as the Greek word itself indicates. Repentance isn't our work either. Repentance is worked in us by the preaching of repentance. The Baptist turns both repentance and baptism into law and demand but God gives them as gift and Gospel.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Patriarchy and International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. International Women's Day started out as a socialist political event but has since morphed into an event that celebrates the achievements of women and that speaks out against violence committed against women and pornography. All of these are good things. However, whenever I turn on the radio and hear one of the promoters of International Women's Day they always seem to be saying that patriarchy is the underlying cause of violence against women and so we must do away with patriarchy.

The terms patriarchy and patriarchalism are used in such a way that they are assumed to be evil and that anything that we simply must figure out what can be classified as patriarchy and then get rid of it. I've noticed this in a number of books that have been published in the past ten years or so. They don't so much argue against a patriarchal as assume it is bad and then try to show how whatever they are arguing against is a form of patriarchalism.

However, just casual observation shows that this is not the case. Many Muslim countries are very patriarchal and allow horrible crimes to be committed against women, but also have very strict laws against pornography. In more egalitarian societies, men are willing to let women do the work so that they don't have to but then strike out against women and the porn industry thrives.

The fact is that people are sinners and they will find ways to mistreat one another regardless of the societal system. The Scriptures support a certain form of patriarchy but turns the patriarchal system on its head. There is a subordination of woman to man but the man's goal in leadership is to lay down his life for the wife as Christ did for the church. The problem both within and outside of the church is that leadership is understood to be for the gaining of power for self. Pastors have become CEOs and women want the same power that men have. But Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. People generally don't fight over who gets to wash feet.

Christianity exalts motherhood and Mary was given the role of being the Mother of God which was not given to any man. The solution is not egalitarianism but a well-ordered society when where men lead and lay down their lives for women rather than abdicating their responsibilities to them and treating them as property.  If everyone is equally engaged in a struggle for power, abuse will continue. The abortion industry thrives on women who use their power to destroy the rights of those younger than them and the men who pressure women to use that power to avoid their own responsibilities. We should do what we can in the legislative process to stop the abuse of women and stop the killing of babies but none of that will stop completely until Christ returns. There is no utopian societal model that can save us.