Saturday, 21 February 2009

Baptistic Musings - 4 Tongues, Age of Accountability and other stuff

For those of you who are regular readers, you'll notice that I've been doing some wrestling with the doctrine of the sacraments; particularly infant baptism. Having attended an independent brethren/evangelical/baptistic church since my youth, I'd always considered infant baptism a Roman Catholic heresy on which the Reformers didn't go far enough. That is until I read Robert Reymond's Systematic Theology on infant baptism and the unity of the covenant. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Calvin, et al, actually had sound exegetical and theological reasons for baptising babies. I couldn't escape the penetrating logic, the sound covenantal organising principle, the historical continuity, the warm pastoral implications and the (yes, believe me) exegetical integrity that characterised the Reformed approach to infant baptism.

Further, I was always concerned that the baptistic doctrine of believers' baptism had effectively 'unbaptized' all of the greats throughout Christian history. Origen, Irenaeus, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Beza, Bucer, Owen, Perkins, Sibbes, Whitefield, Murray, Lloyd-Jones, Packer, Stott, etc. (The only positive to this is that it would unbaptize the Pope, but he's got bigger problems, like wearing a daft hat, worshipping a dead woman, gutting justification and blaspheming Christ.)

So I'm coming out of the closet (in a non-gay manner of course) as an infant-baptist. I could be wrong, but then again, so could millions in Christ's church. I'd rather stand in an unbroken line of church history than join in with a crazy anabaptistic innovation.

One of my main reasons for my discomfort with the baptistic position is that I believe baptists don't know what to do with their kids. Jesus said that we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet baptists while affirming this, bar entrance to their children and tell them they must reach a nebulous "age of accountability" whenever the hump that is. "Heaven is only for grown ups who become like children, not for children who behave like children" is the reasoning.

So, as opposed to nurturing, baptists wait for their kids to go through some sort of conversion experience. They don't believe in liturgy, but they have a liturgy for their kids. That is, the liturgy of the summer camp. Only after their kids attend this, cry and chuck some twigs in a fire are they really converted. Then they're allowed to be baptized and received into fellowship. During the years in church leading up to that first camp, they hear wonderful testimonies of people being "born again" from scandalous pasts like prostitution, crime, drunkenness, etc. They think, "I've not had this conversion experience. Am I born again?" So to make sure, they go out and live it up for a while, get drunk, have sex, etc. After they "get saved" they've at least got a nice before and after picture.

Further, those children who are unfortunate enough to listen to these dramatic testimonies are only those who are old enough to sit in church. The "little ones" who are too young and disruptive are farmed off to creche or Sunday School. After all, you don't want them disturbing the speaker.

Baptists really have turned the kingdom on it's head. The root cause is the belief that conscious participation in the presence of God is necessary to receive entrance into the covenant community. One must be able to give a conversion testimony and an understanding of the gospel before admittance into the heavenly society.

I don't believe that this is a Scriptural position. If the apostolic-era gift of tongues should teach us anything, it's that a communion with God which bypasses the mind is at least possible. John the Baptist being filled with the Spirit from the womb, while not an example explicitly demanding infant-baptism, should at least give us pause to think that there can be more going on in the heart of a baby/child/infant than that which has passed directly through the conscious. I believe that the baptist position is rather akin to the disciples pre-Pentecost position on children when they told those bringing babies to Jesus to scram. Jesus disagreed profoundly of course. What was the point in bringing little children to Jesus? The point was so that he could place his hands on them and bless them, apart from their conscious participation in his blessing.

So when the church is gathered, with angels and the power of the Lord Jesus present (1 Cor. 5:4), should we be farming out the little ones to a room in the back? Isn't it possible that Christ's word preached will bless them without their conscious participation? Isn't it possible that the waters of baptism as they are poured over the wee one's head will convey God's promise to work savingly and sovereignly in the life of the helpless recipient?


Charles said...

I also have a problem with baptizing baby's. But I also don't thin that a child is lost if they are not baptized! I do believe theree is enough evidence in the bible that there is an age of accountability, and until that age maybe different for different individual children, one I knew understood at a very young age and another didn't until a much later age, what ever the age be, they shouldn't be prevented from being baptized, as Christ said not to prevent the little ones from coming to him, but they came, and small new born babies can not on their own!

I do believe in the blessing of children of any age, new born and up.

The baptizing of babies, feeds the idea that they need to do nothing in the future, they were baptized and so are Christian and saved. The idea, "I was born a Christian so I am a Christian!" Not so. One is not a Christian until one comes to accept Christ on their own, not because of infant baptism.

I could say more but won't at this time.

Rev. Charles

Steven Carr said...

Rev. Charles,

On the contrary, infant baptism does not "feed the idea that they need to do nothing in the future." As a sign, baptism always points to Christ and the need to have faith in him. The Westminster Larger Catechism teaches that we have a duty of "improving our baptism." Among other things, this means that we are to make good use of our baptism by having a lively faith in Christ. In Reformed and Presbyterian Churches it is common to remind people of their baptism and to call them to faith and repentance. True, there are some Reformed and Presbyterian Churches who neglect their duty to preach the gospel and to call baptized men to account; it is in these Churches where you will find the idea being fed that there is no need to do anything in the future. It is in these Churches where there is found the idea of a presumptive regeneration. However, presumptive regeneration is an idea that is almost unanimously rejected by the Reformers and the Reformed Orthodox after them. In all the Reformed Churches I've been a member of nobody has been fed the idea that since they have been baptized, they are therefore Christian and therefore saved.

Your objection, Sir, is not based upon factual data. Please read the Westminster Larger Catechism Q/A 167 "How is baptism to be improved by us?"

JohnGreenview said...

Among my many reasons for disagreeing with Nicky on this matter is the text of John 1

Joh 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

Dougie said...

oh dear, oh dear, oh dear....

Nick Mackison said...

Try and keep it constructive Dougie or I'll delete your comments.