Monday, 18 January 2010

paedobaptism in 1 corinthians 10

I've been thinking through paedobaptism (pb) recently and am currently reading The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism, edited by Gregg Strawbridge. I'll post one or two thoughts on the book in due course. It's a topic that has consumed me for the last 5 years or so. Some days I think I'm convinced and other days not. Sorting this one out is on my 'to do' list this year. One interesting proof-text used by paedobaptists is 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2:
For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea..
In this typological baptism, all Israel were baptized into Moses as they passed through the Red Sea. That's all Israel; men, women, children and babies. (I also heard it said that the only example of baptism by immersion here was the Egyptian soldiers drowning!) An interesting passage, and probably one of the strongest arguments for pb.


David said...

Hi Nic, quick question. If not a believer in the practice of paedobaptism (?), what age would you say is appropraite for a child to be baptised?

'And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.'
Mark 1:3-5

From this and other passages (Luke 3:2-4, Acts 19:4) we know that baptism follows repentance. So as long as someone is old enough to repent they are old enough to be baptised. This would suggest baptism isn't appropriate for very young children or babies who aren't able to articulate their thoughts.

Nick Mackison said...

David, I'm in a state of flux with baptism. Probably more a pb than bb at the mo. I've gone through periods of being utterly convinced of pb, but I do have nagging doubts. I need to get a tighter grip on the arguments.

John Thomson said...


Do you think the fact that Abraham was circumcised after he believed is relevant here? More, he was says Paul technically a gentile when he believed. Indeed Paul is eager in Romans to point out that circumcision was unnecessary for gentiles and had no intrinsic saving value. Only the circumcised who believed like Abraham were justified.

Rom 4:9-12 (ESV)
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.'

In the hope that repeating myself will eventually wear down all opposition let me wonder aloud why Paul does not simply tell these Judaizers so keen to circumcise gentiles that actually they need not get so bothered about circumcision for in the NC baptism replaces it; baptism is really circumcision. Indeed, I wonder why those pesky Judaizers didn't have the gumption to know this. Why did they still wanted people circumcised who had been baptised if both were clearly the same. How strange.

Unless, of course, baptism is not quite the neat replacement for circumcisionpaedobaptists tell us it is. Unless the idea that baptism was really NC circumcision had no part in apostolic preaching.

Alexander Smith said...

Question: should one not look upon Abraham's circumcision post-faith in its redemptive-historical context, i.e. as atypical rather than paradigmatic. It's through Abraham that we gain our inheritance into God's covenant family; Abraham was chosen out of humanity to be the father of the nations. This is why, as Paul says, Abraham's faith needed to precede circumcision in order for him, in his redemptive-historical position, to be the father to both Jews and Gentiles. Circumcision became the stamp of covenant membership, then baptism once Gentiles had been ingrafted into Israel.

As to the Judaizers: surely the reason they were pro-circumcision was because they were still caught up in their Judaism. It's not so much that they didn't believe baptism was a replacement of circumcision but that they didn't see baptism as having any import, because they viewed the New covenant through the lense of Judaism rather than through Christ. Not trusting on Christ was their problem. They didn't truly believe something fundamental had changed.

John Thomson said...


I am not getting drawn into this. You were not supposed to respond.


A word or two...

Don't you find the absence of any explicit NT support for paedobaptisma bit worrying? Given the discontinuities between the covenants doesn't the fact that the paedobaptist case rests virtually entirely on the assumption that circumcision of babies in the OT must imply the baptism of babies in the NT seem a little tenuous? After all only males were circumcised, should only males be baptised? Should only male babies be baptised?

And is the OC and circumcision = NC and baptism equation so obvious. After all John the Baptist baptized without any hint that this was equivalent to circumcision or some kind of slight of that circumcision. In fact when Paul wishes for an OT parallel to baptism it is not to circumcision he turns but to Israel passing through the Red Sea (1 Cor 10).

I agree the Judaizers didn't really believe something fundamental had changed. My question is, is paedobaptism a sign that Reformed folks have not fully grasped how fundamental the change is.

I know this last point is provocative, but it is not intended to be offensive.

John Thomson said...


I assume that the Federalists are right and that 'The Lord's Supper' should be given to infants.

Alexander Smith said...

Why was I not supposed to respond?

Peter tells us in his sermon on Pentecost that the promise- promised in the OT- has come and it is to "you and your children". Jesus, also, told His disciples to let the children come to Him, and He blessed them. In our modern evangelical culture blessing has lost a lot of meaning: everyone blesses everthing. But a blessing- from Jesus no less- is no small matter. And if children were not to be brought into the covenant family until they professed faith, then blessing them would not only be pointless it would bring judgement down upon them.

Children should not be admitted to the Lord's Supper because this sacrament is given to believers to strengthen their faith. One not merely receives the sacrament but participates in it. Paul tells us we are to do so in a discerning manner. Ergo, children who are too young to think through what they are doing should not be admitted.

It really is quite simple and there's no need to confuse the matter with irrelevant, naval-gazing debates like Federalism. Remember, all this is meant to have practical, pastoral applicability. We should be careful not to get lost in our intellectual forests.

Alexander Smith said...

And yes isn't the Red Sea a wonderful example. I do love the passage in 1 Peter which says we are saved through water.

Dougie said...

I don't often comment but:

"Ergo, children who are too young to think through what they are doing should not be admitted."

PB's welcome children as members of the New Covenant and then exclude them from it's benefits until they are old enough to think it through.

Are they in the covenant then or not? If they are, why exclude them from its benefits unless they are under church discipline?

Why welcome them in the covenant in the first place if they are excluded from the table immediately?

BTW, I know this is a long and complex argument and I have been pretty reductionist.