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Today, one of my Facebook friends publicly shared that he has arrived at a major life decision after a long journey.
After three years of attending a United Reformed Church, never as a member but as one open to the possibility of the Reformed position of baptism, and having read many of the major works on the subject, I mailed the following to my pastor last night. I am comfortable sharing it publicly…
Dear Rev. _____________,
I am told a person once said of me, the reason I have remained so long at OURC without becoming a member is that I am stubborn, perhaps hard-headed. I hope it has never appeared so. I can testify from my conscience that I have always wanted to have what was required of me by the consistory. But I could not compel myself to affirm for truth what seemed to my limited, though overly informed judgment to be one of multiple possibilities.
If there is a reason why I stayed, it was because you and others at OURC encouraged me countless times to remain as long as it took to reach an affirmative position regarding baptism, whether paedo or credo. I have no doubt that had you asked, I would have made necessary arrangements to attend a Reformed Baptist congregation, however inconvenient and unhappy the loss of my regular fellowship with you all would have been. In such an environment we can only guess the likelihood of a changed view, if at all.
Though there has been an obvious build up to this point, tonight while speaking with my father things clicked, both for him and myself. Having returned to and exhausted the passages so commonly used in opposition to infant identification with the covenant community, and finding myself in possession of satisfying explanations, I realized that I was, in fact, more persuaded of the Reformed position. This came in part by understanding how I had previously imposed my own internal/external distinctions into the terminology of Baptists, and inferred common meanings where there were not. Moreover, I recognized very clearly the seriousness of the error and some of the ramifications for mishandling the sacrament. To look at it now, it is a wonder I did not see this earlier.
Upon sufficient examination by the elders, I would like to present myself for membership. I figured that of those at our church, you should be the first to know.
I am evidence that, “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
Thank you for your patience, prayers, and pastoral guidance. You’ve won a brother from error.
Secure in the grace of Christ, through the gift of faith,
PS: My father apologized for withholding baptism from me.
PSS: Though I do not recall you doing this, I would like to add that none of the cruel and tasteless jokes said about baptists ever edified me. It was the graciousness of a few Reformed brothers that played the greatest role in my continued exploration after each time the subject seemed exhausted. You were chief of them.
I am somewhat shocked at the ease of it, as there was little more to do than see Owen’s argument, David’s basis for presuming infant salvation, and understanding charitably inclusive language in the New Testament as not necessitating an “internal only” view. The hinge was in recognizing the internal/external dynamic in relation to charitable language and inclusion.
At a time when I feel better able to express my views on the issue, I look forward to helping others understand the Reformed position. Until then, I am officially paedo. And I love you all, paedo and credo alike.
Like Michael, I also had a long, tedious journey. I was baptized as an infant in a mainline, paedobaptist denomination, was convinced later in life to be immersed at Lake Washington in Seattle, then cozied up to paedobaptism again after attending a baptismal orientation for parents before my third child was baptized in a Presbyterian church.
Through it all, until my son’s baptism, I never dug any deeper into the back-and-forth, proof-texting arguments. Like my friend, I had “previously imposed my own internal/external distinctions into the terminology of Baptists, and inferred common meanings where there were not.”
I accepted the view that baptism is the believer’s testimony of his faith before the congregation, a view that is contrary to the Scripture’s teaching that the sacraments are “visible holy signs and seals appointed by God for this end, that by their use He may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the Gospel” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 66; cf. Gen 17:11; Deut 30:6; Ezek 20:12; Rom 4:11; Heb 9:8-9). How can an infant witness to his/her faith? Moreover, I believed that my baptism as an infant was invalid because baptism is only by immersion—the word baptidzo means “immersion”—contrary to ample evidence that baptidzo can be by immersion, or pouring, or dipping, or dropping, or sinking permanently into a liquid, and that it can mean washing (Mark 7:4; Luke 11:38), union with (1 Cor 10:2), or even death (Mark 10:39), in addition to water baptism.
Before my son was baptized, our church gave me a copy of What Christian Parents Should Know About Infant Baptism by John P. Sartelle. Later, I read Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism by Robert R. Booth, also formerly a Baptist. Finally, Danny Hyde came out with a concise but clear and coherent book, Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children.
Below are a few other articles that made this matter even clearer to me:
- Michael Brown: Why We Baptize the Children of Believers
- R. S. Clark: Covenant Baptism (A Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism)
- Ligon Duncan: “The Reformed Doctrine of Baptism and New Testament Practice”
- W. Robert Godfrey: “Why Baptism?”
- Grover Gunn: “The Mode of Baptism”
- Dennis E. Johnson: Infant Baptism – How My Mind Was Changed
- Dennis Kastens: “Infant Baptism in Early Church History”
- Jack D. Kinneer: “Does Baptism Mean Immersion?”
- Willima Shishko: “Is Immersion Necessary for Baptism?”
- “What 1 Corinthians 10:2 Means” (my own)