Baptism of Children

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by PatrickTMcWilliams, Apr 17, 2012.

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  1. PatrickTMcWilliams

    PatrickTMcWilliams Puritan Board Freshman

    Discussion has come up recently at my church about the appropriate time to baptize a child who has made a profession of faith. The parents seem keen on a Mark Dever-ish view, which requires waiting until the child has a chance to prove his or her sincerity in the real world. See here: Capitol Hill Baptist Church » Baptism of Children

    When I hear them articulate this view, it seems utterly foreign to me, yet they are surprised I disagree. My own view is rather that if they can both articulate the gospel and identify false gospels like salvation by works, and there is no clear evidence of insincerity (e.g. they live like a complete hellion at home while paying lip service to the elders at church), then go ahead and baptize them.

    The other side's concern is that we not possibly "deceive them" if the child is not truly a believer.

    My concern is that this will breed morbid introspection in the child (who has made repeated, clearly articulated professions of faith, and expressed a desire to be baptized), causing them to look to their own works for assurance, and ultimately result in rebellion.

    What do y'all think?
     
  2. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    If they have made a credible profession of faith then they should be baptized as soon as possible.
     
  3. PatrickTMcWilliams

    PatrickTMcWilliams Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree, but the issue is what constitutes a "credible" profession. Some, like Dever, seem to think a profession cannot be really considered credible until the child has a job, a car, unbelieving friends, out from under their parents' authority, and/or other things of that nature.
     
  4. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    Our church is nearer to the Dever position than we ever have been before. 20 years of shepherding the same folk has sharpened our discernment of the differing views.
     
  5. PatrickTMcWilliams

    PatrickTMcWilliams Puritan Board Freshman

    Bob, what, in your opinion, constitutes a credible confession?
     
  6. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    That would involve a number of variables. If a twelve year old girl who was raised from the cradle in a solid Christian home; had been catechized, home schooled, and been exemplary in deportment; such a child would be a much harder read than a fifteen year old boy who had run the streets prior to being adopted from an orphanage and was wonderfully saved some six months prior.

    The first case may be a genuine work of grace. But it might on the other hand be the marks of common grace and favorable circumstances.

    These and a multitude of other variables call for prayer and discernment by the shepherds of the flock.
     
  7. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    I understand and sympathize with the idea of waiting a period of time to "test" a profession. On the surface it seems like the wisest thing to do. However, I just don't see it Biblically. I can't think of any situations where it was done that way. The Pharisees were sent away from baptism in order to show fruits of repentance but it was obvious that they were not believers so I don't think this can be used as an example. In the other examples given, baptism was done immediately after a profession that was judged to be credible at that time. So while I understand why some put a time period on it, I don't see the example in Scripture and I think it can be quite discouraging for the one making the profession. It is almost saying to them that we are excited that you made a profession but...we don't really believe you until you provide an unquantifiable amount of proofs to us over an uncertain period of time.
     
  8. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    John, I am very familiar with that position. Not having time now to engage it here I commend Dever's thinking on the issue. Certainly the elders bear the responsibility for this weighty decision.
     
  9. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    :agree:
     
  10. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Here is my issue with the "other side" as you put it. How are those of us who believe in baptizing as soon as possible "deceiving" the child? I do realize we are Baptists and teach "believer's baptism" but how are we to know without a shadow of a doubt whether someone is really converted or not? Baptism does not guarantee that the child is now regenerate and I don't know of anyone who would tell someone that it is a guarantee. So how has the child been "deceived" if they prove later on to be in fact unregenerate? They have made a profession which at the time seemed to the best of the judgment of the elders to be genuine and they were baptized, which is the Scriptural example.

    It honestly grieves me to see baptism withheld from a professing believer, for their sake and for the Scripture's sake. One argument I have heard is that in Scriptural times it was apostles and prophets doing the baptizing and they were able to better discern a person's actual salvation, therefore that is why they baptized immediately. We on the other hand do not have the same ability in discernment. It is true that the apostles and prophets were gifted in a way that we are not, however, even Philip baptized Simon the magician based on a profession of faith and Simon turned out to be unregenerate.
     
  11. PatrickTMcWilliams

    PatrickTMcWilliams Puritan Board Freshman

    John, my thoughts exactly. One of the strongest arguments is that those who would delay baptism for a professing child would be creating the following scenario:

    If the child is sincere, we would be requiring them to say, "I believe the gospel. I know I am saved by the blood of Christ. I know Christ has commanded his followers to be baptized. Yet Scripture teaches me that I must not obey Christ's command until the adults around me are convinced of my sincerity."

    I cannot accept that Scripture teaches any believer ought to base whether or not he follows a command of Christ on the subjective opinions of those around him. His willingness to be baptized and publicly profess what God has done ought to be the first evidence of his sincerity!
     
  12. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I think the parents should yield to the judgment of the elders. (Heb 13:17)
     
  13. PatrickTMcWilliams

    PatrickTMcWilliams Puritan Board Freshman

    My question was more about what the Scriptural direction is, i.e. what should an elder think about such things?
     
  14. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    True enough, but elders have differing opinions. Some disagree with Dever and will practically push for baptism, even for elementary age kids who have professed faith. I would imagine you refer to debatable cases that aren't clearly established in scripture, which is, I suppose, the category to which this issue belongs.
     
  15. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    If by waiting upon a level of maturity before baptizing and bringing into the membership of the church a relatively young believer places me on the other side then permit me to point out what many of those who take the opposite position have never had to wrestle through. If you are not an undershepherd who will render an account to the Chief Shepherd for the care of His flock, then may I point out that there are concerns at stake that you may never have had to consider.

    The side opposite mine takes as the chief and unrivaled obligation to be that of "BAPTIZING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE". Have you ever known a six year old who professed to believe in Jesus whose profession you had no present warrant for regarding as clearly false? Would you (imagine that you are the pastor and will give an account) then bring this six year old into the membership of the church? I am full aware that there are innumerable evangelical Baptist churches in the land who do so but I am asking you as a confessionally reformed Christian Pastor will you bring this six year old into the membership? And what about his four year old brother? These are not side issues. These are of the utmost importance and must not be lightly considered.

    I know of a Calvinistic Baptist pastor, who because of this tension, now argues for a two-tiered membership within the church; a lower tier for children professing faith, and an upper tier for mature professors of faith. Only the upper tier “members” are liable to church discipline.
    But for many of us who take the doctrine of the church seriously such tinkering and tweeking of the meaning of church membership is not an option.
    This is only the tip of the iceberg. As I said in one of my posts above:

     
  16. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Pastor, it seems I have offended you and it was not my intention. The OP which you quoted stating

    was what I was responding to in my post. Patrick stated that the side wanting to wait for baptism has a concern that those who do not wait may deceive the child receiving baptism saying they are converted when they are not. At least that is how I read what he was saying. That is what I was responding to, it was not one of your posts. If you look at post #10, that was what I was interacting with in that post. I was in no way intending to speak harshly toward you. I have great respect for you and your ministry there in Louisville. I have a different view on this particular subject but was not desiring to cause offense just wanting to debate and discuss the topic at hand. I am truly sorry if I seemed to be doing otherwise.
     
  17. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I was not aware of this. From the OP it sounded like the disagreement was between the elders and the parents. Sorry.
     
  18. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I was referring to the difference of opinions in general among Baptists on this issue and wasn't limiting my comments to this specific case. Sorry if that caused any confusion. Other than a disagreement between the OP and the Deverish parents, I don't see much more information about the situation.

    I've seen Dever bolster his case by citing the practice of older Baptists and noting that the ages of the children baptized has tended to become lower and lower as time has gone on. Now you have what even some non-Calvinist and basically revivalist Baptists decry as late stage paedobaptism, with children of 4 or 5 being baptized. I think most would agree that the latter case is a problem, but where and how to draw the line later is harder.

    I know of some churches that require members to be 16 (I think) before becoming a voting member, etc. Bob, is this the kind of thing you have in mind with a two-tiered membership? But in the case I'm recalling, I'm thinking the child would still be under the jurisdiction of the church leadership and subject to some kind of appropriate discipline should the need arise. Unfortunately I can't remember where I saw this example.
     
  19. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Bob,

    To answer your questions:

    I am not an elder but, hypothetically, if they understood the gospel, could articulate it, and professed faith then yes.

    Mark 10:13-14
    "And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

    If the 4 year old through the questioning of the elders is deemed to understand the gospel, can articulate it, and has professed faith then I see no reason from preventing them from baptism or membership.


    I would not agree with a two-tiered membership. The parent should bear some responsibility if a small child is acting up to the point of church discipline being discussed.
     
  20. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    John I assure you that you have not offended me in the least. I have stated my position as best that I could and you have done the same. Such exchanges are good for us all. Drawing the lines more distinctly around those matters where we differ facilitates further dialog.

    The Lord bless you brother,
     
  21. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I do not advocate an age requirement for baptism. I do advocate the serious deliberation of the elders, in consult with the parents, before a decision is made on whether or not to baptize a child. Among younger children a credible profession of faith could be difficult to discern. Children mature at varying rates. I will not baptize a child based solely on a profession. Variables need to considered. What does the child understand about their profession? Can they explain the Gospel? Because childish immaturity can often obscure good Christian conduct, is there an observable witness for Christ in their life? I can list more of these variables but I think the point is made. While I do not subscribe to Dever's position, I would concede that the majority of baptisms among professing children would probably be in the mid to late teens.
     
  22. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Good to hear. Blessings to you as well.
     
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