Question on Household Baptisms in Presbyterian Churches

Discussion in 'Paedo-Baptism Answers' started by BLM, Oct 11, 2019.

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  1. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    Greetings PBers,

    This past Lord's Day I was visiting family and attended worship at a Presbyterian Church. It just so happened to be "Baptism Sunday" (their term not mine) and among those baptized was a pair of siblings who looked to be between the ages of 11-15. The pastor said these two were being baptized into the church based on the faith of their parents and used the household baptism examples from scripture to support the practice.

    For those in Presbyterian Churches is the practice of baptizing older children based on the faith of the parents considered normative? My wife and I expected to see infants baptized at a Presbyterian baptismal service obviously, but we were quite surprised to see children of this age baptized based on their parent's faith and not their own.

    How would your Presbyterian (or other Reformed) Church have handled a scenario like this? Would your church baptize preteens and teenagers under this oikos baptism understanding? If so, would there be an age when children of believing parents would no longer be eligible for baptism under this principle? if the children were considered to be of adult age?

    Thanks in advance for any insight shared!
  2. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    I'll take a guess (since I'm not Presbyterian):

    The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well,...

    (Acts 16:14b-15a)
    ...and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
    (Acts 16:33b)

    Each time right after conversion, the whole household gets baptized.
  3. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I have never heard of that practice, as thought that Reform would require older persons to express reason for their Baptism when older?
  4. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Moving to Paedo-baptism answers only.
  5. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Not enough information here. If the teens (in age) were still infants (mentally - "developmentally delayed"), the action would seem appropriate. Otherwise, the action would be, at best, unusual. Although I do recall that some offshoots of the reformed faiths do delay professions to adulthood. Was this a mainstream Presbyterian body, or is it affiliated with a group that may have differing practices?
  6. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Abraham and his entire household including adult servants were circumcised, why is this unusual? It’s perfectly in line with Scripture.
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  7. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    The church is part of the PCA.
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  8. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    Pastor Barnes,

    Thank you for your response.

    So, if I understand you correctly you would baptize ALL unbelieving children indiscriminately based on the faith of one or two believing parents. Given your example of Abraham's household, is it correct to infer that you would baptize unbelieving adult children based on this principle as well?
  9. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

  10. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Adult children? That's a little weird, but I guess we live in a hipster world where adults live with their parents, kind of like in Bibilical times. :) If they are under the headship of their parents, yes, if they were willing to be baptized.

    If they were willing to be baptized, I would baptize an unbelieving spouse as well.
  11. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I have seen some kids of that age baptized based on their parents' profession faith, and others at that age baptized based on their own profession of faith. It depends on the individuals and the situation. Some elders (usually in consultation with the parents) will decide the children are not ready to make their own profession, but will still want to see the kids baptized since they are part of the visible church and are being discipled. Other elders may decide other kids are ready to be baptized based on their own profession.

    Generally, at age 15 I would think most elders would hope to give a kid an "adult" baptism if warranted. But maybe not at age 11, and it's important that there not really be any target age anyway, lest kids feel pressure to profess too early. Certainly, it is unwise to push a child into baptism or push for a profession of faith at an age when a child is still mostly just mimicking what he's been taught.

    In general, Presbyterians don't like to put off baptism. Waiting a few years until the church is sure the child is ready to make his own profession carries concerns of its own. In a handful of cases where I have seen elders decide to wait and not baptize an older child at all, it was because the child himself was reluctant to be baptized and unsure he was a person of faith. With a child who is old enough to understand, there are good reasons not to pressure him to be baptized either based on his own faith or on the faith of his parents. Even if it's a "child" baptism, an older child should be a willing participant.

    It was wise of the pastor at the church you visited to explain the basis for the baptism. And it was probably appropriate for him to say no more than that. Discussions about whether or not a particular child is ready to profess faith are best not shared with the entire congregation. Just trust that the elders had good reasons.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
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  12. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    This sort of thing is typically left to the discretion of the session. There is no standard view or practice in the Westminster standards.

    The decision a session takes would be based on their view of the covenantal status of the older child, as well as their judgment of what would be best for the child from a pastoral perspective.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
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  13. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    There have been helpful answers by more experienced churchmen. That said, when my wife and I went through our membership meetings with the minister, we used a book called Confessing Christ by Calvin Knox Cummings along with the Westminster Standards (and of course, the Bible). We asked a ton of questions beyond our situation just so we could understand the convictions we were coming to. One of them was along these lines. Our pastor explained that he would most likely feel out where the child (roughly 13 years or older) was at. In this way, they might actually be ready to receive baptism as a believer and be able to partake of the Lord's Supper.
  14. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks to everyone for the responses thus far!

    I was reading over Chapter 25 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) and was wondering about the language below. For those who favor baptizing ALL unbelieving children regardless of age and even unbelieving spouses, why does the WCF only include believers and the infants of one or both believing parents? Nothing about all children irrespective of age, unbelieving spouses, etc...just believers and their babies.

    IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents, are to be baptized.
    I'm not trying to suggest the drafters of the WCF intended an "either/or" restriction regarding the subjects of baptism per se, but I do wonder about the doctrinal development of the "household baptism" view and whether Presbyterians from yesteryear would have held the same views as some I've seen espoused here and in referenced older threads.

    [It is outside the scope of my original post, but I hope the view that unbelieving spouses are somehow appropriate subjects of baptism is a minority position here on PB. This view seems quite extreme to me, though that should come as no surprise.]
  15. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    We adopted a twelve-year-old last May and she was baptized soon after as part of our household. She was willing and has given us no indication that she is an unbeliever (believer/unbeliever dichotomy is not helpful here). However, it was clear that her covenant inclusion is because of her inclusion in our household, not because she had made a public confession of faith.
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  16. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    What makes you think they are unbelievers? The Reformed make a judgment of charity. It seems Baptists are not as charitable in their assumptions...
  17. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    If you are going to quote me at least do so in full context. Clearly I was trying to make sure I understood what Pastor Barnes meant and gave him an opportunity to clarify his position before continuing the discussion. He didn't correct my understanding in his response and the discussion has carried on since.

    This entire thread, which I started by the way, presupposes that the subjects of baptism that we're discussing are unbelievers. The assumption was built into the original post.

  18. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    That's fair, I apologize.

    Thanks for clarifying!
  19. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    The reason for the Westminster Confession using the language of believers and their infants is simply because it is ordinarily expected that the children of believers would be baptised in their infancy, as opposed to them being baptised as 5-year-olds. When framing a confession, the compilers are obviously going to describe what should ordinarily take place - not what might happen in extreme or extraordinary circumstances.
  20. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Not to mention the language of Scripture, our ultimate rule and standard in which confessions must be measured, speaks to a broader sense and includes people beyond infancy.
  21. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Possibly the WCF assumed that the teenagers had already been baptized when they were infants thus there was no need to say, "Baptize your infants and your small children/teens.". Which is some proof that this was a long-held practice of the church from the beginning since they just assumed baptism would have been done when they were infants.
  22. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Were those two children baptized as communicant members or noncommunicant members?
  23. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    Good question. Since they were baptized based on the faith of their parents I assume they entered the church as noncommunicants, but I'm not positive.
  24. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Unless they had a confession, it was most likely, NCM.
  25. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Amen. Simple logic; They already had the sign.
  26. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    If I am understanding you correctly, I don't know if I agree with this, Andrew. If the spouse says he does not believe, why would u baptize him?
  27. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

  28. Connor Longaphie

    Connor Longaphie Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, I would agree with household baptism including spouses if they did not resist. Baptism is Baptism. It is a means of grace, not an outward profession.
  29. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    But, if they had a credible profession of faith, then they wouldn't have had to be baptized on the faith of their parents.
  30. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

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