Reformed/catholic Infant Baptism: Similarities

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blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
I've shared on the board before how some baptist church's I've attended paint all reformed churches, who practice infant baptism, with a big brush that tends to make one apprehensive about even taking the time to learn about the reasons why they baptize their infants. Some of you may have heard something similar in your experiences..."The reformers left the catholic church, but they didn't really break away and follow the Bible because they continued to baptize their infants". When you associate reformed practices with catholic practices, there's a tendancy for warning flags to go off.

I've since come to learn a bit more about CT and the reasons why reformed churches baptize infants, and have come to realize that there's a big difference between the catholic baptism and the reformed baptism...Or, is there?

On the way back from lunch, I started wondering if there's really such a big difference between the two baptisms. (Hear me out, before you start chucking the tomatoes, etc. ) What the baptism accomplishes (baptismal regeneration) is different, but are the reasons for baptizing essentially the same? Does the catholic baptism have the same covenantal basis for performing the baptisms as do the reformed?

Stated another way: The reformers left the catholic church. They changed their views about baptismal regeneration to be better aligned with the scriptures, but did they also change the reason for the baptism, or did that stay the same?

Make sense?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
In his controversy with Pelagius (who denied original sin), Augustine emphasized that children needed to be baptized in order to purge them of original sin. Rome still teaches that today.

The Reformed, by way of contrast, baptized them because they believed God had already adopted the children of believers.

DTK
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by blhowes
Does the catholic baptism have the same covenantal basis for performing the baptisms as do the reformed?
No, there is not the same covenantal basis.

Romanists baptize their young to remove original sin -- which places baptism not in a covenantal framework, per se, but a soteriological framework . . I mean, they make it part of the ordo salutis in some sense. In their framework, baptism is so important in terms of salvation, that those who are not water baptized cannot be saved (hence baptizing dying infants immediately before death, even by laity).

The Reformed recognize that water baptism points to something else -- namely, Spirit baptism, which is required for salvation (though, of course, God is the alone agent in this baptism/circumcision).
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
To put it further, Roman baptism infuses righteousness ex opere operato (by the working of the works). The sacrament itself conveys grace to the infant (or baptized individual). The sacrament and the reality of Grace are conflated together so that sacrament=union with Christ (at least conditionally until that grace is destroyed by the individuals' sin).

The Reformed view is different. Heidelberg expresses it well (and stands in opposition to the Romish doctrine):
Question 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?

Answer: Not at all: for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin.

Question 73. Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism "the washing of regeneration," and "the washing away of sins"?

Answer: God speaks thus not without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water.

Question 74. Are infants also to be baptized?

Answer: Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; and since redemption from sin by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, instead of which baptism is instituted (f) in the new covenant.
Dr. R. Scott Clark helped me to understand this better in his lecture "Why Baptism and What Does it Do?". Baptism externally says to us in effect: "As surely as you see this water that represents the washing away of sin, so surely is that true of you when you believe...." It is a ministerial act of recognition and does not, as Rome believes, imbue actual Grace by its own authority.

I hope I stated that precisely and clearly.
 

Larry Hughes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rich,

That's a great discussion, I really was fed a lot from it and recommend it to anyone!

Bob,

Also a point that Michael Horton makes in his latest book really cleared some dust in my thinking in trying to see the difference between the Lutheran view of baptism and Reformed, for both see them as Gospel. As opposed to Rome and others.

He states that the fundamental difference in Rome, Baptist and even the Lutheran view of baptism when its broken down is that they mainly deal with it fundamentally in "Greek philosophical" categories. True reformed baptism deals with it in "relational" categories (i.e. covenant). The same issue occurs concerning the Lord's supper.

This means for example "to wrongly divide the Lord's body" warned against in Corinthians is not as the Lutheran's say, "the real physical presence of Christ versus not." Nor is it the pietistic "inward searching" of "am I worthy" and not "in sin" (we always are in reality). Drunkeness itself was not the issue what was behind it was. Rather it was because what was being witnessed by the supper was contra their actions. On one hand the body of Christ is gathered as one (covenant people), the church His body = one. One-ness is emphasized heavily in all references to the sacraments (both of them). And they were gathered together to take the body (bread) and blood (wine) of Christ, again one-ness being key here (covenant people IN Christ). But they were in fighting the rich were making a show of their wealth by eating and drinking gluttonously and drunkenly, and casting the poor into the outer halls with little food or wine. This was common for the secular Roman society to show who is rich and who is not. It was a society thing that the secular folks did. But they were suppose to be in THIS setting the church of Christ, one people, neither rich nor poor, jew nor gentle, male nor female, ONE covenant people, the church/body of Christ. Taking the covenant meal which too is the body and blood of Christ, ONE. Yet, they were bearing witness to a cast society among the covenant people by calling this "showy" meal that was really not different than such secular meals - the Lord's Supper (the one-ness covenant meal of the people of Christ. It was bearing itself witness in the gluttony and drunkeness (the effects of the real sin at issue). THIS was to wrongly dividing the body of Christ = a divided gathered church body and a divided meal which should have been a one body one meal bearing witness to the one grace received by and for all.

This is much the exact same issue in James, the rich and poor stratification of the church to which James says, "Is this (type) faith going to save you?" No!

That's my regurgetation of it, get the book you will not be disappointed!

Blessings,

Larry
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Thank-you all for your fascinating posts. You know, don't you, that sometimes you guys amaze me the things you post! Such food for thought.

Two things I've never thought about before:
He states that the fundamental difference in Rome, Baptist and even the Lutheran view of baptism when its broken down is that they mainly deal with it fundamentally in "Greek philosophical" categories. True reformed baptism deals with it in "relational" categories (i.e. covenant). The same issue occurs concerning the Lord's supper.
I've never thought of the Baptist baptism in this way before, in any way similar to the Lutheran/Roman baptisms. "Greek philosophical" catergories? hmmm...

...Yet, they were bearing witness to a cast society among the covenant people by calling this "showy" meal that was really not different than such secular meals - the Lord's Supper (the one-ness covenant meal of the people of Christ. It was bearing itself witness in the gluttony and drunkeness (the effects of the real sin at issue). THIS was to wrongly dividing the body of Christ = a divided gathered church body and a divided meal which should have been a one body one meal bearing witness to the one grace received by and for all.

This is much the exact same issue in James, the rich and poor stratification of the church to which James says, "Is this (type) faith going to save you?" No!
Somewhere along the way I got the idea that their sin was selfishness, or a lack of love, but I've never thought of the real issue being the dividedness of the particants.

Thanks for more things to think about,
Bob

[Edited on 5-9-2006 by blhowes]
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
On the second issue, Bob, I noticed the same thing when I studied 1 Cor with respect to the Communion of the Saints. He shows their sinfulness in not recognizing that they are part of one another even as different body part are part of one another.

I think too often, especially in our egalitarian society, there is a tendency to think of Christianity as "...me and Jesus...." Nothing could be further from the Truth.

1 Cor 11:29
29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

Follow Paul's argument through into Chapter 12 (I think the Chapter breaks prevent us from seeing this...) and I think it is pretty clear that Paul is talking about the Church.

I cannot quite explain the connection I have with those in Christ but I know it is real and I try to stir up within my heart this sense of being part of other believers. I consider it my duty to stir up within myself that sense of being part of something bigger than myself. I am part of the Body of Christ.
 

Larry Hughes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rich,

I know what you mean. I first began to "see it" in James then in 1 Cor. but couldn't quite put thought to it until I read Horton. He connected the dots well for me.

L
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by Larry Hughes
Also a point that Michael Horton makes in his latest book really cleared some dust in my thinking in trying to see the difference between the Lutheran view of baptism and Reformed, for both see them as Gospel. As opposed to Rome and others.

He states that the fundamental difference in Rome, Baptist and even the Lutheran view of baptism when its broken down is that they mainly deal with it fundamentally in "Greek philosophical" categories. True reformed baptism deals with it in "relational" categories (i.e. covenant). The same issue occurs concerning the Lord's supper.
What's the name of the book?

I was thinking about this point on the way to work this morning. It would be interesting to read the book sometime to better understand where he's coming from. I wonder in what way the Baptist way of looking at baptism isn't covenantal. Is it because they only baptize those who have given a credible profession of faith (ie., those, as best as they can tell, who are believers in Christ, and therefore are members of the new covenant), and don't include the children as well?
 

New wine skin

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by SemperFideles
On the second issue, Bob, I noticed the same thing when I studied 1 Cor with respect to the Communion of the Saints. He shows their sinfulness in not recognizing that they are part of one another even as different body part are part of one another.

I think too often, especially in our egalitarian society, there is a tendency to think of Christianity as "...me and Jesus...." Nothing could be further from the Truth.

1 Cor 11:29
29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

Follow Paul's argument through into Chapter 12 (I think the Chapter breaks prevent us from seeing this...) and I think it is pretty clear that Paul is talking about the Church.

I cannot quite explain the connection I have with those in Christ but I know it is real and I try to stir up within my heart this sense of being part of other believers. I consider it my duty to stir up within myself that sense of being part of something bigger than myself. I am part of the Body of Christ.


I think your correct Rich, we too easliy loose sight of the blessing found in communion as a body. People are quick to forsake fellowship in worship and study of the Word. Funny, I just read Psalm 133 a few days ago and it connects with the idea of unity/communion as you mention above. This is something worth meditating on.
 

Larry Hughes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Bob,

It's called God of Promise - Introduction to Covenant Theology. It's a really packed but short well written and generous writing.

Off of the top of my head I cannot recall exactly, so I'd recommend reading so I don't miss represent the point.

I'll give it a quick try: It has to do with what a true sacrament (covenantal sign) is and one side, Rome, collapsing the thing signified into the sign and the other side divorcing the thing signified from the sign. The net effect is the same, both end up with a sign that no longer is covenantal or truly a sacrament.

Anyway, check the book out there's a lot more in there than just that. If nothing else you'll be thrilled with some of the other items.

Enjoy,

Larry
 
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