Reformed Paedobaptist View of Baptistm: Presumptive Regeneration?

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Puritan Board Freshman
Hi! Is it accurate that reformed paedobaptist hold to the doctrine of presumptive regeneration (not baptismal regeneration) upon their infants? If so, would this apply to both those infants who were not yet baptized or just those who have been baptized? Seems from my reading that reformed paedobaptist authors says those who are reformed paedobaptist should treat their infants as regenerated (becasue they are covenant children) until that child proves otherwise, whereas baptists treat infants as lost until they evidence signs of conversion in childhood or later in life. I do not want to mischaracterize my paedobaptist brothers & sisters view, so please clarify for me. Thank you!


Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I know there are discussions in the paedobaptist Reformed world about presumptive regeneration, but most paedobaptists I personally know would not put it in those terms. "Presume" is too strong a word. It suggests a certain gullibility that I don't feel I have toward church kids.

I treat the children of believers as young disciples. They are part of the church. They are part of Christian families. They are learning to follow Christ and are growing in faith.

The way I use the word "presume," this is different from presuming they are regenerate. I don't presume anyone is regenerate. That's God's call, and I don't want to get presumptive. But I do treat church kids as fellow disciples.

When I say I treat them as disciples and part of the church, I mean that I speak to them as I would anyone in the pews. I don't constantly question their salvation, which would destroy their confidence in Christ. Rather, I usually speak to them as if they have all the benefits of salvation, and occasionally I remind them that one does have to believe to be saved—just as you probably would if preaching to the whole congregation. It also means I speak to them with a measure of faith—not faith in them but faith in God. I have faith that God works in families and blesses those who are part of his church. Again, it is not a gullible, presumptive faith that's blind to the fact that God may place people in the church who are not actually regenerate.

So I'm not making any presumptions you wouldn't make about any other baptized person in your congregation. I'm guessing you treat those people as fellow disciples who are learning to love Jesus. In your interactions, you generally treat them as you would a treat person you knew was saved (if you could know such a thing), but you remain aware that despite their church membership and baptism they might not actually be regenerate. You don't get too presumptive, in a gullible way. You pray that they truly know Christ.

I interact with Baptists who sometimes question how one could baptize a person before they are saved. I counter by asking how they could baptize anyone if that's the standard to be proven. The Presbyterians I've been around baptize not on a presumption of regeneration, but upon a credible profession of faith (either from the person being baptized or, in the case of a child, a parent) and with faith in God to work in families and in his church.

The church is made up of baptized people, is it not? And baptism precedes discipleship, does it not? That's why, in my view, church kids should be baptized. It is not because we've been able to judge their hearts or are presuming something about their hearts that is God's alone to say.

Anyway, that's how this ordinary paedobaptist phrases things. There are folks on the board who can parse the whole "presumptive regeneration" phrase more expertly than I can.
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I'm uncomfortable with the terminology because regeneration is hidden and we live by what is revealed.

It seems to me that those who are conceptually given more to the idea of "presumptive regeneration" are anti-paedobaptists. I know that sounds pejorative but let me explain.

The Reformed idea of baptism is not necessarily tied to whether or not God has regenerated a person. Baptism is an initiating rite for the purposes of discipleship. We baptize an adult upon profession of faith in Christ but not because we assume the person is saved and should then be baptized in distinction from a child whom we are doubtful about because we don't know anything real about them until they have some sort of minimal mature cognitive ability to express that they are resting in the promises of Christ.

Baptism has a signatory and sealing quality to it. It serves the Spirit's purposes in sealing what is signified to the person. It can comfort the person, by the Spirit, who reflects upon what was signified and sealed to her in baptism but we do not stress the state of the person (either regenerate or unregenerate) at the time of baptism. It's not that we don't care whether a person may be unregenerate or regenerate but we simply never have access to such knowledge. It is not something that the Church has access to or can make any kind of ministerial decisions based upon. I don't counsel a man about his marriage with his wife on the basis that I know he is regenerate but I instruct him according to what the Word commands a baptized disciple is supposed to consider. It is because he is baptized and set apart in the visible Kingdom that he is discipled into the faith. He is instructed and built up and conformed to the character of what it looks like to be a disciple. These ministerial means are what the Spirit uses toward His Sovereign ends and may even be the occasions for conversion but, again, the Church only ever ministrates the Promises. It declares the Promises, it preaches the Word, it administers what God has given. The minister is called a minister (and not a priest) because he is not imparting power but ministering Word and Promise.

In one sense (it seems to me), presumptive regeneration is a way to speak to adopt a sort of antipaedobaptist perspective to those trying to figure out what paedobaptists are doing with kids. Why is that? Because real faith (the kind that only the regenerate possess) is the only thing that makes a baptism a real baptism in this schema. Another way of saying this is that one is baptized because they are presumed regenerate and many Baptists even talk about the need for a regenerate Church membership.

When I challenge Baptists I'm typically trying to get them to see the incongruity of basing ministerial actions on things that belong to the Spirit and ask themselves if that is really what Scripture is calling the Church to do. Baptists are uncomfortable because it seems like Presbyterians are just, willy nilly, baptizing people that might go to Hell. Well, no it's not willy nilly but we just don't tie regeneration to baptism and discipleship in the way Baptists do. I've even heard a Baptist argue that Matthew 28:18-20 proves credo-baptism because only disciples are baptized. He didn't realize the circularity in assuming that "disciple" meant "regenerated person" without establishing that fact.

I believe, in contrast, that baptism is for the aim of discipleship. Discipleship is for the aim of maturity and growth. These are things that the Church has access to because they are things we can do. Regeneration belongs to the Spirit and He uses those means but we don't base our actions on knowledge that belongs to the Holy Spirit.


Puritan Board Graduate
Pastor Wilson,

Paedobaptists disagree on this subject. The doctrine is, however, contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith XIV.i.:
The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.


Puritan Board Graduate
See also Larger Catechism 67:
Q. 67. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.
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