The Baptism Debate

In this week's episode of Mere Fidelity, Derek Rishmawy and I debate baptism, with Matt Anderson moderating and asking some great questions. We touch on the classic issues - covenant theology, circumcision, the nature and role of faith, the burden of proof, specific texts in Paul, baptism and regeneration - as well as some more searching ones, like how we see baptism relating to those with severe cognitive disabilities (a challenge which, based on my experience with my daughter, I sometimes refer to as Annabaptism). Perhaps I would say this, but I think it gives a really good overview of the argument, especially from twelve minutes onwards. The experience has also made me more convinced of believers' baptism rather than less, although whether you see that as a positive or not will presumably depend on your perspective.

What I found most interesting was the fact that both Derek and I defend our positions in ways that many would not, even when they share our conclusions. Paedobaptists have long taken different views on how to understand the role of faith in baptising infants, given that baptism occurs “through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). Is that faith present in the church? The parents, a la Abraham/Isaac? The infant at some point in the future? The infant in the present (perhaps, as some would argue, as the purest form of faith there is)? Derek takes one view here, but plenty of paedobaptists would approach the subject differently.

Similarly, my defence of believers’ baptism differs from many Baptists’. Towards the end of this conversation I appeal to the simplicity of credobaptism: that repentance, faith, baptism in water, the gift of the Spirit and the gifts of bread and wine all apply to the same people at the same time, rather than (as paedobaptists believe) being separated by many years. But many of my fellow credobaptists would not agree with me here. Some Baptists give the Eucharist to children before they are baptised. Some think the gift of the Spirit is given months or even years after repentance, faith and baptism. Some think children can repent and believe at a relatively young age, but should not be baptised until they are adults. Some would baptise an adult whose cognition meant they could not understand the sacrament, but not an infant of an equivalent level of ability. Each of these positions seems strange to me - some of them appear less consistent than paedobaptism, in my view! - but I might as well admit that there is as much diversity amongst credobaptists as there is amongst paedobaptists, if not more so.

Anyway: see what you think.


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