The following is from a discussion on Facebook. Someone wrestling with the issue posted the following:
Baptist: Only those who give a credible profession of faith should be.
Paedobaptist: my friend Bill gave a credible profession of faith. Should he have been?
B: Yes, definitely.
P: Just recently, my friend Bill apostatized from the faith and is now an atheist. Should he have been?
B: No, he shouldn’t have.
P: Why not?
B: Because he wasn’t a member of the New Covenant.
P: Is everyone who makes a profession of faith a member of the New Covenant?
P: But everyone who makes a credible profession of faith should be baptized?
P: So Bill should have been baptized?
B: No, because he wasn’t a member of the Covenant of Grace.
P: Should everyone who makes a credible profession of faith be baptized or should only those who are members of the New Covenant be baptized? Which is it?
It seems like baptists want to have their cake and eat it too here. Either people in the visible church should rightfully be baptized, or only those in the invisible church should be. Since we don’t have certainty of who is in the invisible church, the visible church should be baptized and their baptism is their right even if they apostatize later. But if baptists insist that only those who are members of the invisible church should be baptized, then they have to abandon the idea that everyone who makes a credible profession of faith should be baptized. Moreover, children of believers are members of the visible church, and there are at least some baptists who agree children of believers are part of the visible church.
The main point here is that even if one doesn’t think the visible church is synonymous with the covenant of grace, one still has to accept that there are people outside of the internal CoG, or just the CoG altogether on the baptist view, that have a right to baptism. Their right is by virtue of their profession. If they apostatize and a baptist claim they should not have been baptized, then the baptist is contradicting himself. Either regeneration is necessary for baptism, or simply being part of the visible church (note that being part of the visible church does not entail that one is a member of the CoG expect on Presbyterian covenant theology. You can assume only regenerate people are members of the CoG and it doesn’t affect my point) is necessary for a right to baptism. Since the latter doesn’t cause one to contradict themselves, it should be accepted. But then are infants of professing believers part of the visible church? Yes, so they should receive baptism.
Thank you for the critique you have offered to credobaptists. May we all endeavor to engage this conversation with a spirit of humility and iron sharpening (something I often fail at).
You do present a good question/challenge. However, there are a LOT of hidden premises and conclusions in your argument. Therefore presenting your argument as a syllogism will help everyone to be more clearly see the argument and to discuss the exact points of disagreement.
Here is my attempt to convert your statements into a syllogism.
P(a) Baptists say all men who give a credible profession of faith should be baptized.
P(b) Baptists say all men who give a false, but credible, profession of faith should not be baptized.
C(a) Baptists are contradictory.
Can you provide us with a written statement from a baptist asserting P(a) and P(b)? If they have said that, then they are being contradictory. Some may have carelessly expressed themselves in that manner. That’s why it’s helpful to look to a confession or other representative document. I believe the source of confusion, however, is that you are misrepresenting what baptists say about having a right to church membership and confusing it with the lawful administration of baptism. Allow me to present the baptist view in a syllogism for better clarity.
P1 Baptism is a visible sign to be lawfully administered by men according to their fallible knowledge.
P2 Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.
C1 Baptism is lawfully administered by men to men they have reason to believe have saving faith (fellowship with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, and are engrafted into him, have remission of sins, and have given up to God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life).
Either regeneration is necessary for baptism, or simply being part of the visible church… is necessary for a right to baptism.
It is more precise to say “Either regeneration is necessary for baptism, or simply making a credible profession of faith is necessary for the lawful administration of baptism.” Per the above, we say a credible profession of faith is necessary for the lawful administration of baptism. (2LBCF 29.2 Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance. Cf WCF 28.4)
Moreover, children of believers are members of the visible church.
This is where a great deal of the confusion enters. First of all, you’re just asserting precisely what you have to prove. Second, the visible church needs to be defined in relation to the invisible church. There are not two churches of Christ. There is only one made up of the regenerate elect. The difference between the visible and invisible church is perspective/point of view: God’s and man’s (see Church Membership: De Jure or De Facto). The visible church is man’s approximation of who is a member of the (one) church. Man can be mistaken. A mistaken belief that an unbeliever is actually a believer does not make that unbeliever a member of the church. It just means that we wrongly consider him a member of the church. But we may only consider someone to be a member of the (one) church by a credible profession of faith. Baptism may lawfully be given to a false professor whose false profession is deemed credible. It does not therefore follow that an infant who has made no credible profession of faith may lawfully be baptized.
In the OP, I am attempting to demonstrate a inconsistency/contradiction on the baptists administration of baptism.
As I’m on break at work, I cannot provide a written citation for the two premises of the syllogism. Your syllogism is a fair representation of my argument btw.
As I understand it, your view is that only those who are truly regenerate should be baptized, however it is lawful to give the sign to someone who gives a false profession of faith assuming we have reason to think it isn’t false, even though that person shouldn’t receive.
I’d agree that this terminological distinction between lawful administration and an actual right to baptism (ie being regenerate) resolves the dilemma.
The problem addressed in the OP is when it is treated as if anyone who professes faith should be baptized by virtue of their profession. However, I understand you to be saying that one is not to be baptized by virtue of their profession, but should be by virtue of their salvation. Yet, we can only presume who is saved by their profession, so it is lawful to baptize them even though they don’t have a right to it.
Correct me if I’m misunderstanding you.
Yes, that is an accurate understanding/representation of what I said.
To demonstrate that a false professor does not have a right to baptism, though it may be lawfully administered to them, consider the following.
P1 Believers in Christ make their belief known to others through an outward profession of their saving belief in Christ.
P2 No one has a right to bear false witness.
C1 No unbeliever has a right to make an outward profession of saving belief in Christ.
[Note: Ursinus makes the same argument with regards to the Lord’s Supper in his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 81. “The questions who ought to come, and who ought to be admitted to the Supper, are distinct and different. The former speaks of the duty of communicants; the latter of the duty of the church and ministers. The former is more restricted; the latter is broader, and more general: for, as touching the former, none but the godly ought to come to the Supper; whilst, as it respects the latter, not only the godly, but hypocrites also, who are not known to be such, are to be admitted by the church. Hence all that ought to come, ought also to be admitted; but not all who ought to be admitted, ought to come: but only those, 1. Who acknowledge their sins, and are truly sorrowful for them. 2. Who trust that their sins are forgiven them by and for the sake of Christ. 3. Who earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy: that is, those only ought to come to the Lord’s supper, and they alone are worthy guests of Christ, who live in true faith and repentance.”
We simply say the same thing about baptism.]
If someone were to make a credible profession of faith, do the ministers aware of said profession have a moral duty to baptize that person?
If the ministers refuse to baptize that person, are they in sin?
If yes, why? Especially considering that profession does not give someone a right to baptism.
I don’t see any grounds for denying baptism to someone you believe is making a credible profession. But there may be disagreement as to what constitutes a credible profession at times. For example, part of a credible profession would include a willingness to become part of a local church. If someone just wanted to be baptized, but made it clear they had no interest in the local church, that would be reason to doubt the credibility of the profession, etc.
Let’s say the profession was credible by whatever is the correct standard of assessing professions. Although there may be no reason to withhold baptism from them, is baptizing them a moral obligation such that if withheld, the minister would be in sin?
This is relevant, because if it is the case that the minister has a moral obligation, then the professor has a right to baptism by virtue of his profession. That would then entail the contradiction in the OP.
Honestly, this is getting pretty silly. You’re trying really hard to find a contradiction that is not there. If you think it’s there, write it out in a syllogism to demonstrate it. All you’re doing at this point is equivocating on the word “right.” What the minister may/must lawfully do is separate from what the unbeliever may rightfully claim before God. The difference is God’s perspective vs man’s perspective – which is precisely the difference between the invisible and the visible church. If a minister refused to baptize someone they believed met all the lawful requirements of baptism then he would be in sin. That does not therefore mean the unbeliever has a right to make a false profession. And if he does not have a right to make a false profession, he does not have a right to the baptism that follows his false profession. Again, I was careful to demonstrate this clearly in syllogistic form, so please go back and demonstrate precisely where the syllogisms are invalid if you think they are.
Honestly, I’m not trying hard to find a contradiction. I was merely asking for clarification.
I see your point.
This was a surprisingly fruitful thread. A lot of good discussion.
[See also Samuel Renihan’s comments on this point in The Case for Credobaptism]
9 thoughts on “Who Should Be Baptized – Professors or Believers?”
Thank you very much brother!
Gil from Greenville, SC
LikeLiked by 1 person
Any plans on responding to RS Clark Heidelcast episodes on infant-baptism?
I haven’t listened to them. Does he offer any argument beyond what I addressed in the critique of his covenant theology?
I’ve listened to the first three, and it looks like he’s addressing broad baptistic arguments and dealing with the low-hanging fruit of dispensationalism, thus far.
Pingback: Ursinus on Who Ought to Come | Contrast
Pingback: Church Membership: De Jure or De Facto? | Contrast
Pingback: Does 1689 Federalism require “Regeneration Goggles”? | Contrast
I am reminded on the disagreement between paedobaptists Pratt and Neill about if the “newness” of the new covenant has arrived yet.
Scott Clark plays both sides of this argument. On the one hand, he argues that
Spilsbury’s New Covenant is “so eschatological, i.e., it so partakes of the final state now–that only those who give evidence of being elect, are eligible to be admitted outwardly to the covenant community.” For the sake of his argument, Clark is confusing election and justification–the debate is about persons having received justification, about persons who have believed the gospel.
On the other hand, Scott Clark assumes that “membership in the visible church” and water baptism are “means of salvation”. Thus he accuses Spilsbury of ” withholding from infants the means until they gave evidence of redemption.”. But isn’t it the gospel which is the means in
God’s effectual calling of the elect?
Scott Clark—” Spilsbury seems to have held… the view that most predominated among modern Particular Baptists before the recovery of some of the more important 17th-century writers, whom I have been calling the PBs. This latter group clearly rejects the Reformed doctrine of continuity between the New Covenant and the covenant of grace and typically describes the Abrahamic covenant(s) as a species of the covenant of works or lumps the Abrahamic together the Mosaic and the Davidic…. Spilsbury, however, argued that the Reformed misunderstand the nature of the continuity with Abraham. What binds the New Covenant together with Abraham is not its promises and administration but the reception of the realities. Abraham had the benefits of Christ by faith. So it is in the New Covenant. The true seed was ever and only by electing grace, through faith. Only those who actually receive the benefits were ever actually in the covenant under Abraham and so it is now. In other words, for Spilsbury, the promises were always and only for believers.”
Pingback: Witsius: Baptism Belongs Only to the Elect | Contrast