Owen’s Fallacious Argument

9jygm-2i_bigger DPatrickRamsey
If God denies baptism to children of believers then it must be because he denies them the grace signified by baptism- John Owen
10/18/16, 5:29 PM

God having appointed baptism as the sign of regeneration, unto whom he denies it, he denies the grace signified by it. Why is it the will of God that unbelievers and impenitent sinners should not be baptized? It is because, not granting them the grace, he will not grant them the sign. If, therefore, God denies the sign unto the infant seed of believers, it must be because he denies them the grace of it; and then all the children of believing parents dying in their infancy must, without hope, be eternally damned. I do not say that all must be so who are not baptized, but all must be so whom God would have not baptized.

-John Owen, Of Infant Baptism

Some think this is a good argument. Others recognize there is something off – but it’s not easy to pinpoint precisely what. In such instances, translating an argument into syllogistic form often helps to reveal the error in logic.

  • P1: If God denies someone the grace of regeneration, he denies them the sign of regeneration.
  • P2: God denies someone the sign of regeneration.
  • C: Therefore he denies them the grace of regeneration.

That’s a logical fallacy called affirming the consequent. Thus Owen’s argument is invalid. (Which is probably why he never published that tract 😉 ).

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