The subtitle of this short book is, Why We Baptize Children. Here is a topic that I have not brought up on my blog because I know I have passionate readers from both sides of the issue. I certainly echo Dennis Johnson’s words in one of his articles (link provided below):
You know, of course, that I don’t consider this issue one on which our trust-relationship with Jesus depends. Nor should differences on this issue disrupt our fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who see things differently. On the other hand, since we all want to show our gratitude for God’s grace by living our lives to please him, and since we learn what pleases him in his Word, we all want to get as clear a picture as we can of what the Word teaches.
Along with that, I really believe that our baptism is a sign and symbol of the gospel interrupting the ordinary. While we may disagree about the time and mode of it’s administration, Christians all agree that it is important because Christ instituted it.
I grew up a Baptist, so I have an understanding of the deep conviction they hold on baptism. In fact, I didn’t switch my views on infant baptism until I was pregnant with my third child. I became very troubled about the issue at that time, and ended up embracing the doctrine of infant baptism in covenant theology before Haydn was born. In studying the issue for myself, I realized that I had some false presuppositions about what people who baptized their babies believed. I also realized that I needed to dig further into the meaning of baptism.
Jesus Loves the Little Children is a great little read for anyone who wants to understand their own position of baptism better. The dedication in the beginning drew me right in:
May the waters of baptism ever remind you to look back upon our Red Sea, the precious blood of the Son of God, and forward to the spiritual land of Canaan.
Isn’t that beautiful? Even better, it encompasses the covenantal dynamic that baptism signifies. In his chapter explaining how circumcision is replaced by baptism, Hyde highlights the redounding effect of our baptism:
As we think of baptism along the lines of circumcision, we are struck by the fact that baptism is also a sign of curse/consecration. For those who believe in what baptism signifies, it is a sign and a seal of their blessing in Christ, but for those who reject what baptism signifies, it is a sign and a seal of their judgment as covenant breakers (22).
This corrects wrong thinking on both sides of the baptism debate. Baptizing your infant does not guarantee salvation. Rather, it “has been understood as the rite (outward ceremonial action) of passage distinguishing the children of God from the unbelieving world by graciously incorporating them into Christ’s covenant community” (8). And Baptists would also concur that a confession of faith that leads to baptism also does not procure one’s salvation. Both sides should agree that we are saved by faith alone, by the grace of God alone.
I don’t want to spend this whole review arguing all of Hyde’s points. My goal is to spark some interest in all of us to further examine our own position. This 96-page book is a great resource for explaining infant baptism in the household of believers. He has organized his topic well, with chapters covering definition of terms, baptism’s relation to circumcision, covenant and baptism, the whole baptism verses baby dedication, the mode of baptism, an excellent history of infant baptism throughout the early church, as well as a word to parents. Also included are the reformed confessions on baptism and a copy of what is actually said during this ceremony.
Perhaps those of you who are firm in your stance on believer’s baptism only could offer a resource for your position in the comments section. Whatever our stance, we should know the argument of both sides well so that we can represent them fairly, without relying on false presuppositions. I also highly recommend as free resources these two short articles:
Infant Baptism: How My Mind was Changed (this was a letter Dennis Johnson wrote to his daughter when she asked him about this topic while in college):
God’s Grandchildren: The Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism, by Michael Horton
I will close with Hyde’s summary conclusion:
So Jesus does love the little children, for “the Bible tells me so.” This love has been shown as he has graciously included the helpless children of his professing people into his covenant family for thousands of generations, all throughout the Old and New Testaments. He shows us, and them, this truth in an outward, tangible way, by having his ministers place the waters of baptism upon them. In doing so, God testifies that although they are born sinners (Ps. 51:5), helpless spiritually, and in need of salvation, just as the rest of humanity, he accepts them as members of the household of God and surrounds them with all his promises and providences.
Little ones to him belong
They are weak, but he is strong.