Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Believer's Baptism

As I reflect on my convictions and also my role as a pastor, I see the issue of baptism as an important issue to decide on. I have asked my self “Is Paedobaptism (Infant Baptism) so clear in Scripture that it would be sinful not to baptize one’s babies?” First let me say that I reflect on this as a Baptist pastor, and see this as important to ones ministry because it will affect one’s philosophy of ministry as well as one’s ecclesiology. To help me reflect on this I am also reading through “Baptism of Disciples Alone” by Fred Malone (who is also a Baptist pastor), and so much of my thinking is a reflection on his answers to my questions. You can read a general review of this book here. You can purchase it by clicking here.

As a father the issue is of great importance because that answer to this question must convince me that I am in God’s will. If I become convinced that my children must be baptized before they believe then I am saying that this is a matter of obedience to God word and those that don’t baptize their children are disobeying God and his Word. Can you see why the issue of baptism is not just a secondary issue that can be ignored?

One of the subjects that has come to me in reflection on this issue again is the subject of the “Regulative Principle.” The Regulative Principle of worship requires that elements of worship, including ordinances (or sacraments), be “instituted” by God himself, limited by his own reveal will, and prescribed in Holy Scripture. In other words, elements of Christian worship must be instituted by God and prescribed by God, either in the way of commands or clear examples. The Lutheran “normative principle” and the Roman Catholic “inventive principle” are different in that they also permit in worship things not specifically prohibited in New Testament Scripture. This may include noninstituted worship practices erroneously deduced from other Scriptures such as the existence of priests, altars, pageantry, incense, and priestly rituals for New Testament Worship.

I accept that the regulative principle is revealed in the scripture. I see that Jesus declared His authority over instituted Old Testament Worship (Jerusalem) and noninstituted Worship (Samaria) with His words to the woman at the well (John 4:21-23), as well as to his disciples in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20).

I am also convinced that a Basic Principle of biblical interpretation is: “The New is in the Old concealed; and the Old is in the New revealed.” This basic principle places an emphasis on New Testament revelation to be The New Testament is the final determiner of instituted and regulated Christian Worship versus Old Testament Worship and forms continued by inference alone, and is supported by Ephesians 2:20, 3:5. I don’t see as the “good and necessary inference” as a safe hermeneutical principle to apply to a New Testament Sacrament instituted by Christ. In my persuasion, I see this second principle being used possibly to support erroneous convictions that would not correspond to the truth of God’s character.

So in light of the truthfulness of the Regulative principles and basic hermeneutical principles, if baptism is included as an element or worship, should its meaning and mode - as a sacrament or ordinance - be “ordained and instituted” by Jesus Christ according to same principle as the Lord’s Supper?” I believe so. As a Baptist pastor, I just cannot seem to make an exception for infant baptism to the regulative principle, because I don’t see the arguments for this exception very convincing (see The Rejection of the Baptism of Disciples Alone for arguments for infant baptism). While I recognize that other brothers in Christ disagree with me on this, I challenge them to consider the issue of believer’s baptism from scripture again in light of what I have written.

Again this should be an important issue to Christians today as it was to our Baptist forefathers as reflected by their statement in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith:

Therefore we cannot for our own parts be persuaded in our own minds, to build such a practice as this, upon an unwritten tradition: But do rather choose in all points of Faith and Worship, to have recourse to the Holy Scriptures, for the information of our judgment, and regulation of our practice. . . . All instituted worship receives its sanction from the precept, and is to be thereby governed in all the necessary circumstances thereof [emphasis mine]. (Appendix to the 1689 Baptist Confession).

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