Sunday, August 30, 2009

Next Week's Baptism

Next Sunday morning in our worship services, I will baptize my son, Jim. He's six years old.

It is an action that will bring down upon me (spoken or unspoken) the suspicion or scorn of others, all of whom I count as brothers in Christ and some of whom I count as friends. Some would delight in accusing me of being a paedobaptist. Some would wring their hands that such baptisms erode the regeneracy of the church. Some would argue that, even if there is no theological basis for waiting to baptize Jim (who stands in stead for others like him), there is ample pragmatic cause in the modern state of the churches.

If they are close to me at all, and if the topic has ever arisen between us, then they know of my longstanding (long before I had children) resistance to humanly devised age thresholds governing the Christ-ordained institution of baptism. Because few topics are as important, and because this is a dialogue worth having as Southern Baptists, I offer here my own convictions that lead me to baptize Jim next Sunday morning. I gather my thoughts around three primary questions.

  1. Is there a mandatory minimum age for being converted?
  2. What is the basis of eligible candidacy for baptism?
  3. Who has the authority to set qualifications for baptism?

Is there a mandatory minimum age for being converted?

Certainly there are mandatory capacities that a person must master before being able to experience conversion. Repentance accompanies conversion; therefore, any person who is not yet capable of appreciating his own sinfulness before a Holy God, experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and demonstrating contrition and repentance—the person incapable of these things because of infancy is not yet old enough to experience conversion. Faith accompanies conversion; therefore, any person not yet capable of knowing the facts of the gospel and receiving them by faith is not yet old enough to experience conversion. In this sense, I affirm that there is a mandatory minimum stage for being converted.

If illness or other developmental incapacity caused a person not to acquire these capabilities until far into physical maturity, such a person could be ineligible for conversion until quite advanced in years, I believe.

But the question concerns not so much a minimum stage of conversion as it deals with the idea of a minimum age of conversion. To put it bluntly and specifically, would any argue that no six-year-old could possibly have experienced genuine conversion? I have not yet encountered anyone so bold as to make this argument. I would make it with regard to a six-month-old—no six-month-old exists, or ever has existed, who could possibly have experienced genuine conversion. But I would not make this claim with regard to a six-year-old. Would you?

You might think that I would take this question too personally to discuss it, since we're talking about my son here. You'd be only half right. I do take it personally, but not because of my son. I take it personally because of me. I was not six, but five years old (almost six) when I was converted. I testify today, God bearing witness with me, that I at that age understood that I was a sinner, understood that my sin was against God, understood that damnation awaited me for my sin, understood that I could not save myself, understood that Christ had died for my sin on the cross as my substitute, understood that Christ had risen from the dead after three days, understood that Christ wanted me to repent of my sin, understood that I needed to place my faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins, and understood that I must confess Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I consented to all of those things at that time.

What's more, I did all of this under the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit. If that was not the Holy Spirit dealing with me in conviction when I was five years old, then I have never known His voice—not in my dramatic calling to preach when I was eleven, not in the many stirrings and reproofs and blessings that have happened since then. In my experience, that was the time when I met the One who has walked with me through so many mileposts along the way in my life.

So, if you would argue that no six-year-old could possibly have been converted, then I suggest that you bring your best game. You're going to have an uphill climb convincing me.

If not, then I'll be glad to enter a conversation with you about how frequently God births again human beings of various ages, as well as means that God might use to secure those earlier, less frequent, conversions when He so chooses. Certainly I do not believe that God converts every six-year-old, nor do I believe that every six-year-old is capable of conversion at that time. I would not even argue that the majority of six-year-olds are in a position to comprehend or experience all that conversion entails. I am merely advancing the point that there are some people even as young as five years old who genuinely do experience conversion.

What is the basis of eligible candidacy for baptism?

Along with most formal statements on this point from Baptists, I confess and believe that only "a believer" (BF&M Article VII) is the rightful candidate for baptism. The basis of candidacy for baptism is conversion, and only conversion. Churches hear the testimony of professed believers and baptize those who are (to employ the Puritan language here) "visible saints," or who appear to have been converted.

We argue for conversion as the basis of candidacy for baptism against the paedobaptists, who argue that, at least for some people, a milestone of physical development (i.e., birth) is the basis of candidacy for baptism. Those eligible for baptism are those, irrespective of whether they have been born again, who have attained to at least the age of zero. The historic Baptist idea (if not perfectly the historic Baptist practice) has not been to argue that paedobaptists have merely found the wrong age for at which to baptize people (zero rather than, say, thirteen, for zero is just too young), but rather to argue that age is the wrong basis entirely for baptism, which must be extended to all and to only those who have been born again.

When we credobaptists say that we will not baptize any younger than eighteen-year-olds, it seems to me that we have wandered away, yes, from our Baptist theological underpinnings, but so much more importantly, from the New Testament theology of baptism that makes the new birth the sole criterion adjudging whether one be eligible for baptism. "If you believe with all your heart you may [be baptized]." (Yes, I believe that Acts 8:37 belongs in the Bible).

So, to make it all specific and personal, if my son has legitimately experienced conversion, and if our church nonetheless were to forbid him to be baptized (or if I were to do so as his father), then by our actions we are stating that the new birth is not the basis of candidacy for baptism. At best, we are saying that new birth plus something else is that basis. In which case we need to amend all of our confessions of faith and start being more honest about our beliefs with regard to baptism.

Who has the authority to set qualifications for baptism?

Ultimately, this is a question for churches rather than for individuals to address, but I do not believe that even churches have been authorized by the Lord to make requirements for baptism that are not made in scripture. We have from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, a positive command in scripture that we are to baptize disciples. To determine that there are disciples whom we will not baptize, or will not baptize yet, is to set our own terms for when we will and when we will not be obedient to Christ's command.

Our theology of the Lord's Supper as expressed in the Baptist Faith & Message (that baptism is pre-requisite to participation in the Lord's Supper) is based upon the presumption that it is a matter of unrepentant sin for any genuine believer in Christ to persist in an unbaptized state. I say this not to open the argument in this thread with regard to the proper extent of communion (for we'll have plenty to discuss in the main point of this post, I imagine), but merely to attempt to demonstrate that Southern Baptists have indeed considered unbaptized believers (apart from some unavoidable incapacity such as faced the thief on the cross) to be persisting in sin.

If this be granted, and if my son has genuinely been born again, then for me to refuse him baptism for a decade is nothing more and nothing less than for me to obstruct his obedience to Christ. That's serious business. For one thing, that's not the lesson that I want to be teaching to my son. For another thing, I don't want to answer to the Lord for such an action. He has commanded baptism, and I do not believe that I have the authority to countermand his instructions. Nor do I believe that our congregation has that authority, even with all of the unique authority that the congregation has.

Conclusion

I think we have every reason to examine carefully candidates for baptism in order to be earnest about determining whether they have been born again. Frankly, I've baptized some 40-somethings who gave every appearance later on of being false professors. We Americans live in a spiritual terrain noted for rocky soil, if you get my drift, and it is a good thing that we want to be more circumspect about whom we baptize. Setting a minimum age for baptism is, in my opinion (and saying it as charitably as I know how without sacrificing clarity), an unbiblical, cheap, cop-out substitute for the difficult work of seeking evidence of genuine conversion in those who profess to have been born again.

The very young who profess conversion? Push back and resist them. (We have!) Make them persist adamantly in their profession. (We have!) Make them give you a testimony of conversion in their own words. (We have!) Cut absolutely no theological corners in making sure that they understand the gospel. In fact, none of those things are a bad idea for adult professors either, are they? But none of those reasonable actions require setting up arbitrary man-made barriers that negate what is one of the simplest and most evident truths in scripture: Those who have genuinely been born again have an immediate obligation to obey Christ's command to be baptized.

69 comments:

Dave Miller said...

I feel like I am in the twilight zone. I am agreeing with you and disagreeing with David Rogers.

At sbcIMPACT recently, I wrote on a similar subject (might have been while you were over visiting the queen).

I agree with your position here.

However, David Rogers made some very cogent and well-reasoned arguments for waiting until the age of 12 or 13 to baptize. I'm not convinced of his arguments, but did perhaps make me a little less convinced of my position.

I hope he might come and interact here, because he states it well. But if you are interested in reading his arguments, we had a pretty good discussion in the comment stream.

http://www.sbcimpact.net/2009/07/30/i-baptize-children-does-that-make-me-paedobaptist/

Les Puryear said...

Bart,

What a thrill to get to baptize your son. Praise God for regenerating his heart and praise God that you have the privilege of baptizing him.

Les

Bob Cleveland said...

The Bible says (twice, in fact) that there was a time when Jesus didn't know enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. That seems to indicate that knowing enough to reject the wrong and choose the right .. tell me that confessing Jesus as Lord isn't that .. is some sort of criteria. And, Jesus Himself said not to keep the little ones away from Him.

It'd be hard to you criticize baptizing your son, other than folks who just want to gripe about something.

Make that anything.

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

We are all thankful for God's grace in the life of your son and I rejoice with all your friends and family on his impending baptism.

Just a quick thought. You know that I agree with Gill and all the 18th Century Baptists that baptism is "the ordinance of Christ" and not the church, and I also agree with the Second London Confession of Faith in that the baptizer can be (and often should be) none other than the believer who has led the sinner to Christ.

However, I know that you disagree with my Baptist convictions and hold that baptism is the "entry point into the local church" as much as it is identification with Christ. With your view in mind, I have a few questions to ask:

(1). Will you son be afforded the full privileges of church membership?

(2). Will he be allowed to serve on the Finance Committee or a Youth Search Committee team if elected by a majority of your church?

(3). Will he be able to vote in business meetings on financial and land transaction motions before the church?

(4). Will he be afforded all the opportunties of church membership, or do you have levels of membership?

Could it be possible that baptism is identification with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and church membership should be considered separate from baptism? This was the historical practice of Baptists in the 18th Century.

David R. Brumbelow said...

Tell Jim I said it was OK for him to be baptized :-).

Seriously, congratulations on your son trusting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. What that must do to his mom and dad. And I agree with your reasoning. The one requirement for baptism is that they have believed.
David R. Brumbelow

Richard S. said...

I followed Dave Miller's suggestion and read David Rogers reasoning for waiting till 12. Roger's listed and explained several reasons. I thought everyone one of them was completely irrelevant and not based on scripture. His first reason was because of jewish bar mitzmah?.

Anonymous said...

“The basis of candidacy for baptism is conversion and only conversion.” People who are converted exhibit a change in their lives. Biblical examples of people who experienced conversion are the Philippian jailer, Paul, the Ethiopian eunuch. In these and other Biblical examples, we see a change in behavior, attitude, direction, life goals, relationships. And, all of these people were old enough to make independent decisions.

Six-year-old children, however, make few independent decisions. They do not choose how to invest their time and money; they associate with other people at the discretion of their parents/guardians; their leisure time activities are guided, if not solely determined by these same caregivers.

I have shared the gospel with my own children and other children in groups at church. I have seen how they typically accept a simple presentation of spiritual truths, meaning that they do not challenge or question the truths we teach them. I don’t say that to take anything away from VBS or Sunday School or Awanas, etc. I think that this is an extremely important function of the church. We ought to be educating young people and giving them opportunities to understand Biblical truths in ways that are meaningful to them.

But, I find it hard to describe a child’s acceptance of Biblical truths that they are taught by parents or Sunday school teachers to be the same thing as conversion. Can you explain the evidence of conversion in your son’s life? What has he turned from in order to turn to Christ? And what independent decisions will he make after this Sunday to live out his commitment to Christ?

Thanks,
Katie

Steve Young said...

Bart,
First - Congatulations, praise God for the experience. I have baptized 6 year olds and one almost 80. I have baptized those we have prayed hard for. I baptized a man that was prayed for by a deacon for over 20 years, BUT none are more memorable than the wonderful privilege of baptizing my 2 sons.
I'll never forget Dr. Mahony's answer in a class at MABTS. He was asked "When is a child old enough to profess Christ?" His answer "When he/she initiates it." He went on to explain his answer. When a child exhibits continued questions about salvation. Not when we ask them if they want to, but when they say that they want to. I liked that and used it as a guide with my own.
My oldest is a 19 year old sophmore at UA and has contiued to show the evidence of salvation from the beginning. He is active in his faith - even when mom and dad have moved 1700 miles away. The younger is clear and sure today, 4 years later as he was the day he came out of Children's and said "I got saved today."

Steve Young in Montana

David R. Brumbelow said...

Katie,
I suppose it is easier to see the change in a converted person’s life if they are older. Also if they are more of a notorious, outward sinner.

Some fine upstanding adults in the church have realized they were a dirty rotten sinners, and got saved. There is not as much of an outward change that we can see in their lives, nevertheless the change is there.

I too was saved when I was five years old. I did not make the obvious changes of giving up drugs, profanity, or criminal behavior (well there were a couple of things I‘ll not go into :-)). But I understood that Jesus died for me and rose again. I understood that I was a sinner in the eyes of God. I had independently decided to sin. Two score and seven years later I am sure that age five was when I trusted Jesus as my Savior. I don’t know if others noticed a difference, but I sure did.

Salvation may have different outworkings depending on your age, and your morality (of course we are all sinners, Romans 3:23) at the time of salvation. I know children can be manipulated. But given the clear opportunity, they can also make the most important, far reaching decision of their lives.
David R. Brumbelow

Richard S. said...

Katie,
The only change one sees in the Ethiopian’s life was getting baptized.
Baptism is fundamentally an act of obedience. By not granting for someone to get baptized you are denying them the opportunity to be obedient which is a sign of conversion.
I would also disagree with your assessment of the capabilities of children. How do you define “independent decision”? My own children decided independently that they did not want to take a bottle, ever. They decided independently when they were through with their pacifiers. As young toddlers there were occasions that they decided to be defiant and rebel against their parents. They independently decided to tell a lie. They also at a very young age demonstrated knowledge of guilt, shame, wrong doing and sin. By age 3 they could grasp the need to be forgiven. Of course, they couldn’t independently decide to take the car out for a spin, but they did make independent decisions.
I agree that we need to be cautious not to improperly prompt a child into some “decision”. But the requirements you raise do not sound like the basic requirements of scripture.
Evidence of conversion is something that we can only gauge over a period of time. If evidence, instead of conversion, is the requirement for baptism, then the Ethiopian did not qualify for baptism.

Tim G said...

Bart,
You give Jim a hug for me - Grandpa Tim is smiling BIG! I have baptized both of my sons and I can tell you as others can also, it is one of the greatest joys you will ever experience as a Pastor!

Wade,
Your questions as to functioning within Membership are a little odd to me. I know that you have grown adults that you would have to answer NO to most of the qestions posed - yet they are full members of the church. I wonder why we have reduced membership to serving in some "official" capacity? Church membership is about so much more than that.

Chris Johnson said...

Brother Bart,

If you love God and follow His commands...what else could you do? May your son see Christ even more clearly and recognize the power of the Holy Spirit in His life through this wonderful act of baptism!

Good work!

Blessings,
Chris

Anonymous said...

David Brumbelow,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience in this. I agree with you that it’s easier to see change in a person’s life when they are older.

The difficulty in discussing this topic is that we all have our own story. Some of us were baptized quite young, and others later in life. It is almost impossible to consider baptism apart from our experience. And yet, it is profitable to try to be as objective as possible, especially when scripture doesn’t “prescribe” specific details (who should baptize, where, how old should the candidate be, etc).

I think that one thing scripture shows us is that adults were baptized. I cannot think of any examples of a small child receiving baptism in the New Testament. It may have happened. John the Baptist may have baptized children. Paul and Silas’ jailer may have had a child in his family. But scripture does not explicitly say so.

Richard,

The Ethiopian is a rather unique example. He was the one who suggested being baptized. He was an important financial officer for the queen. He was traveling on his own between countries. He had a career and he was probably quite wealthy. He was baptized on the basis of his acceptance of the gospel. He may not have been able to show any “evidence” of his conversion other than his desire to be obedient in baptism. But, we cannot argue whether or not he was capable of making independent decisions about his own life.

When I use “independent decision” I’m thinking of the choices people make and bear the full responsibility for that decision. If your child decided not to be bottle fed, I assume that you found some other way to feed him/her. His rejection of the bottle did not end in his starvation, because you, the parent, were still responsible for his nutritional needs. My son is a freshman at college this fall. All of his meals and snacks while he’s on campus will be the result of his own “independent decisions.” I have tried to teach him what a balanced diet is, but now what he eats is totally up to him. And, to a great extent, his future health will be affected by the choices he makes. We frequently see in young children the evidence of their sinful nature (your examples about defiance and lying), and some children (not all) feel guilt, shame and a desire for forgiveness as a result of these things. But, they are not independently able to manage their relationships or take full responsibility for their decisions (including the decision to "accept Christ.")

Scripture does not forbid us from baptizing small children. But, the examples we are given are of adults. I think there is a lot of sense in this.

Thanks for the discussion,
Katie

Wade Burleson said...

Tim,

Thanks for your comment. I can see how my questions may seem odd, particularly if one has never considered believer's baptism separate from "local" church membership.

I believe baptism identifies the believer with the body of Christ (the church universal) and not the church local. That being said, it would seem to me to be very logical to wait on "local" church membership until the baptized believer becomes an age (16, 17?) where there could be serious reflection and decision making regarding local church life. I agree you, there is so much more to local church life than business meetings and committee service, but membership in a corporation recognized by the state (the local church) is different from membership in the body of Christ which is recognized by God (the church universal).

Bart Barber said...

Dave Miller,

I had missed that conversation. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I agree with you and disagree with David Rogers. I don't find that situation remarkable at all.

Bart Barber said...

Les,

Thanks for the encouragement. At any age, regeneration is indeed a thing for which praise is due to God.

Bart Barber said...

Bob,

You've said so well what I tried to say: Conversion is not possible until one is capable of repentance.

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

Thanks for stopping by. Blessings on your ministry in Enid. I am always enlightened when you stop by to inform me as to what my view on something is.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, David. I'll pass the message along.

Bart Barber said...

Richard S,

I likewise remained unconvinced by David's line of argumentation.

Anonymous said...

Let me ask this: If Christians in America were undergoing persecution, being put in prison or put to death for their faith, don’t you think that the practice of baptizing children would pretty much stop? If our well-being, our very lives were at stake, I don’t think any parent would want a six-year-old to make this decision. Are we baptizing children in America because the Christian life is relatively “easy” here?

Katie

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

Please forgive me. I was attempting to represent my views in my comment here, not yours. I apologize for my unintentional miscommunication.

Bart Barber said...

Katie,

Perhaps you would indulge me in giving my own testimony rather than giving you Jim's?

As a five-year-old boy, I was quite aware of what I was turning from. I hadn't murdered anybody. I hadn't spent time on heroin. I hadn't imprisoned any apostles or persecuted any churches. You do correctly perceive that the conversions of those who are converted at older ages are often conversions that impress adults a great deal more. Little sins, it seems often to us, provide only room for little conversions, and we measure the reality of a person's conversion sometimes by our own standards of which sins are impressive to us.

My sins at the age of five consisted of selfishness, disrespect of my parents and teachers, unkindness toward my peers, and the like. These are the kinds of things that adults just regard as normal behavior for children. God, I am convinced, regards them as sins no less than He regards embezzlement (a kind of selfishness), idolatry (a disrespect of His authority), and assault or slander (a grown-up version of unkindness to peers) as sins.

Since it was God who brought conviction upon my heart, I came to regard those sins as He regarded them. My heart broke over my sinfulness. I repented of those sins.

And then, as one not yet six years old, my life evidenced conversion at the hand of God. I found myself, just a week later, tempted to deal in a mocking manner with a classmate, but a peer (not yet a believer himself) was used by the Holy Spirit to remind me of my relationship with Christ, and I apologized and relented from my bad behavior, knowing that the Lordship of Christ in my life required me to walk as one worthy of my calling.

Each of my sins were moral decisions made independently of my parents. So was my conversion. So was my response to God's calling to preach, which frankly made every adult around me a bit nervous and was in no way "dependent" upon anyone else.

As for Jim, perhaps once he is able to type, he will answer for himself. His conversion did not come from my putting words into his mouth, and neither will his testimony arise in that manner. I'll let him speak for himself as God moves him to do so, and as I have tried to do in response to your question.

Thanks for visiting. It is a good question and just the kind of conversation that I hoped to introduce.

Tim G said...

Wade,
This is were you and I disagree - Universal Church, Local Church vs. Universal Body, Local Church. I find no reference to a Universal church but do find Body and Local Church. I would also highly question your use of the Corporate issue with the local church. Biblical ecclesialogy indeed supercedes whatever state issues their are and even with disagreement on that you are willing to place on a 16 year old the ability to comprehend "legal, Finance..." issues? I think most parents would disagree with such. Are you willing to put a 16 year old on your Finance Team? I hope you would not!

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

Not wishing to move backwards into any of our prior experiences, but hoping to move forward, I will refrain from any extended back-and-forth with you. However, your comment here (apart from your telling me what I believe) is a good one and does connect with the main point of the original post. Tentatively, and in hope that worthwhile conversation can ensue, I'll be glad to provide one substantive reply to your substantive question along several lines.

1. We do not have differing levels of membership, and Jim will be a member of this local congregation in the full sense that anyone else, including myself, is a member of this congregation. He is welcome to vote in business meetings on any and all matters of business. His vote will count just as much as mine counts. All of the privileges of membership will be his.

The majority of our members do not serve on the Budget & Finance Committee and will never serve on that committee. People within the membership of the church serve not merely as a function of being a member, but further as a function of being a member and additionally being suited and gifted and called to serve the church in a particular capacity. Jim would not at this point serve well on most of our committees, nor would several 80-year-olds whom I know.

And that raises an important point: If membership in the church were governed by mental faculties or intelligence, would people cease to be members if they contracted Alzheimer's Disease? It seems to me that we count a great many people as members in good standing with full privileges of membership who are no more qualified in a worldly sense to hold those positions than is Jim, many of whom just happen to be at the end of their journey here on this earth rather than at the beginning.

2. I was recently at John Gill's grave, and could not help but think of you (Hallmark didn't make the appropriate card). He, of course, did not have the graveyard to himself, nor did he enjoy a monopoly of Baptist thought in his century or beyond. I share the same view of baptism as held Thomas Helwys, William Kiffin, et al. It is a similar point of view to that held by John Smythe and Roger Williams, albeit without their successionism.

3. Whatever Gill or anyone else has said, the New Testament knows nothing of believers refusing or long delaying baptism and knows nothing of believers refusing or long delaying membership in the churches.

It is those immature in their faith and immature in their bodies who are perhaps in the greatest need of having one or more elders who are accountable for their spiritual growth, of being in fellowship with other believers, of receiving and learning to give the one-another ministries of the New Testament. These, least of all, should be bereft of membership in the local church.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks Tim. Again, I appreciate your responses. If our church voted to approve a sixteen year old to serve on the Finance Committee, we would abide by our church's wishes. Of course, I too doubt our Nominating Committee would make such a recommendation.

But I think you may be missing my point.

My question is a specific one:

Will a six year old in your church be given a ballot in your church business meeting to vote on a major recommendation before the church?

Yes or no?

I propose to you that God recogizes all believers as part of His church (universal), but Baptist churches ought to be very careful before we recognize six year olds as members and full fledge participants of the corporate entity we call the "local" church.

I must bow out of this conversation due to ministry matters before me, but again, I offer my heartfelt thankfulness for God's grace Bart's six year old son and am thrilled about his impending baptism.

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

I must have been typing my comment to Tim while you were posting your comment to me, so I had not read it.

Thanks!

Wade

selahV said...

Bart, I'm so happy for you, for Tracy, and for Jim. What a blessing for you all. I look forward to the day Jim can type. selahV

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Thanks for your input. As I said to David Brumbelow, it is indeed quite difficult to consider this topic without referring back to our own experience. I realize that many, many faithful, growing, modern-day disciples of Jesus Christ repented and were baptized as young children. This, in itself, becomes an argument supporting the baptism of young children. However, we cannot ignore the fact that this is not explicitly supported by scripture. It is also interesting that both you and David commented about the visibility of some adult converts’ prior sinfulness which impresses us and convinces us that their conversion is genuine. This, however, is not one of my points. As in scripture, not all adult conversions today are marked by the testimony of a radically changed life.

My point is that most children do not bear full responsibility for the decisions they make. If a child makes a bad decision, parents or other adults get involved and take the matter into their own hands. The decision to repent, be baptized and become a follower of Jesus Christ should make a huge impact on one’s life. Maybe because we have grown accustomed to the idea that, practically, in the US, it does not, we allow children to make this decision.

American Christians get divorced as often as non-Christians. The lifestyle Christians live is not that different from non-Christians. We choose the same entertainment, follow sports, work in jobs that non-Christians do. Christians in the US don’t seem to suffer more than non-Christians. When your son tells friends or teachers about his baptism at school, the worst that may happen is that they will be unimpressed.

I agree that children can, on a certain level, understand the gospel, that they are sinners, make a decision to follow Christ, struggle with their own sin, study and understand (somewhat) the Bible, and experience the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We, the church, should encourage and nurture children in these things. But, I would much prefer that we wait until children are mature enough to count the cost of becoming a disciple before they take that step.

Thanks,
Katie

Matt Brady said...

Katie,

I appreciate your comments, especially since I have a six year old that we have been being very cautious with for a couple of years now, but in regards to your earlier comment about persecution leading to prison or death, my wife and I try to teach our six year old that there are some things more important than even life itself. Fear of man ought not be a factor in determining what is right before God. I'm afraid you might be right that many would choose not to allow their children to be baptized, but I find that to be a sad commentary about the parents.

I agree that we need to be careful with children, but I think salvation is simple enough for even little ones to understand. It boils down to giving everyhing we know about ourselves to everything that we know about Jesus. A child's level of knowledge may or may not be lower than some adults who are saved, but I dare say their level of faith would be hard to question, for it is the faith of a child thath Jesus commends to all of us, and it is through that faith that we are saved.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

I agree with you that “there are some things more important than even life itself. Fear of man ought not be a factor in determining what is right before God.”

The question for a six-year-old is, What is right before God?

I absolutely agree that we should teach our children the Bible, to love God, to pray, to obey and to bring them up as faithful participants in the Body of Christ. All these things can be done whether or not one has been baptized. Taking the public step of baptism is a sign that the individual is ready to commit his life to Christ and to serve Him in and through the church. We rightly expect that newly baptized individuals will, at a minimum, participate in the life of the church, if by nothing else, attendance. Most six-year-olds are not even capable of getting themselves to church on their own, without the involvement of a parent or other adult.

So, if a 6-year-old is not even able to independently attend church, is he mature enough to make a decision that could cost him his life?

Katie

Bart Barber said...

Katie,

I confess that I'm struggling a bit to follow your train of thought. In your first comment, you wrote: "But, I find it hard to describe a child’s acceptance of Biblical truths that they are taught by parents or Sunday school teachers to be the same thing as conversion. Can you explain the evidence of conversion in your son’s life? What has he turned from in order to turn to Christ? And what independent decisions will he make after this Sunday to live out his commitment to Christ?"

Thus it seemed to me that you were advocating the position that children are incapable of conversion.

In your last comment you wrote: "Taking the public step of baptism is a sign that the individual is ready to commit his life to Christ and to serve Him in and through the church. We rightly expect that newly baptized individuals will, at a minimum, participate in the life of the church, if by nothing else, attendance. Most six-year-olds are not even capable of getting themselves to church on their own, without the involvement of a parent or other adult. So, if a 6-year-old is not even able to independently attend church, is he mature enough to make a decision that could cost him his life? "

And at this point, you seem not to be talking about conversion, but to be talking about baptism. And if the standard includes being able to get to church on one's own, then we could take the conversation two ways: (1) We could suggest that you're calling into question not just the conversion and baptism of 6-year-olds, but further the conversion and baptism of 15-year-olds, who cannot yet drive, or indeed, the conversion and baptism of any adult without a car. Or, (2) I could regale you with all of the tales of young children I have known who have gotten up and gotten themselves dressed without the aid of parents in order to ride a church bus or van to attend church.

Matt Brady said...

Katie,

When you question whether a six year old can understand what is right before God, my experience immediately says absolutely yes. When my four year old does something wrong, he tries to hide it. He knows that what he has done is wrong and he understands the consequences. He can tell me exactly what punishment is going to be meted out to him for his wrongdoing.

Children absolutely can understand issues of right and wrong, penalty and punishment, and even forgiveness. Our five month old may not be there yet, but I can attest that at least a four year old can and our six year old certainly can as well.

I remember very well the agonizing conviction that God brought on me as a seven year old. It is one of the clearest memories of my childhood as I wrestled for a long time between my shyness and my desire to do what I knew I needed to in regards to public profession and baptism. I have no doubt God can bring the same convicting power to bear in my children's lives.

And, yes, my conviction came by way of the truths I had been taught by my parents and teachers. I was not just parroting what I had been taught, but my Faith came by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

Finally, I don't think physical limitations whether it be tying Sunday shoes or having a driver's license to drive themselves to church has anything to do with salvation. The question of salvation does not hinge on physical strength, size, or development. A child as well as an adult can say, "All I am, All I have, All I ever hope to be, I surrender to Jesus."

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Bart, that my train of thought is hard to follow. I keep coming back to the idea of “independent decision” or the state of one who is conscious of and able to take responsibility for his decisions. My premise is that typical six-year-olds do not display this. I do believe that children can experience conversion, but my real concern is why immediately follow a six-year-old’s conversion (or confession or acceptance of the gospel) with baptism? If we are saved by grace rather than by the act of baptism, why not encourage a six-year-old to wait and take the step of baptism when he is more capable of making life decisions independently.

I would like to see if someone could argue for the baptism of children by using scripture rather than a personal testimony. We have no clear accounts of New Testament children being baptized. And, historically, baptism of children is almost unheard of outside the US. I feel that rather than scripture, it is American culture and Baptist life in the US that makes child baptism accepted.

I hope that you will not reduce my point about six-year-olds getting to church as an issue of transportation (or lack thereof). I was pointing out the lack of independence that most children have in this aspect of their lives. If there were no church bus, if children’s ministry staff and volunteers did not invest heavily in this ministry, if there were no incentives for participation, how many six-year-olds do you think would attend week after week, because it was personally a high priority in their lives? Yes, maybe a few. But it would not be the norm.

I would like to see us baptizing those who are capable of making adult decisions, because committing one’s life to Christ is a decision that should affect every aspect of our lives, much of which is not understood by children. We should tell our children and teen-agers that to be a committed disciple of Christ means to be enemies with the world. It means that they will have to die to themselves daily and face disapproval, even persecution. It will mean sacrificial giving and it will mean that divorce will not be an option after getting married. It seems to be an unpopular point of view here, but I think we would cease to see young adults being re-baptized and hopefully, those who take this step, would do so with a high resolve to live out their commitment to Christ, and we would not have to formulate committees to figure out how to have a "Great Commission Resurgence."

Katie

B Nettles said...

Katie said: Most six-year-olds are not even capable of getting themselves to church on their own, without the involvement of a parent or other adult.

I submit that this is an American cultural attitude and not a general reality. Many years ago I regularly walked or rode my bicycle all over the place when I was 6. I would walk from school to church for Sunbeams.

The three American cultural difficulties these days are 1) that the church building isn't local (< 2 miles) and the traffic is too dense for most children who are suburbanites, and 2) parents are afraid of letting their 6-year olds move about independently, often for reasons based (correctly) on our rotten society, 3) people don't walk to destinations.

Six year olds, given the opportunity of actually thinking and acting independently, can do it. They might not be as analytical or understand a full range of consequences as someone older, but that doesn't mean they lack intention, integrity or repentence. Why would we trust the intention and sincerity of an 18-year-old who changes his major 3 times any more than a 6-year-old who wants to tell the world he is a believer, that Christ has paid for his sins, and that he is a new creature in Christ. We can all come up with specific instances of children or adults who illustrate (not prove) our favorite perspective.

Bart, thanks for telling us the process of challenging Jim to understand what baptism means. And thanks that it wasn't some well-meaning, but theologically challenged, person saying "Isn't it about time for you to get baptized?"

Remind him (I'm sure you will) that as he lives, he will sin, but that doesn't remove him from Christ.

It's wonderful to hear of the testimony of new believers, no matter the age. Let them testify!

Matt Brady said...

Katie,

I don't mean to be argumentative. I agree that we should be very careful with children so as not to push or coerce them, but you say: "I would like to see if someone could argue for the baptism of children by using scripture rather than a personal testimony."

I wouldn't blame you for not basing your beliefs on another's testimony as a child or with their own children. Forgive me for not pointing directly to Scripture. You are correct that God's Word is the authority.

That being said, I would like to point your question in the opposite direction and see if someone could argue for the postponement of baptism for anyone, young or old, after they have confessed Christ by using Scripture rather than a personal testimony.

Granted the profession must be personal, but once a genuine uncoerced profession has been made, Baptism then becomes a matter of obedience to God. I want to encourage my children's obedience to God not hinder it. Such encouragement of our children's faithfulness to the commands of God is easily supported by Scripture. If Baptism is a command of our Lord (Matthew 28:19), and we are to teach and encourage our children's faithfulness to God's commands (Deut 6:6,7), then I believe the onus is on the one who would seek to discourage the prompt obedience of baptism.

Matt Brady said...

Katie,

Also, you mention only baptizing those who are able to make adult decisions, but where in Scripture do we find that salvation and obedience is an adult decision.

Luk 18:17: "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."

Who better can receive the kingdom as a child than a child?

Anonymous said...

Matt,

The only Biblical example I can use of someone postponing baptism is Christ, himself. From an early age, I think he was cognizant of who He was. At 13 years old, he was identified as a “son of the commandment,” a right of passage into manhood within the Jewish community. His baptism didn’t happen until the start of His public ministry, when He was approximately 30 years old.

Maybe that’s not a fair example, since Christ was not “converted.” Yet, who would argue that we ought not live by his example? And it seems plain to me that Christ’s example does nothing to justify the practice of baptizing young children.

Katie

Richard S. said...

Katie,

You said, "Maybe that’s not a fair example, since Christ was not “converted.” Yet, who would argue that we ought not live by his example?"

The example you gave is more than not fair, it is just wrong. You even seem to mention that it could be wrong - it is apples and oranges.
I would also caution the second half of that argument on following Christ's example. If we apply it like you do then we need to go find some Roman soldiers to nail us to a tree and crucify us.That is what Jesus did, "Who would argue that we ought not to live by his example?"
The major problem with your arguments are that none of them are biblically sound arguments. An argument from your example fails, your other arguments are based on what scripture does not say, which is another "no, no".
The fact of the matter is that scripture does not place the restrictions on conversion and baptism that you do.

Bart Barber said...

Matt and Richard are 100% right. I would have written just what they have written.

Finally, let us look at how the paedobaptists get the story of the Philippian jailer wrong. That passage does indeed indicate that all of the Philippian jailer's household was baptized. And it is indeed quite likely that not all of that household had reached the age of majority. And that possibility does indeed snatch away from Katie any foundation for declaring that no children are baptized in the New Testament.

However, the passage also makes 100% crystal clear the fact that everyone who was baptized in the passage had also heard the word of the gospel and had believed. That is the basis of candidacy for baptism—not "moral autonomy," which David Rogers has been honest enough to acknowledge as a concept arising out of Piaget and not out of Paul—but hearing the gospel and believing.

Infants can't do that. Children can. And any child who can not only can be baptized but is under obligation to be baptized.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Bart, let me say that despite representing a different position than that which you take in your post, I congratulate both you and your son on his upcoming baptism. It will be a joyful day, and if I were at the event, I would affirm, along with the rest of the congregation, his testimony and celebrate his public profession with your church.

I do, however, feel strongly that we do our children a disservice by allowing them to take this step at such an early age. Baptism is a symbolic step of obedience, but does not save us. Requiring children to wait until they are capable of more independent decisions ought not to harm the testimony of a truly converted believer. However, allowing a young child who has not really experienced conversion to be baptized has the potential to harm that individual and the church as a whole. I suspect that adults who were baptized as children but have no further spiritual development make up the greatest portion of unregenerate church members.

Richard,

I’m not sure why you say that using Christ’s example is “wrong.” Can you clarify that? Who was His baptism for? Was it a step He needed to take to increase His righteousness? Or was it not for our sake?

Jesus did not “find some Roman soldiers to nail [himself] to a tree.” He did not commit assisted suicide. He proclaimed the truth and He stood firm and accepted the repercussions of doing so. Sinful man choose to respond by crucifying Him. He was “obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Only Jesus’ death worked salvation for mankind, but His example of standing for truth and being submissive even unto death is for all of us.

Katie

David R. Brumbelow said...

Hey Bart, remember to have someone take a photo (with names, explanation, & date written on the back) of Jim's baptism, save a couple of that Sunday's church bulletins, and maybe give him a certificate of baptism. They may not mean a lot to him now, but they sure will in 50 years. Knowing a little of the historian in you, you have probably already thought of all this.
David R. Brumbelow

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

What would I need to do in order to get a DVD of that baptism?

Tell my little Brother Jim that I would love to be there, but I will be praying for him. Will this be in the early or late service?

Also, it amazes me that people are so ready to theologically triage baptism as a first tier position when it is a child, but if that child is an adult then baptism becomes tertiary. :)

Blessings,
Tim

Richard S. said...

Katie,
Yes, I can clarify why I said that using your example of Jesus postponing baptism until he was 30,is a wrong argument for us postponing baptism for children.
It is apples and oranges. Jesus' baptism has nothing to do with conversion. That is why I said it was wrong.
Our mandate for being baptized is on the basis of salvation/conversion.
Also, once again, if we follow your logic, we should prohibit baptism until someone is 30 years old. That was Jesus' example.

Anonymous said...

Richard,

All that we can deduce from scripture is that Jesus was older than 12 when He was baptized. Historians give us the approximation of 30 years, but using that as a requirement for being baptized is not based on scripture.

Tim R.,

I am open to hearing strong biblical reasons for baptizing children. I am also open to hearing logical reasons (based on child development or the spiritual health of the modern-day church in the US due to this fairly recent practice). But, as of yet, I remain unconvinced.

Thanks for the discussion.
Katie

Bart Barber said...

Katie,

Luke states that John the Baptist started preaching "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar." That's either the year AD 29 or the year AD 30. So, we can quite soundly deduce from the scripture that Jesus was, indeed, baptized sometime around that year, or later. The Bible also tells us that Jesus' birth took place near the time when Augustus was Caesar and Quirinius was governor of Syria and Herod the Great was King of Israel. That could not have been the situation any later than 4 BC.

Thus, we most certainly do know from the Scriptures themselves that Jesus was at the very least 30 years old when He was baptized. This is a basic factual error on your part.

Now, I would encourage you to consider as well that you have framed your basic argument wrongly. You are suggesting that, unless we have an explicit story of a person of a particular age being baptized, then it is not biblical to baptize such a person.

But we do not have any explicit biblical account of anyone being baptized OVER a certain age as well.

We do not have any record of a soldier being baptized. Should we wait to baptize soldiers until they have left the military?

We do not have any record of a head of state being baptized. If President Obama were to be converted tomorrow, would he need to wait until 2013 to be baptized?

We do not have any record of anyone from the Far East being baptized. Are Chinese people ineligible for baptism?

We do not have any record of people being baptized in the Winter. We do not have any record of people being baptized in baptisteries.

Nor did Jesus fit into any of these categories.

Of course, I support the baptism of people from all of these categories. Here is why. The Bible does not say ANYTHING about who MAY NOT be baptized after conversion. Rather, Jesus Christ commands that we baptize disciples.

1. Since we are commanded by Christ to baptize those who have become Christian disciples, and...

2. Since we have no information whatsoever about any whom we should exclude that command or any to whom it does not apply...

3. Then we conclude that all who have experienced conversion are also under obligation to be baptized.

Having been presented with this case several times, you have yet to address it. Christ commands us to baptize converts. If you would argue that we must never baptize children, then you ought to:

1. Refute that Christ has commanded us to baptize converts, or

2. Prove from the Bible, rather than from godless Piaget, that children can never be converted, or

3. Bow out graciously and concede the point.

As to point 2, I would remind you that in one of the examples raised by you (the Philippian jailer) it was not only the jailer who was baptized, but further everyone in his household who was capable of hearing Paul's presentation of the gospel and believing it for themselves (which apparently was the entire household). This passage is a horrible foundation for instituting paedobaptism (since it explicitly states that each baptized convert had listened to the gospel and believed it), but it makes for a pretty good foundation for the baptism of children.

Anonymous said...

The dates you have given are, I’m sure, very well established by historians and the academic community based on archaeological records. So, IF history and scholars are correct, then, we can answer the question about how old Jesus was at his baptism more specifically than “older than 12 years.” I’ll concede this. However, it does not lend support to the idea that we ought to baptize small children.

This may boil down to an issue of semantics, and I am willing to be corrected. So, maybe you can help.

In Matthew 3:1, 5-6 we read:
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea.
People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

Matthew reports that “people” were baptized. The word “people” can include soldiers, heads of state, and people from China. I don’t take issue with the Bible for not mentioning specific ethnic groups or other identifiers, because they all fall into the category of “people.”

Here’s where my problem may lie, and I’m open to considering an alternative, but I think the term “people” in this context refers to adults.

In Matthew 19:13-15, we read:
“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hand on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them he went on from there.”

This passage mentions children specifically. The reaction of the disciples makes me think that having children interact with Jesus was not a typical thing. So, again, maybe I’m wrong, but I think when the Bible says “people,” adults are referred to and when children are specifically being referred to, it says “children.”

In the Bible we read about some specific individuals, who clearly were adults when they were baptized, even though their age was not recorded: the Ethiopian, Paul, Simon the Sorcerer, Lydia. We also read about people in general or someone’s “household” being baptized. When I read those passages, I assume that the writer is referring to adults, even in the case of someone’s household. F.F. Bruce’s “International Bible Commentary” says that the jailer’s “household would probably be composed of his wife and family, servants and attendants. It is mere surmise that small children were present and were therefore baptized, as the whole household rejoiced in their newfound faith.” (p. 1297)

I don’t often interact in comment streams on blogs, despite the fact that I am a regular reader of a number of different SBC blogs. Maybe I’ve come across as combative here. I hope not. I feel that I have a Biblical basis for my convictions. Clearly I’ve engaged people who feel as strongly but with different conclusions. It is not my goal to belittle anyone else’s ideas here. If I have come across in such a way, please forgive me.

Katie

Bart Barber said...

Katie,

You have not been combative. In my opinion, you have been evasive rather than combative, although not maliciously so. I'm not angry with you, I'm just trying to get you to interact with this:

"Christ commands us to baptize converts. If you would argue that we must never baptize children, then you ought to:

1. Refute that Christ has commanded us to baptize converts, or

2. Prove from the Bible, rather than from godless Piaget, that children can never be converted, or

3. Bow out graciously and concede the point."

Anonymous said...

Bart,
I think you are being a bit harsh to Katie. And besides why should it be up to her to prove that children can never be converted? Why shouldn't the burden of proof by on you to prove that what children undergo is what the bible talks about as the necessary prerequeset for babtism?

CB Scott said...

There are literally millions of people who serve Christ who are "proof" that Christ saves whosoever calls upon His name without regard to their age.

Some of the comments here are disappointing in the fact that they question the sovereignty of God in salvation.

Some of the comments here were made by a narcissistic antagonist and are to be expected. The need for attention is greater than he can bear.

Tom Parker said...

Bart:

One of the commentators said the following:

"Some of the comments here were made by a narcissistic antagonist and are to be expected. The need for attention is greater than he can bear."

I think his comment crossed the line even if the person's name was not mentioned. I believe it was totally unnecessary. Just saying.

Wade Burleson said...

Tom,

Thanks for your kindness to me. Please know though that I've been called much worse than a narcissistic antagonist by some of my brothers in Chirst. C.B. is more than free to voice his opinion of me in this public forum and there is no line that he has crossed in my opinion.

I wish C.B., his family and his ministry only the best, including God's grace without measure.

Wade

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Are there other 6-year-olds who attend your church besides your son Jim? Are any of them not baptized? Might it be possible that when one of them witnesses Jim’s baptism on Sunday, he or she will become interested in doing the same thing, purely as a “copycat?” In the near future, parents who are members of your church may come to you, convinced that their child is ready for baptism. What will happen when you talk with the child and are unsure because the child is shy and needs his or her parent’s help to express what “has happened” in his/her life. Will you baptize this child? Will you go against the parents’ wish and conviction and refuse to baptize this child because you are not sure? If you baptize this child, maybe a week or two later, more parents of young children will contact you about the same thing for the same reasons.

I do not question the sovereignty of God in salvation. I question the motives of human beings.

Christ commands us to baptize disciples. But, is a child capable of being a “disciple?” Every person called a disciple in the New Testament was clearly an adult.

Again, thanks for the discussion. Sorry that you have to witness my extreme stubbornness on this issue.

Katie

CB Scott said...

Thank you Wade for "granting" me "freedom" to express my opinion.

I am sure, based upon history, that you will have opportunity to "grant" me such freedom again, and of course, I shall be obliged to thank you for the "irenic graciousness" you always publicly expose.

In the meantime, please know that the sentiments you reveal toward my family and ministry are, in fact, a reflection of mine toward you and yours.

cb

CB Scott said...

Tom "LT" Parker,

I am glad I gave you something to fulfill your need to comment on this post in Wade's behalf.

I realize that when the post and comment thread consists of subjects such as sovereignty and soteriology, or anything of a theological nature, you are basically left speechless.

Therefore, I am glad to be of service to you. I hope it made you day complete.

cb

volfan007 said...

CB,


:)


Bart,

I'm happy for your son, and for his parents.

David

Tom Parker said...

Wade B:

I find it hard to believe how Pastors, two of them making comments before this one can treat other Christian brothers the way they do. The name calling is particularly distasteful. It is wrong and does not build up the Kingdom of God. I wonder if they even realize this?

Bart Barber said...

Katie,

You raise excellent points. All of them are important reasons to be VERY CAREFUL in the baptism of little children. Of course, I would also argue that I have seen ample evidence of a need to be more careful in the baptism of adults than perhaps I have been at some times in my past ministry.

Being careful about baptizing young children; taking great precaution in baptizing young children; employing special, more stringent, procedures before baptizing young children—all of these things are different from declaring a wholesale ban on baptizing young children. The point of all of those other things eventually boils down to the importance of conversion, the fact that conversion is not a possibility from birth, and the desire not to allow any false sense of conversion to displace actual conversion itself.

On those topics, I suspect that we're in agreement. But where the certainty of the conversion of a child is as high as any certainty we ever have regarding the conversion of an adult, we should do the New Testament thing and baptize all of the converted.

CB Scott said...

"LT" Parker,

I want to tell you something and then I have to be going.

This train has left the station. You will have to find another one. Otherwise, you can just continue to sit there on the porch blowing smoke rings in the dark. :-)

See you on down the line, TL.

cb

volfan007 said...

CB,

I find it hard to believe how Pastors, two of them making comments before this one can treat other Christian brothers the way they do. The name calling is particularly distasteful. It is wrong and does not build up the Kingdom of God. I wonder if they even realize this?


David :)

Anonymous said...

Bart,

On those topics, I’d say, Yes, we are in agreement. The future of the church depends greatly on God’s grace and providence, but also on our faithfulness in carrying out the Great Commission; making disciples and seeking evidence of genuine conversion BEFORE baptism. I think your son will have ample opportunity to grow and develop into a mature Christian man; I hope and pray this for all, and especially the youngest ones, who pass through the baptistries of SB churches.

This is an excellent topic of discussion for a Baptist blog, and who would have thought that among Baptists, there might be any disagreement on such a central tenet of our faith?!! Thanks for letting me be so vocal on this comment thread.

Katie

Ian D. Elsasser said...

Bart:

This is wonderful news. It is a indeed a special privilege to baptize one's own children. I had this privilege of baptizing my 10 year old son this past July.

Where there is faith, genuine turning to Christ, baptism must not be withheld.

Alex said...

And Ian, it all hinges on the phrase 'genuine turning to Christ'.

However hard he protests Bart has no idea whether his son's profession is genuine as anyone with a hint of knowledge of child development must be aware.

Now all of us who baptize are somewhat in that situation with all baptisands, but for every year younger the genuineness is more indecipherable.

Of course, given his background, there are good grounds for expecting the son to follow his father's footsteps. But that is rather close to the argument for baptizing infants from which there is still a decent chance many will profess the faith their baptism 'guessed'.

I celebrate the local church's freedom to baptize according to its own understanding of the Scriptures and I'm sure it will be an emotional and happy occasion.

It is not, however, the Believers' Baptism for which our forefathers stood and seems to be based on a familially-taught verbal confession that could equally be made by a two- or three- year old from any devout family.

Matt Brady said...

Alex,

Since those with even “a hint of knowledge of child development” are necessary to tell us that the salvation of children cannot be ascertained, then are these secular psychologists the authority churches should employ in order to ascertain when all of our converts are genuinely saved, or should their theories only be employed for children?

Maybe their knowledge of Piaget’s THEORY would help. No wait, maybe Vygotsky’s cultural-historical THEORY. No wait, maybe the Ecological systems THEORY would be better. But then, what about the attachment THEORY? Theories, theories, all these theories, and then there’s the whole seemingly unsettled nature versus nurture debate. Not to forget Freud’s idea that childhood development is just a series of psychosexual stages. Then there is Watson, Pavlov, Skinner, Erikson… Just who are we to turn to in order to get that inerrant “hint” of knowledge of child development?

It seems the secular psychologists and developmental theorists are themselves the ones who don’t have a hint. Personally, I’ll stick with a church and its spiritual leadership determining spiritual matters. I have yet to find where Scripture would warrant turning to secular theorists and their “hints of the knowledge of child development” to determine the proper timing of baptism.

On the other hand, I do find the Biblical model of profession followed by the swift obedience of baptism.

Bart Barber said...

Alex,

I think you'll find, if you search what I've written carefully enough, that I've claimed no more knowledge of Jim's spiritual condition than I have of any other person. That has not been a portion of my argument. Neither have I anywhere argued that I'm depending upon our leadership somehow growing him inexorably into some pre-commitment that he is making at this age. All of this has come from you, and not for me, for it is so much more convenient to argue with someone if you can choose not only what you are saying, but what they must be saying as well. When you get to control both sides, the outcome is pretty certain, isn't it?

I have, however, professed a greater degree of insight into my own spiritual condition. Since you know Jim's heart no better than you know my own, having no experience of either of us, I can only assume that you would have treated God's birthing again of me back so many years ago as you are treating Jim's experience now. In that case (my own) I can certainly testify that you would have been attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to other sources.

You might want to be careful about that.

Anonymous said...

Bart,
Childhod memories are a curious thing. I have a fairly clear memory of a salesman coming to our house and selling my father two paintings of Capri. I'm not sure how old I was when this "occured", but it happend in a house we moved into when I was six years old. The punch line of this story is that the paintings are paint by numbers paintings and the incident never realy happened.
I don't mean to give offence, but it is possible that some of what you remember about you own childhood has been colored by later experiences.

A Well Meaning Outsider

Bart Barber said...

Thank you, well meaning anonymous observer. And I accept in general your statement about the unreliability of memory. I think that students of memory in general will tell you that your observation may be more applicable to ADULT memory than you are allowing for here.

I had a traumatic event occur in my life 10 months ago. My memory of those moments is difficult to construct reliably. That's one example of a million that could be given to demonstrate the unreliability of memory.

But I will put this before you: I have had no other conversion experience. I testify before the Lord and before you that, if I was not converted on the occasion that I have mentioned here, then I have never been converted. For I have had no experience of being born again that I would identify subsequently.

Yet I do not believe that I am unconverted now.

So, if a lifetime of implications flow out of that event, then it becomes something a bit more than a dim childhood recollection, doesn't it?

One other difference: Unlike your childhood painting, in my case every contemporary firsthand witness gives the same account that I give. Doesn't that count for anything?

Bart Barber said...

Of course, if you've simply determined a priori that nobody can be converted until he turns 13, then evidence is not going to count for much is it? It all can be discounted if one tries hard enough.

Anonymous said...

I just have one simple question. For those who argue AGAINST baptizing children, who profess faith in Christ, then what is one to do who was been baptized as a 6 year old?

Should we be re-baptized down the road when we have shown our faith to be more legitimate in man's eyes?

Bart,

You raised a very excellent point in regards to withholding children from Church Membership, or giving them a lower level of membership.

Refusing to baptize children and allow them into the membership of the local church or giving them some sort of a lower level membership would be exactly the same as refusing to allow our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are handicap physically or mentally from having "full" membership.

In case you haven't noticed this is exactly what we are fighting in our culture right now. I'm not saying that the commenters on this thread are arguing for a "quality of life" rather than a "sanctity of life" (for I assume the majority of them are "pro-life"), but they are using the same sort of logic.

We are valuable and precious to the Body of Christ, because we are created in God's Image and have been born again. We all have gifts that are to be exercised and used for the Glory of God and the furtherance of his Kingdom.

Nate