"My heart I give Thee, Lord, eagerly and earnestly." - John Calvin
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Psalms, the Covenant, Baptism, and the Visible Church
"The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you." - Psalm 102:28
One of the most-misrepresented practices of Presbyterians is the baptism of the infant children of believers. Westminster Confession XXVII:6, "Not only those that do actually profess faith in, and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents, are to be baptized." Why? WCF XXV:2, "The visible church... under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before, under the Law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children..." Also Larger Catechism 62, "What is the visible church? The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children."
The misrepresentation is that Presbyterians believe that our children are automatically saved, or that baptism makes them saved, as is taught in the Catholic Church. As can be seen in the constitutional remarks above, that is a misrepresentation. We believe that the children of believers (only, as we are told nothing about the children of unbelievers) are members of the visible church, i. e., the professing church, but not necessarily of the invisible church. That is, that they aren't believers or regenerate, necessarily, but are set apart from the world. This is a confessional expression of what the Apostle Paul teaches in I Corinthians 7:14, "For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." Just as neither the unbelieving husband nor the unbelieving wife is regenerate-by-proxy, neither are their children. However, they are set apart from the world, not counted as Pagans, and therefore have a right to the mark of the covenant, i.e., baptism.
To return to Psalms, this time to Ps. 103:17-18, "The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments." The children of believers are the subjects of special promises from God, which is a great comfort to Christian parents. But if those baptized children break that covenant, if they are unfaithful - since God can never be unfaithful - then they repudiate those benefits signified by their baptisms.
So the question goes back to our Baptist critics: do you seriously expect us to believe that you really think of your children as mere miniature Pagans?
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43