Saturday, July 2, 2016

Are the Children of Christians Little Pagans? A Case for Infant Baptism

At first, one may look at the title I have used and expect that I am about to address the issue of discipline in the home. I certainly acknowledge the importance of that, but, no, it isn't my concern here.

Rather, I want to address part of the prejudice among evangelicals against infant baptism. Do credobaptists, that is, those who hold to the baptism only of professing believers, really think of their children as pagans, heathens, idolaters, atheists? I think that is the question that will help to eliminate their prejudice against paedobaptists, that is, those of us who believe in baptizing also the children of one or both believing parents.

To my mind, the key verse is I Corinthians 7:14: "The unbelieving husband is made holy because of his [believing] wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her [believing] husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." Paul is addressing a situation where one spouse in a marriage is converted to Christ, while the other remains in unbelief. He tells the believing spouse that he or she sanctifies the unbelieving spouse. On what grounds does he say so? Because, if that were not the case, then their children would be no different from the children of pagans. Since they are not, then there is something different about having a Christian parent.

I don't at all believe that Paul is teaching presumptive regeneration here (associated with Abraham Kuyper). That is, they aren't automatically Christians. After all, we are saved by faith in Christ, not by genetics. Rather, they are federally holy, or holy collectively with their parents, not necessarily in a personal, redemptive sense.

This is taught in other passages, as well, in both Testaments. In Isaiah 54:13, God says, "All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children." Our God takes a special interest in the children of His people. He even lays claim to them as His (Ezekiel 16:20)! He repeats Isaiah's promise in Acts 2:39: "The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself." These aren't promises that all of the children of believers will eventually become believers. We know of examples of children from godly homes who repudiated that heritage as adults. Think of Abraham and Ishmael. Abraham begged God to regenerate Ishmael (Genesis 17:18), but God's sovereign answer is "No" (verse 19). But God does promise that His eye is on our children, to bless them. Even in Ishmael's case, God says, "As for Ishmael, I have heard you [Abraham]; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly" (verse 20).

This is part of why Presbyterians baptize our children. We don't believe that baptism will save them. Nor do we believe that baptism is a promise of their future salvation. Rather, we believe that God has placed His special claim on out children as His own, so that they have a right to the mark of the covenant of grace.

No comments: