Here at a Baptist Seminary, people are passionate about different things. Much of which I am not so passionate about, but I digress. One of the things people are passionate, as you might expect at a Baptist Seminary, is baptism. There are many different beliefs about what baptism is, but one grand assumption is that infant baptism is not a real form of baptism. This is where I tip the golden calf of Baptists Seminaries. Let me proceed.
The first question we have to ask is, what does baptism effectually accomplish? Many catholics would explain it is a means of justification by entering into the church. As long as someone does not die in mortal sin, he is somewhat okay. Protestants believe that it plays no part in salvation, but it is important. Among most coherent denominations, it breaks down into two beliefs. First, some believe that baptism is the first step a believe must take in salvation. This separates it as a saving work and makes it a fruit of salvation. I am not sure that we can scripturally make the statement that this is to be a fruit of salvation. The fruit that God is working in you is sanctification itself.
The second approach is that baptism is a symbol of associating with the people of God. Where we publicly show that we are among covenant believers called the church, among where we find the means of salvation. This seems to be Paul’s belief in that he associates baptism with circumcision. Circumcision was the physical mark that God gave to the people of Israel to associate themselves as the covenant people of God. This is a great picture for us in terms of understanding what baptism effectually accomplishes. In baptism, we are entering a relationship with God’s covenant people.
If we are saying that baptism is a statement of association to the people of God, then who is it for? The answer is simple, it is the church, right? The answer may not be so simple. In many baptist churches, we see that the church is only those who profess Christ as their Lord. Children who have not professed Christ as their Lord are not allowed admittance to the church. They say this because children are in, what they call a state of grace. That children are born in a state of grace in that they are innocent until they reach this magical age of accountability. I only have one problem with this; it doesn’t appear in the bible. That isn’t true, I have more than one problem with this. It causes us to see salvation only in terms of a crisis of belief. This does not follow church tradition and is not the only model given to us in scripture. More consistent is that God does work in men in many different ways.
This takes me back to children in the church. Can those who are not in covenant with God be included in the church? Scripture seems to lead us to believe they can. In parables Jesus looks to the covenant people of God and says that God will separate them into two distinct groups, sheep and goats. Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell. The sheep and goats aren’t in question here, it is that Jesus is talking to the covenant people of God, and some of them go to hell. Paul made the same argument in Romans 9. He states that there are those among the covenant people of God and those actually in covenant with God. He calls them, children of Abraham, and children of the promise. All who were descended from Abraham are Abraham’s children; but there is a group of Abraham’s children that are also children of the promise. In Revelation, the writer writes seven letters to the churches. He starts the letters addressing the churches, then somewhere in each of the letters he changes the audience to “those who overcome”. All were the church, but not all will inherit the reward of heaven.
In this case, if we define the church as those who gather together to study and worship God. Then this model can include both children and lost people. They are associating themselves with the covenant people, of which there are benefits, and salvation may be found. (Not by membership, but by the church being the means of sharing the gospel) We know that all those who profess Christ and are members in our church are not going to heaven. So why not believe that the church is the larger group of people familiar with God of which the bride of Christ is in and amongst her. The church is to be about teaching the gospel to its members so that they may see Christ as wholly sufficient and put their trust in him. THose who walk away from this have no hope, those who persevere have all hope.
When many protestants baptize infants, they are making a public declaration that this child is a member of the covenant people of God, and therefore making a statement to the church that it is responsible for the teaching and training of that child in faith.
I am okay with infant baptism as I am okay with believer’s baptism. I am not sure what this makes me, but I am okay with that too. (Though, I must keep my scholarship)