Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hodge on Paedo Baptism

In light of the recent posts concerning paedo baptism, I thought this little excerpt from Charles Hodge might be enlightening to the conversation. I added some comments and questions at the end.

In either view we are said to be cleansed (whether from guilt or pollution) by baptism. What does this mean? How does baptism in either of these senses wash away sin? The Protestant and scriptural answer to this question is, that baptism cleanses from sin just as the word does. We are said to be saved by the truth, to be begotten by the truth, to be sanctified by the truth. This does not mean:
That there is any inherent, much less magic, power in the word of God as heard or read to produce these effects.
Nor that the word always and everywhere, when rightly presented, thus sanctifies and saves, so that all who hear are partakers of these benefits.
Nor does it mean that the Spirit of God is so tied to the word as never to operate savingly on the heart except in connection with it. For infants may be subjects of regeneration, though incapable of receiving the truth.
In like manner when the Scriptures speak of baptism as washing away sin (Acts 22:16); or as uniting to Christ (Gal. 3:27); or as making Christ's death our death (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12); or as saving us (1 Pet. 3:21); they do not teach:
That there is any inherent virtue in baptism, or in the administrator, to produce these effects; nor
That these effects always attend its right administration; nor
That the Spirit is so connected with baptism that it is the only channel through which he communicates the benefits of redemption, so that all unbaptized will perish.
These three propositions, all of which Romanism and Ritualism affirm, are contrary to the express declarations of Scripture and to universal experience. Multitudes of the baptized are unholy; many of the unbaptized are sanctified and saved.
How then is it true that baptism washes away sin, unites us to Christ, and secures salvation? The answer again is, that this is true of baptism in the same sense that it is true of the word. God is pleased to connect the benefits of redemption with the believing reception of the truth. And he is pleased to connect these same benefits with the believing reception of baptism. That is, as the Spirit works with and by the truth, so he works with and by baptism, in communicating the blessings of the covenant of grace. Therefore, as we are said to be saved by the word, with equal propriety we are said to be saved by baptism; though baptism without faith is as of little effect as is the word of God to unbelievers.
The scriptural doctrine concerning baptism, according to the Reformed churches is:
That it is a divine institution.
That it is one of the conditions of salvation. "Whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). It has, however, the necessity of precept, not the necessity of a means sine qua non. It is in this respect analogous to confession. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). And also to circumcision. God said, "The uncircumcised male child-should be cut off from his people" (Gen. 17:14) Yet children dying before the eighth day were surely not cut off from heaven. And the apostle teaches that if an uncircumcised man kept the law, "his uncircumcision was counted to him for circumcision" (Rom. 3:26).
Baptism is a means of grace, that is, a channel through which the Spirit confers grace; not always, not upon all recipients, nor is it the only channel, nor is it designed as the ordinary means of regeneration. Faith and repentance are the gifts of the Spirit and fruits of regeneration, and yet they are required as conditions of baptism. But if faith, to which all the benefits of redemption are promised, precedes baptism, how can those benefits be said to be conferred, in any case, through baptism? Just as a father may give an estate to his son, and afterwards convey it to him formally by a deed. Besides, the benefits of redemption, the remission of sin, the gift of the Spirit, and the merits of the Redeemer, are not conveyed to the soul once for all. They are reconveyed and reappropriated on every new act of faith, and on every new believing reception of the sacraments. The sinner coming to baptism in the exercise of repentance and faith, takes God the Father to be his Father; God the Son, to be his Saviour; and God the Holy Ghost to be his Sanctifier, and his word to be the rule of his faith and practice. The administrator then, in the name and by the authority of God, washes him with water as a sign of the cleansing from sin by the blood of Christ, and of sanctification by the Holy Spirit; and as a seal to God's promise to grant him those blessings on the condition of the repentance and faith thus publicly avowed. Whatever he may have experienced or enjoyed before, this is the public conveyance to him of the benefits of the covenant, and his inauguration into the number of the redeemed. If he is sincere in his part of the service, baptism really applies to him the blessings of which it is the symbol.
Infants are baptized on the faith of their parents. And their baptism secures to them all the benefits of the covenant of grace, provided they ratify that covenant by faith; just as circumcision secured the benefits of the theocracy, provided those circumcised by infancy kept the law. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration, that is, the doctrine that inward spiritual renovation always attends baptism rightly administered to the unresisting, and that regeneration is never effected without it, is contrary to Scripture, subversive of evangelical religion, and opposed to universal experience. It is, moreover, utterly irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Reformed churches. For that doctrine teaches that all the regenerated are saved. "Whom God calls them he also glorifies" (Rom. 8:30). It is, however, plain from Scripture, and in accordance with the faith of the universal church, that multitudes of the baptized perish. The baptized, therefore, as such, are not the regenerated.
The foregoing remarks are intended to show in what sense the Reformed understand this and similar declarations of Scripture. Christ purifies his church by baptism. That is the initiatory rite; which signifies, seals, and applies to believers all the benefits of the Redeemer's death. The apostle is speaking of the church, the body and bride of Christ, and of the effect of baptism on those who constitute that church, not of its effect on those who are not included in the covenant and are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.

This quote comes from Charles Hodge (1797 – 1878) in his commentary on Ephesians (pgs 320 and following). I am just wondering if it sounds as confusing to others as it does to me.

Let me ask some questions. For instance, where in the New Testament does it teach that “infants are baptized on the faith of their parents?” Where does the Scripture teach that the covenant is “ratified by faith”? How can it be said that baptism “secures to them [infants] all the benefits of the covenant of grace” and then add that there must be a ratifying in order for that to be “secure”?

Hodge goes on to state, “The baptized, therefore, as such, are not the regenerated.” So the question for me becomes, “Then why should we baptize those who are clearly unregenerate?” At least from the Baptistic standpoint we have a profession of faith by the individual, which we see all throughout Scripture, rather than by an individual’s parents on their behalf, which we never see in Scripture (Note: This statement concerns baptism, not circumcision).
Notice that he ends with this: “The foregoing remarks are intended to show in what sense the Reformed understand this and similar declarations of Scripture. Christ purifies his church by baptism. That is the initiatory rite; which signifies, seals, and applies to believers all the benefits of the Redeemer's death.” But can it be said of all who are baptized? Absolutely not, and he said that earlier. So it appears, at least to me, that Hodge really doesn’t show these “declarations from Scripture”, but rather follows after the Reformed “tradition” (yes, there are traditions in the Reformed community as well).

Finally, could someone tell me where in the Scripture baptism applies to believers all the benefits of the Redeemer’s death? I’m sorry, that sounds very Romanist to me, and I’m being gracious:)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Paedo-baptism 2

Continuing on with posts concerning paedo baptism, we will look at Romans 4:11. In the passage we find the apostle arguing against those who would seek a works righteousness. Specifically he argues against circumcision. His primary objective is to demonstrate that Abraham was given a righteousness that was not his own before he was circumcised. The text says,

9 ¶ Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.
10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,
12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

The blessedness spoken of in verse 9 refers to verses 7-8. There we see that the blessedness is the forgiveness of sins, those to whom God does not impute their sin. So Paul is going to make his point by using the “father of all those who believe”, Abraham. It is crystal clear that Abraham is indeed justified by faith apart from circumcision. Paul says as much in verse 10. He also makes a point in verse 11 concerning those who believe who are not circumcised. Paul’s point is that though there are those who are uncircumcised, they still might have righteousness imputed to them because they would have the same faith that Abraham possessed.

We also note in verse 12 that those who were circumcised found righteousness the same way those who were not circumcised found it: by faith.

So, with this said, am I saying that paedo-baptists don’t believe this? Absolutely not. But here is where the inconsistency comes in, IMHO. Circumcision simply was a sign given by God concerning the promises He made to Abraham and yet those promises were made to him and affirmed to him BEFORE he was circumcised. My paedo-baptist friends will point here and say there is a correlation between baptism and circumcision. At least in this passage I cannot even begin to see that correlation. By this I mean that I don't see the passage tying the two together. The only thing I can assume that is meant by that is this: Since Abraham then circumcised Ishmael and Isaac and since they in turn gave that sign to their children and so on and so on, then we should administer baptism in the same manner, as merely a sign.

However, as a previous commenter pointed out, many in church history put far more emphasis upon baptism than a mere sign. They actually said it had salvific efficacy. If baptism has salvific efficacy, then I might want to ask those who believe that, “Why did Christ die?” This will come out more clearly in Colossians 2.

Now, the paedo-baptists I know of do not declare that baptism has any power to save, though some of them in their language seem, at times to indicate that, apart from clarification. Those I have spoken to simply indicate that it is a sign, just as circumcision was a sign in the Old Covenant, and that it points to the doctrine of regeneration, which is fine. I have absolutely no problem with that. However, they will then go on to say that this brings children of believers into the covenant community of the church. This I do have a problem with. Does it bring them into the covenant community in the same way that an adult believer who has professed Christ and actually been regenerated come into the “covenant community”? I don’t think so.

From the Baptist perspective, we don’t deny the picture of regeneration in baptism. We actually go further than that. We recognize that the Scriptures teach death in baptism as well.

Ro 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Col 2:12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Only true believers are really identified in Christ’s death and thus ONLY true believers are identified in His resurrection. Therefore, as far as the Scriptures are concerned, only those who have been identified with Christ in His death AS WELL AS His resurrection should submit themselves unto baptism. The clear reading of the text seems to indicate that. I simply can’t understand, apart from assuming a silent mindset, which we are told that the Jews would have had about circumcision, that we should be baptizing infants.

Why would I say that this is “clear” concerning believers? Notice Romans. Paul uses the term “we” and identifies that we were buried with Christ and that “we” should walk in newness of life. In Colossians he uses the term “you” and indicates that the Colossian believers were raised with Christ. So it seems that baptism is simply the outward sign of the reality that one has both died and risen with Christ, not a hoped for event in the future.

I will next deal with the Colossians 2 passage.