Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

December 27, 2005

It’s not that I have writer’s block. It’s more alo…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 5:21 am

It’s not that I have
writer’s block. It’s more along the lines of biting off more than I can chew. The topic (the Abrahamic covenant and how it relates to infant baptism) is too big, more fundamental than I can treat in a “dash off a quick essay” burst of inspiration. Rest assured that I have been meditating on this a lot. I am sure that Abraham would have been more than a little put out had Isaac said, “You know dad, that circumcision bit was alright for you to apply to your child, but for me and my house, I think I’ll pass”. That’s where I am. It’s more than grandfather’s rights. It is God’s idea, not mine.

The funny thing is that I have been going backwards – from infant baptism to the Abrahamic covenant. Now I propose to go backwards again. I am proposing to back up out of necessity. The need came up because twice in this discussion I was asked to produce a scripture proof of infant baptism. I was subjected to the clever red-herring “That’s what we have so often treasured in the reformers, their insistence that the word is pre-eminent. There must be a scripture to prove your point. Give me a single scripture that says that we should baptize infants.”

I think that argument is a misuse of sola scriptura. The sola scriptura principle was the reformer’s weapon that combatted the Roman Catholic insistence that the church was authoritative over scripture, claiming that the church and especially its leaders who maintain apostolic succession from the first (i.e. Peter) were the authors of scripture.

I mentioned that I am lousy at theological ping-pong. That red-herring slam won a point for my opponent. But I am here to assert that inspite of the absence of a single scripture that says “you must baptize your infant children”, it is nevertheless God’s will for his church. That point, however, I am not going to push any further right at the moment. Rather, I want to address the principle that a single clear scripture must exist in the Bible before we as believers can accept a doctrine.

It’s not at all hard really. What follows is a list (an incomplete list) of doctrines or in a few cases, practices, that orthodox Christians hold to without there being a single verse that backs up the belief.
1) The Trinity. Without a single verse to back this belief up, the church has unequivocally stated that unless you hold to the trinity, you are not a Christian. Ask yourself how we get away with this.

2) A second, like unto the first, – Jesus is God. Of course, many verses come close to explicitly stating this but we’re not playing horseshoes.

3) Orthodoxy has stated for centuries that Jesus, in the flesh, was a single person with two natures. Not two persons with two natures, or a single person with one nature, etc. You may think that this distinction is not important, but I would counter that knowing Jesus includes knowing about Jesus.

4) Two wills of God. One will which relates to his moral demands of humans, and his sovereign will that controls every event that transpires inside and outside time and space. (See number 3)

5) Any eschatology system that you care to bring up. Especially those systems that appear to counter actual verses brought out by those pre-mil/dispensational types. A-mil types defend their position with what must seem to the pre-mil guys as having no visible means of support.

6) Just for fun, on what scriptural basis do we allow women to a) partake of communion – since, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code notwithstanding, only men were present at the initial supper b) preach from a pulpit c) be an elder or deacon.

7) On what scriptural basis do we take the liberty to change scripture where it suits us – i.e. gender inclusivity issues.

What’s the point? The point is more than just demonstrating that the demand for a single scripture to prove the doctrine of infant baptism fails. The point goes beyond a mere ‘heads up’ that handling this issue will take a little work i.e. you won’t get your wish that a nice little verse, heretofore un-noticed, will pop up and solve the dilemma or that the lack of that single verse proves the opposite. The point really is two questions, 1) what is the Bible, 2) how do you read it?

There, I did it again. I bit off more than I can chew. But I am quite sure that to get to the bottom of infant baptism, to get to the bottom of the Abrahamic Covenant, you have to get to the bottom of your philosophy or presuppositions of what the Bible is and how you read it?

I am talking about more than just recommending that you read Gordon Fee’s Read the Bible for All its Worth. Although that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I am amassing a pile of unfinished business. This wouldn’t happen if I was more disciplined.

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12 Comments »

  1. Bruce, did you know that the covenant author you recommended to me has an article in the newest CT, in their series on culture which is celebrating CT’s 50th anniversary? We’re looking forward to putting your amazon.com gift and Rod and Jean’s together and have a buying feast–probably tonight 🙂

    Yes, theology, Biblical or systematic, is all of one piece. Pull out a strand and unweave the whole. However, at our house, we are cleaning and painting, not thinking about theology (or even reading–yet)…..

    Comment by Sister — December 27, 2005 @ 3:48 pm

  2. Can any doctrine be established by one verse? If you abandoned context you can easily fall prey to works salvation, anti-nomianism, word-faith healers, mormonism, etc.

    Another key hermeneutic is the analogy of faith, Scripture is harmonious not contradictory and can be relied on to interpret itself.

    Comment by mike s — December 28, 2005 @ 1:54 am

  3. That is, of course, a good point – the unreliability of a single scripture being used to build a doctrine. Where does that leave me, trying to build a doctrine with zero explicit scriptures?

    I guess the idea really is that you can expect to do a bit of work to get to the paedo-baptist position.

    A valid question is why bother? The answer is that the church has so long held to it. The credo-baptist position is a relative new-comer.

    Another question is why is it that the modern church is predominantly credo-baptist and why is it that the paedo-baptist teachings aren’t convincing anybody?

    Comment by Bruce S — December 28, 2005 @ 6:41 am

  4. Am I imagining things or do I remember comments like,” where in the Bible does it say, “churches must have a budget”, or again, “where in the Bible does it say a preacher must be ordained to pronounce the benediction?”

    Must be old age is getting to me!!!

    Comment by Anonymous — December 28, 2005 @ 11:03 pm

  5. Is the modern church predominantly credo-baptist (not counting Rome, eh)? Or is it a majority in American Evangelicalism? I would certainly affirm the latter…not sure about the former.

    The reason credo-baptist are a majority in our own country is because it is so autonomous, so independent, so man-centered. The ethos of our culture and to some extent the church in it, is to have emphasis on the freedom of choice. This is what the public profession position allows, very Sinatra-esque.

    Our paedo-baptist position eliminates the posibility of doing it on your own. Having your parents choose for you isn’t as glamorous.

    Comment by mike s — December 29, 2005 @ 2:55 am

  6. Hey Anonymous,

    Your comment was a little too obtuse even for me, who is supposed to know what you are talking about. Can you clarify what you were driving at for the benefit of all? If your context was how to read the Bible, then I am really confused.

    Mike S. I would venture to guess that the majority (you may have to toss out the RCs to get a majority of credo-baptists in this country) reject infant baptism not for the reasons you gave (as psychologically accurate though they may be) but because credo-baptism is what is taught or believed.

    Comment by Bruce S — December 29, 2005 @ 6:07 am

  7. OK Anonymous,

    I think I get it now (thanks to my mentor, Big D). But I don’t think it is fair to bring up any stance I might have had 10 years ago.

    Do you think not having a single explicit verse for infant baptism is as problematic as not having a single explicit verse for the rule that you must be ordained in order to pronounce the benediction?

    Comment by Bruce S — December 29, 2005 @ 6:56 am

  8. Infant baptism has more support from the Bible than the requirement to be ordained, by a long shot. That is not to say that ordination is of no consequence.

    You finally got it, huh. Ten years is a long time!!!

    Comment by Anonymous — December 29, 2005 @ 2:41 pm

  9. Obtuse yet!! I bet Barbara got it right away.

    Comment by Anonymous — December 29, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  10. If you haVe received the Jan ’06 issue of the Banner you should read the Q&A page (29) for one view point on your study.

    Comment by Anonymous — December 30, 2005 @ 2:20 am

  11. If you think I’m going to get in the middle of your lively conversation, … 🙂

    Comment by Sister/Daughter — December 30, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

  12. 6) Just for fun, the PCA and OPC and probably many other orthodox/reformed denominations do not allow women to b) preach from a pulpit, or c) be an elder or deacon, or d) be ordained. At our church, we do let women make announcements from the pulpit, and (during our “expressional” services) exhort the congregation from floor-standing mikes.

    To fan the flames, on what scriptural basis do we allow women to teach men in Sunday School classes (i.e. Lucas & Callum)

    Comment by son1 — January 3, 2006 @ 4:21 pm


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