That Pesky Thing We Call Consistency

23 08 2008

I read a great quote from Pastor McAtee on how the Credo-Baptist position essentially views children as salvifically-unviable-fetuses:

Credo-baptists believe that soteric worth is tied up with moral agency. Such moral agency is dependent upon consciousness. For Credo-baptists, soteric rights presuppose interests, and creatures without a fairly advanced state of consciousness do not and can not have soteric interests. Hence, until such a time that a child is considered salvifically “viable” as witnessed by a advanced state of consciousness, the child is, salvifically speaking, not a person, but rather is a soteric fetus awaiting enough consciousness to be considered a candidate for soteriological personhood.

And ironically, the first commenter on Pastor McAtee’s post takes most Paedo-baptists to task with the same logic:

Insert Paedo into this article where it reads Credo and some would think that you had certainly made a mistake and truly meant Credo. However, many who would think you made that mistake apply this very reasoning to God’s Covenant children by rejecting them from Christ’s table “until such a time that a child is considered salvifically “viable” as witnessed by a advanced state of consciousness”.

And if you’d like to be entertained by hearing some Lutherans (Missouri Synod) discuss it, check this thread out. Pastor Weedon brings out a quote from Luther on 1 Corinthians which explains that the “examine himself” command doesn’t apply to children at all. Its quite telling that Pastor McCain jumps in immediately and begins repeating slogans and ad-hominems as if his life depended upon it. He knows exactly the threat that the quote presents to the anti-paedocommunion establishment, even if others don’t yet see it.

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5 responses

23 08 2008
Boyd Livingstone

Would it be common among modern Presbytereans to consider infant children as being regenerate? I was speaking to a Presbyterean the other day who remarked that he did not consider his children as necessarily regenerate yet he submitted them to baptism because he reckoned them to be part of covenant. Whether this man understood the teaching of his church I was not entirely certain.

Calivin is quoted as saying: “The offspring of believers are born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, have been adopted into the covenant of eternal life. Nor are they brought into the church by baptism on any other ground than because they belonged to the body of the Church before they were born. He who admits aliens to baptism profanes it…. For how can it be lawful to confer the badge of Christ on aliens from Christ. Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause of half salvation merely, but gives salvation entire; and this salvation is afterwards ratified by Baptism.”

These remarks would seem to differentiate the Calvinistic position from the Romish and Lutheran positions. If Calvin’s presupposition is correct, this would also seem to indicate that the children of credobaptists are akin to that of their paedobaptist brethren, even if the parents are a few years tardy in applying the sign and seal.

As one who was raised as and consequently remains a credobaptist, I am curious to know if the gospel is presented in a paedobaptist home as something that needs to be believed by the children or whether it is assumed that the gospel has been believed and is presented more along the lines of “don’t fall away as the Israelites fell in the wilderness.”

24 08 2008
floydturbeville

I think that each theological school attaches different baggage to the word “regeneration”, and you’ll see different responses based on people trying to deal with that and “translate” to others. I think your Presbyterian pal might have been communicating that he doesn’t have certainty about whether his children are elected unto eternal life, though (if I understand correctly) all Presbyterians should have some measure of presumptive regeneration in view, as the Calvin quote would support.

If Calvin’s presupposition is correct, this would also seem to indicate that the children of credobaptists are akin to that of their paedobaptist brethren, even if the parents are a few years tardy in applying the sign and seal.

I disagree with the above, and if I may offer a gentle theological barb in your direction – I think that is simply wishful thinking on your part, Dr. Livingstone. Credo-baptist are not merely tardy, as if they simply wait a few years and then dunk their children. No, they withhold it because unlike Calvin they don’t believe their children really are in the covenant, and wait until they can jump through whatever arbitrary hoop the particular parents have adopted. Such a view renders Baptism a dead formality which conveys no true benefit, which would cause Calvin no small amount of consternation. To Calvin, the refusal of Credo-baptists to apply the sign would be a sign of a different sort altogether than that of which baptism signifies.

As one who was raised as and consequently remains a credobaptist, I am curious to know if the gospel is presented in a paedobaptist home as something that needs to be believed by the children or whether it is assumed that the gospel has been believed and is presented more along the lines of “don’t fall away as the Israelites fell in the wilderness.”

Both! And that goes for children and adults.

1 09 2008
Boyd Livingstone

I am, of course, well aware of Calvin’s consternation toward Anabaptists. His remarks in his commentary on Acts as well as other places are sufficient to bear that out. My hastily written response was probably vague, a response borne more from a reflection of various readings than direct treatment of your original post.

I would disagree at least in part with the following words that state that “creatures without a fairly advanced state of consciousness do not and can not have soteric interests.” To be sure, I find little compelling biblical evidence to compel me to embrace the notion of presumptive regeneration, but this does not require me to insist that infants do not or cannot have soteric interests. It is certainly within my theological bounds to consider that the Spirit of God could indeed regenerate infants in the womb, I am just not certain as to whether it is normative. I have 5 children ranging from ages 12 to 1 month. We have had 4 miscarriages along the way as well. Are all of my children regenerate? I am just not sure. I am content to trust in the sovereign good pleasure of God and plead that He would be merciful to me and to them and regenerate their wicked hearts.

I trust in His promises and I do presume that as I am faithful to preach and live the gospel that God will regenerate them as it pleases Him. I am just not convinved it happens within the womb without exception.

People have asked about our children dying in infancy. Some are apalled by my response. I believe in the doctrine of orginal sin and my answer is that God is holy, just, and good and that He does all things according to His will. He may have been pleased to regenerate within the womb, I just cannot insist that I know that He has. When told, “That’s not very comforting!” I suppose I can really argue no further. I am comforted and content knowing that God does whatever is pleasing in His sight.

As far as parents admitting children based upon arbitrary hoops, I suppose there is little I can say considering the various positions among credobaptists to this end. For my own part, I view the continuity of the covenants to be manifested as a shift from the fleshly circumcision done with hands to the spiritual circumcision of the heart, namely regeneration.

In this I suppose I could agree with Calvin. If I was convinced that regneration occured within the womb, I could cheerfully submit my infants to baptism. Since I do not hold that view, I follow the general credobaptist teaching and admit my children upon profession of faith in Christ. In so doing, I presume regeneration upon the testimony of the lips of even a very young child.

In this, I don’t claim to be any better judge of intrinsic regeneration than you. I realize that either of our children, or even you or I for that matter, could potentially fall away, which is why we would likewise stress the necessity in believing the gospel and not fall away.

If I ever were convinced to shift to a paedobaptist position, it would be because I was convinced of covenant succession and presumptive regeneration. Some presbytereans that I know seem to suggest, if I follow them correctly, that administering the sacrament of baptism imparts grace and reveals faith that believes God will at some future point regenerate their children. To which notion I wonder with Calvin, why baptize the profane? And if my children were baptized as infants, regenerate in the womb, and reckoned covenant members, why would I withold them from the table?

The whole subject causes me some grief and concern. While I am content with my view point and cheerfully serve as a pastor within a Baptist church, it is not without a real sense of gravity that I consider the debate. Well did Murray state: “If infant baptism has the divine warrant, then what dishonor is offered to Christ and what irretrievable damage is done to the church and to the souls of children by refusing to introduce children into this glorious fellowship. No argument from apparent expediency, no seeming evangelistic fervor will counteract that dishonor to our Lord and that damage done to the souls of men.”

I apologize for the length of my response.

1 09 2008
floydturbeville

No apology necessary, Dr. Livingstone. I agree with Calvin that children of church members are holy and already in the covenant.

One thing I am curious about, based on your remarks above, is how you reconcile your position of viewing children of believers as presumptively profane when God’s word maintains that the children of even one believing parent are holy?

1 09 2008
Boyd Livingstone

I run the risk of presenting myself metaphorically as some form of a slippery reptile when it comes to pegging my theological position regarding infants. In all honesty, I am not sure how presumptive I can be in this issue, for I meant what I said when I shared “It is certainly within my theological bounds to consider that the Spirit of God could indeed regenerate infants in the womb, I am just not certain as to whether it is normativein all honesty,” Forgive my ignorance, but I simply am not settled regarding this issue.

As far as 1 Cor 7:14 is concerned, my interpretation of the passage is not far removed from a typical Baptist interpretation with perhaps the exception that I am not ashamed to confess that I find it a difficult passage to interpret.

The word used describing the unbelieving spouse as “is sanctified” and the children as “holy” are the same. One is used in a noun form and the other as a verb. It seems a stretch to me to assume that the children are thus federally holy and are to be considered proper subjects of baptism if the same conclusion cannot be reached regarding the unbelieving husband. While he is sanctified, he’s not yet considered as a believer for Paul goes on to suggest that perhaps by remaining in the marriage state the unbelieving spouse shall be saved.

The context of the passage is about clean/unclean and whether or not to terminate the marriage. It seems natural to conclude that the setting apart being referred to in this passage is not to be considered salvifically, but rather dealing with the legitimacy of the marriage. I think Barnes is correct (granted, he would allow the children to considered as subject of baptism based upon the faith of one parent, but he does not use this passage as a grounds of inferrence) when he offers by way of definition: “Your separation would be a proclamation to all that you regard the marriage as invalid and improper. From this it would follow that the offspring of such a marriage would be illegitimate.”

Now should you happen to think that you are good at catching reptiles, I would like to think that I can break off my tail at will and thus escape to my safe and quiet lair!

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