One of the convictions of Trinity Reformed Church is catholicity. It means we are committed to getting along with other Christians such that we do not divide over the credo vs paedobaptism issue. Some sincere and genuine Christians baptize their infants. This is called paedobaptism. Some sincere and genuine Christians don’t baptize their children until there is a profession of faith. This is called credobaptism. Because neither group teaches that baptism justifies, we do not divide on this issue.
In practice, it means that credo-Baptists will not be treated as second-class Christians. To practice charitable catholicity on this issue requires admitting both paedo-Baptists and credo-Baptists are concerned to be faithful to Scripture. Both groups make plausible biblical arguments for their viewpoint. For those who desire to delay the baptism of their children until there is a confession of faith, the TRC session joyfully defers to the head of each household, while standing on our paedo-Baptist conviction.
Avoidance is not the strategy of catholicity. We don’t keep unity between paedo and credo Baptists by tiptoeing around the issue. We have convictions that are outlined in Chapter 28 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which confesses paedo-baptism. That is the official position of Trinity Reformed Church. It is one of our convictions just as catholicity is one of our convictions.
As we prepare for our January Sunday School about baptism, the goal is to explain, not divide. There will be a mixed audience. For those who are settled credo-Baptists, the goal is to help you see that your paedo-Baptists brothers are not inventing doctrines apart from the Bible. The experience of many credo-Baptists is to read the New Testament, especially the book of Acts, see that only people who repent and believe are baptized, and conclude it is crazy to baptize infants. Other Baptists resist paedo-baptism because they think it is that leaky doctrine that overpromises and underdelivers, in that it promises salvation to infants who then leave the faith.
So the aim is not to berate the settled credo-Baptists until they become paedo-Baptists. The aim is to establish some of the theological frameworks that support paedo-baptism. This will enable us to plumb the depths of the meaning and significance of baptism. In so doing we hope to simultaneously make headway in two of our convictions: catholicity and paedo-baptism.
OVERVIEW OF JANUARY SUNDAY SCHOOL ON BAPTISM
First week (Jan. 2 @ 9:15AM)
Baptism in the OT: Part One
Why did the first century Christians start baptizing? Did they just make baptism up out of the blue? No. They got it from the Old Testament. During week one our goal is to see that the Old Testament has something to say about baptism. The objective is to demonstrate, first, that a type of baptism was practiced in the Old Testament, and second, the authors of the New Testament assumed the Old Testament taught about baptism.
Second week (Jan. 9 @ 9:15AM)
Baptism in the OT: Part Two
The debate between paedo-Baptists and credo-Baptists revolves around the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Paedo-Baptists see a continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament that makes them conclude that the covenant sign should be applied to infants in the New Covenant just like the covenant sign was applied to infants in the Old Testament. Credo-Baptists, in contrast, have to argue for a discontinuity between the Old Testament and New Testament such that the covenant sign no longer applies to infants in the New Covenant. The objective this week is to review the paedo-Baptists arguments for continuity and the credo-Baptists arguments against continuity.
Third week (Jan 16 @ 9:15AM)
Special Guest Chris Wiley is teaching Sunday School
Fourth week (Jan. 23 @ 9:15AM)
Mode of Baptism
Two questions are related: (1) The question of the mode of baptism, and (2) The question of who should be baptized. If baptism must be by immersion, then infants can’t participate. Credo-Baptists argue that baptism must be by immersion. By this they mean the person must be dipped in the water, their head fully immersed, and then raised out of the water. We will review the Baptist’s four main arguments for why they think baptism must be by immersion.
- Does the word baptizo means “dip” or “immerse”?
- Does baptism symbolically commemorate the burial and resurrection of Christ?
- Does the baptism of Jesus provide a model for immersion?
- Does the language of “came up out of the water” point to baptism by immersion?
Fifth week (Jan. 30 @ 9:15AM)
The mode of baptism sends signals about the meaning of baptism. We will consider the following:
- First, baptism symbolizes the Spirit being poured out on us
- Second, baptism is the sign and seal of the covenant
Related to the second question, paedo-baptism is often mischaracterized as saying that a baptized believer is elect and automatically saved. This is not the case. Baptism is a gift of God, whether for a professing Christian or the child of believing parents. It does not internally change the person’s heart, but brings the person into the covenant of God, with all its privileges, promises, blessings, and curses. It is a sign of what Jesus has done (washed His church) and will do for everyone who trusts Him. This does not mean all who are baptized are saved or will become believers. It means they have the promises of God and participate in the covenant community, where God’s Spirit dwells. Those who are baptized as infants have the privilege of being raised in God’s covenant. What are those privileges? They know from an early age that they belong to Him. In their life, they will either affirm or reject the covenant promises. If they are converted and walk by faith, they receive the blessings of the covenant. If they disobey the Lord, they receive the cursing of the Lord. All who are baptized must believe the promises of God and walk by faith.
Jason Cherry is an elder at Trinity Reformed Church in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.