Water Baptism Has Not Replaced Physical Circumcision
Paedobaptists agree that Abraham has “only one true seed, the spiritual seed”. But they still can’t let go of the fact that Abraham’s “carnal seed” were circumcised. Therefore, they still think that DNA has something to do with water baptism. Those with DNA from Abraham were circumcised in the old covenant, and certain versions of paedobaptism say that those (in the first generation only) with DNA from Christian parents are to be baptized as infants because of that parallel.
They explain that “biological descent from Abraham is never a sufficient reason for one to expect covenant blessings.” But some paedobaptists think that biological descent IS ONE REASON to expect blessing. WITHOUT biological descent, one had very little reason to expect blessing in the old covenant. I recall for you the language of Ephesians 2:12–”being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope…” But also we
remember the exceptions (Ruth) in the genealogy of Jesus
Not all of Israel is Israel or ever WAS EVER Israel. God chooses individuals to be justified. The new perspective not only neglects the law/grace distinction of the Mosaic covenant, but also attempts to ignore the “new individualism” of the new covenant. We do not get into the new covenant corporately, and then stay by our works of faith, as NT Wright (with many others) would have it.
Conservative paedobaptists do “believe in” church discipline. Even though the “covenant sign is objective”, they don’t want to place that sign on any and every pagan. They “abhor a nominal church.” Conservative paedobaptists only baptize infants of the first generation. They still attempt to determine if parents are believers before they will baptize their children. In this way, they attempt to avoid a national church (even if those parents were infant watered by Roman Catholics).
John Murray: “no organization of men is able infallibly to determine who are regenerate.” But then again, no presbytery can determine infallibly which parents are regenerate. And no preacher can infallibly preach God’s Word. And no magistrate can infallibly kill enemies. And no writer can infallibly free themselves of prejudice. We all know these things. But knowing this does not decide for us if a church includes the children of believers, or only those who profess to be justified believers.
Although some paedobaptists practice infant communion, most paedobaptists have “criteria for adult membership”. The difference with baptists is finally not a different kind of “certainty”. The difference is that paedobaptists have TWO kinds of church membership. So the question becomes— does the new covenant have two kinds of membership? If the Lord’s Supper is a “sacrament both received and performed”, does this mean that only some (non-infant) members take and eat the Lord’s Supper?
Assurance–for credobaptists or for paedobaptists– should not be based on our continuing to meet “covenant conditions”. I Peter 3:21: “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ.” Gospel assurance does not come from a promise of ours to get busy and to keep working enough! “Dead works” come from that.
“Feeling one must match the experiences of others” is not an error isolated to credobaptists. Believer baptism is no solution to a puritan produced (the practical syllogism) crisis of assurance: only the imputed righteousness of Christ can give us peace with God.
If we follow the advise of Charles Hodge and Horace Bushnell, our children should always presume themselves to be Christians. I do know many paedobaptists who do not agree with Hodge and Bushnell on this question But perhaps those who dissent from Bushnell on this matter are not consistent.
Questions remain. Are the infants born to paedobaptist Christians in a better position after “water baptism” than the infants born to credobaptist Christians? If infants are baptized not in order to be included in “the covenant” but because they were born in “the covenant”, wouldn’t that mean that infants born to credobaptist Christians are in “the covenant” despite the sinful neglect by their parents and church? Do they still have the “opportunity” to be “cursed by the new covenant” fi they don’t live up to the conditions which come with having Christian parents? Or is the only way to actually receive the “greater negative sanctions” is to receive the “water of the church”?
Paedobaptists (Calvin) accuse credobaptists of missing the spiritual dimensions of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. But they themselves miss the physical dimensions of the old covenants. In Acts there is no second generation “born of Christian parents”. From this silence, some even infer that the second generation must have been baptized in their infancy. I am not against inferring but I would like to be rational in doing so. In Acts there is a second generation “born of circumcised and in the covenant” parents!
I get from the silence in Acts (about second generation water baptism) that Acts knows nothing about two kinds of water baptism. We could infer just as well that very few were baptized in Acts since most had already been circumcised. We could infer that none who had been circumcised were baptized in Acts. But such an inference would be wrong.
Acts is not silent about one important matter—we read the record there of many Jews, who having already received the circumcision symbol of the old covenant, do not rest content with that infant ritual but are water baptized after they believe. I infer, not from silence but from this clear pattern, that water baptism and circumcision are not only different, but also that water baptism is not a substitute for circumcision. Physical circumcision as theologically significant has ended, but not because water baptism has replaced it.