The main points I tried to make in those posts were:
1. Infant baptism is justified as a deduction from scripture that is a good and necessary consequence (See Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, paragraph 6).
2. Infant baptism is a consequence of the doctrine of the covenants and the doctrine of the church.
As a consequence of the doctrine of the covenants, infant baptism is based on the assumption of the continuity of the covenants from the Abrahamic through the New Covenant. There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the practice of covenant making has significantly changed in the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament era.
As a consequence of the doctrine of the church, infant baptism is based upon the understanding that the church of the Old and New Testaments does, and always has, consisted of believers and their children.
With those foundations, in this post I will assert that:
3. Members of the covenant community are entitled to receive a sign of membership in that community.
4. Baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of membership in the New Covenant community.
5. As children of believers are members of the covenant community, they are entitled to receive the sign of membership in the covenant community.
First of all, members of a covenant community are entitled to receive a sign of membership in that covenant community.
Abraham and his children were given the sign of circumcision as the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. The rainbow was the sign of the Noahic Covenant. The Noahic covenant is a covenant with the entire human race, thus the sign is given to the entire human race. The sign of the Mosaic Covenant was the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13-17). The sign of the New Covenant is baptism.
So, as a paedobaptist, I contend that the children of believers are holy unto the Lord, per I Corinthians 7:14. Certainly this doesn't mean that they are saved, so the best possible paradigm for understanding how unsaved children could be holy (and unsaved husbands could be "sanctified') is to use the biblical paradigm of the covenant community. In the Old Testament all of the members of a believer's household were considered to members of the covenant community as can be seen in the fact that God entered into a covenant with Abraham and his household (including those who had not yet exercised saving faith as Abraham had done) as a concomitant of Abraham's faith.
If this is true, and I believe it is, then the biblical pattern is that members of a covenant community are to receive a sign of membership in that community. I, and my fellow paedobaptists may be wrong in our assertion that baptism is that New Covenant sign, but we think the burden of proof is on those who would deny that members of a covenant community are to receive a sign of that membership. What is there in the New Testament to indicate that God has ceased giving a sign to members of a covenant community.
This raises an issue I touched on in the last post. Baptists believe that membership in the nation of Israel, the Old Covenant community, was a physical thing. They believe that membership in the church, the New Covenant community is a spiritual matter. This can be seen in one of the criticisms of my last post from Anselm at Hill Country Views:
Circumcision is specifically physical, and is never referred to as reflecting faith. Baptism was from the first a profession of faith, reflecting the inward.
This comment reflects the belief that baptism is not a physical matter and that circumcision does not reflect the inward. That is exactly what we paedobaptists deny. Anselm implies that baptism is not physical, as circumcision was, or maybe he implies that it goes beyond the physical in a way that circumcision does not. Baptism is very physical - the water is a physical entity which is applied to a person's physical body. It's not spiritual water being applied to a spiritual body. Baptism is a physical ceremony just as circumcision was.
I think that what Anselm is getting at here is that circumcision had no spiritual or inward significance. The Westminster Confession of Faith says that, in the sacraments, there is a sign and a thing signified (see WCF 27). The London Baptist Confession doesn't use such language, but in the chapter on baptism says that baptism is a sign of certain inward spiritual realities.
Yet circumcision was also a sign of certain inward spiritual realities. Mike Glodo has a couple of good articles that touch on these, here and here. I'll leave it to you to read his articles, but suffice it to say that circumcision was loaded with inward spiritual realities. It symbolized one's membership in the covenant community, one's consecration to be the Lord's, and it had a self-maledictory aspect in the sense that it symbolized the recipient's status as being cut off should they fail to obey the terms of the covenant.
So of course it reflected inward realities - that was the essence of what circumcision was about - it reflected inward spiritual realities. But more to the point, Anselm suggests that circumcision is never referred to as reflecting faith. Yet, the Scripture couldn't be any more clear in this regard. Romans 4.
“[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them”
Circumcision is unequivocally linked to Abraham's exercise of faith. It is precisely referred to as reflecting faith. This, along with the other purposes of circumcision mentioned above demonstrate that circumcision was all about inward spiritual realities. And this is not a view that is superimposed on the Old Testament from the New. Mike Glodo is helpful in this regard:
In the Old Testament, circumcision was never to be regarded as a merely physical act.
“Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more” (Deut. 10:16).
“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live” (Deut. 30:6).
“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My wrath go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds” (Jer. 4:4).
The visible was never to be considered apart from an inward reality. It would be a mistake, therefore, to make this a distinction between Old Testament circumcision and New Testament baptism. Both are intended as outward signs of an inward reality. But there was also, just as with baptism, an acknowledgement that not all who bore the sign would be in possession of the reality.
The Baptist makes the mistake of equating membership in the covenant community with salvation. But, as these verses show there were those who were circumcised in the flesh, and were members of the covenant community, who were not circumcised in heart and who would not live. These folks were not what we would call "saved."
Similarly, as I mentioned in my last post, with the I Corinthians 7 passage where the unbelieving husband of a believer is sanctified and the children of a believer are holy, we see people who are in some kind of relationship to God who are unsaved. This is also true of those people in Hebrews who have participated in all aspects of the life of the covenant community who are found to be unsaved.
The Baptist says that, in the New Testament, the covenantal sign ought not to be applied to the children of believers because they can not profess faith. In other words, they cannot grasp and embrace and trust in the spiritual realities behind the ceremony. If that is the basis of their argument then by the same reasoning the Baptist needs to rule circumcision out of order.
What infant could demonstrate a profession of faith as Abraham did? What infant could circumcise his own heart and cease stiffening their neck against the Lord? What infant could love the Lord his God with all his heart and soul? What infant could remove the foreskin of his own heart? What infant could consecrate himself to the Lord? What infant could call down covenantal curses on himself, that he might be cut off if he failed to keep covenant?
No infant could do this, yet the sign was applied.
If, as Romans 4:11 says, circumcision was the sign of Abraham's faith and it was applied to his "not-yet-believing" children, then why can't the New Testament sign of faith be applied to the "not-yet-believing" children of believers today?
The second point I wanted to make in this post was that baptism has replaced circumcision as the New Testament covenant sign. This is based on Colossians 2:11-12:
11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
And so I begin to draw this to a conclusion by saying again that the children of believers today, like the children of believing Abraham in the Old Testament, are entitled to receive the sign of membership in the covenant. This sign is baptism and it ought to be applied to the children of believers.
In his article Mike Glodo shows the key difference between paedobaptists and "believer-only" baptists:
I have been laying such stress on the covenant with Abraham because the New Testament lays such stress on the covenant with Abraham. Romans 4:16-17 says:
A journey not well begun is a journey that is difficult to complete. Likewise, when we come to the question of whether paedobaptism is God’s will for the church, we must start with the right question. Often it is asked, “Where in the New Testament are we commanded to baptize children?” While there are many ways to answer this question, it is a wrong question. The Old Testament maintains overwhelming continuity with the New Testament, and continuity ought to be the default assumption. The question should rather be, “Where does the New Testament command us to stop applying the covenant sign to children of believers?”
What is this promise that comes by faith? Back in verse 13 it says:
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
The promise is made to Abraham and his offspring that they would be heirs of the world. This promise is more fully stated in Genesis 17:7
13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith
Galatians 3:7 says:
And Galatians 3:29 says:
7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
All of this further illustrates that believers today are participants in the Abrahamic covenant. We inherit the covenant promises given to Abraham. Do we also inherit the covenant responsibilities? The main covenant responsibility that Abraham had was to give his children the sign of the covenant. Do we not have the same responsibility? Genesis 17:9-11 says:
As I mentioned in my previous post, we paedobaptists, coming from a covenantal tradition, do agree that there are discontinuities between the Old and the New. It is obvious that we do not practice this passage as it is written. Obviously, with the coming of Christ, the covenant promises have changed and we think the covenant responsibilities have changed. But in what way have they changed?
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
We do not believe that the covenant promises have been constricted, rather they have been expanded. Abraham began as the father of one nation and with the coming of Christ he now becomes the father of many, as was promised. He was promised the land of Canaan, yet with the coming of Christ, his children inhabit the whole earth.
This is an expansion of blessing and maybe this is where the disconnect is. Paedobaptists do not see the taking of covenant signs as a mere duty or empty ceremony. We see covenant signs as great blessings. And we have a hard time believing that, with the coming of Christ, God is now restricting His blessings to His people.
Yes, things have changed in the transition from circumcision to baptism. Baptists believe that the change is that the children of believers are no longer entitled to receive the sign of the covenant. We believe that the change is that the blessing has been expanded. Circumcision was a bloody and painful ritual applied only to male children. Baptism is a cleansing and pleasant ritual applied to males and females alike.
Yes, we acknowledge, along with our Baptist friends that this does not save. And so, admitting this, some of our opponents say, then what's the use? Its the same use as was circumcision. It is a sign marking the great blessing of being a member of the covenant community. As a member of a covenant community a child receives not only the sign, but the great blessings of growing up in a Christian home, being under the pastoral care of a church, regularly receiving training in God's word and all kinds of wonderful blessings. Can these things happen if the sign is not applied? Sure, but why would you not want to apply the sign. The sign marks the covenant child of believers off from the world, why would we not want to give this to our children?