Yesterday we had our youngest son baptized. It was not a de facto “infant dedication” ceremony because he is an infant. It was Christian baptism. An ordained minister of the gospel sprinkled him with water, called him by name, and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Many Christians would say that what happened to him was not true baptism because, after all, he’s a baby! He hasn’t confessed the Christian faith, and no one can be sure if he ever will. Many Christians would say that my son merely got wet, and that he can get re-baptized (or better yet, really baptized) later if/when he publicly repents and confesses Christ as his Lord and Savior to make it authentic. I used to be one of those well-intentioned Christians who couldn’t fathom why in the world any Bible-believing, evangelical Christian would submit their child to a clearly unbiblical, “Roman Catholic” practice. I used to be a credo-baptist (only confessing believers should receive the sacrament/ordinance of baptism. But now I’m a paedo-baptist (both confessing believers and their children should receive baptism). Why did I change my mind?
First, I must say that I changed my mind regarding what baptism means and who should receive this sacramental sign and seal very slowly. In fact, coming around to the paedo-baptist position was the last step for me in my journey from Arminian evangelical theology to confessional Presbyterian/Reformed theology. From what I hear, this experience is typical for those on the same path. The doctrines of grace (T.U.L.I.P. = The Five Points of Calvinism) were my first faith step out of the generic evangelicalism that I had learned from childhood through college, then covenant theology replaced the dispensational framework that I had picked up through reading End Times literature from the local Christian bookstore. Studying and comparing these systems made it clear to me that Reformed theology matched much more closely with what I read in the Bible than any other interpretation that I had studied before. But for me baptizing babies was a difficult concept to accept at first. Probably because the Reformed and Presbyterian understanding of baptism is heavily dependent on the doctrines of grace and covenant theology. I had to understand and accept these as a foundation before infant baptism made sense. And now it all fits together in my head, and seems to comport with the Bible’s teaching on baptism.
Second, I did not change my mind for flippant reasons or weak presentations. One Christian suggested to my wife and I that God’s promise to make Abraham’s children as many as the stars in heaven means that every star is associated with the name of a baby in a Christian family. It sounded good and made our family feel loved by God to think that our children each had a star in the sky, but such appeals to emotion did not convince us that we should baptize our children. For the record, it’s probably not a good idea to tell Christian parents that they can believe that there’s a star in the sky that has Junior’s name on it. The promise is a figurative one, and besides, it was fulfilled in the Old Testament children of Israel who occupied the Promised Land (although there is a New Testament fulfillment of this as well). It was meant to symbolize the family/people/nation of God, and not to imply salvation and eternal security for every person in the faith community. Which gets to the nature of biblical covenants, with their stipulations, blessings, and curses.
So back to the question, what made me change my mind regarding who should be baptized? Like I said, it happened after much study and prayer and time. I don’t want to rehash the biblical arguments here, but here is a list of a few resources that proved extremely helpful in understanding the Reformed theology of baptism and the biblical warrant for it. In the end, I was totally convinced, and now have the privilege of raising four baptized covenant children who my wife and I will teach to believe and own for themselves the promises which God the Heavenly Father made to them when they were each baptized.
Infant Baptism: How My Mind Has Changed, by Dennis E. Johnson
This article, in the form of a personal letter from father to daughter, is the easiest read and the most accessible. Start here.
Baptism as a Sacrament of the Covenant, by Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
Pratt is also easy to read. He is also a first-rate theologian and general editor of the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.
Why Does the OPC Baptize Infants?, by Larry Wilson
The OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) is a sister denomination of ours (PCA). Good short article.
Infant Baptism: Does the Bible Teach It?, by Gregg Strawbridge
This is a longer, more in-depth doctrinal study.
Baptist Objections to Infant Baptism and the Reformed Response, by Kim Riddlebarger
Riddlebarger is the co-host of the weekly radio broadcast The White Horse Inn, which showcases Reformed theology in our American postmodern context. It’s important to read both sides of the argument, even if you are already well-acquainted with one side. See also his entire series on the Sacraments for more. Good stuff.
R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur Baptism Debate
An audio recording of a debate whether infant baptism is a biblically-warranted practice. Sproul says yes; MacArthur says no. The highlight of this debate is hearing Sproul go for the knockout at the end and listening to MacArthur verbally stagger. There was a home-field advantage for Sproul considering the debate took place at a Ligonier Conference, so keep that in mind.
Why Do We Baptize Our Children? by Richard L. Pratt, Jr. (Audio) (Study Guide)
Pratt’s presentation is winsome in mood, informative (rather than apologetic) in content, and gracious to Christians who remain unconvinced that infant baptism is right. This is part of the Third Mill series of Seminary Level courses for everyone.
Christian Baptism, by John Murray
Murray is not the easiest guy to read, but he is not as hard as some people make him out to be. Even so, this book packs a wallop of an argument into a small amount of space. If you want to read a book-length presentation on the reasons for Christian baptism, this is a good first choice.
The Mother Lode of Baptism Articles, at Monergism.com
This page has links to many articles that explain and defend either the credo-baptist or paedo-baptist position. If there is an good article on baptism to be found on the Internet, you will find it here.