Confessions of a Militant Reformed Credo-Baptist gone Paedo-baptist
I had plethora of subconscious baptistic assumptions that I would always bring to the text of scripture without question. When you are always starting with a Baptist assumption you will always come with baptistic conclusions. I needed to simply read the text at face value and let new assumptions be created rather than always be operating out of assumptions. Our assumptions are often subconscious until we bring them to the surface and honestly face them. When we do not face and acknowledge our assumptions we remain bound by them.
Dispensationalism, which is often the dominant and uncontested way to see the bible, was subconsciously driving the way I looked at scripture. Dispensationalism is a system of thought that radically separates eras and people and concepts in the bible. It separates Israel from the church, it separates the Old Testament from the New, it separates ways of salvation (at times), it radically separates Christ-saving work in His first and second comings (inserting a 1000 year earthly Kingdom). It is this dominant and often uncontested system (which drives us subconsciously) of separating the Old from the New and all the figures in the Old Testament which was bringing me to radically separate how God's people related to Him in the promise and fulfillment eras. It is dispensational thinking which brings people to say things like, "I only go by what God says in the New Testament." I needed to allow the Apostles to make the connections about God's people in the totality of the bible and consciously rid myself of the dispensational system of radical separation. If you are not aware of dispensational theology it is likely that you have been had by it for a long time and have no idea.
My association of paedo-baptism with Roman Catholicism made me disgusted with any kind of paedo-baptism and any discussions of it. My disgust with paedo-baptism made me refuse to listen to the arguments and when I pretended to listen to them I—in actuality—did not. I needed to face that I was not ready to actually face the arguments due to my biases. Arguments did not make me think they simply made me mad because of my unthinking and invalid connections of reformed paedo-baptism with Roman Catholic paedo-baptism. We must be honest with ourselves that because of our wrong connections of paedo-baptism with Catholicism we have no interest in even beginning to pursue the thought process. The human tendency is to overreact in order to protect ourselves from something that is problematic; the problem with this is that an antithetical reaction often leads to a new error.
I naturally lumped all the Old Testament figures into one big pot. It did not matter if it was Noah, Abraham, Moses or David; to me they were all part of the same system and related to God in the same way (they were legalistic, materialistic guys with some idea of grace). I needed to see how the New Testament separated Moses and Abraham as being figure heads of two different covenants and not simply different figures of one covenant. Paul separated the figures in the Old Testament as those that represented relating to God by works and those who related to Him unconditionally through faith (Gal 4:21-31). I needed to get rid of my massive Old Testament pot and get the two new pots of covenant of grace and covenant of works because these were actually representative of the distinctions in the Old Testament.
My arguments concerning baptism where more logical and based on proof texts than being scriptural and based on the biblical theology of the totality of the scriptures. In the conversations concerning paedo vs. credo I would say various things that had nothing to do with theological reasoning in the scriptures. I needed to use the actual language of scripture in my arguments. I also would use the bible more like a composite of disconnected theological facts rather than use it like a unified story with a progressive theme. I needed to do less cut-and-paste theology and more biblical theology. You will be surprised as to how much our biblical talk has nothing to do with actual biblical language as it has been redemptively developed but rather it is a bunch of discombobulated citations of things that have no contextual sensitivity and often very little biblical reasoning.
I assumed that differences in the New Covenant or the newness of the New Covenant meant that everything is entirely new. So rather than seeing new as having some newness while still having some of the same things that had preceded it, I saw new as meaning something entirely different. The more I read the bible I was able to see that the new covenant was not an entirely different covenant but was simply a new and final administration of the Abrahamic covenant.
I naturally thought that the sacraments where signs of personal faith and transformation. The more that I read scripture it became clear that the sacraments are not signs and seals of our transformation and or our personal faith but rather they are signs and seals of the person and work of Christ which demands and calls for faith and produces transformation. It is one thing to say that signs call for faith and that they speak to how grace effects transformation, but it is another to say that signs and sacraments symbolize faith and/or our transformation. Signs have always been more about Christ' work and God's promises and less about what is in the recipients of those promises. We must not separate the effects of signs and the personal response to signs from the reality of the signs, but at the same time we cannot equate the two to be the same.
I had subconsciously embraced the western value of radical individualism to be an actual biblical value. Meaning that I found it wrong to do something to someone because of someone else and found it right to do something because of the individual's will to do so. However the supreme value throughout the bible is not in individuals but rather it is in federal representation. The supreme theme in the bible from the beginning is a federal head of a represented people. And so my western values which exalted the individual had won over the biblical value which elevated the community and its federal head. The household principle which involves infant baptism is consistent with the biblical value and prominence of federal headship.
My interactions where always with people who were either consciously or subconsciously baptist. When your interaction is mostly or often with people who only think a certain way then you will surprisingly think in the same way. I needed to intentionally put myself in a place where I was hearing people reason from the scriptures who thought differently. People living in a baptistic bubble wondering why they see no reason for paedo-baptism are setting themselves up to never truly think about these things objectively.
I interacted with multiple paedo straw mans that enabled me to shallowly secure my credo position. Meaning that I projected issues with paedo-baptist's that did not exist to keep me secure where I was. I said things like, "Infant baptist believe that because they baptist their kids they will be saved." Or things like, "Infant baptists won't call their kids to repentance because they baptize them." Or things like, "adult baptism does not matter in paedo practicing churches." All these things when actually considered from the mouths of paedo-baptists are simply dishonest. While there may be some who hold to infant baptism that way, it is not representative of many and most in the reformed community. I had to actually hear what paedo-baptists believe about paedo-baptism and stop listening to what credo-baptist believe that paedo-baptists believe.
I did not realize or reflect on the fact that I raised my child like a paedo-baptist but did not consent to their position. Meaning that I spoke to my kids differently than I would speak to an unbeliever in the world. I expected them to partake in the life of the church, demanded that they learn the reformed faith, taught them to pray and to obey the Lord's will, acted like the New Testament letters where theirs to hear and learn. You see, I wanted to treat my child like a part of the church community but I did not want to formally acknowledge them as a part of the church community. I needed to confess that I treated my kids like members of the church though I would not formally recognize them as such. I needed to ask myself why I refused formal recognition while acting in a manner which was consistent with such formal recognition. I was acting with my children and the church as a guy who remains shacked up with a girl but does not seek to formally recognize the relationship in the covenantal setting.
I had a false confidence in human purity. One of the reasons that I would refuse any idea of membership to a yet to be spiritually clean child of a believer is that I believed that the purity of the church would be tarnished. This assumed that the churches purity was mostly grounded on the purity of its members. However the more I read scripture it became clear that the purity of the church was less about its members and more about the head of the church and the means by which He represents His merits to His people. The gospel's purity in proclamation and demonstration (sacrament) is the most vital component to the churches purity and it is not in the actual purity of its members. If the gospel remains pure the purity of the members will always follow. If the gospel and its visibility in sacrament is impure, it does not matter who you give baptism to and how, your church membership will be corrupt. In summary, the church is not safe when all of its members are somewhat pure or very pure, but the church is safe when the purity of the Lord of the church is rightly administered to the church through the means of grace.
I had a confused view about things that save mattering. Meaning that I thought, "why baptize a child if it is not connected to salvation or does not save?" The problem with that question is that it creates a bigger problem. Baptism does not save adults so why do it? The second we realize that baptism does not save anyone we then need to ask a new question. We do not need to ask why do something that does not save (adult or infant baptism) but what does the Lord want us to do. The act of baptism does not save anyone but it is still a command of God for the good of His community. If you say don't baptize a child because it does not save then be consistent and don't baptize an adult either. Things that do not save does not mean they are empty and irrelevant.
I assumed that the normative principle of baptizing someone after faith meant that it was the exclusive practice. So since people are baptized after faith then that necessarily means that that is the only valid way to baptize. We have to be very careful with assuming that one thing demands another. Does Abraham's sign of the covenant of grace after faith mean that it is the only way to administer the sign? Clearly not. Baptizing people after faith does not invalidate or exclude baptizing children before faith; they are complimentary realities not monopolizing ones.
I confused passages about circumcision to mean things in some places that they meant in other places. What I mean by this is that I would read passages in Galatians and Acts about the false teachers using circumcision as some tool to self justification to interpret the significance of circumcision everywhere. So in places like Romans 4, Colossians 2, Philippians 2, Romans 2 circumcision is referenced to be about the work of Christ and His covenant promises; I still would read Paul's rebuttal of the twisting of circumcision into all the New Testament. I would think like this, "circumcision is bad but baptism is good and so they could never relate to each other." I needed to allow the particular contexts which spoke about circumcision in a unique way to speak uniquely and not make them say the same thing everywhere. If we do not see the texts which connect circumcision with the work of Christ we will never see the parallel correlation to baptism.
I did not read the bible from the perspective of the Hebrew covenant people, rather I read the bible from the perspective of a 21st century Christian. Meaning that I would not understand terms and concepts as they had been laid down and qualified among the covenant people, rather I understood them as they were seen according to my generation. So even though church, covenant, signs, households, and promise all had thousands of years of biblical qualification in the covenant community; I thought it better to re-qualify things from the angle of a 21st century American evangelical. So when Peter preached and said, "this is for you and for your children," to the covenant people at Pentecost, I totally overlooked the Abrahamic correlation and continuance of the covenant community in that passage. When households are baptized in Acts, I totally overlooked the Old Testament concept of household that involved believers and their children. I needed to let God give me the categories as to how to think about His concepts as opposed to having my categories shape and frame biblical concepts.
I refused to connect the dots about the nature of the gospel and the nature of all other things in the church. Meaning that I saw the gospel as being mostly about Christ and His work for us and not us, but I saw the signs in the church to be more about His work in us. So the gospel was more about Christ for us but the signs of the gospel were more about Christ in us. I had a view of the signs that was different than the view of the reality. If Christ's work was more about what He did outside of us (which calls us to respond and does work in us) then the signs of that reality cannot be understood any differently. It was when I made the connection between the nature of the gospel and the signs that I saw a rightful place to administer the sign of the gospel irrespective of the condition of the person (the infant) receiving the sign.
I willingly consented to embrace new doctrines which I and no one should ever do. Administering signs to children of believers has 2000 years of history in the Bible and 1500 years of history in the church. Meaning that by the second century all the way into the 16th century it was the universal practice of the church to administer signs of the covenant to their children. While I understand that the church has a history of confusing and losing things in various eras, I can say confidently that there is no new doctrine in any era of the church unless it is false. If it is new then it simply is not true. And so since the practice of administering signs of the covenant to our children has 3500 years of precedence, it is safe to say that the refusal to do so is a new doctrine which though common now is simply untrue. I needed to rid myself of the arrogance that comes from assuming that for thousands of years the totality of God's people got it wrong and we, in our new view, have it right.