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The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism Paperback – August 1, 2003
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"Seeing baptism in the light of covenant theology unfolds the richness of the promises set forth in that blessed sign and seal. This volume is a welcome exposition of the biblical doctrine." --J. Ligon Duncan III
"Any church that desires to pass the torch of the gospel to the next generation must understand this book." --John P. Sartelle Sr.
About the Author
Gregg Strawbridge is pastor of All Saints Presbyterian Church (CRE), in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and director of an Internet audio library. He has taught college-level courses at several campuses and has written on a variety of issues related to theology, apologetics, and worship.
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This book offers the advice, wisdom, and knowledge of several men who seek to give a convincing case for covenantal baptism. This is not only a good read for those who are interested in what covenantal paedobaptists believe. Also, for any seasoned or aspiring paedobaptist the book will further your understanding, faith, and trust in God concerning you and your household. I have outlined each chapter with a brief summary of what is contained therein. I have also affixed a recommended readings section, some of which are contained as recommended readings throughout this book.
Greg gives his own testimony of his journey from Baptist to paedobaptist. He includes a time in which his congregation held to a mixed practice in which infant baptism was allowed by decision of the families yet not expectant for all members.
Chapter 1 ‘A Pastoral view of Infant Baptism’—Brian Chapell
This is really an overview what is expounded upon throughout the book. Things mentioned include: biblical background, biblical basis and biblical benefits of infant baptism.
Chapter 2 ‘Matthew 2:18-20 and the Institution of Baptism’—Daniel M. Doriani
Here is a defense that we are told to disciple our children and baptism is included in our responsibility in our training them up. Also, a quick view of Mark's parallel account is addressed as pertains to its originality and being considered as canon.
Chapter 3 ‘Unto You and Your Children’—Joel R. Beeke and Ray B. Lanning
Acts 2:38-39 is seen as being a direct reference of the believer's children being included in the promises of God covenantally. 1 Cor. 7:14 is also used to support the evidence that the children of believer's are in a special relation to God that unbelievers are not.
Chapter 4 ‘The Oikos Formula’—Johnathan M. Watt
This chapter gives biblical historical evidence of what household baptisms convey to us. The Oikos Formula sees continuity in how God deals with people in covenantal relationship with him. Using Abraham as a prime example, he shows how the household has been included in God’s promises along the head of the household and that this principle and familial inclusion is seen also in the New Covenant.
Chapter 5 ‘Baptism and Circumcision as Signs and Seals’—Mark E. Ross
As stated this chapter gives scriptural evidence of why we call baptism a sign an seal by showing the similarities of circumcision which is directly spoken of as being a sign and seal. A sign is distinguished from a seal in that a sign authenticates and a seal validates.
Chapter 6 ‘The Mode of Baptism’—Joseph Pipa
This chapter gives an exegetical response immersion being the proper mode of baptism. The chief text used is Romans 6:4-7. Here he explains that the primary focus of baptism is not upon its mode of application but in that it demonstrates our union with Christ. To suggest that we should show burial and resurrection in the mode is to demand that we also show crucifixion in the mode because what the text says of baptism and burial and resurrection it says of crucifixion. The emphasis is then on union which these follow from.
Chapter 7 ‘The Newness of the New Covenant’—Jeffery D. Neil
Jeffery D. Neil provides an exegesis for a passage that is common in Baptist circles to denounce infant baptism based upon the assertion that only the elect are included in the New Covenant. That text is Hebrews 8:8-13 where the writer is quoting from the 31st chapter of Jeremiah. He concludes that the context of Hebrews demands that the newness that is being referred to is in that the Old Covenant system of priesthood is abrogated as it is fulfilled in Christ. This then is the interpretive method to this quotation in Hebrews. He gives example of how each phrasing is found elsewhere in Scripture to denote what is not new and what is new. Those which are not new are things that pertain to how people were saved and what God required of his people in the Old Covenant in relation to the inward man. The newness is that all classes of people, Jews and Gentiles alike, are now given access to knowledge of the Lord and the exclusivity of such knowledge is no longer reserved to the Levites as Christ has fulfilled their role. The knowledge in the passage is not then a salvific knowledge but a knowledge of entry. I personally would think of the parable of the sower and the soils as an example of such knowledge and faith.
Chapter 8 ‘Infant Baptism in the New Covenant’—Richard L. Pratt Jr.
Whereas the last chapter viewed Jeremiah's prophecy in the context of Hebrews this chapter looks at the context of Jeremiah itself with other proof texts to support the given interpretation. Richard L. Pratt Jr. understands the passage to say what many Baptists would suggest it to mean. However, because of other Old Testament passages that pertain to the New Covenant and the language of the New Testament writings, he understands that the prophecy is to be consummated at Christ's return. Until then, there will covenant breakers. (See also Tabletalk Magazine, May, 2014, ‘What's so New about the Covenant’ article ‘Out with the Old and in with the New’, pg. 12—Richard L. Pratt Jr.)
Chapter 9 ‘Covenant Transition’—Randy Booth
This chapter focuses on the Covenantal view vs the Dispensational view in regards to the relation of the Old and New Covenants. The argument is that the essential makeup of the Covenants are one in the same. In using Romans 11 he demonstrates how the Gentiles are engrafted into the promised covenant of which the Jews are natural members. The implications of this lead us to an understanding that the New Covenant Church age is not a replacement of Israel as God's primary focus but it was the intention of God to make the two peoples one all along. At the end of the chapter he concludes that Christ is the mediator of both covenants. He does not directly respond to why Moses was referred to as the mediator of the Old Covenant but it may be inferred that Moses’ particular mediation was in relation to the ceremonial aspects of the covenant whereas Christ was the mediator substantially. For it was the ceremonial aspect of the covenant that passed away in the fulfillment of Christ. The transition, then, does not remove the substance of the Mosaic Law but the ceremonial does pass away. Elect Jews and Gentiles are both Abraham's children--that is, those who are of the promise.
Chapter 10 ‘Covenant Theology and Baptism’—Cornelis P. Venema
The Reformed defense of infant baptism is due to covenant theology. A theology that understands the continuity of the covenants God has made with man. What is most notable in covenant theology in this regard is the Abrahamic covenant and how it is not set aside in the New Covenant. By the inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant promises, children are joined into the covenant also. Cornelis gives a concise argument for the case on infant baptism that inevitably applies to the children of believers when Scripture is viewed through the covenantal understanding. Points of interest include his section on covenant signs and seals and the relation of circumcision and baptism. He also, at the end of the chapter, addresses two common Baptist arguments against paedobaptism: nominalism and baptismal regeneration.
Chapter 11 ‘Infant Baptism in the Reformed Confessions’—Lyle D. Bierma
Here is given a theological explanation and reasoning on the similarities of the Belgic Confession 1561, Heidelberg Catechism 1563, Second Helvitic Confession 1566, and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism 1647,1648.
Chapter 12 ‘Infant Baptism in History: An Unfinished Tragicomedy’—Peter J. Leithart
For some, universal acceptance of infant baptism in the early church is enough to satiate their polemical appetite. Others notice the focus of baptismal formulas being focused on adult believers while more and more of what is spoken for infants is in regards to mortality. Peter seeks to explain that the reasoning these two polemics became the norm was due to a singular influence of paganism within the Church which was unable to give explanation as to why Christians had always baptized infants until Augustine began the process of recovering the proper understanding of baptism. He opines that infant baptism was passed on by the Apostles; the Church, without a clear doctrinal interpretation, mystified the rite of baptism; this led to many errors concerning not only infant baptism but believer's baptism also. In the course of time infant baptism has been given its proper defense so as to regain the intended purpose for which it was established in the beginning.
Chapter 13 ‘The Polemics of Anabaptism from the Reformation Onward’—Greg Strawbridge
The polemics of the Baptist position did not start as they are today. Greg gives a succinct account from the days of a more simplistic yet somewhat invective position towards paedobaptism by such men as: Hubmaier, Blaurock, Grebel, Manz, Muntzer, and others to the Reformed Baptists of today’s who hold to Calvinistic doctrines yet insist that the conclusion of the paedobaptist is false biblical theology which is most focused on in the writings of Paul King Jewett. Greg offers a counter to the Baptist position that insists membership in the New Covenant is reserved only to the elect. He does so by referencing warning passages in Hebrews, John chapter 15, and Romans 11, among others. Although the defense is very succinct it does a sufficient job in discrediting the Baptist position of an elect-only New Covenant. Personally, I would have preferred Greg's defense that he gives here when he debated James White on this topic as it is the central point in which the debate on paedobaptism hinges.
Chapter 14 ‘Baptism and Children: Their place in the Old and New Testaments’—Douglas Wilson
In Doug's usual style he offers a concise, convincing, and passionate defense of infant baptism by looking at the promises of God concerning the children of believers. He cites many Old Testament passages that speak of God's promises to believers' children and how these promises are carried into the New Covenant and expanded to both Jew and Gentile. He also goes on to give counsel as to the effects of theology of children. He does not mince words in exclaiming that many of today's evangelical parents are instilling doubt in their children by teaching them that they are inept or not yet to a standard that more 'mature' Christians have and so they may not receive baptism. He ends the chapter with the reader imagining the scenario concerning children to be placed upon women, of whom are not mentioned to have taken the Lord's Supper, to test if one would refuse them baptism based upon the same criterion placed on children.
Chapter 15 ‘In Jesus' Name, Amen’—R.C. Sproul Jr.
Knowing that baptism does not save and that Jesus advocates for the elect how do we treat our family worship? Does God hear our children's prayers? R.C. Jr. implores the reader to consider whether or not one is waiting for their children to make a profession and join the Church? Or, whether they are seeing their children as in the one true New Covenant already and that the evidence of their faith is their remaining in the Church and joining it. This is to say, that children are able to be saved at any age--for God can raise men from the dead surely he can save even infants, see John the Baptist. He concludes that our family worship will be one of confidence and fellowship with God as opposed to only a sort of preaching service to reprobate sinners.
Recommended Readings (List not included in the Book--These are personal recommendations related to this topic)
To a Thousand Generations, infant baptism—covenant mercy for the people of God—Douglas Wilson
Christ of the Covenants—O. Palmer Robertson
Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries—Joachim Jeremias
Institutes of the Christian Religion—John Calvin, (Bk.4 Ch.15&16)
Westminster Confession (Ch. 28)
Heidelberg Catechism (Question 74)
I would also recommend debates done by the men in this book, Greg Strawbridge and Douglas Wilson for example—search on YouTube.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone even interested in understanding the Paedobaptist position!
This book presents the `other' evangelical perspective, the Reformed perspective, on water baptism. With Reformed Theology's resurgence in recent years, it would be to every evangelical Christian's advantage to read this book in order to gain an elemental understanding of their Christian kinsmen's faith.
Bryan Chapell "A Pasotoral Overciew of Infant Baptism" - This essay attempts to give readers an overview of a pastoral explanation of infant baptism. Instead of being rigorous exegetically and theologically, a practical explanation is given. It is a good practical explanation of the practice, but does lack the rigor of the other essays.
Daniel Doriani "Matthew 28:18-20 and the Institution of Baptism" - This essay is a good explanation of how the institution of baptism in Matthew 28 and Mark 16 does not preclude the baptism of infants. It is fairly rigorous in its exegesis, but it could have been better.
Joel Beeke and Ray Lanning "Unto You and to Your Children" - This was a good essay of a neglected text by Baptists, however it was very repetitive. It could have been better, though.
Jonathan Watt "The Oikos Formula" - This was a good essay on the nature of the household in the Jewish world. It goes over the linguistic usage of 'oikos' and all of its cognats in the New Testament. It was well written.
Mark Ross "Baptism and Circumcision as Signs and Seals" - This was an essay designed to connect baptism as circumcision and what all they signify. Overall, it was fairly well written.
Joseph Pipa "The Mode of Baptism" - This essay was written to argue against a strict adherence to immersion as the proper mode of baptism. It was a very good essay and crushing in its conclusion. What is interesting as a side note, the ancestors of the Baptists, the Anabaptists, do not immerse, they pour.
Jeffrey Niell "The Newness of the New Covenant" - This was one of the best essays in the book. The price of the book is worth this essay alone. Niell delevers a crushing blow to the argument that the New Covenant precludes infants from partaking of the blessings and curses of the New Covenant.
Richard Pratt "Infant Baptism in the New Covenant" - This essay was also a heavy-hitter. Pratt and Niell do not totally agree, but I do think they compliment each other well. Pratt argues from a Redemptive-Historical perspective that the New Covenant will not be totally fullfilled until the Eschaton (i.e. an already/not yet schema). With this, I heartily agree.
Randy Booth "Covenant Transition" - This is another hard-hitting essay. Booth argues that the New Covenant is the same covenant as the old, with the only difference that we now do not have to rely on bloddy sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, but Christ paid that once for all.
Corelis Venema "Covenant Theology and Baptism" - This was a good article on classical covenantal theology and is very helpful.
Lyle Bierma "Infant Baptism in the Reformed Confessions" - This essay was incredible. Bierma is one of my favorite historians. This goes over all of the major confessions and catechisms of Reformed Theology. He does a great job to show how that the Reformed had to argue against Anabaptism during the Reformation and their offspring the English Baptists thereafter.
Peter Liethart "Infant Baptism in History: An Unfinished Tragicomedy" - This essay is also incredible. Of course, Peter Leithart is an incredible writer. He relates literary theory to the topic of infant baptism. He even admits that while the early church practiced infant baptism, they were often very inconsistent in their practice. Until Augustine, this was the case. This was a terrific essay.
Gregg Strawbridge "The Polemics of Anabaptism from the Reformation Onward" - This essay was an incredible essay and shows that Baptists, while definitely presenting a cogent argument, cannot stand up to the apostasy/warning passages in the New Testament. His introductory essay was also incredible.
Douglas Wilson "Baptism and Children: Their Place in the Old and New Testaments" - This was also a terrific essay and places the issue where the key question remains: the view of our children.
R.C. Sproul Jr. "In Jesus' Name, Amen" - This was also a very well written essay and gives another argument that most Baptists avoid, namely that they have people who received the covenant sign, and yet still fall away. They cannot explain this, since the visible church is supposed to be pure. Another excellent argument.
Overall this work was well-written and deserves to be read.
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Gregg Strawbridge: Intriguing. Although he gives too much weight to the arguments of those who oppose infant baptism, he...Read more