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Paedo-Credo Baptism Debate

Dr. David VanDrunen from Westminster Seminary California, recently debated Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Southern Seminary) on the proper subjects of baptism--infants or believers?  The debate was sponsored by Grace Reformation Church in Woodland, CA

Here's Dr. Schreiner's case for believer's baptism:

Here's Dr. VanDrunens case for infant baptism:

Here's the Q & A.


Reader Comments (21)

I love this debate! I remember the first time after I had moved away from the rather isolated country Baptist church I was raised in and heard that there were Christians who actually baptized babies. My first thought was a horrified "but don't the babies drown?!"
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCoyle
Ah, those dulcet South Walian tones. I didn't quite catch the moderator's name--who is he?
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Walker
Dude, that sucks. Woodland is my home town, and I'm up in Oregon now. I could have been there for this live. I should have sent my dad.
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJustin
This was a good debate, they covered a lot of good arguments. One thing I don't hear much of from the reformed side is the idea of infant and child faith. From the Baptist perspective the idea is ridiculous but the bible seems to support it, Psalms 22:9-10 for example. I've seen this defended in Lutheran, and other sacramental churches. So along those thoughts it wouldn't be right to say that the baptized infant is an unbeliever.

This was an interesting article from the Lutheran perspective.
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon
"From the Baptist perspective the idea is ridiculous but the bible seems to support it..."

The idea of infantile faith is by no means "ridiculous" even for Baptists. As a Reformed baptist I know that God regenerates whom He wishes by the preaching of the Word. The Spirit may quicken an elderly man or an infant, both are equally dead in sin and in need of a Savior. Baptists however, see that no where in the New Testament is the baptism of any one promoted apart from their declaration of discipleship. The usual verses brought to support paedobaptism attempt to extrapolate from the text a concept not clearly promoted therein.
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterM Burke
Philip, the moderator was Jeff Oliver -- WSC/IRBS graduate and now a pastor of an ARBCA church up in Placerville.
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Petrik
Jennifer - ARCBA? Whazzat? tx
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPB

Jennifer meant ARBCA, which is the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America.
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPB
A good reformed baptistic arguement
we grant with the paedo baptists a few points:
-the covenant people are the same under the old an new testaments
-the gospel iterated to Abraham is not set aside with the mosaic, and is in bud form the same as the new covenant.
-circ and baptism signify the same core reality of regeneration
from a redemptive historical view accounting for progressive revelation, the sign of circumcision, while representing the same significance of regeneration as baptism does, deals with unbelieving participants(children,etc) in an anticipatory manner. It told them they needed to be regenerate. While yes it was a sign and seal for believers, i.e, Abraham-it was only a gracious sign telling its recipients they must have their hearts circumcised. However, nowhere in the NT does baptism use the same forward looking admonitions of "those of you who have been baptized be baptized in your hearts" In the progressive revelation of redemptive history the language now is retrospective to the cross. Paul and the other NT writers remind those who have been baptized to remember how their outward baptism points to their already possessed union with Christ. The NT never says "Now you have been given the sign of union, now go get saved,etc" It always speaks as Romans 6 says "As many of US(believers justified by faith Rom 5:1) as were baptized have BEEN baptized into Christ" have union with Christ. There is no category in the NT where baptism is given to someone unregenerate. It may be given to someone making a false profession but never knowlingly.
So while we maintain with our paedo baptistic brethren a continuity of the gospel and people of God in the OT and NT. In the OT(to account for the unbelievers receiving the sign)we do see Gods command for them to make sure they have the thing signified-that though they received the sign only in infancy-they did NOT receive its reality and are commanded to repent and believe. While in the NT there is NO language commanding recipients of baptism to receive the reality because in the NT with progressive revelation the language of the greek text always indicates the receipient of baptism has already received the reality, namely CHrist and union with Him. Therefore because God speaks only in that manner in the NT so do we as baptists. We believe the burden of proof is on the paedo baptists to show from the text otherwise. I think because there is no language on the subject in scripture that there is such a wide variance on all things infant baptism-youve got dutch reformed, scottish, german, etc all with different views-one saying presumptive regeneration, some no,et etc etc-why because the text is silent. Someone show me otherwise. I apologize if I came across rude-no intention. blessings to all paedo baptistic brethren.
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike
As one of the paedo baptistic brethren, I must say the baptist have won the day.

I'm surprised the full reformed covenant view of infant baptism was not presented. At least as I understand this view.

Where baptized infants, that grow up in covenant homes never know a day apart from Christ.

Children of the covenant from day 1 are taught in the homes and preached to in the Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ and never know a day when they became “saved”.

In a sense they were always saved. They are born into a family, a covenant, a Church, and in union with Christ at conception. This is how by faith, we the people of God, are to raise and bring our children into the world. God is faithful even to a thousand generations.

btw, I appreciate Mike's comments and his humble articulation of his view.
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdlzr
What always irks me about our Baptist brothers' usage of Jer. 31 is that they don't recognize that Jer. 31 is comparing the new Covenant in Christ with the old covenant in MOSES, not Abraham.

Jer. 31:32:
"It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt" (it doesn't say Ur)

The covenant with Moses was the deficient one that needed to be replaced by Christ since it was just a shadowy type and temporal. Christ doesn't replace Abraham - he fulfills the promise to him.
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMark
As a reformed baptist I agree with Mark that using Jer 31, Heb 8,10 is a bad arguement. I prefer to use the baptismal texts themselves to speak on the subject-revolutionary I know. :P
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike
"In a sense they were always saved. They are born into a family, a covenant, a Church, and in union with Christ at conception."

As a baptist, what do you mean by the full reformed covenant view and in particular your sentence above. Are covenant children in union with Christ at conception?
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Are covenant children in union with Christ at conception? Why not.

Now I don't mean overstate this, nor do I want to understate it either, and I'm far from the best or even decent at articulating this position of covenant children.

But if we as fathers raise our children by faith, do family worship by faith, catechize our children by faith, worship with our children and all the saints corporately by faith, do all these things by faith, knowing and trusting in Christ that He is faithful. Will there ever be a point in time when our children don't know the person and work of Christ?

So as Paul says, the righteous shall live by faith, or by faith the righteous shall live. (Rom 1:17)
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdlzr
I thought Jeff came from up north - Yorkshire. I may be wrong though. Our daughter in laws family attend the Reformed Baptist church in Placerville. Jeff is the Pastor.
December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Iliff
Are covenant children in union with Christ at conception? Why not.
Not trying to be argumentative but was David a covenant child?
Was he conceived in iniquity(original sin) and in need of monergistic regeneration or was he born regenerated?

The notion children of believers are born regenerate seems aberrant to this theology novice. That is an assumption I would not be willing to make with my son. We raised my son with the word of God, prayer, church etc but always told him he was a sinner , but God loved him and sent Christ to die for his sins and to forgive and adopt him-we preached the gospel to him believing he was in need of it and not an already attainer of it by birth.
It may be my ignorance but the categories my prebyterian friends use to describe children of believers sounds like a third class for humans. I always thought the bible taught there were two kingdoms -darkness and light. You are in either one. We must be born again into the Kingdom of God. So being children of believers doesnt take one out of the kingdom of darkness. But it does put them in the blessed gospel shpere of influence their parents afford them. But baptists can influence them with the same gospel upbringing and when they come to take Christ for themselves then we baptise them. My son trusted Christ at 3 years old while we were shopping at Target. He looked up at us and said he just prayed to Jesus and told Him he trusted Him as his Savior and for the forgiveness of his sins. Now he is eligible for baptism. But God's sovereign election precluded me from assuming he promised to save all my children.

The promise God made to Abraham that he would be a God to him and his seed didnt mean every physical descendent-so it doesnt now either. It meant he was was once a pagan in UR would now be the father of many. He would have the only God become his God and a God to his descendents after him(to sovereignly elect and save a people for His glory but also to create a blood line to His Son the true Israel who would then expand that promise to all nations and save His elect. Yes Abraham is my father. But he is only the father of those who believe, not all of my now unbelieving children. He is a father to all who believe and have his faith(the elect) Circumcision did signify regeneration but it also was a sign of being a physical descendent of Abe as a nation. But All of the physical promises attached to the Abrahamic covenant i,e- a physical temple and land of Israel were fulfilled in Christ and He is our temple, heaven and the new earth are the realities not physical israel-so too with the seed of The Seed- we are not a physical nation demarkated by birth and geography anymore-we are children of abe by faith.

The language of the sign of the covenant in the NT assumes the recipient has been regenerated already. It always admonishes the Christian to view his baptism as the outward token of his union with Christ which he attained when he trusted CHrist. The NT never tells unregenerate people"now remember your baptism in it God showed you that if you trust in Christ you will have union with him, but if you forsake that promise you will remain under the flood waters of Gods wrath" that is foreign to the NT and was made up by people who want to find something in the NT regarding infant baptism that isnt there. Iam done. Please correct me if Iam wrong.
December 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike
For the purpose of argument, I submit the example of Bart Ehrman. Here is an individual who supposedly "accepted" Christ as his savior at some youth event in his late teens, went on to study at Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, finishing his academics at the now notoriously liberal Princeton Theological Seminary where he formed doubts about the validity of the NT and presently considers himself to be an agnostic. He is now chair of religious studies at UNC when is is not authoring another book or out on the lecture circuit doing inconceivable harm to the Church. For him, passages like Matt. 18:7-9 take on a whole new dimension.

Yet, he did everything right in the eyes of those who support the idea of "believer's" baptism. He "came to faith" as an adult and was subsequently baptized. But now there is certainly little evidence of any of that faith, which more or less leads us to doubt that it was ever genuine in the first place. Unless he changes his tune before the end of his life (or maybe before James White gets his hands on him next month) we would have to conclude that he was never one of God's elect.

So, about this faith business; who has it and who doesn't? Jesus was constantly chastising his disciples for their lack of faith, because they had the wrong attitude about his mission. On the other hand, he credited both the Centurion and the Canaanite woman for having great faith, because they humbly accepted him at his word and deed as unworthy recipients.

Who is more humble and unworthy than a tiny infant? If faith is given as a gift of the Holy Spirit, as indicated in Pastor Kim's previous commentary on Article Seven of the Canon of Dort...

" ... Since we are fallen by nature, and can do nothing on our own to come to faith in Christ–indeed, we cannot even do anything to prepare ourselves to come to faith apart from a prior act of God on our behalf–the Canons again remind us that faith does not arise because fallen sinners have the power, desire, or the ability to believe the gospel when it is preached to them.

The Scriptures repeatedly tell us that faith is a gift from God. In fact, faith only arises in the human heart when the Holy Spirit creates it in the human heart through the preaching of the gospel. As Luther once pointed out, God creates faith in the heart, just like he created the world from nothing. Unless and until God does this, we gladly remain unbelievers ... This very point is made several times in passages such as Ephesians 1:3-14 and Romans 10:9-17 ... "

[cf., for additional details]

... then the infant hears the Gospel the same as we adults. I'd prefer to leave it up to God's sovereign will to choose work the miracle of faith in a child's heart, if he is one of his elect. Public testimonies from a "believer" may sound fine at the time, but we have no more certainty that they won't fall away than we do a child growing up with indifference to the Gospel message (whether or not they are raised in a Christian home). In fact, it is this point above all others that I find attractive about the Reformed views of election and predestination. Is "faith" an active or a passive act?
December 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge
"Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ" Rom. 10:17 (NET translation).

This verse and the broader context seems to be implying that faith can't come until the message is heard by the individual. Could an infant hear the message and respond?

I ask this question as a paedo baptist; I was once a baptist who heard the arguments on both sides and became convinced that the paedo baptist position seemed to me then and still now to be the one that makes the most sense. Yet I still struggle to understand God and His ways and realize that I may not be seeing something here.

I guess that God can regenerate the person who is still in the whom if he so chooses can't He? How does this statement fit with Romans 10:17 quoted above; seeing that a baby in the womb doesn't have the faculties to understand? Maybe Rom. 10:17 is not speaking absolutely but in general. People will respond when they hear the message spoken but there will be exceptions.
January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill
Just came across this (and have only listened to the initial two sides so far), but this really seemed like an uneven debate. Dr Schreiner (Baptist) seemed to understand the historical issues and categories in ways Dr Van Drunen (Reformed) seemed blind to.

The Baptist view hinged on two a priori assumptions (faith is an act of understanding, and since infants can't understand, they can't have faith; once someone is regenerated, he can't lose faith/apostasize). If we accept those ideas, then the Baptist view clearly trumped the Reformed.

The Reformed was a list of multiple assumptions -- a logical (of course) outworking of a Covenant system fit, awkwardly, into historical realities. If we accept the covenant system, and if we accept that baptism is a 1-to-1 equivalence, then....

Really could have used a Lutheran, Catholic, or Orthodox person in this. Anyone know of a similar debate in which a sacramental view is considered? Neither side seemed to acknowledge how this undoes the specific claims of both sides.
March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Johnson

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