Musings on Baptism, part 3

There is a notion, that is used as an argument against infant baptism that runs like this: “The notion that mentally, morally, and spiritually non-volitional infants should be subjected by God to any loss, still more to an eternal one, unless adults have them baptized outrages the ordinary moral conscience and, for multitudes, would make the worship of such a God impossible.”[1]

This seems like a rational argument at first, however it is anything but. Let us start at the end and work toward the beginning. First, the phrase “such a God” is nonsensical. It matters not whether or not we like God. If he is God, then it is our business and bounden duty to get with the program and do what he instructs us to do—no matter how we feel about it.

I know this is not a popular sentiment in the western world. But, if we understand God to be all-powerful and we are his creatures—not his judge, not his peers, not his master—then we need to bow in humility and respond, “Thy will be done.” Even if we think it offensive or unreasonable. (I’ll understand if you need to go away and ponder that for a while before continuing on.)

Second, the argument could just as easily be inverted and used to support infant baptism—the notion that adults, who love their children, can in a relatively simple sacramental action, seal their children until such an age that they can embrace or reject the faith on their own, could just as easily be heralded as an amazing acquiescence of God’s grace to us.

God is under no compulsion to spare any of us. It is only by his love for us and his grace extended to us that any of us live, move and have our being. There is no necessity that God would open up any way to salvation for us, that he would spare Noah, call Abram, send Moses and the prophets, and finally, sacrifice his very son in our stead.

I dare say, it is much more “mean” of certain churches to demand that children risk eternal damnation until they are old enough—in man’s judgment—to be baptized.

Also, there seems to be a connection with the assumption that un-baptized children will be granted eternal fellowship with God because they “could not chose” leads eventually to universalism. (A position that at least a few early Anabaptist came to espouse as the worked out their faith.) The train of thought is simple. If God “must” grant grace to an un-baptized infant, then why not to a unreached aborigine in the bush? Then why not to the person who had a horrid home life and never really heard the gospel, then why not… and so it goes until Christ’s call to “follow me”[2] and his declaration that he alone is, “the way and the truth and the life”[3] are stripped of all meaning and his word is mocked. Is it only the apostate who becomes damned?


[1] Stanley G. Luff, The Times, 26 September 1958, quoted in Beasley-Murray, G.R., Baptism Today and Tomorrow, 1966: New York, MacMillan p. 11

[2] Matthew 4:19 and several other places in the Gospels

[3] John 14:6

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Filed under Anabaptism, Baptism, Grace

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