Why would anyone baptize a baby?

27 Mar

From Kevin DeYoung:

It sounds like the beginning of a joke or a support group introduction, but it’s true: some of my best friends are Baptists. I speak at conferences with and to Baptists. I read books by Baptists (both the dead and the living). I love the Baptist brothers I know–near and far–who preach God’s word and minister faithfully in Christ’s church. I went to a Baptist church while in college and know that there are many folks of more credobaptist persuasion in my own church. I imagine the majority of my blog readers are Baptist. You get the picture. I have thousands of reasons to be thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not believe in baptizing infants.

And yet, I do. Gladly. Wholeheartedly. Because of what I see in Scripture.

One of the best things I get to do as a pastor is to administer the sacrament of infant baptism to the covenant children in my congregation. Before each baptism, I take a few minutes to explain why we practice infant baptism in our church. My explanation always includes some–but rarely is there time for all–of the following:

It our great privilege this morning to administer that sacrament of baptism to one of our little infants. We do not believe that there is anything magical about the water we apply to the child. The water does not wash away original sin or save the child. We do not presume that this child is regenerate (though he may be), nor do we believe that every child who gets baptized will automatically go to heaven. We baptize infants not out of superstition or tradition or because we like cute babies. We baptize infants because they are covenant children and should receive the sign of the covenant.

In Genesis 15 God made a covenant with Abraham. This covenant was sealed with the sign of circumcision in Genesis 17. God promised to bless Abraham. For Abraham this meant two things in particular, offspring and land. But at the heart of the covenant was God’s promise that he would be a God to Abraham and his children (Gen. 17:7, 8).

Circumcision was not just a physical thing, marking out ethnic Jews. Circumcision was full of spiritual meaning. The circumcision of the flesh was always meant to correspond with circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:25-29). It pointed to humility, new birth, and a new way of life (Lev. 26:40-42; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 6:10; 9:25). In short, circumcision was a sign of justification. Paul says in Romans 4:11 that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” God’s own interpretation of circumcision is that it was much more than just a physical sign for national Israel.

Remarkably, though, this deeply spiritual sign was given to Ishmael as well as Isaac, even though only Isaac was the continuation of the promised line. The spiritual sign was not just for those who already embraced the spiritual reality. It was to be administered to Abraham and his sons. Circumcision was not a simple equation. It didn’t automatically mean the recipient of the sign was in possession of the thing signified. Circumcision, like baptism, also pointed to belonging, discipleship, covenant obligations, and allowed for future faith that would take hold of the realities symbolized. Just as there were some in Paul’s day who were circumcised but not really circumcised (Rom. 2:25-29), some children of Abraham who were not truly children of Abraham (Rom. 9:6-8), so in our day there are some who are baptized who are not truly baptized. Children should be marked as belonging to the covenant, but unless they exercise saving faith, they will not grab hold of the covenant blessings.

Children today are baptized based on this same covenant with Abraham. Paul makes clear in Galatians 3 what Peter strongly suggests in Acts 2, namely that the Abrahamic covenant has not been annulled. It is still operational. In fact, we see the basic promise of the Abrahamic covenant running throughout the whole Bible, right up to the new heaven and new earth in Revelation 21.

Because sons were part of the Abrahamic covenant in the Old Testament and were circumcised, we see no reason why children should be excluded in the New Testament sign of baptism. Admittedly, there is no text that says “Hear ye, hear ye, circumcision replaces baptism.” But we know from Colossians 2:11-12 that baptism and circumcision carried the same spiritual import. The transition from one to the other was probably organic. As the Jews practiced proselyte baptism, that sign came to be seen as marking inclusion in the covenant people. For awhile circumcision existed along baptism, but as the early church became more Gentile, many of Jewish rites were rendered unnecessary, and sometimes even detrimental to the faith. Thus, baptism eclipsed circumcision as the sign renewal, rebirth, and covenant membership.

Although not conclusive all by themselves, there are several other arguments that corroborate a paedobaptist reading of the New Testament.

One, the burden of proof rests on those who would deny children a sign they had received for thousands of years. If children were suddenly outside the covenant, and were disallowed from receiving any “sacramental” sign, surely such a massive change, and the controversy that would have ensued, would been recorded in the New Testament. Moreover, it would be strange for children to be excluded from the covenant, when everything else moves in the direction of more inclusion from the Old Covenant to the New.

Two, the existence of household baptisms is evidence that God still deals with households as a unit and welcomes whole families into the church to come under the Lordship of Christ together (Acts 16:13-15; 32-34; 1 Cor. 1:16; cf. Joshua 24:15).

Three, children are told to obey their parents in the Lord (Eph. 6:1). Children in the church are not treated as little pagans to be evangelized, but members of the covenant who owe their allegiance to Christ.

Four, within two centuries of the Apostles we have clear evidence that the church was practicing infant baptism. If this had been a change to long-standing tradition, we would have some record of the church arguing over this new practice. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that Christians began to question the legitimacy of infant baptism.

So we come to administer the sacrament of baptism to this child today with the weight of church history to encourage us and the example of redemptive history to confirm our practice. We baptize in obedience to Christ’s command. The sacrament we are about to administer is a sign of inclusion in the covenant community as circumcision was, and the water we are about to sprinkle is a sign of cleansing from sin as the sprinkled blood of bulls and goats in the Old Testament was. We pray that this little one will take advantage of all his covenant privileges, acknowledge his Lord all the days of his life, and by faith make these promises his own.

*****

I doubt I’ve changed too many minds with this post, but maybe I’ve helped my Baptist friends understand what we mean (and don’t mean) by infant baptism. Maybe I’ve clarified a couple misunderstandings. Maybe I’ve strengthened the convictions of a few paedobaptists who weren’t sure why they believed what they said they believed. No matter where you fall on this issue, I encourage you think through the topic with an open Bible and some good resources in hand.

As a paedobaptist I recommend:

To understand how someone could come to embrace infant baptism, check out the “How I Changed My Mind” articles from:

We hand out Johnson’s 14-page letter to his daughter (who was struggling with the doctrine of infant baptism) in our new members class.

Original post

America’s churches are in trouble in communities where they are needed most – Wilcox (WashPost)

27 Mar

By W. Bradford Wilcox March 26 at 11:53 AM

America’s churches are in trouble, and they are in trouble in communities that arguably need them the most.

One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.

The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.

Courtesy of Robert Putnam, "Our Kids."
The picture of religion painted by Putnam, a political scientist and the foremost scholar of American civic life, is part of a broader canvass in his book showing that kid-friendly institutions — not just churches, but also strong families and strong schools — are withering, but almost entirely in less-affluent communities. American children from better-educated and more affluent homes enjoy decent access to churches, families and schools, which lifts their odds of realizing the American Dream, even as kids from less-privileged homes are increasingly disconnected from these key institutions, making the American Dream that much more difficult for them to pursue.

Why is it that the country is witnessing not only a religious decline, but one that is concentrated among its most vulnerable men, women and children? Four factors stand out in understanding the emptying out of the pews in working-class and poor communities across the United States: money, TV, sex and divorce.

Money matters

In “Our Kids,” Putnam assigns much of the blame for the unraveling of America’s religious, communal and familial fabric to shift from an industrial to an information economy. The 1970s saw declines in employment for less-educated men, divergent incomes for college-educated and less-educated men, and a “breathtaking increase in inequality” — all of which left college-educated families and their communities with more financial resources, and poor and working-class communities with fewer resources. The figure below, taken from Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay on men’s employment, shows that work dropped precipitously for men in the 1970s.


(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor)
A key reason that working-class men are now less likely to attend church is that they cannot access the kind of stable, good-paying jobs that sustain a “decent” lifestyle and stable, married family life — two key ingredients associated with churchgoing in America.

But the retreat from religion stems from much more than money, my research (with colleagues) suggests. Consider, as the figure below shows, that dramatic declines in religious attendance began in the 1960s, well before the economic factors stressed by Putnam kicked in a decade later.


(Courtesy of Gallup)

The timing of religious declines — paralleled and reinforced by the retreat from marriage that also began in the 1960s, leaving more and more kids in single-parent homes — suggests that America’s religious and familial capital was suffering well before the economic shocks of the 1970s.
The rise of television

Ironically, one of the best guides to the non-economic factors driving the nation’s retreat from religion is none other than… Robert Putnam. In his 2000 blockbuster, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” he pointed to the growing popularity of TV over the past five decades as a major “ringleader” behind declining rates of civic engagement, including religious attendance. Television and the pop culture encouraged “lethargy and passivity” and “materialist values,” which are both in tension with a vibrant religious life.

What Putnam largely overlooked in the “Bowling Alone” discussion of TV, however, was the class angle: Television viewing was (and is) dramatically higher among working-class and poor Americans. The growing presence and power of TV, then, could have taken a large toll on churches serving less-affluent Americans.

Sex, culture wars and divorce

In another book, “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” Putnam and David Campbell chronicled the immediate and long-term religious fallout connected to the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s — from the sexual revolution to the divorce revolution.

In the immediate wake of the sexual revolution, many young adults steered clear of churchgoing, sensing a tension between their own experiences with “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” and traditional religious life. In more recent years, the culture wars that emerged from the 1960s — over sex, abortion and gay marriage — have left many young adults viewing religion as an intolerant force they want nothing to do with: In Putnam and Campbell’s words, many “[young] Americans came to view religion… as judgmental, hypocritical, and too political.”

But, again, Putnam and Campbell miss the class angle. The divorce revolution has had a particularly devastating toll on lower-income family life and relationships. Not only was divorce higher among working-class and poor families in the wake of the divorce revolution, but the children of divorce have proven less likely to attend church than their peers from intact families.
The tumult in families during the past four decades helps account for the growing detachment of working-class Americans from churches, my research suggests. The legacy of the divorce revolution has fueled a pervasive “crisis of trust” in working-class relationships, as David and Amber Lapp have noted, that corrodes young adults’ faith in people, marriage and other institutions — including the church. The family fallout, then, of the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s seems to have significantly damaged the vitality of religious life in poor and working-class communities across America.

The fragility of contemporary religious life in working-class and poor communities in America is rooted not only in the “economic hammer blows” dealt to communities by the new economy, but also in the technological and cultural changes that have undercut the virtues, values and institutions that sustain churches, synagogues and mosques — including strong and stable marriages and families.

Efforts to revive religious life in our nation’s most vulnerable communities must not only address the declining economic prospects of working-class and poor young adults, but also seek ways to revive the relational climates in these communities. Holistic approaches are the best way to bridge the religious divide now separating “our kids” when it comes to connecting them to the social and spiritual goods associated with religious life in America.
W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, is the co-author of Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Twentysomething Marriage. Wilcox also serves as a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/03/26/why-so-many-empty-church-pews-heres-what-money-sex-divorce-and-tv-are-doing-to-american-religion/

Pro-Putin Russian Nationalists persecuting Protestants in the Ukraine (video)

25 Mar

Apparently, they think that to be pro-Russia is to be pro-Russian Orthodox Church.  Christianity is not nationalism Putinites, so stop it.  “I took up arms to establish the Orthodox state.”  Uh, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  John 18:3.  “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”  2 Corinthians 10:4

Artemis – The Lady of Ephesus. A reminder post that Christianity is fundamentally a religion about history

25 Mar

Christianity, like other religions, is a religion of history.  It has a past, it has an origin in space and time, it has a historical central figure and group of early followers.  But fundamentally separating Christianity from other religions is that Christianity is a religion about history.  The message of Christianity is about what has happened in history, in space and time, involving its historical figure, Jesus Christ.  Getting the history wrong will do little to change the nature and meaning of other religions.  But if Christianity is wrong about the history, Christianity is dead at its core.  If Christ never lived, never died, never rose from the dead, for instance, than the message of Christianity is as non-existent or dead as he was.  It has been said that in other religions, the historical events point to the the teachings.  But in Christianity, it is exactly the opposite.  The teachings point to the historical events.  Christianity is utterly dependent upon the historicity of its truth claims in a way that no other religion is.  If Confucius or Buddha or even Muhammad never lived, the teachings of their religions would be essentially in tact.  But if Jesus never lived, Christianity implodes, because the core teaching of Christianity us about historical events.  Skeptics and the enemies of Christianity know this, so they attempt to poke holes in the reliability of the gospels, try to show that gospel writers borrowed from pagan religions, construct alternate interpretations of the resurrection narratives, and even (at least on you-tube) posit that Jesus Christ is a myth.

I was reminded of this when reading Acts 19 this morning.  In Acts 19, a group of pagan temple worshipers and entrepreneurs led a riot against Christian teachings, crying “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34).  They felt threatened by Paul’s teaching about the historical and risen Christ.  Their fear was the the message about Jesus would undermine belief in Artemis, a Greek goddess who had a temple dedicated to her in Ephesus.  If Artemis was worshiped at Ephesus, if there was a temple dedicated to her there, then once again, we see that the New Testament writers were attempting to write with historical accuracy, about events, places, times, names, occurring on their watch in living memory of hundreds of eyewitnesses who had the ability and incentive to prove them geographically and historically false.  This is precisely the claim of the NT writers, and especially Luke, who claims to be writing not only history but according to the claims of eyewitness whose testimonies can be verified, because “these things did not happen in a far away corner” (Acts 26:26).  And yet again, the NT writers get their history right.  In this case it was Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

Indeed, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is in fact the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Lady of Ephesus) in modern day Turkey.  There is a museum there today, with excavated artifacts of sculptures of Artemis (1st century; see pics below).  The Temple remains (only one column remains) are there to peruse.

A view of a landscape rising to a hilltop covered with small trees. There are many small hollows, ridges and tracks. The landscape is littered with the remains of marble buildings, including a single column standing to the left.

David Frum – Truth about women in combat

24 Mar

From David Frum:

Over the past two decades, the United States has moved steadily to open all military roles to women. Last month, departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the last barriers. Women may henceforward qualify for every duty, including combat infantry. The few – very few – public objections raised to this decision were met with derision rather than argument, well represented by this sneering item from the Daily Show.

Yet to deny the highly combat-relevant differences between the sexes is to deny reality as blatantly as ever done by any anti-evolutionist – and with potentially much more lethal consequence.

In 2007, Kingsley Browne gathered the evidence in a clear and concise book, Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars.The case presented by Browne won’t come as news to any military decision-maker. But it will and should jolt those who have relied on too credulous media sources for their information about what soldiers do and how they do it.

The case for women in combat runs more or less as follows:

1) We have entered an era of push-button war in which purely physical strength has lost much if not all of its military relevance.

2) To the extent that strength continues to matter, some women can meet requirements and should be given a chance to qualify.

3) Other than physical strength, there are no militarily relevant differences between men and women.

4) To exclude willing women from military service is unfair and unjust.

Browne demolishes these four claims, step by remorseless step, with studies and examples drawn from military experience.

1) Physical strength continues to matter in warfare. Soldiers still must hoist heavy packs and march for miles. Soldiers still must be prepared to function with reduced food and water. Soldiers must still sometimes fight and kill their enemies hand to hand. And even in other contexts where strength seems obsolete, the mischances of war can suddenly thrust soldiers into situations where strength determines who lives and who dies. Browne reminds us of the 2001 encounter between an American EP-3E surveillance aircraft and a Chinese “Finback” fighter jet. The EP-3E is a big plane, powered by four turboprop engines and carrying a crew of 24. The much faster Finback harassed the EP-3E with mock interceptions.

Read in full

Problems with Roman Catholic claims

23 Mar

Dr. Robert Godfrey challenging some of Roman Catholicism’s fundamental claims:

Belgic Confession 28: Everyone’s Duty to Join the Church

23 Mar

ARTICLE 28 – EVERYONE’S DUTY TO JOIN THE CHURCH

We believe, since this holy assembly and congregation is the assembly of the redeemed and there is no salvation outside of it,1 that no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, no matter what his status or standing may be. But all and everyone are obliged to join it and unite with it,2 maintaining the unity of the church. They must submit themselves to its instruction and discipline,3 bend their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ,4 and serve the edification of the brothers and sisters,5 according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body.6

To observe this more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate from those who do not belong to the church7 and to join this assembly8 wherever God has established it. They should do so even though the rulers and edicts of princes were against it, and death or physical punishment might follow.9

All therefore who draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.

1. Mat 16:18-19; Acts 2:47; Gal 4:26; Eph 5:25-27; Heb 2:11-12; Heb 12:23. 2. 2 Chron 30:8; John 17:21; Col 3:15. 3. Heb 13:17. 4. Mat 11:28-30. 5. Eph 4:12. 6. 1 Cor 12:7, 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 4:16. 7. Num 16:23-26;Isa 12:11-12; Acts 2:40; Rom 16:17; Rev 18:4. 8. Psalm 122:1; Isa 1:3;Heb 10:25. 9. Acts 4:19-20.

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