Monday, February 20, 2012


Now that I have been writing for a year and a half I think I can touch this controversial subject (not like I haven’t been controversial before). I don’t think the timing of baptism is a major issue by itself, although it is often a sign of larger problems in how we think of families and the church. This won’t be comprehensive, but hopefully it will be a good introduction to the subject. And hopefully this post will edify, not divide.

You might be a little confused by the title of this post. First, let me explain some terms. Paedo-baptism is the doctrine that children of believers should be baptized (paedo = child), while credo-baptism is the doctrine that only those who make a credible profession of faith should be baptized (credo = believe). I think paedo-baptists put themselves at a slight disadvantage with that name, as the primary point isn’t that children of believers should be baptized. The larger point is that children of believers should be baptized because they are members of households, the households of those with credible professions of faith, that should be baptized. This is why I would prefer to call myself an oikos-baptist (oikos = household) (you can call me a paedo-baptist, but I think oikos-baptist might be a more helpful term). Briefly stated, baptism is the sign and seal of the covenant of grace, and the covenant of grace is not only made with individuals, but with their families as well. In the Old Testament, whether it was Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15), Noah (Gen. 6:18; 9:9), Abraham (Gen. 17:7, 11-13), Moses and the Israelites (Deut. 29:10-15), or David (2 Sam. 7:12, 29), the covenant not only included the individual, but his household and offspring. Then when we get into the New Testament we see this pattern continued with verses like,
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39, emphasis added)

The Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:14-15, emphasis added)

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:30-34, emphasis added) (Notice “he had believed God”, but “all his family” was baptized.)
Credo-baptists will often point out that there are not explicit examples of infants being baptized in the New Testament. But using the Old Testament as a background, and knowing that the covenant of grace (and the covenant of works) had always been made with households before, it is the credo-baptists that need to supply the proof that a believer's family was purposefully excluded from baptism. And to my knowledge there isn’t an example or teaching of that.

As result of oikos-baptism and covenantal thinking we can have Christian families. The family becomes more unified, and receives a greater emphasis than it would otherwise. As baptism is the public initiation into the visible covenant community (the church), the whole family is regarded as part of the church. The church is then largely made up of households, and not merely individuals. Children of believers are accepted as Christians (even before baptism, thus they receive baptism), as members of the church, unless they apostatize (and it must be remembered that the covenant can work as a greater curse to those who apostatize, Malachi; Deut. 28:15-68; Acts 7:51-53).

This doctrine of household baptism and the covenantal doctrine that it flows out of has a great influence on our method of discipleship. Discipling your children is not so much like evangelizing heathen, as much as it is to teach them to, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Using my last post’s example, it is to grow the subjective communion of life with God in faith, of which the objective covenant relationship is a sign and seal. As children in the covenant, we learn to repent of our sins, and believe, love, and obey God as a way of life, not trusting in baptism, in obedience, not even in faith for salvation, but trusting and believing in the saving work of Christ alone for salvation. For some, this faith might come later in life, while for others it may happen at, and even before birth (Luke 1:41,44; 2 Sam. 12:23; Ps. 22:9-10; 71:5-6), but regardless, we are called to accept our covenant responsibilities now and always, to trust God and rely on His grace. Christian parents have hope in the promise of God to be their children’s God, and they have the responsibility to bring up their children to share in the life of the covenant. In fact, their efforts to disciple should be encouraged by this hope of it actually succeeding by the grace of God.

With all that said, I do recognize that we are not always consistent with our doctrine, and that some credobaptists have done a better job than some paedobaptists at integrating the family into the church, and teaching families to disciple their children in the faith. I have a number of good friends that are baptists, and even just looking at the followers of this blog it looks to be about a 50/50 split (I actually have much more in common with reformed baptists than with many 'paedobaptists', i.e. Roman Catholics, liberal protestant denominations like the PCUSA, etc...). But while there are other issues that are more important, I think it is good to bring this issue out every once and awhile, especially in the individualistic culture of today. As I said in my last post, I think covenantal thinking is vitally important for us today. While there is much more to covenantal thinking than baptism, it does play a part, and should not be ignored.


Daniel R. said...


"Credo-baptists will often point out that there are not explicit examples of infants being baptized in the New Testament."

Once I had a conversation with Dr. Morecraft on this subject (while I was still leaning credobaptist) and he pointed out that there aren't any examples of children growing up, professing Christ, and then being baptized, either as in the credobaptist model. There is no example of baptism in Scripture that contradicts the "okios-baptism" (I like that new label! :)) model.

The Adams Family said...

Good job Peter:)

Taralyn Rose said...

I like that name - okios-baptist! I'm going to have to tell it to my dad :-)

Peter Bringe said...

I should note that I did not come up with the term 'okios-baptism', but I got it from my pastor, Kevin Swanson.

-Peter Bringe
D. V.

Hannah's Reading Room said...

I thought that your article was really good! Although my family is reformed baptist, we did attend a paedobaptist church for a time and did a lot of research on the subject.
There are two things that I personally wonder about paedobaptism. Maybe you can answer these questions for me.

1. How does communion play into it? Say you are raising and training your family in the ways of the Lord, but one of your children rejects Christ. Do you still allow them to take part in communion? The paedobaptist church we attended encouraged my family to do so, but some of my adopted siblings were not following the Lord and this posed a problem for us.
Which leads me to my other question…
2. How do adopted children fit into the family covenant, namely older adopted children that were raised in pagan homes (or orphanages that claimed to be Christian but really weren't)? Should they be baptised because they have become part of the household, even if they are not following the Lord? Obviously, this question doesn't apply to many families, which is probably why I couldn't find answers to this one.

I enjoyed your article very much since this is something that my parents and I have read and researched quite a bit.

Peter Bringe said...


1. I'm not exactly sure how this connects to paedo-baptism. It's more of a church discipline problem. If someone rejects Christ he/she should be admonished, rebuked, and if they continue, I would think that they would be prohibited from communion.

2. There might be some paedo-baptists that would disagree with me concerning older children, but I think that from Genesis 17:12-13 that they would be baptized. It says that even those bought with money into the household (i.e. slaves, and foreign slaves at that 12b) were to have the sign of circumcision (NOT that adopted children are equivalent to slaves, but if even slaves were part of the covenant household surely older adopted children would be). Deuteronomy 29:11 also includes the sojourners living in the camps of the families of Israel in the covenant. The term 'household' in the New Testament is also inclusive of more than merely natural-born infants. Now if the child is actually antagonistic and rebellious you probably shouldn't baptize him/her. I was talking just now to Pastor Swanson, and he said "don't baptize someone that you will excommunicate the next day". But the child doesn't need a 'personal relationship' with Jesus to be baptized. It is a more tricky subject than infants, but hopefully this helps.

Thanks for the questions,

-Peter Bringe
Deo Vindice

Hannah's Reading Room said...

Thank you very much!
I guess I should have clarified the communion question. The church we were attending believed that if you were baptized then you should take communion, thus the whole family would have communion because the children had been baptized as infants. Even though some of my siblings were not baptized, my parents were encouraged to let them have communion. We had problems with that.

Thanks again!

Savories of life said...

I too had a question Does not one have to be a believer before taking communion? if so then if babies are baptized then does that mean they can take communion or do you just view their baptized as infants just a sign from the parents of giving their child to the Lord? Would the child be re-baptized when older? That is what I would see fits scriptures?

In our lord of heaven and earth Valerie

Peter Bringe said...

Savories of Life,

While there are paedo-communion folks that I know, I am not paedo-communion and do believe that one has to make a credible profession of faith before taking communion (there's more to that debate, but not for this comment). I don't believe that being converted is the necessary requirement for communion; a baby not yet born might be converted.

To your second question I think that there are more options than the two you propose. I don't view it as either. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, I believe that "Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s." See: Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 2:38-42, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:26-27, and 1 Peter 3:21. I view baptized children as Christians, just as circumcised children in the Old Testament were considered Israelites. They are part of the covenant people of God under the Covenant of Grace.

So no, the child would not be re-baptized. There is no warrant for re-baptism in the Bible. We receive the Spirit once, have our sins remitted once, are in-graphed into Christ once, etc... so we are only baptized once. Baptism is a serious matter and is not to be trifled with.

To sum it, the Westminster Larger Catechism says:
The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ,[1142] and that even to infants;[1143] whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul,[1144] and to confirm our continuance and growth in him,[1145] and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves. [1146]

[1142] Matthew 3:11, Titus 3:5, Galatians 3:27
[1143] Genesis 17:7, 9, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 7:14
[1144] 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
[1145] 1 Corinthians 10:16
[1146] 1 Corinthians 11:28-29

I hope that helps,

-Peter B.

Doc Simonson said...

For a brief moment I thought you were suggesting that we dip our children in yogurt. I am glad to be mistaken!

Peter Bringe said...

No, just sprinkled in it. Oh, wait, they do that themselves... :)