It has been a rocky trip over the last year as I have changed my views on baptism. Having been a life-long Baptist, I didn’t think I would change, except for the nagging feeling at times that I was inconsistent in my Reformed beliefs. Oh well, Spurgeon had no problem admitting he was inconsistent so I didn’t think I should either. But then I started studying covenant theology and boy did it make sense. I already believed covenant theology in a Baptist sense but as I read more about it, things really fell into place. But I still didn’t have a problem being inconsistent; wasn’t everybody to some extent? (By the way the answer is yes, we all are to a point. The key is recognizing and acknowledging those inconsistencies rather than pretending they aren’t there.)
Then some things happened which I can’t speak of here. Suffice to say I was suprised by several things I witnessed in ministry that opened me up to paedobaptism. I believed the Lord wanted something else from me than I had been willing to give. I prayed about what those areas might be and came to the conclusion that paedobaptism might be it. I studied the subject heavily over several months. I read many books and articles by Baptists and some by paedobaptists; the number of the former dwarfed the latter. I didn’t want to leave my heritage lightly and I wanted to expose myself to the best arguments that Baptists had. But I will confess, there was a draw to paedobaptism. It seemed more consistent with a reading of Old and New Testament, rather than just consistency with the New Testament.
I’ve told people before, the disagreement between Baptists and paedobaptists comes down to your understanding of the Old and New Covenants. If you see greater discontinuity between the Old and New covenants, you will hold to believer’s-only baptism. If you see greater continuity between the two covenants, you will hold to paedobaptism.
Even though I had deep respect for reformed theology, I would never have considered paedobaptism without the Lord opening me up to it. When He opened my heart to it I stopped studying the subject and started wrestling with it. I’m convinced that most Baptists never truly wrestle with paedobaptism, nor do paedobaptists wrestle with believer’s-only baptism. Not that wrestling is for everyone. Most are perfectly content to remain in their beliefs without questioning them. And it’s impossible to wrestle with everything. There was a time when I wrestled with Roman Catholicism in my early twenties. The Lord preserved me from that belief system and I’m thankful. I have no plans on wrestling with the beliefs of Islam; I will study them and attempt to refute them to evangelize Muslims but I will not contemplate that Islam is true. The same is the case for Eastern Orthodoxy. Having said that, why do I think Baptists and paedobaptists should wrestle with different baptism beliefs?
Perhaps I should define what I mean by wrestle. To wrestle with a belief is to open oneself up to the possibility that it might be true and deal with all the facets of the issue, all the while being willing to change if you are convinced it is true. It requires making yourself vulnerable and having the courage to change if you become convinced that it is true. Consider Jack, a young man who watches professional wrestling. His favorite wrestler, Mr. Wonderful is about to face William the Giant, a seven-foot-tall, four-hundred pound brute who flosses with barbed wire. While watching his beloved Mr. Wonderful receive the worst of a pounding, Jack says, “All he has to do it put the Giant in a choke slam and it would be over.” We observe here a disconnect with reality. On paper a choke slam would probably do the trick, but in this case neither Jack nor Mr. Wonderful is able to put the theoretical into practical use.
It is easy to listen to others make arguments against paedobaptism. It’s even easier when you interact with straw men, and I admit that building straw-men is something both sides do in the discussion. Because I’ve had a long-time goal of being faithful to the entirety of God’s Word, once He “put me in the ring” on this subject (to borrow from the earlier metaphor), I discovered that my theoretical Baptist arguments couldn’t hold under the weight of studying God’s covenant promises to man.
“That’s great for you,” you might say. Why write about it? For this reason: everyone faces transition points in his or her life. You have to decide whether to continue as you have before or open yourself up to new possibilities. When you arrive at one of those points, think carefully yet openly about it. You might just grow in the process.