Friday, August 29, 2008
Unbaptist Thoughts on Baptism and Communion
1. I've been reading the book edited by John Armstrong on Four Views of Baptism. The problem I've always had with the paedo-baptist view has been: (1) In Acts 16.33 "household" means slaves and retainers not children (so J.D.G. Dunn); (2) In Col. 2.11-12 what replaces OT circumcision is not baptism, but rather circumcision of the heart, i.e. regeneration; (3) what places a person in the church is baptism, so how can you have unregenerate church members, the NT has no category for unregenerate baptised persons! Nonetheless, I have to admit that in the Four Views book Richard Pratt makes one good point that gives me pause to think: "[Abraham] was also commanded to circumcise his sons before they even had the opportunity to exercise faith (cf. Gen. 17:12). In much the same way, baptism is rightly applied to adult converts after they profess faith, and rightly applied to their children even though these same children may not be capable of faith" (pp. 70-71). If the new covenant is the messianic execution of the Abrahamic promises, this is interesting point regarding the incoroporation of children.
2. I find it curious that Baptists still have "infant dedications" though they do not have infant baptism. And paedo-baptists still have "confirmations" or professions of faith before admitting baptized persons into full fellowship, though they do not have believers' baptism. This makes me wonder that we need something to signify that children are "children of the promise" and something to signify that the faith of their parents has become their own. The question is, of course, where do we put the water of baptism: at the front end or back end of this process? While the answer is not arbitrary, I cannot help but think that credo and paedo-baptists are perhaps closer to each other in function than is ordinarily admitted.
3. If a person is baptized, can one legitimately refuse them communion? I had always thought that the logic of paedo-baptism leads to paedo-communion. That of course might not be such a bad thing! In the early church, the Lord's Supper was an entire meal, eaten together (that is the impression I get from 1 Corinthians 10) not just a morsel of bread and a drip of juice, and the meals were used to feed believers who were poor and it probably included their children (since they had to eat too). Is "communion" a sacrament administered by the church to the properly qualified persons, or is communion the meal that Jesus gave to his followers to celebrate the kingdom of God through him, which was shared among believers including those of relatively low socio-economic status as a primary means of physical sustenance for them? There's a big difference between these two options!