INFANT BAPTISM IN CHURCH HISTORY

Anthony W. Brooks

Baptism is always a hot topic. In the Baptist church I was an avid opponent of Infant Baptism and saw it as part of a corrupt papist false gospel. So, what changed my mind? Well, Biblical consistency and covenant relationships helped… Also, the Biblical consistency of Covenant Theology. But I am also an advocate of historical theology as well. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much sense an argument makes, but if it isn’t believed in the first 500 years of the church, it shouldn’t be believed.

One of the greatest arguments against paedobaptism is that there is no explicit command in scripture to baptize our children…. and this is true. But that would mean that many other doctrines that we believe to be true in scripture can’t be believed because they aren’t explicit (e.g. Trinity, Hypostatic Union, Sola Fide, etc…). So I will post a list of Early Church quotes that date back to 125 AD.

Disclaimer**The quotes listed are not representative of the beliefs of this blog as they contain perspectives not accepted or defended by this blog, but are mere quotes that support the historicity of Infant Baptism**Disclaimer

Irenaeus

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).
“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34).

Hippolytus

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Origen

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).
“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).
“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

Gregory of Nazianz

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388]).
“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).

John Chrysostom

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

Augustine

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).
“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).
“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).

Council of Carthage V

Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians” (Canon 7 [A.D. 401]).

Council of Mileum II

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” (Canon 3 [A.D. 416]).
Soli Deo Gloria!
Photo: My Son’s Baptism at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (OPC)

A Question Asked is a Question Answered: What is my favorite Study Bible?

Question to Anthony W. Brooks

On a post I wrote about a month ago I received a question via Gmail asking me what my favorite Study Bible was. The post aimed to objectively grade known Reformed Study Bibles on a number of aesthetics. You can read it here. But I never said what my favorite study bible is. Well, no doubt, it was in the post, and the answer might shock everyone here, but I’ll tell you.

Before I tell you what it is and where you can buy one I want to tell you what I look for in a Bible before I buy one. Bibles are not about aesthetics with me. They don’t have to look and smell pretty for me to buy one, but they do have to be in an accurate translation, with good layouts, and quality materials. I don’t want to buy a Bible that is only going to last a year. I want a Bible that will be a joy to me for many years, and so far, that is my experience with that criteria.

My Favorite Study Bible

There are many things about my favorite Study Bible that might only be appealing to me. That is why I need to stress this point, that not everyone will like this study bible and there is need to research all the possible contenders before you invest in a study bible for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it…

Here it is, My favorite Study Bible!

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Isn’t this surprising! A KJV Bible won my heart… But it is true. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is my favorite. Let’s get into specifics as to why I chose this beauty.

Layout!

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This is a clean page out of 2nd Samuel. There are many things to consider here. First thing that stands out is that there are no chapter introductions or cross references. The norm in a study bible is a center or side column cross reference system and that isn’t here. All references are included in the footnotes at the bottom. Also the chapter headings are at the bottom as well introducing the footnotes on a particular chapter. This allows the scripture text to be clean and readable for the reader, and keeps all man made additions (aside from the chapter and verse divisions) to stay in one place for reference if need be.

Personal and Family Worship Study Questions

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This is unique among study helps. This study bible was commissioned by Joel Beeke (a puritan expert) who has stressed the need for family worship in the home. His study bible is no different and is built to aid the family in this endeavor. At the end of each chapter there are sections for family worship questions and thoughts to aid in instruction on these issues.

Extras!

This Bible has plenty of extras to aid a growing and conscientious Christian. Mind you, this is a Reformed study bible, so all of the aids and extras will be Reformed in nature. So if that isn’t your mindset, this Bible isn’t for you.

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This cool section is a brief outline of church history. It goes century by century through history and hits all of the highlights.

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The top of the cake is that you can carry your book of confessions around with you. The necessary creeds of the faith along with the “Six Forms of Unity” as I call them.

Apostle’s Creed

Nicene Creed

Athanasian Creed

Belgic Confession

Heidelberg Catechism

Westminster Confession

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Westminster Larger Catechism

And even better is that all of these confessions and catechisms are contain scriptural annotations to look up the relevant passages of scripture.

Cons!

There are cons for people looking into buying this Bible. This Bible is only available in the KJV. I was raised on the King James Version so I do not mind this being my regular reference. But for some people a modern version is a better option.

This Bible doesn’t have a central reference system. All necessary references are contained in the footnotes. For those who find a columned reference Bible useful and preferred, this isn’t for you.

This is a classically Reformed study system. The Young, Restless, Reformed believers who don’t accept Classic Reformed Confessions, Reformed Ecclesiology, or Eschatology this isn’t for you. It also has a cessationist leaning as well as opposed to continuationism.

What I carry it in!

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I carry it in a simple charcoal gray zipper case. There is about half an inch around the side of the case for the Bible to breath. I keep my Pigma Micron in the pen-holder inside so I can study anywhere and write notes as needed.

Where can you buy one?

You can get one as cheap as $24 here.

Soli Deo Gloria

My Favorite Study Bibles

Anthony W. Brooks

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There are many helps that the Christians can use to understand the scriptures in a better light. There are commentaries, lectionaries, lexicons, interlinears, concordances, dictionaries, and many many many other resources. But the most widely used and purchased is the Study Bible. Of course, they come in various sizes, translations, theological preferences, etc… So, it’s no surprise that my favorite study bible isn’t my wife’s favorite, or my sister’s favorite, or my pastor’s favorite.

I only carry around two different study bibles. The reason for this is the size of many of these tomes is incredible. When we put size in the equation it can change the dynamic of the game. Whether or not you want to invest in a particular study bible depend on whether you want to carry your study bible with you or mind leaving on your desk at home.

My recommendations are already posted on the Resource page. But I figured I would go ahead and make a post over this subject.

At the end of each review I’ll rate on a scale of A, B, C, D, F on four things in the order I list them:

Translation Variety– How many translations is a particular study bible available in? Not everyone likes the NASB, ESV, NKJV, KJV, NIV etc… So diversity helps spread the bibles reach.

Study Note Quality– How detailed and frequent are the study notes? This is key, since study bibles are known for their notes. Detail and volume can either make or break a study bible.

Durability and portability– How durable is the bible? And how portable is it? Being well made is a must in a study bible. This is your go-to resource for quick questions. One needs it to be portable and durable.

Theological Preference– How theologically diverse is this study bible? The caveat here is that we are only reviewing reformed leaning study bibles. But on issues like Infant Baptism, Eschatology, and ecclesiology it’s nice to have diversity for differing viewpoints in the Reformed camp.

I’ll start off by mentioning the three bibles that changed the American Evangelical Church and influenced the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement most thoroughly:

  1. The MacArthur Study Bible- This is a medium sized Bible that has many things going for it. This is one of the study bibles that I am actually willing to carry around because it is the top of the portable scale. Here are some features that Grace to You advertises for this study bible: Nearly 25,000 explanatory notes from John MacArthur, More than 140 two-color maps, charts, timelines, and illustrations, Introductions to each Bible book, Index to key biblical doctrines, Over 80,000 cross-references, Extensive concordance, A section of full-color maps, Bible reading plans, Concise articles on “How We Got the Bible” and “Introduction to the Bible”, Dimensions: 9.5”x7”, Text size: 8.7 point, Note size: 7.6 point. So it is safe to say that this bible is loaded with helpful resources. But, all of the study notes are from John MacArthur’s personal opinion. This makes this study bible very biased on a few key theological points: credobaptism, dispensational premillennialism, sacramentology, and ecclesiology. But the diversity of the translation and the durability and portability have good scores. Final scores: A, A, B, D.

 

  1. The ESV Study Bible- This is considered a large study bible. Made by Crossway, this is a very well-built bible in their genuine leather, trutone, and premium bindings. Opening this bible for the first time amazed me. THOUSANDS of study notes taking up every page. Aside from that here are a few features that Crossway adds to their website: Concordance, Extensive articles, 240 full-color maps and illustrations, Includes thumb indexes, Smyth-sewn binding. So, this bible is just as loaded as the last. The notes are also diverse on eschatology, ecclesiology, and the credo/Paedobaptism issue. But this study bible is only available in the ESV bible translation. That fact is okay with me (I love the ESV), but for my friends in the Confessional Bibliology groups it isn’t preferred. I won’t give it an F for that (due to the readability of the translation), but it will get a below average score. Final Scores: D, A, C, A.

 

  1. Reformation Study Bible 2015- This study bible is massive. I couldn’t carry this volume if I wanted to. Focusing on the entirety of Reformed orthodoxy, the theological bias is limited to the 3 streams of Reformed confessionalism: 3 Forms of Unity, Westminster Standards, and 1689 London Confession. It is available in two translations: ESV and NKJV. This makes it available to those who prefer the majority text and critical text. But not every majority text advocate prefers the NKJV and not every critical text advocate prefers the ESV. Durability is low as well. The build of this bible is problematic. I have seen the results of a hardcover, faux leather, and genuine leather Reformation Study Bible being used to death, not pretty. The common life expectancy of one of these bibles is 2 years before the cover comes off. But the quality of the study helps are unparalleled. Not only does it have a full verse by verse commentary, but multiple other helpful resources in the back. Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms, and an overview of Church History are among the helps. Final Scores: C, A, F, B.

 

Next we’ll cover a couple of extra study bibles that might also be of interest to you.

  1. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible- This is a medium sized and portable volume. The materials vary from goatskin to leather-touch but all well-built. The commentary is a very nice and thoroughly Reformed commentary, but has strong biases toward amillennial eschatology and Presbyterian church government. Also, a very biased view is taken toward covenant theology as opposed to Reformed Baptist covenant distinctives. But, there are some cool features offered: Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms in the back of the bible. Thoughts for personal and family worship is added at the end of each chapter, and many others. As the name suggests this bible is only offered in the KJV making it obsolete to many who cannot understand the High modern English of the 17th Century. Final Scores: F, A, A, D.

 

  1. Reformation Study Bible (Condensed Edition)- This is a small and especially portable bible. The materials vary from hard cover to genuine leather. But, like its larger predecessor, the quality of build is problematic. Unlike Crossway’s leathertouch materials (which are Smyth-sewn), the leather-like covers only come in glued in bindings. The font is small so if you are hard of seeing, probably not for you. The study notes are a condensed version of the larger version. Over-all they are good, but not as extensive and leaves many questions unanswered. Theologically, the notes lean toward the more narrow Presbyterian covenant theology like its larger counterpart. Also, this bible is only available in the ESV, leaving its diversity of translation lacking. Final Scores: D, C, D, D.

 

The ability to look at these study bibles objectively is a good help for those of us who desire to have an overall good look at these resources. So it looks like the MacArthur Study Bible edged out all others in the objective score.

Of course, the scoring was subjective to my theological preferences, preference of bindings, and what I consider to be good commentary. But, when I judge these bibles I tried not to compare them, but judge them in overall usefulness. If you like the ESV, prefer Covenant theology, and don’t mind a large volume the ESV Reformation Study Bible might be for you. But if you only read the KJV the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible might be a good fit. If you just want an evangelical study bible the ESV Study Bible or MacArthur Study Bible might be good fits. There are plenty of good choices to go around here.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Objective Promise of Baptism… (The Post that Might Kill this Blog)

I have a feeling that this post will get me into more trouble than anything I’ve written before. But I want to make a few things clear before we get started:

1. I am in complete subscription to the Westminster Standards on the subject of baptism.

2. I do not believe that as water goes on, saving grace goes in.

3. I believe that saving faith and saving grace are coupled. You can’t have one without the other.

4. Baptism is not efficacious for everyone.

5. I believe in all Five Solas of the Reformation.

Okay, now that that is over. I can explain my angle here. I have recently come to the conclusion that many Presbyterians are just Inconsistent Baptists… They baptize their infants, placing them into the covenant, but refuse to believe that this baptism does anything for their child, and even refuse to call them Christians. This is sad to me, and I’m about to quote the Larger Catechism and make a few people angry in the process. But I wish to encourage all Presbyterian/Dutch Reformed Christians to pay attention to the argument and try to find fault with it. Examine it like a good Berean would. With that said, here’s the Larger Catechism:

Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

Sometimes it makes evangelicals uncomfortable when you tell them that their baptism was more than just a step of obedience. The Westminster Assembly was unified on this statement. Baptism is an effectual means of salvation. How so? Well not because water hit my head, or because the minister baptizing me was ordained, or because the act of baptizing had any power at all, but because the Lord chose to work through that medium to place me into an objective covenant relationship with him through the power of the Holy Spirit. Check out this scripture:

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We were buried with him in baptism… We were baptized into Christ… Baptized into his death… We were raised in that baptism by the glory of the Father. That is objective language. This doesn’t mean that everyone who is baptized is regenerated. Not everyone who is baptized is elect. Neither does this mean that one can’t be saved without it… Calvin believed that we shouldn’t limit God to the sacraments for his salvation. Baptism places us unto an objective covenant relationship with Christ that, when broken, breaks his heart. We should take this seriously. Baptism does not guarantee salvation, just like circumcision didn’t secure salvation for the Jew. But when the Jew broke the covenant, God was upset.

What can we learn from this? Baptism is important. It is blessed by Christ to be a medium of Covenant Relationship by which he sanctifies us. We can always look to our baptism as a seal of our covenant relationship with Christ.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Here are some resources on the Confessional view of Baptism…