Article ID: DB040 | By: Hank Hanegraaff
The following is an excerpt taken from article DB040 of the Christian Research Journal by Hank Hanegraaff. The full PDF can be viewed by clicking the link below the excerpt.
As we have seen, those who teach that baptism is necessary for salvation undermine an essential doctrine of the historic Christian faith. The same cannot be said regarding those who baptize babies as well as adult-convert believers. Here we would do well to remember the maxim: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.” While we may debate this issue vigorously, we must never divide over it. Many, including the Roman Catholics, members of many Reformed churches, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Eastern Orthodox believers, baptize infants as well as adult converts.
My father, who is a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, baptizes babies. I, on the other hand, believe baptism should be reserved for those who are old enough to have a biblical understanding of salvation, a conscious commitment to Christ, and a knowledge of the significance of baptism. Neither one of us, however, doubts the other’s salvation. As Bruce Milne puts it, “God has signally blessed and honored the ministry of his servants on both sides of this divide, whether paedobaptists [those who believe in infant baptism] like Luther and Wesley, or Baptists like Spurgeon and Billy Graham. One need but recall the mutual esteem between the Anglican John Newton and the Baptist William Carey to recognize the needlessness of bitter division over this issue.”6
Having said this, I would be remiss if I did not point out how deeply divided biblical scholars are on this issue of baptism. Spurgeon said, “As long as you give baptism to an unregenerated child, people will imagine that it must do the child good. They will ask, ‘If it does not do the child any good, why is it baptized?’ The statement that it puts children into the covenant, or renders them members of the visible church, is only a veiled form of the fundamental error of Baptismal Regeneration.”7
Reformed theologian R. C. Sproul, on the other hand, argues that those who dispute the validity of infant baptism make [the new covenant less inclusive than the old covenant] with respect to children, despite the absence of any biblical prohibition against infant baptism.”8 Sproul is correct in contending that there is no biblical prohibition against infant baptism. He and others equate the New Covenant’s baptism with the Old Covenant’s circumcision. However, there is no clear and compelling teaching or example supporting infant baptism either. On the contrary, where the Bible does speak clearly concerning baptism it emphasizes the faith of those who are baptized.9