After having a friendly baptism chat with a baptist buddy a few days ago, i decided to listen again to some debates. I have listened to Strawbridge vs. White (I attended that one), Strimple vs. Malone, and Sproul vs. MacArthur.
After all this activity, there was one particular thing that stood out to me: in baptism debates, Baptists will commonly distinguish between the two positions as one of explicit command (believers-only baptism) vs. implicit, or inference (infant baptism). MacArthur did state that there is not an explicit command to baptize infants but neither is there an explicit prohibition. He did, however, bring up logical inference, suggesting that his view met the demand. White and Malone were more aggressive in asserting that believers-only baptism was explicit, while paedobaptism was merely an “inference.”
Yet, not one time did I hear from the Baptists a valid, necessary inference of believers-only baptism from any text. Instead, I heard examples from Scripture of professing believers getting baptized. But note: an example of a professing believer getting baptized does not and cannot logically infer that professing believers are the ONLY ones who can get baptized.
That’s like me pointing out that in the last three days, my wife, mom, and oldest daughter have all gone to Wal-Mart to shop, and then someone responds, “so what are you trying to say, that only women from your family can shop at Wal-Mart?” Well, no, of course not. That’s silly. And I can’t imagine anyone even responding with such a question after merely hearing that my wife, mom, and daughter have all gone to Wal-Mart.
It’s also interesting to find Baptists using the household baptism texts to prove believers-only baptism. When you look at Lydia’s, for example, Lydia and her whole household were baptized, but only Lydia is explicitly mentioned as having her heart opened to heed Paul’s word. To conclude that this somehow proves believers-only baptism is not only to admit that Baptists are making inferences, since the text is silent about the faith of the others, but the inference is an INVALID one! A person can no more necessarily infer “professing believer” from the phrase “her household were baptized” than one can infer “infant” from that same phrase. “Believers only are to be baptized” does NOT necessarily follow from either Lydia’s example or the baptism of the rest of the household.
To sum up: Baptists, when making these arguments, are not only guilty of basing a doctrine off of ‘mere inference,’ but make invalid inferences in the process.
Hence, Sproul’s comment to MacArthur that NONE of the examples of believer’s baptism in Acts have anything to do with the question of infant baptism. Strawbridge also pointed out the logical fallacy in these arguments, calling it the “Eunuch’s Fallacy,” but unfortunately White never addressed it.
May i recommend to my Baptist brothers who make these arguments that you spend some time studying deductive logic and what constitutes a valid, necessary inference. And also, recognize that we all make inferences. Unless you are just getting up in the pulpit and reading straight from Scripture and then closing the book and sitting down, it is impossible to not make inferences when teaching. The question is not whether inferences are and should be made. The real question is whether or not our inferences are valid according to the rules of logic.
With all due respect to MacArthur, the positional difficulty he runs into when debating a Presbyterian is that he is a dispensationalist: he cannot argue from a covenantal perspective, so his arguments swim in the shallow end of the pool.
The historical covenantal baptist perspective sees the Covenant of Grace (the New Covenant) as being established with the death of Christ (“this is a new covenant in my blood”). The New Covenant is revealed in types and shadows under the Old Covenant, then established with the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. Because of this, covenantal baptists can clearly affirm that the ONLY true members of the Covenant of Grace (the new covenant) are those who believe and are saved through the blood of Christ.
Ironically, Presbyterians suffer the same problem as Dispensationalists: both force a physical seed. Dispensationalists see ethnic Israel as God’s people, and Presbyterians see infants as God’s people (“Covenant Children”).
With all due respect to you, Jeff, you are not actually dealing with the point of the article. The “explicit/implicit” problem is not unique to MacArthur. And his dispensationalism has nothing to do with any of this. Both Malone and White, as well as every “Reformed Baptist” i have heard debate this topic, fail to understand the logical point when they point to occurrences of “confessors baptism” in Scripture as “proof” of “confessors only.”
Your emphasis on an obvious error (dispensationalism) is a red herring. I can take MacArthur completely out of this article, and the problem with Baptist argumentation remains because men like White, Malone, and others make the same flawed arguments.
Thanks, Jason for dialogue. Let me explain a bit further. You said in the blog article “Yet not one time did I hear from the Baptists a valid, necessary inference of believers-only baptism from any text”.
Now, you – in your own judgment – will ultimately set the standard of what a “valid, necessary inference of believers-only baptism” is. To the well-studied Baptist, Matthew 28:19-20 provides a valid, necessary inference: Go, Teach, Baptize. Genuine baptism has always been a sacrament for those who hear the teaching and believe the Word of God.
To this end, old covenant circumcision is a mere type of the perfection (in Christ) to come – in the same vein that the following also are types (note the contrasts below):
OT sacrifices; revealed fulfillment: Christ is the once and for all sacrifice
OT temple; revealed fulfillment: Jesus is the true temple, He said, “destroy this temple…”
OT kings; revealed fulfillment: Jesus is the King of Kings
OT high priests; revealed fulfillment: Jesus is the Great High Priest
OT circumcision; revealed fulfillment: true circumcision has always been one “made without hands” (circumcision of the heart)
OT physical seed; revealed fulfillment: Christ and those in Christ through belief
I highly recommend James Dolezal’s explanation at about 59:00 on this Reformed Forum podcast:
In Christ alone,
One other concluding note: God’s covenant children must obtain to the same election as the eschatos Adam (Jesus, the Israel of God). Non-believing infants have not obtained this election because they are incapable of belief in God.