“From Circumcision to Baptism: A Baptist Covenantal Rejoinder to John Calvin” by Greg Welty
Calvin’s argument for infant baptism (which has become the standard justification
for the practice in Reformed paedobaptist churches) applies to the church God’s
command that Abraham circumcise his household, and appeals to the New Testament
analogy between circumcision and baptism as a strong confirmation of this application.
In this paper I argue that Calvin (and his Reformed paedobaptist heirs) misapplies the
command and misconstrues the analogy. In fact, the biblical material to which Calvin
appeals provides significant reason to reject infant baptism and embrace its alternative:
believers’ baptism. I close by noting some advantages of the believers’ baptism view.
And then there is this from Founders:
A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF PAEDOBAPTISM
As a Baptist student at a Reformed seminary, I encountered many theological pressures — from students and teachers alike — to convert to a paedobaptistic view. After much study, I came out convinced that “Reformed Baptist” was not a contradiction of terms (as my paedobaptist peers admonished me), but a qualification of terms, a subjecting of the traditionally Reformed version of covenant theology to a more careful biblical scrutiny. And so while abundantly grateful for my training in Reformed theology at seminary, for both the piety and the scholarship of my professors, I have concluded that the doctrine of infant baptism is neither a good nor necessary consequence deduced from Scripture (to use the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith, I.vi).
In my readings on the subject of baptism, Paul K. Jewett’s Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace was a revolutionary treatment of the subject. It was the first full-length book I had seen which actually critiqued the doctrine of infant baptism from the perspective of covenant theology itself. Some may debate as to how faithful Jewett actually is to the details of covenant theology, as those details are spelled out in the Reformed confessions. But his basic identification of the problem as one of biblical theology was quite insightful. Avoiding a blatantly dispensational approach, he applies the Reformed emphasis on unity and progress in redemptive history to the sacraments themselves, thus beating the paedobaptists at their own game of continuity and discontinuity. To those who are familiar with Jewett, it will be clear that I am indebted to him at several points.
This paper was originally written to fill a primary need among the seminary interns and other young men at my church. My own experience has taught me that nondispensational, Calvinistic baptists are perpetually tempted to look over the fence of their small and often divisive camp and covet the ministry opportunities available in conservative Presbyterian circles. Many have made this leap, and often do so because they simply don’t have a deep, Scripturally-based conviction that the baptist view is correct. Rather, they have absorbed their baptistic sentiments culturally and emotionally, and thus often lose them by the same means. Many have not been presented with an extended series of biblical arguments against infant baptism, a set of arguments which is at the same time consistent with their own nondispensational and Calvinistic perspective. So consider the following to be a resource for seminary and Bible students who want a quick, clear, and accessible summary of the leading reasons why Reformed Baptists (and all biblical Christians) ought not to embrace the doctrine of infant baptism.
Dr. Welty is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Forst Worth, Texas. His educational degrees include D.Phil., Oriel College, University of Oxford in 2007; M.Phil., Oriel College, University of Oxford, 2000; M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary, California, 1996; B.A. Philosophy, University of California, Los Angeles, 1993. He is a member of Heritage Baptist Church, Mansfield, Texas. [bio]