Paedobaptism versus Believer’s Baptism

Paedobaptism is the practice of baptizing infants. Different churches have different stances on this. Some agree with it and some do not. Even those who practice it are not in agreement. Clearly those who say baptism saves are in error. There are churches who are clear and true to the Gospel in saying that baptism does not save. They still baptize infants, however, but as more of a baby dedication. However, these churches also say that one is to remember his or her infant baptism. Some churches believe in "believer’s baptism" (credo-baptism) where the person being baptized is already a believer, where the baptism is an external sign of an internal spiritual reality.

There is no scripture that clearly says do or do not baptize infants. However, there are some interesting scriptures that persons on both sides of this debate use. A believer’s baptism proponent’s (BBP) argument is that Jesus was both circumcised and baptized. This confronts the paedobaptist (PB) argument that baptism replaces circumcision and can only be done once. The PB argument that multiple baptisms cheapen baptism is a good argument. However, BBPs would question denying a believer’s baptism in view of an infant baptism, perhaps even questioning how one would remember his or her infant baptism in the first place and question the validity of the baptism being biblical if it was not performed in a Bible-teaching church (since PBs say that the baptism counts regardless of the church in which it was performed). PBs would say that infant baptism would count regardless, but BBPs would not follow the practice and would not consider it a believer’s baptism (since the internal reality has not yet occurred).

Let’s look at scripture:

The Westminster Shorter Catechism addresses baptism in Questions 94 and 95.

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q. 95. To whom is Baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

Reformed PBs would agree with Q. 94 only if coupled with Q. 95. Reformed BBPs would be in agreement with all but the last statement of Q. 95 and ask the reasoning for the last statement. Q. 94 and the beginning of Q. 95 seem to speak to Believer's Baptism, but the last statement of Q. 95 makes it Paedobaptist. The BBP person might point out that while the Westminster Shorter Catechism is an important document, it is not Inspired Scripture as we find in the Bible, meaning that the Westminster Shorter Catechism could have error unlike Scripture. Yet, disagreement over baptism remains, but may there be understanding.

Some get hung up on this issue and some go further to even argue about dunking or sprinkling. While these discussions are worthy, may they be for the sake of understanding, not division. The bottom line is faith in Christ. And remember, there will be those in Heaven who have not been baptized, but I recommend baptism. You can guess if I am a PB or BBP! It might matter to some denominations. However, does it or should it matter? Discuss to understand, not divide.

Jamie Johnson


PART 2: Baptism - Part 2