Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Promise of the Spirit: A Defense of Credobaptism

Well, there's nothing like coming right out in the title and saying what this article is all about, eh? No creative tricky titles from this guy. I'll just lay it out there. Unless, of course, you have no idea what Credobaptism means and what I might be defending it against. It's quite simple really: do you take the plunge only after you believe, as an adult presumably, or should we in the Church baptize our infants (paedobaptism) as a sign of the promise much like the descendants of Abraham did with circumcision?

If you're new to the debate, the arguments on both sides are compelling. On the one hand, why would you baptize any infant without the ability to flex a sphincter, much less confess their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? On the other hand, Israel, God's chosen people, were instructed to mark the members of their community at just eight days old with an indelible mark, so what's the beef?

Circumcision was not credo-circumcion. No, infact, I'm quite sure few people would opt for that route. It was a sign given by God to remind Abraham and his descendants after him of the promise that God had made, and had not yet fulfilled.

We have the same promise today. Christ is said to have inaugurated eschatology. The kingdom is already but not yet. We are forgiven by Christ's past atoning death and resurrection, but we await the final and complete installment of His glorious kingdom and our glorified bodies when He returns. We wait.

But we do not wait without a reminder. Like Abraham, we were given a sign. God did not leave us without a tangible reminder of His eternal promise. What, then, is this reminder of which I speak? The sprinkling of some Evian on a baby yet in diapers? Is that how indelible, how powerful, how unforgettable and life-transforming the reminder of God's promise really is to us?

Well, if you read the title. You'll know that my answer is indeed, No. Instead, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Gosh, that language sure sounds reminiscent of circumcision, doesn't it. And, to add to the debate, Paul's argument to the Galatians echos the same notion. How could the Galatians be confident that circumcision was of no value to them? But of course, they had already received the Spirit, the promise. What purpose, then, could circumcision hold for a person already marked with an indelible seal which, more than simply reminding, even guaranteed what was to come.

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