The Paedobaptism Book Trail
I am have written at length on the subject of infant baptism. Most important to this post is my story of conversion. What typically follows before or after that question is what books I recommend on the subject. So here are my recommended books for those curious in paedobaptism. No particular order....
Institutes of the Christian Religion
If I has a dollar for very "Calvinist" who had read 0% of Calvin's work I could probably stop working. Tack on the number of people who haven't read through his commentaries or Institutes and its no wonder people are generally confused about what he taught. The Institutes are necessary as they contain perhaps the earliest refined argument for infant baptism utilizing the theological concept of the covenant.
Some of Calvin's arguments are still valuable today. If more people would read Calvin before entering into the infant baptism discussion the flow of dialogue would be much easier and efficient. Calvin covers ground both Biblically and logically that even when not accepted move conversations forward significantly.
Baptism is Not Enough
Speaking of the covenant perspective. John Crawford's much more recent book on covenant and its application to theology is now pretty high on my list. Written by a laymen and practical to the root, I am a fan of the book. My lengthy review can be found here. There is a neat 30 minute DVD that is beneficial for watching both before and after reading the book. Crawford addresses the theological concept of covenant at a much deeper level than Calvin by building off the profound advancements of theologians like Meredith Kline and O. Palmer Robertson.
Crawford's argumentation is a little unique in that it really strives forward to show how God's covenant really is an expansive concept. Not only baptism is affected but also one's millennial position and concept of ethics. There are obvious signs of postmillennialism and reconstructionism that will turn people off but this book is valuable as a modern guide.
Luther's Large Catechism
So let me take a large step away from the Reformed Covenant perspective. I know that both of Luther's catechisms had a huge impact on me. There are fewer rational arguments. There are, seemingly, less examples of exegetical and theological gymnastics. Luther could not see a reason to go against the clear example of church history. Instead he found the Scriptures replete with texts that say baptism actually does something and it does it for infants as well as adults. Even when one wants to disagree with Luther its worth noting how long an explanation of the difficult passages takes.
Luther's understanding of the Bible is simple and pure. It takes God's word for what it says. This is the basis of faith. Some attempting to pit Luther's theology of baptism against his theology of justification by faith. Faith must come from God's revelation and for Luther that included God's declarative word on baptism.
When it comes to texts on baptism there is none more concise than Murray's. There is little left to be said other than its price, length and historical value deem it almost a must read by those of the Reformed tradition. Now some might allude to the fact that Murray's teaching here is less than definitive and ultimately influenced the likes of Norman Shepherd (and FVers) to depart from the Reformed pale of orthodoxy. I think that it silly. But it is worth noting that this book along with Luther were some of my earliest influence on baptism and I did in fact find myself agreeing with men associated with the Federal Vision.
Proponents of credobaptism will certainly strike at some of the Greek in this book. Honestly, that is all quite a bit beyond most non-scholars to agree over linguistics. But nevertheless, Murray's book goes there showing that baptism does not necessitate immersion. On this Murray disagree with Calvin. He also disagrees with Calvin concerning the baptism of John and how it relates to the baptism of Jesus. I side with Calvin but in either case both stalwarts are worth reading.
Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries
Another small book on infant baptism. This time the content is entirely historical. Joachim Jeremias provides a dated but essential reading on the historical nature of infant baptism. There are published replied to Jeremias' work and there are published replies to these works by Jermias. Scholarship is great and this book is a shallow dive into the deep end of the pool.
Not for the feint of heart this book is loaded with untranslated Greek and absolutely no practical concern for the reader. This is dense work. It is valuable for sure but hardly going to make direct practical effect on one's theology. It's here on the list so its obviously worth reading but be warned.
The Sign of The Gospel
A very, very lengthy review of this book is available for consumption. Given the cost of the book it might have to suffice most individuals to simply read my review. This book was outstanding. Thought provoking. Mind numbing at times.
Admittedly, it did not impact my theology of infant baptism intensively. But it certainly provoked me to re-think a couple things in light of my joyous love for Barth's theology.