Nine? Try NoMarks: A Response to Jonathan Leeman (Part 1)
I do not often do "response" type posts. For starters, a majority of people won't care because they haven't read the original post. Second, the original author has almost zero chance of reading it. Third, it is never helpful merely to tear down. But Jonathan Leeman's recent blurb about delaying the baptism of professing children has me breaking my own rule. I have two major reason for this. First, people should care about this issue. And second, this issue is the consistent, practical consequence of rejecting paedobaptism.
For starters, Leeman provides us with an honest representation of what he is talking about about the reasons behind his decision,
Daughter: Daddy, am I a Christian?
Me: If you’re repenting of your sins, and putting your trust in Jesus, then yes.
Daughter: I am.
Me: If you are, then praise God! Keep doing that, sweetheart!
Daughter: Can I get baptized?
Me: At some point, honey. Right now, while you’re young, let’s continue to learn and grow. We’ll think about this more when you are older. I want you stand on your own two feet as a follower of Jesus, and not just believe these things because I do. But I’m so glad you want to follow Jesus with me! This is the most important decision you’ll ever make. There’s no one better than him.
Notice a couple of things. First, I don’t formally affirm her as a Christian. Instead, I give her the criteria (repentance and faith) and I make conditional statements (If…then…). Second, I do rejoice with her in what she believes to be the case when I say “Praise God.” But again, I don’t go as far as employing my parental authority to say, “You are a Christian.” I honestly don’t believe God has given me such authority as a parent. Instead, I believe he has given the local church this affirming authority (Matt. 16:19; 18:18, 20).
Let's dig in here. I am all about church order and structure. But none of the verses Jonathan gives has anything to do with affirming someone as a Christian. They might (emphasis on might) have something to say about "church member" but this is a wonderful example of confusion. For the most part Matthew 18 is dealing with church discipline. I am not inclined to think that affirming a child's confession of Jesus Christ is remotely related to this issue. But hey, why not just grab verses and throw them around? In fact these are the only Scripture references Leeman uses in the entirety of his answer. The actual point seems lost on Leeman because of the congregational paradigm he reads into the text. Christ's teaching presumes that apart from church discipline an individual is to be regarded as a member of the church. This is most consistently applied by those who baptize their infants.
With respect to Leeman's attempt at piety over the role parents play (determining that there children are Christians) I wish he would quote some Scripture. I could quote the Westminster Order for Baptism which states we baptized infants because they are Christian. I could also talk about how Paul calls children holy based upon their parents. In the gospels, parents brought their children to Jesus in spite of His disciples. Paul admonished parents (not the church) to disciple their children in the ways of God (Eph 6). It was a mother and grandmother who raised Timothy in the faith and Scriptures (note I don't recall talk of a "conversion" moment for Timothy). These New Testament examples are simply icing to the Old Testament Covenant Cake. This is Moses teaching the Israelites to instruct their own children about the ways of God (Deut 6). This is the psalmist talking about teaching generations to obey God's commandments and keep His covenant (Psa 78:1-8). Part of this would would entail teaching the children that God saved households (Exo 12:23-27). The Passover taught children the answer "the LORD brought us out of Egypt" (Exo 13:14). A parent in Israel did not say "well, God saved mom and dad but we have to check about you with the elders." The idea is laughable. And so is Leeman's attempt to sound humble with respect to the church. With no Biblical reference he writes against Biblical references to expound a doctrine of doubting one's salvation.
This is further exemplified in hypocrisy over discipleship. Leeman describes a father who encourages continual repentance. Not a problem as pure conception, it still flies in the face of "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). John taught a baptism of repentance. And even the New Testament portrays a false repentance that nonetheless had a baptism (Acts 8:9-24). Instead Leeman would have us understand "repent for a long time and then be baptized." But this is neither taught nor exemplified in the entirety of the Scripture. Instead Leeman marks on church history but that is a history littered with paedobaptism. So maybe we should leave them out of the discussion?
Leeman's confusion is again highlighted by the Great Commission. There Jesus Christ speaks of becoming his disciple through baptism and learning. Here Leeman would have us tell our kids to merely "learn" without the baptism. How can Leeman talk about following Christ without baptism (Mark 10:38-39)? Biblically I am unsure. But he gives a list of practical concerns. I will address those with my next post.