Restoring the "Natural" Tracks
I’m not making any promises but this post will probably be my last post from Peter Leithart’s The Baptized Body. The quotation below comes from the appendix of the book which is an essay entitled “The Sociology of Infant Baptism” which I found very informative. Moreover, I found this particular quotation very helpful in encapsulating a profound reality that Leithart was putting forward. The quotation is long, and somewhat cumbersome, but I think I’ll let you go ahead and read it and then make some cursory comments at the end:
“Infant baptism implies that the instilling of Christ-like character runs along the tracks established in creation, for the Christian training of the child, of a Christian child, begins immediately upon his birth. God does not form a Christlike character by laying a second set of tracks but by restoring and transforming the “natural” tracks. From the beginning, consistent paedoaptists treat their children as Christians so that the social and cultural nurture of the child is simultaneously his or her nurture in Christian character and faith. This simultaneity recovers the condition of the original creation. If Adam had never sinned, he would have raised his children through instruction and certain forms of discipline (schedules, gradual introduction of responsibility, etc.), and the fruit of this nurture would have been mature, godly character. The created means of nurture would have been simultaneously nurture and admonition in the Lord, so that coming to physical and psycho-social maturity would have been indistinguishable from coming to “religious” maturity. Sin is responsible for the gap that now exists. Because of the sins of parents and the original and actual sins of their children, it is possible for an infant to come to physical and a kind of psycho-social maturity without also growing in godliness. Paedobaptism implies that the gospel’s solution to this gap is not to lay an entirely new set of tracks but to close the gap by redeeming the original means from sin. (pg. 116)
The main point that Leithart is making in the above quotation is that infant baptism, in part, looks to redeem the created order that God established in Adam. Were sin to not have entered into the world there would be no distinction between a child’s growth in godliness and their “natural” growth as a human (both physically and psycho-socially). In fact, the reality of such a distinction in our minds is owed solely to the fact that sin has entered the world.
Leithart’s aim is to show that baptism envisions a restoration of the created order in Christ. This means that the nurture and rearing of the children of Christian parents is simultaneously the discipleship of the young Christians. This is a difficult concept for Evangelicals to grasp because of our tendencies toward experiencialism and spiritualization. The world that God created and the relationships that he embedded into it are not things that are to be overcome in order for someone to become a Christian. Rather, these things are to be redeemed to their original purpose. Infant baptism envisions and accomplishes this.
Food for thought.