Sola Scriptura and Paedobaptism
I was asked an interesting question on twitter a few days ago:
"What one passage would you use to show paedobaptism?"
This is a common question from various Christian traditions in conjunction with their current evangelical definitions of "Sola Scriptura" to understand infant baptism. The scripture I chose to answer with was:
"And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you" (Gen. 17:7)
Most would go with Acts 2:39. But I'd go with the above passage. It's not explicitly about baptism, but it does show that God's covenant is for believers and their children. This passage establishes that the eternal, non-changing, Creator has decreed and established a covenant including believers and their offspring.
To show membership in the covenant, God established a sign to show this membership. God's covenant promise is to be God to you and your children. Further, God says it is an everlasting covenant—"So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant."
Here the road divides. Many people focus on "what the sign is" rather than "did God use a sign to show His covenant." By changing the primary focus, we get lost in trees and, eventually, one can not see the forest for the trees. The mode of the sign is not what is promised eternally or even the gist of the covenant. The topic at hand should be, "what is the covenant and who is it for?" Only after this is established then a conversation of how members of the covenant are shown (e.g. the sign proper).
God views entry into the covenant and the sign and seal of entry so serious that He decreed:
"Any male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant" (Gen. 17:14)
No Jewish person protested saying, "I'm not saved by the sign, thus it is not needed." They took God at His word and gave their children the sign and seal. Even Jesus received the covenant sign.
Fast forwarding to the New Testament, a very important thing is shown—when God establishes previous ordinances have been fulfilled and new modes implemented, He informs His people clearly. An example of this is when God lifts the dietary laws from His people. God clearly informs the Apostle Peter that all things are clean. The dietary laws were a huge thing in Jewish customs and traditions. To change this, a clear and distinct message had to be sent. The inclusion of a believer's seed was more fundamental than any dietary laws. I feel comfortable saying this because I do not see the dietary laws worded with a context of "[he] shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
Instead of seeing passages in the New testament distancing children of believers from the community of faith, we see:
"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism" (Col. 2:11-12)
And circumcision was typically done to infants.
"For the promise is for you and for your children" (Acts 2:39)
The New Testament also includes multiple statements of households baptized (if a person's child is not a primary definition of household, nothing is).
In our day, many have concocted many lines of reasoning to establish that kids were not included in these passages. But the true line of reasoning should be, "how would a first-century Jewish person view these passages?" This is an important question because these statements were to people in the first century. People that had no religious notion of child exclusion. How would they know their kids were kicked out now? (Keep in mind the Acts 2 passage is the first Christian sermon ever preached by Saint Peter. So in-depth teaching of removing kids from the covenant could not have been and, coincidently, was not taught.)
And that is why I used the Genesis 17 passage to answer my friend's question.
"And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you."
God stated that His eternal covenant to be God to you and your children and He has never rescinded this promise. Yes, the sign has changed (as noted in Colossians 2), but the primary focus of this conversation should be on the substance of God's promises in His covenant and what (potentially) changed in membership requirements. To be in the new covenant is to have Christ's life and death applied to you. His righteousness imputed to you and the Holy Spirit indwelling in you. The precedent has been established by God that the people in the covenant receive a sign of being in the covenant:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col. 2:11-12)
All of the traits of being in the new covenant are shown to be apart of baptism. Nowhere in Holy Writ has a believers' child been denied their part in the covenant or asked to prove that they qualify for entry. God has made a promise to be God to you and your children, say "Amen" and baptize your kids!
Peace, mercy, & grace to you.
Many will say, "infant baptism is an argument from silence." And I agree. The fact that it is silent, is the biggest supporting factor to me. Silence on a topic so crucial establishes nothing changing. And in all honesty, both sides argue from silence. There are no passages of kids being turned away in holy writ.
A claim of "it is tradition" always arises as well. This is why I mentioned "the current evangelical definition of Sola Scriptura" earlier in the article. Yes, tradition shows infant baptism and it is built upon Old Testament to New Testament continuity. And the Old Testament is clear about the inclusion of kids. Man is overstepping the boundaries to throw out a clear historic teaching to discontinue including kids in Gods covenant. Sola scriptura was never intended to make tradition a bad thing. Traditions that go against Scripture were to be addressed. Here is an example of tradition, "praying with your eyes closed." Per the current thought on how sola scriptura is used, "closed eyes while praying" is clearly wrong because the bible does not state to do it. The only reason you pray with your eyes closed is that you were taught it by another person. It is a man-made tradition. You should repent!
Seems idiotic to draw that line in the sand, but this is the same argument used against infant baptism.
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isa. 59:21)