“Left Field” Arguments for Believers’ Baptism

I call these “Left Field” arguments because I have thought about them over the years for random reasons and they aren’t typically the kinds of arguments you find in a believers’ baptism (credobaptism) versus infant baptism (paedobaptism) discussion.  I’d consider them to be more auxiliary to the primary arguments offered, but helpful (for me at least).

1. Galatians.  Seriously.  The whole book.  After all, it is written as a response to the debate over whether Gentile converts to Christianity needed to “go varsity” and undergo the Jewish ritual of circumcision.  Paul’s decision not to circumcise Titus is pretty heavy in this discussion.  Paul spends a great deal of time quoting from the Old Testament and using various arguments to affirm that circumcision would obligate one to keep the entire law but Christ has borne that curse (punishment) for us on the tree.  Therefore, believers are no longer under compulsion to the Mosaic law but to “the law of Christ” empowered not by ourselves (the flesh) but by God’s Spirit.  It’s a pretty heavy argument.  But I have an easier one if Paul had been a paedobaptist.  Titus (and you) doesn’t need to be circumcised because he has been baptized.  You see, baptism is the New Covenant equivalent to circumcision.  Easy argument, case closed.  But he doesn’t argue that.  He writes a whole letter arguing something entirely different.

2. Constant recall for believers of the experience and importance of their baptism. Paul does this in several places that I remember offhand: Romans 6 (dealing with our death to sin and new life in Christ), Ephesians 4 (dealing with church unity), and 1 Corinthians 12 (dealing with church unity in light of the debacle over gifts).  Each time, it seems, he is banking on the Christians remembering their baptism.  O yea, when I was baptized, (cue the importance/implication thought).  However, if one is baptized as an infant, what do you remember?  (and lest Baptists get too puffed up–how many 4 year-olds are going to remember either?) To me, something is lost when one of the primary experiences of being a disciple of Jesus is done when people are too young to understand or even remember it.  It might give the parents more “peace of mind” (lest under some quasi-Catholic understanding of baptismal regeneration this will keep an infant from going to limbo or something, and yes, Baptists, many 4 year-olds are baptized under that same parental guilt-alleviation in your churches as well) but it doesn’t really do anything for the person being baptized.  And these texts here seem to indicate that the importance of one’s baptism should have an ongoing influence in a Christian’s life, such as allowing them to fight sin and get along with other Christians.  So why cheat your children out of that chance to not only profess Christ personally and publicly but to remember their own baptism?

3. Don’t forget the order was birth, then circumcision. So you’re convinced that baptism is the New Covenant equivalent to circumcision?  (I’m not. I think circumcision of the heart (the new birth) is the equivalent. But on this one, I’ll play by your rules if you think so.)  In the Old Covenant, people were born into Israel and then circumcised as a sign.  Circumcision followed becoming part of the covenant people by birth.  However, the New Covenant is not entered into through physical birth.  The New Covenant inclusion happens as the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah promise and as Jesus says in John 3 through a “new birth”.  In fact, John the Baptizer did plainly not see baptism as a spiritual “grandfathered-in” type arrangement (“God can raise up children of Abraham (covenant children) out of these stones”), calling for baptism as a symbol of repentance.  But that’s a different argument.  Anyways, so if the “new birth” is the true entrance into the New Covenant, then it follows that the spiritual equivalent of circumcision, baptism, must happen after “new birth.”  Now if you start arguing for some kind of paedo-regeneration, that’s something I don’t have the type or energy to mess with.

So there’s three “left field” arguments. The first is an argument from silence, so I understand its limitations rhetorically. But I still think a valid point is made.  Let me know.