Dipping into baptism 9: the case for dual practice (2)

Continuing our discussion of a good recent book on the contested waters of baptism is Baptism: Three Views, edited by the late David F Wright just before he died.

The three views are:

1. Believers’ Baptism View: Bruce A. Ware

2. Infant Baptism View: Sinclair B. Ferguson

3. Dual-Practice Baptism View: Anthony N. S. Lane

The Dual-Practice View (2)

In this post I want to finish off Tony Lane’s case for the dual practice of baptism – ie seeing the baptism of either infants or believers as legitimate practices within the church.

Last time I mentioned he had 4 theological points to make. Actually there are 5 (unbelievable and shocking I know, but I do make mistakes 🙂

1. Two Strategies

Both views have a lot in common. They include nurture in the faith, which leads to the grown up child making a decision to be baptised. Yes they differ on the timing of baptism, but in practice whichever view is held makes very little difference in actual Christian living.

Lane argues both can be seen as legitimate adaptations of converts’ baptism of Acts. Church history supports both being practiced simultaneously. In fact he says

“diversity is the only policy for which the first four centuries of the church provide any clear evidence.”

2. The Silence of the Bible

Fact: the NT says nothing about the initation of children within a Christian home into the Christian faith. Lane argues we should respect the silence of Scripture as well as what it does say. Silence in this case opens the door for the diversity of theological understandings drawn from Scripture. In other words, does Scripture itself point to legitimate diversity (as with different forms of church govt for example?)

3. The role of diversity

Lane argues that as both practices have strengths, diversity in practice actually builds up the church rather than weakening it. Interesting argument!

4. Status of Christian Children

close to the previous point. In a fast secularising culture, baptist practice helps point to the need for real personal faith freely chosen. Infant baptist practice encourages serious responsibilities for bringing up children in the faith. Both are needed argues Lane.

5. The individual and the Corporate

Baptists place greater emphasis on the individual’s faith. Children do not receive the sacraments until they have professed faith and been baptised.

Infant baptists stress the corporate nature of the covenant of salvation.  Children are members of the church as baptised infants.

Lane’s point here is that these two different ways of looking at salvation (the individual and the corporate) give freedom to practice both modes of baptism depending on which aspect seems to the parents to be the most persuasive.

I’ll come back to responses to Lane next time.

There you have it … persuaded, apathetic, confused?

In other words, how much does this issue of baptism matter to the mission and health of the church in 21st Century Ireland?

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