Time to wrap 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
Here are some last reflections on the dual practice position and some concluding thoughts of where I am at after reading this book and thinking about baptism for quite a while.
First the responses to Lane’s view – what Ferguson calls the ‘Middle-Lane position’ 🙂
I didn’t find Ware or Ferguson’s responses to Lane that strong.
Ware’s charge that Lane’s use of the historical record gives it too much weight and undermines sola scriptura is not persuasive. Lane is using the historical record as a pointer to what early apostolic practice was. Scripture is still primary.
Ferguson’s criticisms amount to a belief that there was early on and should be today uniformity of practice. As Lane replies, the evidence points to a plurality of practice and suggests this diversity was tolerated from the very beginning of apostolic tradition.
So 10 thoughts of where I’m at:
1. Baptism makes most Scriptural and theological sense when connected closely with conversion. The NT pattern is faith & repentance, receiving the Spirit and baptism.
2. Baptism is effective and is part of the conversion process – it is an instrument where we receive Christ and his salvation.
3. Believer’s baptism should therefore be given due regard as the normative practice of the church – especially in light of the damage done to baptism by widespread indiscriminate infant baptism during Christendom and our increasingly post-Christendom culture.
However, having said that:
4. This is not a ‘gospel’ issue. The practice of the early church is remarkably diverse embracing and tolerating different practices without too much angst.
5. In effect I’m closest to the ‘middle-Lane’ view: I belong happily to a Presbyterian Church which practices infant baptism [we are going to have a particularly cute one baptised on Sunday].
6. In this I am not alone – increasing numbers of Christians in paedo-baptist churches are choosing not to have their babies baptised.
7. I’m not naive enough, nor is it theologically necessary, to propose that believer’s baptism should or will one day replace infant-baptism in these churches.
8. However, I would love to see the Presbyterian Church in Ireland [and other infant-baptising denominations] have a serious discussion about moving away from a default paedo-baptist position; acknowledge the considerable weight of the historical, theological and missional case for believer’s baptism; teach and encourage parents about both positions; and promote both forms of baptism on an equal footing within the life of the church community and then let parents decide what form to follow.
9. And I’d love to see Baptist churches stop insisting that someone who has been a Christian for many years, yet who has been baptised as an infant, has to be baptised as a believer before they can become a member of the church.
10. In other words, a moving beyond mutual exclusivity to mutual toleration.
That’s where I am at, what about you?