Monday, March 05, 2007

Forbid Them Not

Here's a booklet that baptistic pastors should consider picking up: Forbid Them Not: Rethinking the Baptism and Church Membership of Children and Young People, by Ted Christman, founding pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY.
We Reformed Baptists may have an Achilles' heel when it comes to our own practice of baptism. From sincere motives, some of us have practiced the custom of withholding the initiatory ordinance and church membership from childhood and youthful converts. As was acknowledged earlier, the practice is obviously rooted in noble motives and based upon a rational apologetic, but it calls for serious rethinking nonetheless.

In short, it regrettably "forbids the children" who are truly converted to obey the Great Commission. It forbids them membership in the church. It forbids them the Lord's Table. It forbids them the pastoral oversight that rightfully belongs to all members of the church. It forbids them the sense of belonging to the family of God, even though they do in fact belong to God.
Christman writes:
The purpose of this treatise is to assert and defend the view that Reformed Baptist churches ought to be baptizing and receiving into their membership children and young people who give credible evidence of being truly saved.
Christman addresses objections that (1) "it seems too difficult to determine the genuineness of childhood conversion" and (2) "children surely are not mature enough to meet all of the requirements of church membership." He includes specific instruction on questions to ask a young professing Christian, and the proper procedure for church discipline. And in the final section of the short booklet he compare "the intrinsic dangers of the proposed practice with those of its alternative."

The booklet is short, but I think the arguments are persuasive. If you're interested in purchasing the booklet ($4) you can send an email to, subject line: "forbid them not."

For another perspective on this, you can listen to Mark Dever's talk on Children and Baptism. Dever also discusses this in a lengthy footnote on pp. 348-349 of Believer's Baptism, ed. Schreiner and Wright.