Friday, August 17, 2007

Ligon Duncan on Paedobaptism, and Some Thoughts on Acts 2:38-39

In response to my post setting forth some arguments for paedobaptism, my friend Ligon Duncan (pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson and PCA moderator) weighs in on the baptism debate, offering his more simplified defense of the paedobaptist position:
1. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly makes a promise to believers and to their children (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39).

2. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly attaches specific signs (respectively, circumcision [Genesis 17:10] and baptism [Acts 2:38, cf. Colossians 2:11-12], to this promise that he gives to believers and their children.

3. Therefore, since God has given an explicit promise to believers and their children, in the New Testament, and attached a sign to this promise, and enjoined us (in the new covenant) to administer that sign [baptism, Matthew 28:19-20], then we should give the sign of the promise he has made to believers and their children, to believers and their children, in humble obedience to biblical command and example. QED.
As I mentioned, I'll try to set forth in a future blog post some reasons why credobaptists don't find the paeodbaptist position convincing, but perhaps I could make just one observation here. Note in Dr. Duncan's presentation the importance of Acts 2:38-39. As a credobaptist, I think that Peter's command and promise says more than the paedobaptists want it to say. It reads:
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Note the portion I've italicized. "You," "your children," and "all who are far off" are all on the same level. In other words, (1) the condition and the command (repent and be baptized) as well as (2) the promise (you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit) are designed not only for you and your kids, but also for all people. No matter who you are or what your age, if you repent of your sins you receive the Holy Spirit. I think this opens the door to very young baptisms, but the qualifier of repentance seems to be to preclude infants.

I gather some of you, however, would disagree!