More Summer Reading: Infant Baptism and the Silence of the NT

One of the more persistent arguments made by Baptist critics of infant baptism is: “It’s not in the NT.”  Bryan Holstrom has written a brief (156 pp) book to address this and related questions about infant baptism. Infant Baptism and the Silence of the NT is available at The Bookstore at WSC for $9.99 (+5.00 UPS ground shipping and taxes). In his foreword, my colleague David VanDrunen writes,

Bryan Holstrom has written an excellent book…. His view is simple: Scripture teaches that the children of believers should be baptized and the Christian church should again unite in in the practice of paedobaptism. Holstrom makes his case in exactly the right way. He is clear about where he stands and argues his position rigorously and engagingly.He bases his claims not upon his own opinions or clever syllogisms but upon careful interpretation of Scripture. He gives no quarter to his Baptist interlocutors yet appeals to them winsomely as brothers in Christ—with a firm but gentle spirit.He presses the point that rejecting infant baptism is not a minor error, for it concerns more than just baptism but also the whole biblical story of God’s redeeming work among his people.

…Bryan Holstrom has written an excellent book and I hope that it gets into the hands of many readers. He has served the church and the cause of biblical truth well. Those holding a Baptist view will find themselves challenged in the best sort of way—by a thorough exploration of biblical teaching. Paedobaptists themselves will be pushed to think in richer and more biblically consistent ways about their practice of infant baptism. May this book serve to heal divisions in Christ’s church and to encourage Christians to embrace more meaningfully the covenant promises of God for themselves and their children.

More resources on baptism:

This little booklet ($1.33 + 5.00 shipping and taxes) deals with the question of the relations between baptism, election and the “double mode” of existing in the covenant of grace. Does baptism confer election of any sort? Does baptism confer salvation of any sort? Does baptism confer justification, adoption or any other of the benefits of the covenant of grace?

Wes Bredenhof says of Danny Hyde’s brief book (104 pp) “First of all, Pastor Hyde has offered a compilation of the best Biblical arguments for the baptism of the infant children of believers. The arguments are offered concisely but with footnotes and references for those who wish to dig deeper. The skeleton is here, so to speak, but those who wish to see more meat on the bones will not have far to look.

Second, the book presents the Biblical arguments with a sense of church-historical consciousness. Hyde is especially sensitive to the practices and beliefs of the first sixteen centuries of the Christian church. With his references to Reformed liturgies and creeds, he clearly shows that infant baptism has nothing to do with “popery” and everything to do with the apostolic church.

Finally, so far as I know, this is the only book on the subject that deals with the practice of dedication found in some evangelical circles. Pastor Hyde points out that many of the proof-texts used to support dedication are the same texts used to argue for infant baptism. He calls for consistency, but also points out the far greater richness of baptism – a sacrament that speaks of the sovereign grace of a covenant-making God.”

Here are two free resources on this question:

Clark—A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism

Dennis Johnson—Infant Baptism How My Mind Has Changed

First of all, Pastor Hyde has offered a compilation of the best Biblical arguments for the baptism of the infant children of believers. The arguments are offered concisely but with footnotes and references for those who wish to dig deeper. The skeleton is here, so to speak, but those who wish to see more meat on the bones will not have far to look.
Second, the book presents the Biblical arguments with a sense of church-historical consciousness. Hyde is especially sensitive to the practices and beliefs of the first sixteen centuries of the Christian church. With his references to Reformed liturgies and creeds, he clearly shows that infant baptism has nothing to do with “popery” and everything to do with the apostolic church.
Finally, so far as I know, this is the only book on the subject that deals with the practice of dedication found in some evangelical circles. Pastor Hyde points out that many of the proof-texts used to support dedication are the same texts used to argue for infant baptism. He calls for consistency, but also points out the far greater richness of baptism – a sacrament that speaks of the sovereign grace of a covenant-making God.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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8 comments

  1. Infant baptism teaches adherents of it to engage in sophism with Scripture and to generally be dishonest with Scripture (sound like what Romanists do?). Stop writing pamphlets about infant baptism, and start humbling yourself to the fact that regeneration is effected, when it is effected, by the Word and the Spirit. You *know* the Romanist practice *defaults* to baptismal regeneration — *and you secretly rest on that fact.* Cross the Tiber or get serious with the Word of God and about what true faith is. What is entrance into the Covenant of Grace? Ritual or regeneration? You *know* you can’t say both. Not publicly anyway. Cast off the sacerdotalist nonsense and become mature men and women of faith.

  2. Whoa, D.T. I’m a baptist, but to jump immediately to sacerdotalism and try to drown them in the Tiber is silly.

    Sorry for the drive by comment, Dr. Clark. Came by via Monergism and the Covenant Radio interview and happened to read this. I’ve had several friends go through WSC and appreciate your blog (secretly at times!)

    Chuck Beem

  3. I just got it in the mail yesterday along with Baptism, Election, & the Covenant of Grace. Just finished BE&CoG and am three chapters in to Holstrom. I benefited grom BE&CoG and am enjoying (if not kicking and screaming) his case thus far…[[not a good place to be as a “Reformed”* Baptist]]

    As for dt’s arguments, yeah sure…Spurgeon biffed it when he accused Ryle of baptismal regeneration too.

    *Yes I know, I know…

  4. Nowhere in the New Testament was anyone baptized who could not and did not confess Christ as the Son of God. An infant can’t do that, therefore an infant is not eligible for baptism.

    • Karen,

      Check out the “household” baptisms in Acts. Then read Acts 2:39. To whom is the promise? To the believers of believers and to their children and to (Gentiles) who are far off, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise.

      Where did God revoke his promise to Abraham in Genesis 17: “I will be a God to you and to your children”?

      On this see:

      http://www.wscal.edu/clark/baptism.php

      See also:

      http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/abraham-was-not-moses/

    • Karen,

      You’ve overlooked one key figure: Jesus of Nazareth. So, there’s…er…at least one. Unless he was confessing himself to himself, which certainly is a possibility but then that seems a bit odd. Indeed, the Matthean account has the Father confess! And then, we ought to consider substantive differences between types of baptism (i.e. repentance, household, individual and voluntaristic). The point is that the issue, at minimum requires a little more intellectual subtlety than you’ve given it here.

      -AEH

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