Turretin Answers Objections To Infant Baptism (4)

IX. (5) Because the children of believers are holy; therefore they ought to be baptized. For since they have the thing signified, they cannot and ought not to be deprived of the sign (Acts 10:47). “The unbelieving wife,” says the apostle, “is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Cor. 7:14). They are called holy, however, not because they are legitimate (as some suppose), because he was not speaking of that and nothing would thus be ascribed to them above the children of unbelievers, who can also be legitimate. But they are said to be holy by a federal holiness (i.e., Christians and belonging to the church). Therefore ἀκάθαρτον and ἅγιον here designate heathen and Christian (in which sense the word קדושה is often used by the Talmudists). “Offspring” is said to be “begotten in holiness” or “out of holiness” (i.e., when the parents were made proselytes or while they were still heathen). The children (τέκνα) of the Gentiles were unclean (ἀκίθαρτα) to them (from Acts 10:28) and of the Jews holy (ἅγιά), to which meaning (well known to the nation) allusion is made.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 3 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1992–1997), 19.20.9 (p. 417–18). [modified according to the 1688 Latin text by the substitution of Greek and Hebrew words for the transliteration in the Dennison edition]

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  1. Paul says nothing here about admission to the sacraments, all of which are partaken of by personal faith, but speaks of accepted participation into the Church of the Christian spouse & her children, who must not be kept out because of the one parent’s lack of faith. Just what participation children without personal faith may be allowed is the present argument, but Paul has not dealt with that here as that is not his subject.

    • Allan,

      You’ve missed the point.

      Turretin’s appeal to 1 Cor 7 is part of a broader, multi-step, argument. He’s addressing the problem of the standing of children. He’s overturning the individualist approach to the external administration of baptism. He’s noting that, for Paul, it is a given that the children of believers are holy. It is from this given that he argues to his conclusion that the unbelieving spouse of a believer is also “holy,” i.e., ritually clean. Paul is addressing the problem of where believers, after they are converted, should remain married to unbelievers. Paul appeals to the OT category of things that are ritually clean as distinct from unclean. He says that both the children of believers are clean as are their (unbelieving) spouses.

      Turretin appeals to this passage because Paul’s way of looking at covenant children is different from that of the (Ana)baptists.

      I address this is the podcast series, “I will be a God to you and to your children.” See http://heidelblog.net/the-heidelcast.

  2. What was the Anabaptist doctrine? (Genuine question). Did they refuse to admit into community a woman whose children were by an unbelieving spouse?

    • Allan,

      Turretin, like Calvin and the rest of the Reformed was drawing an inference from this passage to support a larger case.

      It is rarely easy to speak about “Anabaptist” doctrine since they were radically individualist. Anabaptists did not accept children as “holy” (clean) for the purposes, of baptism, however.

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