Brothers, We Are Not Baptists

It is possible for someone to have been brought up in a Christian home, who has never known a day when they didn’t know about the Lord Jesus, who have been taught to pray Our Father in Heaven, and have loved being a part of Christ’s church, to be racked with the question, ‘Am I really a Christian?’

I was speaking with someone recently who told me helpfully, ‘there was never a time when I didn’t believe, but there was a time when I didn’t want to believe.’ That is the struggle of faith, of yielding ourselves to Jesus’ Lordship. But that isn’t unbelief.

I sometimes worry that where there has been a stress on a certain type of ‘gospel preaching’ or ‘evangelistic preaching’ that one of the results can be a chronic lack of assurance in its young listeners. It can be that week after week the challenge of ‘do you believe?’, actually leads to doubting: ‘did I really believe this last week?’ It is as if the scab of assurance is picked off every week and in the end it leads to infection; or it’s like digging up a plant each week to see if the roots are growing. Read more»

Paul levy | “Our Children And Assurance” | March 8, 2022


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  1. Here is one instance where there is actually a benefit of coming to faith in Christ as an adult (as I did.) We do know the old life quite well. And we do know the new life in Christ. And we are very, very well aware of the difference. Assurance is true based on God’s word and promise; but we can also say it is true based on our own experience of not having had it in the old life but in having it in the new one.

    Hope that makes sense.

  2. As a Baptist who is a regular reader here, I must confess I am not seeing the reason for the title. How is this position being argued for different than what Baptists would teach? Our differences are not soteriological. As a Baptist pastor, I would say almost exactly what is said here: “Look away from yourself. Look to Jesus.” That is the definition of faith.

    At the same time, I have to think that “Reformed” people would have times of struggle with assurance and the answer is surely found in Scripture: Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith, … Jesus Christ is in you unless you fail the test.

    What do you think I would say different or differently as a Baptist?

    • LT,

      There are 60 million Baptists of various kinds in North America and every single one of them thinks that his experience is normative for all of them. The variety of Baptists is bewildering. I understand that your experience is more like that described by Levy but there are many Baptists who have been raised in a system that begins with the assumption that our children are born unregenerate or that they remain unregenerate through childhood until they have a conversion experience.

      Most Baptists don’t have a covenant theology and none who do have a covenant theology has a Reformed covenant theology. As a consequence they do not treat their children as external members of the covenant of grace, as recipients of the promises of the covenant of grace, signified and sealed in baptism (of course—since no Baptist initiates his children visibly into the covenant of grace; he excludes them visibly from the covenant of grace). Most Baptists are not taught to regard their children as Christians. They are not taught to expect the Holy Spirit to grant them new life and true faith as children or to expect that, of course their children will come to faith quietly, mysteriously as members of the covenant of grace, in the context of covenant nature, in the context of baptism, in the context of the preaching of the gospel, in the context of Christian instruction (catechesis).

      One regularly sees Baptists openly declaring that their children are little unbelievers. E.g.,

      I hope this article will be the final one in a disorganized and rambling mini-series I’ve written about children. I’ve looked at my understanding of what happens to children when they die, and hope today to explain why I assume my young children to be unsaved. This will not be a theological treatise as much as a personal reflection.

      That assumption is not a Reformed assumption. It was that language, that assumption, that way of thinking (which is not a minor theme among Baptists. The person who wrote those words is a major figure in the YRR movement).

      Go back and re-read levy’s words. He’s addressing, at least in part, the same assumption.

      The Baptist regards the New Covenant as more than it is. It’s the new administration of the covenant of grace. It’s not the eschatological (heavenly) reality. It’s still semi-eschatological, as it was for Abraham but without the types and shadows.

      The Baptist, however, breaks the continuity with Abraham and (almost always) turns Abraham into Moses (a covenant of works, as one prominent Baptist writer has repeatedly put it).

      It’s a different reading of redemptive history, a different piety, and a different practice.

    • Thanks for that response. Obviously there is a rather large gap though I don’t think it is where you seem to think it is. I know there are a lot of Baptists who experience is different but that is true of all of us; it’s hardly a Baptist problem alone.

      I won’t respond other than to say that the assumption that children are unregenerate unbelievers from the time that they are born isn’t much of an assumption. That is revelation from God. I have long defended my Presbyterian and Reformed brothers and sisters against charges of Romanism for paedobaptism. But that is based on the assumption, to borrow your word, that children are unregenerate until such time as God’s Spirit regenerates them and they exercise faith. They do not believe that paedobaptism saves a child. Thus, a child is unsaved, unregenerate, unbelieving until such time as they believe. Using the term “conversion experience” is unfortunate, if by it you only mean some abnormal experience. It certainly happens that way for some, but for others–both adults and children–it is not an “experience” per se. They simple realize that they believe. I have contested against some of my Baptist brothers who insist on identifying a moment in time where one crosses the line of faith. I am not sure that exists for all. But Reformed people still believe that a person must have faith to be saved, so they hardly differ from Baptists on that, even if they think paedobaptism does something or gives something to the child that the the child of a Baptist family lacks.

      Nonetheless, I appreciate the answer, as flawed as it seems to me.

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