Dual Baptism – gospel unity

As an Anglican I have long held to infant baptism (or paedobaptism). But, while I encourage this view, I recognise the differing viewpoint of many of my Baptist brethren who hold to ‘credo baptism’ (the baptism that follows a profession of faith). I have often been encouraged and stirred in my walk with the Lord through believers of Baptist persuasion. It has rarely been a point of real contention.

As I have reflected upon the lack of clarity about baptism in the bible – that is, it isn’t spelt out in any detail as to what is to happen or not happen – it has occurred to me that this itself is part of the sign of the new covenant. To spell it out would have involved law and such legislation will lead to a loss of freedom – that is contrary to the Spirit. One only needs to look at the issues and debates revolving around Jesus’ application of the ‘Sabbath law’ and the debate about ‘circumcision’ to see how that occurred in the old covenant. So it seems to me that the working out of our understanding of baptism in the new covenant is part of the expression of our maturity in Christ. That’s partly why I like the line that Michael Bird point to regarding what he terms the ‘dual-baptism view’. Bird quotes JI Packer from his Concise Theology:

“Christian baptism, which has the form of a ceremonial washing (like John’s pre-Christian baptism), is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:25-27), Spirit-wrought regeneration and new life (Titus 3:5), and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as God’s seal testifying and guaranteeing that one will be kept safe in Christ forever (1 Cor 12:13; Eph 1:13-14). Baptism carries these meaning because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3-7; Col 2:11-12); and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation (1 John 5:11-12). Receiving the sign in faith assures the persons baptised that God’s gift of new life in Christ is freely given to them. At the same time, it commits them to live henceforth in a new way as committed disciples of Jesus.” (Packer, Concise Theology, p 212).

Bruce Ware comments upon this definition declaring that it ‘provides a definition of baptism that any Baptist would relish.’ Ware contributes the Baptist argument in the book ‘Baptism – Three Views, ed D. Wright’ (see footnote p 41 for the quote).

I’ll leave the final word with Michael Bird: “I gravitate toward this dual-baptism view because it allows us to hold together two competing theologies on a nonessential matter of the faith. A dual-baptism position ensures that baptism, a symbol of the gospel, becomes a means of gospel unity rather than an occasion for division in the already-all-too-divided church.” (Bird, Evangelical Theology, p 875.)

Leave a Reply