Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jeremiah 32 and Infant Baptism

Neil Jeffers (who, I understand, leaves Oak Hill today) wrote a good short dissertation in his third year on Jeremiah 32:37-41 and infant baptism, and I've just finished reading it. To understand the relevance, imagine the following (imaginary) conversation between a (reformed) paedobaptist and a (reformed) baptist:

Baptist: Oi, stop baptising babies, where do you get that from in the bible eh?

Paedobaptist: Er, no, I'm not gonna stop. Baptising infants of believers is taught in the bible, so it is.

B: Where?

PB: Well, in that whole covenant thing.

B (since he is a reformed baptist): Covenant? Yeah, I've heard of that. Proceed my good man, how does it establish your bizarre watery practices?!

PB: Well, y'know, that thing about the children of believers being included in the covenant along with their parents, and therefore receiving the covenant sign too - circumcision in the old, baptism in the new.

B (being an amicable fellow): Ah, I see. There's one problem with that...

PB (also being an amicable fellow): What's that then my ole chum?

B: Doesn't Jeremiah 31:31-34 teach that the new covenant is different from the old in some crucial ways, ways which would lead to (so to speak) 'knocking baby-baptism' on the old head?

Now, whilst PB would always have had plenty of responses at this point (such as 'hmmm, to what extent do you think Jeremiah 31 is eschatologically fulfilled?'), Neil Jeffers has ably provided another, and that derived from a parallel 'new covenant' passage in Jeremiah:

PB: Good point my good man. However, I fear that Jeremiah 32: 37-41 speaks of the new covenant and includes the children of believers.

B: (mumbles something about Spurgeon and heads for the hills)

Ok, so it's not as straight-forward as that (and obviously Reformed Baptist's would hardly be conquered by a single text). If you want the arguments in all their exegetical and systematic detail then read Neil's dissertation (sorry if you're reading this and not at Oak Hill and therefore can't).

BTW I love my baptist brethren, John Bunyan was a legend, Piper is an inspiration, etc. etc. etc.


Reuben said...

Oh Peter, Peter, Peter, the zeal of a convert!

Pete said...

Thanks Reuben.

You should read the dissertation.

thebluefish said...

How would one read it?


On the fence but with increasing PB inclinations.

Marc Lloyd said...

Maybe we need to ask Neil to put it up on the interweb?

Pete said...

I'm all up for publishing things on t'internet. How about it Neil?

Other than that, the only other way, Dave, is to come to Oak Hill :). At a more basic level, a good place to start is to read Calvin and others (Turretin?) on baptism, if you haven't already done so.

Pete said...

Maybe u could host Neil's dissertation on your site Marc?

Neil J. said...

I currently have no internet, but hopefully will soon. Maybe I could publish my dissertation in chunks on my blog (if I get one). Perhaps in the next 18 months, it might appear in a journal somewhere?

Gary said...

Maybe the Baptism debate has been approached from the wrong direction. Instead of starting with our disagreements, let's start with what Baptists/evangelicals and orthodox Christians AGREE upon: All persons who believe and have faith in Christ as their Savior should follow his command and be baptized as soon as possible.

So the next question is: Can an infant believe and have faith?

If I can prove to you from Scripture that infants not only can but DO believe and have faith, would you accept infant baptism as Scriptural?