Can we believe in baptism?

Questions around the meaning and practice of baptism have divided the church, and until recently questions around its importance, its efficacy, and key issues such as the baptism of children have led to heated debate. Stephen Kuhrt, vicar of Christ Church, New Malden, thinks these questions continue to be important.

This led him to the unusual step of revising and expanding his father’s book Believing in Baptism which was a key resource for a previous generation considering these issues. I asked him about the new edition of the book.

IP: Your father’s book on baptism was published over 30 years ago. What impact did it have and why? What made you want to revise and update the book?

SK: The original edition of Believing in Baptism was published in 1987. It made a significant impact being the first book on baptism by an evangelical Anglican for some thirty years—although, like London buses, another arrived at the same time by Michael Green! The success of Believing in Baptism chiefly lay in its careful and thorough treatment of the biblical material and particularly in the seriousness with which it addressed the concerns of Christians of a more baptist persuasion.

My father’s upbringing as a Strict Baptist was critical here and the major emphasis (reflected in the title) upon God’s promises in baptism needing to be received through a response of active faith was especially helpful to those perplexed at how often infant baptism, in particular, is practised without any emphasis upon such faith. In the years after its publication, I met a number of people who expressed their gratitude for how much the book had helped them. Some have even said it played a crucial role in helping them to minister with integrity within the Church of England. The book was less well received by Anglicans who favoured a completely open/indiscriminate approach to baptism and Open Baptism by Mark Dalby was partly written in 1989 to oppose its case.

I was motivated to revise and update Believing in Baptism by several factors. I believe that its essential message is still central to understanding and practicing baptism and the book hasn’t really been replaced by more recent treatments. The revisions were driven by the significant changes that have occurred in the last thirty years. Partly in terms of the cultural ‘landscape’ but also in terms of the very significant developments in biblical theology during these years which I saw as adding considerable weight to the book’s presentation of baptism.

IP: How do you think the ‘landscape’ in thinking about baptism has changed since the first edition of the book?

SK: There is now a much greater recognition than in 1987 that the church is in a missional context. This shift was anticipated within the original edition but thirty years of living through this change has reshaped a good deal of the book, particularly in terms of its more practical sections about implementing baptism in the local church. Much of the recognition of this different context has produced positive results within the church. However, increasing insecurity about the church’s relevance has also worked to prevent questions about baptism being fully engaged with. Debates about baptism can also be seen as insular rather than concerning the very practical issues of ministry and mission. These perspectives were ones that I was keen to challenge.

IP: A number of your perspectives in the book appear to be driven by theological concerns. What new theological insights do you think are now relevant to the practice of baptism?

SK: The major factor in making me want to revise Believing in Baptism was the greater support offered to its thesis by developments in biblical theology over the last thirty years. This particularly went for the scholarship of Tom Wright. I had already written a book on the impact of Tom Wright’s theology upon the local church but saw it as crucial to add his insights to Believing in Baptism. The theme of the covenant, already a strength of the original version, has thus been considerably expanded in the light of Wright’s work. Integrating Wright’s insights on the importance of biblical cosmology (the relationship between heaven and earth) and eschatology (the Christian hope) has also been crucial. The original edition of Believing in Baptism was written in a context where sub-biblical understandings of both heaven and the Christian hope were still largely present leading to sacraments (as well as many other important areas such as holistic mission) making little sense.

These changes are the biggest reason for the book now being three times as long as the original edition and the length of its third and fourth chapters. At points readers may think that the new edition has become a book on the covenant rather than baptism! But this is done because of the conviction that pretty much every misunderstanding of baptism is rooted in a failure to engage with the nature of the covenant narrative that binds the whole of the biblical story together and the cosmology and eschatology underlying and shaping this story. Readers are being encouraged to soak or immerse themselves (do you see what I did there!) within the covenantal theme of the Bible and then see how baptism should be understood in the light of this.

The reason for this approach (in line with that of the first edition) is because, largely unnoticed, many Christians of all traditions still approach baptism with a very flawed methodology. This is often based upon first deciding at what age baptism is appropriate and second, and on the basis of their answer to the first question, deciding what baptism is. This approach is taken by advocates of both infant baptism and believer’s baptism. The book seeks to reverse this process by first seeking to establish the Bible’s perspective on what baptism is and only then turning to the various issues concerning its administration.

IP: You give considerable space to exploring the origins of baptism and the practice of the early church. How confident can we be of aspect of this, and how does this shape our thinking about baptism?

SK: The book is actually very careful not to make historical claims about baptismal practice in the early church. There are other books that seek to take this approach which is not without value. The focus within this book, however, is instead upon the theology of baptism reflected within the New Testament documents and the foundations of this within the Old Testament. We can, I believe, be very confident about establishing the theology of baptism that is presented in the New Testament before, and on this basis, seeking to work out our practice of baptism in the light of this theology. Rather than seeking a uniformity of approach to baptism, the book is trying to establish a greater recognition and consensus from all Christians on the theological basis of baptism.

This is the reason for the presence within the new edition of a narrative introduction and epilogue where six different ministers in the same (fictional) town meet together to discuss and make progress on baptism. Whilst the ministers retain the approach to baptism which safeguards their greatest concerns, they all shift through their dialogue with one another’s positions and the consensus they reach. The narrative here is also seeking to make the issues involved as accessible as possible to readers, particularly those coming from a less theological background and make it easier for them to approach the rest of the book.

IP: Not surprisingly, you address the issue of infant baptism. Is this still an important question in a smaller church where more people are coming to faith later in life?

SK: The book indeed seeks to address infant or family baptism and the host of issues connected with this but only, as emphasised, via a sustained focus on baptism itself. The second edition, like the original, argues that infant/family baptism is appropriate for a child being brought up within the covenant family of God. It argues on the same basis that, within a missional context where people are coming to faith in later life, adult baptism is very often the most appropriate form for it to take.

Matters are made somewhat more complicated, however, by the fact that the path of many adults to (or back to) faith is often influenced by the birth of a child. I have already explored this theme in my 2009 Grove Book Church Growth through the Full Welcome of Children: The Sssh Free Church. When people’s children are born, a whole number of factors occur to make them more open to God and when churches seize the opportunity that this provides the missional implications are vast. Frequently the whole ‘household’ will join the church together with the baptism of its youngest member(s) part of the expression of this faith. The conviction of the book is that God’s ‘best’ is for children to grow up never knowing a time when they didn’t belong to him and continuing making an age appropriate response of faith to their baptism. This is undermined, however, by a great deal of baptismal practice within the church.

This leads to a major theme of the second edition (and particularly its later sections) in its claim that infant baptism is only being practiced with integrity when it goes hand in hand with an absolute commitment on the part of the church to the nurture of baptised children aimed at enabling them to respond to their baptism with a life of faith. Sadly churches with the most ‘open’ approach to baptism are also the least committed to such nurture and the book seeks to show how infant baptism and ‘child friendly church’ belong completely together. This reflects my own attempts to implement this over a number of years at Christ Church New Malden and the book reflects many of practical lessons learned here.

IP: You press the case for baptism as ‘full Christian initiation’. Why do you think this is important, and what difference might it make?

SK: Others have blazed the trail on ‘baptism as full Christian initiation’, most notably Colin Buchanan. The second edition, like the original, is indebted to Colin’s insights on baptism and the courage and clarity with which he has pressed them. The issue is crucial for the full emancipation of baptised children within the church and their status as full rather than provisional members. Lots of brilliant resources are now being produced to encourage child friendly church but the critical issue is the theological one of their status within God’s family.

Once any ambiguity about this is cleared up, the practical steps that need to be taken on the basis of the full membership of baptised children become obvious. Just one of these is infant (as opposed to just child) communion which, unlike the original edition, is also explored in the book. The relevant chapter also responds to the arguments for a distinct ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ or Confirmation being needed to complete initiation and the considerable damage both of these (whether expressed overtly or simply in terms of practice) inflict upon the integrity of baptism. It also has major implications for safeguarding and the present debacle in regard to this within the Church of England – issues I plan to address in another forthcoming book.

IP: Do you sense there is now more or less agreement about baptism across the denominations and traditions?

SK: The influential report of World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry in 1982 did bring a greater measure of consensus to baptism across the churches. A significant development within baptist theology in recent years has been the shift to the more sacramental understanding of baptism reflected by George Beasley-Murray. Anglican thinking, at a theological and liturgical level, has also placed greater emphasis upon the importance of baptism needing an active response of faith. In all of these ways, a pragmatic approach to baptism does seem to be giving way to a more theological one.

However at a popular level, the consensus on baptism is often not to ask searching questions about it. One of the things that prompted me to revise the book is the collusion across very diverse traditions in this regard. Baptists avoid questions about baptism in case infant baptism turns out to have stronger foundations than they are prepared to engage with but also because of the uncomfortable issues it raises about their ecclesiology. Evangelicals and charismatics, including many Anglican ones, avoid questions about baptism in case there turns out to be a greater biblical basis for sacramental theology than they are comfortable with.

Liberal Catholics (and perhaps an increasing number of evangelicals) avoid questions about baptism because families approaching them for this is one of the few times that they feel relevant to the outside world and something they dare not jeopardise through asking questions about what baptism actually is. The book is trying to cut through such avoidance-driven agendas and appeal to all Christians (including my own evangelical Anglican tradition) to be prepared to think again on baptism and realise its huge and very practical implications for ‘doing church’ differently in the light of the biblical material concerning it.

IP: What other important issues concerning baptism does the book seek to address?

SK: Within this overall approach, issues of efficacy (what, if anything, baptism brings about), discrimination within baptism and rebaptism are also addressed. Just as significant, however, are those very practical sections of the new edition that, expanding upon the original version, address how the church should teach and live out baptism. It also seeks to address issues of Christian parenting in the light of baptism. Like other things that I have written, the book is trying to integrate biblical theology with the very practical issues of how to be and do church in a local setting and, in this case, the paramount importance of baptism to shaping and directing this calling.

IP: Thanks very much for your time, Stephen—and for all the thinking that you have done that has gone into this important book.


Stephen Kuhrt has been Vicar of Christ Church since April 2007, having been curate there since 2003. Stephen loves cricket, watching films of the 1930’s and 40’s, reading about history and anything to do with Robin Hood. He is married to Katie and they have three children. Stephen has a particular passion for finding ways to implementing the insights of fresh biblical scholarship within church life, particularly in mission, and has written a number of books, including Grove booklets on church growth through welcoming children, using film to minister to and reach older people, and developing a social mission project in the local church.


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181 thoughts on “Can we believe in baptism?”

  1. I’m first again to comment. This must stop.

    on a light note. While reading this I had the impression that different traditions are like franchises on the railway. 1. Get on a Baptist train and wait for the conductor to issue a ticket or, 2. Get a ticket first then get on an Anglican train, pay the extra on arrival.

    Two verses pop into mind: Mark 10:38 ‘ “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” ‘
    and 1Peter 3:21 ‘and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[b] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,’
    Baptism is a sacrement, maybe like getting a ticket somehow to travel, but to me it is more like signing away your rights before embarking on a risky adventure.

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,
      Jesus’s baptism in Mark 10:38, as some commentators point out, is perhaps a reference to his baptism of suffering on the cross. And Peter in 1 Peter 3, I suggest, has in mind the rebellion of the “sons of Gods” in Genesis 6:1–4 and the subsequent flood—and that baptism is the NT believers’ pledge (eperōtēma–not “appeal”) of loyalty (syneidēseōs–not “conscience”) to the only true God—as Michael Heiser argues, Unseen Realm, 335–339.

      Reply
      • Hi Colin,

        I do believe Jesus was referring to his coming suffering on the cross. When we identify in baptism are we not agreeing to share the same suffering and resurrection?

        1 Peter draws the parallel between Jesus death and resurrection and Noah’s. The wicked were swept away in Noah’s day. Jesus is a type of Ark in which we go through the flood in safely.

        I think the ‘sons of God’ were not some supernatural race of angels but simply the descendants of Adam through Cain. I don’t think bringing them into a blog about baptism is relevant here.

        Baptism is shorthand for what the whole human race will go through. It’s not a quaint ritual like a masonic handshake; it is the ultimate method of identity, to agree to die to the world like Noah did, like Jesus did, and to rise again.

        The baptism of the Holy Spirit prefigures the baptism of fire the world will suffer. Only what remains on the Foundation Stone will not be burned up.

        Reply
  2. I have not read Stephen’s book (I have just ordered it) but he is surely correct to say that the key to the issue lies in our theology of covenants.

    Certainly N.T. Wright believes that the NT is a “covenant renewal” —the problem with this is that the NT does not describe the covenant it outlines as a covenant renewal, describing it instead as a new covenant. I think most of us would be disappointed if we traded our old car in for a brand-new car and the garage wheeled out to us our old car simply “renewed.”

    What is more, Jeremiah 31:32 tells us the new covenant is going to be “not like” the Mosaic Covenant (contra Calvin, Institutes 2.10.2). And although most Bibles carry their subheading about this new covenant on Jeremiah 31:31—I suggest the description of the new covenant starts at verse 29—where he cites a Hebrew proverb about sins not being passed from father to son. In other words, it seems Jeremiah is saying that the new covenant (unlike the Mosaic Covenant) was not going to pass through a consanguineous line.

    Reply
  3. The Mosaic Covenant being based on consanguinity excluded the Gentiles—it seems to follow that that covenant was not a fulfilment of the promise to Abraham where “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). In order to reach out to “all the families of the earth” and thus fulfil the Abrahamic promise, the new covenant has to have a different basis to the Mosaic Covenant?

    Ephesians tells us about it. The inclusion of the Gentiles— ‘the two [Jew and Gentile] shall become one’ (count how many times he says it) —but how? The author tells us in the climax of the letter, in Ephesians 5:31-32. He says “Genesis 2:24 = Christ and the church”:

    “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” [this is Genesis 2:24 from the LXX]. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

    The Genesis 2:24 union is a non-consanguineous union formed by means of a volitional covenant where the wife is “counted as” being in her husband’s family (often in Western culture taking his name). This enables the church to come to the bridegroom Messiah, who is declared to be the seed of Abraham, and thus enter into the Abrahamic promise (Galatians 3:14, 16) —“counted as” being in his family. Thus Romans 9:8: “This means that it is not the children of the flesh [as per the Mosaic Covenant , cf John 1:13] who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”

    Unfortunately, many (virtually all?) commentators (including Greg Beale) have confused the union in Genesis 2:24 with Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:23 and therefore misunderstand, I believe, what the Ephesians author is saying. It is interesting that the basis of the two great covenants in the Bible lie in two adjacent verses—especially as Genesis 2:24 is out of sequence in the story?

    Reply
    • Your assertion that Genesis 2:24 is ‘out of sequence’ seems surprising to me. It starts with ‘al-ken in Hebrew and ἕνεκεν τούτου in LXX which seem to express a pretty clear link between this verse and its predecessor.

      Reply
      • Hi David,

        Out of sequence in that it presupposes parents and a post-Fall situation. Some text critics have suggested it is a later addition – that is not my view. The Ephesians author reads a stunning sensus plenior into it.

        Reply
  4. 1. Getting children “done” may no longer be the done thing in society as an “insurance policy” but a former Circuit Superintendent in the Methodist Church was shunned, almost hounded out of town, for refusing to “christen” a child, correctly in my view.

    2. A Few years ago, I followed an on-line debate between Andrew Wilson and a Presbyterian minister (Kevin de Jong , I think). I hope I’m not getting this wrong, but I think Andrew Wilson’s conclusion was that infant baptism within the church community showed a better theology of children, but believers baptism was a better theology of baptism.

    3. A main question is at what point or stage does one become a member, or part of the new covenant community, the church, and to partake of the covenant meal. Is a child a partial member who becomes a full member on profession of belief, following confirmation classes?

    4. Unless I missed it, there doesn’t seem to have been any or much mention of the theology of “sprinkling, poring” or full immersion, though that discussion seems to form part of the covenant discussion, whether there is continuity (renewal) of covenant – circumcision being the most significant covenant people sign in this regard, or a discontinuity (with a new covenant) with an equivalent “circumcision of the heart”.

    5. Would the CoE carry-out a full immersion baptism, representative of death and resurrection to new life, at the request of an unchurched new adult believer?

    6. To me it is the symbolism of full immersion of a believer, from death of the old life, raised up to resurrected new life, that carries the greatest theological weight.

    7. But more needs to be said about this: it is Jesus who baptises in the Holy Spirit – where does that fit with water baptism at any age and any manner?

    8. Last, in what ways does the Christian theology of baptism differ from baptism by Jehovah Witnesses. Compare and contrast. To do so might center the Christian theology of new covenant community.

    Reply
    • Hi Geoff. Thank you for these interesting comments. Responses to two if I may.
      I agree that full immersion baptism is a vivid symbol. But this aspect of it is nowhere emphasised or given significance. Nor are any actual examples found in the NT. And I doubt for example, that the jailer and his family were fully immersed in the middle of the night by Paul. I assume he used whatever water was to hand – so most likely pouring. So I do not see how full immersion can be said to carry ‘theological weight’.
      Secondly, there are many CofE churches that baptise adults by immersion.

      Reply
      • On full immersion…

        I’m not entirely convinced that the normal “modern” practice is entirely consistent with past. Visiting church ruins at Ephesus some years ago the “baptism pool” was incapable of being used to manhandle someone backwards into the water. It was too small. On the other hand the couple of steps down into it and the couple out on the opposite side were far more suited to the water being poured over a standing candidate.

        Reply
      • Thanks David,
        1. I’m not inventing this, as I’ve seen it somewhere, but the death to life symbolism can be seen as as an echo of the Hebrews going down into the red sea (the waters of Judgment) and raised up on the other side, a type of baptism. Similarly there was the crossing the river Jordan from old to new.
        2 Theological weight.
        I’d suggest there are allusions here that would thinly apply, if at all to poring; it seems to be redolent of full immersion;
        redolent of union with Christ of a believer – what could much more theological weight?:
        2.1 Romans 6
        “1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

        5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

        2.2 Colossians 2
        “11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

        3 Points suggestive of immersion.
        3.1 Baptism in Mark;
        Mark 1:5 John baptised people “in” the Jordan.
        Mark 1:10 Jesus came up out of the water.
        3.2 Philip’s baptism of the eunuch- they both went down into the water and both came up out of the water

        4 Thanks, David, for confirmation that there could be full immersion adult baptism in the CoE (presumably before a confirmation service, if that still takes place today.

        Reply
    • Not sure how “better theology of children” applies here. Read all but still uncertain if it is right or wrong to baptise children. You say Baptism is a “symbolism of full immersion of a believer, from death of the old life, raised up to resurrected new life, that carries the greatest theological weight.” Are you saying that it is just that, a symbol and carries no sacramental weight?

      Reply
  5. The book “Caesar and the Sacrament: Baptism as an Act of Resistance” (Cascade) covers the radical nature of baptism as allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord in its first century context. Sacrament was not originally a “Christian” term, military one that spoke of a soldier’s pledge or oath of loyalty to Caesar. Christ followers borrowed it an applied it to baptism as an act of fidelity to Jesus, not Caesar as Lord.

    You can listen to an hour long interview on the subject at OnScript podcast.

    Reply
  6. The problem with infant baptism is that it is often arranged by a family, most or all of whom, are not actual believers but rather do it out of ‘tradition’. My brother got his two baptised, yet neither he nor his wife are Christians – they clearly did it out of tradition in a country (not the UK) where it is even more a tradition than here, particularly as most citizens pay a ‘tax’ to the state church. Ironically that country is probably one of the most secular in the world. The only time they enter a church building is for baptisms, confirmations, weddings & funerals. Clergy grasp at the idea that baptisms etc might draw people into the church, but that clearly isnt the case.

    Reply
    • PC1. Well it is possible to work with a policy so open and unquestioning that it communicates no faith or challenge and makes no demands. But it is also possible to operate a policy so prescriptive and tightly defined that it simply alienates genuine enquirers seeking to understand but a very demanding time in their lives – a young family. I tried to offer an open policy (but certainly never left the arranging of baptism to the family (which is fatal). Indeed I know few clergy who do in this country. Because I was willing to trust God’s grace was at work in drawing them I could both welcome them and also challenge them and ask them to take time to prepare and deepen understanding. I saw families come to faith this way.

      Reply
      • David,
        Your last sentence answers a question I didn’t ask but thought when reading Peter’s comment. Coming to faith is key.
        A Methodist minister friend, took the view that he would baptise children of unchurched, unbelieving parents as the whole process including prior baptism lessons and the service and sermon would expose them to the Gospel of Jesus, and the church family that they would otherwise not have come across. And only God knows how that will play out in their lives down the years.
        In short, he saw it as an evangelistic opportunity.
        In those circumstances where the child is welcomed into the church, and not knowing any of the baptism party, while I would certainly take part in the device, I would be unable in all conscience to give a vow in respect of the child.

        Reply
  7. I haven’t read Stephen’s new book and I look forward to doing so. As a committed ‘baptist’ (not by denomination but by theological conviction…) I very gained a great deal from his father’s book but felt it was rather skewed by his strict baptist and therefore largely anti-sacramental upbringing and it read a bit like: believe this if you aren’t a Zwinglian. Since then of course Everett Ferguson’s big book on baptism has been a key publication since that no later writer can ignore (I hope to find…) – his explanation of the origins and development of infant baptism in later centuries seems to me obviously right. As do his suggestions on immersion addressing concerns raised in the comments here.

    The heart of the matters in dispute between evangelical believers are four: First is Col 2.11-15 able to bear the weight that covenant theology needs it to given that the most obvious parallel between baptism and circumcision in the text is nothing to do with some complex covenant theology but simply that both involve the cutting off of the flesh; I know there are other covenantal texts but the case really really needs this one and injecting it with some huge covenant theology is optimistic.

    Secondly what is the place of faith in baptism? Perfectly sensible evangelicals who believe that faith is essential to salvation, faced with the alternatives of baptismal regeneration (the doctrine of the CofE – Art XXVII) or Zwinglianism end up developing a doctrine of proxy faith where one person makes promises faith for another and on that basis they are ‘in the covenant’. To my mind this is simply to flush the doctrine of justification by grace through faith down the pan.

    Third theological proportion – how can the CofE (or any other church) discipline leaders who reject an extremely debatable and dubiously biblical practice like infant baptism yet not discipline people who deny a realist God, the incarnation, the atoning death of Jesus and his bodily resurrection? I’m not asking for some narrow separatist agenda – merely a robust defence of creedal faith and a sense of theological proportion.

    Fourth – if we didn’t have infant baptism already, who would make it up now? 1 Cor 7.12-16 shows that Paul the apostle has a perfectly good category for the unbaptised members of a family – partners and children – they are ‘holy’ (not to be separated from/welcome) but not (yet) saved. That’s a very practical way of working with ‘semi-churched’ families and there’s simply no need to start splashing water around until people are ready.

    Reply
    • In response to Mark’s points:
      I have to admit I haven’t encountered Everett Ferguson’s big book. Apologies! I’ll try to engage with if a third edition ever appears…
      (1) Covenant theology in regard to baptism doesn’t simply rest on Colossian 2 but a covenantal narrative of the entire Bible – that’s why, unlike other books on baptism, this one tries to gives loads of space to understanding the covenant in its own right before turning back to examine baptism in the light of it. This is why Cpts 3 and 4 of the revised book are so long and could be seen as rather too much of a digression on the covenant. This is done because I think that, for all sorts of reasons other than just baptism, we need to do far more work on the covenant if we are going to interpret the New Testament correctly. For one thing it makes it far less escapist – it’s interesting that one of the other posts here still refers to ‘getting to heaven’ as the goal of the Christian life. Until we firstly reject that as an adequate summary of the Christian hope, we will remain totally stuck on baptism and loads of other issues as well.
      (2) The book makes it clear that God’s promises in baptism need to be received by faith. Gorham not Phillpotts! It spends time on the language of Article XXVII which (however it is often read) in the context of the whole approach of the prayer book to baptism is saying that baptism is complete in terms of (outward) validity but conditional in terms of (spiritual) efficacy. We take this approach with a marriage acting on the basis of the marriage being valid once the wedding service takes place but the marriage actually being conditional on the couple then living together and consummating the marriage. No one questions whether the couple are properly married after their service but we are nonetheless assuming and expecting a proper response to its conditions.
      (3) I agree that discipline in the C of E is rubbish on all sorts of levels. It is just one of the reasons why we are so dreadful at safeguarding. I am just finishing another book on this at the moment.
      (4) Infant baptism makes total sense to those who wants to raise their children in the faith. I’ve tried to bring up all three of my children (now 23, 23 and 17) as Christians within the family of the church responding at every stage of their life with age-appropriate faith. I thank God that all three of them are committed Christians have never know a time when they weren’t part of God’s family responding to his promises with faith. My youth Minister, Nathan Larkin was a Baptist and he preached on this very subject this Sunday in terms of his young daughter whom he and his wife (also a former Baptist) decided to have baptised and used the Susuki method as an extended illustration of his thinking here. He also talked about the pressure upon him as a young person to have a conversion story when, in reality, he had never not believed in Jesus and wanted to follow him – something I have heard other baptist say has been expected of them. Here is the link to the talk… interested to hear your response to it.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbkdKIDh87s&t=1514s

      The question of the status of the children is a crucial one to me and, I believe that uncertainty over this status is much more related to the current safeguarding scandals within the church than people realise. A big part of the book is arguing that the Church of England doesn’t really believe in infant baptism because if it did we would have a very different church.

      Reply
      • Stephen

        Thanks for your kindness in replying. I really am looking forward to reading what you have to say and at your suggestion will pay particular interest in chapters on covenant. I need to go away and raise my mortgage limit first (!) then I can get to it.
        I suppose starting with heavyweight covenantal theology always makes me a bit nervous – I’m sympathetic to the themes and ideas but usually feel a bit like a sheep being herded by a broad but narrowing funnel towards the sheep dip (ironically…) of accepting infant baptism. My point is that without all this preparatory heavy weight theological work no one is actually going to buy it on a plain reading of the NT baptism passages and to me all this covenant stuff usually just reads like (sophisticated) special pleading.

        We can (I hope) all agree that baptism in the NT is essentially missionary baptism. Kids growing up in church therefore pose a dilemma for all of us. The move to a more missional mode has made baptism (often by immersion) more prominent. There’s a lovely photo on the cover of David Goodhew’s Towards a Theology of Church Growth with the (now) two Archbishops joyfully baptising a teenage lad. Lovely. But am I the only one to see the irony of the speech bubble that ought to hang above their heads: ‘Lucky our lot didn’t get to this one when he was little or we couldn’t be having all this fun’?

        I listened to the Susuki analogy – and much of this we can all sign up for. Let’s bring our kids up in the faith. Our three go to church despite rather than because of us and we remain grateful to the Lord for his mercy in this respect, praying that they will continue to walk in the grace of God. Two were baptised as young-ish teenagers, the other came back from their first term at University and said words to the effect: ‘I know I believe this for my self now, I want to get baptised.’ We didn’t allow them to take Communion before baptism. They moaned a bit when their peers partook for various reasons. Afterwards they graciously said ‘You did the right thing’.

        The question is not whether we bring our kids up in the faith to the best of our ability (and trusting in the grace of God above all else). The question is where is baptism in this? I’m tempted to ask: When are Susuki’s children ‘violinists’? From day one? When they got a certificate? Are they still violinists if they give up after two years? But the problem with the analogy is that is breaks down at exactly the crucial point: an educational analogy is only valid post-baptism when assumed status is affirmed and the process of formation/sanctification etc. is ongoing. BUT BAPTISM IS NOT A CONFIRMATORY ACT – it is part of conversion-initiation, it is CHANGE OF STATUS act (as CoFE baptism doctrine and liturgy clearly states). In this respect I’m against both infant baptism and some Baptist ‘baptism as a-stage-on-the-way’ theology. If we are not to end up either with baptismal regeneration nor Zwinglianism, both of which have well-rehearsed problems, then we must accept that what makes baptism valid is the faith of the participant (cf. communion). Implication: Do what you want with kids and use the trinitarian name and use as much water as you like. It’s not baptism.

        That doesn’t mean that I’m into herding people into having their own ‘Road to Damascus’ story, but that is just a caricature. (And it’s deep deep irony that an ex-baptist could complain of being railroaded into ‘having a conversion story’ when a sleeping child can have water splashed on them and be welcomed into the church and kingdom of Christ whilst they snore with no participatory volition at all. Some people just can’t see themselves in the mirror.) Most that I hear have subtle stories of how God led them to the point of saying: ‘I want to turn from my sins and confess Jesus as Lord’. That is simply not reproduced in infant baptism and it is so much closer to the theology and practice of the NT that I’m just not convinced that any covenant theology can ever rescue me from the pivotal conviction of its utter biblical, theological and pastoral superiority to the alternatives. But I’ll let you try to convince me otherwise. Cheers.

        Reply
        • I guess one of the points that I want to make in response to this is that I see very young children all the time responding in faith to God’s promises to them in their baptism. I’ve built a whole church service around this – we call it ‘Sssh Free Church’ because the sshing and tutting of children is banned (my first Grove Book was on this service) and we have stacks of kids there growing in their Christian faith with wonderful enthusiasm that brings an enormous amount of joy to our church. There are different – age appropriate ways – of responding in faith and I’m reluctant (to put it mildly) to write off the youngest versions of this. I’m currently trying to develop a covenant theology for four year olds in six-seven minute videos all with the aim of encouraging their growth in faith. Some of these children may fall away as they get older but so do plenty of people who get baptised when they are older. I’m not particularly trying to convince baptists to change their practice (particularly given how many bad examples of infant baptism without any emphasis upon faith are prevalent) but I am hoping that baptists will recognise that infant baptism can and is practiced with integrity and within a completely missional context as well. I’ll be particularly interested in what you make of the new narrative introduction and epilogue for the book which tries to draw out the strengths and weaknesses in all the positions on baptism and appeal to all Christians to learn from each others insights on baptism.

          Reply
      • I would make the following comments:

        1) The covenant is between God and those who believe. Babies, whether from Christian parents or not, may grow up and become believers or not become believers. My parents were not Christians yet I became one at age 19. They did not have me baptised as a baby (showing their own integrity) and i subsequently was baptised as a believer.

        2) If God’s promises in baptism ‘need to be received by faith’, is it not more logical to wait until the two coincide. It actually makes something of a mockery of God’s promises at the time of baby baptism if that baby never does come to faith. I would also point out that every single example of baptism in the NT explicitly links it as an outward symbol of belief. Belief comes first, then baptism NOT the other way around!

        I also find your wedding analogy odd. Surely the obvious missing point is that in marriage, both parties are fully aware of what they are doing and being asked to do, what promises they are making. That is hardly true of infant baptism.

        4) Infant baptism does not make total sense to those who want to raise their children in the faith. Many Christians reject it as in the NT there is an explicit link between baptism and belief of the person being baptised. In fact it can become a deep disappointment to believing parents when their baptised children grow up and state they do not believe. It would seem the baptism actually meant very little to their kids, but more the ‘thing to do’ for their parents. Having your baby baptised is irrelevant to bringing your children up in a church.

        Peter

        Reply
  8. “infant baptism is only being practiced with integrity when it goes hand in hand with an absolute commitment on the part of the church to the nurture of baptised children aimed at enabling them to respond to their baptism with a life of faith.”

    If the proviso for enabling baptised infants to respond with a life of faith is “the absolute commitment on the part of the church to the nurture of baptised children”, then any church’s lack of such commitment can frustrate the life of faith.

    In contrast, John 1:13 declares that human decision (including the lack of nurture) cannot frustrate (I.e. render ineffectual) the new birth and consequent life of faith.

    So, I’m not convinced that covenant theology can resolve this incongruence between infant baptism and the new birth, as scripture describes it.

    Reply
    • David, you say “So, I’m not convinced that covenant theology can resolve this incongruence between infant baptism and the new birth, as scripture describes it.”

      I agree. Or rather that Anglican and WCF covenant theology cannot resolve this mismatch between scripture and practice. On this I think the 1689 Baptist confession was right—the promise to Abraham was fulfilled in the new covenant—thus the Mosaic Covenant concept of covenantal inclusion based on a blood line did not come through to the new covenant. In my comments above I suggest that this is the clear teaching of Jeremiah, John, Galatians, Ephesians, and Romans (for example).

      Reply
  9. “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church…..”
    What does this statement (from the Book of Common Prayer Infant Baptism service) mean? Is it ‘sacramentally true’ but not true in some other sense?

    Nowhere in the Anglican Formularies is there any equivalent to the words in chapter 28 of the Westminster Confession:

    V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,[13] yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it:[14] or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.[15]
    VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;[16] yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.[17]

    Reply
    • Hello Phil,
      That is where I part from the theology of infant baptism as set out above by you.
      The “efficacy” of Baptism does not confer salvation, nor future certainty of it.
      I do not see where that follows in scripture, even in covenant theology.
      It is not akin to being “baptised into Moses”. Not all covenant people of God were saved.
      As David Shepherd shows, it does not compute with personal believing in Jesus Christ, being born from above. That would appear to contradict the reformed maxim that scripture does not contradict scripture.
      Infant baptism even within a believing community is not an insurance policy that it will ensure adult fidelity.
      There must be numerous examples to the contrary.
      John Piper, writes this:
      “Millions of people have been taught that their baptism caused them to be born again. If it is not true, it is a great and global tragedy. I do not believe it is true. So what then does Jesus mean by the words “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit…”?
      He continues with reasons:
      1 If it it referred to water baptism it drops out of the picture in the rest of the chapter.
      2 Jesus tells us how to have eternal life in verse 15 and 16, by believing in him
      3 baptism is not mentioned as essential alongside faith in the rest of the chapter.
      4 verse 8 analogy to wind blowing wherever it comes or goes…”so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This weighs heavily against the argument that regeneration is in effect “confined by ( and to – my addition to Piper) the sacrament” (of water baptism).
      4 Jesus in effect rebukes Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel in v10 for lack of understanding, he who would know what is taught in the OT. It is highly improbable that Jesus is referring to what subsequently became known as Christian baptism.
      5 v 10 sends us back to the OT for understanding.
      5.1 water and Spirit are closely linked to the New Covenant Promises
      5.2 especially Ezekiel 36 Jesus claims to secure the New Covenant by his blood, for all who will trust in him (Luke 22:20)
      5.3 Ezekiel 36: 24 -28 is one version of New Covenant promises
      5.4 Ezekiel 36: 24 – 28
      Cleaning, giving a new heart, and putting in a new spirit, putting my Spirit within you removing a heart of stone, of flesh, to walk in God’s statutes and obey.., so that, ” you shall be my people and I will be your God.”
      5.5 Another New Covenant Promise of central relevance is Jeremiah 31: 31-34.
      Piper continues …” The ones who will “enter the kingdom”, are those who have a newness that involves the Cleansing of the old And a Creation of the new.” (Comment – here Piper demonstrate the continuity of the old and discontinuity in of the new.)
      …” forgiveness and cleansing are not enough. I need to be new. I need to be transformed. I need life. I need a new way of seeing and thinking and valuing.”
      A new heart, His Spirit within.
      From, “Finally Alive” John Piper

      Reply
      • Geoff
        I was really trying to get Anglicans to comment on my post. Are you an Anglican? as I see it the Westminster Confession gets it right.
        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • The Anglican tradition is much closer to Orthodoxy than the Westminster Confession tradition. The emphasis is not on what the person does in baptism, but on what God does.

          In terms of the question why baptise an infant as opposed to an adult as infants don’t know what is going on. Well that’s pretty easy. We wouldn’t think of withholding some kind of routine inoculations from an infant because they didn’t understand. We wouldn’t dream of waiting until they wanted to ask for it themselves. So unless you are wanting to claim that God doesn’t do anything in baptism……..

          In terms of personal response, I think this statement is absolutely right: Of course Baptism demands a personal response on the part of the baptised child when it reaches the age of reason. The child must accept what God did for him or her in Baptism. Baptism is not a divine pass that will get us into Heaven automatically. It must be followed by a personal awareness or awakening to the many gifts of God’s love bestowed upon us through this great sacrament.

          Reply
        • Article XXVII evidences belief that spiritual regeneration is effected through baptism; especially the last sentence, which refers to infant baptism as being “agreeable to the institution of Christ”.

          So much has this been the case that it was the basis for disciplinary action against a clergyman, Rev. George Gorham: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Cornelius_Gorham

          In that case, the Court of Arches actually decided in favour of Bishop Philpott, an appeal to the Judicial Committee succeeded in reversing that decision. As a result, Gorham’s was reinstated as vicar in the Brampford Speke benefice.

          The Gorham judgment made a significantly different and far more reasonable case for infant baptism than any biblical case, especially in comparing the absolute declarations of baptismal hope in Christ with the absolute declarations of Christian hope of resurrection during the Service of Burial.

          ”It seems to be properly said that the received formularies cannot be held to be evidence of faith or of doctrine, without reference to the distinct declarations of doctrine in the Articles, and to the faith, hope, and charity by which they profess to be inspired or accompanied; and there are portions of the Liturgy which it is plain cannot be construed truly without regard to these considerations.”

          “For the proof of this, the instance which seems to be most usually cited, and which is conclusive, is the Service for the Burial of the Dead. So far as our knowledge and powers of conception extend, there are, and must be, at least some persons not excommunicated from the Church, who, having lived lives of sin, die impenitent-nay, some who perish and die in the actual commission of flagrant crimes; yet, in every case in the Burial Service, as the earth is cast upon the dead body, the priest is directed to say, and doth say, “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, of his great mercy, to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to ternal life:” and thanks are afterwards given-“For that it hath pleased Almighty God to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world;” and this is followed by a Collect in which it is prayed ”that when we shall depart this life we may rest in God, as our hope is that this our brother doth.”

          “The hope here expressed us the same “sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life” which stated immediately after the expression, it “hath pleased Almighty God, of his great mercy, to take to himself the soul of our brother here departed.””

          “In this service, therefore, there are absolute expressions implying positive assertions; yet it is admitted that they cannot be literally true in all cases, but must be construed in a qualified or charitable sense-justified, we may believe, by a confident hope and reliance that the expression is literally true in many cases, and may be true even in the particular case in which to us it seems improperly applied.”

          This, then, is the orthodox Anglican understanding: that despite the positive assertions declared in baptism not being literally true in all cases, they should be construed in a qualified or charitable sense.

          Reply
          • Ah Brampford Speke…..really lovely pub there..and quite a nice church, where lots of infant baptisms go on.
            The ‘orthodox Anglican’ understanding is indeed very close to the Orthodox understanding.

        • Philip. Greetings. I understand you to believe, from previous postings, that all humanity is born under condemnation and destined for eternal hell unless saved by Christ. Can you clarify your understanding of how a baby can be saved and the place of baptism in this (or not) please? Genuine question. Thanks.

          Reply
          • Hi David
            I presume that you are asking how a baby that dies before developing faculties for repentance and faith can be saved? If such a baby is saved, whether baptised or not, that baby is saved because that baby is among the elect of God, born from above of the Spirit and saved by the blood of Christ who has borne in Christ’s atoning death that baby’s condemnation that baby’s Original Sin deserved.
            Phil Almond

          • I think that doctrine is as grotesque as sending unbaptized babies to Limbo.

            Something might be grotesque and also be true, you know.

          • Penelope
            You think the doctrine is grotesque because you don’t believe that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards; in other words you don’t believe what Paul wrote in Romans 5:12-21and Ephesians 2.
            Phil Almond

          • I believe we all bear original sin – the capacity for evil and cruelty.
            I do not believe that we all bear the wrath and condemnation of God unless we believe and behave correctly.
            That makes God’s unbearable grace a mere contract.
            Even worse the doctrine that He chooses which baptised infants are elect and regenerate and which are not.

          • Penelope
            And what is your detailed exegesis of passages which talk about predestination. Especially Romans 9?
            Phil Almond

          • Penelope
            Your reply ‘Original sin’ is not detailed. From Romans 5:12-21what do you understand ‘Original sin’ to be?

            Phil Almond

          • Penelope
            You are still not doing any detailed exegesis of Romans 5:12-21. Detailed exegesis takes the passage verse by verse and expounds the meaning.

            Phil Almond

          • No, I’m not Phil. Sorry, I have other things to do. And have explained what I mean by original sin, with reference to the BCP.

          • Penelope

            I hope and pray that you will sometime study Romans 5:12-21 and come to see that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards because of Adam’s sin.
            I also point out in connection with my grotesque doctrine that some reformed theologians believe that all infants who die before committing actual sin are among the elect of God. See

            https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/does-the-bible-teach-an-age-of-accountability/

            for a considered view.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil

            Thanks. I’ve read Romans. I just have neither the time nor the inclination to embark upon an exegesis of chapter 5 in a comment thread.

            Nor would I go to the gospel coalition for a considered view on anything. But that’s just me.

          • Not just you Penny. They present a very particular view, and hardly a comprehensive or considered one.

          • Ha! I didn’t see you as an avid follower of the gospel coalition.

            One of the problems, it seems to me, with some forms of Protestantism is that they share, with some forms of Catholicism, a semi-Pelagian view of salvation.

            Christ’s fauthfulness is not enough; believers must demonstrate the correct beliefs and responses in order for their souls to be saved and to go to heaven. This makes of faith (the faith of the believer), a kind of ‘works righteousness’, just the thing which Luther protested against. Ironically.

            This leaves little for God to do, the autonomous believer strenuously saves themself.

          • Penelope
            Re your October 30, 2020 at 3:18 pm post.

            When we come to believe that the God and Christ of the Bible are real and that the Bible is their self-disclosure, who they are, what they are like, what we are like, how we can be saved, what they command, what they promise, what they forbid, what they warn us against, how they want to change us, who our enemies are, how they want us to worship them, how they want us to relate to other people, how they want us to tell other people about them – we want to understand and believe as much as we can about that self-disclosure so that we might worship, adore, obey, speak and love in ways that please God and Christ. We know that our salvation in its entirety, our election, calling, repentance, faith, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, obedience and glorification is entirely the work and grace of the triune God. We know that when we have done all these things we continue to realise that we are unprofitable servants and have merely done our duty.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil

            I don’t want to be snide, truly, but I knew most of that when I was seven.
            There wasn’t a time when I believed Christ wasn’t real.
            Unfortunately, there was rather too much emphasis on how we can be saved, and not enough on God’s prodigal grace.

          • Penelope

            Thanks for your reply. It would me to understand your point of view if you felt able to expand on “Unfortunately, there was rather too much emphasis on how we can be saved, and not enough on God’s prodigal grace.”

            And I wonder whether you feel able to acknowledge that your Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2020 at 3:18 pm post is wide of the mark. People like me and The Gospel Coalition don’t believe we must “demonstrate the correct beliefs and responses in order for their souls to be saved and to go to heaven” – as I tried to explain in my last post.

            And I wonder whether you agree that part of what you rightly describe as “God’s prodigal grace” is that in the Bible he has given us a wholly trustworthy self-disclosure?

            Phil Almond

          • Phil

            In that case how do you explain your hope, oft expressed, that ministers preach the ‘correct’ doctrine of the Fall and the atonement?
            Genuine question.

          • Penelope

            I pray and hope that all ministers will preach the Biblical doctrine of the Fall and the terrible warnings in the Bible to flee from the wrath to come (not least the warnings from Christ’s own lips) not because I want them to “demonstrate the correct beliefs and responses in order for their souls to be saved and to go to heaven” but because the gospel has two essential components when taught and preached faithfully: those terrible warnings and the wonderful sincere invitations to all people to submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection: to submit in repentance, faith, love and obedience, to embrace the promises “in such wise, as they are generally set forth to us in holy Scripture” as Article 17 puts it. Because this is what all ministers are called to do publicly, and what all Christians are called to do in their personal witness – in a word to be faithful to the self-disclosure God has given us in the Bible, about our terrible fallen condition and about his wonderful invitation to be saved: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”.

            Phil Almond

          • Penelope
            Because, I should have added, I pray and hope that all people living now will heed the warnings and submit to Christ, including those I dearly love who are now outside of God’s Kingdom.
            Phil Almond

          • Thank you Phil.

            I have no doubt that you believe that with the utmost conviction and sincerity.
            However, this is not the only interpretation of the Fall and the atonement held by the Church. There are others.
            You hope people will hold fast to yours because you believe it is the correct one to adhere to in order that we might be saved.
            I hope my salvation lies in the faithfulness of Christ not on my faith in Christ.

          • Penelope
            Thank you for your gracious reply.

            I am going to continue this exchange (with Ian’s assumed permission – until he tells me to stop, or until you say you have had enough) because although we have wandered away from baptism (the theme of the thread) I consider the issues raised of supreme importance, and also because I am not sure I am being fully understood – my lack of clarity no doubt!

            What is, the truth, the doctrine, of the Fall. What does the Bible say about the Fall and Original Sin? I hope you would agree that whatever other passages we consider in answering that question, Romans 5:12-21 must be considered as well. You have declined a detailed discussion about that passage but it is clear just by reading it that Paul is saying that Adam’s sin has resulted in the judgment of condemnation (Greek katakrima (‘penalty; punishment following condemnation, penal servitude’ according to Strong)) for all men. Whatever present-day Bishops and Ministers and theologians may teach and believe, Article 9 (Of Original or Birth-sin) is the only doctrine of the Church about Original Sin, (see Canons A5 and C15) and includes the phrase “and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation”.

            It is because of this terrible truth that Christ and his Apostles give us their terrible warnings to repent and come to Christ. If by God’s grace we repent and come to Christ then Paul assures us, “Then there is now no condemnation (katakrima) to the ones in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
            That is why it is so important that those not in Christ Jesus should be warned that they face condemnation and, we pray, be moved by God’s Spirit to submit to Christ in his love and mercy of his atoning death and resurrection.

            On your “You hope….saved” I hope it is clear that I am not saying that any of us is saved by believing the correct doctrine. Anyone who is saved is saved because the correct doctrine is true. But correct doctrine is important: it is important to speak the truth as we speak to others about Christ and it is important in our Christian life.

            I do not quite know what to make of your “I hope…faith in Christ”. I don’t know whether it is a reference to the N. T. Wright and others controversy about Romans 3:22, or whether by “faith in Christ” you are distancing yourself from the idea that faith is a work and that is what saves us.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil

            The Bible says different things about the Fall and about original sin, depending upon whether the reader is Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic or Reformed. Article 9 is an historic formulary of the CoE, but it isn’t the doctrine of the whole church. Indeed Romans 5 seems to contradict Article 9 (or vice versa).

            The faith of Christ is how I read Romans 3.22ff, but following Douglas Campbell rather than Tom Wright. I think Wright is wrong on Paul.

          • Penelope
            Thanks for your reply. Please could you explain where, in your view, Article 9 and Romans 5:12-21 contradict one another. I will try to familiarise myself with Campbell’s view on Romans 3:22ff.

            Incidentally the Bible says the same things about the Fall and original sin no matter who the reader is. Did you mean that the readers you mention emphasise different things? If so, which things please? I meant that Article 9 in the only Anglican doctrine of the Fall and original sin.

            Phil Almond

          • Fascinated to see Campbell mentioned. I have just this minute written this for a text book:

            His argument has been greeted with enthusiasm by ‘Campbell converts’ as a game-changing new reading of Romans. But others question whether it is really likely that all the previous major commentators on Romans have got Paul’s message so wrong. Some of the key questions for Campbell’s approach include:
            • Campbell labels all those who see justification and faith as significant in Paul as espousing a ‘Justification Theory’, whether they are ‘old’ or ‘new perspective’ readers (see above, pp 52–53) as believing in a ‘transaction’ between God and the believer, in which ‘faith’ is offered in exchange for ‘justification’. But is that really a fair reading of the different views?
            • Campbell separates the different sections of Romans 1–4 on the basis of different theological emphases in each part of the text. But must we assume that no writer can articulate different views in tension with one another when writing—can there be no dialectical argument? And how does Campbell avoid simply selecting those parts as genuinely Pauline which agree with his own prior doctrinal view—is he not simply remaking Paul in his own image?
            • Campbell has called his approach ‘apocalyptic’—but doesn’t apocalyptic include judgement for sin and exactly the kind of division between God’s people who are saved and others who are lost that we find in Paul?
            • There is a real danger that, in dismissing both Christian and particularly Jewish perspectives as inferior, Campbell is offering an unhelpfully anti-Jewish reading of Paul that the New Perspective sought to move away from.
            • Campbell’s reading faces a major challenge from the recent work of John Barclay, in Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015) in which he notes that, for Paul, God’s grace is unconditioned, in that it is offered to all without consideration of their worth, but it is not unconditional, in that (as in the consistent teaching of Jesus) it does demand some kind of response.

          • Phil

            I may very well be wrong, but doesn’t Romans 5 claim that sin came from Adam, whilst Article 9 doesn’t claim that?

            Good luck with Campbell. Great but dense prose.

          • Christ’s fauthfulness is not enough; believers must demonstrate the correct beliefs and responses in order for their souls to be saved and to go to heaven. This makes of faith (the faith of the believer), a kind of ‘works righteousness’, just the thing which Luther protested against. Ironically.

            This leaves little for God to do, the autonomous believer strenuously saves themself.

            If a lifeboat is dispatched to a sinking ship in the middle of a raging tempest, pulls up along side, and yells out to the crew of the stricken vessel to jump into the water before they are pulled down by the vortex; and then they fish those who did make the leap of faith out of the sea to safety (while those who refuse to jump and stayed with the ship are sucked beneath the waves with their vessel and drowned)…

            … you think that, because the crew of the sinking ship had to have the faith to respond to their rescuers’ offer of help, the lifeboat crew had ‘little to do’ and the crew ‘saved themselves’?

            What a bizarre view.

          • Penelope
            Article 9 says:
            “IX. Of Original or Birth-sin
            Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature Both remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.”
            “following of Adam” means imitating Adam’s example, the view of Pelagius which the Article rejects; “every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam” traces back the condition of every man to Adam and is a clear reference to the Genesis 3 account of the Fall and to Romans 5:12-21.
            In my view, while Article 9 is true about the sin of Adam resulting in condemnation for all people, its wording could be improved in various ways.
            However the real issue is the right understanding of the Fall and Romans 5:12-21. Are you willing to debate that, bringing in the Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic views?

            Phil Almond

          • Sorry, Phil
            I’ve been very busy with builders etc.
            I don’t have the time to discuss all theories of original sin and the fall.
            Practically, if not theologically, there seems to me to be little distinction between ancestral sin and original sin.
            Genesis 2 and 3 are narratives which seek an explanation for why humankind, though created in God’s image, is inclined to evil. We have fallen away from this image, but there was particular Fall. Suffering and violence existed long before humanity.

          • Suffering and violence existed long before humanity.

            Suffering and violence did, but evil didn’t. Because evil requires the freedom to choose whether to do good or evil, and only humans possess that freedom.

            So evil cannot have existed in the world before humanity.

  10. I have no problem with infant baptism as I see baptism paralleling circumcision as the sign of the covenant. If infants (males) under the first covenant could be incorporated into the family of God with the sign of the covenant, to be personally ratified on coming of age, how much more so under the new covenant, which is a far better covenant.

    What must take place is the nurture in the faith, as promised by the parent(s) and the subsequent personal owning of the baptism vows by at some point.

    So, I am a strong supporter of infant baptism for children born into the family of the faithful –
    but I do not believe it is efficacious until activated by faith – but is a wonderful gospel sign.

    In our church we generally baptise adults – increasingly despite our team’s strong encouragement for infant baptism, most parents in our church want a dedication and then hope for their child to receive an adult immersion down the line.

    We have a purpose built baptistry used every term at several services and a steady stream of adults & young adults come to “publically reaffirm their baptism vows by immersion” or be Baptised.

    Reply
    • “If infants (males) under the first covenant could be incorporated into the family of God with the sign of the covenant, to be personally ratified on coming of age, how much more so under the new covenant, which is a far better covenant.”

      In the light of scripture, that rationale doesn’t really work. The superiority of the New Covenant is that, unlike the Old, human intent (“will of the flesh”; “will of man”) cannot fulfil it, nor can human fallibility frustrate it.

      Infant baptism is administered as a “judgment of charity”, such that it’s declarations should not understood as absolute, but in a qualified and charitable sense.

      The following is one of the best referenced (yet eminently readable) expositions in support of infant baptism that I’ve read:
      http://www.affinity.org.uk/foundations-issues/issue-63-article-4—the-anglican-doctrine-of-baptism

      Reply
      • Hi David
        Thanks for drawing attention to Lee Gatiss’ article about the Anglican Doctrine of Baptism.

        I comment as follows:

        My main concern is the phrase:
        “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church…”

        I was struck in particular by two extracts from Lee’s article:

        ‘Or to quote a more recent commentary on the Articles by Gerald Bray, “If a sacrament is administered to someone who is not one of the elect, its effects will be the opposite of those intended.”’

        and

        ‘At the 1661 Savoy Conference, then, they (the Puritans) objected to this phrase, saying “We cannot in Faith say, that every Child that is baptized is regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit; at least it is a disputable point, and therefore we desire it may be otherwise expressed.” [73] The phrase is patient of a soundly Reformed and biblical interpretation, [74] and Ashley Null concludes from a wider study of his thought that “Cranmer thought paedobaptism effective only for the elect.” [75] So we must understand this phrase as liturgical language, claiming in the judgment of charity and faith what has been prayed for throughout the rest of the service. It is not making a presumptuous statement about the child’s salvific state, and is not at all contrary to the whole receptionist, faith-conditional doctrine of the sacraments found throughout the Thirty-nine Articles (which we have seen above).’

        It is stated that both Gerald Bray and Cranmer thought that paedobaptism is effective only for the elect. As I see it this agrees with section VI of the Westminster Confession ‘the grace promised……in His appointed time’, because it is to the elect ‘according to the counsel of God’s own will’ that the ‘grace promised’ belongs.

        Lee asserts “It is not making a presumptuous statement about the child’s salvific state…..” but my point is that assertion of Lee is nowhere explicitly stated in the Anglican formularies, unlike the careful phrases used in section V and VI of the Westminster Confession.

        I therefore agree with the puritans at the Savoy Conference that “We cannot in Faith say, that every Child that is baptized is regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit; at least it is a disputable point, and therefore we desire it may be otherwise expressed.”

        There are several references to the Westminster Confession in Lee’s article. I don’t know whether any of them discuss section V and/or VI of chapter 28. It is a pity that Lee did not comment on them in the main body of his article.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
      • David S,
        Thank you for the link. I found it very helpful and increased my understanding of Anglican teaching, which also draws a distinction between ministers and laity in application.
        There is much in it I can draw from including distinction between visible and invisible church that is of reformed teaching, and more such as Ryle’s quote.
        I’d need further explanation of the understanding of regeneration as oppose to conversion.
        And the conditional aspect of child baptism.
        But and this is a big but, I’m struggling with the discussion linking baptism and election. It does not compute with me.
        What is valuable is Gatiss putting this into his pastoral context with prospective baptismal father’s. Spot on.
        Much to chew over.

        What remains significant is that the article deliberately excuses itself from looking at scripture, scriptural warrant.

        Reply
    • Simon, having read this long thread, it has made me wonder how females were inducted into the Jewish covenant as they weren’t circumcised? Were they not just dedicated?
      So, if circumcision was an outward sign to the world which only half of the covenant family could manifest, it can’t be related to Colossians 2 merely as an age (ie infant) parallel; because removal of the flesh in Christian baptism applies to men and women. In other words baptism is a demonstration of the heart reality of living by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

      Reply
  11. Hello Phil,
    I belong to an Anglican church. It is young vibrant, (unlike me) largely professional, multi- cultural, families with children who are a heart -warming delight, being raised in the faith.
    I came to faith as a 47 year old on a CoE Alpha Course, with an adult believer’s immersion baptism in s river running through a farmer’s field in N York’s.
    Invited to train as a local preacher, I joined a Methodist church. During training and study I came to realise that I couldn’t in all conscience continue as I could vow not to preach/teach contrary to Methodist doctrine, being fully persuaded after much wrestling, of the 5 tenets that are opposed to Arminianism and it’s manifest progressive tributaries.
    Through a combination of substantial medical events, changes in jobs, and the fact my wife doesn’t drive, we moved for 4 or so years to a New Frontiers church, and then even closer to home, where we could attend on public transport a URC church, where I did a little preaching. We left when the minister retired and wasn’t replaced and joined the our present church.
    There have been many influences and I have books scattered throughout the house.
    I know next to nothing about the WCF, and little about Calvin and his teaching.
    I suppose you have now had something of a response, you were seeking from within the Anglican church.
    Simon, above, sets out a position I could subscribe to, though his last paragraph sounds suspiciously like a second baptism and while I’m familiar with the the argument linking circumcision with baptism, I’m not persuaded for scriptural reasons, set out collectively in my comments above.
    What I do find interesting and yes it is an Anglican site, how no one has responded to the points Piper makes, nor before that, the scripture I’d submitted as theological weight to believers immersion. Such, however, is what could be described as denomination “silo thinking”.
    And I think the idea that infant baptism is a guarantee of salvation, or as put by Andrew (sorry Andrew, this really isn’t to target you) an inoculation, verges on magical thinking and has no scriptural warrant.
    And it would the criticism Piper makes.
    If I were the father of an infant, I’d look to a dedication , with hopefully a believers baptism a result of the their own decision in later years.
    As a slight aside, reading the Pentecost account today and Peter’s call to repentance and baptism, with 3000 added, where, when and how and by whom was the baptism performed? Would it have been more or less likely to have followed the model of John the Baptiser?

    Reply
    • Sounds like you are claiming that God doesn’t do anything in baptism.
      Inoculation was one parallel. A better one would be washing. We don’t wait until a child asks to be washed to wash them. We do it for them, even though they sometimes cry and scream and prefer not to.

      Reply
      • Inoculation was one parallel. A better one would be washing. We don’t wait until a child asks to be washed to wash them. We do it for them, even though they sometimes cry and scream and prefer not to.

        We don’t only wash a child once, though. Sometimes we do it multiple times a day. do you baptise people over and over?

        Sounds like you are claiming that God doesn’t do anything in baptism.

        What do you think God does in baptism?

        Reply
        • We are often asked to renew our baptismal promises S. but you seemed to miss the point of the example.

          Another example would be giving us a name. We don’t wait until children are old enough to choose a name for themselves. We choose one for them

          “What do you think God does in baptism?“

          Welcomes us to our new home in Christ

          Reply
          • We don’t wait until children are old enough to choose a name for themselves. We choose one for them

            This is true, but I don’t get the analogy with baptism. How is being baptised like being given a name? Unless your point i just that there are some things we do for children, which is true, but there are also some things we don’t: we don’t choose a spouse for our children, we wait until they are old enough to choose for themselves.

            So, is baptism, in your view, more like being named or like being married? Give reasons for your answer.

            Welcomes us to our new home in Christ

            So you don’t think baptism actually changes someone’s state then, either? It merely welcomes them to a state they have entered by some other means? Or do you think that no one enters a new home in Christ unless they have been baptised?

          • There isn’t any real direct analogy with baptism. There isn’t anything else quite like it is there? But there are things we choose for children, like naming etc. A simile or parallel.

            There are clearly various theologies of baptism. I do believe that it is an outward visible sign of something inward and invisible. So yes, I do believe God acts in baptism to initiate our life as a Christian. There is plenty available to read at further length if you wish.

          • There isn’t any real direct analogy with baptism. There isn’t anything else quite like it is there? But there are things we choose for children, like naming etc. A simile or parallel.

            Yes. There are obviously things that we chose for children, and there are things we don’t. The question people disagree on is which of those groups baptism fits into.

            Merely pointing out that there are some things we do for children, as you did, doesn’t progress the discussion one iota, because nobody is saying that we do nothing for children, only that baptism does not belong in the class of things which we should do for children.

            Unless you have some reason to argue as to why baptism is more like the things we do for children, than it is like the things we wait until children can do for themselves, you really haven’t contributed anything useful to the debate at all, have you?

            There are clearly various theologies of baptism. I do believe that it is an outward visible sign of something inward and invisible. So yes, I do believe God acts in baptism to initiate our life as a Christian. There is plenty available to read at further length if you wish.

            But reading what other people have written won’t tell me what you think, will it?

            Do you think that people who haven’t been baptised have not been initiated into life as a Christian, then? So in your view someone who hasn’t been baptised is not a Christian?

          • S: there are different views about whether people should or should not baptise children. I have explained why I believe that this is possible and agree with Stephen Kurht hat the communal nature of first century culture means that the children of believers were baptised. It is quite hard to imagine them being left out…

            I am not qualified to judge or make an assessment of whether another person is a Christian. That is for God. What I can say is that Baptism is the sacrament of belonging to the church and so joining the Christian community.
            Those who are not baptised yet but are wanting to be are learners. Catechumenate. On the journey towards being baptised and Christian.
            *So far as I know* those who belong to the Church are Christian. But *so far as I know* all of us fail and fall short of that calling.

          • S: there are different views about whether people should or should not baptise children. I have explained why I believe that this is possible and agree with Stephen Kurht hat the communal nature of first century culture means that the children of believers were baptised. It is quite hard to imagine them being left out…

            See, that is an actual argument in favour of infant baptism. One I happen to agree with.

            But you must see that:

            ‘In terms of the question why baptise an infant as opposed to an adult as infants don’t know what is going on. Well that’s pretty easy. We wouldn’t think of withholding some kind of routine inoculations from an infant because they didn’t understand. We wouldn’t dream of waiting until they wanted to ask for it themselves. ‘

            … is no such argument at all, unless you can say why you think that baptism is analogous to inoculation.

            ‘People say we shouldn’t do X to children. But we do to Y to children’ is not an argument for doing X to children unless you can argue that X is like Y in the relevant aspects.

            It’s simple logic. A child could understand.

            I am not qualified to judge or make an assessment of whether another person is a Christian. That is for God. What I can say is that Baptism is the sacrament of belonging to the church and so joining the Christian community.

            So do you or do you not think that ‘God acts in baptism’? Because here you seem to be saying that baptism is about ‘joining the Christian community’, and the Christian community is an entirely human institution, nothing to do with God at all.

            Does baptism, in your view, change a person’s relationship to God or does it just change their relationship to the entirely human institution of the Christian community?

          • S: I don’t know what you mean by “change a person’s relationship to God” so you would have to explain what you meant by that.
            I have been clear that God acts in baptism. It is a means of God’s grace. If you want to know exactly how that works then I suggest you ask God?

          • Oh and for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think the Church is an entirely human institution. That would be to deny the communion of saints and the role of Christ in the church.

          • I don’t know what you mean by “change a person’s relationship to God” so you would have to explain what you meant by that.

            I mean whatever qualities pertain ot a person’s relationship with God, those qualities are different before and after the act of baptism.

            For example, would you agree that the act of getting married changes a bride’s relationship with her husband?

            Do you think there is any analogous change in a person’s relationship to God when they get bapitsed, as there is in a bride’s relationship to her husband when she gets married?

            (or do you think there is no change in a bride’s relationship to her husband when she gets married?)

            I have been clear that God acts in baptism. It is a means of God’s grace. If you want to know exactly how that works then I suggest you ask God?

            I want to know what you think the result of God’s acting in baptism is. Not the mechanism, necessarily but what do you think is the main, important difference between a person who has not been baptised and that same person after they have been baptised?

            Oh and for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think the Church is an entirely human institution. That would be to deny the communion of saints and the role of Christ in the church

            The Church is obviously not a human institution. It is the Body of Christ.

            However I hope you would realise that the Christian community is not at all the same thing as the Church. Do you really not understand that?

          • I have explained all of those things. You will just need to read the thread a little more carefully and read what I actually put rather than what you think I put.

          • The Christian community is not an entirely human community. It includes the communion of Saints.

            No it doesn’t. It overlaps with the communion of Saints. There are people in the Christian community who are not in the communion of Saints; and there are Saints who are not in the Christian community.

          • “No it doesn’t. It overlaps with the communion of Saints. There are people in the Christian community who are not in the communion of Saints; and there are Saints who are not in the Christian community.”

            That is simply an interpretation. There are are other interpretations.

          • That is simply an interpretation.

            Yes, it’s simply the right interpretation.

            There are are other interpretations.

            Other, wrong, interpretations.

          • Evidence then, please.
            Otherwise you are simply passing off opinion as fact again.

            Can we take it as obvious that not everyone in the Christian community is a Saint?

            In which case the only question is, are there Saints who are not in the Christian community?

            Trivially, there must be, because there were Saints before there was such a thing as the ‘Christian community’. Saint Stephen, for example.

            Therefore there are people in the Christian community who are not Saints, and there are Saints outside the Christian community. So the Christian community does not include the community of Saints; rather, it overlaps with the community of Saints.

            QED.

          • Saint Stephen. The first *Christian* martyr. The clue is in the name.

            There wasn’t a ‘Christian community’, though. But okay, what about two more examples, one even earlier, one contemporary example.

            The earlier one is the thief on the cross who Jesus told that he would be with Him in paradise. Was he a Saint? Yes, by definition, if he was going to be with Jesus in Paradise, he was (and remains, in Heaven) a Saint. Was he part of the Christian community? No, both because there wasn’t a Christian community at that point, and even if there had been, he wasn’t part of it before he was hung up on his cross, and he didn’t have time to become part of it before he died.

            For the more contemporary example, imagine someone who’s hit rock bottom; has lost their family, their home, ended up alone in a hotel room, with no friends, not family, no community connections of any kind. They find a Gideon Bible and start to read. They realise they are a sinner and sincerely cry out to God for forgiveness.

            Is that person a Saint? Yes, clearly. Are they part of the Christian community? No, they are alone and not part of any community. Now, assuming they don’t die, they might well find a church and so, in time, become part of the Christian community. But that night, the night they cry out, alone, to God, they are not part of the Christian community but they are still, from that very instant, a Saint.

            Hence there exist Saints outside of the Christian community. Hence the Christian community does not entirely include the communion of Saints; it overlaps with it.

            QED.

          • Either way, the Christian community is not an entirely human one.

            You’re admitting my interpretation is right then? That it’s a fact and not just an opinion?

            Anyway, yes, it is an entirely human institution. It’s a human institution that happens to overlap with the Church, which is not a human institution but is the Body of Christ, but then other human communities also overlap with the Church, so that doesn’t make the Christian community special in any way.

          • No. It’s absolutely interpretation and absolutely not fact. But you always confuse these two, so no big surprise here.
            The Christian community is definitely not an entirely human institution. How can it be when it includes – by your own admission – those who are in the communion of saints.
            Plus the Christian community, by definition, involves Christ. The clue is in the title again.

          • No. It’s absolutely interpretation and absolutely not fact. But you always confuse these two, so no big surprise here.

            How is it not a fact? Have I not proved above that the Christian community merely overlaps the communion of Saints, like every other human institution?

            The Christian community is definitely not an entirely human institution. How can it be when it includes – by your own admission – those who are in the communion of saints.

            It includes some of those who are in the communion of Saints, not all. The Manchester United Supporters’ Club also includes some of those who are in the communion of Saints. Is the Manchester United Supporter’s Club also not an entirely human instituion?

            Plus the Christian community, by definition, involves Christ. The clue is in the title again.

            No, it involves Christians, some of whom are members of the communion of Saints, some of whom aren’t. The clue is, as you say, in the title.

          • “No, it involves Christians, some of whom are members of the communion of Saints, some of whom aren’t. The clue is, as you say, in the title.”

            Two things S.

            Firstly, you actually say in the sentence I quote here that it involves some who are members of the communion of Saints. Therefore it is not an entirely human institution, is it? So all you have proved is that I am correct.

            Secondly, if it involves Christians (plural) we would assume that where two or are gathered, then Christ is in the midst. So it is not an entirely human institution.

          • Firstly, you actually say in the sentence I quote here that it involves some who are members of the communion of Saints. Therefore it is not an entirely human institution, is it? So all you have proved is that I am correct.

            So you think that any institution that involves some who are members of the communion of Saints is not an entirely human institution, do you?

            So the Manchester United Supporters’ Club (which involves some who are members of the community of Saints) is, according to you, not an entirely human institution?

            That’ll make news at Old Trafford.

            Secondly, if it involves Christians (plural) we would assume that where two or are gathered, then Christ is in the midst. So it is not an entirely human institution.

            That’s a better (for which read: not entirely insane) argument, but it doesn’t follow from the fact Christ is in the midst of a gathering of individuals, that there is anything supra-human about the institution.

          • By definition, if any organisation involves the communion of Saints then it isn’t an entirely human institution is it?
            Which members of the communion of saints are also members of the Man Utd supporters club? How do you know them?

          • By definition, if any organisation involves the communion of Saints then it isn’t an entirely human institution is it?

            Are you saying members of the communion of Saints aren’t entirely human?

            Because otherwise I can’t make out what you could possibly be saying here.

            Do you know what else is funny? How rabid you are to defend the idea that the ‘Christian community’ is in some way divine compared to your insistence that the Bible is merely human writing. It’s like you’ve got everything exactly the wrong way around.

            Which members of the communion of saints are also members of the Man Utd supporters club? How do you know them?

            You’re saying you’re sure that none of the members of the Manchester United Supporters’ Club are members of the communion of saints? That’d be even bigger news in Old Trafford.

          • Are you saying Saints are just entirely human? There is nothing of the divine about them? What does ‘Saint’ mean?

            I’ve no idea about the Man Utd supporters club but you seem to now lots about them. So again I ask:
            Which members of the communion of saints are also members of the Man Utd supporters club? How do you know them?

          • If there was no Christian community there would be no bible S. The bible contains the title deeds of the Christian community. The bizarre idea you have is that God stopped speaking when the bible was written.

          • Are you saying Saints are just entirely human? There is nothing of the divine about them? What does ‘Saint’ mean?

            Yes, Saints are entirely human. What sets them apart from other humans is not something intrinsic about them — they aren’t in any way special — but something about God.

            Why, what do you think sets Saints apart from other humans? Do you think they are in some way special?

            I’ve no idea about the Man Utd supporters club but you seem to now lots about them. So again I ask:
Which members of the communion of saints are also members of the Man Utd supporters club? How do you know them?

            Only God knows if any given person is a member of the communion of saints, so of course I can’t answer. In fact I could ask you the same question: which members of the communion of Saints are also members of the Christian community? How do you know?

            And even if I could identify individual members of the communion of Saints I obviously wouldn’t give out personal information on the inter-net.

            But; there are a lot of members of the Manchester United Supporters’ Club who are also members of the Christian community. Are you sure none of them are also members of communion of Saints? Absolutely none? Anyone who is in the Christian community and also in the Manchester United Supporters’ Club, it is your firm and considered opinion that they are absolute not in the communion of Saints?

            If there was no Christian community there would be no bible S.

            That’s completely untrue. Everything in the Bible pre-exists the organised Christian community. All the Christian community did was recognise that that some writings were inspired by God in a way that nothing else is, and compile then together. But even if that had never happened, the writings would still exist and still have been uniquely inspired by God.

            The bizarre idea you have is that God stopped speaking when the bible was written.

            Does God speak to you? You might want to see a doctor about that.

          • God speaks through the Christian community S. What do you think vocation actually means?

            And when you say the Creed, what do you think ‘I believe in the communion of saints’ means?

            I’m beginning to think your beliefs are closer to that of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. You think that various people went up a mountain, found special glasses, and wrote the bible.

          • God speaks through the Christian community S.

            They hear God speaking to them? They might want to see a doctor about that.

            What do you think vocation actually means?

            I think it means ‘calling’.

            And when you say the Creed, what do you think ‘I believe in the communion of saints’ means?

            It means that I believe in the connectedness of all those who are saved.

            I’m beginning to think your beliefs are closer to that of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. You think that various people went up a mountain, found special glasses, and wrote the bible.

            I don’t, at all.

          • You think that various people went up a mountain, found special glasses, and wrote the [B]ible.

            Corrected that again for you. You really should train your fingers to type properly!

          • Yes indeed. Vocation means ‘calling’. Who does the calling do you think?

            God. But if you think you hear him speaking, you should see a doctor.

          • that’s a rather odd comment. Perhaps I have misunderstood. One of the central claims in Scripture is that God speaks, and that listening we hear his voice.

          • One of the central claims in Scripture is that God speaks, and that listening we hear his voice.

            There are certainly a few instances of God speaking to people in Scripture (Moses, obviously; those present at Jesus’s baptism; Paul; Peter) but they seem to me to be the exception, rather than the rule (for example, when choosing someone to replace Judas, there doesn’t seem to be any expectation that God will speak the name to them, rather they have to come up with a way to choose themselves).

          • So when people are being ‘called’ to some ministry in the church (for which baptism is the principle authorisation) or being ‘called’ to some specific ministry like ordination, who is doing the calling S?

            And I don’t understand your comment about seeing a doctor. Could you explain what you mean?

          • So when people are being ‘called’ to some ministry in the church (for which baptism is the principle authorisation) or being ‘called’ to some specific ministry like ordination, who is doing the calling S?

            Didn’t I answer above? God.

            And I don’t understand your comment about seeing a doctor. Could you explain what you mean?

            Auditory hallucinations — such as hearing God speaking to you — are a symptom of various mental pathologies. If you experience them you should see a doctor.

          • Right. I asked twice because I wanted to be sure you had understood the question.

            We agree that God does the calling.

            But you are stating that if any one actually hears God calling, they should see a doctor because they are having hallucinations.

            In your view God calls, but if anyone hears they are deluded.

          • So you agree that vocation means calling. You agree that God does the calling.

            What does it actually mean if no one can hear or respond?

          • “Auditory hallucinations — such as hearing God speaking to you — are a symptom of various mental pathologies. If you experience them you should see a doctor.”

            This is just really bizarre. Just imagine – St Paul didn’t hear God calling to him at all. It was just an auditory hallucination which could have been fixed by the doctors. And all those who were called to write scripture. It was all just auditory hallucination.

          • iWhat does it actually mean if no one can hear or respond?

            It means that the point of life it to work out what God’s intentions for you are and to try to fulfil them. But that’s just obvious I thought.

            This is just really bizarre. Just imagine – St Paul didn’t hear God calling to him at all. It was just an auditory hallucination which could have been fixed by the doctors. And all those who were called to write scripture. It was all just auditory hallucination.

            As above, clearly God has — very very very rarely — actually spoken to human beings, like Moses, Paul, Peter, or those watching Jesus’ baptism.

            And God has also — again, very very rarely — turned water into wine, stopped the sun in the sky, and opened the Red Sea.

            But these are all exceptional occurrences, and you should not expect to encounter such in your lifetime.

            So if you hear God speaking to you your first thought should be, as I wrote, to visit the doctor.

        • S: you are just being a literalist. Hearing God speak is not always hearing a voice – but is actually discerning the vocation. But Vocation does mean call. And call happens in various ways.

          I know from my work as a DDO that part of the role is checking that the wider church also discerns that a person is being called. But we definitely don’t send every candidate for ordination to the doctors…..the doctors would think WE, and not the candidate, had gone mad.

          Reply
          • Hearing God speak is not always hearing a voice

            Oh right. So what else is it then? Obviously it can’t be just a subjective ‘feeling’ or ‘sense’ because it would be ridiculous to base doctrine, say, on something so internal, subjective and unreliable. And it can’t simply be that a lot of people have the same feeling or sense because the plural of subjective is not objective.

            There must be some objective evidence you can point to if you think God is speaking to you. Something beyond what you or others ‘feel’ or ‘sense’ or ‘know’ to be true. What is it?

          • You tell me S. You believe in vocation. You believe God does the calling, so what’s your evidence?

            No, if I ask you a question then you answer it, just as if you ask me a question I answer it. That’s how debate works.

            If you’d like to ask me that question again after you answer the one I asked you then I will answer it in my turn.

          • Long experience has taught me that never actually works with you.
            Plus you don’t actually have any evidence. The call is discerned, not proved. It’s a matter of faith and belief, not fact. The candidates believe that God has so called them, and the Church tests and concurs with that call. Read the ordinal. It’s all in there.
            How you can believe in a God who appointed President Trump but can’t call people into ministry is quite beyond me!

          • It’s a matter of faith and belief, not fact. The candidates believe that God has so called them, and the Church tests and concurs with that call.

            It’s possible, isn’t it, that a candidate might believe that God has called them when in fact God did not call them, isn’t it?

            Candidates can be mistaken about whether they have really been called, can’t they? Even if they really really truly believe strongly with all their heart that they have been called, they can — as a matter of fact — be wrong in their belief, can’t they?

            So it is a matter of fact, isn’t it? Not a matter of belief.

          • So your ‘objective evidence’ that someone is called would be what then S? You said there must be some. What is it?

          • So your ‘objective evidence’ that someone is called would be what then S? You said there must be some. What is it?

            The objective evidence is the Bible, which records instances if it happening. That is objective evidence that God calls people.

            So you agree that whether or not a particular person has been called is a matter of fact, not belief, because someone’s belief about whether they are called can be factually wrong?

          • You are getting rather confused again S. My question is about the particular, not the general. What is the objective evidence that God has called a particular person in the year 2020 to be a priest? What *objective* evidence should I, as someone who has been charged with discerning that call, look for in a particular person?

          • You are getting rather confused again S. My question is about the particular, not the general. What is the objective evidence that God has called a particular person in the year 2020 to be a priest? What *objective* evidence should I, as someone who has been charged with discerning that call, look for in a particular person?

            Oh right. There isn’t any direct objective evidence about whether a particular person is correct to believe they have been called by God.

            Whether they are correct, though, is of course still a matter of fact — they are objectively either correct or incorrect in their belief. Either God really is calling them, or He is not.

          • Thank you S.
            As to your claim about fact – we’ve had that discussion before. A fact is something that can be measured, observed and proven. We can’t claim that in this case. So it is the realm of theory – hypothesis – and not fact. It’s a belief.

          • As to your claim about fact – we’ve had that discussion before. A fact is something that can be measured, observed and proven.

            No, it isn’t. A fact is something that is true, regardless of whether it can be measured, observed or proven.

          • We represent two different views about that

            Right and wrong are different, yes.

            So tell me: what exactly are you trying to discern when deciding whether someone’s belief that they have been called by God is correct, if it is not whether they have, in fact, been called by God or not?

          • It’s all in this document

            ‘Candidates should be able to articulate a sense of vocation to the ordained ministry and reflect on the effect of this on their life. They should be able to speak of the development of their inner conviction and the extent to which others have confirmed it. They should be able to show an understanding of what it means to be a deacon or a priest. Their sense of vocation should be obedient, realistic and informed’

            So you don’t actually care whether God really has called the person or not?!?!??!

            No wonder the Church of England is such a dead loss!

    • Geoff I actually agreed with you that full immersion is a powerful visual aid for expressing what baptism means and responded to your point. I take that to be what you call ‘theological weight’. I would call it a dramatic metaphor. References to John and Jesus standing ‘in’ a river tell us nothing about how the water was administered. Likewise Luke and the Ethiopian – all we know is that they used water to baptise, not how. I mentioned the jailer and his family in the middle of the night. I would assume the thousands baptised in Jerusalem were baptised by pouring over not total immersion. But we are not told. Ian told the small, shallow baptistry in the early Ephesus church suggest that immersion was not consider vital to the drama of baptism (or simply not practical). Early Christian art more often depicts John using a shell to pour water over Jesus’ head, as they stand in the shallows. There is no actual example of baptism by what we call ‘full immersion’ in the New Testament. It does not mean it did not happen , at least in some cases. But I note that the NT does not attach particular significance to precisely how the waters of baptism were ministered – just that is actually happened and what it gloriously meant.

      Reply
      • David R,
        Apologies, as I frequently make comment on my phone, and it’s easy to miss comments when scrolling and in any event no longer get a heads-up that someone has responded to a comment I’ve made, I didn’t see your reply.
        For what it is worth, I agree that scripture is not precise on method, that is the reason I used the word suggestive, where others would be more definitive.
        As for the Eunuch, again it is not definitive, but the scripture would suggest that the command to stop on seeing water, to be baptised is more likely to follow John’s method (the carriage would likely to have carried water for a poring baptism).
        As for John using a shell, to pore in the river Jordan – again I’d suggest it would be highly unlikely, according to geographical location; more likely the depiction of the use of shell, results not from actual practice by John or the ” infant” but expanding church, but again a product of artistic imagination and location. And I do take on board Ian’s comment above about the baptismal structure.
        (HolyWell in Northumberland is a place where tradition/history has it that St Columbus baptised, method unknown, could have been either/ or. Certainly, it is not purpose built.
        However, the scriptures I cite which I submit as giving theological weight, such as death, raising in Union with Christ are more than mere, dramatic metaphor but points to truth, indicative of a Spiritual reality. Is infant poring baptism a metaphor or indicative of reality?
        This is from my phone, so it’s difficult for me to see whether this is a rejoinder to your all your points.
        I think we’ve all taken this as far as possible in this format, on a matter that has been more than well been rehearsed. It is clear that I’m an outlier on an Anglican site.
        Yours in Christ,
        Geoff

        Reply
        • “As for John using a shell, to pore in the river Jordan – again I’d suggest it would be highly unlikely, according to geographical location”

          I think you are probably right about the artwork depiction…. But probably wrong about the geographical limitation (no shell, available I presume you mean). I’ve been in the (modern) Syrian desert. You’d be as surprised as I was to see clear evidence of “seaside” fossils just scattered around. Next time you get a chance pop along to the “Baghdad Cafe” between Damascus and Palmyra and have a wander… 🙂

          Reply
  12. Why would God need to wash, to be cleansed from, if we are all born, without sin, all born good, and the Fall never happened?
    Maybe, you don’t want to address and think through the scriptures and the meta narratives.
    You seem to be stuck into a handed down tradition.
    (Simon and others are looking to scripture, for base belief and application.) Not, very progressive of you Andrew, nor, if I may say, coherent?

    Reply
  13. Augh. I was so hoping to find out more re: infant baptism, i.e., when was it instituted, by whom and for what purpose (if purpose is actually known). It has been stated against infant baptism that a child could not follow the teachings when they got older, or words to that effect. But that also applies to people baptised as adults and turn away. Guess no one knows for sure; they are just too many differing opinions. Darn.

    Reply
    • I think Stephen would argue (and does in the book) that the communal nature of first century culture means that the children of believers were baptised. It is quite hard to imagine them being left out…

      Reply
      • Perhaps but it’s just an assumption. If the first disciples understood baptism as they appear to do, that it was done explicitly and only with expressed belief, I think it would be quite natural for the disciples NOT to baptise babies as is the custom now. It was understood it was for only those who could express belief in Jesus. You certainly cant assume in these ‘households’ there were babies, nor that they were baptised.

        Interestingly the only reference to baptism where individuals are more discrete, only ‘both men and women’ are referenced, no mention of children.

        Reply
        • Most households would have included infants, children and slaves, who would have been baptised without having any choice in the matter.

          Reply
          • Most households would have included infants, children and slaves, who would have been baptised without having any choice in the matter.

            While that is certainly possible, we don’t actually have any concrete evidence one way or the other, so that is supposition.

          • Not supposition.
            A conclusion based on evidence of familial arrangements in the Greco-Roman empire.

          • Not supposition.
            A conclusion based on evidence of familial arrangements in the Greco-Roman empire.

            Without reliable primary evidence, it’s supposition (or, if you prefer, extrapolation). As any historian would tell you.

          • Quite a few historians have come to this conclusion from first-century evidence.
            Not mere supposition.

          • Quite a few historians have come to this conclusion from first-century evidence.
            Not mere supposition.

            If they have ‘come to the conclusion’ — rather than it actually being attested in a primary source — then it is by definition supposition, isn’t it? Or, as I wrote, extrapolation, if you prefer.

      • Ian,
        It is a pity on this blog that nobody seems to have addressed the points that I made about the nature of the new covenant viz a viz the Mosaic Covenant. Stephen Kuhrt says he sees our understanding of the Bible’s covenants as being crucial to the debate—surely he is correct. But the blog has been all ecclesiology and little or no theology? Shouldn’t our ecclesiology be based on our theology? I have Stephen’s book now, but the typeface is very small 🙁

        Reply
  14. David S,
    Thank you for the link. I found it very helpful and increased my understanding of Anglican teaching, which also draws a distinction between ministers and laity in application.
    There is much in it I can draw from including distinction between visible and invisible church that is of reformed teaching, and more such as Ryle’s quote.
    I’d need further explanation of the understanding of regeneration as oppose to conversion.
    And the conditional aspect of child baptism.
    But and this is a big but, I’m struggling with the discussion linking baptism and election. It does not compute with me.
    What is valuable is Gatiss putting this into his pastoral context with prospective baptismal father’s. Spot on.
    Much to chew over.

    What remains significant is that the article deliberately excuses itself from looking at scripture, scriptural warrant.

    Reply
  15. Here are my videos I am currently making for the four year kids at our nursery – many of whom I have baptised. In normal times I read them a Bible story on Wednesday mornings and then another lot on Wednesday afternoons. I’m trying to provide them with an age appropriate covenant reading of the Bible.

    Creation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nDxq3_pIHk

    Fall https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx5I_VISqZ4&t=112s

    Noah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7t6iHs0XAk&t=290s

    Abraham https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeGcWhKefLU&t=32s

    Jacob https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jh0ayKfcA8&t=9s

    Joseph https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvbGpchpjhE

    Onto Moses after half term and then in December I’ll try and tell the Christmas story through the lens of the fulfilment of the Old Testament stories we have done.

    Reply
  16. One key to our understanding is surely the Jewish ritual practise of Tevilah (full immersion) in a (Mikveh) pool/bath – used for Ritual washing and as a rite of conversion to Judaism. C1st synagogues according to Josephus were to be built for near substantial bodies of water for this purpose.

    Significant to note is that ‘converts’ to Judaism must be fully immersed (Tevilah) in a Mikveh (bath/pool) – and this is for the adult converts AND their children

    Coming up from the water, the convert is now seen as Jewish, having been ‘born again’

    https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/why-immerse-in-the-mikveh/
    https://www.thetorah.com/article/on-the-origins-of-tevilah-ritual-immersion

    Reply
  17. Thanks Simon,
    Very helpful.
    It may significantly help our understanding of method, but still leave some uncertainty.
    It would lend support it immersion, and possible the theology of going through, the waters of judgment, ( Noah- the flood; Red Sea) attributed in some quarters, to the process of immersion.
    Further, is being “born again” to continue to be affectively integral to Christian baptism at that point, and nowhere else?
    Does water baptism effect a baptism in the Holy Spirit by Jesus? – a deposit, guarantor? Particularly, as it is improbable, I’d suggest, that Jewish people would consider the baptism as imparting the Holy Spirit.
    Grudem, in Systematic Theology, suggest there is a way through this seeming impass – and it is something I’ve seen in a local independent church, where some elders are paedo, some credo.
    The founders of the Gospel Coalition represent both, Keller , Presbyterian, and Carson Baptist, joint together in Gospel promotion so that baptism is not an impediment does not become divisive. It is also seen in Alister Begg, and Sinclair Ferguson working together as joint authors. Both, to coin a phrase taken from the Title of this Ian P’s article, “Believe in Baptism”.
    Silence on this comment of yours is loud.

    Reply
    • To read , “the Jewish people, would NOT consider baptism as imparting the Holy Spirit.
      To press a point, what is the purpose of Nicodemus encounter with Jesus and the question of eternal life? It is a radical discontinuity with Jewish born again baptism.

      Reply
    • Thanks Geoff
      I confess I dont know enough about the ancient Jewish practise
      I think of interest is the fact this rite of initiation was by Immersion & of Infants
      I would like to see the historic citations to know exactly the dates of such practise and as you highlight, any further comment on the relationship of the Spirit in their theology of ‘new birth’

      I have a good friend who was a young adult convert from Judaism – and he told me had been ‘adult baptised’ several times – when I protested that there is only one baptism, it was he who said to me, “Hey, I’m Jewish, its Mikveh”

      Reply
      • Thanks Simon,
        1. For the laugh, but on a more serious note, it would be good to know what he saw baptism as accomplishing, it’s purpose in relation to Jesus and his internal cleansing, and baptism in the Holy Spirit.

        2. As it happens, I recently listened to an old sermon by Sinclair Ferguson which touched on the Nicodemus passage in John, but not in any significant detail. He pointed out that the other place in the NT where there is reference to baptism “in” the Holy Spirit is Pentecost.

        3. (As an aside, a thought to ponder, which also returns us to the centrality of Ian’s article: is this baptism at Pentecost not a precondition for all subsequent, “repent and be baptised” exhortations until Christ’s return? But here we return to the purpose of baptism and what it achieves. Or to use other terminology the “order of salvation” anther topic that engenders debate and dispute among believers.)

        4. Put more simply, believing the gospel of Jesus is separate from baptism.

        5. From Wayne Grudem: “Certainly the Lord gave us baptism to strengthen and encourage our faith- and it should do so for every believer who witnesses a baptism.”
        He also proffers, ” nor does it seem right that churches “require” one view or another on baptism for those who wish to be ordained or to function as teachers with the church”….(nor) a criterion for church office or for ordination.”
        Hopefully, he suggests (this) ” might diminish the level of controversy with a generation, and baptism might eventually cease to be a point of division at all among Christians.”
        Grudem. whilst critiquing some of it, commends Michael Green’s “Baptism: It’s Purpose, Practice and Power”, as a excellent statement of the paedobaptist position and much helpful analysis of the biblical teaching about baptism which both sides could endorse.

        In these hot headed days of opinion pieces on the internet, I find in Grudem, some much needed balm, when I remember to look.

        He seeks to put all views, for and against about particular topics in “Systematic Theology”. (Evidently a new significantly revised, updated and expanded version is due to be published soon.)

        Looking at his presentation and critique of the Catholic doctrine on Baptism, it seems clear to me that some of those who comment on this site embrace that teaching, which is at odds with evangelical protestant teaching.

        6. Also, as it happens, and with a Jewish link to “washing ” and old and new covenants, last night our Bible study zoom group looked at the New Wine wedding passage in John 2:1-12.
        There was a drawing out of the vessels for ritual cleaning of water being “converted” to wine, from the old covenant to the new; wine being a forward looking allusion to the new covenant in his blood , cleansing in, by and through the blood of Christ, at the forward look to the time/hour of his his death and resurrection.
        At the same time there are, here, backward looking allusions to new wine in the OT being fulfilled, start with this new wine, the first/sign:
        Jer 31: 12
        Joel 3:18
        Amos 9: 13-14
        Much gladdening of the heart, rejoicing and praise. O to be replete and completed in Christ. Something to look forward to, if not hasten towards. Each year nearer the LORD.

        Yours in Christ,
        Geoff

        Reply
        • Thanks Geoff

          I just find it interesting it is the most natural thing for a devout Jew to be baptised when they say yes to God and no to sin – it is THEIR rite.
          Part of their synagogue tradition – part of their prophetic tradition (essenes were strict baptisers) baptism as a No to sin and a Yes to God was what John The Baptist was all about.

          So, we come at Baptism from the point of Gentiles and christians in the C20/21st – reading the Biblical texts, knowing something of the heated debates over questions relating to volume of water, age of candidate, theology: symbol or sacrament, baptismal regeneration, tagging or token etc

          But for the Jew embracing Jesus, it is perfectly normal response – a washing, a consecration, a sacred moment. The Ethiopian Eunuch on understanding the gospel says ‘look, here is water’ – had Philip given him a systematic theology of baptism & its relation to regeneration? How would Philip’s explanation of Isa 53 lead to baptism? Might it not simply be the case the devout African proselyte, seeing water, being used to immersion/baptism as a yes to Yahweh, initiated this?

          We read Paul’s & Peter’s theology of Baptism in letters written a generation later – yet both see the need for it as an immediate response to receiving Jesus: (Acts9v18; 10v47) – I guess I’m just saying we have made it one of our two Church Sacraments, but for the C1st Jew it was an every day normal sign and symbol they partook of

          Reply
          • Simon,
            Much appreciated, thanks.
            Volume of water? Really? I hadn’t known that. I think I’d preferred not to have known, unless you a simply making a point about the volume involved in poring and immersion.
            I think your Baptist heritage is starting to show beneath Anglican gowns!
            ( Just as Roman Catholic heritage is showing in others).

          • Simon,
            A further, thought. This may be speculation. The Bereans searched the scriptures, (OT) before Paul’s letters, and they were opposed by Jews from Thessalonika.
            Yes they didn’t have the full Canon of scripture, but we now do, to use and interpret and understand scripture. And it is the ministry of Christian leaders to search the whole canon to place any and all scripture within that context.This is not however, to be clear, Nuda Sriptura.
            To use an expression I grew up with I hope this isn’t, “teaching my granny to suck eaggs”, isn’t patronising.

    • Thanks Steve
      helpful link and have ordered the book

      interestingly and amusingly, my Messianic Jewish pal is friends/former colleagues with your messianic Jewish pal – but both take very different views on baptism –
      difference???? sounds like the church 🙂

      Reply
  18. Doesn’t do it for me. I’m not on facebook. Any clues as to content? But I suppose I’m not the one you are seeking to reach, to persuade, Penelope.

    Reply
  19. The magic word ‘abracadabra’ is a corruption of the words body and blood’ (or thereabouts). Apparently someone over heard the Eucharist spoken in latin and thought it was a formula like a magic spell.

    The same may have occurred numerous times in the past. I imagine early baptism services were not so concerned by the formula, full/partial/sprinkle but onlookers, thinking a formula like ceremony was the important factor replicated it until it took hold universally.

    Reply
      • I heard the story many years ago. You are right. Also I think ‘The seven sons of Sceva’ are a similar case of a misunderstanding. An attempt to copy an action in the misunderstanding that ritual would be effective. I believe the act of baptism should be public; the way it is done is of little consequence. I remember a friend being baptised in the snow, in a town centre pond, with shoppers going past. A perfect example of NT baptism.
        God is not an ogre to be placated by ritual. As if God would burn a baby in hell for eternity like the god Baal just because it died before it could be baptised.

        Reply
      • Wikipedia:
        What is the Hebrew meaning of Abracadabra?
        It’s from the Aramaic phrase avra kehdabra, meaning “I will create as I speak”. The source is three Hebrew words, ab (father), ben (son), and ruach acadosch (holy spirit). It’s from the Chaldean abbada ke dabra, meaning “perish like the word”.

        So, it could be from the phrase Father, Son and Holy Spirit

        Reply

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