A Review of The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism
Gregg Strawbridge has assembled articles from fifteen contributing authors. Their writings examine infant baptism from Biblical, confessional, and historical perspectives. This approach provides many helps to fortify one’s position in support of infant baptism.
In the initial article Bryan Chapell provides “A Pastoral View of Infant Baptism.” He examines the Biblical background, basis, and benefits for this sacrament being applied to infants. Neither he nor any of the contributors believe that the water washes away one’s sins. Christ’s work alone paid for the elect’s sins. By grace, the Holy Spirit applies Christ’s work to the individual in His own time. In Joseph Pipa’s examination of Romans 6:3–6, regarding the “Mode of Baptism,” he writes, “The meaning of baptism is a sealing of one’s union with Christ, effected by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit” (p. l26).
Joel Beeke and Ray Lanning jointly examine the meaning of the phrase in Acts 2:39 “For the promise is unto you and to your children.” Their article explains this phrase in its Biblical context, answers Baptist brethrens’ objections, and concludes by explaining the important responsibilities parents undertake in making this covenant promise in regard to their children.
A number of articles deal with aspects of the New Covenant and its distinctiveness from the Old Covenant. However, Richard Pratt, Jr., writing on “Infant Baptism in the New Covenant,” examines Jeremiah 3l:3l–34. Many evangelicals use this passage as support for rejecting infant baptism. Dr. Pratt examines these verses in the Old Testament context and in the New Testament usage. He concludes that the Baptists are wrong in their appeals to this Scripture. This passage is rather an encouragement to parents to practice infant baptism.
Cornelis Venema provides the reader with a basic understanding of covenant theology in regard to the parties involved, the nature of the covenant, and the promises and obligations that are a part of covenantalism. He then explains the importance of the sacraments in regard to the covenant.
Lyle B. Bierma examines relevant teaching that is found in a number of confessions and catechisms, including the Belgic Confession and the Westminster Confession of Faith and its catechisms. He shows that the authors were not satisfied to find a few Biblical texts supporting their position against the Anabaptists. Instead, the Confessions testify to the covenant theology that flows throughout Scripture.
Peter Leithart surveys early church history following Christ’s ascension to see the place of infant baptism in its practice. He points out that available testimony regarding early church belief about the covenant leaves many questions unanswered. Clearly the Bible teaches infant baptism. However, there is significant evidence that some leaders in the early church opposed the practice up until the 4 th century. He also examines Augustine’s impact on this discussion.
Other articles are included. All give great practical exposition and application. The authors write with clarity, a commitment to scriptural teaching, and charity toward fellow Christians who oppose infant baptism.
Only the Holy Spirit can give an individual a proper understanding of Scripture. Yet, this volume approaches the subject from so many helpful angles that scriptural light is shone into dark avenues of this misunderstood doctrine. This is a helpful volume to encourage those who practice infant baptism and to give to those who are studying the issue.
Topics: Church, The, Theology