Friday, 20 June 2008

Back to infant baptism...

Part one: here.

Now to examine the second logical contradiction which Dr. Field perceives. He asks, "How could 4. follow from 3.?" Let's remind of what 1-4 were, in Dr. Field's words - a Baptist would nuance a thing or two:
1. Non- big-E Elect people were members of the Old Covenant
2. The New Covenant is different - all in the New Covenant are big-E Elect, big-R Regenerate
3. So baptism is for believers only
4. And therefore not for babies.
One nuance would be to make clearer the link between 2 and 3 (which was the theme of the previous post) - the New Covenant is made only with the elect, and the reality of election manifests itself in repentance and faith, and therefore the ordinance of baptism is only for those who give a credible profession of repentance and faith. Others may or may not be elect and even already converted - but they can't join the visible church until there is outward evidence of it. That is the procedure that paedobaptists follow with adults, so in principle there shouldn't be anything to argue about on that score. So just what are Dr. Field's objections with this link? He has three (I have changed his bullet points to numbers for clarity):
How could 4. follow from 3.?  Unless you thought:
1. that it's impossible to be big-E elect without having the sort of faith recognizable by us for the purposes of baptism (no salvation for infants dying in infancy then)
Here, Dr. Field makes the logical fallacy of "affirming the consequent". The 1, 2, 3, 4 argument above argues that visible faith is necessary for baptism - i.e., no visible faith, no baptism. Dr. Field turns this the other way round and says that it's saying that no baptism means no faith. i.e., He says that it would imply that where the Baptist does not administer the ordinance he's saying that there's no faith. It always rains here in February - it rained today, so it must be February... ? No - it rains in plenty of other months here too. Next!
2. AND that God gives no other way of identifying his people than their self-conscious articulate faith (you really have abandoned household covenantalism then, which, of course, lots of antipaedobaptists openly acknowledge)
If "household covenantalism" means that "the head of the house joining God's people means the rest of his household also join God's people" then yes, I openly acknowledge that I have "abandoned" this position, except for the minor requirement of having to take up a position before you abandon it. But, I think that Dr. Field has probably abandoned "household covenantalism" too, and so have all modern paedobaptists. How many paedobaptists do you know who say that all your household employees and servants should be baptised? Do not they all just restrict it to infants?
3. AND that there's no such thing as paedofaith (and certainly the book I was reading made no mention of paedofaith - the Psalms and Gospels and Epistles phenomenon, the Rich Lusk book, the Calvin and Turretin doctrine, or the existential reality).
This objection is the same as 1, just stated in different words (or rather, applied to the particular case of infants). "No faith means no baptism" does not imply "no baptism means no faith". That's simply a gaping logical fallacy.

Dr. Field finishes with a final paragraph that repeats the only real (and fallacious) argument he's made all along - that election is secret, hidden, inaccessible, intangible and irrelevant to anything that the church should do in the concrete reality of its life on earth:
And the reason is that once you've said that the new covenant is unbreakable then you have equated it with the membership of the decretally elect. That is in the mind and will of God, i.e. on the eternal, infinite, uncreated Creator side of the creator-creature divide. But antipaedobaptism is about not baptizing certain people and that is on the historical, finite, created, temporal side of the creator-creature divide. Trying to argue from an unbreakable new covenant to antipaedobaptism requires that temporal, finite creatures know the eternal decree of the Creator. It is trying to cross the Creator-creature divide - and you don't get category confusion bigger than that!
The eternal decree of the Creator is manifested in time and space, as sinners hear the gospel, repent and believe. The water-tight separation that Dr. Field makes is simply unwarranted.

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