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Infant Baptism: The Difference between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Theology

What’s the difference between the RC view and the Reformed view of infant baptism?

Peace,

jm

Much in every way! The Roman Catholic view sees baptism first as an act of Grace that occurs “by the working of the works”. That is, the Sacrament itself, infuses Grace and effectively places the child in a state of grace before God. The grace infused, however, is conditional. The grace can be overthrown and killed in the individual by sin.

The Reformed view is that baptism is ministerial. That is, the minister announces what God has promised in His Word concerning the Covenant inclusion of children and it initiates the child into the covenant community. While the sign and seal of Baptism are not separate from what they signify (real union with Christ) they are not identical. That is to say that we do not believe that the minister is actually conferring union with Christ on the child by the “working of the works” but is announcing the promise of God. That promise is that what Baptism signifies (union with Christ) is promised to the child when he places trust in the Gospel. It is the same thing for an adult in fact. As surely as you see the water signifiying the washing of the filth of the flesh, so are your sins washed away if you believe in the Gospel. It is a visible sign and seal of God’s promise to us that we can look to when the enemy is so oft telling us we are not worthy of such Grace.

In RC baptism, you get in by the Church’s ability to infuse God’s saving grace and you stay in by cooperating with that grace lest you kill it and your “grace meter” goes to a point where justifying grace is killed.

In Reformed baptism, the minister declares the promise of God and seals God’s promises to the recipient. Grace, through faith, saves from beginning to end.

I have a problem with the term presumptive regeneration because presumption carries a connotation that I do not believe parents should have. When I presume something, it means I can take it for granted and little is expected on my part. I know that’s a semantic issue but words have consequences. I also don’t like the idea of presuming regeneration simply because I don’t know the hidden counsel of God. I look at it this way: my chilren are Christians and I treat them like that. I don’t treat them like they’re tiny pagans in my household with no different status than my pagan neighbors before God. They are holy because they are in my Covenant household. This gracious God says to me: “I’m not just promising to save you but your children as well.” A glorious thing indeed that those most dear to me in this world, beside my wife, are not my spiritual enemies.

I pray with them like little Christians with a seminal faith – faith as small as a mustard seed (thank you Rev. Winzer). I know that God has promised to save them if they call upon His name just as He has promised to save me under the same Covenant promise. I do not question their election any more than I question mine for my business is God’s precepts and not His hidden decree.

And so, contrary to my Roman Catholic upbringing, when my children sin, I do not raise them to worry that they’re in danger of hellfire as they have just killed the infused grace within them and need to have the Church dispense more saving grace in Penance. Rather, I discipline them as one who believes their sin has been punished in Christ. I train them to ask their Heavenly Father for forgiveness that they have offended Him in their sin, and I teach them to thank Christ for the salvation of sins found only in Him for those that believe in Him.

The difference between Roman Catholic Baptism and Reformed Baptism (aka Christian) is the difference between the doctrine of demons and a visible sign and seal of God’s Grace to His elect.

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous11-24-2006

    Interesting observations. I had always wondered about the difference. Thanks for this.

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