Who Deceives Whom with Baptism?

A discussion recently ensued when a Baptist brother claimed the following:

Another point I want to make is that every parent eveywhere is responsible for raising their children up in the LORD. It matters not if they are regenerate or not. We are all going to be held accountable for how we all discipled our children. It doesn’t take some kind of doctrinal Covenant inclusion to do this. In fact I think it is rather deceptive to teach a child they are in a New Covenant relationship with God when they may be strangers to the covenant. It neglects the nature of what the new Covenant is. A Covenant made based upon the forgiveness of sin and knowing the Lord. Not like the one that the early church fathers could break. It is an unbreakable Covenant.

I addressed my response to Baptists:

1. Baptists keep talking about an overarching presumption that, in telling children they are in the New Covenant, they can “rest on their laurels”. It’s like we’re saying: “Son, presume you are Elect and you have nothing to go to God for and say: ‘Save Me!'”

In so doing, Baptists are actually projecting the problem with their own presumption. Dr. Clark called it confusing decree and administration. As I noted before, what are you telling someone if you say:
a. The New Covenant is with the elect alone.
b. We only baptize those we have “maximal confidence” are elect
c. We are baptizing YOU, the man who just confessed Christ.

In essence, you are giving him an unwarranted presumption. In fact, I was just listening to Gene Cook and John Goundry say the other day that Preachers only have to tell those outside the NC to “…know the Lord” (i.e. repent and be baptized) because we don’t tell those in the NC that because that’s been fulfilled. Notice the presumption – they are baptized = they are in the New Covenant = they are elect.

This gets very confusing because I know if I press Gene on this he’s going to admit that he doesn’t know who’s in the NC so the exercise of who you can and can’t say “know the Lord” to becomes quite impossible. Do you see how Baptists can tie themselves into knots on this point if they actually thought about it? Yet, if you go back and read even portions of this thread we have people arguing that we should have people telling the Church: “Oh, I’m elect, the Holy Spirit told me so”.

Thus, I think the presumptive problem lies with the nature of Baptistic baptism and trying to find a nexus in the perfection of the New Covenant. It is not really fair for you to ascribe the presumption you have for the people you baptize with the hope and promise that we have for those we baptize.

2. Sadly, I feel a sense in which you are missing the very power and weight of the Gospel to convert. Romans 6 is part of the Gospel by the way. Notice what you guys keep saying about “presuming” on the part of sinners. Why do you think a reprobate man is going to presume any less for a Law passage (do this and live) than He is about a Gospel passage. If a man is dead in His sins and trespasses then he presumes upon everything. The Pharisees had presumption of the Law down pat as well as the threat of hell. They just deceived themselves that it didn’t apply to them.

Check out my teaching on Romans 6 at our website if you get a chance –

It is my conviction that passages like Romans 6 can actually convert the soul. They feed hungry Christian souls. I think you guys worry too much about the reprobate presuming upon Grace and not enough about feeding Grace to the elect you have in your midst. Even as we sneer at Roman Catholics who say: “Don’t teach that kind of stuff because it’s a license for liberty”, we don’t preach it openly because we’re afraid (like them) that the wrong people are going to get the wrong idea. Worry about the right people getting the right idea more! Feed them this stuff. Stuff them with it! One-third of Romans is this stuff. It’s not merely doctrinally interesting but it is the basis for the ethics.

3. I love this point that Dr. Clark cited:

74. Are infants also to be baptized?

Yes, for since they belong to the covenant and people of God as well as their parents, and since redemption from sin through the blood of Christ, and the Holy Spirit who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents, they are also by Baptism, as the sign of the Covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by Circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is instituted.

See, again, the problem I see is that it is the Baptists who presume too much. You guys presume, by your profession, that you’re elect and so you turn a wary eye toward the young’uns who haven’t. First, you shouldn’t be presuming upon your profession. Second, you should be seeing that everyone visible in your midst needs the kind of Grace I was just talking about.

You worry too much about the bad apples and you punish the whole crowd. You can’t figure out who to punish so you punish every child calling him unregenerate while claiming regeneracy for the adults. Where does such presumption come from? I’m not saying not to tell kids to repent but tell adults to repent too. Tell everyone to repent where Paul does. The Gospel is bouncing off the walls of your Church as you proclaim it to man, woman, and child. Stop worrying about who is elect among you and deal with the visible assembly in your midst. Let the Holy Spirit do its work but don’t preach with one arm tied behind your back. Preach the whole counsel of God and where it says “repent” tell everyone and where it says “rejoice” then proclaim it as the Word does. And let God sort out the rest.

Don’t even destroy the simplicity of the Gospel by demanding that solid, intellectual assurance that you want all adults to express. If a brother is struggling with assurance don’t impoverish him with “try harder” to determine if you’re elect. Focus him upon the Cross. Tell him that it’s as simple as believing. Do you believe Christ died for sin? Do you believe Christ raised Him from the dead? Believe! Proclaim Romans 8 to him. If he’s reprobate then that’s his problem but if he’s elect then let it feed him and establish him!

But stop impoverishing the flock by playing to the fear of the lowest common denominator.


After I posted this I got a response from a dear brother in the Lord who is a Baptist elder. He felt my words were intende to deny the fact that Baptists understand that Romans 6 is part of the Gospel. My extended remarks are as follows:

I think you need to take the position as a whole and not parse the issue and take it personally. I had to sum up a lot of people’s thoughts. I was unspecific because I wasn’t aiming it at a Baptist but a line of thinking that begins with the assumption that NC=elect -> Profession which necessarily excludes those who are too young to profess in a mature fashion.

There is then an underlying assumption that if you treat the immature as if they are spiritually minded that it will lead to presumption and that it is deceptive to teach them anything other than the condemnation of the Law. I repeatedly hear from Baptists (in general) that the only status that children have is that they are in Adam and unregenerate. They claim this on the basis of the child’s profession. Conversely, those that are professors are presumed (too much I think) to be regenerate on the basis of profession. There is an unhealthy mix of presumption about regeneration for professors and unregeneration for non-professing (young) members).

I wasn’t denying you believed all about Romans 6 and the Gospel in general. Please forgive me as I can understand how some of it came off as patronizing. I’m sorry to you and other Baptists if I sounded pejorative or condescending. I was trying to connect to the underlying concern in the OP, pull together some disparate posts, and draw it all out. I wanted to move from our common base of understanding regarding the Gospel and move to how the manner of Baptism and the way you talk about visible members actually undermines the program of the Gospel. In some aspects it is meant to sting (in a loving way) to get some to understand why the Reformed paedo baptizes into discipleship and not to declare of a person – this one is elect and this one is not.

The shoe fits for some or all aspects better than others, but credo-Baptism as an overarching system, in the way it treats the young – presuming them to be unregenerate – witholds an aspect of the Gospel from them. That witholding of the Gospel to the young is of the nature of Romans 6. It assumes that the only thing a child needs to hear is that they need to repent of their sins. On the other hand, it might see that adult professors don’t need to hear as much about repentance of sins (because after all they’ve professed). My view is that ALL in the visible Church need the full orbed presentation – professors or too immature to profess. The full presentation will mature and convert babes and the full presentation will mature and convert adults.

In the end, where the shoe fits, wear it. Your frustration is mine. As I stated in another thread, the Baptist view is very eclectic (even though you guys are all supposed to be 1689 LBCF) and some argue in different ways. I’m sorry that you feel slighted when I have to refer to a strain of Baptist thinking that is, in the main, representative of the issue. Conversely, Reformed paedobaptists are pretty monlithic in the understanding of the issue. Regardless of the aspects that you believe fit tightly or not, you have to answer for the reasons why you don’t baptize the young and why you believe profession alone is the arbiter of when discipleship begins. The difficulty in nailing down where Baptists fall on these issues communicates to confusion in the pews and why, when a Baptist calls up Pastor Gene Cook on the Narrow Mind he has no idea how he can possibly train his child in the fear and admonition of the Lord without training the child to obey the Law as a Pharisee might vice a motivation that focuses on love for God (Romans 6).

  1. Martin Marprelate
    Martin Marprelate10-09-2007

    Hello Rich.

     Boy! There's a lot to take issue with here.
    You wrote:-

    1. Baptists keep talking about an overarching presumption that, in telling children they are in the New Covenant, they can "rest on their laurels". It's like we're saying: "Son, presume you are Elect and you have nothing to go to God for and say: 'Save Me!'"

    Well, I was that man.  I was 'christened' into the Church of England (so I'm told) as an infant and I was told two things as I grew up.

    1. I was a Christian.

    2. I needed to act like one; to live up to the confession that had been made for me at my christening.  When I did wrong, I had to repent and say "Sorry" to God.

     Since I had a general belief in God and didn't see myself as terribly wicked, I continued to think of myself as a Christian.  At University, when members of the C.U. tried to witness to me, I told them I was already a Christian.  Did I read the Bible? No.  Did I know why Jesus died on the cross?  Not really, but hey!  I'd been baptized. Never mind that I was no more born again than a dog. I was a Christian.

     What I needed was someone to tell me that I was a lost sinner and that I needed to be born again before I could so much as see the kingdom of God, much less enter it.  I was nearly 40 years old before someone did that for me.

    Now I admit I was a fool, but I was not alone in my foolishness.  The Jews were just as blind in our Lord's time on earth (John 8:33 etc) and today, up to 70% of British people think they're Christians (so says the 2000 Census) though only 4% go to church.  Why?  Because someone splashed water on them when they were little.

    You continued:-

     As I noted before, what are you telling someone if you say:
    a. The New Covenant is with the elect alone.
    b. We only baptize those we have "maximal confidence" are elect
    c. We are baptizing YOU, the man who just confessed Christ.

    In essence, you are giving him an unwarranted presumption.

    Now Rich, you know quite well that this is just your silly made-up syllogism.  Baptists do not operate on this basis.  If we have a syllogism, it would be something like this.

    a. We believe the Bible is our only authority for belief and practice.

    b. There is no evidence in the Bible that the Lord Jesus Christ or His Apostles or the 1st Century Church baptized anyone other than believers nor is there any instruction to do so.

    c. Therefore we baptize only believers.

    The fact that the New Covenant is indeed with the elect alone is not the reason that we baptize believers.  It is an additional argument against paedobaptism, but not the reason for credo-baptism.

    You continued:-

    The shoe fits for some or all aspects better than others, but credo-Baptism as an overarching system, in the way it treats the young – presuming them to be unregenerate – witholds an aspect of the Gospel from them. That witholding of the Gospel to the young is of the nature of Romans 6.

    Rich, this is loopy!  The young (and everybody else until they are converted) need the Gospel.  They need not just to be told to repent- I was told that- but that they need a Saviour, and that they need to seek and find Him.  But if they think they've already got Him because they've been baptized as babies, they may become Gospel-proof as I did.
    Finally, you wrote:-

    As I stated in another thread, the Baptist view is very eclectic (even though you guys are all supposed to be 1689 LBCF) and some argue in different ways.

    Boy! Here's the pot calling the kettle black!  Don't the FV guys say they are holding to the WCF?  Motes and beams come to mind here.  In Scotland there are more Presbyterian denominations than you can shake a stick at; the 'Frees', the 'WeeFrees', the 'even wee-er frees' and a few more besides all claiming to hold to the WCF and mostly hating each other like poison.

    I hope you don't mind me coming on so strong on my first post.  I enjoy reading your sermons on the PB.


    Martin Wink


  2. Leino


    Thanks for the feedback. I have little time to answer in the coming days so I want to just thank you for the feedback and that I will address it when I return from the States with my family.

    I would note that, in the last portion, that the FV are not in the Reformed camp so comparing them to people that I would consider Reformed is a straw man. If you look at paedobaptists on the PB who maintain their Confessional subscription there are never any debates among us as to the nature of the sacraments. The debates are with Baptists and, frankly, you guys are all over the map. Part of the reason I make you guys so angry is that you are angry that I’m repeating an argument one of you made. Witness your anger over the “baptize professors because they are Elect” argument. You state that you baptize upon different presups but nearly all your arguments in the past are on the basis of the perfection of the NC.

    More later…

    Rich Leino

  3. Anonymous

    Hey Rich,

    This gets right on the razor’s edge of the problem! If I might add:

    The whole idea of “rest on their laurels” at the end of the day reveals a theology of glory, fallen religion. Really it does and fails to realize the power of the Gospel and the imputed righteousness of the Gospel. Now I speak very generally here and my point is what does the Baptistic doctrine at length produce and mean. I realize that even Roman Catholics can disjointedly come to the Gospel, at least at the unofficial level. An ex-baptist said it well once, my paraphrase, “Baptist are dear brothers in the faith. That’s for certain and we fight side by side on the Gospel at many points. But the Baptist doctrine is really a tragedy, it’s a doctrine of diminution. That is to say they actually starve themselves to death of some great gifts from God.” That’s true and that’s what I believe. I’ve always said if you can get a Baptist, like my former self, to see the Cross of Christ for them, in Baptism, the Gospel, they will at length have to leave “believers baptism”. For it is here that the baptism of the infant reveals the Gospel most powerfully. As Luther said if we at length cease to baptize infants, baptism will loose its Gospel import. For it seals God’s promise to us FOR faith, not because of faith or due to faith, it doesn’t seal “faith” per se.

    2. The Baptist doctrine get’s wrapped around the entire idea of the highly subjective “saving moment” once in time. This is tied to regeneration that is in turn tied directly to election.

    3. But the Baptist misses what he’s just done, he’s trying to see election nakedly and apart from Christ. It’s what both Luther and Calvin warned against trying to “see God in the nude”. Though the Baptist connects this to the “inward transformation”. He doesn’t realize that this is a theology of glory – trying to determine by the events of time and space what God has or has not done. At the end of the day it no different than what Pat Robertson and Islam idolatrously claimed (the principle in general) a few years ago in that Katrina was a judgment event from God on a particular person or people (theology of glory ““ reading the tea leaves of time and space as if to see God). When Jesus says that “˜these things’, tragic events of various kinds, are NOT a specific judgment upon a man to “straighten him out”, but signatory that this fallen WORLD is judged already (both rank sin and pietism). Such signs are to be to the Christian not a terror of personal judgment or that God has abandoned them, so get busy straightening up or else; nor are they random natural events: Rather, He tells us, these things ARE happening BECAUSE this world is fallen and the kingdom of God is coming”¦don’t loose hope just because of what you see and how long it goes on, God has saved you IN ME ALONE! Thus, NAKEDLY, like the saints of OT, trust in nothing but the Word given in the face of the opposite you see (theology of Cross looks THERE and there alone).

    4. The Baptist looses sight of Christ in election on this, when we can ONLY see or know our election in Christ in Whom we are elected. Again, Calvin and Luther warned this ““ election is seen in trusting Christ nakedly without ANY works for the better. Not doing this, is merely another form of building a tower of Babel as if to reach up to God by our efforts some how and peer into the infathomable eternity. Which Calvin says is where the devil leads you so he can push you off and murder you and your soul. It’s a form of trying to “go up and bring Christ down or go down into the depth and bring Him up”, when in fact He is there in the Word for you. You do nothing but receive it, much like an infant being baptized (the Gospel witness).

    5. Thus, the Baptist doctrine, either on the arminian side of the house or the Calvinist leaning side of the house at lengthe looses sight of the very real and strong reality that the Christian is SIMULTANEOUSLY 100% sinner by nature and 100% declared righteous and thinks this simultaneousness is a mixture of 100% divided between the two. Jesus only deals with sinners, not the “righteous”, which is another way of saying “self-righteous”. The humility given one lay within that simul 100% / 100% reality, that very tension. And it is in that very tension in which faith lay and remain so that the eyes of the Christian are constantly fixed and reset upon the Cross outside of them, external and alien Word for them, and not INSIDE of them which is to lead back into sin and fallenness and actually at the end of the day a rank violation of the first commandment, “I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of Egypt out of the Land of Bondage, you shall have NO other gods in front of Me” (especially the self anxious for the self’s salvation).

    6. When the Baptist doctrine forces the eye of the soul to look inward to see “˜God in the nude’ working within, he does not realize he is reproducing and inducing original sin (the first sin upon which all sin is predicated was not sex or murder but piety), that is the inward curving of the soul onto itself. THE WHOLE ENTIRE POINT of the Cross and Resurrection, even the incarnation of God among us, is to violently call into being the naked truster by making alive the soul’s eye by fixing it by Word of Gospel upon Christ. So fixed, naked faith/trust, there IS made a living Christian. Death occurs when the eye’s go inward, even to “˜see’, as it where, if God is working. If baptism witnesses there, in reality it is witnessing to fallenness, the inward curving, the EXACT opposite of the Gospel where its witness MUST BE!

    7. Thus, when the baptismal candidate must assess themselves to be in essence worthy of baptism, converted having faith and so forth. They look inward for this reality, which is looking away from Christ, which is unbelief. This is why a Baptist will NEVER under intense suffering say, “No Satan I am baptized and if I am baptized I have the promise that in both body and soul will be saved and have eternal life”. Because baptism is a marker of that “inward reality” to them, which is foolishness. That’s very different than saying that baptism is that which signifies and seals the promise of God, the Gospel.

    8. Baptism to the Baptist becomes a “means of doubt and unbelief” psychologically and to the soul ““ that’s completely different than a means of grace.

    9. The very witness of baptism upon an infant SCREAMS the reality of all fallen by nature in Adam, before one does either good or evil.

    10. Our children are taught that you are baptized BECAUSE you are fallen in Adam and a sinner by nature and thus NEED this very promise of God to save you”¦constantly.

    11. To the Reformed (sometimes) and Lutherans; salvation lays in this constant simul Justus et peccator tension, and we go back to the means of Grace BECAUSE we are constant sinners in thought, word and deed ““ not to the denial of it or that we are “resting on our laurels”. To return to the means of grace is hardly resting on one’s laurels but rather returning to Christ and saying, “have mercy on me a sinner” STILL. And then to receive His forgiveness afresh and go on joyfully in our vocations to love and serve the neighbor because THEY NOT GOD need our gifts. We thus, can joyfully, not to prove or have assurance I’m saved, give away nakedly our gifts to our neighbor for neither God who needs nothing, nor we who have Christ, need them.

    12. Thus, the reformed, at least if taught right, go to the means of grace for their repair to forgiveness and refreshment of hope, then turn to love the neighbor. As opposed to being thrown upon “doing works” to find a reality of election or regeneration within by the evidence of this doing. Good works flow FROM faith that ALREADY IS, not to prove or make it, or to use the old Roman formula “˜faith formed by love’.

    13. However, I have run into too many reformed who are nothing more than functioning Baptist who happen to Baptist children, who do not use their baptism to their benefit. This is tragic!

    Blessings brother,

    Larry H.

  4. Anonymous

    I might even add to this the faulty idea that the baptist doctrine tends to think of sin in qualifiable and quantifiable terms (but not all are consistent in this), which in reality is another way of saying, “you don’t really know the depths or severity of your need”. It is a natural outflow of a “once in time conversion”. Thus, all salvation talk and witness is in the present tense and “to the man” being converted. Their witness is like their baptism, unto themselves and not unto Christ. A typical Baptist testimony will be (not all but 99%), “I was once (fill in list of bad sins only), but the Lord freed me from (same list)”. The witness therefore of “when I got saved” is unto themselves and usually some inane moralistic repair that a Mormon can confess. That’s opposed to asking the same question, “when did you get saved”, answer 2000 years ago”¦” (the witness where it belongs). Born again tends to be taken in the imperative sense not the indicative as it was meant to Nicodemas and in reality means “moral repair of the negative sins”. The work, again, is on the side of man, he has not yet truly despaired of himself, his will, but in fact is puffed up with his works under arm attempting to buy the grace of God. You have to keenly “listen to their” baptismal/conversion talk. In typical Baptist circles “conviction” of sin in “law” preaching tends to be of the form, “Boy that really convicted me”, meaning “˜convicting me to try harder to beat it seeing I so don’t do it’. This misses the killing point of the real Law that is the hammer of God, to kill completely. True conviction of sin lay not in any sense of a “try harder” or similar train of thought, you have not yet heard the Law. True conviction is slaying utterly and total despair in one’s self and doing, this is to be truly prepared for the Gospel. If you hear in the law, try harder, you’ve not heard the Law and cannot nor will not hear the Gospel whereby you are made a Christian. This plays out in the Baptist paradigm of baptism

    However, as Luther aptly puts it, “He who acts simply in accordance with his ability and believes that he is thereby doing something good does not seem worthless to himself, nor does he despair of his own strength. Indeed, he is so presumptuous that he strives for grace in reliance on his own strength”¦While a person is doing what is in him, he sins and seeks himself in everything. But if he should suppose that through sin he would become worthily of or prepared for grace, he would add haughty arrogance to his sin and not believe that sin is sin and evil is evil, which is an exceedingly great sin. As Jer. 2:13 says, “˜For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.’ That is, through sin they are fare from God and yet they presume to do good by their own ability”¦The law wills that man despair of his own ability, for it leads him into hell and makes him a poor man and shows him that he is a sinner in all his works, as the Apostle does in Rom. 2 and 3:9, where he says, “I have already charged that all men are under the power of sin.”



  5. Anonymous

    Would you please clarify something for me? In your admonition of Baptists, you write as if you are not one, yet you are currently teaching and taking the role of a leader in a Baptist church. Are you are are you not a Baptist?


Leave a Reply

    No Twitter Messages.
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!