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- Right Wing Zealot
Why Calvin is wrong on the baptism of infants -
May 30th, 2012, 06:34 PM
As there is currently another thread on baptism on the front page, the reproduction of a previous thread with a slightly different focus, might prove useful.
Calvin and the Reformed churches in general maintain that baptism in water is the NT equivalent of OT circumcision, and that therefore just as infants in the households of Israel were circumcised, so too infants in the NT should be baptised.
Below we show the very fundamental fault in this argument.
This work may be quoted within the thread, but may not be reproduced outside the thread without the express permission of the author.
WHY CALVIN IS WRONG ON THE BAPTISM OF INFANTS
The circumcision which Abraham received, Paul tells us, was “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which [Abraham] had being yet uncircumcised”. So it was specifically a sign to indicate that one had faith in God.
Although then Abraham circumcised the rest of the males of his household according to God’s command, it was necessarily the case that their being circumcised was not a sign of the faith that they had, but simply a repetition of the sign of the faith that he had: it was a sign of something that was not in fact in them, but in him. A replica rather than the ‘real McCoy’.
And being a replica, that which spoke of the law. For the law is marked by repetition, but faith by spontaneity.
Therefore in God’s telling Abraham to circumcise all his males, what God was doing was signaling the future advent of the law, and signifying in the process that those of the law are by definition not of faith, such being consummately represented in Abraham’s circumcising of Ishmael the son of Hagar, which Hagar Paul tells us was a figure of Jerusalem which now is and which is in bondage to the law.
And signifying also that once that which starts out by the Spirit is placed into the hands of man, a trend in the direction of the flesh invariably results. (We see this in our church schools today: they were started out as true Christian institutions, but have eventually degenerated to the secular.)
And we read also in the NT of those at Galatia who were doing the same: they had begun by the Spirit, but were continuing by the works of the law (Gal 3:1-6): there is indeed nothing new under the sun.
And so Calvin is wrong when he views those circumcised subsequent to Abraham, as partakers of the same covenant of which Abraham partook. Rather, they were of those whose works of the flesh ran ahead of the Spirit, for they received, by repetition, a sign of something they themselves did not possess. Ostensibly they were partakers, but ostensibly only.
And so although the “seed” of Abraham to which God refers at Gen 17 was plural with regard to context, Paul points out at Gal 3:16 that God in fact used the singular form of the word to indicate that He was in fact speaking primarily of His (singular) Son, and then only by extension the plural by virtue of the fact that they who are in His Son, are many.
The circumcision of Abraham’s household then was in fact to signal the sin of presumption, which is the central characteristic of those who follow the law: they are they who presume themselves able to replicate the Spirit’s volition. And thus we read in Moses of Israel’s self-generated repentance to go in and possess the promised land after they had at the first shrunk back from the challenge, and of God’s displeasure with such presumption, and how that they therefore were defeated in the ensuing battle (Num 14:40-45).
Water baptism then is indeed equivalent to circumcision, but only the circumcision which Abraham himself had, and not the circumcision of those of his household.
But when Calvin makes use of the equivalence of circumcision and baptism, he misses this vital dichotomy: he misses the requirement to distinguish between the two modes of circumcision - the circumcision of substance which Abraham had, and the mere replica which followed.
And so he reasons that just as the infants of Abraham’s household received circumcision, by the same token the infants of NT households are to receive baptism. Thus he makes the error of fusing together the type (those of the law) with the substance (those of faith), which error is in fact theological companion to the chief error in all believers’ daily lives: the fusing together of the law and faith, preeminently exemplified in our weekly calls for “tithes and offerings”: we are forever joining new cloth to old.
With regard then to foundations, although the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity necessitates that God covenant with no-one but His only begotten Son, Calvin fails to see this in the context of baptism, instead lumping together the real McCoy (the sign of the covenant God made with Christ in Abraham) and its mere replica (the ostensible sign of faith in those who were in fact not of faith but the law), into one seamless institution, and/but with the full rank of the real McCoy.
With specific regard to hermeneutics then, Calvin’s error consists in working from the OT forward, rather than from the NT backward – submitting the revealed (the NT) to the unrevealed (the OT), rather than the other way around. For Christianity is that which properly starts at the end, and works backward; for if not for the fact that “it is finished” , there were no Christianity at all.
Moreover, if baptism is the equivalent of an unqualified OT circumcision, then we of the NT should also be circumcised, for the NT states that we are not only buried with Christ in baptism, but also circumcised in the heart.
For why maintain one sign (water baptism) which speaks to that which is internal (being buried with Christ), and not the other sign (circumcision) which also speaks to that which is internal (the circumcision of the heart)?
But rather, the reason that circumcision is now nullified, is that the circumcision of substance which Abraham had and which we of the NT who believe might properly have along with him, has become unsanctified by virtue of its being lumped in together with that which is of the law, and therefore the two modes of circumcision being indistinguishable from each other, they are of necessity culled in one. Just as in order to kill false replication cells known as “cancer”, we have also to kill the (good) white blood cells.
For God wants us to be a sanctified people, and therefore a people not able to be replicated.
Commensurately then, circumcision is done away with in order to avert any misconception that our heritage lies in the flesh rather than the Spirit.
But the nature of baptism, on the other hand, is that there is no sign of it after it is finished, and therefore no way for it to perpetually declare to spiritual powers that one who in fact is not in Christ, is in Christ, and no way for it to delineate our heritage as belonging to the flesh. It is therefore a sacrament far more capable of representing the full dynamics of the (revealed) (new) Testament.
And so we are told that the seal we have, is not that which is seen (as per circumcision), but that which is unseen: we are told at Eph 1:13 that we are sealed (invisibly) with the Spirit.
And is this any wonder? for: “we look not at the things which are seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”. (2 Cor 4:18)
By virtue of the fact that it is false to declare those infants who partook of circumcision subsequent to Abraham, as partakers of the same covenant of which Abraham partook, it is also false to declare infants born to believing parents today as partakers of the same covenant of which their believing parents partake.
Thus the baptism of infants is not rightfully a part of Christianity, and Calvin is shown to be in error.