I know that the subject of my earlier post is a very practical one that credobaptist churches and families must wrestle with.
It may be helpful to pass along a few other resources for those who want to explore this in more depth and to see the arguments for and against the position I would advocate.
First is a short piece by David Michael of Bethlehem Baptist Church who outlines four practical reasons why they find it wise to wait until kids are at least 11 years old: (1) wait for understanding; (2) wait for more independent thinking; (3) wait for significance; (4) wait for maturity.
Second, the elders of Capitol Hill Baptist Church have provided a statement explaining that while believer baptism is scripturally required, the age of baptism is not directly discussed in Scripture and therefore is a matter of wisdom and prudence. In essence, they believe that “the normal age of baptism should be when the credibility of one’s conversion becomes naturally evident to the church community.” They see this as usually taking place when a young person is moving out of parental authority and begins to “assume adult responsibilities (sometime in late high school with driving, employment, non-Christian friends, voting, legality of marriage).”
Third, Trevin Wax argues that the Bible does not provide us with a one-size-fits-all method for handling childhood conversions; yet in applying biblical wisdom to this question, he believes we can glean several principles.
- We should actively share the gospel with our children, and we should encourage them when they trust Christ.
- Those who are baptized must be able to make a credible profession of faith.
- There is wisdom in delaying baptism for young children.
- Delaying baptism does not mean we should consider childhood baptisms invalid.
Fourth, in line with the position I was advocating, there is a free booklet available online: Forbid Them Not: Rethinking the Baptism and Church Membership of Children and Young People, by Ted Christman, founding pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY.
We Reformed Baptists may have an Achilles’ heel when it comes to our own practice of baptism. From sincere motives, some of us have practiced the custom of withholding the initiatory ordinance and church membership from childhood and youthful converts. As was acknowledged earlier, the practice is obviously rooted in noble motives and based upon a rational apologetic, but it calls for serious rethinking nonetheless.
In short, it regrettably “forbids the children” who are truly converted to obey the Great Commission. It forbids them membership in the church. It forbids them the Lord’s Table. It forbids them the pastoral oversight that rightfully belongs to all members of the church. It forbids them the sense of belonging to the family of God, even though they do in fact belong to God.
The purpose of this treatise is to assert and defend the view that Reformed Baptist churches ought to be baptizing and receiving into their membership children and young people who give credible evidence of being truly saved.
Christman addresses objections that (1) “it seems too difficult to determine the genuineness of childhood conversion” and (2) “children surely are not mature enough to meet all of the requirements of church membership.” He includes specific instruction on questions to ask a young professing Christian, and the proper procedure for church discipline. And in the final section of the short booklet he compare “the intrinsic dangers of the proposed practice with those of its alternative.”
Finally, see this piece by John Starke, who gives four reasons to consider not delaying baptism for small children:
- The regular pattern in Scripture doesn’t give any indication of a probationary period.
- A probationary period seems to imply that there is something more than faith we need to do in order to be a Christian.
- Affirming belief in the gospel is never false assurance.
- The New Testament pattern is reactive rather than proactive concerning conversion.