A Problem with the Doctrine of Infant Baptism in the Westminster Standards

by | Jul 14, 2010 | Book, Sacraments

Below is a portion of chapter one of Gary Crampton’s new book, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism. You can purchase the book for $14.30 at RBAP.

A Problem with the Doctrine of Infant Baptism in the Westminster Standards

The present writer is in agreement with B. B. Warfield that the Westminster Standards, consisting of the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, “are the richest and most precise and best guarded statement ever penned of all that enters into evangelical religion, and of all that must be safeguarded if evangelical religion is to persist in the world.”[1] Then too, Richard Baxter was correct, when he stated, “As far as I am able to judge, the Christian world, since the days of the apostles, had never a synod more excellent than this [the Westminster Assembly].”[2]

As a minister of the gospel, I believe that the Westminster Standards provide the finest summary of the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture.[3] In this sense, the Standards are considered to be a subordinate standard to the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. The Bible alone has a systematic monopoly on truth.

The Standards, as with all confessions and creeds, must be evaluated in light of Scripture. One must adhere to the Berean principle of Acts 17:11, where we are enjoined to “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things be true.” As stated in the Westminster Confession (31:4) and as valuable as confessions and creeds are (and they are very valuable), the fact is that “all synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred.” Therefore, says the Confession (1:10), “The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” As taught in the Larger Catechism (Q. 3), “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.”

It is while engaged in a thorough study of the two New Testament sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, that I encountered a problem with the doctrine of infant baptism. The problem is three-fold: first, there are no examples of infant baptism in the Bible; second, baptism and the Lord’s Supper go together; and third, there are multiple differences among paedobaptists as to why infants should be baptized.

[1] Benjamin B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, edited by John E. Meeter (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973), II:660.

[2] Cited on the back cover of Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1994). All citations from the Westminster Standards, comprised of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, are from this publication. The English has been modernized. Note is made that when this author says that he is in agreement with what Warfield and Baxter have said about the Westminster Standards, the same could be said (with certain nuances here and there) about the Congregational Savoy Declaration (1658) and the London Baptist Confession of 1689, because some 90% of the doctrines taught by these three confessions are in agreement with one another. See Errol Hulse, The Testimony of Baptism (Sussex: Carey Publications, 1982), 57.

[3] Again, a similar statement could be made (with certain nuances) with regard to the Savoy Declaration and the London Baptist Confession of 1689.

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