I had the pleasure of spending a five hour road trip with a Reformed Baptist. As we talked of many things, our differences with regard to the baptism of children arose. Being a paedobaptist, I pointed out to him an inconsistency that helped to change my view from credobaptism when I had been first studying the matter closely. He was, to my surprise, convinced and we spoke of many more examples that supported the basic contention. I thought it might be helpful just to post the basic claim that started the ball rolling. I think one thing that particularly helped our conversation was that we had been listening to Voddie Baucham, a Reformed Baptist who has a very high view of family and of covenantal discipline of children. The stark contrast was made even starker by this background.
I'm going to try and put the argument into a valid form with assumptions laid bare.
1. Being precedes doing.
2. Our being Christian precedes our doing Christianity.
3. God's power alone recreates the being "unbeliever" into the being "Christian" (this is regeneration)
4. Only regenerate beings can do what God commands in willing obedience.
5. The Bible commands elders and fathers to train their children in obedience to God's commands (Deut. 6, 1 Tim. & Titus).
6. The Bible states the God is faithful unto the thousandth generation of children of those who are faithful to His commands (Deut. 7).
7. Given 4-6 children of believing parents must be regarded as Christians in order to consistently fulfill the command of God to disciple them in obedience.
Upon what basis does the father or elder have for believing that his children will be obedient to God's commands? The father or elder is considered disobedient and unfit should his children not obey God's commands, yet it is clear that obedience is only obedience when it comes from the heart, which means a heart that has been made new through regeneration. Since the baptist does not believe that regeneration can occur apart from an understanding, and that the blessings and cursings of the covenant can only be enabled once a profession has been made, there is no basis for the parent of the unbaptized, unprofessing child to expect that their obedience is in accordance with God's commands. Not only is their no basis for expecting genuine obedience, there is no basis for discipleship, since only a regenerate mind can receive the truth of Scripture. In order to be consistent, a Baptist must evangelize, not instruct, and he can only apply the law apart from the gospel promises to his child. But what father who has taught his child to obey his word joyfully expects that the child's joyful obedience to his command is anything but genuine? And is this not obeying the fifth commandment, as a good father is teaching his child to obey, in accordance with Deut. 6? But under the baptist position, all of these efforts are in spite of what the baptist believes his child to be--a fallen, blind, and unregenerate sinner.
While the father cannot know the child's regeneration, he can regard the child as such on the basis of God's stated Word for children of believing parents--a Word that the baptist has rejected the truth of, and cannot claim consistently. The father may raise his child in accordance with Deut. 6 and the elder may be evaluated on the basis of his children's obedience because his children are under the blessings and cursings of the covenant and can be expected to obey from the heart the commands which they are given. And because the paedobaptist has the promise of God that his child shall continue in the obedience in which he is taught, he has a foundation upon which to discipline the child, since God can make known to the child what an unregenerate heart cannot know by definition--namely, that "I am a Christian and must honor my father and mother in the Lord." The baptist child can only be expected to know that "I am an unbeliever and must honor my father and mother by my own standard."
To the extent that baptist elders expect their children to follow in their instruction concerning the Lord's commands in the same way that they expect a newly converted adult to do so, there is also inconsistency. And if the baptist expects the child to obey only superficially, i.e. not from understanding AND willingness, then he is actively training hypocrisy rather than obedience. The only consistently baptist father would treat his child as an unbeliever--continually proclaiming his unbelief and separated status while refraining from the sort of fellowship in which only Christians may participate. Yet what father expects that in raising his child there is not a unity of mind? After all, what is filling the child's mind with propositions to believe and act upon if not the father? What father expects his child to be able to articulate a profession of faith that they believe the father's word is true and should be obeyed? Even Voddie Baucham mentioned a verse in the Old Testament where the daughter's vow to the Lord may be overturned if the father invalidates it--thus the Lord subjects the daughter's vow to the word of the parent, thereby allowing the father to cover the iniquity of the daughter. How else could this be unless children under the headship of the father and mother were sanctified and under the covenant stipulations? What else does Paul mean when saying that a child of even one believing parent is considered holy?
Once one accepts the basic inconsistency of the credobaptist position on this point, one's eyes are opened to see the pervasive assumption regarding the place of children of believing parents in the Covenant of Christ. "Let the little children come unto me," and "Whoever causes the least of these to stumble," are reflective of the ideas laid down in the Old Testament regarding the chosen status of children and the high standard required of parents to be to their children as God is to His children.