Ministry Forum delves into Scripture on the topic of baptism
By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau
To baptize babies (paedobaptism) or wait until they’re old enough to understand the sacrament (credobaptism) — that was the question discussed Monday at Grand Canyon University’s second Ministry Forum, hosted by the College of Theology.
The hourlong program included presentations by GCU faculty members John Frederick, an Evangelical Anglican priest, and Dr. David Farbishel, a Presbyterian minister, who believe in paedobaptism. The practice places no restrictions on whether the infants or young children of believing parents should be baptized.
Representing the credobaptist (and the Baptist religion’s) point of view were faculty member Numa Gomez and Josh Vincent, senior pastor at Trinity Bible Church in west Phoenix. Credobaptism holds that a person should be baptized on the basis of his or her profession of faith in Jesus.
Farbishel noted the Bible is not explicit on whether babies may be baptized. But he inferred that, because the Word does not specify the correct age of a baptized individual, it must not have been an issue in Biblical times. In other words, all individuals could be baptized, regardless of their age.
Farbishel also drew Biblical parallels between Old Testament sacraments, such as the Passover, that were replaced by New Testament sacraments, in this case the Lord’s Supper. He said the Old Testament covenant of circumcision, which was routinely performed on a boy’s eighth day of life, was replaced by baptism.
“Circumcision of the flesh in the Old Testament was replaced by circumcision of the heart in the New Testament, baptism,” he said. “Both are signs of the covenant between God and His people.”
Frederick and Farbishel cited examples of the apostles calling for the baptism of babies, and they interpreted a passage in Acts, in which a jailer and his “entire household” are baptized, as meaning everyone in the home. Their ages and their professed faith are not mentioned.
“What do we see from the people who received the teachings from the early apostles? By and large, it’s for early baptism,” Frederick said.
But Vincent said there is significant enough inconsistency between the Old Testament and New Testament that it cannot be assumed that circumcision of babies at eight days was replaced by baptism of infants.
Baptism follows a person’s repentance of their sins and commitment to Christ in the corporate setting of a church, not the other way around, he said.
Gomez pointed out that faith, not baptism, is necessary for salvation, a point that was not disputed by the paedobaptists.
“It is a public act of commitment only to be performed on those old enough to profess their faith,” he said. “Baptism is a reflection of what’s going on inwardly, and it cannot be more than that.”
The next Ministry Forum, “Why worship with the Lord’s Supper?”, is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, in Building 6, Room 104.
Contact Janie Magruder at (602) 639-8018 or [email protected]