Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category
The debate between credobaptists and paedobaptists is not so much a debate over what baptism is, as it is a debate over the nature of the church, the body, the covenant, the kingdom. Do the body and kingdom consist only of those who are beyond a certain point of intellectual development? In a sense, quite the opposite (Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17).
A key scripture for this debate is the prophet Jeremiah’s description of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31, and as quoted in Hebrews 8 and 10. This passage is often taken to imply that the new covenant is not just a new covenant but a new species of covenant: that its membership is fashioned spiritually, by faith; rather than naturally, by birth. This is a distinction that does not hold water, however: there are natural blessings in the new covenant; and salvation in the old covenants was by faith, grace, and through Jesus just as much as in the new. Moreover, as I have argued previously, Jeremiah 31 cannot be taken to mean that the new covenant excludes children; the opposite reading makes far better sense of the context and of related passages.
The church has almost universally confessed that her infant children go to be with Jesus if they die. Our infants are part of Jesus’s church-body-kingdom. Since they are to be seated at his heavenly table, it is right for us to seat them at his earthly table. Indeed, if they have a place at Jesus’s table, to refuse them access is to eat and drink judgment on ourselves (1 Cor 11:29) and to walk out of step with the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). And of course, to say that our children are fit participants in the Lord’s supper is to sneak baptism in the back door, for baptism is the seal of entry into the body, and the supper the seal of continuation and renewal.
But even granting all this, credobaptists normally balk at the thought of baptizing infants because baptism is normally in scripture linked with faith. Thus, a young child who can express the basic confession of Romans 10:9 may be a fitting subject for baptism by virtue of his profession of faith, but not an infant: even if he is likely part of Jesus’s body, he must wait until his faith becomes evident.
To make our infants wait is to confess that they have no faith, or no faith that we can discern. But we speak otherwise when we say that Jesus receives them if they die, because we also confess that justification is by faith alone. If our infants are to stand justified before God—and we believe that they are—then it must be by faith.
More importantly, scripture teaches us that they do have faith; if we were to better moderate the evangelical diet of conversion songs with Psalm singing, this confession would resonate more strongly with us. Psalm 22:9 speaks first of David’s and Jesus’s infant faith, but also our own. Psalm 71:6 speaks of the same. (Here we see the very spiritual dimension of the old covenants.) Certainly David speaks of a child-like faith rather than an adult faith; there is much more of fiducia to it and much less of notitia and assensus. But it is faith none the less.
Thus, infant baptism: because justification is by faith alone.
Recently I taught a church history lecture on the life of Susanna Wesley:
(Download.) I relied primarily on Wikipedia for my research on English church history, and on two books for my research on Susanna:
In his book, Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness, Eric Metaxas provides brief biographies of seven women in church history. He offers a very engaging and thoughtful history of the the lives of Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Sister Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa.
The Methodist minister John Newton wrote Susanna Wesley and the Puritan Tradition in Methodism. He offers a well rounded biography of Susanna while at the same time advancing and supporting his thesis that Susanna contributed a strain of vibrant Puritanism to the founding of Methodism.
How long are we to be mere lumps of flesh? How long are we to be stooping to the earth? Let everything be secondary with us to the provident care we should take of our children, and to our “bringing them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.” If from the very first he is taught to be a lover of true wisdom, then wealth greater than all wealth has he acquired and a more imposing name. (St. John Chrysostom)
Hat tip: Al Stout
Ted Tripp writes of repentance and faith as a way of life rather than an event:
Repentance and faith are not rites of initiation to Christianity. Repentance and faith are the way to relate to God. Repentance and faith are not acts performed one time to become a Christian. They are attitudes of the heart toward ourselves and our sin. Faith is not just the way to get saved; it is the life-line of Christian living.
Your children . . . need to know the cleansing and refreshing forgiveness of God, not just once to get saved, but daily. They must understand the Christian life not simply as living according to a biblical code, but as life in faith, commitment and fellowship with the living God. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 55)
Self-control is not opposed to self-expression.
Self-control is the very foundation that makes possible the most powerful and beautiful forms of self-expression.
Do not be afraid to teach your little ones to color in the lines and stay out of the street. It is preparing them for the day that they must draw their own lines, the day that they stand with you in the square.
Bob Kauflin interviewed Marty Machowski, the author of the Gospel Story for Kids Sunday-school curriculum, here. There’s a lot to appreciate about what Machowski has to say, but he makes a shocking statement:
Our children, meeting in classrooms during our Sunday worship services represent the largest group of gathered unbelievers across the world.
From time to time I hear parents expressing similar sentiments — “they’re all unregenerate [or heathens],” “we can’t expect that of him; he’s not saved,” or “her problem is just that she needs to be saved.” Overwhelmingly we speak of evangelizing our children rather than discipling them. We wring our hands over the possibility of giving them false assurance, but we are almost entirely unconcerned about the danger of creating millstones of false doubt.
God does not speak of or relate to our children in this way, and it is dangerous for us to do so. It is dangerous because it trains us and our children to doubt and test the promises of God rather than believing and acting upon them. This is how God speaks of our children:
- He addresses them with commands and encouragements as part of the body of his elect “saints” (e.g., Ex. 20:2, 12; Eph. 1:1, 6:1; Col. 1:2, 3:20)
- He requires their presence in worship (Ex. 10:8-11, Ps. 96:7) and feasts (Deut. 16:9-15). He receives their worship (Matt. 21:16) as a potent spiritual warfare to silence his enemies (Ps. 8:2).
- They trusted in him before they were born (Ps. 71:6) and as infants (Ps. 22:9)
- He is their God (Gen. 17:8, Ezek. 37:21-28, etc.)
- He has promised the Holy Spirit to them (Isa. 59:21)
- He regards them as holy (1 Cor. 7:14)
We ought to speak of and think about our children in the same way that God does. This will not leave us complacent, but will instead motivate us to go about the work of parenting rightly, with full confidence in God’s being already at work in them. Instead of leading our children to the way, we will train them in the way (Prov. 22:6). What we once called evangelism must become full-orbed discipleship. Our children need the gospel, but in just the same way we do — to be continually reminded of the promises and goodness and nearness of God and to be growing in repentance and faith.
In February, pastor Joost Nixon taught a parenting conference here in the Triangle: No greater joy: keeping our kids in the Christian faith.
We didn’t have a chance to attend, but are grateful for the recordings.
I’ve also enjoyed and profited from James Jordan’s lectures, Your child in God’s world.