Baptismal Contradiction


Given that Pastor Douglas Wilson is a paedobaptist, I was really curious to read his tweet today:

In baptism, our old Adam is abandoned and drowned outside the ark. And we find ourselves alive and dry inside it.

Maybe I’m a simpleton and just don’t get it, but if this is what he says baptism is (and I can wholeheartedly say “Amen!” for the true disciple of Jesus), wouldn’t his practice of baptizing babies be an affirmation of the Roman Catholic heresy of baptismal regeneration?

Of course… the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 28 has a pretty squishy statement on baptism as well. While rightly affirming what baptism is in paragraphs 1 and 2, paragraph 4 seeks to explain why what paragraph 1 says isn’t completely accurate (Gary Crampton has done a great job documenting the contradiction in his work From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism). So which is it: Is baptism “a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life” (i.e. an outward sign of one’s conversion in Christ) (paragraph 1), or is baptism for “Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized” (i.e. infants who have not and cannot profess faith in Christ) (paragraph 4)? Either it’s a sign of regeneration or it’s not, it cannot be two different signs. It seems to me to be a baptismal contradiction…

(By: Nick Kennicott)

5 thoughts on “Baptismal Contradiction

  1. Wilson is a proponent of Federal Vision theology and has quite a different view on the sacraments than most Presbyterians. Some have in fact made the accusation that he holds to a form of baptismal regeneration. Most Presbyterians I know find Wilson’s views to be off the mark at this point. That said, I certainly see the same tension that you do in the Westminster standards.

  2. I was aware of Wison’s Federal Vision theology, but 1. He denies baptismal regeneration, and yet still draws his conclusion (although he does accept the “baptism” of an infant from a Roman Catholic church as valid – he debated Dr. James White on this issue several years ago), and 2. He doesn’t seem to be saying anything different than the WCF! Any Reformed Baptist would agree with para’s 1 and 2…

    1. OK, now I’m home and not typing on my phone during my lunch break. I appreciate your post and the way you point out the contradiction in the WCF at this point. When I was looking heavily into the baptism issue some years back I would go to the WCF from time to time and be reminded that no matter how complex or appealing an apologetic the defenders of infant baptism built, there remains an unacceptable conflict in their view as to what the sign signifies and who ought to receive it. Might be a good thing to write about sometime, if we only had a blog…

      The FV understanding of the covenants, election, and the sacraments is one of the most convoluted and confusing things I’ve ever looked into. Doug Wilson seems like a really affable and likable guy, but his denial of holding to baptismal regeneration has always seemed to me to be like someone telling me in tongues that they are a cessationist.

      Your post has stimulated more thought than fits in a comment box. Maybe I’ll post about this later. Nice work.

  3. Interestingly, Wilson recently wrote a short post on his reasoning for paedocommunion. It’s worth the read, and I would highly recommend taking the time to digest the lengthy comment from Michael Bull in the comment section below the article.

    By the way, your comment is both hilarious and spot on: “His denial of holding to baptismal regeneration has always seemed to me to be like someone telling me in tongues that they are a cessationist.”

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