I respect and value Baptists. I even dated a girl from Moody Bible Institute when I attended Trinity Christian College, near Chicago. We were supposed to stay a foot apart the whole time, but that lasted only three minutes.
Baptists make important contributions to the body of Christ. They inspire us with their evangelical zeal. Their adults faithfully participate in rigorous Sunday school training. We should learn from them.
But not in all things.
The Reformed expression of the Christian faith also makes important contributions. We emphasize the biblical teaching that when it comes to salvation, God acts first in grace and only then can and do we respond in faith.
Why bring this up? Because increasingly Christian Reformed church councils are tilting toward a Baptist approach to baptism—allowing parents to have their children dedicated, rather than baptized, so they can undergo “believers baptism” when they reach “the age of discretion.” These councils have laudable motives: to accommodate parents who don’t accept the biblical teaching that in the sacraments it is God, not we, who speaks first.
By all means, let’s be patient with parents who wrestle with infant baptism, and especially so if they are new to our church. Let’s teach them in all humility, gentleness, and love. Let’s not force them into it. But let’s not introduce pseudo-sacraments into our worship. The covenant rituals our Lord commanded us to celebrate together are baptism and his supper. He didn’t include dedications.
So why is this Baptist practice of dedications being considered? Maybe because by requiring a public profession of faith before allowing participation in communion, we’re already Baptist in our practice of the other covenant ritual.
Strange. In 1986 a carefully studied report to synod (our annual convention of CRC leaders) argued persuasively that Scripture nowhere requires a prior public profession of faith of children before they participate in communion. But for church-political reasons it stopped short of recommending that we drop that requirement. CRC congregations are still prohibited from returning to the biblical practice of the early church. How Reformed is that?!
One regional group of churches, Classis Holland, is asking Synod 2006 to mandate a study committee to take another hard look at allowing all covenant children to the Lord’s table. In view of the present erosion of our Reformed confessional view of the sacraments, it’s high time.
I don’t believe I sinned by dating a Baptist girl (except for breaching Moody’s rules by holding hands during a scary movie). And I’m unrepentant about my admiration for the Baptist tradition. But I believe it’s wrong for Reformed churches to water down what the Spirit allows us to contribute to the body: the precious biblical teaching of God’s awesome sovereignty—of a God who sweeps us up and enfolds us into his loving arms long before we know or can say that we love him back.
No spiritually dead people of any age can confess until Christ makes them alive first. Then they can spend a lifetime confessing his goodness.
Come on, synod. Let’s take another serious, communal look at whom Jesus would have us invite to his table. What’s another few grand in committee costs when it comes to a treasure so deeply rooted in our confessions?