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If you’re a credobaptist (i.e., one who believes in seeking to baptize only believers), it can sometimes be confusing trying to understand why anyone would be a paedobaptist (i.e, one who also baptizes infants of believers). Therefore I thought it might be helpful to reproduce two summations by thoughtful paedobaptists setting forth their case.

The first (and briefer) summary is from credobaptist-turned-paedobaptist pastor Randy Booth, from his book, Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism, p. 8. He summarizes the case under five headings:

  1. Covenant Theology. Throughout the bible, God relates to his people by way of a covenant of grace. Covenant theology provides the basic framework for rightly interpreting Scripture.
  2. Continuity of the Covenant of Grace. The Bible teaches one and the same way of salvation in both the Old and the New Testaments, despite some different outward requirements.
  3. Continuity of the People of God. Since there is one covenant of grace between God and man, there is one continuous people of God (the church) in the Old and New Testaments.
  4. Continuity of the Covenant Signs. Baptism is the sign of the covenant in the New Testament, just as circumcision was the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament.
  5. Continuity of Households. Whole households are included in God’s redemptive covenant.

The second (fuller) summary is from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 632-34:

  1. Although the Abrahamic covenant had national aspects to it, at its heart, it was a spiritual covenant which signified spiritual realities, including its sign and seal, that is, circumcision.
  2. The Abrahamic covenant is still in force and is essentially identical with the “new covenant” of the present dispensation. The unity and continuity of this one covenant of grace in both testaments follows from the fact that the Mediator is the same; the condition of faith is the same; and the blessings are the same, namely, regeneration, justification, spiritual gifts, and eternal life.
  3. By God’s appointment, infants share in the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant and therefore received circumcision as a sign and seal. Since the “new covenant” is essentially identical with the Abrahamic covenant, infants of believing parents who receive the sign of the covenant are not excluded from covenant or church membership.
  4. Even though the Abrahamic covenant is essentially identical with the new covenant there are some changes that have taken place. In the new dispensation, baptism is by divine authority substituted for circumcision as the initiatory sign and seal of the covenant of grace. Baptism corresponds with circumcision in spiritual meaning so that both signs signify the washing away of sin and the need for regeneration. Furthermore, given the essential unity of the covenant across the ages, baptism, as the new sign and seal of the new covenant age, does not exclude infants of believing parents.
  5. Although the NT contains no direct evidence for the practice of infant baptism in the church this is due more to the fact that the apostolic age was primarily a missionary period which focused on the baptism of adults. But, given the unity of the covenant of grace, there is also no text in the NT which specifically abrogates the demand that the covenant sign be applied to the infants of believing parents in the new covenant era. Household baptisms probably, though it cannot be established with certainty, bear witness to this fact.

In the near future, Lord willing, I’ll seek to do a post summarize the case against paedobaptism, i.e., reasons credobaptists are not convinced of the above arguments.

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28 thoughts on “The Case for Paedobaptism”

  1. Anonymous says:


    Where do you stand on this issue?


  2. William Sarris says:

    Circumcision was only for boys and I don’t recall any kind of similar sign for girls… so what does that say about baptism?

    I see the logic in the position, but I don’t see the basis for that logic. Who decided that the new sign of the covanent was baptism (this coming from a person who was raised paedobaptist and is attending a paedobaptist church).

    I say this in the spirit of wanting to know, not any hostility.

  3. Ann Addison says:

    My baptism was a believer’s baptism, yet I am a member of a PCA church. My church is the most Biblical church near me (near being relative… I still drive a long way). I am one not quite convinced by the arguments above, yet I believe it is more egregious for a church to deny communion with someone who does have communion with Jesus. I’m thinking of R. C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.

  4. J. B. Hood says:


    I think some/many paedobaptists would point to Col 2:11-12, where circumcision is juxtaposed with baptism. The new covenant is symbolized by the Lord’s Supper (replaces Passover?), baptism (replaces circumcision), and faith (remains the same, with more specific object, of course–Jesus, his lordship and resurrection).

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have actually been studying the baptism question for a few months b/c of my frustration with the arguments of the the paedobaptists.

    It will cost me my job if my view changes.

    I have read Booth’s book and I found it troubling that this book which I had been encouraged to read by more than a few paedobaptists in my own denomination leaves out Jeremiah 31:32/Hebrews 8:9 which contains “…not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” It seems to me these verses need to be dealt with at length and they do not not even show up in the verse index at the end of the book. (You will see Jeremiah 31:31 and 33 and Hebrews 8:8 and 8:10 I think though.) The argument of the credobaptist seems to turn on the obvious point in these verses describing the New Covenant and its discontinuity. And since the point in Booth’s book is to argue that all the descriptions of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8 are not deviations from the Old Covenant then it is curious to me he altogether leaves out the verse that says the two covenants are not alike!

  6. Bryan C. McWhite says:

    I always find it mind-boggling that “well-reasoned” paedobaptists, who presumably want to demonstrate that paedobaptism not only fits with a system, but is (more importantly, one would hope) biblical nevertheless almost inevitably begin their case with the extra-biblical concept of the covenant of grace.

    I can’t help but think that this is primarily because the more biblically based arguments (the “household baptisms” in Acts and the analogy argument from Col. 2, to name the two most prominent) simply do not hold much water.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I posted the bulk of this comment last week, late in a previous discussion of baptism, so it might have gotten lost, and I’ll repeat it. Arguments such as the one Booth makes have such an abstract quality. I don’t think it captures any of the living testimonial vibrancy of why I became a convinced paedobaptist. It was an unusual route (like Booth, after adult conversion, adult credobaptism, and initial discipleship in a Baptist church).

    First, the common argument that “baptized children may fall away” struck me as weightless, as it fits equally on the other foot; many adults baptized after profession of faith subsequently fall away. So neither form is a “guarantee” (which I think tends to be a hang up both for paedobaptists expecting magic — e.g., many Roman Catholics and Episcopalians — and for credobaptists expecting that they can relax because ‘believers’ only are admitted to the community). No guarantees.

    Second, I agree with the poster (earlier series of posts) who mentioned how dedication as a ‘dry baptism’ reflects an instinct that something is missing when children are not included in the body. That struck me, too, observationally, as a member of a good, loving, credobaptist church.

    Third, Matthew 28:18-20 is about comprehensive discipleship (main clause) inclusive of the subordinate clauses, entry (baptism) and growth (teaching to obey Jesus). Baptism brings entry into the community of learning to obey Jesus. Every Christian parent seeks to teach their children the comprehensive hupakooees/obedience to Jesus that includes growing faith, prayer, repentance, asking forgiveness, asking for help, as well as the actions of love. Why shouldn’t little children expect that God hears their prayers? Why shouldn’t they show evidence of fruit of the Spirit’s renovating work, even from the mother’s womb (as with a number of those born under the old covenant? I have found the the simple logic of the Great Commission regarding baptizing the community’s children to be sweetly compelling. Entry into the community (whether as child or adult) leads to a context for teaching, life-learning, growing.

    For example, our daughters are mature believing adults, whose earliest memories include the reality of God’s presence, promises, hearing ear, loving care. They never didn’t believe, and there was no ‘moment’ of ‘coming to Christ’, though there were countless moments of expressing faith and growing (amid struggles and waverings, of course – as with all of us, young or old) as they learned to seek Jesus from infancy. I’ve long thought that the paedobaptist can explain the adult convert (like myself), but the credobaptist can’t adequately explain the spiritual life of children (like my daughters). It’s a bit like the way a Calvinist can explain an ‘Arminian’ conversion; but an Arminian cannot explain a ‘Calvinistic’ conversion (like my own; or CS Lewis’s “Surprised by Joy”), where the person was dragged into the kingdom and was not seeking God or wanting to be a Christian!

    Fourth, Ephesians 6:1-3 addresses children as a matter of course in a letter to the community that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously, some children disobey and dishonor their parents, just as some adults provoke their children. But the matter-of-factness of addressing them directly made far more sense to me on a paedobaptist vision.

    The other more inferential and extended paedobaptist arguments (covenant, circumcision analogy, community, etc.) make sense to me, but I agree with previous discussion from both sides about the impact of worldview on how persuasive or unpersuasive these arguments seem. It was actually these more simple texts and experiences that changed my view. I understand the appeal and the arguments of credobaptist beliefs and practices, but for the past 30 years I’ve found the arguments unpersuasive both from Scripture and experience.

    Two asides. First, I think it’s important to underline that paedobaptists are also credobaptists, depending on the case, and that the thoughtful ones (Presbyterians! But I’m biased.) always are very concerned to nurture personal, vibrant, adult faith. Really what this discussion is dealing with is the ‘paedo-credo’ position versus the anti-paedo-credo-only position, as one of the posters alluded.

    Second, here are some of my more worldview wonderments about ‘credobaptist exclusiveness’ Too individualistic a view of human life? Too narrow an idea of ‘getting saved’? Too ‘decisional’ and punctilinear, rather than grasping the many kinds of stories by which living faith is initiated and matures in various people? Too much wanting guarantees when there aren’t actually guarantees? Too atomistic a hermeneutic? Too much definition of saving faith as assent to a mature understanding of certain doctrines, rather than a calling on the Lord, however limited the current understanding, in the expectation of continued growth in understanding as a person matures?

  8. BJ Mora says:

    John Murray’s _Christian Baptism_ is an excellent argument for paedobaptism. It’s slim at 90 pages but covers the waterfront. If one remains anti-paedobaptist after reading it, then one has found novel arguments… I don’t see any holes in Murray’s theses.

  9. Michael says:

    i found this article from john piper a couple months ago on reasons why he is a credo-baptist instead of a paedo-baptist. he also talks about how he deals with the fact that many Reformed theologians were paedo-baptists. it’s a very interesting read.

  10. Matt Bradley says:

    To the anonymous paedobaptist above me, outstanding post! I wish you had provided a handle of some sort.

    I would also like to add some thoughts. Many credobaptists seem to want to reject the connection between circumcision and baptism, pointing out that there is no clear text (having rejected Col 2) to support this. But if you ask them if baptism is a sign of entrance into the community, they invariably answer yes! So the connection is naturally accepted by them, even if they wish not to make it: Both are signs of entrance into the covenant community. The questions at hand then become clearer – What is the nature of this community? Is it a visible community or an invisible one? And who belongs to this community? Because whoever belongs to this community must receive the sign of belonging, or membership.

    This is the point at which I personally came to a paedobaptist conviction (after being raised credo only). If the nature of the community is invisible, then how can we baptize anyone with a clear conscience, not knowing men’s hearts? If however it is a visible community (as it was in the OT), and the promises that flow to this community belong to its children as well (as they did in the OT, as well as the NT, see Peter’s statement in Acts 2:39 “the promise is for you and for your children”), and if God commanded his one people to administer the sign to their children, and has not rescinded that command, then on what basis can I deny the sign of covenant membership to my children?

    Credobaptists will invariably answer that the new covenant consists only of those that are regenerated (essentially they are answering that the covenant community is only invisible). If this is the case, then I would ask again, how then can they baptize anyone, not knowing their true condition?

    I believe the question eventually comes down to how you define the covenant people. If you see continuity between the Abrahamic covenant (and the Mosaic and Davidic, for that matter) and the New Covenant, then I think it will naturally lead to a paedo view. If you see primarily discontinuity, you are likely to hold to a credo view.

    Thanks to all for the spirit in which the comments have been made up to this point.


  11. Michael Saville says:

    I have never read Booth’s book, but would be sympathetic with his position. Indeed, the basis for the paedobaptism position rests on the view that there is continuity from the Old Testament era into the new. Basically, I would argue that children were members of the people of God in the OT period and there is every reason to believe that this principle continues into the New Testament era–hence they are to receive the signs of covenant membership, be disciple and instructed in the faith, and participate in the full religious life of God’s people. Probably my favorite book on this topic would be the The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism and especially the essays by Douglas Wilson and Gregg Strawbridge.

    To briefly respond to a couple of the comments I have seen here.
    RE: Jeremiah 31/Hebrews 8
    I fail to see how Jeremiah 31/Hebrews 8 has any bearing on the question at hand. Jeremiah’s prophecy did not concern a new kind of covenant administration, but rather, a new kind of covenant people. The problem with the covenant in Jeremiah’s day was to be found in the people and not in the covenant itself (This point is clearly made in Hebrews 8:8). In prophesying a new covenant, Jeremiah looked to a day when the heart-heartedness of God’s people would be remedied, and all (rather than a minority) would truly embrace the Lord’s covenant from the heart (cf a very similar passage in Ezekiel 36).

    However, there is no reason to believe we have already seen the fulfillment of this prophecy. Indeed the letter of Hebrews itself with it’s strong warnings against apostasy prove that the situation anticipated by Jeremiah has not yet arrived. The fact that Jesus is the guarantee of the better (new) covenant also invites us to anticipate a future rather than present fulfillment for Jeremiah 31 (cf Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 5:5).

    RE: The Covenant of Grace. It is true that the term is not found in scripture. Really it’s just a shorthand way to summarize the way that all the covenants fit together and unfold God’s purposes in Christ.


  12. Wayne Smith says:

    I placed this comment on your article:
    ( Most Presbyterians . . . Do Not Understand Clearly Why They Baptize Their Infants” )
    I’m reposting it here for some help for those who have questions.

    Anonymous said
    I am a Presbyterian Pastor who has been studying baptism for about 4 months now because after 3 years of seminary and reading a number of books in my few years upon graduation I could not buy with confidence the biblical arguments I would routinely espouse for paedobaptism.

    I Wayne said:
    We fellowshipped with Dr.Edmund P. Clowney, Dr. John Frame and Dr. Dennis Johnson in Escondido, Ca: for many years. Dr Johnson and I shared how we were both baptized as infants and later as a requirement to join a church that practiced baptizing by immersion. We were both baptized twice.
    Dr. Johnson wrote this article after we moved to Texas and shared it with me.
    Read it here

    In His Name
    Wayne Smith

  13. Mark L says:

    When I spent a year in the PCA I benefited in two ways: I gained a great respect for paedo-baptists, and I became convinced it was wrong. That does not mean I do not respect their position. I do — but it is not a case of both/and. The implications are profound in ecclesiology and who one considers to be in or out of the church.

    I read Wilson, Murray, Booth and was almost swayed by their very sophisticated theological arguments — then I sat down with my NT and read every reference to baptism.

    The simplest explanation of the texts is that people believed and were baptized. There is no clear reference to infant baptism in the NT — only household baptism, and all of those are in a context of explicit faith.

    One has to be a theological student to grasp the arguments for infant baptism, and I cannot imagine a very complex explanation being chosen over a very simple one. It is significant that all the books on paedo-baptism that we think of as good arguments begin with theology, not with exegesis. I do not think we can get to this conclusion easily if we start with the Greek text.

    Beasley-Murray on believers baptism is entirely exegetical and convincing.

    All this is with the greatest respect for the views I heard espoused and practiced — a very careful statement of the meaning of baptism to infants that was in now way salvific. I just could not reach the same conclusion.

  14. Bob Hayton says:

    A key factor to note, I think, is that the NT is for the most part silent on this issue. Baptists point to examples of adult conversions followed by baptism, yet such examples are a moot point. What about the children of believers, those from believing homes, where are examples of refusing baptism or offering baptism?

    In light of silence, the covenantal considerations with the teaching of Col. 2 receive greater weight.

    I have summarized the Biblical basis for paedobaptism on my blog, just to be sure I was understanding it. I had a recent paedo convert confirm I represented them fairly. I’m kind of on the fence on this issue and remain Baptist for the time being.

    The earliest two articles here, are fascinating. Anyone struggling with this or interested should read them. The first is a Credo-Baptism defense from a Covenantal Theology perspective (majoring on that passage in Jeremiah/Hebrews about the New Covenant, the one someone mentioned above). Then after interaction in the comments and more thinking and praying about things, the writer changed his mind and posted a recantation of his former position and a defense of infant baptism. These are extremely well written, thorough, and deal with Scripture. The comments are an example of how to debate charitably, for the most part, and they are very excellent.

    A final point, a defense of the Baptist view will look different for those who are dispensationalist. They tend to not understand or give time of day to the covenantal considerations, and they tend to overstate the Biblical case for Baptism. I hope Justin Taylor can present a good Baptist response from the perspective of a covenantal view (which by the way is abundantly Scriptural), I would love to read it. Maybe he could recommend some online resources or a good book, too!

  15. jmark says:

    Prof Edward Donnelly has an excellent series of sermons – gracious and thought-provoking – on why baptise the children of believers as well as professing believers.

    Given that he is close friends with many reformed baptists, and often speaks at their conferences his position is balanced and considerate.

    Those inclined to dismiss infant baptism with ease would do well to listen to them, not to be convinced, but to hear a good presentation of the arguments from one who is thoroughly biblical.

    You can hear them here:

  16. Mike Brown says:

    Two simple thoughts:

    1) Paedobaptistic arguments aren’t that difficult to understand. Jr. High kids in my Sunday School class routinely express a sound, Reformed, basic understanding of baptism, and often make some of the abstract connections to it, rather than just responding to direct questions about it (i.e. – how are some ways that God demonstrates his promises to us… and some kids would respond with baptism)

    2) We should consider that baptism is much more about God’s promise and action than about our hearts and decisions. That should carry significant weight in the discussion.

  17. Rick Penney says:

    “#5 Although the NT contains no direct evidence for the practice of infant baptism in the church this is due more to the fact that the apostolic age was primarily a missionary period which focused on the baptism of adults.”

    God help us if we don’t see that our CURRENT time period is as much as a “missionary period” as the apostolic age was. Berkhoff may be assuming a christendom that no longer exists.
    I realize that PCA churches practice believer’s baptism as well, which is an often overlooked point in this discussion, but I fear that we may be missing a great opportunity to let baptism be the communicative act (in a vanhoozer sort of way) that it should be scripturally if believer’s baptism is not regularly carried out by local churches, weather they be baptist or baby-baptist (my name for paedobaptism:).

  18. J. Clark says:

    Circumcision is equated with the keeping of the law: Romans 2:25 “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.” Why would you then equate baptism with circumcision which is of the law and leads to death? Instead, we are exhorted to be circumcised in the heart which is where regeneration happens. Baptism is an outward sign of such.

  19. Michael Saville says:

    RE: Comment 18

    The law only lead to death when the person adheres to it apart from true faith in the Lord. This was not the case for the many OT saints such as Moses, Joshua, and David.

    Also, it is true that are hearts are to be circumcised, but this was equally true for those who lived during the Old Testament. It is Moses who emphasized the importance of heart circumcision to a people (including children) who had the outward sign.

    The similarity between baptism and circumcision comes in the fact that they are both rites that mark out and identify the people of God, and show that one is a participant in his covenant with all its promises, blessings, and obligations.

  20. J. Clark says:

    You made my point not vise versa. So the covenant is of the heart which is wrought by the Spirit. Therefore live according to the Spirit. My 9month old son cannot live by the Spirit because he has no knowledge of such. The scripture leads us to the inward covenant in the heart not to the outward one which is flesh. So my son may be baptized but it has no meaning to him or has any bearing on his covenant to God. Maybe it makes me feel good. Are you saying newborns live by the Spirit?

  21. Michael says:

    My point was that while circumcision of the heart has always been required, this did not preclude the participation of infant children in the life of the covenant and it’s signs. In the OT, parents did not wait for their children to demonstrate circumcision of the heart, before they gave them the outward sign–the children were included from birth. Your argument against infant baptism in the New Testament era could apply equally against infant circumcion in the Old Testament era.

    Secondly, we can’t absolutely know that the heart of anyone, infant or adult. However, the scriptures give Christian parents good reason to expect their children to be drawn to the Lord in the earliest stages of life. John the Baptist clearly knew the Lord while in the womb of his mother. This is further confirmed by passages like Psalm 8:2.


  22. J. B. Hood says:

    J. Clark,

    Per my post above, circumcision is replaced by baptism (as sign and seal). Your first post, “Circumcision is equated with keepign the law” is correct–and paedobaptists of course agree with Paul and you on this point, noting that God is doing something post-Torah now, and baptism has replaced circumcision.

    Since there is no rock solid prooftext either way, the only deciding factor between adult-only and paedo-baptism positions is the degree of (dis)continuity one sees in the way God works with his covenant people. This can be seen in Piper’s position linked above, one I respect but don’t find convincing. Piper et al simply see more discontinuity with the way God works from OT to NT.

    I also echo Michael’s point–your son may well have the Spirit working in him to some degree. (Note in Scripture this does not mean someone is regenerate; cf. Saul or Heb 6:4ish.)

  23. Ligon Duncan says:

    Thanks for this Justin.

    I have a brief comment on this and your other posts on baptism here:

    Actually, I think that the paedo-baptist and credo-baptist argument are identical in their kind. That is, they are both “good and necessary consequence arguments.” The NT evidence for paedo-baptism is just as explicit as the evidence often adduced for credo-baptism.

    Your friend,


  24. Anonymous says:

    A very wise and timely comment, Lig. Whether credo-baptist or paedo-baptist, we hold each other in the deepest respect in Christ.

    While in Divinity school, a new NT teacher chose as his inaugural lecture “Testament and Covenant – Continuity and Discontinuity”. As one of the few credo-baptist students in a predominantly paedo-baptist school, his teaching was both helpful and timely. He considered paedo-baptism to be the result of a failure to recognise elements of discontinuity.

    Whatever the outcome of these present debates, I pray for unity. I want to go to Louisville next April, and see Mark, John, Lig and all the others still ‘Together for the Gospel’

  25. Christopher says:

    Dear Anonymous (posting at 7:30 PM on 8/16),

    The Jeremiah 31:32 passage was actually one of my turning points towards paedobaptism. Scott Hafemann (Calvinistic Baptist) shows quite convincingly that the old covenant in mind here is that which was given to Moses. It is the covenant that God made via the giving of the Law. That old covenant was weak and ineffectual given the power that sin had over us. However, under the new covenant, God will actually transform the lives of his children so that they actually believe and obey.

    The disunity here is not focused on the national/individual level, but on the ineffectual/effectual level. Therefore, taken with a whole host of other prophetic old testament passages, and new testament commands, I came to the same conclusion that Anonymous (posting at 9:26 PM) came to. If Ephesians 6:1ff is taken as epexegetical of the whole, �Be filled with the spirit� of chapter 5, which I think many Reformed scholars and pastor do (regardless of their view of baptism), then Paul is assuming that the children of believers are also believers and he commands them to be filled with the spirit just as he does their parents.

    In a real sense, Jeremiah 31 shows that the effectual nature of the new covenant will be the restoration of the godly family through the generations. Something which the old covenant just had no power to accomplish.


    Christopher Taylor

  26. BJ Mora says:

    Although some? many? at least one Reformed Baptist church I know calls infant baptism a “dangerous and serious” error.

    That’s Piper’s church, by the way, and I agree with him with respect to his view of baptism as it relates to church membership… which is how I eventually got to this blog…

    The converse is that there are plenty of Presbyterian churches (especially the PCA it seems) which do not divide church membership by baptism. But I digress…

    Contrary to a post above, one does not have to be a theological student to hold to infant baptism, just as one does not have to be an M.Div to understand the current controversy surrounding justification, the New Perspective, and/or the Federal Vision.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate your willingness to tackle the issue of infant baptism. I am an E.P.C. pastor, and believe in infant baptism. Yet, I do understand what a hard issue it is to understand. For those struggling to get a better understanding though I would recommend watching Richard Pratt’s video on the issue. It may not convince you, but it’s helpful to understand where paedobaptists are coming from. Go to to see it. Thanks again for all your work. Let’s keep talking.

  28. Kerry says:

    My question is, are there any hard and fast rules about paedobaptism into multiple denominations (ie Catholic, Anglican, etc)? Can a child be baptised into both faiths if their parents are from 2 different faiths?

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