From the very beginnings of the Christian religion the followers of Jesus Christ have been baptized in his name. Throughout church history a few marginal movements have denied the propriety and significance of water baptism by their exclusive emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s baptism of believers. But the mainstream of Christianity has stressed both the indispensability of Spirit baptism and the importance of water baptism.
The debate in mainstream Christianity over baptism has concerned not the propriety of the baptismal act itself but rather the issues of candidate and mode. The question of mode is at stake in the debate over the practice or non-practice of immersion. The question of candidate is at stake in the dispute between those denominations that baptize infants and those that baptize believers only.
In this issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY two respected churchmen present differing views on the subject of infant baptism. Dr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, an Anglican, writes in support of infant baptism; Dr. G. R. Beasley-Murray, a Baptist, in opposition.—ED.
To appreciate the Reformed understanding of the baptism of infants, certain clarifications are essential. First, the Reformers did not casually maintain the existing practice; they devoted a great deal of serious exegetical and dogmatic work to the question. Secondly, they made a decisive break with the medieval understanding (e.g., on absolute necessity or automatic operation), even though they continued to baptize infants. Thirdly, they did not group this with things indifferent on which the criterion could be tradition or utility. They accepted infant baptism only because they believed it to be scriptural. Fourthly, they did not see a necessary alternative between infant baptism ...1
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