Partisans of infant baptism probe a middle way. Supporters of believers’ baptism worry about youth. Here a Lutheran theologian defends “believers’ baptism of infants” while a Southern Baptist theologian voices anxiety over evangelistic compulsion of the very young.

In recent years the time-honored Protestant controversy over infant baptism has been renewed in much of its Reformation vigor. Karl Barth, who belongs to the Reformed camp, has aligned himself with Baptists. And the late Emil Brunner, though he did not adopt the radical attitude of Barth, wanted no part of the traditional Reformed arguments based on the corporate conception of the family, the doctrine of prevenient grace, and the covenant sign of the Old Testament. Brunner dismissed these arguments as “biblicist” but suggested keeping infant baptism as a sign pointing to Christ. Others ask if Brunner’s views were “biblicist” enough.

The Lutherans are fighting a private battle on baptism among themselves. Here the famous protagonists Joachim Jeremias and Kurt Aland exchange broadsides over the New Testament word oikos (“household”) used in connection with the baptism of families in Acts. Jeremias contends that oikos includes children and that thus they too were baptized. Aland, with as much elaborate evidence and with some of the same documents, attempts to prove the opposite.

For all practical purposes this battle promises to end in a stalemate. Although these inconclusive results do not mean that the New Testament has nothing to say about infant baptism, they do mean that oikos and the words related to it apparently cannot resolve the issue. Even if Jeremias, the champion of infant baptism, should be shown to be correct, the victory would only confirm the Reformed ...

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