David F. Wright, ed. Baptism: Three Views (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009). ISBN 978-0830838561
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. Fall 2010. Volume 28.
Date Posted Nov, 2010
First there was the book Understanding Four Views on Baptism, published by Zondervan. Now Baptism: Three Views by InterVarsity Press. In each book one would think that here would be a good discussion on modes of baptism. However, such is not the case. IVP dropped their candy if that was really their objective and frankly according to their title it should have been a major part of it. In each case those who we thought would have given a spirited chase on modes, caved by running to the defense of infant baptism. In both books our reformed brethren have chosen to defend infant baptism rather than their traditional, capable and biblical defense of sprinkling and pouring. While IVP allowed each to go their way concerning this subject, surely one would have thought that the Presbyterian would have spent some time and depth in rejecting the dogmatic mantra of "believers baptism" by the Baptists.
The Presbyterian, Sinclair Ferguson, spends few of his lines on immersion and runs to advance baby baptism. The Baptist brother, Bruce Ware, drowns infant baptism with the standard fundamental twisted Baptist logic of "believers baptism." He uses the Baptist logic that one should not be baptized until they are saved and infants are incapable of knowing how to be saved. Sighting the scripture with a dogmatic air that has become the standard for the immersionists, he sets the poor Presbyterian on his heels. The third writer is Anthony Lane, who prides himself as a "middle of the roader" at least as it concerns infant baptism. At times his persuasion on baptism borders on baptismal regeneration. Nevertheless, he comes to a competent defense of the Pres byterian concerning infant baptism.
Lane does a good job of summarizing the early church fathers on infant baptism which is the basis for his position. His review of the fathers on this subject is, as far as I am concerned, very reasonable. In his response, Ware appeals to scripture only as the sole authority on the subject of baptism. This means for Ware that "believers baptism," immersion, is the only baptism taught in the scriptures. However, Lane responds by pointing out that even this vaunted Baptist also enjoyed using extra Biblical material when it suited his need. All is not lost for Fergusion because he does a great job in his explanation of the covenant theory as it relates to infant baptism. It is a sensible and Biblical presentation.
One cannot really criticize these writers too much, however. After all, the introduction pours cold water on a really heated debate by saying, "Baptism - its subjects, its relation to faith, its meaning and its mode of application - is a topic that the experienced have learned to sidestep to preserve the peace." Sadly, what is not said is that currently the mode aspect of this discussion has been settled by the leaders of fundamentalist and evangelical movements, the Baptists. There is no better proof of this accusation than what Ware says to Lane after his neat over view of the church fathers concerning infant baptism, "one cannot help but puzzle over his subsequent wandering off and away from the Baptist trail, as one sees in it the New Testament." The Baptists won this debate years ago more by default, due to the gross apostasy of our main line denominations in the early twentieth century and their subsequent lack of interest in this particular subject.
As in Zondervan's book on baptism, this book only seals in the minds of the readers that mode is no longer an issue. Immersion with its minimal proof has won the day in the absence of a contemporary debate. One dare not to oppose this fiendish position of baptism. Evidently, our Reformed and Presbyterian brothers would rather advance their Calvinism, infant baptism, and pure contempt for the Arminians than to take on the "water god" when the opportunity is given.