Sign of the New Covenant in Christ
THOMAS R. SCHREINER AND SHAWN D. WRIGHT, EDS.
B & H Publishing Group, 364 Pages, Hardcover, $19.99
This interesting book covers just about every facet of water baptism, beginning with a chapter on baptism as found in the Gospels and then proceeding to the baptism in Acts, in the Epistles, and in the writings of the church fathers; the relationship of baptism to the covenants and to such matters as circumcision; baptism according to infant baptizers; and baptism of the early Anabaptists and the Campbellites (Church of Christ groups). In addition, material covers the practical aspects of baptism as they relate to today’s local church: At what age should we baptize children and youth? Should the unbaptized be admitted to church membership or be partakers of the Lord’s Table? Should baptisms from other churches be accepted? Should those not coming into membership be baptized? Should baptism ever be delayed? When and where should baptisms be held?
The book also presents helpful, needed concepts and viewpoints. For example, the foreword states, “Baptism is too often down-played as an optional add-on to the Christian life. It is too frequently administered in a casual or sloppy manner, without careful teaching of its biblical basis and theological meaning. Whenever baptism is covered in the religious press, the point of interest is usually baptismal statistics rather than baptismal substance. . . . The recovery of a robust doctrine of believers’ baptism can serve as an antidote to the theological minimalism and atomistic individualism that prevail in many Baptist churches in our culture.” Certainly many baptistries around the country are nothing but storage bins for old tires, sacks of fertilizer, and who knows what else.
Concerning infant baptism, we read, “When churches practice infant baptism or allow into membership those who were baptized as infants, they have sundered the biblical connection between baptism and faith. Those who are baptized as infants, upon reading the NT, may think they belong to God by virtue of their infant baptism since baptism is invariably linked with belonging to the church of Jesus Christ in the NT. We believe that baptism should be reserved for believers because it preserves the testimony of the gospel by showing that only those who have repented and believed belong to the church. Only those who have exercised faith are justified. Hence, only those who have trusted in Christ should be baptized.”
The author makes another important point about infant baptism: “Paedobaptists [infant baptizers] face a problem with the Lord’s Supper that Baptists do not encounter. The Lord’s Supper is reserved for believers who have been baptized, but many paedobaptists do not allow children to partake of the Lord’s table until the children have expressed personal faith. But such a divide between baptism and the Lord’s Supper cannot be sustained from the NT, for it is clear that those baptized participated in communion.”
The book might have been a little stronger in other matters of practice, such as who should do the baptizing and the mode of baptism. The author sees immersion as “appropriate,” but also mentions sprinkling or pouring. In addition, the statement, “Whether done backward or forward, once or three times,” might leave the door open for trine immersion (dunking-immersing three times, face forward, in the names of the Trinity) in some people’s thinking.