Reformed Theology

Insofar as They Are Supported by Scripture

The Reformed Confessions can only stand insofar as they are supported by Scripture.

I want to tie together some of the recent topics I’ve been covering, including my comment in a previous post that the Five Points of Calvinism are “only the beginning of what Reformed theology is all about,” as well as my research into John MacArthur’s regretable 2007 sermon, “Why Every Self-respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.”

I “happened upon” an article on Kim Riddlebarger’s website called, “Why John MacArthur Is Not ‘Reformed'”, which I found very interesting and I also recommend to you. He quotes an essay from Richard Muller in 1993, and I also recommend clicking through to read that article as well.

Dr. Muller concludes,

In conclusion, we can ask again, “How many points?” Surely there are more than five. The Reformed faith includes reference to total inability, unconditional election, limited efficiency of Christ’s satisfaction, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints, not as the sum total of the church’s confession but as elements that can only be understood in the context of a larger body of teaching including the baptism of infants, justification by grace alone through faith, the necessity of a thankful obedience consequent upon our faith and justification, the identification of sacraments as means of grace, the so-called amillennial view of the end of the world. The larger number of points, including but going beyond the five of Dort, is intended, in other words, to construe theologically the entire life of the believing community. And when that larger number of points taught by the Reformed confessions is not respected, the famous five are jeopardized, indeed, dissolved–and the ongoing spiritual health of the church is placed at risk. (Muller, How Many Points?, emphasis mine)

I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion, but I disagree with the part about infant baptism.

I am Reformed Baptist. This means that I hold to all the doctrines of Reformed theology and covenant theology, but I do not hold to the baptism of infants, because I do not find it in Scripture.

I want to assure paedobaptist readers that I do appreciate the teaching that infant baptism signifies the prevenient sovereign grace of God because the infant has done nothing to merit salvation. But I cannot stand by and allow paedobaptists to argue that one cannot be Reformed unless one baptizes one’s infants or was baptized as an infant. Again, this is not found in Scripture. In the New Testament, baptism does not precede faith and repentance. On the contrary, it is spoken of as proceeding immediately from faith and repentance.

In Colossians 2, Paul contradicts what paedobaptists have taught, which is that baptism directly replaces circumcision as a sign of the covenant. He explains that what was lacking in the covenant of circumcision was that men were not circumcising their hearts. However, we who are in Christ have been circumcised spiritually, and this is signified by the “putting off of the flesh” which occurs in our baptism–as we have been buried with Christ and have risen with Christ, which is symbolized by full immersion. The phrase “putting off of the flesh” is a pun which shows Paul’s literary skills: though it sounds like circumcision talk, is a metaphor for renouncing sin. I would argue that one cannot renounce sin unless one is able to acknowledge, “Yes, I am a sinner.”

When Paul speaks of baptism in this manner, in this passage as well as others, it is clear that he is asking the believer to remember his own baptism, and to recall the significance of being “buried and raised with Christ.” Paedobaptists think it’s enough to remind children that they were baptized when they were infants, but I think much of the significance of what Paul is saying here would be lost on those who cannot remember their own baptism.

Finally, paedobaptists speak of those cases in Acts where it says so-and-so was baptized, “he and his household.” Even some Reformed paedobaptists I have read acknowledge that there is nothing in these passages to indicate that the familes being discussed had any infants in them. Furthermore, I would cite Acts 18:8, which says that Crispus “believed in the Lord, together with his entire household.” This indicates either that “entire household” is a figure of speech, or that Crispus did not, in fact, have infants in his family.

Covenant and Reformed Christians, please recognize the arguments of Reformed Baptists, and don’t just lump us in with John MacArthur and write us off as non-Calvinistic.


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