The Evils of Infant Baptism

This list comes from Robert B. C. Howell, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1851-1858, and the entire book is available online.

  1. Infant baptism is an evil because its practice is unsupported by the word of God.
  2. Infant baptism is an evil because its defense leads to most injurious perversions of Scripture.
  3. Infant baptism is an evil because it engrafts Judaism upon the gospel of Christ.
  4. Infant baptism is an evil because it falsifies the doctrine of universal depravity.
  5. Infant baptism is an evil because the doctrines upon which it is predicated contradict the great fundamental principle of justification by faith.
  6. Infant baptism is an evil because it is in direct conflict with the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
  7. Infant baptism is an evil because it despoils the church of those peculiar qualities which are essential to the church of Christ.
  8. Infant baptism is an evil because its practice perpetuates the superstitions that originally produced it.
  9. Infant baptism is an evil because it subverts the scripture doctrine of infant salvation.
  10. Infant baptism is an evil because it leads its advocates into rebellion against the authority of Christ.
  11. Infant baptism is an evil because of the connection it assumes with the moral and religious training of children.
  12. Infant baptism is an evil because it is the grand foundation upon which rests the union of church and state.
  13. Infant baptism is an evil because it leads to religious persecutions.
  14. Infant baptism is an evil because it is contrary to the principles of civil and religious freedom.
  15. Infant baptism is an evil because it enfeebles the power of the church to combat error.
  16. Infant baptism is an evil because it injures the credit of religion with reflecting men of the world.
  17. Infant baptism is an evil because it is the great barrier to Christian union.
  18. Infant baptism is an evil because it prevents the salutary impression which baptism was designed to make upon the minds both of those who receive it, and of those who witness its administration.
  19. Infant baptism is an evil because it retards the designs of Christ in the conversion of the world.

Of these points, which form the chapters for his book, the ones bolded are those I found most persuasive.

Why did I post this list?

I am to some degree taken with the gospel-centered movement represented by T4G and the Gospel Coalition. There is strong Scriptural support for a gospel-centered kind of ministry. (Gal. 6:14, et. al.)  Yet, I’m also uneasy with the theological ambivalence that can surround “non-essential” issues such as baptism, speaking in tongues, women in ministry, old-earth theories of creation, and views of the millennium. Maybe these are all second tier doctrines because none of them in part or in full is the gospel. Or, maybe they each have one foot in the secondary and one in the primary category.

Is it possible that non-gospel doctrines can actually have a direct and logically necessary effect on God’s plan of salvation? Are all secondary doctrines exclusively secondary? This list might serve to call attention to the important aspect of “unimportant” teachings of Scripture.

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About Seth

Planting churches with the Baptist Confession in one hand and Tolkien in the other.
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7 Responses to The Evils of Infant Baptism

  1. Khensile miehleketo ya n’wana, boti. A couple questions: Who do you know that would call baptism, forms of creationism and and women in ministry “non-essential” doctrines?
    Also, you gave a list of five doctrines in which you questioned whether or not they were secondary. Is there such a thing as a secondary doctrine, and if so, could you give me a few examples of what those doctrines would be?

    • Seth says:

      The gospel-centered movement (T4G and the Gospel Coalition) has men within it who hold to various views of baptism, creation, and spiritual gifts. So they are necessarily saying that those doctrines are secondary in comparison to the gospel.

      Their unity states that their differences are secondary.

  2. Seth says:

    1. Who? Those within the T4G / Gospel Coalition movement.
    2. A few examples: baptism, views of creation, and spiritual gifts.

    • Paul says:

      Regarding your answer to #1, you seem to be equating “secondary issue” with “non-essential”. The T4G guys may agree to disagree on these issues, but I don’t think they would call them “non-essential.” Or perhaps you were saying a “non-essential” for fellowship. Is it fair to say you disagree with them on this? If yes, that means you wouldn’t preach at a church with a different Millennial view than you, right?

      Regarding #2, my question was: which doctrines are secondary issues TO YOU. If you understood my question this way and you say baptism, views of creation, and spiritual gifts, then you agree with T4G and all is well. But if you DON’T think those are secondary issues, which I believe was the point of the latter portion of your article, then what ARE some doctrines that are secondary in your mind?

      • Seth says:

        Yes, non-essential serves as a good summary for secondary because they are not necessary in order to be in the Family. Certain doctrines are not the essence of who we are. “Primary” are those things which get you in and mark off the family borders. Secondary is anything else. At least in the context of a group that says we are Together For the Gospel.

        I said in the original post that I sympathize with the gospel-centered movement. At our church we pray for “all churches that love the gospel.” I’ve preached at churches that are amil. So I do see, eschatology for example, as secondary.

        But I don’t have a tidy list of what doctrines are secondary since some doctrines, at some times in church history have a greater or lesser effect on the gospel. Various views of creation have a direct impact on inerrancy which has a direct impact on the gospel. Old earth views also have a particular view of death that has an impact on the gospel. Even if a doctrine is not part of God’s plan of redemption, because all revelation is perspectivally related, many false teachings that seem peripheral may cut right to the quick given the right historical setting.

        Then again, Bauder argues for a great many degrees of unity and separation within the body of Christ depending on numerous factors such as the kind of unity and the kind of teaching or practice that the two brothers disagree on. At the end of the day, that may be what we all do anyway.

  3. ilyston says:

    Seth, I agree with your overall assessment.

    Doctrines are interlinked, and they do not stand by themselves, especially the ordinances. It is funny that it used to be that the church was identified by right preaching of the gospel AS WELL as the right understanding of the ordinances and church discipline. Evangelicals rightly differentiate the ordinances from the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), and no one seriously would identify church discipline with the Good News. Yet, instinctively our forefathers saw that these two other doctrines are so rooted in the gospel that to get them wrong is to destroy the doctrine of the church. As Mark Dever says, the church is the gospel made visible.

    Possibly, the issue really is about non-ecclesiastical fellowship. But to what end is that fellowship? If it is to promote the Gospel, then the undermining of the outcome of the gospel –the church — makes the endeavor meaningless. It would seem to me that the para-church ministry of NT missions (Paul from Antioch church, Timothy from Ephesian Church, Barnabas from Jerusalem Church, etc) was all about the promotion of the Gospel for the sake of establishing churches, seeing that churches are essential for discipleship and the fulfillment of Great Commission. Should we not, therefore, question any para-Church ministry that focuses upon evangelism apart from the church? Can such a focus find any warrant from the NT?

    If such a non-ecclesiastical fellowship is to promote fellowship with other Christians without the church, then we are in essence saying that the NT’s focus upon the Church is insufficient and that real and meaningful fellowship can be had outside the confines of the church. But I find that this fellowship is not rooted in the biblical structure and has no accountability. Again, can this be sustained by biblical theology, or is it more of a practical, pragmatic thing? Can the fellowship be a fellowship wherein the Lord’s Supper is taken without destroying its meaning? Etc.

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