Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A recommendation: Children of Promise

Thanks to my pastor for loaning me this book. The author, Geoffrey Bromiley, was one of his professors at Fuller Seminary. I'm only a few pages in but this looks to be a clear summary of the pro-infant baptism case, while acknowledging that this debate can't be definitively resolved since the New Testament neither prescribes or prohibits the practice. It would be easier if it did! In light of the often contentious debate over baptism I liked the author's statement of purpose for the book: "not in the hope of winning a debate, but with the prayer that God may be glorified both in continued reflection on baptism and also in its administration, whether to young or old."

Where you come down on the question of infant baptism has a lot to do with how you see the relationship between the Old Testament/Covenant and the New Testament/Covenant. Often those who hold an exclusive credobaptist (believer's baptism) position see more discontinuity between the old and new covenants than those who believe that the infant children of believing parents should be baptized. After agreeing that "differences do exist between the old covenant, or the old form of the covenant, and the new" -- Bromiley states a key interpretive principle underlying the case for infant baptism.

The old covenant is the covenant of promise and the new covenant is the covenant of fulfilled promise. Fundamentally, however, this covenant is one, just as the purpose, word, and work of God are one. The Old Testament is superseded by the New only in the sense that it is fulfilled in the New. The external details differ but not at the expense of the underlying consistency or continuity of the divine action, message, and command. Hence the Old Testament cannot properly be understood apart from the New, but equally the New Testament cannot be understood apart from the Old. (pp. 14-5)

Tomorrow -- how this principle informs two key NT texts on baptism -- 1 Peter 3:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-2.

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