Discipling Children (part 2)

Dear Reader,

As might be expected, this is a follow-up to my post Discipling Children (part 1). In that post, I talked about a disconnect I see in our church between the official view that children are baptized members of the church and are considered part of God’s covenant community and the way we speak to and of them. Often I think we are presenting children with altar call after altar call as if we are not sure of their salvation. Or we go to the other extreme and we preach to them endlessly about various virtues they should have (especially obedience to parents) while neglecting the theology behind our obedience. All in all, I think there is just a lot of confusion in how we deal with our kids. Are they saved? Are they not? Are they church members?

In our church we baptize infants. If we were not in a church that did this, I could understand more of the altar-call mentality. Though then I would have problems with the preaching of virtues constantly. Frankly, it seems like most evangelicals these days are baptist in  persuasion, meaning their kids aren’t baptized. Yet all the bible curricula for kids out there, which is presumably marketed to them, focuses a lot on how kids should behave. If children of believers are not saved, we should treat them as non-believers. If I were witnessing to a non-believer, I would try to point out their sin and need for God. But I would not talk constantly about how they should be behaving. Because as non-believers, they are incapable of truly obeying.

However, this is not what I believe. I do agree with the official position of my church that children of believing parents (or even one believing parent) are members of God’s covenant community. They are part of the church. They should be baptized and should be treated as believers. Now there are a lot of arguments on both side of this issue. This debate has been going on for centuries and there are good, faithful Christians on both side of the issue. Some of my best friends are baptists. There is more than one argument for infant baptism, but here is the verse that convinces me:

“For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” (1 Cor. 7:14)

Now this is said in the context of a question about a believer being married to an unbeliever. I think that in the first part of the verse, Paul is saying that if possible the couple should not divorce because the unbelieving spouse may be saved through the believer. I am not a Greek scholar, but my take on the verbs in the first part “is made holy” is that this is something that may or will happen. It is in the future. But notice that in the second half it says that the children “are holy.” This is already their state. What does it mean to be holy? It means to be set apart for the Lord. If something is holy, it belongs to God. Everything else is called unclean or profane. (I am actually, at least in training, a Hebrew scholar by the way. It is just that my Greek is poor to non-existent.)

In God’s world, everything falls into these two categories, the profane and the holy. All people fall into one category or the other too. There is no middle ground or half-way about it. If children of believers are holy, as I think this verse states, then they belong to God. They are His people. Now you may argue that this is not possible. How can an infant repent and believe? And don’t they have to do these things to be saved? I would argue that it is not what we do that saves us. In all cases, it is what God does. He changes hearts and then people are saved. He can do this in an infant as well as an adult. I would further argue that He can and does do it even before birth. Think of John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb at Jesus’ presence (also in utero).

Now you will argue again that we can see from results that not all children of believers abide in their faith. Some certainly appear to fall away. I would argue that we can never know if any one is saved (beyond ourselves). God tells us that adults who repent and believe and confess Jesus as Lord are saved and part of His church. He also tells us that children of believers are part of His church. Are we to believe Him on the first and not the second? Either the adult or the child may seem to us to fall away. Some whom we have considered members of the church will indeed prove never to have been true believers. But God Himself tells us who to include in His church. Perhaps we would see fewer children of believers fall away if we trusted Him more on this.

I have gotten off track here. I did not actually intend to go so much into infant baptism. But I do think it is helpful to my overall argument. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive defense of my or my church’s position on the issue. There are far wiser people than I who have dealt with the issue. I am only telling you how I think about it and why I believe what I do.

To sum up, God tells us that children of believers are holy. This means they are His. We should therefore treat them as members of His covenant community (the church). Members of this community are baptized as a sign of their inclusion. Therefore we baptize our children as infants. Therefore we should continue to consider them as and treat them as members of the church, as believers.

Given how long this has gone on I think I will break here and make a part 3 soon. In part 3, I will address the issue of how we should treat our children, given that they are part of the covenant, which was my whole issue with what I saw to begin with.

Nebby

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] in part 1 I outlined the problem as I see it. In part 2  I talked about my view of children as members  of God’s covenant community (i.e. the […]

    Reply

  2. […] actually blogged a lot on this in the past as I have tried to sort through the issues (see here, here, here, and here). On the one hand, we expect our children to behave like God’s people. This […]

    Reply

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