I'm going to comment on this post:
Among other things, Bnonn has some interesting things to say about Acts 2:38-39, which is a staple paedobaptist prooftext. However, I prefer to focus on his central argument, which he states thusly:
There are people who have wanted me to write a series on this issue. I’m afraid I am going to disappoint them; I believe the matter of who we should baptize is fundamentally a very simple one; far too many words have been wasted complicating it; thus I am going to focus quite relentlessly on the key question which decides the outcome of all the others.
Here it is:
Who is a member of the new covenant?
This is what it all boils down to, because there is one overriding axiom with which all Christians—or all that I’ve spoken with and read on this matter—agree:
The sign of a covenant should only be given to members of that covenant.
If you disagree with this axiom there is little I can say to you; but if you agree with it, then there is little else we need to worry about. The question of what continuities and discontinuities exist between the various old covenants and the new one, between circumcision and baptism, and so on, are all very interesting, but completely beside the point. The question is as simple as determining the qualifications for membership in the new covenant, and giving the sign of that covenant—baptism—to only those people who qualify.
Is that believers only? Or do infants qualify too?
[Quotes] Jeremiah 31:31-34
Seems to me that there are two basic problems with his "simple" argument:
1. What kind of membership does baptism signify? He fails to register the following distinction:
i) membership in the new covenant
ii) membership in the new covenant community
His argument requires baptism to signify the (i) former kind of membership. But that, in turn, requires him to either exclude the (ii) second kind of membership from his definition, or show that (i) and (ii) are conterminous. So he needs to resolve that crucial equivocation.
Even if he could do one of those two things, that goes beyond his original argument. That necessitates a subsidiary argument.
2. Apropos (1), if baptism is a sign, then to whom or for whom is it a sign? Presumably, it's not a sign for God's benefit. God knows the status of the individual apart from the sign.
So it's either a sign to/for the baptized Christian, and/or the religious community to which he belongs. It marks him out as a member of the religious community. One of their own.
If so, that suggests baptism is a sign of membership in the covenant community (i.e. the church).
3. Apropos (2), this is reinforced by the nature of the sign. Unlike circumcision, which is a permanent physical sign that's verifiable by visual inspection (if need be), baptism leaves no enduring trace evidence. The sign is the baptismal ceremony, and not the result of a ritual action (unlike circumcision). The only evidence would be the recollection of witnesses to the ceremony. And that, once again, singles out the communal nature of the sign.
4. On the face of it, membership in the covenant community needn't necessarily be equivalent to membership in the covenant itself. Just in general, there are differing degrees and conditions of social affiliation, depending on the type of society or community under review. In principle, the conditions for membership in the covenant community might be looser than the conditions for membership in the covenant itself. Bnonn has a very strict criterion for new covenant membership: regeneration.
However, God made humans social creatures. It's generally families that attend church. At the very least, church attendance and family religion typically overlap. Although some family members may skip church, a person who attends church is usually related to one or more other people who attend the same church. Even in the case of widows or widowers, they used to attend that church with their spouse. Likewise, they used to take their kids to church, until their kids grew up and moved elsewhere.
Now, I've said "attendance" rather than membership to avoid prejudicial terminology. But given the familial structure of core human relationships and human behavior, it seems artificial to insist that membership in the covenant community is restricted to membership in the covenant itself. And, in any case, if that's what Bnonn's position requires, then the onus is on him to supply a supporting argument.
I don't think a paedobaptist has to prove that baptism is not a sign of membership in the covenant. Rather, unless Bnonn can prove that baptism is not a sign of membership in the covenant community (or else prove that membership in the covenant and the covenant community are coextensive), his argument fails.
5. In addition, isn't the relationship between the sign and the significate somewhat loose? On the one hand, some people possess what the sign signifies without possessing the sign; on the other hand, some people possess the sign without possessing what the sign signifies. So it's hard to see why one requires the other–not to mention that membership in the covenant (as Bnonn defines it) is, in any event, an unverifiable condition.
6. A second basic problem with his argument is that it generates a dilemma. Presumably, Bnonn admits that some children below the age of reason already meet the condition of membership in the covenant. Some of them are elect/regenerate. That means whichever position you take carries tradeoffs:
i) On the one hand, paedobaptists will confer the sign on some individuals who aren't members of the covenant.
ii) On the other hand, credobaptists will fail to confer the sign on some individuals who are members of the covenant.
Put another way, if you baptize every baby, regenerate and unregenerate (or elect and reprobate) alike, then this ensures that you confer the sign on the subset of babies who are, indeed, members of the covenant. Doing more than's necessary is a way of ensuring that you don't miss those who definitely qualify.
Conversely, if you decline to baptize anyone under the age of reason, then you miss all those who do qualify.
Now, it might be argued that that's a case of postponing baptism until they reach the age at which they can give a credible profession of faith.
However, in NT times, as well as most of church history, not to mention parts of the Third World today, where infant mortality is high, baptism delayed is tantamount to baptism denied. In many cases it's now or never.
I'm not suggesting that's a catastrophic loss to the child. I don't think baptism is a prerequisite for salvation. I don't even think it confers special graces. I'm just considering the logic of Bnonn's position.