Wayne Grudem Changes His Mind on Baptism

Last year I intereviewed Wayne Grudem, the leading systematic theologian of our day — at least in terms of readership of his Systematic Theology. He spoke about changing his mind about baptism from a position that it is fine for a church to have a compromise position about it. You can read what he had to say here. Justin Taylor now reports that the relevant section in Grudem’s book has been rewritten for a new reprint. Justin has the whole new section on his blog, but here is an extract:

But the most serious difficulty arises when people begin to think about what such a “compromise position” implies about the views of baptism held by the people who go along with this compromise. For people who hold to infant baptism, they have to be able to say that it is acceptable for believing parents not to baptize their infant children. But according to a paedobaptist view, this seems close to saying that it is acceptable for these parents to disobey a command of Scripture regarding the responsibility of parents to baptize their children. How can they really say this?

On the other side, those who hold to believer’s baptism (as I do) would have to be willing to admit into church membership people who have been baptized as infants, and who did not make a personal profession of faith at the time they were baptized. But from a believer’s baptism position, genuine baptism has to follow a personal profession of faith. So how can believer’s baptism advocates in good conscience say that infant baptism is also a valid form of baptism? That contradicts what they believe about the essential nature of baptism – that it is an outward sign of an inward spiritual change, so that the apostle Paul could say, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

For someone who holds to believer’s baptism, admitting to church membership someone who has not been baptized upon profession of faith, and telling the person that he or she never has to be baptized as a believer, is really giving up one’s view on the proper nature of baptism. It is saying that infant baptism really is valid baptism! But then how could anyone who holds to this position tell anyone who had been baptized as an infant that he or she still needed to be baptized as a believer? This difficulty makes me think that some kind of “compromise” position on baptism is not very likely to be adopted by denominational groups in the future.

However, we should still be thankful that believers who differ on the issue of baptism can have wonderful fellowship with one another across denominational lines, and can have respect for each other’s sincerely held views.

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