I like David Robertson, he’s a Mr Valiant for Truth and I absolutely love his work amongst Atheists. He’s also a controversialist which I particularly enjoy. There are times though when I slightly despair of some of his material.
The latest piece that has got on my goat is his piece on why he does Baby Dedications at St Peter’s, Dundee. It’s been lauded by the FIEC as a piece of generosity by a paedo Baptist, my fear would be that David is selling the farm from us.
It would seem to me that David is conceding to the supposed demands of the religious market-place (give the customer what he wants). David and his preaching teams are very able men and I rejoice in the growth that St Pete’s has known in Dundee, because of the quality of the ministry I am sure that many believers of all sorts of ecclesiastical persuasions are coming to the church. This is a wonderful thing, however they are coming to a confessional Presbyterian Church. There is no mention of baby dedications in the confession, the public directory of worship makes no mention of such things.
From a Biblical perspective the Reformed position is that there are two sacraments commanded of believers, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Baptism is to be administered to Believers and their children. It is a sign and seal of God’s promises to us. In fact the Confession of Faith that both David and I subscribe to states that is a great sin to neglect this Ordinance (WCF28:5). The argument that is often made by Baptists is that they can’t see Infant Baptism commanded in the Bible, the simple response surely must be where do we see Baby Dedications commanded? I would want to argue John Murray’s view that Infant baptism is not merely an option for Christian parents but a divine ordinance ‘Put the sign of the spiritual covenant on the physical seed’.
Infant Baptism according to the Reformed perspective is about what God has done and the promises of God – ‘I will be your God and you will be my people’. Baptism is not about my profession and what I am doing.. Baby Dedications put the emphasis in the opposite place, our ‘human dedicating’. If we see Baptism as the covenant sign of entrance to the church, I’m not sure what sign Baby Dedication is a sign of, apart from wanting Baptists to feel welcome in the church.
The issue with doing both is you are saying the bible can mean either, so surely the next time you are preaching on the subject you have undermined people’s confidence that the bible is clear about your own confession of faith. If you take the approach, “this is one interpretation and feel free to disagree”, then to be consistent on this will mean taking the same approach on Spiritual gifts, complementarian/ egalitarian, … so the issue here is not having folks in church membership who have different views (this is good) but rather having those different views being exercised in corporate worship. Why not, logically, allow speaking in tongues or a woman preaching even if your own Confession of faith doesn’t mandate it? Realistically in the next 5 years our churches will have people who apply to membership who would claim faith in Christ but have a different view on the bible’s teaching on homosexuality and yet expect to be welcomed in. The role of a full confession of faith which we hold to and teach will be even more vital in the decades to come.
Our church membership is open to all baptised believers in Jesus Christ, we have Baptists in our congregation of which I’m glad. I joke that I want Baptists to feel welcome but not comfortable! We are a Presbyterian Church as is St Peter’s and those who come to our congregation surely need to understand that. We can give thanks for their children, we view them as Covenant Children even though they do not have the sign but we long to see their parents coming to a Reformed understanding of the faith and bringing their children in obedience to be baptised.