Anacredobaptism: The rebaptism of prodigal credobaptists

Hi brothers,

I notice that the forum has been relatively tame for a few months. I hope this post finds you all well, and that you are abiding and growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus.

Something’s been eating me for a few months, and I thought it would be a good topic to throw out there and get some feedback on.

The topic has to do with the credobaptist dynamic of rebaptizing people who were once baptized upon a confession of faith (i.e. credobaptism), then later have some major moral failing or confessed slavery to sin, later come to repentance, and assess themselves to have not been converted to begin with, and now seek to be rebaptized. In other words, the whole, “I wasn’t saved before, but I am now,” thing.

I’ve decided to dub this dynamic “anacredobaptism,” in contrast to anabaptism. While anabaptism refers to rebaptizing people upon profession of faith who were first baptized as babies, I am talking about rebaptizing people who were already baptized upon profession of faith.

I’ve heard it joked somewhere that the average baptist is baptized 3.5 times in his life. Perhaps once as a baby, then once as a child when he professes faith, then once at summer camp when he recommits his life to the Lord, and once as an adult after living as a hellion during his late teens and early twenties. Sadly, the joke is all too accurate.

So here’s my beef. I speak as a baptist who has tried and failed for years to be persuaded of the reformed paedobaptist view. However, I believe anacredobaptism is problematic, and I reject it.

Several times in my life I have witnessed young Christian men (i.e. men whom I sincerely believe have demonstrated the evidence of regeneration over the years I’ve known them) come to a point in their lives where they have fallen prey to the flesh and fallen back into serious sin – sin of a such an ensnaring nature that it rightly provokes the question of whether or not the Spirit is in them, or if they truly are still slaves to sin. Most often, this takes the form of pornography addiction, but it could be other things. Over the course of time, as guilt weighs heavily on the man, eventually his sin is exposed through some sort of confession. Then having now experienced a sense of relief that comes from getting his sin in the light (praise God!), the man proceeds to question whether or not he was ever saved to begin with. The catharsis he has experienced (if you’ll allow the word) contrasts so starkly with the guilt he felt just the day before, he can only describe it as with salvific language. He was blind, but now he sees. He had a load of guilt on his back like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, then he felt the weight all at once roll off when he looked to Christ and repented.

The man then professes to his pastors and to the church that he believes he was never truly converted to begin with, but now he is. And now he wants to be baptized. The man is then removed from membership upon his deprofession, is then at a later date re-examined by the elders, baptized, and re-added to membership.

I think this is problematic for a variety of reasons, but I’ll try to condense it to two statements. First, I believe anacredobaptism more often than not obfuscates the truth of how men are sanctified, and even robs Christ of his glory.

The 2LCF and WCF each share this content in chapter 17, paragraph 3, respectively:

And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.

The confessions cite ample biblical evidence for their assertions, and I won’t expound that here. Suffice to say, it is perfectly possible for a Christian to fall into grievous sin, and yet not be apostate or a false convert. God can and does allow the Christian to stray in order that the Lord might chastise him, and bring him to repentance later on.

Anacredobaptism functionally denies this. Rather than allowing watershed moments of confession and repentance to be understood as the faithful work of sanctification, if the catharsis is impactful enough, we instead conclude that the man’s first profession of faith must have been insincere and not reflected true conversion. I believe that this very often robs Christ of his glory, as it discredits the work he has been doing in the man for years or even decades.

Second (and maybe this is just the same point restated), I believe anacredobaptism gives a disproportionate amount of ecclesiastical authority to the man’s emotional experience, and subverts the duty and authority of the church.

If this man had years prior made the good profession in the presence of witnesses, and was baptized upon that profession of faith in the Lord Jesus for repentance and the forgiveness of sins, and it is true that this profession has been accompanied by evidence of regeneration over the course of years, in the sight of all the congregation – then I think it would be an error to allow this man the authority to unilaterally remove himself from membership. Instead, the elders and the mature men of the church ought meet with the man, and put the burden of proof on the man to convince them of his unconversion before removing him from the church. I leave it to the pastors among us to comment on their experience, but I anticipate that quite often such men simply need to be encouraged that what they experienced is the kindness of the Lord continuing the good work in them that he has promised, discourage them from seeking to be rebaptized, and welcome them heartily to the Lord’s table.

What thoughts can you men offer?



This you have described has been my experience with young credobaptist men. Rarely, though, do they say they weren’t Christians. They just ask to be rebaptized as a sign and seal of their own recommitment to Jesus Christ.

Looking forward to others’ thoughts on this. Love,

This is pastorally problematic for all the reasons you brought up. But there is another dynamic you haven’t brought up that I think plays into this significantly.

Most Baptist churches in the US are functionally Arminian when it comes to professions of faith, repentance, and perseverance. This is especially true in the older independent fundamental Baptist tradition. Start with the faulty practice of baptising four and five year olds (I have offended Baptists who did so by asking if their practice is any different than a delayed paedobaptism), add in the revivalistic practice of altar calls and constantly questioning the genuineness of members’ salvation, and throw in a dash of pastoral incompetence, it’s no wonder some Baptists are getting baptised so many times.

Solid Baptist theology helps resolve a number of these issues, but theology is only half the battle. This is why pastors must have pastoral care as a critical component of their ministry. Preaching is a significant part of pastoral care, but it is only one part. The young man you describe who has fallen into one or another version of sexual sin needs cask-strength discipleship as soon as he finds himself ensnared. He needs godly men who love him enough be asking him about his sin struggles before they’re an issue. He needs to see a culture of discipleship where men are open about the sins they face, the sins they want, and the sins to which they have fallen prey. He needs shepherds who love him enough to say, ‘if you remain in this sin you shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ and he needs shepherds who are compassionate enough to accept his genuine confession of sin and help him see where it is incomplete.

Baptism is not a talisman that gives us magical strength to fight sin. It’s also not the robe of final victory over sin. It’s a sign and seal that we are in Christ, that the power of Christ has conquered sin in us and is conquering sin through us, and it’s a living reminder that the same power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead has created new life in us and is enabling us to fight sin to the death.

You say, ‘no’ right?


Good question! Coming from a credobaptist perspective, I can see why young men (and women) who have needed a ‘reboot’ of their Christian lives, would want to do something to mark it. However, (re)baptism is not the way to do it; though I am not sure what would.

… Most Baptist churches in the US are functionally Arminian when it comes to professions of faith, repentance, and perseverance. This is especially true in the older independent fundamental Baptist tradition. Start with the faulty practice of baptising four and five year olds (I have offended Baptists who did so by asking if their practice is any different than a delayed paedobaptism), add in the revivalistic practice of altar calls and constantly questioning the genuineness of members’ salvation, and throw in a dash of pastoral incompetence, it’s no wonder some Baptists are getting baptised so many times.

Agreed, and - coming from a baptistic tradition/POV - I suspect that we are in a little too much of a hurry to baptise older children and young adults in the first place.


This was thirty years ago, and I struggled with every bad practice in that church. Unbaptized kids took communion. People were baptized but not made to join the church. People were not members, unbaptized, and took communion. One professor who’d never made any profession of faith, was not a member but a mocking sceptic, took communion. The elders were fighting among themselves and neither cared nor said “no” to anyone. The work of reform is slow and brutal, “but from the ground there blossoms.”

One thing unmentioned above is the common practice in the SBC of baptizing souls into individual churches, then again into their next church, and so on. Love,


Amen. In my own context, I can say that this certainly all exists and has existed. Still, despite all the health that exists in the church, hidden sin still finds its way to exist.

I definitely understand your description here. I think I can say in my particular church, we wouldn’t be described as functionally Arminian. No one would ever be rebaptized on the premise that they had salvation and lost it, but rather that they never had salvation to begin with. And we don’t baptize the four year-olds. To the contrary, I’d say that the door into church membership is actually too well-guarded, and I’ve had numerous conversations with my elders to discuss that point. Suffice to say, the context I am talking about is a reformed baptist one, not a modern-day SBC one.

Amen. Well put.

I think it should be understood like this.

I think the crucial point lies in considering what is meant by a seal. When we were first converted, we were convicted of our sin, confessed our sin, and cast ourselves upon Christ for the forgiveness of our sin, and freedom from its power. We then set our face to forsake our sin and follow him. We are then baptized as a sign or a seal of that faith, identifying with the death and resurrection of Christ, and demonstrating that we are his. His seal is upon us. The seal is both a testimony and a mark of ownership. I belong to Christ.

What baptism isn’t is a mark of is maturity, or any particular level of sanctification. The New Testament presents baptism as an infantile act of obedience for the one who has come to faith in Christ. We don’t baptize infants, but baptism is certainly infantile. Baptism is to be administered to a new Christian, not the mature one.

After conversion and baptism, we grow more and more in the knowledge of the Lord, but more than that, we grow in the knowledge of our own depravity. God exposes sin to us that we never even thought about before. The gap that we saw between God’s holiness and our sin at the time of conversion becomes bigger in our eyes. We knew something about our wretchedness then, but we see it all the more clearly as time goes on, and Christ’s mercy becomes all the sweeter because of it.

Nevertheless, as time goes on and life’s temptations ebb and flow, we will be ensnared from time to time – not because we don’t have the Spirit in us, and not because God’s seal is not upon us, but because we still carry around this dead man in our flesh whom we must war against daily, and we grow sluggish to contend against him.

When we find ourselves in the snare of the devil, the mercy of God piles shame upon the conscience – a shame which leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) – and brings us to confess that sin and forsake it with renewed zeal. We take up arms once again in our war against the flesh.

All of this should be understood as the outworking of God’s promise to sanctify his people. It is the very fruit of salvation on display. It is he who began a good work in us being faithful to carry it out until the day of redemption. It is the ongoing work that Christ does in those who are is.

To put it simply, it’s the ordinary Christian life. It’s the life that follows for those who put their faith in Christ, are baptized, and set their face to follow him. Ongoing sanctification. Ongoing deliverance from sin. Ongoing repentance and love for Christ. And all of it resides downstream of that first moment where we believed and received his seal upon us.

And we blow up the entire picture when we rebaptize people. “Nevermind, Christ must not have been doing anything in me these last ten years.” O, that we would think more highly of Christ’s work, and be so slow to affirm such words!

Why else would we sing these kinds of songs if not for our acute awareness of our temptations and ongoing struggle with sin as the common experience of the Christian?

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love!

I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast


Would it be a church that’s become more Reformed over the years?

Absolutely. As were Abraham, and David, and Peter. Which helps us expect that we’ll sometimes have to deal with gross sin in a believer. 1 Corinthians 5 also helps us deal with gross sin by asking if the believer in question is indeed a believer, but that’s worlds apart from the altar call questioning a believer’s status as regenerate.

Completely agree. I’m perturbed this is a practice among Reformed Baptists. It should not be so.

Brilliant. Please tell me you’re teaching this to more of your Baptist brethren. I know of something of the Baptists in your neck of the woods. They need much much more of this.

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A hymn I learned at two fundamentalist Bible colleges (one in South Carolina, the other in Iowa)…that emphasises what you’re saying about ‘ordinary Christian life’… Philip Doddridge I believe.

Do not I love Thee, O my Lord?
Behold my heart, and see,
And turn each cursed idol out,
That dares to rival Thee.

Do not I love Thee from my soul?
Then let me nothing love;
Dead be my heart to every joy
When Jesus cannot move.

Is not Thy name melodious still
To mine attentive ear?
Does not each pulse with pleasure bound
My Savior’s voice to hear?

Hast Thou a lamb in all Thy flock
I would disdain to feed?
Hast Thou a foe, before whose face
I fear Thy cause to plead?

Would not my ardent spirit vie
With angels round the throne
To execute Thy sacred will
And make thy glory known?

Would not my heart pour forth its blood
In honor of thy name?
And challenge the cold hand of death
To damp the immortal flame?

Thou knowest I love Thee, dearest Lord:
But O, I long to soar
Far from the sphere of mortal joys,
And learn to love Thee more.


This made me ask, “Should somebody be rebaptized if they were excommunicated and later repent?”

We have no reason to think they should, given the Apostle Paul’s description of how to handle just such a situation. In fact, the very act of turning them over to Satan can only be done because they have been baptized into the church. In other words, their baptism is in a very real sense part of what God uses to bring them to repentance and back into His church. If in the worst case scenario the baptism was effective and should not be redone, why would we redo baptisms in cases that aren’t nearly so bad?


Some years ago the Reformed Baptist church I grew up in went through a mini revival of sorts where around 25% of the baptized adults and teenagers in the church professed faith and were rebaptized. The standard they were held to was not that they were questioning whether they were saved when first baptized, but that they could assert they were sure they had not been. Some had been baptized at, say, four years old, and said that they did not understand the gospel, and had rebelled against it for years. Others said that when they had previous professed and been baptized, but that it was all due to trying to fit in, and they never had experienced true conversion.

I can understand the hesitancy to rebaptize. The common practice in the wider baptist movement of pushing children to be baptized, very low standards of who gets baptized, and encouraging rebaptism, is concerning. We also don’t want to exalt baptism above the place that it has scripturally, and say that unless we are certain it was done properly we are not saved or are in serious sin. I think it is entirely appropriate to counsel someone who is asking to rebaptized about the progressive sanctification in the Christian life, that Christians may fall in sin and repent while saved the entire time.

Yet, for credobaptists, if we reject all “rebaptism” we undermine the entire theology and practice of the ordinance. The reason I use quotes there is because, as is said in my local church, we don’t practice rebaptism, because if the person wasn’t saved on their first baptism, they just got wet. As credobaptists we believe that only believers are to be baptized. People believe profess faith, repent of their sins, and then are eligible to be baptized. It’s a sign of the covenant, and if they were not in covenant there was no legitimate baptism.

I certainly leave room for the fact that there is such a thing as false conversion. I couldn’t be a consistent credobaptist if I didn’t. There are people converted later on in life who give testimony of being baptized as a child because everyone around them was doing it at some altar call-type event, not understanding what they were doing, never became part of the church, never knew what the gospel is, went on to live the same life dead in their sins, etc. I would not recoil at the thought of "re"baptizing such a person.

What I’m concerned with is specifically the dynamic where someone really did profess faith in Christ, really did understand the gospel, was baptized upon this profession, really did show the fruit of repentance, and then fell to temptation and grievous sin for a time (short or long), and later came to repentance. These I see no reason to baptize.


So do you guys (@jander and @hornj) believe that people who are excommunicated and repent must be re-baptized? This is an area of credo-baptist theology that I’m not familiar with. Is there a historical position?

I would add that in my Baptist experience there are an absurd amount of supposed false conversions that may or may not be real. I’m certainly not saying I don’t think there are legitimate false conversions. However, my experience is that sensitive souls under the wrong kind of emotional Baptist altar call are often tortured until they “really get saved” and then rebaptized. But when that kind of experience is the impetus, there is often still a lot of lingering doubt because there has been so much emphasis on the circumstance and emotion of the conversion experience. Often, these were cases where there was no “backsliding” involved, but the pressure and emotion overwhelmed. And in these cases, I rarely observed any actual good counsel from pastors happening, it was sometimes just marching right up to the baptistry in the very same church service this was happening.
I’ve been following this conversation, trying to formulate some thoughts as this all hits very close to home for me. My early years were spent in a very sound Southern Baptist church. As my Dad’s Air Force career moved us around, we unwittingly wound up in Independent Baptist Churches (although they were certainly not the worst of the worst) and I went to a small IFB college (although again, it was fairly moderate for IFB). I still thank God for many godly people and influences through those years, but am so increasingly grieved by many of the practices there. I recently read Revival and Revivalism so all of this has been really on my mind lately, anyway. All that to say, I definitely have lots of Baptist experience in mind when speaking about this and have seen a very broad range of stories of rebaptism. When thinking back to college times, I remember a very large percentage of conversion stories I would hear of fellow college students that were “I thought I was saved at such and such an age and then I went to camp, or a revival meeting, etc.” In the bad theology that abounds in those circles, it’s no wonder. Which may be a rabbit trail from what you started this conversation about, but it’s definitely abundant in those Baptist circles.


I have not been successful in finding any historical baptist writings that address this scenario, specifically. However, the content of chapter 17 of the 2LCF makes it very hard for me to conclude that baptists of that era were the kind who went around always asking the question of whether or not a repentant person’s past sin was grievous enough that it constitutes them as having clearly been in an unregenerate state before.

It’s interesting to put WCF and 2LCF chapter 17 side by side (source link):

Speaking for myself only, I find no precedent in the New Testament for rebaptism. There are a number of texts where Paul addresses removing sinners from the church, and some dealing with receiving the repentant back into the fold from excommunication or censure (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Nothing in these texts addresses or hints at rebaptism.

In Acts 8, we see a baptized Simon Magus being rebuked sharply by Peter for his grievous sin of wanting the Spirit so he could pilfer fame. Peter’s words are stern, even saying that Simon was “in the bond of iniquity.” I’ve heard it taught that this is evidence that Simon was clearly a false convert, and was still lost in his sin. I don’t believe this is the natural read of the text. Peter calls Simon to repent, and Simon asks Peter to pray for him. Given that this is where the narrative concerning Simon ends, I believe we are meant to understand that Simon feared the Lord and did, in fact repent. We have nothing in the text to lead us to believe his baptism was rendered ineffectual.

The way I see it, no baptist can argue for rebaptism of repentant excommunicants without appealing to an argument from silence in the Scriptures. But to make this argument would be inconsistent, since the repudiation of argument from silence is central to baptist hermeneutics. For the baptist, if we can’t prove a thing a thing via watertight exegesis, then it shouldn’t inform our orthopraxy, right?


No one commented on the scandal within the SBC of baptism into particular churches. In my judgment, this is a tell concerning Baptist realpolitik. I’ve always said to my Baptist fellow elders and pastors in our former congregation that the error of their sacramentology is thinking they can, or even should, have a pure church, and I think this discussion helps make the point. As I point out in such discussions, there is no better “take” rate for the efficacy of baptismal grace among credos than there is among paedos rightly practicing their doctrinal commitments. As many credo children get baptized and repudiate Christ the Lord as paedos.

What I feel reading the above is that we’ve lost any doctrine of the Fall, original sin, and the law of sin and death inside the church. Everything is regeneration and nothing is sanctification.

Our Savior’s rule is “by their fruit ye shall know them.” We will return sanctification to our churches and sacramentology when we stop believing and teaching that the church has ever been pure because of the rigors of our practice of baptism (credo) or the efficacy of the act/washing by water, itself (paedo).

One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Love,


…As I point out in such discussions, there is no better “take” rate for the efficacy of baptismal grace among credos than there is among paedos rightly practicing their doctrinal commitments. As many credo children get baptized and repudiate Christ the Lord as paedos.

Coming from a baptistic background, I would have to agree with you. Years ago, I heard a local Baptist pastor point out why it was that he had seen far too much of his roll call wander out the door and not return, generally in the 25-40 age range. This was often when they got married, which begged more than a few questions as to why the people were in church in the first place!

The same pastor pointed out that in our evangelism, we have to be quite clear about the “cost of discipleship”. Of course we are not saved by works, but - as the pastor said - “if people come to Christ, they need to know what they are letting themselves in for”. His view was that if people understood that, they would be far less likely to make professions of faith that then didn’t do the distance.

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Yes, this is a real scandal. To accept no other church’s baptism is to excommunicate everybody else in every other church. It is a flat out denial of Ephesians 4:5-6.

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

If there is more than one baptism, then there is more than one God and Father of all.


I wonder if “temporal judgments” in the confessions are referring to excommunication.

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I haven’t studied the historical Baptist position on that. I would imagine that it wouldn’t be required but would depend on the circumstances of what they were excommunicated for and the details of their testimony of repentance. In my knowledge of a few local Reformed Baptist churches, there’s been a couple of excommunicants restored, I think both without rebaptism. (One had moved to a paedobaptist church, so it wouldn’t have been required just as a matter of honoring the other church’s position)

This I have actually never heard of. I’m reading that comes from Landmarkism and is centered in TN and KY.

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