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?