“Augustine and Luther developed a doctrine of efficacy in surrogate faith on behalf of the baptized infant. The fact that an appeal is made for such actually affirms the NT witness of faith and baptism being linked. Once one is all in behind the practice of infant baptism, it causes the creation of surrogate faith and/or paedofaith. Or one maintains the link of faith to baptism in requiring profession of faith as an “Amen” to their baptism. It seems much easier to practice baptism based on the professed faith of the one being baptized than to create these other categories that have hardly any Biblical warrant.”
Here is part of the Luther quote that he offers:
“Here I say what all say: Infants are aided by the faith of others, namely, those who bring them to baptism. For the Word of God is powerful, when it is uttered, to change even a godless heart, which is no less deaf and helpless than any infant.”
He then points out that, rather than disputing the connection between faith and baptism:
“Luther gladly embraces the burden of tying faith to baptism, but argues that the faith of others supplies the requisite. Really?”
Really? Well, yes, really. Now, to be clear, I’m not aware of many participants in current discussions about infant baptism in Reformed and evangelical circles who think that Luther’s account is the last word. He lacks the robust covenantal rationale that is present in Reformed arguments, and has an insufficiently covenantal account of baptismal efficacy.
But the sarcastic dismissal of Luther’s way of connecting faith and baptism with a “really?” reveals a strange disregard for the more broadly Reformed arguments, since the Reformed account, while different with Luther, is nevertheless similar. You cannot sarcastically dismiss one without dismissing the other. And despite the flippant reference to “categories that have hardly any Biblical warrant,” Luther’s insistence on relating the baptism of infants to the faith of their parents is in fact deeply rooted in the testimony of scripture in both Old and New Testaments.
First, the baptism of infants is related to the faith of their parents, because they receive the sign and seal of the covenant on the basis of promises given to their parents. God promised Abraham that he would be “a God to you and to your offspring after you” (Gen. 17:7). The Apostle Peter echoes that promise, applying it the church as the true children of Abraham: “the promise is for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39). When parents put their faith in those promises, their children are then the recipients of the covenant sign. In the Old Testament that sign was circumcision; in the New Testament the sign is baptism (Colossians 2:11-12).The faith of the parents is the basis upon which the children receive the covenant sign.
Second, the baptism of infants is related to the faith of their parents, because the promises given to their parents are also given to them as members of a covenant household. Abraham “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith” (Romans 4:11). Note very carefully: circumcision was a seal of something that you could only receive by faith. You might say that circumcision and faith were always and necessarily related. And yet his household received the sign as well (Genesis 17:10). Why? Because God is not an American individualist. He works by covenant households. And so the faith of Abraham was the basis upon which his children received the sign and seal of the covenant of grace.
The children of believers are recipients of God’s covenant grace in the New Testament as much as (indeed, more than) in the Old. This is why the Apostle Paul assumes that our children are “holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14), that they are present in the covenant assembly (Colossians 3:20), and that they are “in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). Therefore, the children of believing parents rightly receive the sign and seal of inclusion in the covenant of grace.
So, it might “seem much easier” to make the sealing of God’s promises await the faith of the individual, but it would not be more biblical. Indeed, the biblical pattern is that first God’s promises are sealed, and then we respond in faith to what God has promised.
You might think this argument wrong; but it deserves a rather less flippant dismissal. Really? Yes, really.