Mark Horne Infant Baptism Video Interview

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Horne was kind enough to subject himself to our first video blog, an interview on the question of infant baptism. Horne is a brilliant author, and we highly commend his blog, which you can find here. He’s the author of a biography of JRR Tolkien, a commentary on Mark, and most important for our purposes, a primer on baptism.

Please enjoy! We hope this will be a helpful resource for those in the church who are looking to explore infant baptism or are looking to defend it. It’s a long video, but is definitely worth your time. We’ve included a comprehensive list of the questions we asked Mark below. For those of you who don’t have time to watch the whole interview, we’ve included a timestamp beside each question so you can skip ahead and listen to it. Please leave any feedback that you have in the comments section. Enjoy! 

1. How did you arrive at becoming a paedobaptist? Were you always a convicted paedobaptist, or is this a position that you changed to? If so, how did it happen? (1:00)

2. Let’s assume that someone is listening who has never encountered any arguments for paedobaptism. Their only experience is with believer’s baptism. How would you go about explaining infant baptism to them? (4:00)

3. So, a couple of weeks ago I just became a dad. This has obviously made the whole paedobaptism question really pressing for my wife and I! What I was really intrigued by was your suggestion in “Why Baptize Babies?” that Christian parents are given very specific promises by God for their children. You list three:

1) Be God – Gen 17:7; 2) Give righteousness – Ps. 103:17; 3) His Spirit won’t leave them – Isa. 59:21

Would you mind explaining this a little more? I’m sure for some of our credobaptist listeners, this is going to seem to come out of nowhere. How would you pastor a parent like me who is worried about how his newborn is going to turn out? (9:00)

4. There was recently an article up at the Gospel Coalition by Gavin Ortlund on why he’s no longer a paedobaptist. He says that one of the reasons why he’s no longer a paedobaptist is because we don’t baptize grandkids. In the old covenant, grandchildren would have been circumcised even if their parents were faithless. But now, we only baptize children of believing parents. Here’s what he says:

“Circumcision is given in Genesis 17:9 to “you and your seed [offspring, descendants; Hebrew zerah] after you, for the generations to come.” The individuals in view here are the intergenerational descendants of Abraham. The faith of an Israelite child’s parents was not what determined the child’s right to circumcision; it was the child’s association with the nation of Israel. In other words, the lines of covenant throughout the Old Testament weren’t drawn around individual believing families, but around the national family of Abraham. It wasn’t the “children of believers” who had the right to the sacrament of initiation, but the “children of Abraham.” So, given paedobaptist presuppositions, why not baptize the grandchildren of believers, too? If we’re really building off continuity with the Old Testament precedent, why stop at one generation?”

How would you respond to this? Are paedobaptists being inconsistent here? (14:20)

5. Could you tell us how you would interpret Jeremiah 31? This seems to be the key chapter that credobaptists use to defend their position. Proponents of believer’s baptism will say that the nature of the new covenant is that it’s unbreakable. All members of the new covenant have been regenerated – they’re faithful Christians. In your book, “Why Baptize Babies” you seek to show that the opposite is true – the new covenant is breakable. Not all members of the new covenant have been regenerated. How do you interpret Jeremiah 31:32 and following?

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 It seems that one of the reasons for the new covenant has to do with the breakability of the old covenant, that it was a mixed tribal community. And because of that , God is going to make a new covenant that is going to be fundamentally different from the old covenant. With this covenant, all members of the covenant will be faithful covenant members.

That sounds like a good argument for credobaptism. How would you respond? (20:50)

6. Speaking of the differences between baptism and circumcision, Stephen Wellum says that “baptism is not a sign of physical descent, nor is it a sign that anticipates gospel realities. Rather it is a sign that signifies a believer’s union with Christ and all the benefits that are entailed by that union.” Do you think this is an accurate characterization of both of these sacraments? If not, where does it go wrong? (28:16)

7. A Reformed Baptist pastor that I know pointed out this little argument from Tom Schreiner’s Galatians commentary as an argument against paedobaptism. He said that if baptism replaced circumcision like paedobaptists say that it did, then Paul’s argument in Galatians would have been much easier and he would have certainly used it. What do you think of this? Here’s the quote:

Tom Schreiner, commenting on Galatians 3:26-27: “It should be noted that Paul does not argue against circumcision in Galatians by saying that baptism replaces circumcision as an initiation rite. Therefore, even though baptism and circumcision are both initiation rites, they are not analagous in every respect. We see both continuity and discontinuity between circumcision and baptism. If Paul believed that baptism merely replaced circumcision, he almost surely would have made such an argument in Galatians, for it seems that such a declaration would have settled the debate over circumcision in Galatia decisively. Instead of focusing on baptism, however, Paul stresses that faith in Christ is what qualifies one to be a member of God’s people.” (31:40)

8. I noticed on pg. 23 of your book you appeal to Acts 2:39 to show that the apostle Peter believed that God’s new covenant still involves promises to our children. It says, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord called to himself.” I was just listening to a debate between Bill Shishko and James White on baptism and James White responded to this text by pointing out that the last clause qualifies everything in the first clause – “everyone whom the Lord called to himself.” White sees this as referring to effectual calling. For him the verse really reads as “For the promise is for you (the elect), your (elect) children, and all (the elect) who are far off.” Do you think this undermines Acts 2:39 as a paedobaptist prooftext? (34:14)

9. One of our readers had this question for you: “Why is it that many churches that practice credobaptism currently seem more energetic and more engaged? Is this an accident of history or is there something about it that inherently fires up people?” (36:27)

10. And for our last question, if you were to equip paedobaptists with an argument to go on the offensive against credobaptists, what would it be ? (38:44)