Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is part one of a two part interview conducted by Paul Lamey with Matt Waymeyer.]
PL: First a book on the millennial debate in Revelation 20 and now a critique of infant baptism. You’re not exactly swinging for popular fences here. Why can’t you get with the program?
MW: Well I can assure you that I certainly don’t sit around and try to think of ways to be a thorn in the side of Presbyterians! Actually, the original reason I was drawn to the issue of infant baptism 13 years ago was a very practical one-my wife and I were newly married and hoping for children, and the anticipation of having babies has a way of forcing you to wrestle with this issue.
To put this into context, I had spent the previous year attending a wonderful PCA church in Orlando where I felt very much at home theologically. I had recently come to embrace the doctrines of grace and was growing in my appreciation for all things reformed. On top of that, I was taking a Greek class at Reformed Theological Seminary and trying to decide where to go to seminary full-time once Julie and I were married.
Because I had not yet studied covenant theology and infant baptism, I narrowed down my decision to either The Master’s Seminary or Westminster Theological Seminary. In fact, even after I decided to go to TMS, I remember telling my wife that I might end up transferring to Westminster West depending on where I landed on this issue. So studying the significance of baptism became a very high priority to me, even in that first semester at TMS, and now, 13 years later, it has ultimately evolved into the writing of a book.
PL: Since there is no shortage of ink on this issue, in what way do you hope to make a lasting contribution to the discussion? Are there areas you feel have been underrepresented?
MW: In terms of a making a contribution, this may sound idealistic, but my ultimate goal is to be part of the larger process in the Body of Christ of striving toward like-mindedness on this issue. This was very much what motivated me in the writing of this book. I have so much appreciation for my paedobaptist brothers-and so much in common with them when it comes to things like the sovereignty of God in salvation-and so baptism is left as one of those issues where we have still have some work to do.
As far as areas that have been underrepresented in the discussion, I think the primary one involves the biblical significance of baptism itself. In the final chapter of my book, I endeavor to show that the Bible teaches that baptism is, among other things, the divinely ordained means by which an individual publicly confesses his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism, in other words, is a profession of faith. Rather than simply pointing out the weaknesses of the argument for infant baptism, I believe that we Baptists need to show how a careful exegesis of Scripture leads to this conclusion and therefore leads us to reject the practice of infant baptism. Hopefully I have made noticeable strides in this direction in A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism.
PL: How do you want our Presbyterian brothers to read this book?
MW: There’s always a danger of coming across as condescending when you answer a question like this, but I guess I would hope that they read it with a willingness to revisit the biblical passages they often cite in favor of their position. Our theology must always flow out of a careful exegesis of the biblical text, and I don’t think this approach has always been done by those who argue for infant baptism. There are too many sweeping statements supported only by a proof-text which has not been carefully examined in its original context.
To whet your appetite with an example, Romans 4:11 is commonly cited as support for the teaching of infant baptism, but I believe that most paedobaptists have misunderstood Paul’s point about Abraham’s circumcision in this verse. If you read it in context, and pay close attention to the purpose clause in the second half of verse 11 and in verse 12, you realize that the apostle Paul is not defining the significance of circumcision in general, but rather the circumcision of Abraham in particular as one who stood in a unique place in the flow of redemptive history. As Dr. Greg Welty shows in his article, “From Circumcision to Baptism,” this completely undermines the paedobaptist argument from Romans 4:11. If you have the chance, read Welty’s article-it really is excellent.
On a more personal level, I would hope that Presbyterians would read this book as coming from the pen of a friend. As I mentioned in the introduction to the book, I consider my paedobaptist brethren to be precious comrades in the battle for truth in areas of theology more critical than this one. So rather than reading the book as an attack on them or their theology, I would hope they would read it as an invitation to look again at Scripture to see whether the things they have believed on this issue are truly so.
Look for Part Two tomorrow