Friday, December 08, 2006

Acts 10-11 and the Baptist debate (with particular emphasis on how 'all' is applied)

I recently posted some brief thoughts on household texts in the New Testament as they are used in the Baptism debate. I think it fair of me to bring out a little further my exegetical thoughts around the texts and will endeavour to do so in following posts beginning here with Acts 10 and 11.
Luke, (as a paedobaptist might point out) seems to continually stress the entirety or all-ness of the households; All the household, the whole household, the entire household, etc., possibly indicating the increased likelihood of infants.

Acts 10 is no exception: all the household were baptised. However a careful look of Acts 10-11 will show us other important all's. First we have a prophetic word given in 11:14, ‘He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ [emphasis mine] And Second back in 10:44, 46, ‘While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word...they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.’ [emphasis mine]

To point out that Luke keeps insisting on the entirety or all-ness of the household to include non-professing children, the following logic must be applied:

- All heard the message by which they would be saved
- All received the Holy Spirit + spoke in tongues
- All were baptised
 ...therefore
- Infants heard the message by which they would be saved
- Infants received the Holy Spirit + spoke in tongues
- Infants were baptised

To keep the logic that all means infants must also mean three things:
1. Infants heard so presumably understood (by the spirit) the message of Salvation
2. Infants received the Holy Spirit
3. This manifested itself in the infant by speaking in tongues

It appears from this that a paedobaptist position that uses the texts this way can remain consistent if one accepts the regenerative faith of the infant pre-Baptism.
Perhaps Luke has a different purpose for these household texts than is often appealed to by the paedobaptist brother or sister - namely the coming of Gentiles (God-fears in this instance) into the covenant.


Pete said...

Hi Tim

Man, I feel bad that I only leave comments on here to disagree with you. Sorry.

Ahyway, one minor thing. I don't think you can credibly tar infant baptists with having a different Lukan purpose for the texts you mention from the inclusion of the Gentiles.

a. An 'infant-baptist-friendly' reading of those texts would fit very well with the theme of Gentile covenantal inclusion. If Cornelius' whole family (possibly including infants) were baptised then this would simply serve to emphasise the inclusion of Gentile houeholds in the covenant.

b. I don't think anyone has ever suggested that these texts exist primarily to teach us about household baptism. That does not mean however that they don't teach us about it. John 4 is not primarily there to teach us about God's concern for cattle. It does however teach this.

Now from the more minor to the more major. I think you are making a mistake in your exegesis by assuming that the word 'all' must have exactly the same referent each time. THis would be moer justifiable if each of the verses you cite contained the phrase 'all the household' - then we would see that Luke was defining what 'all the household' means.

One might say the difference between paedo and credo on Acts 10-11 is not the purpose of those texts (re. the inclusion of Gentiles being related) but the background in which those texts could be read (the nature of the covenant in which Gentiles are being included). And again, it must be re-stated, I think those texts are supportive when read in a particular biblico-theological light, rather than definitive proof texts. Do we know for definite that Luke is saying 'all the household' to indicate children included? No, we don't know that. But I don't think we can rule it out either. (and then of course once we understand the biblical-covenantal nature of the family it seems more likely, etc. etc., but if Acts 10-11 didn't exist I'd still baptise my children).

Timothy Gough said...

Hi Pete.
I agree 'all' doesn't likely have an identical meaning each time...its unlikely that infants spoke in tongues other than baby-talk.
However, this does place the burden of proof to those paedobaptists who use the lukan stress on 'all' to be a lukan stress on infant inclusion. I think that is a none argument due to logical implications of esteeming such a meaning of 'all.'
This is obviously one aspect of a wider exegetical argument.
As you have taken it further, I shall comment; agreeably these texts could potentially help a paedobaptist in terms of support for their biblical theology, however two things:
1. It is not always argued as such. It is used as a stand alone argument in favour of infant-baptism, not biblio-theological support. (n.b. again, that is what I am primarily arguing against)
2. Due to the consistent appearance of faith with baptism, I think the burden of proof is passed to the paedobaptist to include infants in this...not the other way around as it is often asserted (however, that is going far off the topic of the post.)


Pete said...

Thanks Tim

As regards 1. I am in general agreement that such a case for infant baptism should be shown up for its weaknesses. Obviously this is not the same case for infant baptism which I have come to be persuaded of.

I'll decline to respond to 2. since as you say, it is off the point of the post. And I imagine you know what I would say already.