Thinking in Public with Dr. Albert Mohler
In an interview with Albert Mohler, historian Thomas Kidd said that one of the important developments coming "out of this radical fringe of the evangelical movement" during the Great Awakening was "the belief that baptism is for believers." It was refreshing to hear a Baptist admit that this doctrine comes from the "radical fringe" of evangelicalism. Indeed, that doctrine is a novel idea, never uniformly practiced or enforced in any part of the Church prior to the 1500's. But what I found striking was the expression, "Baptism is for believers."
What is that supposed to mean?
Baptists do not refuse to baptize unbelievers. They baptize as many hypocrites as any other Christian denomination. Baptists refuse to baptize babies. When they say that "Baptism is for believers," they mean for you to understand that babies should not be baptized because (it is assumed) they do not have the capacity to believe in Christ.
This begs the question that is truly germane to the issue. What is Baptism? Is it something we do to demonstrate our faith in Christ? Is it something we do to obey an ordinance or command of the New Covenant? Or... Is it a divine gift, conveying the grace of God and generating faith in those who receive it for what it is?
I am a Lutheran, and I find it hard to argue with a Baptist who says that Baptism is for believers. On its face, that it is a true statement. But the meaning behind it is completely false. It is contrary to Scripture in its confession concerning the nature of what Baptism is, and it directly contradicts the words of Christ concerning the ability of infants to believe.
To make that statement misses the point. In fact, it avoids the point; and I don't believe that is an accident.