Posts Tagged ‘Regulative Principle of Worship’

The Household Baptisms Of The New Testament

by David Cason

I. Preliminary Considerations

If the great debate over who should be baptized could be distilled into one question, it would be this:

Should only those who personally profess gospel faith be baptized, or should the children of those professing believers be baptized as well?1

When an argument is made for the latter, paedobaptist2 view, an appeal is inevitably made to those instances in the New Testament when a “household” is said to have been baptized. Since all agree that every other recorded instance of baptism is that of a professing believer, the interpretation of these texts is crucial. Only in these “household” passages can the paedobaptist allege that the Scriptures record the actual baptism of the non-confessing child of a believer (or, put more carefully, the baptism of one party on the basis of another’s faith). A close exegetical examination of those passages is therefore desirable.3

If they evidence a difference from the other recorded New Testament baptisms, or exegetically connect with the Old Testament concept of household circumcision4 , much legitimate ground is gained in the argument for infant baptism. But, if the texts in question fail to yield such evidence, the argument for the practice of infant baptism will have been dealt a substantial blow.

Understanding the pivotal importance of these verses, it is worthwhile to consider briefly some simple interpretive principles which apply to the exposition of the Word. Scripture is the interpreter of Scripture. The clear passages of Scripture must be allowed to interpret the dark, and the complete passages to interpret the elliptical. There exist in Scripture both detailed and abbreviated accounts of these “household” baptisms. It is neither sound nor admissible for the paedobaptist to use the shorter accounts in such a way as to bring them into conflict with the fuller narratives.6 This implies, naturally, that the passages must be exegeted. It is entirely inadmissible, though common enough in practice, to merely reference such passages as conclusive proof texts, or to dismiss anti-paedobaptist arguments with a casual wave of the word “house” or “household,” without looking at what the verses actually record.7 With these ground rules in mind, we turn to the Scriptural narratives.

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1 This is a modern way of putting the question. It ought to be stated, Should only those who profess gospel faith be baptized, or should those subject to that professed believer’s household authority be baptized as well? But because this more accurate phrasing seriously damages the paedobaptist argument in the modern world, the question is rarely framed in this more logically (and biblically) consistent fashion.

2 paedobaptist – one who advocates infant baptism

3 And yet, it is this close exegetical examination which is almost never present in paedobaptist apologetic. For example, James Bannerman, in his crucial and exhaustive work on the Presbyterian view of the church, spends 26 pages giving what amounts to a purely theological argument for infant membership in the covenant. He disposes of the household baptism passages in less than two pages, never undertaking an actual exegesis of any. Despite the lack of careful analysis, he does not hesitate to cite the verses as absolute and final testimony in favor of infant baptism, with overstatement that borders on the fantastic. He writes, “…nothing more is necessary, in regard to the practice of the Primitive Church in the matter of infant baptism, than to refer to the frequent and almost constant mention of the Baptism of ‘households’ and ‘families,’ in which it is morally certain that there must have been infant members….Such expressions as these, interpreted in the light of the previous undoubted practice of the Jewish Church, can admit of only one meaning….Under the circumstances of the Apostolic Church, the repeated mention of household or family Baptism is itself decisive evidence of the practice by which infants were baptized.” (Bannerman, James, The Church of Christ, 2:92-93).

Samuel Miller is carried away in similar fashion, but for Miller, two pages is two too many. After merely adducing three “household” passages, and admitting that there is no proof of actual infant baptism in any of them, he nonetheless offers them as a kind of impregnable defense. Miller writes “Now, though we are not certain that there were young children in any of these families, it is highly probable there were. At any rate, the great principle of family baptism of receiving all the younger members of households on the faith of their domestic head, seems to be plainly and decisively established. This furnishes ground on which the advocate of infant baptism may stand with unwavering confidence.” (Miller, Samuel, Infant Baptism Scriptural and Reasonable). Miller also exemplifies the characteristic misstatement of the question described in footnote 1 above.

John Calvin, after a discussion marked most by the number and diversity of its ad personam attacks on those who question the doctrine of infant baptism, dispenses with all the household passages in a single sentence. He writes, “For although this is not expressly narrated by the Evangelists, yet as they are not expressly excluded when mention is made of any baptized family, (Acts 16:15, 32), what man of sense will argue from this that they were not baptized?” (Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter 16.8).

4 E.g. Genesis 17:23

5 This is not a controversial doctrine. It is standard Reformation interpretive practice. The principle is so widely recognized that it was made a matter of confessional bond by the Puritan authors of the Westminster documents. “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of and Scripture (which is not manifold, but one) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:10).

6 Again, this is hardly an extreme notion. Every Calvinist regularly uses the “Scripture with Scripture” methodology when explaining the meaning of the word “world” in the various passages concerning the extent of the atonement. And no sound interpreter would say that the more limited narratives in the Gospel of Mark control the interpretation of the longer accounts given in Luke or Matthew.

7 This is the interpretive norm in paedobaptist treatments. See footnote 3 for some notable examples.

Disclaimer: I am not familiar with David Cason, therefore a link to this article does not mean that I endorse everything he believes or teaches concerning doctrine. However, linking to this article means that I believe he has rightly exegeted the “household baptism” texts over and against the paedobaptists interpretation of said text.

The Regulative Principle of Worship is a Biblical Doctrine

by Jeff Robinson

In my previous article, I argued that the regulative principle of worship is a Baptist doctrine. But any Baptist worth his or her salt will ask the more salient question: But is it a biblical doctrine?

I want to argue that it is in fact a biblical doctrine and give a brief biblical defense from 32,000 feet. As I sought to show last time, Baptist confessions have articulated it and numerous important figures who have roamed the landscape of the Baptist tradition held it in earnest.

Granted, there is not a single text that may be accessed which says, “You shall only use in gathered worship those elements taught by precept or example in Scripture.” But if you take the overall witness of Scripture as to how God expects to be worshiped, I believe a strong case may be made.




Read the entire article here.

The Regulative Principle – A Baptist Doctrine

by Jeff Robinson

God is being worshiped in new and inventive ways in Baptist churches these days. Years ago, one massive Baptist church installed a baptismal pool in the shape of a fire truck complete with red paint and lights, though it has since been removed. The baptistery was specifically designed for baptizing children who made a profession of faith. When a young one emerged from underwater during baptism, streamers and confetti streamed skyward from the small pool and the truck’s lights flashed with two-alarm luminosity. The pastor said this unsubtle device was installed to make baptism more palatable and “interesting” to children.

These days, it seems, many Baptist…




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Infant Baptism and the Regulative Principle of Worship

November 12, 2015 2 comments

by Fred Malone

Our Presbyterian friends often state that the authority for infant baptism comes from “good and necessary inference” of Old Testament circumcision of infants, not from positive command, example, or institution in the New (Warfield, Berkhof, Murray, et al). In fact, they candidly and regularly admit that there is no command or example of infant baptism in the New Testament, or indeed, in all the Scriptures.

Baptists often reject Presbyterian infant baptism by showing that the Paedobaptist (“infant Baptist”) brand of covenant theology erroneously allows “good and necessary inference” from Old Testament circumcision to overrule the only positive institution of baptism in the New Testament, namely, that of disciples alone. This is a proper argument. However, few recognize that this Presbyterian error is a violation of their own “regulative principle of worship.” Yet, the practice of infant baptism does just that.

This may not seem to be a very significant statement at first, but since the regulative principle is taught and championed by our Presbyterian brethren, it actually is a very serious charge. It means that they contradict their most important principle of worship every time they baptize an infant.




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Post Tenebras Lux Conference

1. The Five Solas Victor Tavitian

2. Calvinism (Tulip) Peter Rev Smith

3. The 1689 London Baptist Confession Peter Rev Smith

4. The Regulative Principle

5. Covenant Theology (1689) Peter Rev Smith

6. Biblical Separation Victor Tavitian

7. Law and Gospel Evangelism Victor Tavitian

8. The Religious Affections Victor Tavitian

9. Amillennialism Peter Rev Smith


These are some excellent sermons which contain much history concerning the Reformed Baptist and the Protestant Reformation.

The Regulative Principle of the Church 18: Its Contemporary Objections (Part 3)

A third common objection nowadays to the regulative principle is this.

(3) It involves the acceptance of extreme practices like exclusive psalmody and non-instrumentalism.

The implication is often present in materials that argue for the rejection of the regulative principle to the acceptance of extreme practices like exclusive psalmody and non-instrumentalism.1 It cannot be denied that these practices have frequently been associated with the regulative principle in history. Neither can it be denied that those who hold these views are disposed to press the regulative principle in support of their views. Nevertheless, it appears to me that several cogent responses can be made to this argument.

First, it is guilty of a logical fallacy. The frequent association of two ideas does not prove that they are logically related by good and necessary consequence. For instance, the doctrine of original sin is closely associated with the doctrine of infant baptism historically, but this does not prove (at least to any Reformed Baptists) nor should it prove that the doctrine of original sin leads to infant baptism.



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This is the final installment to this series and all the links to this series can be found here. They were put up by our friend Jason Deligo over at

The Regulative Principle of the Church 17: Its Contemporary Objections (Part 2)

The second contemporary objection to the regulative principle which I have isolated is as follows:

(2) It implies a different hermeneutic for the church than for other areas of life.

This objection and my answer to it constitutes a kind of footnote to the first issue. I am uncertain who first opined that the regulative principle provides a different hermeneutic for worship than for the rest of life. In my search online I found several persons using this terminology. They said things like:

“Author/evangelist Mark Driscoll did a series of sermons on the topic of “Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions.” The last sermon in that series had to do with the Regulative Principle, the hermeneutical approach that says that unless Scripture specifically authorizes something, that thing is prohibited.”



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Question 77-Puritan Catechism

CharlesSpurgeonQ. Are the infants of such as are professing to be baptized?

A. The infants of such as are professing believers are not to be baptized, because there is neither command nor example in the Holy Scriptures for their baptism. (Exodus 23:13; Proverbs 30:6)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

The Regulative Principle of the Church 16: Its Contemporary Objections (Part 1)

After considerable thought I have isolated ten such objections and questions. The first of these is perhaps the most important and is the subject of this blog post.

(1) It implies a counterintuitive regulation of worship (or the church) different from the rest of human life.

As noted previously, one of the major directions in which John Frame re-interprets the regulative principle is by arguing that it applies to all of life. So understanding it, he is able to adopt it verbally, though not, I would argue, substantially in its historical form. In a key statement of this re-orientation of the principle, he says:

“I therefore reject the limitation of the regulative principle to official worship services. In my view, the regulative principle in Scripture is not about church power and officially sanctioned worship services. It is a doctrine about worship, about all forms of worship. It governs all worship, whether formal or informal, individual or corporate, public or private, family or church, broad or narrow. Limiting the doctrine to officially sanctioned worship robs it of its biblical force.1”

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The Regulative Principle of the Church 15: Its Specific Application (Part 4)

Not only does the regulative principle of the church apply to its government, tasks, and worship, it also applies to its doctrine. The church may neither add to nor subtract from the doctrines of the Bible. It must confess (in its identity as the pillar and support of the truth—1 Tim. 3:15) all that the Bible says and only what the Bible says. Surely the Westminster Confession is correct when it makes this point at chapter 20 and paragraph 2:

“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.”

I regret to say that the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith changed this admirable, clear, and helpful statement to read as follows: “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his word, or not contained in it.” This revision obscures the crucial distinction implied in the Westminster between how God is the Lord of the conscience the rest of life (where the commands of legitimate human authorities have an important and necessary role to play) and matters of faith and worship where they do not.



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