News from Canada: Baptismal Form

The Consistory of tile Williamsburg Christian Reformed Church overtures the Synod 1974 not to adopt the provisional Form for the Baptism of Children for permanent use in the Christian Reformed Church in its present reading on the following grounds:

1. In the closing paragraph of the Institution the words, “all those brought into fellowship with God by the preaching of the Gospel,” seem unsuitable to introduce the Baptism of Infants. The term “fellowship” implies a mutual relationship with active response from both parties. The use of such terminology referring to the baptism of babies usually less than two months old appears to be questionable.

2. The discussion of the Scripture passages, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12 and Titus 3:5 is carried on in a way which lacks clarity and creates misconceptions. The main emphasis in Romans 6:3–11 falls on union with Christ which is symbolized in baptism. One cannot defend exegetically from this passage that all who are baptized arc thereby savingly united with Christ. Yet when the Form states regarding little children that “when we are baptized we are buried with Christ,” without any further explanation, the impression is left that being baptized is the same as being buried with Christ.

In Colossians 2: 12 the reference to baptism appears to be directed to adults who have experienced actual conversion, as can be seen in the preceding verse. Moreover the raising with Christ spoken of here is said to take place “through faith in the working of God,” ruling out any simple identification of baptism and union with Christ.

In Titus 3:5 the “washing of regeneration” is mentioned in one breath with the renewing work of the Holy Spirit To apply this passage to water baptism and say that “just as we are baptized with water, our lives are washed clean from sin through the shed blood of Christ,” seems to be unwarranted and deceptive. Such a statement indicates the accomplished fact of salvation rather than the gracious promise of salvation made to covenant children. One can hardly deny such a meaning, reading that “baptism certifies that we are free from sin, accepted as righteous with God, and will one day be made perfectly whole by His Spirit.” The very wording of the passage under discussion includes in no uncertain terms the subjective implementation of the covenant promises.

3. The reference to “new birth” in this Form is found in a rather confusing context. To create the impression that the Bible teaches regarding infant baptism, that, “We learn from this that God identifies us as new creatures in Christ born again to new life, and heirs of the life to come,” appears to be misleading. This is all the more serious, since nowhere else in this Form is the absolute necessity of the new birth mentioned. (See Ezekiel 36:26; John 1:12, 13; 3:3·9; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10; Titus 3:5; James 1:18; I Peter 1:23, and other places.) The statement just quoted seems to advocate the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. With a frequent reading of this Form as it now exists in our worship services, any visitor seems to have the right to say that the Christian Reformed Church teaches that we are saved by baptism.

4. In the third vow made by the parents no reference is made to third parties involved in the teaching of our children. Is it wise to omit the obligation of Christian parents with respect to catechetical instruction and the choice of a day-school?