The Regulative Principle and the Immersion of Believers

In the January 2012 issue of The Gospel Witness, I had an article published on how the 17th century Baptists used the Reformation’s Regulative Principle of Worship to argue for believer’s baptism by immersion. The kind folks at The Gospel Witness have graciously granted me permission to post a PDF of my article here. The title of my article is “The Plain Testimony of Scripture”: How the Early English Baptists Employed the Regulative Principle to Argue for Believer’s Baptism.

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To download my article, click here.

13 comments

  1. And I realize that the Trinity as a doctrine wouldn’t be “regulated” by the RP, but I think you can read between the lines and get what I mean.

  2. If they used the principles of the RP for rejecting infant baptism, they could have easily done the same for the doctrine of the Trinity. IOW, neither is “explicitly” stated in Scripture, yet both are arrived at from “good and necessary consequence” WCF 1.6. To argue that someone should reject infant baptism because it isn’t explicitly stated is to say that someone should reject the Trinity for the same reasons. And well, that’s just silly.

    1. Wow, DJ. Not a sound argument. As you know, the doctrine of the Trinity is taught explicitly in Scripture (though the term is not used). The term is simply short-hand for what Scripture clearly affirms, namely the oneness of God and the reality of three distinct persons each of which are fully God. The regulative principle of worship says that only those elements in worship which are commanded in Scripture are to be permitted. Thus, since Scripture commands the immersion of believers, only believers should be immersed. There is no warrant for infant baptism in Scripture. You may disagree with them, but the early Baptists were not inconsistent on this point. In fact, they were more consistent than the Reformers and Puritans at this point.

      1. J
        I understand the rp, Steve. The point is, the logic in saying the its derived from the rp is wrong as I don’t think baptism by immersion to believers only is commanded. and the Reformed would argue that infant baptism is clear enough. I still challenge that the Trinity is arrived at through good and necessary consequence. There is not passage that clearly lays it out quite as the Church has rightfully derived it from Sripture. If there is id like to learn where. One more point, why was there never any controversy in t he post apostolic church over infant baptism? If it was such a radical departure from apostolic teaching, why was there never synods and councils denouncing it as there was on anti trinitarian (and other) doctrines?

      2. The baptism of the baptism of disciples is commanded. The baptism of infants is not commanded. That is enough, following the regulative principle, for the practice of infant baptism to be ruled out.

        As for your question regarding church history: Tertullian (c. AD 200) urged the delay of baptism until after repentance could be verified in “On Baptism” chapter 18 and in “On Repentance” chapter 6. Further the “Didache” (mid-late 2nd century) only gives instructions for the baptism of disciples. There were no “catholic” church councils until AD 325 after Constantine, so I would assume that the practice had become normative by that point. Thus, I concede that the error of infant baptism was introduced early (as many other aberrant practices were which we both reject).

        I responded to your Trinity comments in your other comment below.

    1. Of course the doctrine of the Trinity is not spelled out in the technical theological verbiage that we use today to clarify this doctrine. The Scripture does, however, clearly teach the oneness of God and the three distinct persons which are the component parts of the doctrine of the Trinity. I know we agree at this point. But to compare that to the argument for infant baptism which does not have any evidence in Scripture is a wide leap indeed.

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