Saturday, January 8, 2011

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - Baptism, Not for Regeneration

Since proper candidates for baptism are only those who have been regenerated, baptism itself is devoid of any regenerating power. For Strong, "baptism no more makes one a Christian, than putting a crown on one's head makes him a king." Even its sanctifying "efficacy is not in the outward act but in the spirit which accompanies it." Strong ties the concept of baptismal regeneration to the rise of infant baptism, which he rejects and reprehends. He also warns against the start of the new tradition of baby dedication, for sinful humanity will pervert any addition to the NT. Yet, Strong does allow children, even of "a tender age," to be baptized and granted church membership, when the church has evidence of conversion and Christian character.[33]

[33] Strong, Systematic Theology, 951-59. Of historical interest is this narration of what possibly is the start of baby dedication in America. "In Key West, Florida, a town of 22,000 inhabitants, infant baptism has a stronger hold than anywhere else at the South. Baptist parents had sometimes gone to the Methodist preacher to have their children baptized. To prevent this, the Baptist pastors established the custom of laying their hands upon the heads of infants in the congregation, and 'blessing' them, i.e., asking God's blessing to rest upon them. But this custom came to be confounded with christening, and was called such. Now the Baptist pastors are having a hard struggle to explain and limit the custom which they themselves have introduced. Perverse human nature will take advantage of even the slightest additions to N. T. prescriptions, and will bring out of the germs of false doctrine a fearful harvest of evil" (957).

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