Annotated Bibliography on Infant Baptism. Part 7: Infant Baptism

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Jesus’ Baptism, Bibliography.

This bibliography was last modified on 15 Jan 2011

My desire here is to build an annotated bibliography of books and articles on the subject of infant baptism, ordered by date of publication (full citations are Turabian, 6th edition). My annotations (at this point) are more reactions than interactions. I will flesh out the annotations with quotes, replies, and such, if ever I am in a better position to come back and update this bibliography… for now I am just laying down a basic list.

When I say infant baptism, I mean the kind that is based on Evangelical, Reformed and Presbyterian theology — that which is rooted in covenant theology. Furthermore, within covenant theology there are two major streams of thought: John Murray vs. Meredith Kline. I believe the case for infant baptism is best made along the line represented by Meredith Kline (and therefore must be refuted along those same line, which I have sought to do in my six part series). But I will interact with both Murry and Kline. I do not interact with Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran or even Wesleyan/Methodist/Nazarene views of baptism (even if they happen to leverage Reformed and covenantal formulations).

This bibliography is part of my ongoing research and writing on the subject. Some of these books and articles are scholarly, while others are not. Some contribute no new knowledge to the subject, while others are encyclopedic. All of them are noteworthy in one way or another. I place the tag, [Pro] beside any publication that is for infant baptism, [Ag] for those against it and [AG] for those who are heavily against it.

As with my other bibliograpies, this one is not static (I won’t update it often, but it is a repository for my ongoing research). I put it here on the web because I can update it from any place, any time, and I can direct others to it. Enjoy!

2008 [Pro]: Holstrom, Bryan. Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament. Ambassador-Emerald Intl, 2008.

The argument from silence was a strong pillar for me to believe infant baptism — and here is a whole book based on the idea. As I hope to articulate in an upcoming article, it was that pillar that was most undone by a greater pillar that was then still unknown to me.

The argument from silence was so powerful, that I think it is worth being aware of. That’s what attracted me to this book, it’s solidly clear dependence on the argument from silence. The book has a good endorsements from a WTS prof, and it is a recent publication. The case is a convental case for infant baptism. Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament is written to be theologically simple (in terms of its language).

2004 [Ag]: Stander, Hennie, and J. P. Louw. Baptism in the Early Church. Leeds, England: Carey Press, Reformation Today Trust, 2004.

See the audio blog for an uninspiring and brief review.

1998 [AG]: Malone, Fred A. A String of Pearls Unstrung: A Theological Journey into Believers’ Baptism. Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 1998.

Fred is an ex-Presbyterian minister. His book was one of the first Baptist books I read on the subject of infant baptism. His covenant theology is from a Murray-like perspective (which ultimately lacks staying power), and does not represent the best kind of covenant theology now being taught at the Westminster Theological Seminaries. Malone seems deficient in his covenant thinking in various places, and so his book actually worked to convince me of infant baptism (because his arguments are so weak) — this is not personal critique of Fred, it’s just the state of things as I see it.

This book is available for free online reading at the SBC Founder’s website.

He constructs his book around nine major points of infant baptism (nine pearls), but there are too many mistakes. In the first pearl, he reads Hebrews 8/Jeremiah 31 and the “all shall know me” in a way incompatible with the “all” statements of Jeremiah. He also mistakenly argues that the covenant community is the same size as the elect — but the New Testament still speaks of the covenant community being larger than the elect (as was the case in the Old Covenant). Ultimately, Malone does not seem to have the full-orbed understanding of Baptism one finds in Kline’s By Oath Consigned (see below), so he argues against weaker versions the teaching that baptism is a counterpart to circumcision. Positively, his fifth pearl is especially good (on 1 Cor 7).

1996 [Pro]:
Wilson, Douglas. To a Thousand Generations: Infant Baptism : Covenant Mercy for the People of God. Moscow, Id: Canon Press, 1996.

Wilson presents a standard case for infant baptism based on covenant theology. Nothing stood out when I read this book, and I read it after I was already convinced of the subject. But it seemed short and to the point, and that was its strength.

1996 [AG]: Greg Welty, A Critical Evaluation of Infant Baptism (Paedobaptism). This article is going to be published as a book; I think the Founders web site has published some form of it already. It is free online:

Greg is a former student of M. G. Kline, and studied at WTS, CA. While there, he resisted adopting a theology of infant baptism, and this publication gives something of his defense. Greg is very articulate, and has a sharp legal-like pen. Ultimately, for me, he was unconvincing, but he is the cutting-edge of Reformed Baptist thinking (especially where the Mosaic Law is a central feature). As with other books of this sort, the kind of covenant theology leans to the John Murray side of things. Greg, like Fred Malone, starts off with a mistake about Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8.

The New Covenant will not be broken, but that does not mean that the covenant community is the same size as the elect. There are fakes and frauds in the church. The wheat and the tares grow together. So, like Malone, he takes the “all shall know me”/”they all shall know me” and stakes out a major thesis. This, quite honestly, kept me being a baptist. It was the one idea (despite all the other arguments for infant baptism) that I could not navigate around or through. Until I was shown a redemptive-historical reading of Hebrews 8 (which Welty does not address). That means that the first and major point of his paper is beside-the-point.

1995 [Pro]: Booth, Robert R. Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 1995.

This book is written by a Baptist minister turned Presbyterian. It had a singular affect upon me, and not because of its content, but its style. He writes in a kind of story format, and he recounts the opposition he face. I felt connected to him, so that I was pulled along by his story as much as persuaded by his theology. The people he encountered reminded me of the people I encountered, and so his story resonated. Looking back on this book, my reaction then may have been related to the patterns of human behavior and not the merit of the subject matter. I am not saying that because I was drawn to it for the wrong reasons that it must be judged false. But in retrospect, I had given this book more weight than most others.

Still, it is a fun read! And it may convince you of infant baptism along the way. It is powerfully written.

1985 [Pro]: Sartelle, John P. Infant Baptism: What Christian Parents Should Know. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1985.

This unique little book does not try to exhaustive prove infant baptism. It is a succinct presentation of the material in booklet form.

1978 [Ag]: Jewett, Paul King. Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace: An Appraisal of the Argument That As Infants Were Once Circumcised, so They Should Now Be Baptized. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978.

Widely regarded as a standard work, this book was one of the first I read (from a non-paedobaptist perspective) that Baptism and Circumcission sit in the same seat between the covenants — citing Col 2:11-12 as corroborating support. Much more could be said about this publication, but it is a standard work in the field.

1975 [Pro]: Adams, Jay Edward. The Meaning & Mode of Baptism. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1975.

Short book. Makes the case that pouring and sprinkling are valid modes of baptism.

1973 [AG]: Kingdon, David. Children of Abraham: A Reformed Baptist View of Baptism, the Covenant, and Children. Worthing, [Eng.]: Henry E. Walter, 1973.

When I was a presbyterian, this book was given to me by a member of the church who was not convinced of infant baptism. He wished the elders would read this book and interact with him. They didn’t. So he came to me, and told me his distress over the matter, and I read it. He felt this book was a strong tower, and if it could be assailed, he would be glad to change his theology. So, having read it, I was unmoved. I felt then that it failed to deal with the right kind of covenant theology. There are different kinds of covenant theology, and many books I written from and against the John Murray form. But John Murray is not to be understood as representative of good covenant theology. I won’t elaborate here, but T. David Gordon shows the weakness of John Murray in relation to the book of Galatians. Anyway, this book seemed too narrowly focused to help change my thoughts on infant baptism. A fresh read is probably in order.

1968 [Pro]: Kline, Meredith G. By Oath Consigned; A Reinterpretation of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968.

Meredith Kline has written THE book on baptism. It’s only the last chapter of his book where he turns his attention to the subject of infant baptism, and he roots the case not on the preceding chapters of his book, but upon the principle of representative headship. No matter what one thinks of infant baptism, this book will open up new worlds of thought regarding the subject of baptism and redemptive history. I regret listing it here under infant baptism for that does not do it justice.

My humble assessment (based only on limited reading) is that the late M. G. Kline has no superior when it comes to articulating covenant theology and communicating the vast unfolding vista of the Gospel. Of all my research into infant baptism, this book is the culminating fruit.

This book is based upon a revision of two articles first published in the Westminster theological Journal, v.27: 1, Nov. 1964 and v.27: 2 May 1965. Kline was going to fix one error in this book and have it republished. The error was one sentence long. If you read the book, write me and I’ll tell you what the sentence is.

1952 [Pro]: Murray, John. Christian Baptism. Philadelphia, Pa: Committee on Christian Education, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1952.

Most of the covenant theology that gets turned into books on infant baptism is heavily influenced by John Murray. His little book is a standard read on the subject. However, since his is a weakened and deficient for of covenant theology, refuting this book is not to make a winning case for the Baptist ideas of baptism. One must go beyond Murray and deal with Kline if one really wants to be grounded in their thinking on the matter. To read Murray and miss Kline would be an error hard to overcome.

This article was published under Book Reviews, Infant Baptism.

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