Theological Honesty Regarding Infant Baptism

Your recent editorial on catechism (Standard Bearer, Sept. 15, 1997) prompts me to write and query some of your assumptions.

Firstly, I presume that you only attribute the qualities of election, redemption, and regeneration to the demonstrated spiritual seed of believers, because many by their behaviour in childhood are markedly still children of wrath. Therefore, you would not describe all children of believers in these terms, right? We agree that they are all encompassed in the covenant and ought to receive the sign of that; yet, we know what happened to Esau: given the sign but not elect. By the way, can you prove that "hated" does not simply mean "loves less" as it does in Jesus' demands that we put Him before family, etc.?

Secondly, when you state that they are born again as infants you presumably are referring again to the elect children. This is fine, except that I am sure a number only come to faith in late teens or early adulthood after a long period of rebellion.

Thirdly, can the prayer after baptism in the Reformed form for baptism truly thank God that He has "forgiven us and our children all our sins through the blood of Christ" when it is likely that one or more of our children may perish outside of Christ? The only valid reason I can see for infant baptism is the fact that Abraham was commanded to give the sign to his seed. But it does not assure any believing parent of anything! Do you not think there ought to be more theological honesty about and at these sacraments?

(Dr.) Julian M. Kennedy

Royal Bournemouth Hospital

Bournemouth, England


For a thorough answer to your vitally important questions about children in the covenant, I may refer you to three, closely related series of editorials that I have written on the subject. They were "The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers" (six articles; vol. 66); "The Approach to Covenant Children" (six articles; vol. 67); and "An 'Election Theology' of Covenant" (six articles; vol. 67). All of your questions are addressed in these articles.

Very briefly here, the basis of infant baptism is God's continuation of His covenant in the families of believers by saving their children (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39). The true, spiritual children of believers are those, and those only, who are the children of the promise according to election (Rom. 9:6ff.). In the Old Testament, when God promised His covenant and its blessings to Abraham's seed, He referred to those only of Abraham's physical offspring who were in Christ by election (Rom. 9:6ff.; Gal. 3:16, 29). So today, when God promises to save the children of believers, He refers to those only of our physical offspring who are, or will be, united to Christ spiritually according to election. These—these only—are our true children. 

As a rule, God regenerates these (elect) children, who are given to godly parents and raised in the fear of God, early in childhood. Not always, as you point out, but as God's ordinary way of working. This is why these children could, and were expected to, obey the fifth commandment of God's covenant-law from their earliest consciousness (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-3). Unregenerated children cannot honor their parents for God's sake, in thankfulness for His redemption of them out of the Egypt of sin and death.

This is why John the Baptist jumped for joy at the presence of His Lord and Savior, when John was in his mother's womb (Luke 1:41, 44). 

This is why Jesus said of "infants" being carried to Him in their parents' arms that they must be allowed to come to Him (in this way! in the way of being carried by their parents, as, e.g., infants are carried to Christ by being presented for baptism!) for His blessing. And this is why He added, "for of such (infants) is the kingdom of God (made up)" (Luke 18:15-17). Infants of believing parents are in His kingdom. They are in His kingdom already in their infancy. They are in His kingdom by election. They are in His kingdom by redemption. As a rule, they are in His kingdom by regeneration.

Jesus Christ is indignant with all Baptists, who exclude from His kingdom great numbers of its citizens (Mark 10:14).

The prayer after baptism in the Reformed form for baptism is indeed objectionable, not only to all Baptists but also to Reformed people who refuse to acknowledge that membership in the covenant is determined by election.

Almighty God and merciful Father, we thank and praise Thee, that Thou hast forgiven us and our children all our sins, through the blood of Thy beloved Son Jesus Christ, and received us through Thy Holy Spirit as members of Thine only begotten Son, and adopted us to be Thy children, and sealed and confirmed the same unto us by holy baptism....

This simply is not true of all the physical children of believers. But it is true of all the genuine children of believers, i.e., the spiritual children, the children of the promise, according to election. 

You declare, with some vehemence, that infant baptism "does not assure any believing parent of anything!" On the contrary! The baptism of our infants according to God's command, in harmony with infant circumcision under the old covenant, assures us of everything. It assures us that God has not changed, saving the children of the godly under the old covenant but refusing to save them under the new covenant. It assures us that God has not restricted the extent of His covenant mercy in this age of the church's maturity, withholding His mercy from the children of the godly today, whereas He extended it to the children of the godly previously. It assures us that God will gather His church from our family. It assures us that God will graciously save our true children, every one. It assures us that our efforts to rear our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord are not in vain (Eph. 6:4). It assures the covenant children, from their youngest years, when first they hear the gospel with the faithgiven them by the Spirit, that God loves them, Christ died for them, and they are saved, according to His eternal election of grace.

I agree that there should be theological honesty regarding the sacrament of baptism. All ministers should teach and all confessing Christians should believe and practice that the proper administration of the sacrament includes the baptism of the infant children of believers.

As for the meaning of "hatred" in Romans 9:13 ("Esau have I hated"), the proof that the word means 'detest and will to damn,' not 'love less,' is the passage from which Paul is quoting, Malachi 1:3ff. Try reading Malachi 1:3, 4 while translating "hated" as 'loved less.' Incidentally, your assumption that "hate" means 'love less' in Luke 14:26 is mistaken.


The Implications of "The Sad Case of Bert Zandstra" for the Young People

I am writing in regard to the editorial, "The Sad Case of Bert Zandstra" (Standard Bearer, Nov. 1, 1997). The Young Adults Bible Study Class in the South Holland, IL PRC are discussing the article. The article was very clear and definitely "sad" to read. I would like to know the implications of the article for us young people who are not married. Also, what are the implications for us of the acceptance of the Bert Zandstras by many of the other Reformed churches.

Nathan Haak

South Holland, IL


I am especially delighted to receive such a letter from one whom I baptized and whom I catechized for many years.

The implications for young people such as yourself of the editorial on the mythical Bert Zandstra are the following. First, be thankful that you are raised in a family that is not troubled and broken by divorce, but dwelling together in love and peace. Thank God for this daily, and ask His blessing on your home. Second, befriend the young people in the church whose parents are divorced, and pray for them. Third, make up your mind that the woman you marry will be your one and only wife as long as she lives, come what may. This is God's clear, authoritative, unchangeable will for His institution of marriage in His world. Fourth, following from this, marry wisely. Marry in the Lord Jesus Christ, and marry one who shows herself to be the kind of young woman with whom you can live happily, with your children, for an entire life-time. Do not make a mistake here! Do not marry outside the faith. Even within the church, do not marry carelessly. Some young people in the church are more careful in buying a used car than they are in choosing their wife (or, husband, as the case may be). Listen to your parents' advice. Fifth, once you are married, work hard from day one of your marriage to make the marriage a godly, good, solid, happy one. Some men in the church spend more time on their golf game than they do with their wife. Then, they wonder why things are not well at home. Sixth, if the time should come that you and your wife are having trouble (and every marriage has its troubles), keep in mind that divorce is not an option for you. You are called to live with your wife, even if, to use the language of Proverbs, she is a brawling woman. Life is short; marriages are ended by death; God will reward you for suffering in discipleship of Jesus Christ. Marriage is a calling.

As regards the Reformed churches that now fall away from the truth by allowing the Bert Zandstras to be members in good standing, the implications of the editorial are these. Be sure that you are member of a Reformed church that teaches the truth of marriage and backs it up with discipline. All who are members of Reformed churches that permit the Bert Zandstras and their new wives to be members are guilty before God of the adultery and unrighteousness of these sad cases. Also, fight to keep the Protestant Reformed Churches free of the cancer of divorce and remarriage.

Greetings to the Young Adults Class in South Holland.


The Scandal and Children

Since renewing my subscription to your magazine, I have told our people of your doctrines; passed out your literature to our churches; and given copies to some Southern Baptist ministers who have come to the knowledge of the excellency of grace. I've often been asked what your position on divorce and remarriage was; now I can tell them! Your editorial on the issue is timely, and very much to the point ("The Scandal and Silence," Standard Bearer, Nov. 15, 1997). As a retired school teacher, I can vouch for what was reported relative to the children's reaction to this "scandal." I did a study for our school system a few years ago. At that time, one-third of those I polled were in single-parent homes, one-third in homes with a step-parent, and one-third in what otherwise would be considered a "stable, two-parent family." Surprisingly, students from what we considered stable family settings had a very difficult time adjusting in school after their parents were engaged in disputes. They worried that their parents, too, would end up in a divorce court.

The number one cause for students' low academic achievement today is not lack of educational dollars, well-trained teachers, or adequate teaching materials. It is divorce and remarriage, feuding, fussing, fighting, screaming, etc., as well as single "parenthood" (misnomer). Our children cannot achieve in the ghettos of social catastrophe. Their security, social support, love, and guidance are almost nonexistent. And you are correct, no one dares to speak out as our social fabric disintegrates around us.

Thank you for your and the Protestant Reformed Churches' stand. May God grant you His sovereign grace as you contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Stanley C. Phillips

Quitman, MS

The Pain of Divorce for the Children

No one says anything about it; it seems like no one cares. This was the sad comment made to me by a co-worker as he was telling me of the many in his church who were divorcing and remarrying. This comment illustrated the eerie silence in many churches today that was discussed in the November 15, 1997 editorial of the Standard Bearer, "The Scandal and Silence." The silence truly is eerie, and the results are sad and disastrous for the families and churches involved.

I can personally attest to the sadness of this comment, being the son of parents who divorced 13 years ago and have since remarried other spouses. The pain and sadness for children of divorced parents go on long after the mom and dad have gone their separate ways. It is hard to put into words the great pain that divorce inflicts on children. I think it can best be described by saying this, that my father and mother are no longer together as one. They have now taken in strangers whom they call "husband" or "wife." The two people whom children look to for stability and love have gone their separate ways, bringing an end to happy family gatherings, fellowship, good examples, and the list goes on. The pain and sadness are greatest for children who are young and still in the home at the time of the divorce, but it is also true for adult children. This pain and sadness does not get better with time either. There are constant, sad reminders that children of divorced parents must deal with.

I do not write this to ask for pity. My reason for writing is this, that people will realize the devastation that divorce brings to children and be strengthened in their biblical stand against divorce and remarriage. This is especially important for anyone who loves the truth of God's covenant. God uses covenant homes and parents who are together to bring forth and rear covenant children. Divorce and remarriage are a threat to covenant children! Do we love our children? We do! Do we love the truth of the covenant? We do! Do we see the threat and ruin that divorce and remarriage bring to covenant children and God's church? I pray that we do! 

Another reason for writing is to speak to those who may be experiencing difficulty in their marriage and are contemplating divorce. Let me ask you this one question, "Do you want to leave your children with a lifetime of pain and sadness?" Really? Ask anyone whose parents have divorced if it has really brought an end to the problems, or only compounded and prolonged them. If you don't have children, then consider your example to fellow believers and your witness to the world. I plead with you, don't do it! Get help, talk to your family members, pastor, elders, but don't break up your marriage.

A man who professes to be a Christian recently came to my work and noticed my pictures of my wife and five children. He made a chilling comment. He said, "Do you realize that two of your five children will probably marry and divorce?" This was his experience with two of his five children. I pray that his prediction will be wrong, for my children and yours. However, if we let the tent door open, and this camel of accepting divorce and remarriage sticks his nose in, I am afraid it will become the norm for us too. I pray fervently, that God will not permit it to happen.

Three questions that I would like to see the Standard Bearer address in future articles. 1) What should someone who is in a "bad" marriage do when he or she needs help? Many times people in a bad marriage feel trapped and see divorce as the only way out. 2) How can we help those families who have been abandoned and hurt by divorce? 3) The November 15 editorial spoke against divorce and remarriage. How about an article or two encouraging godly marriages and the great blessing that we find in them?

Ken Elzinga

Byron Center, MI

Uncompromising Articles

I am pastoring a small church on Drummond Island. I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with the Protestant Reformed Churches. A Protestant Reformed visitor to one of our services gave me a subscription to the Standard Bearer. I want to tell you how much I appreciate your publication. The meditations from Romans by Rev. Hoeksema are excellent. I also appreciate the editorials concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Praise the Lord for men who will still stand for and proclaim the truth without compromise. I will renew my subscription and continue it as long as you continue to publish uncompromising articles as you are now.

Doug DeGood

Drummond Island, MI