I’m spending part of this semester wrestling with the doctrine of infant baptism. I grew up in a Southern Baptist tradition so for most of my life my stance has been pretty defined by my upbringing. I can sum it up this way: Credobaptism = good and biblical; Paedobaptism = bad and unbiblical. Keep in mind I’m not saying that it is right (or wrong) yet. I’ll let you know in another month. However, imagine my surprise several years ago when I found out that John Calvin was a Paedobaptist, even arguing against my extended family the Anabaptists (and he wasn’t even a Roman Catholic at the time!!!). Talk about conundrum.
So I decided last Friday to finally engage with Mr. Calvin. We argued for almost three hours. He is very smart…and tricky! Every time I had at my disposal an argument to dispatch his defense of infant baptism, he would take it up in his work a paragraph later and challenge me. Now what really surprised me was not that he was intelligent and anticipated my every argument, it was how he argued with me. I tried being cordial (only putting exclamation marks next to a few comments), and he responded by calling me the following names:
- A frenzied spirit and disturber of the church
- “But since in this age, certain frenzied spirits have raised, and even now continue to raise, great disturbance in the Church on account of paedobaptism, I cannot avoid here, by way of appendix, adding something to restrain their fury.”
- A Hard Hearted Person
- “See the quibbles to which men are obliged to have recourse when they have hardened themselves against the truth!”
- Stupid – this one really hurt!
- “But God furnishes us with other weapons to repress their stupidity.”
- A Furious Madman
- “Let us now discuss the arguments by which some furious madmen cease not to assail this holy ordinance of God.”
- A Barbarian Destroyer of Scripture
- “In asserting a difference of covenant, with what barbarian audacity do they corrupt and destroy scripture?”
- A Trickster who Cloaks Falsehood as Truth
- “But lest they should blind the simple with their smoke, we shall, in passing, dispose of one objection by which they cloak this most impudent falsehood.”
- Deluded and Lazy
- “Hence it cannot but happen that they are every now and then deluded, because they do not exert themselves to obtain a full knowledge of any subject.”
- “And, indeed, if we listen to the absurdities of those men, what will become of the promise by which the Lord, in the second commandment of his law, engages to be gracious to the seed of his servants for a thousand generations (Ex. 20:6)?”
- Ridiculous and void of Reason
- “The distinctions which these men attempt to draw between baptism and circumcision are not only ridiculous, and void of all semblance of reason, but at variance with each other.”
WOW!!! And I’m only half way through this particular treatise. In light of all the recent Rob Bell discussion, I wondered if John Calvin would be welcomed into much debate today. He would not be thought loving, tender, or politically correct enough for many who want to classify any type of strong disagreement as sinful judgment. I would know….he’s the one calling me names.