If there was a disingenuous category of arguments against the Reformed, this one belongs in it. Perhaps that sounds too dismissive, but I find it very difficult to believe that a fellow Reformed person, in all sincerity, can charge another Reformed person of violating the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) on the basis of not having an explicit command. Despite from my personal distaste for a bad argument like this one, I do think it’s worth responding to, since it has been repeated quite a bit as of late.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) defines acceptable worship in Ch. 21, Section 1:
…But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.
In other words, we learn to worship God from the Bible. Our way of worship should be limited by “his own revealed will” and he should not be worshiped “any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.” The Reformed position, which includes the baptism of children, is in agreement with the RPW.
“Good And Necessary Consequence”
This should be simple, given the fact that the London Baptist Confession (LBC) has the same exact principle when it comes to knowing and understanding Christian doctrine and piety. The WCF Ch. 1, Sec. 6:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…
The LBC 1.6 has something almost identical:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture…
This article is not to prove that infant baptism is by good and necessary consequence deduced from or necessarily contained in Scripture. That’s for a later discussion. The point of this article is to prove that Christian doctrine and piety, whether explicitly or implicitly, can only come from God’s revealed will, the Bible. This is a consistent, hermeneutical principle in both confessions.
A Disingenuous Argument?
Typically, the argument goes something like this… “Since infant baptism is not commanded in Scripture, how do you consistently hold to the RPW?” From a Baptistic perspective, one might think this to be such a profound and insightful question to ask a Presbyterian, but there’s only one problem with that. It’s simply not. That would be like a New Covenant Theologian asking a 1689 Federalist, “Since the Scripture never says that the Sabbath changed from Saturday to Sunday, how do you consistently hold to Sola Scriptura?” It’s simply a bad argument all around. However, this does not stop prominent Baptists from making these kind of arguments. Fred Malone, in his book titled “The Baptism of Disciples Alone“ probably made this argument popular in recent years. He is not ignorant to what the WCF 1.6 has to say regarding “good and necessary consequence,” yet he persists that this is a good argument to make.
Why do I consider this a disingenuous kind of argument? Well, first, you have to redefine RPW in such a way that appeals to Biblicism, which is inconsistent with the LBC 1.6. Demanding an explicit verse for teaching while dismissing scriptural inferences is not only dangerous, but very inconsistent in the Reformed Baptist tradition. Second, you have to misrepresent the Reformed position. You have to assume that we do not believe in a biblical command to baptize our children. That’s the only way this kind of argument works. What makes this worse is that our brother, Fred Malone, should know better. He knows good and well that Christian teaching that’s expressly set down in Scripture is just as valid and truthful as Christian teaching that’s “necessarily contained” in Scripture. And I charge this to all who use this argument while claiming the “Reformed” label.
Again, if you think infant baptism is not commanded in Scripture then fine, but you shouldn’t pretend as if the Reformed agree with you and therefore, we’re inconsistent in holding to both RPW and infant baptism. The Reformed position has always maintained that baptism is commanded, including infant baptism. Therefore, there is no violation or contradiction within the WCF between infant baptism and the Regulative Principle of Worship.