LIBERTY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF DIVINITY
Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ
By: Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright
Dr. Garry Graves,
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the completion of
THEO 530-B05 LUO
Systamtic Theology II
September 27, 2018
Table of contents
Shawn D. Wright a professor of theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of the Evangelical Theological Society joins with Thomas R. Schreiner, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to co-edit a compilation of scholarly and theological essays on the history and doctrine of baptism. They set out to advocate
that baptism is not a minor theological issue. “Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant,” calls for the restoration of baptism to its rightful place as a central element in the liturgy of Christian worship. “Belierver’s Baptism,” addresses many important questions concerning baptism. The questions consist of things as the meaning of baptism and how important it really is, what is the correct way of baptism and who should be baptized, believers or credobaptism versus infant or paedobaptism and finally which is biblically sound. This critique will mostly agree with the author’s conclusions that credobaptism (the doctrine that Christian baptism should be reserved solely for believers in the Lord,) is biblically supported also it will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses behind the authors’ claims, which assert baptism must be reserved strictly for believers.
The book Believer’s Baptism is a collection of ten scholarly writings, eight are written by other highly esteemed Baptist theologians and scholars to demonstrate that baptism should saved for only those who have believed, repented, and continued in his or her faith. Believer’s Baptism combines biblical exegesis, history and theology, and practical application to provide a powerful and compelling argument for credobaptism. Chapters one through three offer a biblical exegesis of many of the major texts that deliberate the topic of baptism. In chapter one, Andreas J. Köstenberger, discusses baptism as seen in the Gospels. Chapter two, written by Robert H. Stein, discusses baptism in Luke and Acts. In chapter three, Thomas R. Schreiner, covers baptism as described in the epistles with special emphasis on Paul’s letters. Chapter four considers the relationship of baptism to the covenants, centrally the covenantal argument for infant baptism . Stephen J. Wellum goes to the heart of the paedobaptist argument as he sees it. “In other words, do we discover in early Christian history an attitude toward baptism that, in an ideal setting, the church would baptize children and adults who have first repented of their sins and professed faith in Jesus Christ? Does baptism follow salvation or precede (or even produce) it?” The Patristic writings are considered in chapter five by Steven A. McKinion. He illustrates that the Church Fathers were most often concerned, not with the age of the baptismal candidate, but the role of repentance, faith, regeneration, and entrance into the church. Chapter six is authored by Jonathan H. Rainbow and covers the topic of “Confessors Baptism: The Baptismal Doctrine of the Early Anabaptists.” He discusses how the Catholic Church’s unresolved tension between faith and baptism, especially as it related to infants led to attempts by Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and Balthasar Hubmaier to clarify the role of faith to baptism. Chapter seven discusses “Baptism and the Logic of Reformed Paedobaptists.” Shawn D. Wright looks at the influence of John Calvin, John Murray, and Pierre Marcel upon modern paedobaptists and highlights their inconsistencies of Scriptural exegesis in their understanding of the sacraments, baptism, the composition of the church, and the covenant of grace with its corresponding symbols of circumcision and baptism. Chapter eight by Duane A. Garrett details the debate of Meridith Kline on Suzerainty, Circumcision, and Baptism. He dismisses the notion that there is a parallel between baptism and ancient Near Eastern suzerain-vassal treaties. Chapter nine is titled “Baptism in the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.” A. B. Caneday discusses the history and impact of one stream of thought of the Second Great Awakening which sought to restore baptism to its rightful place in church life. The book ends with, “Baptism in the Context of the Local Church,” and was authored by Mark E. Dever. He considers practical questions that local churches must answer when seeking to administer the ordinance of baptism.
Believer’s Baptism is rather organized and quite helpful, every chapter begins with an introduction and closes with a synopsis of its major points. Even though the book is a great resource, the average layperson might run into a few challenges with comprehension of some of the scholarly material. The first three chapters form a brief but helpful commentary on the Scriptures. The clear and unswerving evidence found in Scripture concerning a believer’s baptism is expertly established and the fact that infant baptism is never mentioned in the Bible is made very evident. Not only is baptism described as a rite of initiation into the Body of Christ or the Church, but the person being baptized is also, always to be in a position of learning. Using the example of John the Baptist and Jesus, it looks as if the proper method of baptism would be by way of immersion. Kostenberger states that “water baptism presupposes spiritual regeneration as a prevenient and primary work of God in and through the person of the Holy Spirit.” The filling of the Spirit of God precedes baptism; baptism is just symbolic of one’s personal commitment to Christ. In other words constant learning and the offering of a personal commitment to Christ is not possible in infancy.
In the final chapter Mark E. Dever adds a valuable resource in asking and answering the questions that really matter. Such as, who should baptize and what is the proper mode of baptism? Also, how should baptism be performed? These and many other questions are addressed with a powerful perception. He calls beleivers to not be content with the traditional meaning of baptism for the sake of tradition. Instead believers should make sure the practice of baptism is biblical correct. Dever shares his opinions and suggestions without becoming legalistic. This chapter proves beneficial answers to both new ministers and to the veteran minister who would like to reevaluate the church’s attitude toward this holy practice.
Schreiner and Wright Believer’s Baptism clearly establishs baptism requirements and is a worthy contribution to the discussion of the doctrine of baptism. In a society that seems to know more what the church is against than what it stands for, the writers have succeeded in presenting a biblical worldview that Christian baptism is a sign of identification with the Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and resurrected to save all people. Baptism plays a key role in the Great Commission and is paramount to the advancement of the kingdom of God. Schreiner and Wright have produced a great book that brings clarity and understanding to the practice of credobaptism over paedobaptism. Believer’s Baptism full of practical applications that will help to bring unity and understanding to the community of believers, not just certain denominations. This book will be helpful for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of the history of baptism and how the practice should be applied in the church today. The church will be significantly blessed if this book is read by believers no matter what their position on baptism is.
Schreiner, Thomas R. and Shawn D. Wright, eds. Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant
in Christ. Nashville: B&H Academic Publishing, 2006.