The question of Infant Baptism has divided the Christian Church for centuries. Protestant Christianity seems to be stuck between two alternatives: Either baptism in all its fullness is granted to infants, or it is reserved only for those who make a conscious profession of faith later in life. Fraser’s Missionary Baptism and Evangelical Unity is a fascinating addition to the debate because it seeks to offer a middle ground.
Drawing on the riches of historical theology combined with his personal experience in the Presbyterianism of the Scottish Highlands and as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church of North America, Fraser’s book presents the concept of what the author calls ‘Missionary Baptism.’ This refers to the baptisms described in the New Testament where people with no prior knowledge of Christianity came to faith and were baptised along with their whole households. Fraser argues that this should be recognised as the biblical norm and thus the model from which our understanding of baptism should primarily be derived.
For paedo-baptists, this means acknowledging that even though the vast majority of baptisms seen in our churches today will involve children of believers, these should still be regarded as supplementary to the paradigmatic missionary context of the New Testament. The consequence of this is that Infant Baptism should not be viewed as identical to the baptism of a mature convert. Instead, it should be regarded as subordinate and supplementary to the ordinary model of baptism being first and foremost for believers who have received the gospel on the frontiers of mission work.
On this basis, Fraser suggests that, if paedo-baptists can view baptism in these terms, their position becomes almost identical to that of the credo-baptist who endorses infant dedication. And once this similarity is recognised, the division that baptism has carved through Protestant Evangelicalism becomes a much narrower canyon to bridge, hence Missionary Baptism and Evangelical Unity. This book gives a very clear introduction to the complexities of how infant baptism has been understood by its advocates. This makes the book a fascinating and valuable read which is to be highly recommended for anyone seeking to go a little deeper into the subject.
This book is available from Mound Books.
Thomas Davis, Carloway Free Church