Infant Baptism

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Book Review: “Eight Women of Faith” by Michael A.G. Haykin

8wf-haykinHaykin’s Eight Women of Faith sets out with an admirable goal: highlight the contributions of women at key points in church history. The women chosen each have biographical information reported alongside brief discussion of their primary contributions to theology. In this sense, the book achieves its goal.

One difficulty with the book is the lack of critical historical perspective. For example, Jane Austen is gently chastised for her aversion to evangelicalism(Kindle location 1994ff), while then being recruited for the same evangelical cause (Location 2005, 2064). But to see evangelicalism of today as the same as evangelicalism in Austen’s own time (the late 18th and early 19th centuries) does little justice to the development of what has been called “evangelical” over that time into today. This is perhaps the most glaring example in the book, but time and again similar oversight of historical perspective is demonstrated.

Another negative is that Haykin’s work is clearly written with a very specific doctrinal agenda in mind that undercuts the book’s value outside of the circle of those with whom he agrees. For example, he spends no small amount of time promoting the Calvinist view of the Lord’s Supper, attempting to cling both to a literal and figurative meaning of Christ’s words (see especially the excursus in the chapter on Anne Dutton starting around Kindle Location 903). Later, a lengthy section of the chapter on Ann Judson is dedicated to highlighting Judson’s autobiographical account of her change from pedobaptism (infant baptism) to a more Baptist position. Very few arguments are offered in favor of the latter position, other than highlighting that Judson herself believed the arguments for the it were stronger than for infant baptism. This is not a deep theological work, but this section again shows no interaction with opposing views and so provides those who come from a different background little reason to read or enjoy the book.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the book is the irony of continually attempting to silence women’s voices in a book that is, on the surface, about calling attention to them. This begins on the very first page of the Forword, as Karen Swallow Prior writes, “Both within the church and outside it, we too have treated in a similar fashion the biblical admonition against women preaching: we focus on the single thing that is off-limits and thereby fail to see the abundant opportunities and roles God has clearly offered…” (Kindle location 59-64). Of course, this biblical admonition is not cited–and could not be, for there is no Bible verse that says women cannot preach (it is instead an inference from a number of verses that are often misread)–but beyond that, the point is that the book highlights the silence of women throughout.

In the chapter on Anne Dutton, for example, we see that Dutton argued for the validity of her theological writings, so long as they were not read in churches or used in public worship but rather read privately (Kindle loc 825-834). But of course the line drawn in the sand here between private and public use is not drawn in the Bible but in human tradition. Moreover, the prior alleged admonition against women preaching comes from verses that, if read literally as must be the case for restring women in the ministry, also would prevent women from speaking at all in church, yet one of the women highlighted is Anne Steele, a prolific hymn writer.

All of this is to say that the book has a very limited appeal. Only those from the very specific perspective of Reformed Baptists will be able to see their perspective put forward without critique. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for the publisher, Crossway, continues to publish Reformed Baptist books. It’s not a bad thing to have books that appeal to your own readers. The problem is that anyone outside of that perspective has no reason to read the book. Their views are not presented well if they are presented at all, and there is an almost self-congratulatory feel to the way specific doctrines are presented. Moreover, the lack of historical perspective gives the book a simplistic feel that grants readers only the most surface-level understanding of the issues at hand.

The best that can be said for Eight Women of Faith is that it at least acknowledges that women have made significant contributions to the Christian faith. It just doesn’t acknowledge all of women’s contributions, and continues to limit women.

The Good

+Highlights importance of women in church history

The Bad

-Unbalanced perspective
-Uncritical look at historical development of theology
-Undermines women’s voices while ostensibly uplifting them
-Limited appeal beyond denominational lines

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever. 


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Sunday Quote!- The Faith of Infants- Hermann Sasse


Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

The Faith of Infants – Hermann Sasse

One aspect of Lutheran theology that is often misunderstood is the notion of infant faith. It goes hand in hand with the Lutheran teaching of baptismal regeneration. Yet, time and again I have seen the accusation leveled at Lutherans that we somehow believe that faith is not required for salvation, because we believe infants are saved. Lutheran theology, however, teaches instead that infants do have faith. A brief quote from Hermann Sasse makes this more explicit:

[I]t is not merely avowed liturgical conservatism or even thoughtlessness when the Church for nearly two thousand years has thus baptized infantas as though they were adults, as though they could already confess with the outh and believe with the heart. This is not the ‘as though’ of mere fiction… God views us in Baptism as people who have already died and been raised… Thus he already views us as such who already believe, the poorest, weakest little child which we bring to Holy Baptism. (1197, cited below)

Sasse’s point here is that God views us eschatologically–as though we have faith, because that faith is the gift of God. Lutherans do not believe in salvation without faith; instead, a consistent application of the notion that faith is from God means God can impart that faith to whomever God chooses–whether one is elderly or newborn.


Herman Sasse, quoted in Treasury of Daily Prayer (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2008). Quoting from Herman Sasse, “Circular Letter 4 to Westphalian Pastors,” in The Lonely Way: Selected Essays and Letters, translated by Matthew C. Harrison et al., vol. 2 (CPH, 2002).


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Sunday Quote! – Infant Baptism and the Imagination?

ia-adEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Infant Baptism and the Imagination?

I was reading through Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition (edited by Andrew Davison) and came upon a quote which I thought exemplified some of the beauty of infant baptism:

A child baptism… is a wonderful argument in itself for the religious dimension. Even apart from the putting on of Christ, dying to sin[,] and regeneration at its heart, the simple fact that a family brings a baby to church is a religious act. They are seeing their child apart from themselves… she is truly real to them. To offer a baby for baptism is to affirm that she is more than a bundle of rosy flesh and a needy mouth. She means more than she seems. In a young infant we encounter reality and it leads us upwards. (42, cited below)

The “imagination” involved in this is not so much a imagination in the sense of “making up” but rather in the sense of experiencing and accessing a different reality. The parents bring their child in to be baptized, thus affirming that this is one who needs God as much as any other; one whom God has called. Infant baptism is an “encounter” with reality which “leads us upwards.” It goes beyond the water and the words and becomes Word and Sacrament. I thought this was a beautiful quote to illustrate the nature of an infant baptism.


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Alison Milbank, “Apologetics and the Imagination: Making Strange” in Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition edited by Andrew Davison (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011).

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