I was listening to Wretched Radio the other day when something jumped out at me. Early in the show Todd Friel talked about the kerfuffle over the recent pronouncement by certain authors – via the Journal of Medical Ethics – that infanticide (i.e. postpartum baby killing) is morally the same as abortion and therefore perfectly acceptable.
Much later on in the show, the host made some snarky comments about Lutherans being “baby-Baptizers”. Mr. Friel takes the Evangelical position (see his words below*) that one must be able to believe the Gospel to be baptized (fair enough), and such belief can only occur in “adults” who are capable of “understanding” (whoa, there!).
Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but this got me thinking: is it just possible that the Evangelical position against infant baptism bears a striking similarity to certain abortionist arguments? I think that it does.
Consider the facts with me:
1. In the Journal of Medical Ethics, the abortionists make “personhood” dependent upon the ability of the human being in question to have the capability “of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” i.e. Self-awareness, or, “understanding” of self.
a. The Evangelical position (as represented by Mr. Friel) makes baptism dependent upon the ability of the human being in question to “hear and understand.”
2. The abortionists’ standard for personhood becomes necessarily arbitrary. After all, there are no sure ways of measuring this self-awareness (supposedly our mark for personhood) given to us that are objective and agreed upon. As a result, someone might have to be 5 years old before “understanding” sets in, but they could just as well have to be 50. What about those born with a deficiency of mind, as in the case of Down’s Syndrome? What about those born with a perfectly healthy mind who suffer injury early on?
b. The Evangelical position’s standard for “baptizability” becomes necessarily arbitrary. What do we mean by “understanding?” How is it measured? The Bible doesn’t give an “age of accountability,” and the methods of determining it varies tremendously from Evangelical to Evangelical, as does the age itself. And again, what about those in an infirm state of mind?
3. The abortionist says: If you can’t understand, you are denied life (you might even be denied birth!).
c. The Evangelical says: If you can’t “understand”, you are denied the second birth which is life in Christ.
Anyway, that’s how I see it. If I’m misrepresenting anyone, I apologize and am willing to accept correction. Also, if Todd Friel reads this: I love you, man, but I’m gonna have to side with Tony-the-token-Lutheran on this one.
P.S. I don’t know what denomination Mr. Friel is; I chose Baptists for the title because by and large they hold the Evangelical position discussed and, hey, it made the ABC!
*Here is my transcript of a portion of Wretched’s 11/14/11 broadcast (not the one I was listening to this week, but one in which Mr. Friel’s position is more fully developed):
[After playing part of a sermon by John MacArthur which referenced these: Acts ch.10, House of Cornelius; ch.16 House of Jailer and House of Lydia; ch.18 House of Crispus.]
Todd: Before [the folks in the New Testament] got baptized, they believed. Why? Because they heard the Word. Adults – people who could hear and understand – heard the Word, they were converted, in obedience they got Baptized. Because our Lutheran friends would say: “no no no no no no no! Because it actually… there could have been babies in there!” No, they heard the Word first, and then they believed, and then they were obedient to baptism. That was the order every single time. And so we simply cannot make an argument by saying, “hey, it MUST have included babies!” Hm-mm. They heard, believed, and were Baptized.