I mentioned awhile ago that I was writing a paper to contrast baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Baptist and Presbyterian thought. I just finished the paper, although, as I began writing it, I realized that I only had enough space to focus on baptism. Here is one of the better sections:
This definition [i.e., baptism as a sign and a seal of the covenant of grace] obviously limits Presbyterian sacramental theology from the Catholic notion that baptism works of itself (ex opere operato), but it also moves beyond even the more substantive levels of Baptist theology. Notice here a fine, but important, distinction between the theology of Presbyterians and that of Baptists: Baptists understand baptism to be symbolic—a kind of pronouncement of something already accomplished in the life of the baptized. Presbyterians, on the other hand, believe that baptism points the candidate to what God promises to accomplish through faith, which is the reality behind the sign. For Presbyterians, “the efficacy of baptism is prospective,”1 but for Baptists, the efficacy of baptism is retrospective. This aspect of Presbyterian theology is behind the Westminster Confession of Faith statement that “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered,”2 and it plays a significant role in justifying the practice of infant baptism.
The paper is nothing earth-shattering, but I did spend a lot of time on it. So, if you would like a copy, let me know through e-mail or a comment, and I will be more than happy to send it to you.
1-William B. Evans, “’Really Exhibited and Conferred…in His Appointed Time’: Baptism and the New Reformed Sacramentalism,” in The Presbyterion 31:2 (Fall 2005): 88, my emphasis.
Because of the brilliant suggestion my good friend made, I have posted the paper on Google Docs. There are some minor formatting issues, but the text is now available to any who wish to see it. Just remember my disclaimer: it’s nothing earth-shattering.