Monday, March 1, 2010

Does Calvin teach infant faith is impossible?

Interestingly, Calvin does not deny infants can have faith. At first blush, it appears Calvin has it in mind that faith=knowledge of the will of God. This would be normally impossible fo ran infant. But like a green shoot coming up through the asphalt, Calvin seems to abandon his rationalism when he argues against the Anabaptists:

But how, they ask, are infants regenerated, when not possessing a knowledge of either good or evil? We answer, that the work of God, though beyond the reach of our capacity, is not therefore null. Moreover, infants who are to be saved (and that some are saved at this age is certain) must, without question, be previously regenerated by the Lord. (Institutes IV 16.17)

While in this particular section he goes on about the elect, as he is wont to do, none the less he states that an infant can have faith not based upon the understanding of the infant (Compare Institutes II 2.16-17) but as a sort of mystery. Indeed, he states that John the Baptist leaping in the womb is proof not of a special dispensation of God, but that God himself has shown infants can have faith.

Given this, can a reformed Baptist really be Calvinist?


Steve Martin said...

Good question.

It seems that would be quite difficult for them to let go of their reason, and to trust that God is able to give faith to those who are unable to decide for themselves.

Edward Reiss said...


Yeah, I noticed that, too. ISTM that Calvin is not nearly as rigorously logical as I believed before.

Anonymous said...

Since Calvinism is based on ideas of grace, election, and predestination, it's entirely consistent with infant baptism, and historical Calvinists (Reformed) baptize babies.

-- Lucian.

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