The renaissance of evangelical Calvinism today is a marvelous gift of God. Yet as many across widely varying denominations embrace the doctrines of grace, the tendency is often to downplay their distinctives as relatively unimportant. Especially as people move back and forth not only between local churches but denominations, often simply looking for a church that preaches the Word faithfully, there can be an impatience with honest scruples. It’s often said that baptism is a “secondary issue.” Traditionally, both sides in the debate have wrestled over whether they can even accept each other’s profession of faith as valid for membership. That’s hardly secondary.
Baptism itself has become so secondary in evangelical circles that the most outrageous view in many minds is one that makes this issue decisive in church membership. However, Baptists and paedobaptists are stuck. If our conscience is bound by Scripture, then we can hardly consider as indifferent something Christ’ ordained as essential in the Great Commission. So I respect Baptist brothers who would not admit me into membership or to the Lord’s Table. They are following what they believe Scripture to teach in this matter and for that submissiveness I respect them.
Historically, Reformed and Presbyterian churches have required professing members and their children to be baptized. In the former, arising from Continental Reformed sources, all church members confess the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort) as the faithful summary of Scripture. What this means is that in Reformed churches historically, only those who affirmed the inclusion of children in covenant baptism could be members. Especially in the U.S., Presbyterian churches came to require only officers to subscribe the Westminster Standards. In Presbyterian churches, it has meant that all of the children of membersshould be baptized. What to do if they’re not is a matter of some debate and variation.