It Takes a Church to Baptize
What the Bible Says About Infant Baptism
by: Scot McKnight
Brazos Press. PP. 140 $16.99
Review by Clint Wilson
Scot McKnight is a prominent New Testament scholar and a fixture in the evangelical world who formed me in my adolescent and early adulthood years. I first encountered his popular writing when I read Jesus Creed in 2006 in an assigned course at an evangelical seminary, and I remember reading with great interest an excellent journal article of his on the warning passages of Hebrews. As I was in the middle of crossing the Thames myself, I watched with interest as McKnight published books on Praying with the Church, and on Mary, and how evangelicals can and should embrace her. Therefore, it probably should not have surprised me to hear of McKnight’s journey into becoming Anglican and his subsequent ordination to the diaconate. But behold: a professor at a Baptist seminary, who is often described as having “Anabaptist leanings,” has now written the best primer on infant baptism I have yet to read.
Now, I should temper my enthusiasm for his book with one caveat: it may not have the same punch with those who lack a similar journey as McKnight’s. But for evangelicals who have walked the Canterbury Trail, it will powerfully connect with their own theological migration stories. If infant baptism is a kind of Rubicon to be crossed for those who grew up with “believer’s baptism,” then McKnight has written the book that will guide them through the waters.
While the book is informed by a lifetime of study and academic rigor, the writing is not deeply academic; it is instead written as an accessible and fairly short text any layperson can enjoy. Furthermore, McKnight draws on many of the usual suspects: Alexander Schmemann, Karl Barth, various Church Fathers, the Reformers, and more. This is not to say the book is derivative; instead it is a concise and airtight case for the historic teaching of infant baptism. More importantly, this work is deeply testimonial, and is therefore fueled and funded by stories, experiences, and yes, scriptural exegesis, that will intuitively connect with those who have sojourned through evangelical country. McKnight’s reflection on both biblical and liturgical texts are reminiscent of Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s exegetical ju-jitsu in The Gospel and the Catholic Church; he provides Catholic answers with evangelical methodology.
This is a resource I commend widely and is the first book I will now hand to those who wade into our waters with a hangover of doubts about infant baptism and baptismal regeneration.
Fr. Clint Wilson is rector of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Louisville, KY.