Reviewed by: Bruce H. Hollister
Date posted: 12/20/2009
Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament, by Bryan Holstrom. Published by Ambassador International, 2008. Paperback, 156 pages, list price $11.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Bruce H. Hollister.
The opponents of infant baptism emphasize that the New Testament nowhere explicitly authorizes the practice. But Bryan Holstrom effectively answers this so-called argument from silence from a covenantal perspective in Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament.
As described on the jacket, Holstrom's book provides a "straightforward and non-technical presentation of the biblical case for infant baptism." The author's goal is to strike a happy medium between the booklet-sized presentation and the academic tome. The result is a thorough, yet very readable, argument for infant baptism that is accessible to all who love the Scriptures and are serious in their endeavor to understand the biblical teaching on the subject.
Holstrom begins by laying out the covenantal basis for baptism. He follows this with a chapter in which he argues that baptism replaces circumcision. This chapter includes a careful treatment of Colossians 2:11–12 and also addresses baptistic counterarguments. In a chapter on "Jesus Blessing the Little Children," Holstrom argues that children of the covenant are a part of Christ's visible community on earth and are thus entitled to its benefits and protection. The author also deals with other passages demonstrating that children were considered a part of the New Testament church. There follows a helpful chapter on the baptisms in Acts. This is important, since the wonderful accounts of gospel preaching and adult conversions can often obscure what is implicit in the text: the children of those converts were being baptized!
Holstrom provides a helpful and interesting chapter on the evidence from church history. He is quite thorough and careful in his handling of the historical data, effectively making the case that the baptism of infants was the norm throughout the church's history until the rise of the Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation. Holstrom then devotes a chapter to the debate on baptism during the Reformation, showing the validity and significance of an objective and covenantal (Reformed) view, over against a subjective and noncovenantal (Baptist) view of the sacrament. He then brings his readers up to the present day, showing how the ethos of American culture has in significant ways militated against a covenantal view—the rugged individualism of the broader culture, and the rise of decisional evangelism and of dispensationalism in the church.
While Holstrom argues forcefully for a covenantal view of baptism, his tone is just right as he appeals to our baptistic brothers. This is a very helpful tool; get it for your church's book table.