We turn now to Calvin’s arguments from the early church (Institutes of the Christian Religion).
Anabaptists, Calvin’s sparring partners, argue that the NT evidence shows that repentance and faith are required before baptism is administered. They also argue that the absence of infants being mentioned reveals they are not baptized. Calvin, cleverly I think (but only cleverly), argues that if repentance is not mentioned in some instance then repentance would not be required. This is sophistry; it does not deal with the issue.
Infants, Calvin argues, are not in the same class. It seems to me that Calvin is arguing that adult conversions are more like Gentile conversions where catechism at some level was first required. Infants are another class. Special pleading. The original argument has yet to be addressed. Why are infants not mentioned?
He next appeals, which to me is the big argument for Calvin, to Abraham’s vs. Isaac’s examples: Abraham believed and then circumcised; Isaac was circumcised first. Here’s his best statement so far:
“… if the children of believers are partakers in the covenant without the help of understanding, there is no reason why they should be barred from the sign merely because they cannot swear to the provisions of the covenant” (1347). The Anabaptist will simply respond: “Show me the NT infants are ‘partakers in the covenant’.” I assume Calvin would point to 1 Cor 7.
Next, Calvin responds to those passages offered by Anabaptists as counter evidence.