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The Sign of the Gospel

Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth

By W. Travis McMaken

Publication Year: 2013

The theology of the sacraments is one of the most contested parts in Barth’s theology, none more so than the doctrine of baptism. Barth’s proposals on baptism have generated intense conversation and disagreement, not only on its application to Protestant and ecumenical theology but even on its own consistency with Barth’s larger dogmatic project. McMaken takes up this controversial question, sets it in its proper context within the history of doctrine and Barth’s systematic work, and argues for a constructive reclamation of infant baptism that accords with Barth’s overarching theological concerns and insights, notably from Barth’s mature theological commitments. Pivotally, this volume claims that a reorientation of the doctrine of baptism opens up a new perspective on the practice of infant baptism on the basis of Barth’s theology; this new perspective, as well, holds the potential for wide, ecumenical application as a form of the proclamation of the gospel and a vital dimension of the church’s missional vocation. A commanding volume for scholars and students in systematic theology, ecumenical studies, and sacramental theology.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Series: Emerging Scholars

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I lack both the eloquence and the imagination to write a memorable set of acknowledgments, and so I will content myself with straightforwardly repaying in this small way the innumerable debts that I have accumulated over the course of this project. The present work constitutes a revision of my dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), which I defended in December of...

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pp. 1-6

“Tepid” was the only fitting way to describe the water when Jonathan, the young pastoral intern, stepped into the baptistery. As is common among evangelical churches in the United States, the baptistery was a pool recessed in the sanctuary wall behind and above the pulpit. A large wooden cross towered immediately overhead, but the lights were positioned to ensure that...

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1. Baptism and Infant Baptism from the New Testament through Barth

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pp. 7-58

Baptism is one of the oldest Christian practices. Consequently, the church’s theologians have long reflected upon it. As with all other doctrines, one must understand baptism’s history if one is to reflect critically upon its present meaning and significance. Furthermore, familiarity with the doctrine’s history enables one to better recognize what is at stake in Barth’s criticism of infant...

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2. Election, Soteriology, and Barth's “No” to Sacramental Infant Baptism

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pp. 59-100

I sketched infant baptism’s development in the previous chapter. Emerging from the patristic era, thanks largely to Augustine, was the consensus that baptizing infants is necessary to ensure that they avoid condemnation to eternal perdition for their participation in the guilt of original sin. Calvin departed from this regnant view insofar as he entirely rejected the notion that baptism...

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3. Election, Circumcision, and Barth's “No” to Covenantal Infant Baptism

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pp. 101-150

Since I treated Barth’s rejection of the first traditional argument in favor of infant baptism in chapter two, it is time to address the second traditional argument in its favor. This argument gained ascendency as the nascent Reformed tradition struggled both to modify the traditional sacramental soteriology on the one hand, such that faith is understood as the means of...

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4. Barth’s Doctrine of Baptism: “The Foundation of the Christian Life”

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pp. 151-208

After treating at some length Barth’s negative doctrine of baptism in terms of his rejection of the sacramental and covenantal arguments for infant baptism, the time has come to discuss his positive doctrine of baptism. In other words, it is time to shift from what Barth does not think about baptism to discussing what he does think about it. Barth’s division of his treatment of baptism in...

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5. “The Sign Of The Gospel”—Toward A Post-Barthian Doctrine Of Infant Baptism

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pp. 209-274

Barth’s mature doctrine of baptism is important both for what it affirms and what it rejects. As this study has discussed at length, Barth rejects both the sacramental and covenantal arguments for infant baptism, and affirms the close integration of baptism with his account of the Christian life. Following Barth in these moves does not commit one to a simple restatement of his position, however, nor...

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pp. 275-286

By way of recapitulation, perhaps the best way to describe my undertaking in this volume is with reference to a quotation from Eberhard Jüngel. He claims that Barth’s “doctrine of baptism is . . . not an appendix to the Church Dogmatics, but rather . . . a test-case” such that anyone who “wants infant baptism should not seek nourishment for the pulpit from Barth’s doctrine...


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pp. 287-314

Index of Names and Subjects

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pp. 315-322

Index of Scriptural References

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pp. 323-324

Back Cover

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p. 338-338

E-ISBN-13: 9781451465372
E-ISBN-10: 1451465378
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800699994
Print-ISBN-10: 0800699998

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Emerging Scholars