The referents for the word “both” are infant baptism, and believer’s baptism. Manata’s contention is that both positions utilize an argument from silence in their attempt to establish the validity of their dogma. In analyzing Manata’s claims, a couple of issues are apparent. Frist, I am not convinced that either camp would agree with Manata’s contention that both employ an argument from silence. Second, the contention that the determining factor is the burden of proof and that the burden of proof is established by precedence is a loaded statement. It frames up the argument in a way that favors Manata’s position from the outset and hence, it should be challenged. Finally, is it really the case that arguments from silence have, as a determining factor, the burden of proof any more than any other argument has the burden of proof? The Implication of this statement is that the burden of proof applies specifically or especially to argumentum a silentio. I reject this implication because I am firmly convinced that in theology, and in matters of truth, every argument has, at its foundation, the burden of proof. In fact, I am convinced that all arguments are inherently obligated to prove their claims. Now, Manata may respond that it isn’t an argument he is addressing, rather, he is dealing with a truth claim. However, within every claim of truth there is the process by which one arrives at his conclusion and along the way, there are arguments and counter-arguments. The entire enterprise of truth comes with this burden of proof. Every truth claim has competitors and hence, it must prove itself to be, well, true.
An argumentum a silentio is an argument that involves a conclusion that is based on a lack of evidence. In order to assess if Baptists actually employ an argument from silence, one must examine their evidence, or as Manata would say, their lack of evidence. Is the thrust of the Baptist argument for believer’s baptism based on the absence of any references in the NT Text, either commanding or documenting infant baptism? While Baptist theology does point to the fact that there are no imperatives or incidents of infant baptism recorded in the NT, it does not follow that this is ipso facto an argument from silence. It is not as though the entire argument against infant baptism rests on the absence of NT documentation for the practice. There are other factors and pieces of evidence that Baptists put forth.
Manata’s technique for shifting the burden of proof to the Baptists places Paedobaptists on the offensive and Baptists on the defensive side of the argument. This is a strategy I employ when I engage skeptics of Christianity. After all, it is much easier to play offense than defense. For instance, for health and fitness purposes, I study martial arts. I study two styles of Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. What is true in debate is true on the mat. When someone is on the attack, if the opponent does nothing but defend, sooner or later, they will be submitted or at the very least, be out-pointed. But if part of your defense is to attack, this forces the aggressor to defend, and this interrupts their strategy. The same is true in theological discussions. Manata wants to place the Baptist on defense and contend that they have to prove their argument while paedobatpists already have precedence on their side and are therefore in a superior position. Manata knows it is not quite that simple.
As I stated above, the burden of proof is on any argument making truth-claims. No argument is free from the burden of proof. It follows then, that both Baptists and Paedobaptists equally incur the burden of proof for their respective doctrines. The Baptists assert that baptism is reserved for those who come to faith in Christ. The Baptists have the burden of proving that baptism is reserved for those who have confessed faith in Christ. What Manata must show is that NT Scripture does not limit baptism to those who have come to faith in Christ, as the Baptists contend. On the other hand, the Paedobaptists assert that covenant infants are included in the covenant and hence, they must be baptized as part of the sign of the covenant. Paedobaptists have the burden of proving that baptism is the sign of the new covenant and that faith is irrelevant to the sacrament of baptism, at least, the current faith of the object of baptism. Moreover, Paedobaptists must also prove that there is a literal promise to Christian parents that their infants are included in the covenant and their salvation, guaranteed. If this is not the case, then paedobaptism is reduced to a mere ritual that runs the risk of treating the sacred contemptuously.
Manata avers that the Baptist argument is fallacious while the Paedo argument is valid. Manata’s argument can be reconstructed as follows:
Every argument has the burden of proof. No argument is free from this obligation. That the NT Scripture nowhere commands or forbids infant baptism misses the point. This reasoning would translate into legalistic tithing and Sabbath keeping. If baptism is the signifier that one has become born again, forsaking all to enlist in the Christian group, and it is true that regeneration is accompanied by faith in Christ, then it follows that faith in Christ is necessary in order for baptism to be administered. Baptism signifies regeneration. Regeneration necessarily produces faith prior to baptism. Hence, the relationship between faith and regeneration and regeneration and baptism and baptism and faith has serious implications for infant baptism. As a signifier of regeneration, baptism cannot antecede it. The thing signified must exist in order for the signification to be meaningful. We are baptized into water because we have already been baptized into Christ. Baptism signifies not only that we have died to sin, but that we have been raised in a newness of life. The new birth has already taken place!