Robert MatzFollow




School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Kevin L. King


Age of Accountability, Child Development, Children, Credobaptism, Southern Baptist, Timing of Baptism


Biblical Studies | Christian Denominations and Sects | Comparative Methodologies and Theories | Practical Theology | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Southern Baptists have expressed increasing degrees of alarm over allegedly rising rates of child baptisms. As a result, an increasing number of Southern Baptists have argued that the baptism of young children is inconsistent with Southern Baptists’ understandings of credobaptism and a regenerate church membership. Against these allegations, this dissertation asserts that children can be converted and when converted they should be baptized. The first chapter of this dissertation argues that water baptism is prescriptively contemporaneous with Spirit baptism. It establishes such based on the relationship between water and Spirit baptism as seen in the seven direct references to Spirit baptism in the New Testament. It also examines the New Testament data regarding the timing of water baptism as it relates to faith, repentance, confession of sins, and Spirit baptism. Baptism is shown to be the proper confessional response to Christian conversion. As a result, delaying baptism undermines its confessional nature and its close temporal connection to conversion. The second chapter explores the biblical data pertaining to the spiritual condition of children as such data relates to conversion. It examines both Old and New Testament discipleship and initiation processes, as well as the biblical data related to individual responsibility and the age of accountability. It establishes that even relatively young children are valid candidates for conversion. The third chapter explores historical views of Southern Baptist regarding the spiritual condition of children as well as the validity of baptizing children. It establishes that claims of a uniform practice by Southern Baptists in which the baptism of children is delayed until they reach a specific age are suspect from a historical perspective. It also offers statistical analysis of the historical trends in regards to baptism by age. The final chapter examines how the baptism of young children affects a regenerate church membership. It argues that children cognitively can respond to the gospel and behave as converts. This is against how some have applied Piaget and Fowlers developmental stages to child conversion. It also explores soteriological, ecclesiological (rebaptisms), and evangelistic objections relating to the baptism of young children.