Calvin makes a compelling leap as he compares infant baptism to circumcision in 4.16.3. For Calvin, baptism is analogous to receiving God’s covenantal relationship once associated with circumcision in the Jewish faith. So, as he explains in 4.16.2, Calvin lifts up infant baptism as an outward sign of that promise. Initially, this move let’s Calvin replace Abrahamic circumcision with baptism as our covenantal ceremony before God and community.
Calvin’s next move is to argue for baptism as a tool of inclusiveness. In 4.16.3, Calvin quotes Ephesians to demonstrate how baptism allows covenantal relationship – even to the uncircumcised. He then reaches back to Deuteronomy for support; he quotes Moses and being “circumcised of heart”. In this way, Calvin downplays the importance of physical circumcision in favor of the representative value the act carries. I cannot find any evidence of Calvin extending this covenantal relationship to women, or others who could not be physically circumcised in the traditional, Jewish sense. For whatever reason, it was not important to argue that case at the time.
Calvin spends some time dealing with the ability of infants to participate in baptism through faith and understanding of scripture. In 4.19-20, he emphasizes the agency of God in relationships with children. Lane summarizes, “Infants cannot hear the Word, repent, or believe, but this does not prevent God from working in them,” (Lane, 162). Again, Calvin raises the notion that baptism, being analogous to circumcision, is appropriate going back to the Abrahamic traditions.
Question to ponder: we hear what Calvin is saying about infant baptism. What might be some reasons to consider adult (or at least decision-making-age) baptism? Is one approach more meaningful than the other? What does that response say about agency in the sacraments?