One of the things I've always loved about New Frontiers, is their commitment to serious theological reflection. In this sense, NF does not follow the wider trend of contemporary evangelicalism, which (by and large) sees theology as stifling. An example of this can be seen in Andrew Wilson's recent blog post 'Questions for 2015' ( http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/questions_for_2015)
"A theology of children.I’ve thought for a while that, whilst credobaptists have a better theology of baptism, paedobaptists have a better theology of children. Consistency is hard to find: many of us (baptists) treat our children as believers in the way we teach them to pray, read the Bible, apply biblical promises to their lives, thank God for forgiveness, and experience the gifts of the Spirit, yet treat them as unbelievers in the way we postpone the Lord’s Supper, church membership and especially baptism. I want to give some time in the next few months to thinking through this very muddled situation (no doubt with the help of some insightful friends and scholars!)”Andrew Wilson, Newfrontiers
I'm particuarly interested in Wilson's comment about a theology of children. This is something I have been reflecting on myself recently.
Do children have a place in contemporary evangelical churches? A visit to the average contempoary evangelical church will show that they do — but the question is, what is the theology which underpins the place of children within the church? My own observation, as anecdotal as that is, would tend to indicate that the place given to children in most modern evangelical churches, is actually carried out inspite of their theology, rather than as a result of their theology.
What do I mean? Credo-baptists believe in a 'believers' church', so technically, until a child is a believer, they have no real place in the church. Of course, very few churches follow this consistantly. The closest I've seen to theological consistancy in this area is within an exclusive brethren sect, where unbaptised children, when they get a bit older, had to sit at the 'back row', which was the place for 'observers' who were not permitted to take part in the breaking of bread. Unlike presbyterianism, where breaking of bread takes place less often, in this church, breaking of bread was the act of worship, and exclusion from the core life of the church was visibly demonstrated in the church's practice.
Whatever practices a church participates in, the question is, what place do children of believers have within the church? What does the bible say about the place of children of believers?
This is the question that Andrew Wilson wants to explore. It is a good question. He also recognises that there is a connection between the theology of children, and the theology of baptism. It is interesting though, in all the things that he mentions in relation to this topic, (membership, communion, baptism and children etc.) the one thing that he does not mention is covenant.
Having explored the place of children in the church, over the last year or so, I would argue that the question of covenant is essential. If we are to understand the place of children (of believers) within the church we must understand the nature of the covenant.
Wilson, believes that baptists have a better theology of baptism, but a weaker theology of children. However — what if, the weaker theology of children is actually a consequence of the theology of baptism? What if the theology of baptism is a result of misunderstanding covenant? I doubt many credo-baptists will want to go there — but I reckon, if we follow the questions, and study the bible, this is exactly where it will lead…