I have a handful of books on the specific debate concerning water in the church. They have all contributed to my understanding of the Bible’s teaching on baptism and I am grateful for them all. However, if I were to only have one book on the issue of infant baptism, I would choose To A Thousand Generations: Infant Baptism–Covenant Mercy for the People of God by Douglas Wilson.
Most popular books on baptism attempt to prove in the New Testament that an infant is baptized somewhere by looking into the linguistics of the “household.” For example, the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16:33-34. The argument goes, and it is a good one, that the Greek word for oikos, does indeed consistently include children. Baptists usually argue that the Jailer’s “household” is full of children beyond the age of accountability, or he has servants that are able to understand the Gospel. However, I highly doubt that a Roman jailer made enough money to buy servants, and the more likely meaning of household is the Jailer’s family including children under his authority. Well, Douglas Wilson does not go there.
He touches the issue, but his premise is that we do not need to try to prove a case of infant baptism because from front to back the Scriptures require covenant membership of believer’s children, and he sets out and accomplishes this task of showing his readers God’s mercy. Wilson not only shows us the Scriptural requirements, the covenant obligations, between parents and children in the church, but he expands our vision of the Covenant of Grace. For example, he takes the task that we find on the road to Emmaus, showing the disciples that all of the Old Testament is indeed about Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44-45), and applies that to the scope of Scripture. We see how the Scriptures tell us that Abraham and Moses are Christians, and that circumcision, like baptism, points not to a person’s individual faith, but rather they are covenantal signs pointing to Christ, our righteousness. And these chapters were a great deal of fun.
There is a good deal of discussion concerning circumcision and baptism that is entirely helpful, and an unpacking of Romans 11. His arguments are good, always within the bounds of Scripture, leading us to understand the Scripture. In 123 pages Wilson covers much ground, he even has two chapters devoted to the mode of baptism (sprinkling, pouring, or immersing). The last chapter, a summary of the argument, is worth the price of the book. If you have quibbles in your mind about the teaching of baptism, the continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, a big picture look at grace, an understanding of God’s view of our children, and the response to children in the covenant by the physical church, then get this book.
In his usual way, Douglas Wilson packs biblical theology on each page to the brim, with a writing style that is easy to follow (once you get used to his flow). This book is like a little meal that won’t soon leave your ribs. As a pastor in a Reformed church, and husband and father, I greatly appreciate and thank Douglas Wilson for expounding the Scriptures showing God’s covenant mercy to a thousand generations.
Other helpful books on baptism include:
A Sign of Faithfulness: Covenant & Baptism by H. Westerink.
Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children by Daniel R. Hyde.
The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism edited by Gregg Strawbridge.
And on the sacrament of baptism generally, not specifically infant baptism, The Baptized Body by Peter Leithart.