An ingredient that ought to be thrown into anyone’s stew if they are cooking up a theology about faith in children is this:
Infants are called to keep the law; infants can break the law.
Cursory examples are:
Gen 17 – Circumcision
Positive: Infants required to recieve circumcision;
Negative: he who did not receive circumcision are considered “cut off from his people”
Jdg 13 – Nazarite Vow
Positive: Samson required to be a Nazarite “from the womb”;
Negative: Samson must not drink alcohol – so his MOTHER could not drink it while he was in the womb, because it would cause HIM to break the command.
Ability to break the law does not necessarily imply ability to keep the law.
Ability to keep the law externally does not imply internal regeneration.
However, I do think the fact that the Law binds infants is important to the question. At very least it implies that whenever we talk about the subject of covenant infants it must be through or with God’s law, and not apart from God ‘s law.
Unrepentant covenant breakers are supposed to be excommunicated. One of the reasons that some paedobaptists refuse to commune children is because they are either unsure of their faith or are sure that they have no faith at such a stage.
IF we are sure they have NO FAITH, then the children are necessarily UNREPENTANT COVENANT BREAKERS. This means we must not say of them:
Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world. (WCF XXVIII.1)
In other words, if we KNOW that children have no faith, then we CANNOT mean that baptism is an intentional sign of regeneration and faith. BUT that is exactly what both the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Bible maintain. Both Baptism and Circumcision are seals of the righteousness that comes through faith. Baptism says “this one is in Christ and forgiven” (See the Bible):
[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. (Rom 4.11 ESV)
11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col 2.11-14 ESV)
3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6.3-4 ESV)
27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Maybe, I’ll edit more into this later.