To continue with the theme of voluntarism, let us examine a claim often made against advocates of believers’ baptism. It is generally argued that to require the subject of baptism to be professing believers is to make the grace of God contingent upon an act of the human will (voluntas). That is, by insisting that the baptized be believers, the church places human volition above God’s divine initiative. The act of the will to believe in Christ is prior to and more determinative than God’s baptismal grace. So the argument goes as I understand it. I trust my interlocutors will correct me if I have stated this in an unbalanced way.
The problem with this argument lies in its hidden premise, namely that believing and wanting to follow Jesus as some sort of self-asserting act of willpower. Biblically and theologically this is simply wrong. No one comes to Christ unless drawn by the Father (John 6:44; 65). To respond to Christ’s call to discipleship is not the act of human self-assertion, but rather of submission to God’s own initiative which has taken hold the person called. Following Christ is not an act of heroic effort that we chose, rather it is something that we cannot do other than choose on the basis of God’s action towards us in Christ: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
As such, believers’ baptism does not rest on any sort of enshrining of human voluntas. Conversion to Christ, commitment to discipleship—none of this is a heroic act of the will. Rather it is simply the response of evoked love that is manifest whenever the Father draws people to the Son through the Spirit. An advocacy of believers’ baptism simply reflects a commitment to respond to God’s action in human beings with a Yes. Baptism is merely our agreement with what God has done, our recognition of the truth of how God has drawn a person into the Triune life.