Infant Baptism

Written by Joel on July 9th, 2008

My Christian tradition, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) practices exclusively believers baptism, that is adult baptism. The Roman Catholic Church baptizes infants of believers.

This is a particularly difficult issue for us, being in an inter-church family. We had to decide what to do with our children regarding baptism. Admittedly at first, I agreed with my wife to baptize our infant children (when the time comes along) because I thought the Catholic Church was more stubborn on this issue than my church. With some further thought and examination I have come to the conclusion that infant baptism should be the preferred method for children of believers.

I anticipate that this decision may cause some controversy within my church, but I hope to spell out here how we arrived at this decision.

Objection 1: Not scriptural.

The number one objection I hear, or read, regarding infant baptism is that there is no example of it found in scripture. And I would have to admit this fact. Some proponents of infant baptism will point to the household baptisms found in Acts. However, this is not an explicit example of infant baptism. As many say in the Disciples of Christ Church: “Where the scriptures speak, we speak. Where the scriptures are silent, we are silent.” In other words: if it isn’t in scripture, don’t do it.

However, there is also not a single example in scripture of a child of Christian parents who receives baptism as an adult. In fact, there is no example of a 2nd generation Christian baptism.

All baptisms in scripture are adult individuals who come to faith from no faith. If we do our job as Christian parents, this is not the pattern that our children will follow. When we postpone baptism for our children, we are saying that they don’t belong to the faithful community, that they don’t have faith. This is simply not true.

Scripture provides no instruction on what to do with children of the faithful regarding baptism.

Baptism should mark one’s entrance into the faith. For adults this happens when they accept Jesus, repent of their sins, and are baptized. But children of Christian parents are trained in the faith from a very young age, maybe even the day they are born.

Objection 2: Faith is necessary for baptism, infants are incapable of faith, therefore infant baptism is invalid.

How much faith is required for one to be baptized? Should we administer a test? Is faith in the head, or in the heart, and how do you measure it? Also, whose faith matters?

I received baptism as an “adult” at the age of 13. (coincidently, everyone else in my church came to faith at the age 13 also) My faith has certainly grown significantly in the past 10 years. I would say that my faith was insufficient at that age, and thats okay. Our faith will never be perfect, and thats why we cannot rely on it. We need to rely on the faith of God. How little control we have on when and how God chooses us to be part of his family.

The Instruction on Infant Baptism By the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith helps explain this question (14):

The fact that infants cannot yet profess personal faith does not prevent the Church from conferring this sacrament on them, since in reality it is in her own faith that she baptizes them. This point of doctrine was clearly defined by Saint Augustine: “When children are presented to be given spiritual grace,” he wrote, “it is not so much those holding them in their arms who present them—although, if these people are good Christians, they are included among those who present the children—as the whole company of saints and faithful Christians…. It is done by the whole of Mother Church which is in the saints, since it is as a whole that she gives birth to each and every one of them.”[24] This teaching is repeated by St. Thomas Aquinas and all the theologians after him: the child who is baptized believes not on its own account, by a personal act, but through others, “through the Church’s faith communicated to it.”[25] This same teaching is also expressed in the new Rite of Baptism, when the celebrant asks the parents and godparents to profess the Faith of the Church, the Faith in which the children are baptized.[26]

What do you think? When should children of Christian parents be baptized? Did I miss anything?


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Agellius says:

    Joel: Excellent arguments, and very well presented! Some of them I had never heard, and others I had not heard expressed in the way you expressed them. I particularly like the point that scripture does not say what to do, or not do, with second generation Christians.

    Obviously, this doesn’t mean the Church of that time didn’t know what to do. It knew darn well, and we find no controversy about it in the early centuries.

    Well done.

  2. Joel Walkley says:

    Thanks agellius for the positive feedback.

    It’s nice to have found a point of agreement.

  3. Joseph Fromm says:

    Dear Joel,
    Neat discussion. Being a cradle Catholic, but dealing with this same issue with inlaws.

    Here were the points I made, because they were un-willing to listen to the scripture passages on Lydia and Steven.
    I presented these arguments for infant baptism.
    Jesus was a Born a Jew and practiced Judism according to the Law. Jesus was presented at the Temple on the 8th day. A Jewish religous ritual, a version of the Sacrament (outward sign of God’s love) of Baptism. Later, although not mentioned in the Gospels, we assume he made his Bar Mitzvah yet another rite of passage that parralels the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation. This is the way for a Jew to “practice”, the faith. Jesus practiced His faith this way too. If I wanted to be like Jesus, why wouldn’t a Christian “practice” in this similar manner?
    In the Bible it states.
    “I knew you before you were nitted in the womb” I can infer that Jesus places us in the family that he wants us to be born in. I was placed in a Christian family that adhered to its Christian faith and religion by Baptizing its infants. Jesus would not trick us would he? The answer, is of course, no.
    This the reasoning my wife presented to her own Father.
    Some back ground.
    My wife was snuck into a Catholic Church to be Baptized as an infant by her mother. Because her father was a fervant Southern Baptist, her mother relented and she was raised Baptist. She later attended Bob Jones University. During our courtship, I reverted back to a practicing Catholic, my wife reverted at the same time, back to the Catholic Church , remember she was Baptized Catholic. Her Father gave her much grief over the whole thing. But my wife countered all his arguments on infant Baptism with this statement,”Do you think it will hurt our Son?” He replied, “no”.
    Yet another argument for infant Baptism I have is.
    1.2 billion Catholics practice infant Baptism.
    250 million Orthodox practice infant Baptism.
    100 million Lutherans practice infant Baptism.
    100 million Anglicans practice infant Baptism.
    30 million Methodists practice infant Baptism.
    However maybe 200 million Protestants of various denominations do not practice infant Baptism?
    That means about 10-12% of Christians worldwide do not practice infant baptism. I just can’t fathom the Trinity messing things up that badly for the overwhelming majority of Christians.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss the such a profound concept on your blog.


  4. japhy says:

    Multiple times in Acts, we hear of whole households getting baptized. That included slaves and children.

    The head of the household knew not to keep the grace of baptism from any of his servants or children. This wasn’t something subjective, this was objective, this was Truth.

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