Sunday, November 16, 2008

Infant Baptism...should it be practiced?

Had a wonderful conversation with a friend of mine regarding infant baptism. He does not believe that Infant Baptism is supported by Scriptures and therefore he does not believe that Baptism should be given to infants, instead, it should be reserved for adults.

From his Christian tradition, he was taught that baptism is an outward sign of an inner reality of salvation. Salvation is something that is chosen by free will. Therefore since infants do not have free will, the capacity to choose, they should not receive baptism. Instead, they should receive a dedication or a commitment service where the parents make the pledge to raise the child in the Christian tradition. When they have reached the proper age where they do have the ability to choose for themselves, that is when they should be baptized. Baptism is only meant for confessing believers.

I understand this tradition because before my inner conversion to Catholicism, I came from the Pentecostal tradition that supports this view.  Instead of a baptism, they believed that babies should be dedicated.  I have since learned that scriptures and church history both believes in baptism for infants.

According to Holy Scriptures, when Peter gave the first sermon after the ascension of Christ and Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit), he says:

"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."(Acts 2:38-39).

Noticed how Peter said that this promise is for the audience, and the audience children.  The command was for everyone to repent and be baptized.  Peter did not say only the adults that are present should repent and be baptized, he was speaking to all of those that were there.  I don't think that it is a far stretch for us to assume that everyone there was not an adult.  There must have been men, women and children who were present listening to Peter.  He did not mention anything regarding age, he only mentioned that everyone should obey.

What was it exactly that Peter was promising?  What was it that Peter was asking the Jewish people to accept?  Peter was asking the Jewish people to accept the New Covenant.  The Old Covenant included the Mosaic Law.  The New and better covenant was accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The way that we enter into this New Covenant is baptism.  The way that you entered into the Old Covenant was through circumcision.  When Peter was offering a New Covenant that was supposed to be better, why would he forbid the children to enter into this covenant, when they were not forbidden to enter into the Old Covenant?  Circumcision was the way you were brought into the Old Covenant.  Circumcision occurred on the 8th day of life.  Surely, the child could not speak for themselves in the Old Covenant, yet they were permitted entry through circumcision.  The same can be said of the New Covenant.  Through the New Covenant, an infant does not have the ability to speak for themselves, however, we still would allow them to enter into the New Covenant.  If we did not allow them, how could the New Covenant be considered better than the Old?

What about Christian History?  The Apostles went out and preached the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.  They also commanded others to be in charge, and carry the Gospel forward after them:

"Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you."(1 Tim 4:11-14).

(This is of course talking about Apostalic Succession, but I will save that for a future post).  It is important to know about Christian History so that we will not be misled in our doctrine today.  What did the early Christians believe?  Did they believe and practice infant baptism?  Yes, they did.

During the persecution of Christians, one of the major complaints that the pagans would bring before the Emperor of Rome is that the Christians believed in cannibalism (eucharist) and drowining babies (baptism).  The reason why the pagans got things so confused is because being a Christian was outlawed.  Christian services and ceremonies were held in private.  To be a Christian meant certain death.  Because of this, the pagans only heard about what Christians did behind closed doors and their secret meetings.  The only way that they would get the idea that Christians were baby drowners is if Christians were practicing infant baptism.

Irenaeus of Lyons, who was born 115-140AD says:
"For He came to save all through means of Himself— all, I say, who through Him are born again to God — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men." (Against Heresies Book 2:22 v4)

Whenever you hear the Early Church talking about being "born again" it is not referring to the feeling experience that most Protestant churches teach  now.  It is referring to the same born again experience that Jesus taught.  Steve Ray, usually says something along the lines of being "born again" the Bible way which is plainly:

"In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."(John 3:3-5) other words, baptism.

While researching this topic, I came across a couple of great articles in defense of infant baptism.  I have attempted to share with you in this post what I have learned over the past couple of months regarding this topic, but I believe that both of these articles go into more detail for a supportive case of Infant Baptism:

Infant Baptism in Early Church History 

Can Infants be Born Again 

If the Early Christians, the people that we owe the un interrupted message of God's love, believed that infant baptism is a part of the full sacred deposit of faith, why should we believe otherwise?


Kyle Adams said...

I have to admit, I'm kinda disappointed here. As the friend mentioned, I thought your blog post was going to focus on the "once saved, always saved" portion of our discussion.

After doing quite a bit of research into this topic, I've come to the conclusion that Scripture supports both sides of the issue. That is, much smarter, wiser theologians than I have argued this issue for hundreds of years, without any resolution. Which side you come down on depends largely on how much weight you give ecclesiology vs. scripture itself. I think the bulk of the direct evidence (i.e., minimizing exegesis) in scripture is on the side of believer's baptism, whereas the bulk of ecclesiology is on the side of infant baptism.

In the end, it's a debate I'm pretty weary of as we're unlikely to break any new ground that hasn't already been tilled and re-tilled by wiser minds. More important than the outward signs (i.e., the sacraments) is the inner realities. Debate over baptism can be an interesting exercise, but in the end, if you're saved, I'm good, no matter how (or even if) you were baptized.

Carlus Henry said...


I didn't mean to disappoint. You must have missed my earlier post on the "Once saved, always saved"

You can find it here:

I think that we both agree that if you are a Christian you should be baptized. It also sounds as though you are coming from the position that you are not against infant baptism, but you would just rather see it performed when the baptized is at a proper age. This is different than the position that I thought you were taking.

The position that I was arguing for, was more against those who believe that infant baptism is wrong and should not be practiced. The point that I was making that infant baptism has always been practiced and is considered a part of the complete deposit of faith - therefore, how could it be wrong?

You do bring up a good point regarding the relationship between baptism and salvation, which is another discussion that we had on a separate thread, that you can find here:

God Bless...

Reuben Moyana said...

I thank God for the Reformation, and my reformed brothers for their commitment to the bible. I just dont see WHY they baptize infants based on deductive covenantal theology thinking, instead of obeying scripture. What ever happened to Sola Scriptura ( Scripture alone). The New testament is so clear on the subject of WHO is to be baptized; Just look at ; Cornelius house (ACTS 10). The jailer house (ACTS 16). Crispus house (ACTS 18), LYDIA, Stephanas; All these people believed and were baptized. We cant assume that infants were baptized as well. Infants dont have the ability to believe what they hear. Even John the Baptist’s baptism was one of repentance. Let’s turn to scripture. Scripture is more true and precious than deductive covenantal theology and tradition. This is an area that indeed still needs reformation. Thoughts anybody????????

Carlus Henry said...


God bless you brother, and I am glad that you have come to the discussion. Overall, I am disappointed that you didn't comment directly to any of the arguments that I presented on the subject of infant baptism.

I just dont see WHY they baptize infants based on deductive covenantal theology thinking, instead of obeying scripture. What ever happened to Sola Scriptura ( Scripture alone)What is deductive conventional theological thinking? Isn't it the same type of thinking that actually brought us the accurate books of the Bible, Humanity and Divinity of Christ, The Holy Spirit as a person and not a force? Aren't there any truths that can be gained from conventional theological thinking? Why isn't infant baptism one of them?

We cant assume that infants were baptized as well. Infants don't have the ability to believe what they hear. This just begs the question, what is baptism? Is it just a sign or is there something more going on. What do you believe it is?