Infant baptism

 


  1. BulletCatholics believe that Baptism washes away the stain of all sin, original and actual (personal).


  1. BulletBaptism is regenerative and not symbolic.


  1. BulletBaptism is prefigured in the old testament (Gen. 1:2, 8:1-12).



Objection #1 - My church baptizes only adults. Why do Catholics baptize infants if they cannot speak for themselves?


My response is why not Baptise infants? To see why the differences in practices we must first understand what Baptism means to many Protestants.  For most Protestants it is a symbolic washing signifying that a person has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and saviour.  Hence it is meaningless to baptize infants who cannot speak up to accept Jesus Christ. 


However the Bible tells us that baptism, which is one of the 7 sacraments is required for heaven and the apostles baptized whole households (Acts 16:15, 33). In fact no passage in the Bible prohibits infant baptism. Catholics on the other hand believe that Baptism frees us from original and personal sin, makes us children of God, and hence brothers and sisters of Christ as heirs to the Kingdom of God. The direct issue of baptizing infants is dealt with in Objection #4, but suffice to say Catholics believe that because baptism signifies new life, parents can stand in for a child until they can confirm this decision at the age of reason.


Objection #2 – Ok, then prove to me Baptism is not symbolic.


Baptism is not symbolic because Jesus required it for entering heaven. In John 3:3-5 we read


[3] Jesus answered, and said to him: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. [4] Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born again? [5] Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.


Here Jesus is emphasizing that water which represents life and death, to humans is necessary to enter the kingdom of God. This is not a statement saying that baptism is a symbol nor would Jesus make it a condition to get into heaven if it was purely symbolic. In Mark 16:16 we also read

 

[16] He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.


  Water administered through the sacrament of Baptism brings new life to the individual. These words are very clear. In Acts 2:38 we also read “[38] But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.


Here Peter is calling for the people to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!  In other words he is saying that by baptism in the name of Jesus, sins will be forgiven.  This implies that baptism regenerates and gives new life to the person being baptized. The old nature is buried and the new nature is born. In Titus 3:5 we read “[5] Not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost;” Here Titus when using “the laver of regeneration” is referring to the washing of baptism and the “renovation of the Holy Ghost” is renewal in the Holy Spirit.


Objection #3 - But Jesus Baptism by John the Baptist at the river Jordan was symbolic proving it not?


It is true to say that Jesus baptism was symbolic, but we must not confuse what Jesus did with his actions - what they mean and what he meant with his words. At the river Jordan several things happened with Jesus Baptism. First it is a declaration of the start of his ministry. Jesus allowed himself to be baptized to not only to show us its importance even though he had no sins to be cleansed, but primarily to begin to take on the role of the suffering servant to be as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 53. Hence this was the start of his ministry. It was also to heed the call by the prophet John (the new Elisha) that all faithful Jews adhered too. Recall people came for far to be baptized in the river Jordan by John.


Shortly thereafter a theophany occurs, where we see the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, Jesus, and we hear the Father’s voice announcing his pleasure with his son and giving us his identity. This ties in with Isaiah 42:1 where we read;


[1] Behold my servant, I will uphold him: my elect, my soul delighteth in him: I have given my spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.


We also know that it is the Holy Spirit who anoints Jesus as shown in the words of Luke 4:18 when Jesus reads from Isaiah fulfilling its prophecy,


“[18] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart,”


Furthermore John the Baptist makes the statement that it is Jesus Baptism that would give the Holy Spirit, whereas his own would not (Matthew 3:11). Likewise St. Paul could say in 2 Cor. 5:17 “If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new”.


Objection #4  - Nowhere in the Bible does it say Infants are to be baptized.


Neither does it say that adults only are to be baptized in the Bible nor does it prohibit the baptizing of infants. The Bible also never gives one example of the baptism of a Christian child as an adult. In fact it appears that both infants and adults were baptized in the Bible. In Acts 16:15 we read “And when she was baptized, and her household,…”, and verse 33 “And he, taking them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and himself was baptized, and all his house immediately.” Finally in 1 Cor. 1:16 we read “And I baptized also the household of Stephanus; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.” In a household such as those in antiquity it is very unlikely that there would be no infants.


How then did Jesus himself feel about children in his kingdom? First in Mark 10:14 we read “Whom when Jesus saw, he was much displeased, and saith to them: Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Here Jesus is telling his apostles not to forbid children to come to him.  In fact children at a very early age are more accepting of things than adults, so even though Catholics baptize infants, who is to say that babies if they talk would forbid it?


Finally consider Jesus call to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19-20,


“Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”


Surely nations must certainly include infants!


Objection #5  - What about somebody who was never baptized by water? Can they still be baptised?


Yes they still can. The Catholic church teaches that a person can be baptized in one of three ways. Baptism by Water, which is the most common means of baptism, Baptism by desire and Baptism by blood. 


Baptism by desire is the desire to be baptized by water in the act of love for God.  For example a person who is on their death bed, but having never been baptized as a child can be baptized by desire if they, out of a genuine act of love for God give their lives over to Christ then and there.


Baptism by blood is the shedding of ones blood for Jesus Christ like many of the early martyrs did.


Objection #6 – I can accept that baptism washes away sins but was there a practice in the early church to baptize infants?


Yes it was common place.  The church fathers also make it very clear that the idea of baptism came from the apostles themselves. The following small sample of quotes are taken from Christian Classics Ethereal Library available at http://www.ccel.org/ and from http://www.cin.org/users/jgallegos/infant.htm


“…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…”

Irenaus - Against Heresies, Chapter 22, No. 4, AD180


"And when a child has been born to one of them [ie Christians], they give thanks to God[ie baptism]; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who as passed through the world without sins."

Aristides, Apology,15(A.D. 140),in ANF,X:277-278


"And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family."

Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition,21,  AD215


"For this reason, moreover, the Church received from the apostles the tradition of baptizing infants too."

Origen, Homily on Romans, V:9, AD 244


"Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous."

Origen, Homily on Leviticus,8:3


"For from the infant newly born to the old man bent with age, as there is none shut out from baptism, so there is none who in baptism does not die to sin." (Augustine)


Finally, it is note while mentioning that church fathers such as Justin Martyr gives testimony to the practice of infant baptism by stating that many old men and women of sixty and seventy years of age had been disciples of Christ from childhood. This must mean that they were baptized as infants.


Questions:


If Infant baptism is a Roman Catholic modern invention, then when did it begin and where did it originate?


Can you provide proof from the church fathers that it was expressively forbidden in the early church?


Can you provide some scriptural proof that it is expressively forbidden in the Bible?


What then is the minimum cut off age?