The Pros and Cons of Infant Baptism

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The baby is dressed beautifully as if prepared to be taken to the photography studio. The grandparents have come to town, and the aunts and uncles are there. Plans are made to have a celebrative lunch after the ceremony.What is happening is it is the day for the baby to be taken to church and be baptized, or “christened,” as it is called in some traditions.
At the designated point in the Sunday morning worship service the parents come forward with their baby. The minister takes the baby in his arms to the pleasure of the whole congregation. He pronounces his words of liturgy as he sprinkles water on the child’s head. In most traditions that practice this infant baptism ceremony, declaration is then made that the baby is now a member of the covenant community or the body of Christ.

Is infant baptism, so popular in many Christian denominations, a scriptural and wise practice? What does the Bible say about baptism? Who are the proper subjects of baptism, and how should baptism be administered?

First of all, let’s consider the “pros” of infant baptism; i.e., what is good or what might be the advantages of infant baptism. I believe one of the most positive aspects of this religious ceremony is not in the value or scripturalness of the ceremony itself, but the fact that it affords the opportunity for the parents to express their desire to bring their children into a relationship with God and his church. This is a highly commendable motivation on the part of the parents and of the church. What better desire could parents have for their children, than that they should be connected to God, have faith in God, and serve God! All Christian parents desire this for their children.

A second “pro” of the ceremony of infant baptism is that every time it is performed, it reminds (or it should remind) the people of that local congregation of their responsibility as the body of Christ to educate and raise the children within that congregation in the knowledge and service of the Lord.

So having looked at a couple of what can be positive aspects of infant baptism, let’s step back and consider infant baptism within the whole context of the Bible’s teaching on baptism. Here we will find there are some sharp incongruities between what the Bible teaches about baptism and the practice of infant baptism.

First of all, the thing that we first notice is that the scriptures teach us that baptism should be for believers only, not for infants. And baptism should be administered by total immersion in water, not simply sprinkling water on the head. We believe this because this was the way John the Baptist baptized people. John’s baptism took place at the Jordan River because he needed enough water in which to immerse people upon confession of their sins. Infants could not confess their sins, they didn’t understand the whole concept of sin, and they were not even old enough to talk! It was true then and it is true today.

The Lord Jesus was also baptized by John the Baptist, not because he had sins, but to identify with his people. Our Savior “went up from the water” (Matt. 3:16). This means he must have gone down into the water.

Other evidence from the New Testament confirms our belief in “believer’s baptism by immersion.” For example, when Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch the fact that Isaiah 53 was pointing to Christ and his sacrificial death for our sins, the evangelist must have also explained to him the importance and necessity of baptism by immersion, for when they passed a pool of water he asked Philip, “What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts. 8:37) The eunuch believed, and was ready for baptism. Had he only needed to be sprinkled, he would not have seen the importance of a pool of water.

The word “baptize” literally means “to immerse” or “to dip.” The Greek Orthodox church baptizes its people by immersion because they know that is what the word means. Unfortunately, they also baptize young children, which is unscriptural, but at least they are performing the practice in the right manner (that is, they do not just sprinkle water on the head of the one being baptized).

Infant baptism, although popular in several denominations, is a religious ceremony not found in the Bible. The clear and overwhelming evidence from the New Testament is that only believers were baptized, and they were baptized by immersion (Acts 2:38; 9:18; 19:5; Col. 2:12, etc.) Even when whole households are baptized (as that of Cornelius [Acts 10:44-48], Lydia [Acts 16:15] and the Philippian jailer [Acts 16:33]) it is always done in the context of preaching and believing the message by all those who were baptized. Some claim that among those baptized in these households there were infants, but infants are not capable of understanding and responding to the preached Word and therefore could not have qualified to be baptized.

The Word of God with its teaching and examples is our final authority in all matters of church belief and practice. Whenever the traditions of men come in conflict with the Word of God, the traditions of men must yield to the Word of God. Infant baptism is an ancient tradition in the church that may have been introduced in the third century. It was an integral part of Roman Catholicism at the time of the Reformation in the 1500’s. Unfortunately, some of the key Reformers, though they did much good in reviving the teaching of the true Word of God, were still blind to the fallacy of infant baptism. They did not discard this teaching of Roman Catholicism as they did with so many of the other unscriptural teachings of the Roman Church. Martin Luther and John Calvin are among those who tenaciously held on to this unfortunate practice. Historically we are indebted to the Anabaptists (the “re-baptizers”) during the Reformation period who saw the error of infant baptism and reinstituted the practice of believer’s baptism.

What are the “cons” of infant baptism? When we think about the Bible’s teaching on baptism and consider the practice of infant baptism, our evaluation leads us to draw some strong conclusions. We have to say that infant baptism is an erroneous and dangerous practice that should be rejected by all Bible believing churches and Christians. It should be forbidden in all Christian churches for the following reasons:

1)    It is not found in the Bible. There is not one clear text in the NT that demonstrates infant baptism. It is true that infant males were circumcised by the Jews in conformity to the Abrahamic covenant and in obedience to the law of Moses in the OT, but this was a sign of belonging to national Israel. The New Covenant sign of belonging to Christ through faith is baptism. It can only be received by those who have become members of the New Covenant through conscious repentance and faith in God through Jesus Christ. An infant cannot repent and believe, so it is impossible for an infant to become a member of the New Covenant.

2)    Infant baptism generates a false sense of security in the minds of those who practice it. Though some churches do contend that infant baptism is not salvific (saving), it still produces this false assurance that children are saved in the minds of many church members. Children can grow up thinking they are Christians when they may never have been regenerated. And parents may relax their exhortations to their children to repent of their sin and believe the gospel.

3)    Infant baptism fosters an unregenerate church membership. This is especially true in those denominations and churches that clearly declare baptized infants and children to be members of the body of Christ, the church. On the other hand, churches which practice believer’s baptism are less likely to receive unregenerate church members because those who are baptized have made a solemn profession of faith in Christ and are expected to grow as Christian disciples.

4)    Infant baptism often leads to the practice of allowing unregenerate children to receive Holy Communion. It is the responsibility of the church and its leaders to insure, as far as possible, that only believers partake of the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, allowing unregenerate children to receive Communion puts them in the dangerous position of receiving the bread and cup in an “unworthy manner” and become “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Why would we want to put children in this position?

Besides the fact that infant baptism cannot be found in the Bible, but also because it produces a false assurance of salvation, results in unregenerate church members, and often allows unregenerate children to receive Holy Communion, infant baptism should be rejected as contrary to the Word of God and dangerous to the spiritual well being of people and the integrity of the local church. This is not to say that all who practice infant baptism (sometimes we refer to them as paedo-baptists – “baby baptizers”) are themselves unregenerate or ineffective Christians. But they are in error on this point and are helping preserve an unscriptural and dangerous teaching which has caused untold damage to the church of God over the centuries.

Many churches who reject infant baptism (those who only baptize professing believers are sometimes referred to as “credo-baptists,” the word “credo” meaning “I believe”) also practice “infant dedication.” In this ceremony the baby is brought forward in the church service to be dedicated to the Lord. The minister and congregation then pray for the infant that he/she would grow to know and serve the Lord in the fellowship of the church. The parents are prayed for also, that they might have the wisdom to raise the child in the nurture of the Lord. So through this means some of the same positive effects that I mentioned above which can accompany infant baptism are instead generated through infant dedication, without the unbiblical practice of infant baptism.

Our responsibility as Christians, as people dedicated to the
authority of God’s Word, is to lay aside any religious teaching or tradition that is contrary to the Bible, and instead believe, practice, and teach what the Bible teaches, including the truth of believer’s baptism. We should pray and hope that those who have not yet understood the Biblical teaching of believer’s baptism by immersion will reexamine the Bible, think about these things, and embrace the scriptural teaching.

by Pastor Jeff Gregory
Good Shepherd Community Church Dallas, Texas
USA
www.gsccdallas.org
©2009

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Joe Fuliga
October 6th, 2009

All human beings are sinners including children that is why they also suffer God’s judgment of death. Death has come to all men for all men have sinned. Death has come to all men infants including. Jesus is also the savior of infants, saving them from their sins (original or inherited sin from Adam). If infants have no sin then they would not die but would be immortal and Jesus is not the savior of all men for what would infants be saved fromn if they have no sin. . Infants’ faith is a gift from God through their Christian parents and through baptism that is why salvation is all by God’s grace.

Christian Edmiston
October 28th, 2009

I would like to suggest some points that may challenge belief in the exclusivity of immersion:

-Baptism as a burial that identifies believers with Christ’s baptism is a popular point of those who believe in immersion only. However, Christ was buried above ground in a tomb, not in a grave below ground. Many Middle Eastern burials were done this way, as suggested by the presence of tombs, like the one Lazarus emerged from. Pouring would capture this symbolism nicely although immersion is still possible.

-The 120 were “baptized” with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but the Spirit was “poured” out on them.

Anyway, I agree that infant baptism has no Scriptural warrant and that the examples in the Gospels and Acts would suggest immersion. I am just not sure pouring or sprinkling are completely out.

In Christ,
Christian Edmiston

Osei Kingsley
October 25th, 2011

For all have sin and come short of the glory of God as in Romans do not mean all people are victims of Original sin (depravity).This scripture refers to both Gentiles and Jews for these were the classification of people in that era.So the passage all have sin do not qualifies INFANTS to be baptized.Infant baptism is not scriptural which needs to be done away with so not to incur the wrath of God.
And this Infant baptism has led to sprinkling in some denominations, because infants could not be immerse in water to cover their entire bodies hence SPRINKLING.

gary
June 17th, 2013

Something for Baptists and evangelicals to think about: the Baptist doctrine of the “Age of Accountability” is nowhere to be found in the New Testament.

Isn’t it strange that God provided a means for the babies and toddlers of his chosen people in the Old Testament to be part of his Covenant promises but is completely silent about the issue in the New Testament?

Jesus seemed to really love the little children… but he never mentions even once, if the Baptist/evangelical view of salvation is correct, how a Christian parent can be assured that if something dreadful happens to their baby or toddler, that they will see that child again in heaven.

In the Baptist/evangelical doctrine of adult-only salvation, God leaves our babies and toddlers in spiritual limbo! A Christian parent must pray to God and beg him that little Johnnie “accepts Christ” the very minute he reaches the Age of Accountability, because if something terrible were to happen to him, he would be lost and doomed to eternal hellfire.

Do you really believe that our loving Lord and Savior would do that to Christian parents??

Dear Christian parents: bring your little children to Jesus! He wants to save them just as much as he wants to save adults! Bring your babies and toddlers to the waters of Holy Baptism and let Jesus SAVE them!

The unscriptural “Age of Accountability” is the desperate attempt to plug the “big hole” in the Baptist doctrine of adult-only Salvation/Justification:

How does Jesus save our babies and toddlers?

Gary
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

gary
June 25th, 2013

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)

The fact that children die shows that they are subject to the consequences of sin just like adults. If children are not held responsible by God for the Original Sin inherited from their Grandfather Adam, they would never die until they reach an Age of Accountability, when “their eyes are opened to the knowledge of Good and Evil”.

But the Bible never mentions an age of accountability. Instead, it teaches that “the whole world (is) held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19), Psalms 51:5, Eph. 2:3.

Just because something doesn’t seem fair, doesn’t mean it is not true. As Paul says in Romans, who are we the created to question the Creator?

All human beings, including infants, are born sinners and are in need of a Savior to redeem them from original sin and the penalty of that sin: death…both physical and spiritual.

gary
August 31st, 2013

Why is the New Testament silent on Infant Baptism?

Baptist/evangelical response:

The reason there is no mention of infant baptism in the New Testament is because this practice is a Catholic invention that developed two to three centuries after the Apostles. The Bible states that sinners must believe and repent before being baptized. Infants do not have the mental maturity to believe or to make a decision to repent. If God had wanted infants to be baptized he would have specifically mentioned it in Scripture. Infant baptism is NOT scriptural.

Lutheran response:

When God made his covenant with Abraham, God included everyone in Abraham’s household in the covenant:

1. Abraham, the head of the household.
2. His wife.
3. His children: teens, toddlers, and infants
4. His servants and their wives and children.
5. His slaves and their wives and children.

Genesis records that it was not just Abraham who God required to be circumcised. His son, his male servants, and his male slaves were all circumcised; more than 300 men and boys.

Did the act of circumcision save all these people and give them an automatic ticket into heaven? No. Just as in the New Covenant, it is not the sign that saves, it is God’s declaration that saves, received in faith. If these men and boys grew in faith in God, they would be saved. If they later rejected God by living a life of willful sin, they would perish.

This pattern of including the children of believers in God’s covenant continued for several thousand years until Christ’s resurrection. There is no mention in the OT that the children of the Hebrews were left out of the covenant until they reached an Age of Accountability, at which time they were required to make a decision: Do I want to be a member of the covenant or not? And only if they made an affirmative decision were they then included into God’s covenant. Hebrew/Jewish infants and toddlers have ALWAYS been included in the covenant. There is zero evidence from the OT that says otherwise.

Infants WERE part of the covenant. If a Hebrew infant died, he was considered “saved”.

However, circumcision did NOT “save” the male Hebrew child. It was the responsibility of the Hebrew parents to bring up their child in the faith, so that when he was older “he would not depart from it”. The child was born a member of the covenant. Then, as he grew up, he would have the choice: do I want to continue placing my faith in God, or do I want to live in willful sin? If he chose to live by faith, he would be saved. If he chose to live a life of willful sin and never repented, and then died, he would perish.

When Christ established the New Covenant, he said nothing explicit in the New Testament about the salvation of infants and small children; neither do the Apostles nor any of the writers of the New Testament. Isn’t that odd? If the new Covenant no longer automatically included the children of believers, why didn’t Christ, one of the Apostles, or one of the writers of the NT mention this profound change?

Why is there no mention in the NT of any adult convert asking this question: “But what about my little children? Are you saying that I have to wait until my children grow up and make a decision for themselves, before I will know if they will be a part of the new faith? What happens if my child dies before he has the opportunity to make this decision?” But no, there is no record in Scripture that any of these questions are made by new converts to the new faith. Isn’t that really, really odd??? As a parent of small children, the FIRST question I would ask would be, “What about my little children?”

But the New Testament is completely silent on the issue of the salvation or safety of the infants and toddlers of believers. Another interesting point is this: why is there no mention of any child of believers “accepting Christ” when he is an older child (8-12 years old) or as a teenager and then, being baptized? Not one single instance and the writing of the New Testament occurred over a period of 30 years, approximately thirty years after Christ’s death: So over a period of 60 years, not one example of a believer’s child being saved as a teenager and then receiving “Believers Baptism”. Why???

So isn’t it quite likely that the reason God does not explicitly state in the NT that infants should be baptized, is because everyone in first century Palestine would know that infants and toddlers are included in a household conversion. That fact that Christ and the Apostles did NOT forbid infant baptism was understood to indicate that the pattern of household conversion had not changed: the infants and toddlers of believers are still included in this new and better covenant.

Circumcision nor Baptism was considered a “Get-into-heaven-free” card. It was understood under both Covenants that the child must be raised in the faith, and that when he was older, he would need to decide for himself whether to continue in the faith and receive everlasting life, or choose a life of sin, breaking the covenant relationship with God, and forfeiting the gift of salvation.

Which of these two belief systems seems to be most in harmony with Scripture and the writings of the Early Christians?

Gary
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

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