November 24, 2017

Lee Adams: A Dirt Road Defense of Infant Baptism

Lee blogs at Homilies, Prayers, and Bread for the Journey.

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August 23, 2012. This post is written in honor of my baby girls, Addie Lee and Reagan.  At ages 19 months and 10 weeks, respectively, they will both receive the sacrament of baptism this weekend at Gordon’s Chapel United Methodist Church.  The girls will be baptized from a font dedicated to the memory of J.A. and Annie Epps Stone, and will be amongst the fifth generation of  Stone descendants to be a part of this church community.  “Grandpa and Grandma Stone” were both in attendance at the first meeting of a community that became Gordon’s Chapel, held underneath a brush arbor in Sanford, GA.  Undoubtedly, they will also be present at the baptism of my girls, amongst the great cloud of witnesses that are watching as they participate in this first step of faith.

During my years of service in ministry in the evangelical world, I heard many criticisms of churches that were liturgical in nature.  As I’ve grown older (I won’t say more mature…just older),  I’ve come to realize that there’s tons of misunderstanding in the Protestant world about sacramental theology.  I might hear the theology and the frequency of use of the communion table criticized in evangelical circles from time to time, but the hot button topic always seems to be baptism.

Sacramental churches don’t always dunk (or immerse, for those of y’all who need to be more holy-soundin’).

Even worse…They baptize babies.

When I first journeyed outside of the Methodist church, the Baptist body I became a part insisted that my baptism in the UMC at age 11 wasn’t legitimate, because I hadn’t prayed “The Sinner’s Prayer”.  Once I was filled with a sufficient enough amount of doubt to pray that prayer,  I was then told that my method of baptism, sprinkling, was wrong in every way.

As an immature believer, I didn’t mind praying the prayer, even if it was only for my own assurance.  I resisted being re-baptized, though, until the time at which I discerned God’s call on my life for ordained ministry.  At that time, I submitted to my denominational leadership’s request that I be baptized via immersion.

I regretted my choice the moment I entered the water, and have ever since.  I understand the requirement that I adhere to denominational standards, but now I realize that those standards didn’t have a sound base.

Now, you won’t find any argument here that  “believer’s baptism”…baptism which occurs after someone does a profession of faith…is wrong.  My path was different, though.  I was a covenant child.  My parents had taught me about Christ from an early age, and I never remember a time in my life that I wasn’t aware of my sinful state, or that I didn’t realize that Christ had died for my sins.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that not every Christian takes the same path to Christ.  It’s not so much the pathway to faith that matters, as long as the object of your faith is correct.  I’ve grown to believe that  infant baptism is a pure, true, and legitimate expression of what God is doing in a child’s life..  It doesn’t represent salvation, but it does represent the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit in that individual.  Infant baptism isn’t about how we feel about God;  instead, it’s a rite of adoption, a reflection of the great affection God feels toward us.

Some time ago, I was blessed to hear Bishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Diocese of the South (ACNA) share his thoughts on infant baptism, and I will note that I borrow liberally from his teachings in my own ideas on the matter.  Below are a couple of reasons I believe that infant baptism is legitimate, interspersed with random commentary, and thoughts from that “great cloud of witnesses” I mentioned earlier.

So, why do I believe that infant baptism is legitimate? 

1) Children were never excluded from the Kingdom

Mark 10:13-16 says this…

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them,“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The Greek word used for “children” here is paidia, which translates literally into “babes in arms”.  Luke 18:15-17 parallels Mark’s account of the event, and the ESV translation used denotes the same word as “infants” in that passage.

These were babies.  Now, they weren’t being baptized, but their age and lack of knowledge did not prevent them access to Christ, nor did it inhibit their ability to receive Christ’s blessings.

Let’s take the idea even one step farther.  Luke 1:15 says that John the Baptist was a “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”  The Holy Spirit has no boundaries that it cannot cross, in terms of age, maturity, or knowledge (or lack of knowledge) of scripture.

2) Examples of possible infant baptisms are present in Scripture.

Acts 16:15…Lydia and her whole household are baptized.

Acts 16:33…The Philippian  jailer and his whole family are baptized.

I Cor. 1:16…Paul baptized the entire  household of Stephanas.

In the language of the Old Testament and the New Testament, household means everyone!  Everyone includes everyone, from grandma and grandpa, to servants and field hands.  It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some of these households included infants.

Finally, at the close of Peter’s amazing sermon (Acts 2:38-39), he states the following…

And Peter said to them, “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.  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

The promise of forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit is stated to be for all, including children.

3) There is silence in the New Testament on the subject.

Some folks just won’t buy the idea that the above examples point to the legitimacy of infant baptism.  However, no one can say that the NT prohibits the practice…And it was most certainly a practice of the earliest generations of Christians, as we will see below.

4) Lack of Controversy in the Early Church on the subject.

If you read the reports from ecumenical councils, you will find debates on a number of subjects.  Some of the arguments were so heated, they erupted into fistfights (St. Nick could pack a punch!).  Infant baptism, though, was never a point of contention.  It was a common practice for the time, and the Church Fathers had no issue with it.  There was controversy over a lot of things, but not over infant baptism.

Here’s some thoughts from the Church Fathers…

For he came to save all by means of himself — all, I say, who by him are born again to God — infants, children, adolescents, young men, and old men.  (Irenaeus,  Against Heresies II.22.4)

And they shall baptize 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. And next they shall baptize the grown men; and last the women. (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 21.3-5)

Infants are baptized for the remission of sins. Of what kinds? Or when did they sin? But since “No one is exempt from stain,” one removes the stain by the mystery of baptism. For this reason infants are baptized. For “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Origen, Homily on Luke 14:5)

For this also the church had a tradition from the apostles, to give baptism even to infants. For they to whom the secrets of the divine mysteries were given knew that there is in all persons the natural stains of sin which must be washed away by the water and the Spirit. On account of these stains the body itself is called the body of sin. (Origen, Commentary on Romans 5:9)

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, Enchiridion; ch. 43)

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (St. Gregory Nazianz, Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388])

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Irenaeus,Fragment 34 [A.D. 190])

By the way, I really like the word “pusillanimous”.

St. John Chrysostom had perhaps the strongest words I’ve seen on infant baptism…

“Whoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration”  

(Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388])

5) Even the reformers practiced infant baptism.

The idea that infants should not be baptized is relatively new…only about 500 years old.  For the first 1500 years of the Church, it was practiced without question.  Many of the men who sparked the split from Rome, the great reformers, had no problem with the practice.

“Hence it follows that water-baptism was given even when there was no faith, and it was received even by those who did not believe.” (Ulrich Zwingli)

“Since our baptizing has been thus from the beginning of Christianity and the custom has been to baptize children, and since no one can prove with good reasons that they do not have faith, we should not make changes and build on such weak arguments.” (Martin Luther)

“If in Christ we have a perfect pattern of all the grace, which God bestows on all his children, in this instance we have a proof that the age of infancy is not incapable of receiving sanctification.” (John Calvin)

All of this leads us to the question…

What are we doing when we baptize infants?

1.   We, as parents, are dedicating them to the Lord.

2.   We are committing to raising them in Christian faith and the Church.

3.   We are exchanging covenant promises.  In the baptism liturgy, the parents make commitments to the Lord and to the child.  The church community also does the same.

4.   We are asking God to begin His work in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

5.   We are claiming by faith the child for the Kingdom of God.

At the end of the baptism liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer, the sign of the cross is made with anointing oil on the forehead of the child, and the words “sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever” are spoken This is symbolic of us giving the child to Christ, and Him receiving the infant.

Finally, some closing thoughts from Fr. William Porcher DuBose…

Baptism is not an act of man which his faith goes before and accomplishes, it is an act of God which his faith comes after and accepts and appropriates and realizes or actualizes in himself. We do not tell our children that, if they will repent and believe, they will be or become children of God. That is just what they cannot do, or make themselves. We tell them that they are children of God, that God’s grace has gone before and made them so, that not only all the right and title but all the grace and power of it are theirs in Christ, and that their part is only to be and do what God in Christ will be and do in them. It is only their faith and will to be and do that, that is needed to enable them to say out of a full experience of the heart, with St. Paul: “I can bear all things, I can do all things, I can be all things, through Him that loved me.” In His name, His grace is sufficient for all my needs. “Because we are sons, God sends forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father.” We are not sons because we have the spirit of sons, we have the spirit of sons because we are sons. And nothing will give us or bring us the spirit and disposition and reality of sonship but the realizing that we are sons. Baptism is not magic, it is the simplest, plainest, most direct address and appeal to our intelligence, our affections, our will, our whole selves that is possible. It simply tells us immediately from God Himself that He is one with us and we are one with Him in Christ: that through simple faith in and realization of that fact we become the objects and subjects of His eternal love, infinite grace, and perfect fellowship of life. Just let us take that in, and it will work itself: a real or realizing faith is patently the sole condition of a real and self-realizing divine grace.

It is not necessary that children should realize or know all at once the entire rationale and operation of grace working through faith. Let them at first, as St. John says, simply “know the Father”; and they can know Him really only as “the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” The simplest knowledge of God will beget, and nourish with its own growth, the instinct of holiness, righteousness, and eternal life. The sense and full experience of sin will come of itself in due course and with it the need and experience of the redeeming power and operation of grace. Let us know, as we need it, that we have all these in Christ–and we have them. “Behold,” says St. John, “what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God–and we are.” But it is not enough that we should be called,–we must call ourselves, realize and know ourselves to be, if we would really and actually be.

(Turning Points in My Life, Ch. V,The Theology of the Child)

For a look at the baptismal liturgy of the United Methodist Church, click here.

Comments

  1. Wonderful post on infant Baptism.

    God truly does do the Baptism. Our Lord never commanded us to do anything ( Matthew 28) where He wouldn’t be present in that command, for us. Acts 2:38 reenforces that He forgives sin and gives the Holy Spirit, in Baptism.

    Infant Baptism gets the order right. Grace BEFORE our faith. When faith comes (by hearing) then Baptism is complete.

    God bless you for sharing these thoughtful words on infant Baptism.

    And may the Lord Jesus raise those two beautiful little girls, out of the water of death and into the Living water of life, and life everlasting, with our beautiful Savior who told us to “not hinder the little ones from coming to him”.

  2. Albert Reddings says:

    Justin Martyr does give a reason for baptism that absolutely precludes infant baptism, and he says that the church in Rome received it from the apostlesThis quote is from approximately A.D. 155:

    And for [water baptism] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed. (Justin, First Apology 61)

    Here, Justin specifically contrasts water baptism with the lack of choice that we had as children, and he says that the apostles taught that this was the very reason for water baptism.

    Infant baptism can’t fulfill that purpose. In fact, it’s contrary to it.

    Tertullian around 210, addresses infant baptism directly and disagrees with it.

    No inference here; he’s very clear:

    According to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. … The Lord does indeed say, “Do not forbid them to come to me.” Let them come, then, while they are growing up! Let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning where to come to! Let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the remission of sins? … Let them know how to ask for salvation, that you may seem to have given “to him that asks.” (On Baptism 18)

    Well, that’s clear. Tertullian was against infant baptism.

    -http://one-fold.com/?p=294

  3. As a former Baptist, it was “Lack of Controversy in the Early Church on the subject” that finally won the day for me. Any student of church history must concede that perversion of something so significant as baptism without a “fistfight” is highly unlikely, miraculous even. For another biblical/historical reason, see http://mauricehagar.blogspot.com/2011/06/unlikely-anglican.html.

    • Me, as well, Maurice.

    • Josh in FW says:

      Learning about church history is what is leading me away from much of the specifically Baptist doctrine that I was raised with.

      • Church history is an evil bloody mess. Thankfully we are given the indwellling Holy Spirit and scripture to know the evils of following man and his traditions.

        • Matt Purdum says:

          Wow, Martin, so glad Jesus sent you to us. Forget that great men and women of God went before us — we’ve got YOU to teach us the “evils” of paying any attention to history.

          • NO Matt, Church history was an evil bloody mess. The :great men and women who went before us are pretty much not known at all. They were too busy hiding in caves from the state church religion despots and were rarely published because their writings were illegal if they could write. Some of those who were persecuted by both the Catholics and Reformers are listed in Marytrs Mirror with NO name. Just so and so blacksmith burned at stake or wife of cobbler drowned for refusal to practice infant baptism, etc, etc.

            You will meet them in Glory. I sincerely hope you do pay attention to church history. And learn from it why much of it had nothing to do with Christ but elevating mere men to lord it over others.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            I just finished disagreeing with Martin in an earlier post, so I’m glad I get to agree with him here.

            Matt, you cannot have a full appreciation of the legacy of the Church without acknowledging the atrocities perpetrated by people within the church. Martin is being a little blunt, but he’s right when he refers to Church history as a “evil bloody mess.” Separating the saints from the sadists in Church history doesn’t do any real justice to our awareness of church legacy.

        • Josh in FW says:

          When two groups of Christians are claiming the Spirit and Scriptures are claiming saying different things, how does a lay Christian discern which group of Christians is more correct?

          This is the question that I’ve been wrestling the with the most over the past few years. Relying on what my Grandpa taught me (as much as I love him) is no longer a satisfactory method for me.

          • I think it’s important to understand, Josh, that all who practice infant baptism also practice conversion or believer’s baptism. We recently had a young adult woman baptized in our Lutheran church. She had not been baptized as an infant, and came forward to profess her faith and receive the sacrament.

            Those who practice believer’s baptism alone have a more constricted view. They see baptism as for those able to profess their faith only. However, some groups will re-baptize those who have been baptized in other traditions, not accepting their earlier rite as valid.

            Therefore, in general those who practice paedo-baptism are more generous in recognizing God’s work in the sacrament no matter where it was received. In my view, this is another argument in its favor.

          • CM, my experience has been similar to yours, and I completely agree with your statement….”Therefore, in general those who practice paedo-baptism are more generous in recognizing God’s work in the sacrament no matter where it was received. In my view, this is another argument in its favor.”

          • Josh in FW says:

            Thanks guys. The paedo-baptims folks do seem to be more “generous”. As I mentioned in a comment below, I’ve noticed most of the closed communion groups will recognize the baptism of another denomination.

            My comment above was intended to be a question for Martin. He said, “Thankfully we are given the indwellling Holy Spirit and scripture to know the evils of following man and his traditions.” I agree that the Holy Spirit is necessary to correct interpretation of scripture, but what does a layman do when two erudite theologians have contradictory views that are both extensively defended with scripture and both are claiming that his interpretation is THE interpretation guided by the Holy Spirit?

  4. The original Imonk remained a Baptist, even if he may not have been totally satisfied with Baptists. I wonder if he ever wrote an article concerning infant baptism that could be reposted to compare with this one?
    I still remain unconviced that infant baptism should be practiced, and just off the top of my head here are some reasons:
    1. There is not a single example of baptism preceding faith in the Bible. The aurgument about entire households being baptized is an argument from silence. The pattern throughout Acts is belief and then baptism. And I see no example of someone else’s faith standing in the place for the one being baptized (as a parent for a child)

    2. This quote sort of confuses me:

    It doesn’t represent salvation, but it does represent the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit in that individual. Infant baptism isn’t about how we feel about God; instead, it’s a rite of adoption, a reflection of the great affection God feels toward us.

    If infant baptism is the washing away of original sin, if it is the right of adoption as God’s children, if it tells us as Dubose said, God himself is one with us and we are one with him in Christ, then how does it not represent salvation, how does it not in fact save us? If a persons sins are washed away, if he is already God’s child, if he is in Christ, he is saved.

    3. This one isn’t an argument from Scripture, but I feel like it robs the child of the experience of baptism. I’ve never felt like baptism was a work I did, but I’m glad I was old enough to remember the experience.

    The most compelling argument for me is the one from history, but it isn’t compelling enough to convince me yet.

    • Jon, I would encourage you to delve farther into study of sacramental theology. During my time in the Baptist church, I heard the same arguments you express. The “deal breaker” for me was church history. I found no compelling argument that the first 1500 years of Christianity were all wrong in the practice of infant baptism.

      I was old enough to remember my own baptism, but was still told it was illegitimate. Frankly, I was shamed into being re-baptized. When I consider it as a covenant work of God, not as a work of man, I find it logical to baptize infants.

      Thanks for considering the post…

      • Lee, do you have any particular sources you would recommend for that study? I used to have a common book of prayer, but lost it when I moved.

        • Josh in FW says:

          My introduction to Church History was Mark Noll’s book Turning Points: Decisive Points in the History of Christianity. It was a fast and informative read.

          • Turning Points is a good place to start…

            Jon, I once had a discussion with an Orthodox believer (I thought at the time he needed my help in conversion…what an idiot I was) about infant baptism, which I argued was possibly implied in scripture, but not directly stated. His response was to ask me where the “sinner’s prayer” was in scripture. After quoting several verses that didn’t quite add up to the complete concept, he smiled and said, “I’ll concede that it’s implied, but not directly stated.”

        • The quotes from the Fathers are all based on the idea that the act of sacramental baptism washes away original sin and that infants should be baptized because they are born with original sin. But the quote from Romans 5 is part of a chapter where the theme is how the universal calamity of original sin caused by Adam is symmetrically swallowed up in the universal blessing of salvation wrought in Christ: i.e., that the whole human race is redeemed in Christ by the baptism that he undertook on the cross. Infants are already saved. Faith becomes necessary for salvation for those who come of age and consciously sin, which all do because we live still partly in the old age under what remains of the rule of the principalities and powers until Christ’s parousia. Water baptism does not regenerate infants or adults: redemption is an accomplished fact for the whole human race. Those who come of age must evince faith in Christ by confession to remain in the new covenant of grace, because there is the very real option of rejecting the gift by refusing to acknowledge sin and by not relying on Christ for salvation. Only faith can effect this continuing gift of Christ’s grace for those capable of faith. You may baptize infants or believers, but in neither case does the ritual regenerate. The theology of the Fathers you quote may have been nearly unanimous, but it is nevertheless not based on a soundly biblical theology of regeneration. Read all of Romans 5 as the blueprint for how redemption is given in Christ for all. Your children’s baptism will not recuse them from the necessity, when they come of age, of evincing a personal faith in Christ; this they may do, as you did, but many do not.

          • No one that I know of who practices infant baptism says that it “recuses them from the necessity, when they come of age, of evincing a personal faith in Christ.” That’s why these traditions also catechize and practice confirmation and the ongoing rite of confession.

          • Robert, the idea that baptism washes away “original sin” is the understanding of the Christian West, along with the understanding of “regeneration” that developed in the West. The understanding of the Christian East is that baptism is the immersion into the *death and resurrection* of Christ, precisely since “redemption is an accomplished fact for the whole human race”, not dependent on a person “evincing faith” or “doing” anything else. Up until about 400 AD there continued to be a theological discussion about sinning after baptism, and the commentary related to adult baptism is in that context.

            As for being “symbolic”, the word has now come to mean something like “replacing the reality” of something. In the Greek, the word actually means something like, “throwing two realities together” – so that they participate in one another. In the Orthodox Church, the reality of our life becomes hid in the reality of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, with his death holding as important a meaning in connection with baptism as his life and resurrection.

            Orthodox Christians don’t believe this is “magic”. Our life in Christ and the Church is meant to be more of an “organic” participation than that. After baptism, this happens, as CM notes, through the rest of the sacraments (which the Orthodox do not limit to only seven – all of life is meant to be “sacramental” in varying ways.). As Miguel says below, “God promises to work through it, but he never promises not to work any other way.” We don’t believe in grace as some kind of extra-trinitarian created entity; grace is the actual action of the living Holy Spirit within our innermost being, and can occur in all sorts of ways. And the HS is not limited by a person’s age – we certainly have examples in scripture of that. One of those very focused ways – because it happens in the context of the life of the Church, the Body of Christ – is baptism.

            Dana

    • Another thing I would say, Jon, is that the New Testament is the story of first-generation Christians. There is literally nothing in it about how the second generation of Christians received their children into the community. So, in effect, the argument for believer’s baptism only is an argument from silence too.

      As for Michael Spencer, he did remain a committed credo-Baptist, but was respectful of other traditions and despised the evangelical/Baptist practice of rebaptizing. If you search the archives you will find several articles about these matters.

      • I don’t think it is quite as much an argument from silence because we do see the pattern of believing and then baptizing, but I get your point and it is a good one. I’m with Michael on the need to respect other traditions. I also despise the way many evangelical churches will baptize people over and over again. But, if someone was baptized as an infant and not on a profession of faith, I personally think they need to be baptized upon a profession of faith. But I will never push someone to do something against their conscience.

        I started reading this site because I found another Baptist asking many of the questions I asked, and giving good answers to many of them. While my theology probably doesn’t match up as well with you as it did with Michael, I appreciate you and others keeping the site going.

    • For us, ‘experience’ not something that we can rely on, or point to as assurance of our faith. Experience is an internality. They may be good, and valid, and from God…but they are nothing that we should ever rely upon.

      The external Word is what can be trusted in all circumstances and for all times.

      There is no more external, tangible, concrete expression of the Word, acting FOR US, bringing the cross to bear in our lives, than Baptism and Holy Communion.

      I do believe this is why the Lord commanded them. For our liberty, and assurance.

      Thanks, Jon.

      • Steve,

        I should have qualified my use of the word experience because I know it is used in different ways. But I wasn’t thinking of it as a point of assurance. My assurace comes from the promise of God and the indwelling of the Spirit. What I was thinking of was just the joy of going through the experience.
        From a sacramental standpoint, how would you answer the second point I made above?

  5. Seems to me the name “Baptist” would be your first clue.

    I am a bit disgusted you quote Reformers like Zwingil especially when he agreed with his students that infant baptism was not really scripturally defendable as believed in that day and time and it was believers baptism. Then he decided to stand with the state church and ended up hunting down his students who illegally performed believers baptism in their homes and persecuted them. In fact, quoting Calvin and Luther on the subject is the same. those who practiced believers baptism were often given a “third baptism” by drowning and the Reformers quite proud of it. The Reformation has a horrible evil record on this topic and to try and spin it as a defense of infant baptism chills me to the bone. Does no one read history anymore or do they simply excuse it by quoting these barbarians on infant baptism?

    They baptized infants because of a belief in the imputed guilt of Adams sin so the baby would be “covered” in case they died as many did in infancy. And it was a way to “own” the child for the state church.

    I wish more folks would do their homework on the evils of the Reformation before quoting them as experts on a subject they used as an excuse to murder people for daring to practice believers baptism and going against the state church. The “man of his time” argument is wearing thin. They owned a bible as well as I do and came to the conclusion it was ok to murder people for practicing believers baptism. .

    • Never said I was fan of Ulrich’s…just using his quote.

      • Using his quote as truth? Using his quote considering his own praxis? Afraid I do not understand your logic.

        • We can’t argue that he wasn’t a reformer, can we? I didn’t say I like his methods of getting his points across. Lord knows he was probably responsible for burning some icons and rood screens that I would have enjoyed seeing while traveling in Europe.

          • So his methods are really no big deal and that makes his quote on infant baptism ok? Who said he wasn’t a “reformer”.I am not sure where that came from. I would think you would be more concerned with the PEOPLE he persecuted than icons you would have liked to have seen.

            There is a hardness of heart of many who are enamoured with the Reformation and the big name Reformers that really concerns me. A willingness to overlook real evil in the name of Jesus during the Reformation that blows my mind. Their BEHAVIOR was driven by their beliefs, no?

        • Martin, no one is overlooking the failures and evils of the Reformers. As people of a cruel time, they often acted cruelly, sometimes using the Bible as a basis for their actions. We must not, however, overlook their contributions either.

          • CM, Their despotic evil overwhelms any contributions. Do our beliefs drive our behavior or not? Drownings, burnings, bannishment were all part and parcel of the practices for the Reformers. These were not just mistakes of the times.

            It scares me so many are so enamoured with them and put forth their ideas as truth. They were state church despots. If you did not attend church the magistrates came to visit. Saying it was a “cruel” time is just an excuse to overlook the evil in the Name of Christ. Using Jesus to lord it over others. Some even cast them as brilliant theologians but dismiss the fact they had the same scripture we do and read state church in it. Unlike the radical reformers who read something completely different and put their lives on the line to stand up to the despots.

            The fact this stuff is making a comeback in such a grand way really chills me to the bone. They hated liberty in Christ. And they sought to replace the indwelling Holy Spirit in a believers life by micromanaging people and making disagreements sin to the point of death or bannishment. How anyone can see them as great men boggles the mind. Making despots icons.

            • It’s pretty easy to cast such all-encompassing judgment from a position 500 years past the events themselves (which amounted to a time of revolution and civil war across Europe), and having a mindset about church and state that never would have occurred to anyone in those days.

    • Many parts of the Reformation weren’t good, and led us back into our experience, our works, ourselves, for the assurance of our salvation.

      This brief class discusses much of that and how the some of the Reformers did not understand Baptism:

      http://theoldadam.com/2011/03/04/re-baptism/

      The last half of the piece (it’s only about 30 min. long in total) deals with infant Baptism.

      I think you’ll have a better understanding of it (infant Baptism), even if you still don’t agree with it, after you listen.

      Thanks.

  6. “1. There is not a single example of baptism preceding faith in the Bible. The aurgument about entire households being baptized is an argument from silence. The pattern throughout Acts is belief and then baptism. And I see no example of someone else’s faith standing in the place for the one being baptized (as a parent for a child)”

    An argument can be made that “entire household” did not include children from that time if we study the Roman household codes. Children were not viewed the same way we view them today.

    In fact, entire household usually involved slaves as the term ” entire household” included the family business run by slaves (even educated ones).

    • Matt Purdum says:

      WOW! Good thing that with Luke’s exception the New Testament was written by JEWS NOT ROMANS! Thanks for pointing out that all the professional historians are wrong, and in fact evil. Thanks for pointing out that everyone who disagrees with you is evil!

      • Not sure what being a Jewish writer of the NT has to do with the subject matter. You lost me there. The Jewish writers of the NT were very familiar with the Roman way of life and laws as they lived under occupation while maintaining the Greek cultural influences of times past.

        Cornelius was not a Jew nor was Lydia. It is interesting both were descrbied as having their entire households baptized. If one reads the Roman Household codes (which are similar to the Greek influence before), they will see “entire household” almost always included slaves who worked for the family, lived with the family and many of whom where educated running the family business. Sometimes slavery was a path to Roman citizenship which was coveted. In fact, if we read history we know a large part of the population of the Roman empire in those times included these slaves. It became a problem later one as we all know.

        Not sure who you are referring to as “professional historians” I am disagreeing with on this matter. I thought he was referring to theologians. If you could elaborate, I would appreciate it.

    • It was also a practice in some of the early churches to baptize people “for the dead.” Paul addressed this practice as a proof that there is an afterlife in 1 Cor 15 29-32
      Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
      Please note that Paul does not condemn the practice even of baptizing people for the dead. I think this is because it was done as an act of faith in God’s promises and whether actually effective or not really is God’s business. I cannot presume to make that determination. God throughout the Scriptures honored those who acted in faith. He often responded in surprising ways–so it would seem to those of us looking back–to prayers, petitions and actions done in faith.
      To me, the bottom line is that people baptize infants to show that they dedicate them to the Lord, and they make a promise to raise that child to know and love God. Who can challenge that?

    • There is not one example of women receiving communion in scripture. I’m sure you’d assume this isn’t necessary to condone the practice. The Bible is not an instruction manual, it’s a book about God, not us. Perhaps what you expect to find in order to warrant infant baptism isn’t quite reasonable. Using that line of argumentation, the Bible NEVER says that Baptism should follow a conversion experience or profession of faith. It does tend to go that way for adult converts, but it is never prescribed.

  7. petrushka1611 says:

    “Hence it follows that water-baptism was given even when there was no faith, and it was received even by those who did not believe.” (Ulrich Zwingli)

    Do you have the context for this quote? I can see Zwingli stating this as a negative conclusion, not a positive one. Just curious.

      • Lee, read your link. So he is making the case that since there were false believers with believers baptism such as Simon Magnus that makes infant baptism acceptable? Let’s get real. Judas was most likely baptized, too. So this is an argument that other misuses makes another misuse, right? I have seen a lot of Reformers make this argument that since it seems implied that Judas was baptized and was not a true believer then that makes infant baptism scriptural. Then we have the thief on the cross in paradise with NO baptism. Perhaps he was sprinkled as an infant so he is ok. Sheesh!

        Do you not realize this is exactly what his students had a problem with and that Zwingli actually agreed with them until later and then he went after them in the church court with this whole ridiculous apologia he formed to side with the state church? Seems Zwingli loved his position more than the truth so he had to twist scripture and literally go against what he had previously agreed with!

        But why are we using man’s arguments to prop up infant baptism? Any scriptural argument is one from silence. The “act” of Baptism saved no one. We have examples of unbelievers being baptized like Simon Magnus and perhaps Judas which is inferred and we have an example of one saved by Christ because of repentance and belief without baptism. It is not a means of grace but a symbol of belief. If it is a means of grace then what about those fakes who were baptized or the thief on the cross. Did he die with less grace than those who were baptized?

        • Well, to quote Flannery O’Connor (on communion, but it fits) “If it’s just a symbol, then the hell with it.”

        • 1st Peter tells us that “Baptism now saves you”

          • Hi Steve,

            Come on, that is a bit of proof texting there.

            1 Peter 3:21 – “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”

            As John says below, it isn’t the water that saves but the faith. When I am baptized, I am saying (or for arguments sake, someone is saying on my behalf) that I belong to Jesus, and that as such I am saved by the work of Christ on the cross.

            This fits well with Jesus’ statement from the Sermon on the Mount.

            “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.”

            Salvation comes from identifying oneself as a follower of Christ and a belief in what he accomplished on our behalf. Baptism saves in as much as it accomplishes this.

          • I’d agree that water doesn’t save, rather, Jesus does. And faith does not save you either, grace does. Faith is the vehicle through which grace is received (Eph. 2:8). The idea isn’t that water has some sort of hocus-pocus magic power, but rather that through/with/by this water, used with the command of Christ and the Word of God, the Holy Spirit washes an individual and gives faith. And he is perfectly capable of doing this without water. It’s just that you don’t have to go on an Easter egg hunt for the Holy Spirit’s saving work: you can know where to find Him dependably.

            Salvation does NOT come from identifying oneself as a follower of Christ. That would be works-righteousness. But belief, yes. And Baptism does give faith. I would argue that in Baptism, God Himself is identifying you as a follower of Christ. Your last sentence makes you dangerously close to Lutheran. 😛

        • Luther addresses the thief on the cross in his shorter catechism. It isn’t water which saves, but faith. Thus, not all who are baptized are saved, as it is not mixed with faith; conversely, not all who are saved are baptized as the opportunity may not be there. Nevertheless, I have met few who call themselves Christian who would allow that a person who refuses baptism is in any way a believer, since they have rejected God’s word.

  8. Albert Reddings says:

    “Justin Martyr does give a reason for baptism that absolutely precludes infant baptism, and he says that the church in Rome received it from the apostlesThis quote is from approximately A.D. 155:

    And for [water baptism] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed. (Justin, First Apology 61)

    Here, Justin specifically contrasts water baptism with the lack of choice that we had as children, and he says that the apostles taught that this was the very reason for water baptism.

    Infant baptism can’t fulfill that purpose. In fact, it’s contrary to it.

    Tertullian around 210, addresses infant baptism directly and disagrees with it.

    No inference here; he’s very clear:

    According to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. … The Lord does indeed say, “Do not forbid them to come to me.” Let them come, then, while they are growing up! Let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning where to come to! Let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the remission of sins? … Let them know how to ask for salvation, that you may seem to have given “to him that asks.” (On Baptism 18)

    Well, that’s clear. Tertullian was against infant baptism.”

    -brian coulton @one-fold.com

  9. Josh in FW says:

    Lee, I love that this post has been shared here. I have some more thoughts since first reading this post on your blog.

    I was wondering if there was a cut off age for the traditions that practice infant baptism. Is there some kind of guideline that if a child is not baptized by X years old, then he/she must wait until he/she professes some kind of faith/belief? If a parent(s) of young children converts to a tradition that practices infant baptism are they all baptized at once?

    I find it interesting that many of the closed communion groups don’t rebaptize as long as your baptism was done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I haven’t had enough time to reflect on why these traditions uphold the baptism of another tradition while withholding the Table. I’m sure I’ll get some ideas here.

    • Gayla Collins says:

      As a church pastor for over 30 years (raised Baptist, btw, now United Methodist) I’ve had many older children who had not been baptized as infants ask to be baptized. They wanted to correct what their parents had neglected to do. I talk to the children about it along with their parents and agree to baptized them. However, I insist that when they get older, age 12 or 13, they go through Confirmation classes with their peers. Confirmation is making your profession of faith. It is confirming the promises your parents made when they brought you to baptism. I do not make 6 or 8 or 10 year old children wait until they have matured enough to understand the major commitment they are making when they accept Christ and join his church on profession of faith. Young children know what it means to be accepted and loved by God. They want to be included in the covenant community and that also includes Holy Communion. The main reason I’m no longer a Baptist is the sacraments. God’s grace is extended even to those who aren’t even aware of it: Prevenient Grace!

  10. What about death bed confessions or folks that just cannot get to the baptismal before they pass away? Are these poor souls condemned to eternal punishment? I think the church of Christ folks would say yes. Baptism either has to be a requirement for salvation or symbolic in nature. I know this is about infant baptism but these questions always come up while discussing the subject.

    • Matt Purdum says:

      Good point. It’s either required or it’s symbolic, and it ain’t required.

    • Josh in FW says:

      That’s what sprinkling is for. 🙂

    • Baptism is the ordinary means of grace. It is not required in extraordinary circumstances when it is impossible that it be administered.

      • So are there special points for ordinary or extraordinary “means of grace” that are racked up somewhere? Or do we get more anointing here and now if extraordinary?

    • Theif on the cross did not follow a “protocol” of baptism.

      • oops, Thief.

      • See comment above re: ordinary. Not to mention, if you follow Romans 6:4 to see what Baptism is, then the thief, who was literally crucified with Christ, had the ultimate sacramental rite performed on him, with the words of absolution coming directly from Christ Himself.

        The thing is, Baptismal regeneration does not have to be exclusive. God promises to work through it, but he never promises not to work any other way. Those who deny baptismal regeneration are exclusivists who hold the “personal decision for Christ” to be the ultimate pre-requisite for salvation, and hold the un-Biblical “age of accountability” as the only hope for young children.

        • Hi Miguel,

          I think your comment fits with my comment above about the salvific power of Baptism.

        • No, Miguel, salvation is inclusive of the entire human race, for we are saved in Christ in a way symmetrical with our being lost in Adam: all were lost, all are redeemed (read Romans 5). When we come of age, faith is the way salvation wrought for all in Christ continues to work in us; but if we refuse the gift, we step outside that salvation. Freedom to choose is given by Christ and in the context of redemption already achieved by Jesus for every human being.

    • The Catholic Church identifies three types of Baptism: by water, by desire, and by blood. If a person has faith and dies without without first having baptism by water, then his or her desire for baptism and life in the Trinity is sufficient. There are martyrs who died professing Christ, but who were never baptized in water. The Catholic Church says that by their martyrdom and faith they were baptized by blood. Water is the ordinary manner for baptism, while desire and blood are the extraordinary manner for conferring the sacrament.

      The Catholic Church would go on to say that non-Christians who, through no fault of their own, have never heard or understood the Gospel and who are not baptized can still find life in the Trinity if they respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit that they have received.

      The Catholic Church accepts any baptism as long as it includes immersion and sprinking with water, and the use of the Trinitarian formula. Theoretically, even an atheist can perform the ritual as long as water and the words are used. We renew out baptisms as adults when when go to confession or receive the Eucharist.

  11. David Cornwell says:

    Wonderful piece. Thanks so much. This re-tells and confirms much of what I’ve believed for many years about infant baptism.

  12. Wow, Lee. This is the most comprehensive list of arguments I’ve seen on this topic. Well done!

    I just want to point out the brilliance of your take on Mark 10. All the Lutheran literature I’ve read on that passage use this spin: Jesus says let the children come to me, and because of the whole in/with/under thing, Baptism IS bringing the children to Jesus, and therefore we should do it. However, they usually cut Jesus short and omit the “kingdom” aspect you brought out. Brilliant.

    However, when you say “baptism does not represent salvation,” I’m a bit puzzled. I thought EVERYONE agreed that Baptism at least REPRESENTED salvation. My Baptist upbringing even taught it that way.

    I’d say that ultimately, the difference between the way you have defended infant Baptism and a confessional Lutheran approach is that we would focus the discussion more on what Baptism is. If it is our work of obedience and testimony to God, then it is utterly superfluous and completely unnecessary. But if it is God’s work of washing us and claiming us as His children, then Acts 22:16. Then again, I believe Lutherans are a bit more comfortable with baptismal regeneration than Anglicans/Methodists. You ask, “what are we doing when we baptize infants?”, but I am more concerned with “What is God doing in Baptism?” Because the answer to that question is adjacent to the heart of the Gospel.

    • “…I am more concerned with “What is God doing in Baptism?” Because the answer to that question is adjacent to the heart of the Gospel.”

      Exactly.

      Baptism and Holy Communion (rightly understood as God’s action, for us) are pure gospel.

      • Yes, Steve.

        When I was discussing my girls’ baptisms with our pastor, he was a bit surprised that we wanted the entirety of the baptismal liturgy used, since not many people do so these days. Their baptism represents covenant…between the parents and God; between the children and God; between the parents and God; between the witnesses and the children; between the parents and witnesses; and between the witnesses and God. It’s a powerful liturgy, whether it’s UMC, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, etc…and the rite is, as you say, pure Gospel.

    • Miguel, I’m a prevenient grace guy, even though I have a lot of respect for those who do believe there is a salvific effect to baptism. See my response to Steve below for some more of my thoughts…

  13. Can God save apart from Baptism? Sure He can! We allow for that.

    But since it is all over the New Testament, and since the Lord Jesus commanded it, we know that He is at work in it. And we do it. Fully expecting that He gives us what He commands from us.

  14. Lee,
    I really appreciate this post (especially the title.) and you have done an excellent job of marshalling the witness of the early church in regards to infant baptism.

    However, I would point out a couple things about your synopsis of what is being done by the parents. You said,

    “1. We, as parents, are dedicating them to the Lord.

    2. We are committing to raising them in Christian faith and the Church.

    3. We are exchanging covenant promises. In the baptism liturgy, the parents make commitments to the Lord and to the child. The church community also does the same.

    4. We are asking God to begin His work in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    5. We are claiming by faith the child for the Kingdom of God.”

    Your explanation focuses only on the action/intention of the parent, not on what God does in baptism. Romans 6:4 says “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” God is the primary mover/actor in our baptism. He does the burying and raising

    See also Colossians2:11-12 ; “11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;
    12 having been aburied with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who craised Him from the dead.”
    Here we see our circumcision made without hands, by Christ, in baptism.

    Also the New Testament nowhere speaks of the ‘dedication’ or ‘testimony’ aspect of baptism so often referenced in these discussions. I wrote a post several years ago that closely examines why proponents of infant baptism and those who teach believers only baptism often talk past each other.

    http://www.newreformationpress.com/blog/2011/12/27/from-the-archives-why-i-baptized-our-babies/

    Blessings on you and your family as you baptize Addie Lee and Reagan

    • I read your post, and actually, I recall reading it before! Good stuff.

      I did focus on what “we” are doing, I suppose. You’re giving me fodder for a follow-up post on what the Spirit is doing during the rite.

      Thanks for the comment. and for the kind words…

  15. Thanks to all for considering my thoughts, and for the comments. Though we might not all agree, it is healthy for us to respect one another’s traditions. I’m glad we have this forum, where we can all voice our opinions without being lambasted, or someone yelling, “Anathema!”

    If you got nothing else out of the post, I hope that all of us will use the word “pusillanimous” at least once in the week to come.

    Peace of the Lord…

  16. Yes, I agree with Patrick K.,

    “Pure gospel” means that it is all from God’s side of the equation. Actually, pure gospel means that as far as our ‘doing’ is concerned, we aren’t even IN the equation.

  17. Just a random thought. For those who know their early church history well, would the “lack of fist-fighting” line of defense apply to the argument against women’s ordination as well? Is there evidence to suggest that at some point an egalitarian pastorate was overturned?

    • To quote http://www.garrett.edu/gmedia/pdf/communications/Symposium-Ordination-Paper-Papandrea.pdf

      There is no doubt that there was female leadership in the New Testament church, and there is no reason to question the influence of the women whose names are associated with some of the earliest congregations in Rome, now considered title churches (Cecilia, Balbina, Prisca, Sabina, Anastasia, Susanna, Prassede & Pudenziana).

      However, it seems that as the hierarchy developed, the norms of a patriarchal culture (cf. I Corinthians 14:34-35, I Timothy 2:11) and the fears of Montanism and of association with non-christian female priesthoods led the mainstream Christian church to exclude women from the vocation of ministry.

      So, my interpretation of this would be that restricting ordination was based upon three factors that made it the most common sense approach. (Hence the lack of fighting over the issue.)

      I would argue that these factors are not longer in play, and as there is no biblical injunction against the ordination of women, denominations should be free to make that move (as my evangelical denomination did this summer.)

      • Everyone knows the NT describes women in “leadership.” Well, what I’m really looking for here, without making it all about this issue, is whether or not we have evidence pointing to women presbyters/bishops prior to a decision to stop doing this.

      • …and speaking of your denomination, you’re C&MA, right? Haven’t they always been a sacramental tradition?

        • C&MA practices Baptism and the Lords Table. Our Canadian president likes to refer to them as sacraments because he says they are more than just “symbols”. However, the official position is:

          Believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper are recognized as the two ordinances of the Church as commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is an act of obedience for all believers. While other modes of believer’s baptism are recognized, baptism by immersion is taught and practiced as the scriptural mode. The Lord’s Supper is administered regularly and offered to all believers.

          … which in my mind does not sound that sacramental.

          • BTW that paper you linked was outstanding. My position hasn’t changed, I certainly learned a new way to think through the issue.

    • Miguel,
      when I was a Protestant, I came to the conclusion that, for Protestants, women can serve in any capacity that men can. There are as many scriptures in context to marshall for women’s ordination as against, and frankly, those favoring, along with attention to cultural context in interpreting them) make more sense in the whole picture.

      As Michael Bell quotes, women had a whole lot of influence in the early church, and there arose an ordained female diaconate, as the ministry of the deacon transitioned from being that of overseeing offerings (of all kinds) in the church to those who helped in administration of the sacraments. It was considered unseemly for men to be helping the adult women dress after baptism, for example. The Eastern church never “officially” disallowed this ministry by women, but it fell into disuse. Some EO bishops are calling for some iteration of the female diaconate to be put into practice again.

      However, the Eastern church never ordained women to the priesthood or made them bishops (though there is a catacomb painting I have seen of a woman labeled “episkopos” – but a singular example, and we’re not totally clear on what that means). The reason is not mainly that Jesus only chose males to be apostles, because in the EOC there are many women (and men) noted to be apostles, not just The Twelve. It’s not that women are less human or less worthy than men. It’s that what was handed down (“traditioned” in Greek) from Jesus to The Twelve, and on from there, was that only men should be priests and overseers, because of the iconic view of reality and what the church actually is. There is a good treatment of this iconic view as part of the book “Church, Papacy and Schism” by P. Sherrard, 3rd edition, if you’re interested. In addition, the priesthood in Judaism was always male, and that is part of the equation.

      Believe me, I have done a lot of study on this. It was really the only major hurdle for me becoming Orthodox. I found that in EO theology women are *always* viewed as equally human alongside men, and “on the ground” women do absolutely everything (aside from being ordained) that men do; it’s not a question of a power struggle or injustice toward women or viewing women as less than human. Orthodoxy passed my (quite exacting) test.

      Dana

      • Thanks for the detailed info! I like your line of reasoning, and it is my hope that confessional Lutherans will make this sort of appeal for the male-only pastorate, and not resort to silly Calvinist complementarian hijinks. It’s good to know about the historic precedent for the female diaconate as well. The LCMS allows them, though other confessional groups (reformed like PCA, OCP) do not. If the EO church allows it, that is a strong argument for it imo, but I can’t help but wonder why the Roman Catholic church wouldn’t allow it if the EO church does. But either way, in keeping with my inquiry, it seems the historical argument favors infant baptism, a male pastorate, and an egalitarian diaconate. Not that it settles these issues, but it is helpful in processing them.

        • Carthusian nuns (Catholic) continue to be ordained deaconesses–so the Catholic Church does not entirely rule out the possibility.

      • In Catholicism, too, Dana, women can fill pastoral roles, just not be priest. Our parish a few years ago didn’t have a resident priest, but we did have a nun who was the pastor. She preached, taught, administered, visited the sick, and did everything else a Protestant pastor would do; she only did not officiate at the sacraments. A priest came for those.

      • I believe the women in the Diaconate were doing the Baptisms of women as the one being baptized was went into the font naked. The ending of this baptism practice contributed to the end of the practice of female deacons.

  18. What many do not know is that, still today in the Orthodox Church [and in the day of John Wesley], infants are immersed. Provisions were made in Wesley’s day if the health of the infant prevented it, but that was the exception, not the rule. “Sprinkling” is a Johnny-come-lately.

    As to the writer’s experience– ” My parents had taught me about Christ from an early age…”–so would be the experience of any child, baptized or not, who had faithful parents.

    Karl Barth, though finding no NT justification for infant baptism, basically recognized the reality that it will continue. That is basically my view, i.e. not to try to condemn those who practice it, but to simply seek to be faithful to what the NT shows about it.

    As to Reformers, Karlstadt did not practice infant baptism.

    And it is hard to believe anyone could hold ill feelings for the Anabaptists for faithfully following their understanding of baptism.
    http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B3689.html

  19. love the post! two points:
    1) one of my seminary profs said it this way, “in baptism, regardless of age, we all come as infants. none of us really know what we’re getting into.”

    2) one of the practical downfalls of believer baptism “only” is the deficiency in addressing those who are unable to make a statement of faith. can a person with severe Down’s Syndrome ever be baptized? what does this mean if the answer is no? what does it mean if this person cannot give a statement of faith or testimony? is baptism not for him/her?

  20. I see this party is over. Ah well, no one seems to have mentioned that Jesus was obviously Baptist, baptized by the founder of the denomination himself. The Bible doesn’t say, but my guess is that they weren’t Southern Baptists because it was the southerners who gave Jesus most of his problems, tho his own home town got their licks in too.

    But what about Apollos? He was Baptist and the Priscilla and Aquila team had to take him aside and correct him, much as people do here. Now this raises the question, was Jesus as a Baptist really saved? In the following chapter 19 of Acts, Paul runs into a whole group of Baptists and he rebaptizes the lot of them. What if the only denomination today that weren’t real Christians were the Baptists? Talk about turning things upside down.

    However I note that he does so in the name of the Lord Jesus, not in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as prescribed. So were they still unsaved? Was Paul unsaved? It never says how Paul was baptized, only that he was. What if the incorrect formula was used? For that matter it doesn’t say how Jesus was baptized. What if it wasn’t in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit? Where would that leave all the rest of us?

  21. Something that just struck me pertaining to this discussion – couldn’t we draw a parallel between the Christian practice of baptism and that of Jewish circumcision? No one questions that in the old covenant God commanded for infant Jewish boys to be circumcised. Therefore, baptism of infants can not be rejected on grounds of lack of confession, or else the same principle would dictate that OT Jewish circumcision would have to be viewed as illegitimate as well.

    • Yes and if all of the sudden infants had been left out and not recieved the new bloodless sign of the covenant “baptism” we would have seen a huge controversy. Baptism replaced circumcision and the Lords Supper replaced the Passover.

  22. “Unless faith is present or comes to life in baptism, the ceremony is of no avail; indeed it is a stumbling-block not only at the moment we receive baptism but for all our life thereafter.”–Martin Luther

  23. I’m curious about one possible scenario as it relates to infant baptism.
    In this scenario, this guy (we’ll call him Tim) was baptized as an infant in one of the church traditions that does that. Tim grows up as a typical church kid in his younger years, but as a teenager, he grows disinterested in church, though he still attends. Tim then leaves home and goes off to college, where (like so many do) he drifts away from the faith of his childhood, stops attending church, and parties like a rock star.
    Years later — after a lot of hedonistic living and general indifference toward matters of faith and belief — Tim has a major God moment, and, as he perceives it, comes to a real faith in Christ for the first time in his life.
    Tim starts going back to his childhood church, where he’s still officially on the church roll as a baptized member. Tim feels a strong conviction that he should be baptized before the church as a sign of his faith and his repentance from his former way of life.
    I’m curious how the various traditions that do infant baptism would respond to Tim if he came to the pastor or priest and asked to be rebaptized.