Why should we baptize infants? My initial response to the question is, why not?
This post sets out to put forward reasons why infant baptism is reasonable. It will not and cannot be exhaustive. One can easily write large books on the subject. What I give is a summery.
Infant Baptism is Biblical
Let me first say that I am a Catholic and as such my view of the bible is that it’s not a catechism or theology textbook. Treating the Bible in isolation and trying to derive doctrine from it is a mistaken approach in my view. That aside, we can look at the Bible for evidence of the belief and practice of the early church.
Firstly the Bible neither explicitly condemns or approves the practice of infant baptism. The arguments for or against come down to the question of why we baptize. Those who are opposed to the practice generally believe it is merely a public statement of one’s conversion and the act of baptism itself has no impact on the spiritual life or salvation of the person. On the other hand infant baptism is reasonable if you believe it does something and has a role in one’s salvation.
So why do we baptize?
Looking at the scriptures and what they have to say about baptism what sort of answers can we draw to the above question?
While there are certainly those who disagree, the baptism of St. John the Baptist is not Christian baptism as should be quite clear from Acts 19. Our Lord’s baptism by John is a very interesting subject with which to get sidetracked. So I will pass over it simply saying that contact with Christ transforms. His baptism transformed baptism.
After the saving work of the cross and resurrection. Jesus commands the apostles to go, with his authority, into the whole world and make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them (Mt 28:18-20). It is here that Jesus is establishing Christian baptism. How do you make a disciple? You baptize them and teach them. On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter stands up and preaches the death and resurrection of Christ. Those who come to believe ask him “what shall we do” . His response “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) There are other passages as well but I think these two are sufficient to demonstrate that the normal means of becoming a Christian is Baptism. Not saying the sinners prayer. Not by asking Jesus to come into your heart. Those things may be helpful but they aren’t the means Christ established and the Church has used to make people Christians.
So we baptize to make disciples. “for the remission of sins” We also baptize to forgive sins. “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” Resulting in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In Romans chapter 6. St. Paul teaches that baptism unites us to the death of Christ so that we can be joined to his resurrection. It kills the “old man” within us and buries him with Christ. This “old man” would be the falleness within us, to use western theological terms this would be the “stain of original sin”. It’s a complex passage but he’s certainly saying baptism alters us.
St. Paul also teaches that baptism is the new covenant replacement of circumcision. “ In whom (Christ) also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11-12)
Other important passages would be: 1 Peter 3:21 “baptism saves us”. Mark 16:16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”. Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Ephesians 5:26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse it (the Church) with the washing of water by the word,”
Much more could be said in reference to baptism in the New Testament but getting down to business. If Baptism makes one a Christian, gives the Holy Spirit, unites to Jesus, is the new circumcision (which was given to children), saves and supernaturally changes one by giving supernatural life; why on earth would Christian parents want to deny that to their children? Yes young children are not guilty of actual sin. Forgiveness of personal sin is the only benefit not received by infants who are baptized. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) Shouldn’t we? Baptism is the means he established by which we come to him.
I had initially intended to include historical information, I’ll follow up to this later.