Posts Tagged ‘infant baptism’

Many modern Christians vehemently reject the Church as the Teaching authority of the Christian faith. They claim to accept only what is explicitly taught in or can be proven by Scriptures, a doctrine called Sola Scriptura. This, obviously, not only generates friction between the two contrary views, but it poses a threat to the sound teaching of the faith, as more and more groups seem to emerge with their own ‘doctrines’ and beliefs, since they submit to no authoritative body.

I was recently involved in a discussion with a Bible Christian who refused to accept the doctrine of  Infant Baptism, in spite of   the many evidences, both in the Bible and more explicitly in the writings of the Church Fathers, that the early Christians indeed practiced children baptism already in the time of the Apostles. This debate becomes confusing to me when Evangelicals fail to explain why they accept the Church’s authority, for example, in regards to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and not on other issues. 

The Holy Trinity doctrine was not elaborated until later in Christianity because,  although the  Bible speaks of three distinct persons, it does not clearly state that they are One, as we understand the Holy Trinity today. Therefore, since  it was not a doctrine that was literally taught in the Scriptures, it had to be revealed to the Church by the Holy Spirit so as to prevent the spreading of heresies that emerged in the first four centuries of Christianity regarding the divinity of Our Lord.  In other words, the Holy Trinity doctrine was born of the discernment of the early Church Fathers, rather than Scriptures alone. In fact, the Church developed it from the biblical language used in New Testament passages such as the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19, but it only took substantially its present form by the end of the 4th century as a result of controversies concerning the proper sense in which to apply to God and Christ terms such as “person”, “nature”, “essence”, and “substance”.[5][6][7][8] ( source Wikipedia)

Trinitarianism contrasts with Nontrinitarian positions which include Binitarianism (one deity/two persons), Unitarianism (one deity/one person), the Oneness or Modalism belief, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints‘ view of the Godhead as three separate beings who are one in purpose rather than essence.

Now, going back to the to the topic of  infant baptism; this doctrine was notoriously supported by the early Church Fathers as it was considered an Apostolic Teaching which had been passed on through Sacred Tradition. In spite of many historical evidence for this, many modern Christians uncritically oppose to  it simply because infant baptism is not widely accepted amongst their fellow Bible Christians.

  • Origen’s (185-254 A.D.) view of baptism is direct and transparent:

“For what is sin? Could a child who has only just been born commit a sin? And yet he has sin for which it is commanded to offer a sacrifice, as Job 14:4ff and Psalm 51:5-7 show. For this reason the Church received from the Apostles the tradition to administer baptism to the children also. For the men to whom the secrets of divine mysteries had been entrusted knew that in everyone there were genuine sinful defilements, which had to be washed away with water and the Spirit.”

In the Catholic tradition, infants are baptized because of the stain of the original sin, however children are confirmed at around the age 12 or older, so that they can fully receive the gifts of the  Holy Spirit – same as the Apostles at Pentecost – and become ‘heralds’ of Christ. The Catholic Church sometimes refer to this profession of faith or Chrism as a ‘personal pentecost’, whereby we can clearly see that the element of faith is not merely of secondary importance for Catholics, but a fundamental aspect of personal conversion.

Altogether Christians have many more reasons to accept the Church’s discernment on infant baptism than Bible Christians have to reject it. It was to the Church that the Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit to teach and safeguard the truth.  It is the Church that St Paul called the ‘Pillar and the Ground of the Truth’ ( 1 Tim 3:14,15). It is not for individual believers the task of formulating ‘doctrines’ or interpreting the divine revelation, for this very reason Our Lord conducted an apostolate with the twelve who at Pentecost, empowered by the Holy Spirit, begun the mission of the Church which is to preach the Gospel in truth and with authority to all nations!

Read Full Post »

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

Although the Scripture does not make any explicitly command for infant baptism, it does make various references to it through a number of passages. The most notorious ones are those that state that new converts would be baptized with their entire household (Acts 16:15, 33; Acts 10:47-48) as a means of receiving God’s Grace. Because in Biblical times most households would include not only adults, but also children and even slaves, Catholics accept these passages as evidence for infant baptism. 

The Ritual of Baptism

Furthermore, because the Scriptures do say that baptism ‘washes our sins’ (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, Heb. 10:22-23 & others),  Catholic children and infants are baptized so that they can be washed clean of the stain of original sin. After the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, all people are now born with original sin due to our fallen human nature. Through the gift of grace in Baptism, God washes away this stain of original sin and makes us a part of His family and offer us eternal life. 

Psalm 51:5 – we are conceived in the iniquity of sin.  Job 14:1-4 – man that is born of woman is full of trouble and unclean.

However, Catholics believe that our loving Father would not wish to withhold His love and grace from anyone, including children. Baptism simply requires openness. Jesus said about children: 

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mtt 19:14, Mark 10:14 or Matt. 18:2-5) 

The Greek text of the scriptural passage in Acts 2:38, says: “Metanoesate kai bapistheto hekastos hymon.” The translation of this is: 

“If you repent, then each one who is a part of you and yours must each be baptized”. 

In stating ‘each one who is part of you’, this passage is actually saying that children, who are part of their parents, must be baptized as well as their parents. 

This teaching is echoed by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:39. 

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your *children (*teknon in Greek – which means infants, as the same word is used to describe eight-day old infants in Acts 21:21) and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 

St Paul makes reference to baptism as the ‘new circumcision’ of believers in Christ: 

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12) 

Can a Child make an act of faith?

It is frequently asked by non-catholics how an infant is capable of making an act of faith in order to receive baptism. The response of the Catholic Church is to follow the Biblical example of Christ. Jesus accepted the faith of others as an occasion of salvation, forgiveness and healing of another. The Church has always done likewise. In infant baptism, the faith of parents and sponsors is required.

Mk 2:1-5 When Jesus returned to Capernaum … They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Mt 8:5-13 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” … When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” … And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.

When we put all these pieces together it becomes clear that infant baptism is not a non-biblical ‘tradition’ Catholics adopted, but a teaching  accepted by the apostles of Jesus Christ themselves. The Scriptural evidence for the Catholic understanding is perfectly confirmed in the writings of the early Christians, for instance in this text by Origen: 

“The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of given baptism even to infants. For the apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which are washed away through water and the Spirit.” (Origen, 248 AD – Commentaries on Romans 5:9)

Read Full Post »