August 20, 2014
By Tim Bench
One of the more prevalent practices amongst many denominations today is that of “infant baptism”, the practice of “sprinkling” a newborn baby, thus “baptizing” the tiny infant. This practice is most commonly associated with the Catholic Church, proponents often arguing that such “baptisms” are necessary and ordained of God due to “original sin”.
Using the Bible as our compass, source, and guide, is “infant baptism” approved by God? Is it Biblical? Can this practice be justified via the “original sin” defense? Are there specific scriptures which would justify such a practice? In this brief article, we will attempt to look specifically and what the Bible does, and likewise does NOT say, about baptism.
Quick definitions need to be established here….”original sin” refers to the belief amongst many faiths that man is BORN with sin…..thanks to Adam (Genesis 3:1), all humans, from the moment of their birth, have already “sinned”. This viewpoint runs counter to sin being a choice (Romans 5:12), sin being the result of transgression, not transmission (1 John 3:4), the inequity of parents’ sins NOT being passed on to children (Ezekiel 18:20), and the fact that children are called innocent by God (Psalms 106:34-38).
Let us commence with direct and actual comments from Catholic sources in defense of this practice….
“Infant baptism is one of the traditions that was handed down, but not recorded in the Scriptures…Jesus handed it down to His disciples as one of the unwritten events (Cf. John 21:25) for the disciples to practice and hand on to their successors. It was passed down as a tradition carried out by the disciples as instructions on how to baptize infants….Infant baptism is a tradition and practice of the early Church that is just as valid then, now and will be forever….The Bible does not contain anything against the baptism of infants.”
From “A Simple Defense of Infant Baptism” by Jon Jakoblich at www.aboutcatholics.com.
(Note that even a Catholic source admits that such a practice is “not recorded in the Scriptures”….this author has heard similar justifications for praying to Mary, for example, based on “The Bible does contain anything AGAINST praying to Mary…”).
So WHEN did infant baptism begin to appear? And what were the factors which led to it gaining acceptance?
“There is general agreement that there is no firm evidence for infant baptism before the latter part of the second century. This fact does not mean that it did not occur, but it does mean that supporters of the practice have a considerable chronological gap to account for. Many replace the historical silence by appeal to theological or sociological considerations. . . .
The most plausible explanation for the origin of infant baptism is found in the emergency baptism of sick children expected to die soon so that they would be assured of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. There was a slow extension of baptizing babies as a precautionary measure. It was generally accepted, but questions continued to be raised about its propriety into the fifth century. It became the usual practice in the fifth and sixth centuries.”
From “Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries” by Everett Ferguson, Abilene Christian University, pages 856-857.
The parameters of baptism in the New Testament are specific in regard to who, how, and why a person is baptized….first, a person must be TAUGHT….Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” A tiny newborn baby, by definition and by logic, is incapable of being “taught” ANYTHING, lacking cognitive ability.
A person is to “believe” BEFORE they are baptized…..Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned”. Again, an infant is incapable of “belief”, and would thus be disqualified from consideration for baptism, unless one chooses to simply ignore Biblical doctrines.
Baptism involves repentance, turning away from one’s previous egregious sins…..Acts 17:30, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands men everywhere to repent” (see also Luke 13:3 and Luke 24:47). How does a baby verbally “repent” of sin??
Confession of Christ is a prerequisite for baptism…..Matthew 10:32-33, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before man, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heave. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven”(see also Romans 10:9-10 and Acts 8:35-38).
Again, it is ludicrous to accept that a baby would possess the mental ability to confess ANYTHING, specifically that he/she would recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and thus the savior of all mankind. A baby is unable to follow ANY of these commands, and thus, would NOT be a potential candidate for baptism. It is also worth noting that throughout the entire New Testament, we see not ONE example of a baby being “baptized”….ever. In NOT ONE of the ten examples of conversion in the Book of Acts (given by God to answer the query “What must I do to be saved?”) is there a single example of babies being baptized. Examples of baptisms abound, from John the Baptist at the Jordan, to Nicodemus (even to Jesus Christ Himself) being baptized, but in each of these instances (always adults) the formula remains consistent with Biblical command…..hear, believe, repentance, confession….proponents of infant baptism have been, are, and forever will be unable to provide Biblical examples of baptism performed outside these established guidelines.
The entire purpose of baptism via immersion is for the remission of sins (see Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21). If a baby is incapable of sin (see Ezekiel 28:15, 1 John 3:4, James 4:17), there serves no purpose whatsoever for a baby to be baptized, and even Catholics would be forced to admit (albeit grudgingly) that a baby CANNOT fulfill the actions leading up TO baptism.
Mark 10:15 serves as “justification” for many who would support infant baptism….”Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” These words are attributed to Jesus Himself, and readers should note that this verse does NOT specify, hint at, or mention baptism in any form. This verse also serves as a substantive argument AGAINST the entire concept of “original sin”, which many use as their very basis for infant baptism in the first place…..if infants are born in a state of “sin”, due to Adam’s “fall” in the garden of Eden, why would Jesus state that unless a person becomes LIKE a “little child”, he will not enter heaven? Why would Jesus possibly suggest to followers that to gain heaven, they would need to become like sin-stained babies?? Matthew 19:14 echoes similar sentiment…..”But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. If children were born “sinners”, Jesus would certainly NOT be telling us to be like them.
“Infant baptism is objectionable because the Bible does not teach it. The Bible does not name the parents of even one infant that was baptized. It does not give the name of one infant that was baptized. It does not state the time when one infant was baptized. It does not name the place where an infant was baptized. It does not give the name of one preacher that ever baptized an infant. It does not contain one command to any preacher to baptize infants. It does not give one reason for baptizing infants. There is, in fact, no foundation in the scriptures for infant baptism”.
-from “What About Infant Baptism?” by Haun Publishing, page 11.
“When we search through the scriptures there is not even one verse where we see or find a child baptized into Christ. Since the scriptures have been given by inspiration of God, we must follow the doctrines of the scriptures rather than the doctrines of men; for only in this way can man be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
“Let The Bible Speak….about Infant baptism” by Nat Kissi.
“Only those who have reached the "age of accountability" are accepted for baptisms. It is pointed out that the examples given in the New Testament are always of those who have heard the gospel preached and have believed it. Faith must always precede baptism, so only those old enough to understand and believe the gospel are considered fit subjects for baptism.”
From “Who are the Churches of Christ and What do they Believe?” by Batsell Barrett Baxter.
“Look into God’s Word and see if you can find any evidence whatever to support the doctrine of infant baptism. You will not find one instance of it. You will not find one command to do it, not in any one of the sixty-six books of the Bible, not even if you search it diligently from Genesis to Revelation. The practice of infant baptism does not rest upon any command from God; infant baptism is not found in God’s Word…the matter is settled when I fail to find any authority from God for the practice.”
“Concerning Infant Baptism” by Richard Ramsey, Word and Work, November 1953.
In summary, there simply exists no Biblical authority for such a practice. If you have participated in infant baptism, either yourself personally or perhaps your children or grandchildren, it is the hope of this author that this article would serve to clearly illustrate Biblical, not man-made “traditions”, on this topic and that readers would consider this article with an open mind. Multiple men on this website would be happy to address and/or discuss any additional questions you might have, and would be happy to study this, or any other Biblical doctrine or topic, in further detail.