This is Part 3 of my series on Baptism. If you have not read Part 1 or Part 2 , I urge you to read them.
An early practice of Baptism was infant baptism. Some people find that the argument for infant Baptism is an argument from silence. The same can be said about believers Baptism. There is no passage of Scripture that tells us that infants cannot be baptized. This argument comes from Nick Kuhns, who adheres to the Methodist theology and was told, by his Baptist friends, that he was not truly baptized since he was baptized at birth.
The Protestant Argument:
Premise 1: Nowhere does the Bible specifically state that infants were baptized.
Premise 2: Infants cannot have faith.
Premise 3: Baptism is for believers only.
Conclusion: Therefore, infants cannot be baptized.
Premise 1 is correct; nowhere does the Bible specifically state that infants were baptized. If this were the criteria for promulgating doctrine, then we would not have the Trinity, Protestants would not have Sola Fide or Sola Scriptura. Since Protestants do not follow Premise 1, there is no need for our explanation to follow it either however, it is important to see if infants were excluded from Baptism as well. I will take a look at all three premises in this article with Premises 2 and 3 will be handled together.
While nowhere does the Bible specifically state that infants were baptized, we also see no place that this was condemned either. What we do have is Jesus saying in Matthew 19:14-15 (DRV), “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.” We can also look at the parallel passage in Luke 18:15-16 (DRV), “And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Matthew’s use of the word paidion for children is consistently used, by him, for infants such as in Matthew 2:8 in reference to the visit of the three wise men to Jesus despite it being a more general term. It makes sense here to use Luke’s rendering, brephe, which is a more specific term meaning infant, than Matthew’s. While this is not specific to Baptism, it connotes that we would need a very good reason not to allow children, or more correctly infants, to come to Jesus. We also see quite a few passages referring to families or households being baptized such as:
Acts 11:14: “he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.”
Acts 16:15: “And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.”
Acts 16:33: “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family.”
Acts 18:8: “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.”
1 Corinthians 1:16: “(I did baptize also the household of Steph′anas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.)”
It would be quite hard to presume that none of these households contained children. It becomes even harder when we understand what was meant by household in those days. The household could include multiple generations, servants and slaves. If servants and slaves were in the household, it would be extremely unlikely that there would be no infants among them. While this is not conclusive, it weighs heavily in the favor of infant Baptism, even if we excluded both servants and slaves. If infants were not to be baptized we would expect that there would be some verbiage to exclude them but instead we do not find any, not just in these quoted verses but in any of the surrounding verses as well. In the above quoted about Baptism (Acts 11:14, 16:15, 33, 18:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:16), we also see that only, what appears to be, the head of the household, or at least a parent, was a believer, not the entire family.
We see circumcision, in Genesis 17, as the entry into the old covenant and the male child needed to be circumcised on the eighth day. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:11-12 (DRV), “In whom also you are circumcised with circumcision not made by hand in despoiling of the body of the flesh: but in the circumcision of Christ. Buried with him in baptism: in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him up from the dead.” Paul’s parallel between baptism and circumcision confirms the Catholic position of infant Baptism and entry into the new covenant. It also shows us that in order to enter covenant with God, one does not necessarily need to believe, if under the age of reason, first but instead the faith of the parent suffices.
While the Bible does not specifically state that infants are to be Baptized, there is sufficient evidence, from the Bible, to at least conclude that it does not run contrary to Scripture. The need for faith prior to Baptism for each individual is not stated anywhere but there is plenty of evidence that shows that not everyone was required to have faith prior to Baptism. There is no good reason to keep Baptism from child since it is the entrance into the New Covenant with God.
The concluding argument is as follows:
Premise 1: Being baptized is to be “Born Again” in Christ.
Premise 2: Baptism saves us.
Premise 3: Baptism is allowable for infants
Premise 4: Baptism is the entrance into the new covenant.
Conclusion: Therefore, Baptism is necessary for salvation.
Note: The use of the Douay Rheims Version (DRV) is for accuracy in the translation from Greek to English.
If you have a suggestion for an apologetic article please leave me a comment and I will do my best to get to it or a similar topic. I will also credit you with the question.