Babies cant repent

I’m in dialogue with a protestant who’s arguing against baptizing babies and I’ve managed to refute just about everything but she mentioned that baptism is related to repentance according to Acts 2:38. How should I respond to this?

Start with Acts 2: 14 or better yet start with Acts 2: 5.

Who is Peter is speaking to?
What is the location?
Why are Parthians, Medes, Elamites and others gathered together?
Who would naturally be the subject at the birth of the Catholic Church when Peter exhorted the crowd to hear these words? Acts 2: 22
Who is capable of saving themselves? Acts 2: 40
What is the final result? Acts 2: 41.

In general, when there is a single out-of-context verse, establish the reality of verses above and below.

Of course, absolutely, the personal repentance of each person in the crowd is necessary for the Sacrament of Baptism. :smiley:

Baby’s don’t have anything to repent for. When adults are baptized, they need to repent before they are brought into the community of God’s people. Children can be brought in to be a part of God’s people because they have done nothing to repent for.

What about Original Sin :confused: If a baby dies before Baptism…what happens?

The Magisterium has not definitively answered that question yet. My opinion is that God grants the infant a baptism of blood, prior to death. So the infant dies in the state of grace and will have eternal life.

“Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.” Pope Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, n. 7.

“For God forbid that all children, of whom daily so great a multitude die, would perish, but that also for these, the merciful God, who wishes no one to perish, has procured some remedy unto salvation…” Pope Innocent III, Denzinger, n. 410.

“Since Christ died for everyone, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in this Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.” Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, n. 22.

“Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, n. 10

Baptism of Blood sounds right… especially in the case of aborted babies! :crying:

I don’t often post in this forum, although I do consider it a valuable resource. I was quite active in an online “open” forum on religion and spirituality, but the numbers have dwindled off there, so perhaps I’ll start participating more here now.

First things first, as with any apologetic response, I offer it with a sincere and prayerful heart and always with the admission that if I were to profess anything counter to Catholic teaching I am all too willing to be corrected by the Magisterium.

Regarding infant baptism, there are few things that get my blood boiling quicker than the suggestion that I (baptized as an infant) am somehow “unbaptized” or received an illegitimate baptism. The implication is that I do not belong to the family of God and presumably not even a Christian. The ideological chasm that separates the Catholic church teaching on the efficacy of the sacrament (which does not hinge on the belief/unbelief of either the recipient or the administer of the sacrament) and the proponents of “adult only baptism” is huge. I note with interest the Catholic teaching that the sacrament leaves “an indelible mark on the soul” as opposed to the heretical teaching that the “ceremony” offers only a public declaration symbolic at best, meaningless at worst and certainly not “necessary”.

Of course you are dealing with a sola-scripturist, so any appeal to early church tradition like those available from Iranaeus and Origen listed in this excellent resource here; will most likely fall on deaf ears.
Perhaps the most prudent advice I could offer is that you challenge the entire foundation on which they stand. I refuse to get drawn in to dogmatic dialogue with “bible alone” Christians until such time as they can reasonably respond to what Chesterton pointed out as their “obvious blunder” (ie; that Catholic traditions are somehow forbidden in the Bible) The truth of the matter is that the Bible itself is a Catholic tradition, predated by the creed and even earlier by “infant baptism”. So they build their castle on sand. They appeal to the authority of a book and refuse to accept the authority of the source that compiled it. “Restorationist” churches are even more guilty of it, appealing to an undemonstrable tradition that dates back to the time of the apostles when history clearly indicates otherwise.

“Babies can’t repent” it’s true (and because they have no personal sin, which requires an understanding of right and wrong “Natural Law” and the free will decision to choose evil rather than good) but they are born with original sin which is very different from personal sin.

Hope that helps,

Peace; DD

A suggested argument of infant baptism:

None of us bear the guilt of original sin, as an adult or as an infant. Sin requires a voluntary immoral act of thought, word, or deed. However, the sons of Adam do bear the punishment of that one sin of Adam. Sin is not a thing injected into the carnal body of man at birth; sin is not ‘added’ to our nature. As sin is often compared to waging war against God we can say Adam and Eve went to war against God with weapons of relativism and obviously lost.

The original justice accompanying Adam’s creation was a moral quality or habit that perfectly joined the will to an enlightened understanding of the will of God. Inexplicably joined to the other Cardinal virtues, justice gives the rights to honorable prudence, temperance, and fortitude in moral acts. Prior to his original act of rebellion it could be said Adam ‘abided’ in God, much like we are invited to abide in Christ when partaking in the Eucharist. [Cf. John 6:57]. The punishment of original sin is something lacking from the original justice that once belonged to the patriarch of all men and something we would have rightly inherited. Prior to the fall, Adam stood before God as a just man. The original man was created with a soul that was perfectly joined to the intellect and perfectly united with the will of God, overflowing the knowledge of truth; the intellect functioned in the light of God’s will disciplining the lower appetites through reason alone. However, because of his unjust act we bear the just punishment for the sin of one man.

Justification, “the sanctification of the whole being” [CCC 1995] is received in Baptism as an effect of grace, re-introducing man to the mercy of God, weakening of the original privation of justice whereby a new man is ‘born again’ into the “rectitude of divine love”. [CCC 1991]

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault [guilt] in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. [CCC 405]

Membership into the community is the child’s ‘birthright’. In baptism Christ institutes a birthright into a spiritual community which is claimed for them by their parents. Baptism’s function is cleansing the soul as opposed to a cleansing of blood.

The Jewish ritual was both spiritual and hygienic and definitely unique marked of the male body. Circumcision is a physical mark of a spiritual connection with God and the community. Brit milah was an obligation of the father to care for the infant child’s spiritual well being. Failing circumcision on the 8th day the father as well as the child suffered a spiritual separation from the tribe of Judaism. The child retained this communal separation until he was circumcised as an adult. It left both father and child unable to enter the Kingdom of God to COME – one of the most server punishments in the Jewish culture – excommunication. I’m told the solemn ritual that accompanies the brit milah is accompanied with prayers and blessings recited with the child receiving his Hebrew name. Circumcision marked the Jew spiritually and physically as a member of the Jewish community and a future member of the yet to come Kingdom of God. It joined their manhood to God. St. Paul tells us we can view baptism as another form of circumcision, a spiritual connection with Abraham, the Father of the Jews, with Moses, with David, with Christ, thereby becoming eligible to receive the divinely promised salvation of the Kingdom that came with Christ. The result isn’t a NEW Baptismal ritual, but rather an entrance, a door with a universal doormat, opened to all ushering us into the promised Kingdom of God to be presented by Christ to God.

Nicodemus, a high ranking Rabbi, was not surprised by the use of water and fire widely used in Judaism. The Jews of Christ’s era would have immediately connected the waters of baptism to "Tevilah” (teh-VEE-luh), a Jewish cleansing ritual performed in a pool of ‘moving’ water called a mikvah. The Jewish Tevilah or baptism was a liturgical gathering at a ritual bath used for spiritual purification. It is used primarily in conversion rituals as well as a ritual cleansing after a woman’s natural cycles. The Chasidim, a branch of Orthodox Judaism, immerse in mikvah regularly for general spiritual purification.

“Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). As responsible parents we carry our children into the fountains of redemption with us. This is a unique doorway to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Kingdom of God. Acts chapter 2, verse 38 speaks clearly of the remission of sins; in Acts 22:16 “Be baptized, and wash away thy sins”: in Acts 5:25 sqq. Because "Christ loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it: that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of water in the word of life: that he might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.“ In baptism all sin is washed away , made holy: an infusion of supernatural graces that renders the recipient an adopted son of God.

Circumcision leaves an indelible mark on the body, so too Baptism leaves an indelible mark on the soul claiming us for Christ. We are marked as his for eternity; this is his promise in so long as the mark shines through the disfigurement of our own sin.


The Council of Trent: “If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema.”

So we cannot say that “none of us bear the guilt of original sin”. It is a type of guilt, though not the same type as from personal sin. And we cannot say that original sin is solely a punishment, and not a real type of sin. For original sin “has the true and proper nature of sin”.

Persons who die in a state of original sin alone are sent to Hell, to be punished, as the Councils of Florence and Lyons II both infallibly taught.

I actually heard something on EWTN the other day in regard to this. There is a connection between the Old Testament tradition of circumcising babies and the New Testament tradition of baptizing babies. You may want to remind this Protestant person that the babies who were circumcised also could not repent, but were nonetheless grafted into the old tradition.

Babies can’t repent, but parents of babies can repent on their behalf. They have this authority, just as Jewish parents had the authority to bind their children to the Old Covenant of God through circumcision.

Incidentally, I just had an interesting thought about this… Mary is given to us as our mother, meaning she has this same parental authority over us. Perhaps she, in her parental authority, chooses baptism for children who die without baptism, and whose biological parents have not chosen baptism for them.

You’re absolutely right. We do indeed bear the guilt of the original sin, but not by the individual ‘act’ of sinning, rather “transfused into all by propagation.” And, because of the punishment of that one act we are born deprived of original justice.

“Original Sin is that men are born without the fear of God and without trust in God, is to be entirely rejected [concupiscence], since it is manifest to every Christian that to be without the fear of God and without trust in God is rather the actual guilt of an adult than the offence of a recently-born infant, which does not possess as yet the full use of reason, as the Lord says “Your children which had no knowledge between good and evil,” Deut 1:39. (Johann Eck, The Confutatio Pontificia, 1530)

What I meant to say, and should have said in this regard, is that our acts, vis a vis our act of sin can belong to the choices made by the individual or to the choices made by the community in which the individual resides. Considering the nature of the entire human race in this second way we do indeed participate in the guilt - we participate in the act of the original sin by the virtue of our being part of the human community.

The powers conferred with original justice in the creation of Adam were meant to be transmitted to the whole of the human race. Since, however, Adam sinned and was deprived of his original justice this part of him cannot be found in successive generations which make-up all of mankind. Hence the moral and voluntary aspects of sin are both present and, as it were, negatively inherited - negative in that Adam cannot father the original justice he himself is not privileged with. [Cf Aquinas, Thomas (2003-02-20). On Evil (pp. 196-198). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition]


We trust babies who die before Baptism to Loving Mercy of God.
There is no personal guilt in, and therefore no need to repent for, Original Sin.

Here’s a Catholic Answers tract on Original Sin:

Welcome, glad you’re here. Good post by the way.

Hello Shaolen.

I have been through a brief encapsulation of this issue before.

Hope this is helpful.

God bless.


Here is some of it . . .

She has been (wrongly) taught that Acts 2:38 is a catechesis for Baptismal instruction. This is a partial truth (it is among other things, a catechetical instruction for the hearers but not for every single person). St. Peter is preaching the Gospel to these men in Acts 2. That’s all.

[INDENT]ACTS 2:38 38 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 shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Ask her the question:

Concerning Acts St. Peter here in Acts 2:38; is St. Peter. . . .

A. Preaching the Gospel to his ADULT hearers at the time?
B. Giving COMPLETE Catechetical Instruction on ELIGIBILITY for Baptism here?
C. Both?
D. Neither (please give alternative answer if neither)?

She will say “B” or “C”.

Then take her back to Acts 2:5 and tell her Acts specifically states St. Peter was talking to “men”.

ACTS 2:5 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.

So if “B” (or “C”) is true, does this mean “women” cannot be baptized too? (Remember the context of Acts 2:38 includes Acts 2:5 . . . “MEN”).

She will know it doesn’t mean that (but by her own PRINCIPLES HERE it should).

This will begin to raise questions in her mind. She will bring up other verses such as “RISE” and be baptized calling on his name. She will ask you: "How can a baby “rise”?

She will use a verse that says: “BELIEVE and be baptized”. Then she will say, “How can a baby ‘believe’?”

You will say these verses too just point to the Apostolic preaching (to whom they were being preached to). That’s all. It is not a dissertation on who should NOT be Baptized.

If it were, would it mean that if an adult lost their legs they should NOT be Baptized? Why not?

Because he/she cannot “RISE” and be Baptized.

She will say: “You don’t understand . . . This “RISE” just means for the hearers. It is not a blanket statement about who cannot be Baptized.”

And you will say: “Bingo. I agree. But this same principle ALSO applies to infants.”

Then you will say likewise:

2nd THESSALONIANS 3:4, 10 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things which we command. . . . . 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.

You will say: “Does this verse mean we should not feed our babies? After all, they “will not work”?”

She will say: “No! Of course it doesn’t mean that.”

And you will say: “I agree. And using the EXACT SAME PRINCIPLE, you can Baptize babies.”

On the principle that this verse pertains to a specific group of people. That’s all you can say about . . . .[/INDENT]

(See the whole post here)

From St. Luke 18

15People were bringing even infants** to him that he might touch them,**and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.g16Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

How do you bring an infant to Jesus? By baptism!

From St. Mark 1

People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

Now I can prove that all does not mean all in this passage, but if it does, then, unless there were no infants in Judea, John the Baptist MUST have been baptizing them. When Jesus was baptized, why didn’t he tell John that he was wrong to baptize infants? ( I realize that what John’s baptism did was different than what happens in a Christian baptism)

Ask him why we have historical and scriptural evidence that infants were also baptized.
My blog article may help some. The Case For Infant Baptism

Good post DD! :slight_smile: I agree, the OP is probably dealing with an Evangelical. Most of the main stream Protestant churches believe in infant Baptism. Evangelicals, and their root the Baptists, do not believe in Baptismal Regeneration. Baptism for them is reduced to a sort confirmation of their “Accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.” That personal decision is how they are saved, contrary to the Bible. They are blind and led by the blind. They have far greater issues to work out than infant baptism. It is just one of those things they feel they can fluster Catholics with easily. (Ordinarily they do succeed too! :frowning: )

Look forward to you posting on these boards!

What about Jewish babies, Hindu & Moslem babies who would never receive Baptism even if they lived, and had no chance to know Jesus & accept Him ?

Maybe there is a ‘Limbo’ where there is no suffering but they cannot enjoy the Beatific Vision.

[INDENT]Acts 2:37-39
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 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 shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children …”
[/INDENT]Peter was responding to their question, as to what should they do, with the assumption that his hearers had the ability to think.

Some people mistakenly contend that the phrase “Repent and be baptized” and “Believe and be baptized” demonstrate that only those old enough to repent can be baptized. But, consider
2 Thessalonians 3:10,
“If Anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”

It says **anyone. ** Does that mean that we should starve our babies ? They don’t work. Of course we should not. The verbs “to repent”, “to believe”, and “to work” apply only to the extent that a person is capable of doing so.

Infants when moved by God’s grace can receive His Gift of faith. Consider Luke 1:44, when Mary brought Jesus to St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist. Elizabeth replied, “The infant in my womb leaped for joy…” So, we cannot scientifically measure a person’s predisposition to receiving God’s saving Grace.

When a person commits personal sins, he is turning his heart away from God. After committing a personal sin, an adult must repent and, through an act of faith, turn his heart back toward God in order to receive the grace at baptism. In essence, he cannot have a disposition contrary to God’s sacramental grace in order to receive it. For example, a disbelieving heart - one that stands in rejection of Him through personal sin - would be an impediment to a valid baptism.

Luke 18:17
“Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Compare these words to John 3: 3 and John 3: 5. We must enter into God’s Kingdom the same way an infant enters or accepts it. That is, we must enter it without a heart of disbelief that willfully chooses personal sin against the will of God so as to obstruct the reception of His grace.

Someone who is old enough to have sinned personally must make an Act of Faith to turn away from the sin he has chosen and back towards God, thereby opening his heart. An infant, however, does not have any personal sin, so he has no sin for which to repent. Since he has not closed his heart through a willful rejection of God’s will, his heart is already open and capable of receiving God’s saving grace as Luke 18:17 says. He is a fit candidate for the reception of baptism and the saving grace it gives.



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