Infant Baptism - is it what God intended?

I copied this out of the Didache:

"And concerning baptism, in this manner baptize: when you have gone over these things, baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in running water.

  If you do not have running water, baptize in other water. If you are not able to use cold water, use warm. And if you have neither, pour water on the head three times, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And before baptism, the one baptizing and the one to be baptized should fast, as well as any others who are able. And you should instruct the one being baptized to fast one or two days before."

From this it does not look like the earliest teaching would apply to infants. If we look to scripture and teaching of the apostles, can we still come up with infant baptism, or do you need to look to teaching that develops later?

St. John Chrysostom wrote:

“You have seen how numerous are the gifts of baptism. Although many men think that the only gift it confers is the remission of sins, we have counted its honors to the number of ten. It is on this account that we baptize even infants, although they are sinless, that they may be given the further gifts of sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance, that they may be brothers and members of Christ, and become dwelling places of the Spirit.”
– John Chrysostom, Baptismal Instruction 3:6.

John Chrysostom looks like around 400 A.D… Can we look earlier? If we keep it at 1st century teaching, what do we find?

You can check this link.

But if you don’t find that convincing you can read the final word on Infant Baptism (according to John Henry Newman) written by Anglican Divine William Wall (1705) “The History of Infant Baptism.”

The case for Infant Baptism is so overwhelmingly documented that I don’t believe a thoughtful Christian can or should doubt it for an instant. True, in the Bible we don’t have explicit mentions of infant baptism, but according to Wall, it is because we latter day Christians do not understand the early Christian euphemisms for baptism that are found all over the New testament; as in today’s euphemism “Christening.” Everyone understands that to mean ordinary Christian Baptism. The early Christians referred to enlightening, illuminating, washing, and many other euphemisms that in today’s Bible translations, we lose the idea of what was actually meant.

All of this in addition to the fact that it is the constant and ancient tradition of the Catholic Church both East and West, and most of the main line Protestant churches as well.

The denial of infant baptism was never heard of before the extreme reformers did away with ALL of the Sacraments. Today the Baptists and fundamentalists continue in this tradition, using faulty biblical exegesis.

St. Irenæus (Against Heresies 2.22): “Christ came to save all who are reborn through Him to God — infants, children, and youths” (infantes et parvulos et pueros).

Good video - those are points I was considering - and needed a reminder on. Being a recent convert, I sometimes still wrestle with things. Thankfully as I search I am reminded why I became Catholic.

And thanks again AmbroseSJ and Vico.

No more replies needed! Have a great day all!

We know from Irenaeus that the Church was baptizing infants in the second century, very shortly after the death of the Apostles. There is no evidence of any controversy about it. We can safely assume that it was done in Apostolic times.

Surely in Acts they speak of baptising whole families and would that not include babies?

To be honest, there is fair argument from Scripture Alone accounts from both sides. There are no explicit examples of Infant Baptism in Scripture.

I do believe Scripture makes a greater case for I.B.

There are a number of passages which support the practice and validity. Then, looking to the early father’s and the early councils, we find even greater support.

What I do wish, is that greater emphasis (in general) is placed on the significance of the formation of the child for the graces of Baptism to grow and flower. Infant Baptism in itself does not guarantee belief or Final Justification.

We do know that Baptism Alone, without belief, does not save the person of the age of reason. Whoever does not believe, will not be saved.

Baptism is an “Initiation” to the life of a Christian. Parents (as Christians) have the privilege of initiating their Children.

The Didache seems to be an instruction for the Gentile converts. It is not necessarily addressing the established Christian communities, but the formation of converting nations. The first line reads:
“Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles”

Like Scripture, it does not explicitly address the Faith initiation and formation of Christian children.

I have always read and understood household baptisms as not including infants because of my context of being familiar with baptism as something that only an older child or adult is capable of completing. Baptism at the churches I have attended since childhood is something that an infant or toddler is incapable of. I have always been aware that others baptize babies, but that was never familiar to me. I have always had this mindset when reading these passages.

I had this discussion a few months ago with a friend who is struggling about decisions regarding baptism in her family. A week or two later I sent her a message and asked her to find the error. I told her that I was going to an extended family event including my 2 elementary school aged daughters, my 2 elementary school aged nephews and other adult extended family members. I told her a little about what we were celebrating and then explained that the subject of politics would arise. (We live in the United States). I told her that everyone in my family votes, and everyone has passionate feelings about who the next president should be. I explained some about the various political opinions that my family holds. My friend read the message over and over and didn’t think that I made an error or stated a mistruth. Yet, when I asked her, she of course didn’t think that the 6-10 year old children were able to vote. She totally read my comment as “everyone in my family (old enough to vote) votes…”

I can think of occasions where someone told me “Everyone in the wedding party got drunk.” I knew this excluded the 5 year old flower girl and meant “Everyone in the wedding party (old enough to drink) got drunk.” I think we make these types of assumptions in our conversations more than we may realize. A fictional, but realistic example – a friend telling another friend “My uncle brought his new Porsche to the family barbecue and he let everyone take a turn driving it around the block.” Friend: “How did your 2 year old nephew reach the gas pedal?” Or more likely would the friend hear this story and realize that he meant “…he let everyone (old enough to drive) take a turn driving it around the block.”

When we look back to 1st Century Jewish culture with large extended family households with no concept of “Original Sin,” how did they understand baptism? While Jewish children participate in religious observances with their families, they do not become fully accountable for repentance or atonement until they are 12 if a girl and 13 if a boy. This is when they have the bat-mitzvah or bar-mitzvah and become an adult accountable to the law. Would this culture have immediately known that the infants and young children were now supposed to believe and repent for sins that up until this time they were considered innocent of? I am not aware of any Biblical examples of baptism without mention of belief and/or repentance. Could “everyone in the household was baptized” mean “everyone (old enough to believe and repent) was baptized.”

When we look at the mentions of household baptisms in the Bible, we see 2 that mention household baptisms, but don’t specify if everyone was baptized:
Acts 16:14-15 – One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira, named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.
1 Corinthians 1:16 – (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)

We see 2 examples that state that the whole household was baptized AND that the whole household believed:
Acts 16:30-34 – He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God–he and his whole household.
Acts 18:8 – Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
Did these 2 households only consist of those old enough to believe? Or did the “whole” and “entire” refer only to those old enough to believe?

I don’t see any examples where we know that children who did not understand enough to believe were included in an “entire household.”

There are other Biblical examples of baptism that mention adults and exclude children:
Acts 8:12 - But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Were infants and young children included here?

I have often wished that the Biblical evidence was more clear.

Well since Baptism replaces circumcision and infants were circumcised, paedobaptism makes the most sense. Now that doesn’t mean it was the most common form of baptism but I do believe it was allowed and there’s no evidence saying otherwise. I highly doubt the New Covenant would be so restrictive to not let infants enjoy it. And I think there are some people that have the mistaken belief that Catholics must be baptized as children or infants which I know is not true since I was baptized as an adult. Anyway the scriptural evidence it says that infants were baptized whole houses were baptized, and there’s nothing saying except the babies and as I just pointed out baptism replaced circumcision. That’s the cool thing about actually knowing your Bible, sure you can read what it says at a random verse but unless you know the context you’re not going to know what it means

Hi Markie,
Here’s a link to some research I did about this that I think you may find helpful.
Pax tecum,

The Case For Infant Baptism

;)… but it’s not, that is why Bible Alone and Independent Bible Churches cannot assure a Universal Judgment. They may, or may not come to the correct conclusion.

I agree with the OP that the Didache does describe a method of baptism that excludes young children. The stipulation for fasting 1-2 days is not limited to only those over a certain age. Even families of converts should have some infants and tots who could not fast for 1-2 days and there is no sign that there was any inclusion of these young children in the baptism.

Then Justin Martyr between 130-165AD writes about baptism in his First Apology and also states that fasting is required and speaks of it in a way that would exclude infants.

As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water…And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.

It doesn’t say (along with their children unable to speak for themselves).

I do think that infant baptism did begin to be practiced early on. Tertullian spoke against the baptism of “little children.” Whether he means infants or 7 year olds, I am not sure. He recommends delaying baptism until the age of marriage (which was probably teen years?).

And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary— if (baptism itself) is not so necessary — that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, “Forbid them not to come unto me.” Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. **Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins?” **More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine! Let them know how to “ask” for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given “to him that asks.” For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred— in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom— until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence. If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay: sound faith is secure of salvation

The writings on baptism instructions by Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) and Ambrose (340-397) include things infants are not capable of and make no mention of exceptions for children. (Cyril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lectures and Ambrose’s On the Mysteries) By the time of Augustine (386-430) there are exceptions specified for children/infants being baptized with their families. Infant baptism may have occurred in regions before Cyril and Ambrose, but it was after Augustine’s “Doctrine of Original Sin” that there was a fear that unbaptized babies would go to hell and infant baptism became universal at that time.

The one thing that had me pause is how many people I see baptize babies, but are really not an engaged part of the Church. Afterword the children are too often not raised in the way of the Lord, then they come back for 1st. communion, etc…

I guess what I am getting at is people treating the sacraments as check points.

:thumbsup: Exactly correct…

and also states that fasting is required and speaks of it in a way that would exclude infants.

It doesn’t say (along with their children unable to speak for themselves).

I do think that infant baptism did begin to be practiced early on. Tertullian spoke against the baptism of “little children.” Whether he means infants or 7 year olds, I am not sure. He recommends delaying baptism until the age of marriage (which was probably teen years?).

The writings on baptism instructions by Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) and Ambrose (340-397) include things infants are not capable of and make no mention of exceptions for children. (Cyril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lectures and Ambrose’s On the Mysteries) By the time of Augustine (386-430) there are exceptions specified for children/infants being baptized with their families. Infant baptism may have occurred in regions before Cyril and Ambrose, but it was after Augustine’s “Doctrine of Original Sin” that there was a fear that unbaptized babies would go to hell and infant baptism became universal at that time.That’s not true, since apparently St. John baptized Polycarp long before that…and of course you conveniently missed the Philippian jailer and his whole household. Moreover, consider Constantine who because Reconciliation had not been developed yet waited until he was dying, but clearly Polycarp and the apostles predate that. Look at this.

That’s their error not a fault of the sacraments or the church. Just because a human individual fails in his duties does that indict or invalidate the sacrament? By what logic would one say so? It’s like saying that because one soldier shows cowardice in battle that all soldiers oaths to the country are faulty. Or perhaps because a cop commits crimes that the duty oath they take is faulty? Neither is good logic. Do you see what I mean?

Aldous Huxley once aid that the only part of the universe that we can control is our own selves…in this context we each have to see to doing what is right and not allow ourselves to be deterred by the human frailties of others.

From this tract:

The present Catholic attitude accords perfectly with early Christian practices. Origen, for instance, wrote in the third century that “according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants” (Holilies on Leviticus, 8:3:11 [A.D. 244]). The Council of Carthage, in 253, condemned the opinion that baptism should be withheld from infants until the eighth day after birth. Later, Augustine taught, “The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned . . . nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).

Did Apostle John baptize Polycarp? I didn’t know that there was a record of that. I do know that the Martyrdom of Polycarp shows that he said “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”
Do we know his exact birth and death date? Also, one doesn’t need to be baptized in order to serve the Lord.

In post #11 I cited Acts 16:30-34 where the jailer and his whole household became believers and were baptized.

I didn’t intentionally leave any household baptisms out, but if you know of any more please let me know. I have seen Cornelius’ family listed as a household baptism, but it isn’t clear whether there were infants and toddlers speaking in tongues and showing evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t specify if ALL of the household was filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized.

Acts 10: 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues** and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.**

“The power of baptism to remit sins was so great that rigorists held that sins committed after baptism were possibly unforgiveable, and this motivated some people - Constantine, but also future saints such as Basil, Gregory the Nazianzen, Ambrose, Augustine and Chrysostom - to delay receiving it.” History of the Catholic Church - James Hitchcock, p. 68 -

There seems to be various understandings of baptism in the early centuries. I do know that infant baptism was occurring by the 3rd century, but as much as a century later some were not baptizing infants. The Didache and Justin Martyr’s First Apology are the earliest post-Biblical records of baptism that I am aware of and they seem to exclude the possibility of infant baptism.

Presumably, Christian believers who baptize their children as infants also bring them up from their infancy in good habits and righteous training and in the knowledge of God. Justin’s remarks here, therefore, about those who “were brought up in bad habits and wicked training;…[in] necessity and ignorance” seem to only concern the children of unbelievers. So, I don’t think his remarks here are a strong argument against the practice of infant baptism.

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