Infant v Adult Baptism

I am having a conversation with a non-denominational believer on the validity of infant baptism. This is an area where I’m probably not as strong in knowledge as I should be, and I’ve reached the point where I don’t know where to go next. I sent him some verses from scripture that support infant baptism, including Acts 2:38-29 (as well as Acts 16 and 1 Cor). In response, he sent me a link to this article:

Can someone help me refute what the writer is saying?

I should also mention that when I mentioned baptism being foreshadowed by circumcision, he said that he is a New Testament believer…whatever that means.

I appreciate any help! Thanks!

How about from a Lutheran site…which sides with Catholics…on infant baptism:

I found this portion quite hard to refute:

I - Christ Has Commanded Us

Many raise the objection: “There is not a single example of infant baptism in the New Testament, nor is there any command to do so. Therefore Christians should not baptize babies.”

But Jesus has commanded infant baptism. In Matthew 28:19 He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . …” Before He ascended, the Lord of the Church commanded us to baptize “all nations,” a phrase the Church has always understood to mean “everyone.” Matthew 25:31-32 also uses the phrase “all nations” in this way. All nations are to be baptized, regardless of race, color, sex, age, class, or education. Jesus makes no exceptions. He doesn’t say, “Baptize all nations except . . …” Everyone is to be baptized, including infants. If we say that babies are not to be included in Christ’s Great Commission, then where will it stop? What other people will we exclude?

It is true that there is no example in Scripture of a baby being baptized. However, to conclude from this that babies are not to be baptized is absurd. Neither are there any specific examples of the elderly being baptized, or teenagers, or little children. Instead we read about men (Acts 2:41; 8:35) women (Acts 16:14-15), and entire households being baptized (Acts 10:24,47-48; 16:14-15; 16:30-33; 1 Co. 1:16). The authors of the New Testament documents didn’t feel compelled to give examples of every age group or category being baptized. Why should they have? Certainly they understood that “all nations” is all-inclusive.

The difference ultimately stems from different views of the state of Fallen Man and the purpose of baptism itself.

Catholics believe that Mankind in it’s Fallen state is completely corrupted and unable to move towards salvation without being first called by the Grace of God. This Grace calls us and enables us to respond freely to the offer of salvation, but only if God first calls us. In calling us, God wipes away the stain of Original Sin, which is what otherwise deprives us of the chance to hear His call.

Catholics believe this literal wiping away of Original Sin and Call to Grace comes at the sacrament of Baptism. In Protestant circles, this belief is known as “Baptismal regeneration.” Importantly, Catholics (and those Protestants who also believe in baptismal regeneration, particularly the Lutherans) believe that the work and power of Baptism is 100% God’s, with nothing being done by the person being baptized. That means whether the person is a “believer” or not does not matter, and in fact saying so would limit the power of God!

Your generic evangelical, however believes that salvation comes merely from making “the Decision for Christ” and that baptism is purely symbolic of this commitment. Since they follow this “decisional regeneration” model, baptizing infants of course is meaningless. This of course implies that God needs the person’s permission to call them to grace, which smacks of “works-based salvation” that they all declare invalid.

Your friend might try to say that in saying this you’re arguing for a Predestination style belief. This is NOT true. Predestination believing Protestants think that man has no free will at all, can neither choose nor reject salvation, and is saved (or damned) because God chose them for that destiny from before the beginning of the universe. Catholics and Evangelical Christians (for the most part) both reject this.

Rather, we simply believe that while we are free to accept or reject God’s grace, it’s up to God alone to cleanse us of original sin and call us to Him. And we believe he does this in Baptism. (Compare the parable in Matthew 22:1-14; Some guests declined or didn’t properly prepare themselves, but NO ONE could come unless they were invited)

Note too, that we believe Baptism can take several forms, the most common of which is with water. But the Church teaches that Baptism (and God) cannot be limited if there is no one to perform the act, or if there is no means available. (Take a look at Church teachings on “Baptism of Desire” or “Baptism of Blood”). So if your friend doesn’t like the implication that God need’s a person on hand to administer Baptism, remind him that he doesn’t but simply chooses to use us Christians on earth as his ministers because of His “overabundance of Grace”, in which we are all called to share in Christ’s ministry.

It might be useful to show your friend that infant baptism is not just “a Catholic thing”, which in his mind is probably equated with “unbiblical/wrong”. Here’s a defense of infant baptism written from a Lutheran Protestant perspective:

Good luck!

Below is information from a Methodist Reverend

The Nature of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism
By: The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal

Archeological discoveries in the Roman catacombs have long-ago proven that infant baptism was common in the primitive Roman Churches. Two clear examples, among dozens of similar inscriptions, are all that we really need to support this claim. A man with the resounding Roman/Latin name of Murtius Verinus placed on the tomb of his children the inscription: “Verina received Baptism at the age of ten months, Florina at the age of twelve months.” The date of this tomb has been firmly established by radio-carbon dating of the children’s bones as being 105 AD +/- 4 years. Another tomb, not far away from this one, has the inscription: “Here rests Achillia, a newly-baptized infant; she was one year and five months old, died February 23rd…” and then follows the year of the reigning emperor, which dates her death to 91 AD. see W. Wall, “History of Infant Baptism”, 2 Vols., London, 1900. and other related articles in various archeological journals from early this century.]

Those infant baptisms are dated prior to the New Testament canon being defined and possibly pre-date John’s writing of Revelations…

Watch my video, it talks about Infant Baptism:

Forgot to mention in my first post, I actually don’t like the “circumcision as the foreshadowing of baptism” argument, because it implies certain things about the nature of baptism that aren’t true.

Specifically, circumcision really was a purely external and symbolic act, done to mark the child and the parents as faithful Jews. Calvinist Protestants, as well as most Protestant traditions ultimately deriving from Calvinist origins (Anglicans/Episcopalians, and Methodists), even though they teach and practice infant baptism, only believe that baptism is a “sign and seal” of the New Covenant following the example of Jewish circumcision. Anglicans and Methodists can be a bit all-over-the-place on this and many doctrines, but their founders all first composed their teachings in an environment and theological framework based on Calvinism.

When your friend says he’s a “New Testament believer”, he’s trying to say he’s saved by Grace, not by Works of the Law. However, as I said above, I believe infant baptism to be firmly rooted in the Grace proclaimed by the Gospel since it makes plain that the work and power of baptism is 100% God’s Grace, and not one bit a work of Man’s.

Thanks for your responses.

I think my hardest challenge is convincing him that understanding the OT is critical to understanding how Jesus is the fulfillment. He diminishes the importance of the OT and solely relies on NT teachings.

He also stated that he doesn’t want to argue back and forth because we can both find passages in the bible that support our differing faiths. He doesn’t think the bible should be used this way.

I think we need to step back and find a point where we agree as a place to start.

Try it this way.

Ask them do they believe that all must be baptised to enter heaven. Anotherwards did God command this. Then ask what truly is Baptism. Is Baptism not gving ones soul to Christ. Then ask them why would God make this commandment, and then make it impossible for infants to enter heaven if they could not be baptised?

Next ask them why would you not give a Child to Christ as soon as possible. What is the purpose of waiting?

Jesus told his Apostles to go and baptise All, not just certain ones.

Then go to the O.T. and ask them why was there infant circumcision in the O.T. Which baptism took the place of, anotherwards why would God allow it in the O.T. but forbid it in the New. Thats works pretty well for me.:smiley:

What is the difference between the Baptism of today and Circumcision of the O.T. I mean apart from the obvious, are they not both still a external and symbolic process? Would it not still mean the same thing? Is not a faithful Jew to God the same as we as Christians are faithful to God today?

The difference is that the Jews of the O.T. did not have the Grace of Christ to cleanse them of Original Sin. Circumcision was just one act of many, that were part of the Law. Which Paul tells us was given to condemn the world, while the Gospel saves.

Baptism is the circumcision of the N.T. insofar as it is the initiation into the life of the New Covenant, but there the similarities end. Paul in Romans 4 is very plain that circumcision did not save Abraham, nor grant him any special grace, since it was his faith to God that preceded his circumcision that was “credited to him for righteousness”.

In contrast baptism itself is effective, because it is the means by which the merits of Christ’s death and resurrection become our salvation. This is most clearly stated in 1 Peter 3:18-22. Baptism is not a symbol but is in itself effective, it is what “now saves you.”

I’m not an authority, but that’s my take. I find bringing up circumcision just muddies the waters unnecessarily. Keeping baptism firmly rooted in the Grace of the New Covenant has usually been a much more effective means of communicating Catholic beliefs to adult-baptizers.

You missed what I read, I said except for the obvious. I am asking you what is the difference between the process.

Is Baptism not an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace, Is it not a sacrament.

As far a comparing baptism and circumcism, there is none, as far as the gift.

Baptism is a Sacrament, that gives us grace from God and part of our salvation. I was again comparing as you stated the process. I see not difference in the process.


This is what I was addressing. It is the same for faithful Christians of today.

I can’t help wondering what those people who don’t believe in infant baptism would do when their baby was born and the doctor was calling out for oxygen – this happened to me and when I heard those words I called for a priest – I’m certainly happy I did because my baby didn’t make it – she was my first baby and losing her was a difficult cross to bear.

I lost a baby about 6 years ago. It was never born. But I was so upset when I could not get it baptised.

Then Father told me that there is a thing as Baptism of desire. What that means is God knows if my baby would have lived ( I was only 3 months, nothing to bury or baptise) it would have been baptised. So Father said it was considered truly baptised.

Your pardon,

I did misread you. I of course fully agree that baptism, like any sacrament, has both an outward symbolic aspect as well as an inward efficacious aspect.

When discussing these matters with fellow Catholics (or even Lutherans) it’s fine to discuss the similarities between circumcision and baptism. But when discussing with Protestants, which the original poster here was doing, it’s dangerous territory because many Protestants see ONLY the symbolic aspect of Baptism (or any other sacrament for that matter), rejecting the notion that it has any efficacious aspect.

So in that context, the differences between circumcision and baptism are, as you said, obvious, in that one is symbolic only, while another is simultaneously symbolic and efficacious.

Outwardly however, you’re right in that they both serve the same function, to mark the child and parents as faithful worshippers of God.


That is right…it is a matter of authority? So where will you take your appeal to? To the tradition and practice of the early Church?

Which authority does your friend accept-his own, or the authority of the Bible interpreter he is espousing or the Church with a 2000 year old understanding and teaching?

And why does he accept others and not the Church? I would ask these questions to somehow get him to think.

Please read this article too, and share it with him if you wish…

It speaks of the method of interpretation your friend has been taught and espouse…a pick and choose method. I will quote from the article itself the following:

The problem here is that Mohler’s position faces a very serious dilemma regarding the tradition to which he is appealing as the basis for “Christian orthodoxy.” On the one hand, Mohler cannot reject the tradition of the early Church, because that would make his own position fail to count as “traditional Christian orthodoxy,” and thus fail to count as “Christian,” by the very same argument he uses to claim that Mormonism is not Christian. On the other hand, Mohler cannot embrace the tradition of the early Church, because, as shown above, in many important ways that tradition is incompatible with his own Baptist theology.

How does Mohler deal with this dilemma? He adopts a pick-and-choose approach. This approach attempts to avoid the dilemma raised above by methodologically, though not explicitly, counting as ‘traditional’ [as in “traditional Christian orthodoxy”] only whatever the Church said and did that agrees with or is at least compatible with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. ‘Tradition’ becomes whatever one agrees with in the history of the Church, such as the Nicene Creed or Chalcedonian Christology.

This pick-and-choose approach to the tradition shows that it is not the fact that an Ecumenical Council declared something definitively that makes it ‘authoritative’ for Mohler. What makes it ‘authoritative’ for Mohler is that it agrees with his interpretation of Scripture. If he encounters something in the tradition that seems extra-biblical or opposed to Scripture he rejects it. For that reason, tradition does not authoritatively guide his interpretation. His interpretation picks out what counts as tradition, and then this tradition informs his interpretation.The problem with the pick-and-choose approach is that it is entirely ad hoc insofar as one picks and chooses from among Church Fathers and councils only those statements one agrees with, to be ‘authoritative.’ In this way Mohler is engaging in special pleading: he criticizes Mormonism for selectively rejecting the Christian tradition, while he himself selectively rejects the Christian tradition.

1979 U.S. Book of Common Prayer

Holy Baptism 299, Concerning the Service:

“Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into
Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism
is indissoluble.”

An Outline of Faith, or Catechism 845, Holy Baptism

Q. What is Holy Baptism?
A. Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.

Q. What is the outward and visible sign in Baptism?
A. The outward and visible sign in Baptism is water, in which the person is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Q. What is the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism?
A. The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit.

Q. What is required of us at Baptism?
A. It is required that we renounce Satan, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Q. Why then are infants baptized?
A. Infants are baptized so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, membership in Christ, and redemption by God.

Q. How are the promises for infants made and carried out?
A. Promises are made for them by their parents and sponsors, who guarantee that the infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him.

I don’t think it’s correct to say that it implies things about baptism that aren’t true. Circumcision as a foreshadowing of baptism is a perfectly good and orthodox argument to use because circumcision truly is a foreshadowing of baptism. It may not however be the most effective argument to use in all situations. The argument doesn’t imply anything that’s not true, rather certain protestants infer things that aren’t true from the argument. There’s a big difference.

P.S. Just a rhetorical question on my part - How are we supposed to do apologetics with those who ask us to make our points with both hands tied behind our backs? I’ll make a case from scripture alone if needed, but from only their misguided interpretation of scripture - that’s a tall task. But I guess it must be done if that’s the only way someone will be convinced of the truth.

Many have posted about the arguments for infant baptism. I would note that they all come from where we sit, in a Church that believes in sacraments. I would think that all the apostolic/sacramental churches believe in infant baptism.

Your non-denominational friend thinks of baptism as an act of obedience after having made a decision to accept God’s gift of eternal life and to follow him. Some would say that the Holy Spirit baptizes him at the time he make the decision. Some would tie the Holy Spirit to the believer’s act. In any case, the real action of baptism must be by the Holy Spirit (God’s act), it cannot be a work of man. But the bottom line is that baptism makes no sense to him unless it is of a believer. The doctrine is called “believer’s baptism”. Many of these believers think that we are not actually baptized (or saved) because we are not baptized as believers, and we have not made a decision to follow Jesus. The way to explain this to non-denominational folk (and other non-sacramental types) is to have them understand all the rites of initiation. They will recognize our sacrament of confirmation as being similar to their ordinance of baptism.

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