Is infant baptism really bassed on medieval pragmatism?


I remember a remark i heard one of my professors make about how infant baptism had more to do with the high mortality rate of children then anything else. Then soon thereafter it got all kinds of theological weight attached to it, trying to defend the practice.


The key to this accusation is that, without proof, it’s baseless.

The Church has shown to practice Infant Baptism since the first century. The Early Church Fathers have always taught that it was right, and never because of the high infant mortality rate. (I’ve never heard that one before).

And it’s Scriptural. Never does someone say, “The Whole Household was baptized, but bear in mind, none of these households had children…”


I dont quite follow why you threw that in there? Whats that have to do with the above argument.


Because Scripture says that whole households were baptized. Our good friends from across the Tiber claim that these households did not have children (Evidently, they are psychic as well). But since, it was never disclaimed in Scripture, that’s not a valid argument.

Often times Catholics are accused of having non-Scriptural Traditions. I always like to establish Scripture in all of our teachings. Luckily that’s easy to do.


all your doing is reitterating a appologetic for infant baptism that states there is scriptural support for the practice. IT is not refuting the claim that the practice itself is based on medieval pragmatism more than anything else and then later theological weight was attached to it


Infant baptism was practiced early on, but it’s theological basis began to develop with Augustine and his theology of original sin. Augustine is not usually considered a “medieval” - the normal time frame of which is from the 6th/7th cent to the 14th/15th cent


Yes it does. If the practice was established in Scripture, and Scripture was written before the medieval time, then the practice cannot have originated due to medieval pragmatism.


even then his emphasis was placed highly on original sin and saving the babies, no?!


A claim that was made but apparently never proved by the original person (this person’s professor) or anyone else.

The burden of proof is always on the person making the charge. Why should anyone bust their rear digging up refutation every time someone like this makes a ridiculous, unsubstantiated charge? Your first question (asked with a smile :slight_smile: ) should be “Oh really? And what proof do you have of that?”

College professors are used to getting away with saying garbage like this because a) they are usually speaking to younger, less “educated” people, b) many people are too intimidated
to challenge their teachers, and b) professors effectively have a bully pulpit where they can spout off all the nonsense they want.


i would agree with you and when students KNOW the teacher is wrong they are affradi to make a comment in fear of jeopardizing their mark.


That’s when you ask, “Teacher, that’s a great point. But if I tell this to so-and-so, and they ask me for proof, what do I tell them?”


was early baptism practice really practiced for the same reasons… appealing to scriptures is problematic for it is unclear at the best of times and the years of theologizing had not taken effect… the fact remains though was the practice not done in order to wipe the slate clean of original sin? (i guess his argument could be adjusted to patristic era pragmatism?)


I must admit I have become confused by the purpose of your question.

Infant baptism was practiced early on, even if only for the fact that Jesus commanded us to baptize and to “let the children come to him.” But the idea is present in the Bible of the salvific nature of baptism. This, and the theology of original sin developed by St. Augustine, helped clarify the reasons for the practice. If that is all that the professor meant by the practice being pragmatic, then I see no problem with that. The problem is that he asserted that it was developed late in the Church’s history, namely, in the middle ages.


Again the problem is that this assertion is just not true. It is clear from the writings that the reason for infant baptism was because it was regenerative.

From CA Library Early Teachings on Infant Baptism


“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (*Against Heresies *2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).


“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (*Homilies on Leviticus *8:3 [A.D. 248]).

“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (*Commentaries on Romans *5:9 [A.D. 248]).


Wait, are you saying your professor is saying that because of high infant mortality rates, regenerative baptism was invented so infants could be reborn also, ie that until this thought reared its head Jesus only taught a symbolic baptism?


Well sure, that’s what baptism does, it saves people.
Your original scenario really does not make much sense because it admits the doctrine of regenerative baptism.
The charge is that babies were baptized at birth just to save them. This implies that the earlier practice was to withhold salvation from a person until later on in life, and this does not sound like a beneficial arrangement in the least.


Baptism in general is about saving the person who is being baptized, whether a baby or an adult.




God gave Constantine the Grace of his baptism on his deathbead, knowing that all his sins were forgiven. A “high risk” venture for most of us, but in the light of what he achieved, I think he deserved it. So if Constantine believed that baptism forgave all sin, that puts it in the 300s (That included Original SIn).



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