Why infant baptism?

As part of my Fiancé’s obligation to raise any future children in the Catholic faith she will likely baptize our child as an infant. I understand that without this the state of our future child’s soul would be a gray area should they expire. I have also heard that it is recommended that infants be baptized as soon as practical.

My issue is that I view baptism as something one chooses to do as part of one’s faith journey (for lack of a better phrase). But an infant had not reached the age of reason and has no ability to choose or even understand what is going on or what it means.

Why are infants baptized if they can neither make the choice or understand what it means? Why not wait until the age of reason?

Baptism is effective whether the individual has reached the age of reason or not. Children don’t have to understand what is happening in order for it to happen.

An indelible mark is made on the soul. Original sin is removed. The person is justified and becomes a member of Christ’s body. God says, “This is my beloved son/daughter with whom I am well pleased.” You don’t have to be a certain age or understand what is happening for this to happen.

Any baptized person is free to walk away from the faith and do whatever they want anyway.

My daughter died at 4 1/2 years old. Why take the chance. Do it.

-Tim-

Hi Crazier,

Infant baptism has been done from the earliest times of the Church. Whether you are conscious or not, the gift of sanctifying grace, whch is the fruit of baptism, is a free gift. It does not depend on your consent. Additionally, one who is baptized as an infant accepts his obligations as a Christian when he/she is confirmed. The very word says it.

Verbum

I agree. I say baptize them as soon as possible because they can always choose their own path as an adult but at least you have them covered till they can/do make their own choice. It’s the same with raising kids in Christianity, you don’t avoid taking them to mass till they are old enough to make their own choice. You show them the way and truth so that when they are older they can at least make an informed choice on which path they want to take.

The early church regarded baptism as the circumcision of the New Covenant. Just as circumcision in the Old Testament was performed on babies eight days after birth so too Baptism is conferred on infants under the New Covenant. In fact the only controversy concerning baptism of infants in the early church was whether baptism should be done on the eight day after birth as was the case with circumcision. It was decided that Baptism was so important that it should be done immediately and not wait until the eighth day.

Correct. Also, it’s Biblical:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children [Acts 2:27-29]

Why deny children what God has promised to them?

There’s a whole lot to be said about this subject, but the short answer is that we believe the grace of God is something that comes from the top down, not from the bottom up. This sacramental grace from baptism is going to be acted upon later in life, either for or against God.

I would challenge your belief that baptism should just be done at the age of reason or later. It is not found in the Bible. Nothing in the Bible describes an “age of reason”.

We do lots of things for our kids. Decide their schools, their friends, what they eat and what they play. Why not aid their spiritual lives too? This is a very practical way to view infant baptism.

It should be noted there are ZERO early church fathers advocating adult only baptism. The only debate we find is whether baptism should be done immediately or on the 8th day since it replaces circumcision (another parent decision for their kids) which occurred on the 8th day.

Don’t think too that your child won’t decide for himself when he’s older, he will in fact have to by either being confirmed or walking away. As a parent you should want to set him on a spiritual path to begin with, and if your an unbeliever then let your wife have at it.

I appreciate that this is how you view the question. But, that’s not the Church’s perspective. Let’s consider it along this line of reasoning: if Christianity is true, then everyone should want to be part of the Body of Christ (since membership leads to eternal life). Conversely, one who does not want to join, must (from the perspective of faith) have something that’s blocking them from accepting membership in Christ’s Church.

In their innocence, children have no personal sin, and nothing that constrains them from loving Christ and His Church. Therefore, it is not unreasonable (from the perspective of faith) to conclude that, if they were able to express it, infants would express their desire for union with Christ and His Church. (After all, the desire for that covenant is ‘written into our hearts’ – not our intellect, per se. Our intellect is the means that we are able to come to an understanding of that desire!)

Therefore, it is reasonable to baptize infants. The only thing missing is the verbal expression of the acceptance of entry into the Church. Hence, parents and godparents profess the faith as a proxy – that is, on behalf of – the child. And, at reception of Holy Communion and of Confirmation, the child will have the opportunity to express this desire personally for himself.

Why not wait until the age of reason?

Because faith does not begin only at the age of reason!

In the Summa, Thomas points out that infants can suffer death. Death is the consequence of sin. So if an infant can die, he must be in sin. Therefore, the infant needs baptism. (this is only one of many reasons why it is proper to baptize infants)

Do you wait until your child can “choose” to be a member of your family? Baptism incorporates the child into God’s family, the Body of Christ. The parents bring their child into their spiritual family in the same way they bring them into their natural family: from the beginning of their life.

Infants and young children are often vaccinated without their consent against diseases. If you like you can think of infant baptism as a sort of vaccination against evil spiritual influences.

Okay. I think I was misinterpreting what promises (I rather not call them “obligations”) a baptism would imply an infant is making. As a non Catholic I’ve came to a basic understanding that participating in the various sacraments included some level of stating one’s commitment to Christ, the church and following its teachings.

As long as we aren’t forcing a commitment on the child I think I’ll be okay with it.

Well, I don’t think you quite have it right.

A person baptized into the Catholic faith has both the rights AND the obligations (and yes, that is the word the Church uses) that go with it. So, yes, there is an obligation to the sacraments and a commitment to Christ and his Church.

Which correlates with your wife’s obligation to raise her children catholic, which you should support.

We have infant Baptism as an option for this very reason. It seems to be very common for infant Baptism in our church now, done during Sunday service. We also have Baptism for adults and children who have never been Baptized and occasionally someone will have a ‘renewal’ Baptism sometimes from a different protestant faith. I think these ‘renewing’ Baptism’s aren’t necessary and go against NT and ECF teachings (IMHO) unless the first Baptism would be considered an invalid Baptism. OBAB, right!? :smiley:

Okay, so the obligation is really to my wife and me to raise the child Catholic. That I have no big issue with. It was merely my original misunderstanding that we would be giving an infant obligations they world be unable to understand or choose to accept.

So is it fair to say that the obligations are really upon us, not the child? (Teach the faith and so forth)

There are obligations to the child too (such as marrying in the Catholic Church). But if the child rejects Catholicism for something else it’s kind of a moot point right? There’s nothing that takes away the child’s freedom.

This is not accurate. There is no such thing as a “renewal” baptism. Perhaps you mean a conditional baptism, which is necessary when a person who desires full communion with the Catholic Church contends they are already baptized but can provide no proof. In such a case the formula is, “If you are not already baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This is NOT a “renewal” of baptism.

We all renew our baptismal promises during the Easter season, in place of the Creed. That is also not a “renewal baptism”.

I have no idea what you are talking about when you say “renewing baptisms” because the Catholic Church does not do that. Unless you are talking about non-Catholic Christian denominations in which case, yes, they are confused. Baptism can only be received once.

The obligation for the parent is to teach the faith to the child, yes. That obligation exists by virtue of their OWN baptism.

But, baptism also creates very real obligations for the child, which they assume upon reaching the age of reason-- about age 7 or 8-- and continue for theire entire life.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.