Why is a baby baptized?

Why is a baby baptized, when it has no knowledge of what is happening? What is the value of that?

Here is a quick search I did on the forum that might help:


More reading material…



In Roman Catholicism, the sacraments have what is called “salvific value” meaning that they are needed for salvation. Baptism is a sacrament that wipes away original sin and is necessary for salvation purposes. So, it is being done for the infant’s own good and salvation I guess you could say.

It’s not like the protestant system where all you have to do is accept Jesus as your savior and voila you are saved. In that case, Baptism is a mere ceremony that is done in order to show the world that you have accepted Christ. It is not necessary in order to get to heaven and it does not wipe away original sin.

The baby is washed clean of original sin, the child is infused with sanctifying grace and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within the child. That is the value and it happens whether the infant knows about it or not.


Important point, it is being done by God. While parents bring a child to Baptism, and while the pastor/priest, in most cases, performs the physical actions, it is God who baptizes.

It’s not like the protestant system where all you have to do is accept Jesus as your savior and voila you are saved. In that case, Baptism is a mere ceremony that is done in order to show the world that you have accepted Christ. It is not necessary in order to get to heaven and it does not wipe away original sin.

While the way you state this is a more a caricature of what some protestants believe, there is an element of truth also. It is important to point out, however, that there is no protestant system, as there is no protestant church.
The Lutheran teaching is far closer to Catholic understanding than what you’ve termed the “protestant system”. From the Augsburg Confession:
** Article IX: Of Baptism.

1] Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary 2] to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace.

3] They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism. **


Yes, you are correct and the term “protestant system” was a poor choice of terminology on my part. I also do understand that not all Protestants would be in agreement with what I wrote. I was taking more of the hard line Evangelical Baptist point of view when I wrote that post.

Implicit in the question is the assumption that baptism only has value if the baptizand is aware of what is happening, in which is implicit the assumption that baptism is merely a symbol, the value of which resides exclusively in one person’s conscious appropriation of that symbolism.

Catholics agree that baptism is a symbol, but they disagree that it’s merely a symbol. A sacrament, to us, is a symbol which actually causes what it symbolizes. Of course the baptismal act itself symbolizes washing, i.e., of sin. And more generally water itself symbolizes unformed potential, so that a person immersed in water is in some sense returned to the elements of creation and reformed upon emerging from it. The symbolic action of washing itself, through the power of the Holy Spirit, causes a kind of real washing, the washing of the soul free of sin both original and actual. This is true whether the baptizand is conscious of what’s happening or not.

So to answer your question, we baptize babies because baptism washes persons of original sin, and babies desperately need to be washed of original sin.

One reason is very similar to why babies are fed. Babies do not know why it is necesarry to eat yet babies are fed because their mothers know they need nourishment. So wether a baby knows what Baptism is or not the babe’s parents know their baby needs God and His grace in his/her life.

May God Bless you :slight_smile:

For so many protestants, baptism signifies “joining the church”, and there is no implication or even desire for the washing away of original sin - if they even believe in original sin.

But each and every denomination has it’s own set of rules concerning the word “baptism” so we have to be careful when even discussing this topic. Baptism to a Presbyterian, a Pentacostal, a Mormon, an “Evanglical Catholic” from the Lutheran Missouri Synod, and a Roman Catholic could have a host of different meanings and before one can actually have a conversation about this topic, there should probably be a List of Definitions for words that sound alike but have very little in common.


And that’s fine. Often my response to a post such as yours is directed more at lurkers than it is the poster. I just like to make sure folks don’t get the wrong impression. :slight_smile:


As you have probably read in the links provided, baptism in Christianity replaces circumcision, and it is no secret that infants were circumcised. But what was the purpose of circumcision? Knowing the answer to that helps you get a clearer understanding of baptism and the extreme importance of it.

Circumcision was the removal of a useless part of the body. The thing about circumcision is, it is a hidden physical change that only God could really see (it was hidden from public view). God commanded this, because circumcision separated his people from the others who did not believe. It symbolized a change, but circumcision did not provide grace. God knows who believes and who does not though, therefore, it was done to glorify God.

Now we have baptism, which is the removal of something even more useless: sin, and it provides saving grace because of Jesus. Sure a baby does not have personal sin, but all are born into sin. Baptism is not a visible change but an inward change that God sees and it separates us from the unbaptized just as circumcision separated those from the uncircumcised (but even more so, it removes the debt of original sin).

Baptism, like circumcision, is not just a proclamation of ones faith. It is done to glorify God.

To add to the many good reasons, I might add that the Bible instructs us to do this:

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” [Acts 2:36-39]

In the Old Testament, at the original Passover, the children who had no knowledge of what was happening, were saved by their parents faith and actions. When they departed Egypt they didn’t leave their children in Egypt because they were not old enough to make their own decision. And when the people went through the Red Sea which is a prefigure of baptism, the children were not left on the banks until they were old enough to make their own decision.


Yes. The rite itself explains all that the sacrament achieves in us (at the anointing with Sacred Chrism):

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.

So, baptism:
Frees us from sin
Gives us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit
Welcomes us into God’s holy people
Gives us a share in Christ’s offices of Priest, Prophet and King
Gives us life to be a member of Christ’s body, sharing everlasting life.

Nowhere does it require us, strictly speaking, to do anything to receive these benefits–any more than a baby being born must do anything to receive life, to become a member of the family, a citizen of the nation, and so on. It all comes by the mere fact of being born, indeed by being conceived.

Of course, to retain and build on these graces, it does require our eventual agreement and active cooperation–which is why the responsibility to form and train the child is so serious.

I also like the imagery of baptizing babies–it is a strong reminder that the Sacraments are less about what we do, and more about what God is doing in us. A baby receiving baptism does nothing of itself–it is all about others doing things for the child, and especially God at work. It’s a corrective to our habitual Pelagianism, that says we have to do everything for ourselves.

Infants of Catholics are baptized when there is a founded hope that they will be raised in the Catholic faith.

Infants are baptized, although sinless, for they are lacking something brought by death, true in Latin or Eastern Catholic or Orthodox theology; They need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as St. John Chrysostom explains, they receive: “sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance”. These are what we have lost through the effects of the ancestral sin, and are one dimension of death.“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.

JonNC pointed out that we cannot generalize about a single “Protestant system” with regard to baptism. Adding to what he said, even Reformed Protestants of a more high-sacramental persuasion believe that baptism is regenerative. The Westminster Confession (the primary confessional document of the Presbyterians) states that the grace of regeneration is both signified and conferred by the sacrament of baptism.

Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.

The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.
(WCF 28.1, 6)

The view you call “the Protestant system” is a modern aberration, even if it is understandable why such a view would arise from Protestant suppositions.

Much appreciated - your answer cleared up some misconceptions Thanks

In Acts 2:38-39 The Bible tells us that we are to be baptized every one for the remission of sins and that this is for you and for your children.
BTW, Infant baptism is practiced in a number of Protestant denominations and was mandated by Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism.

Just to add a little to the many insightful posts already made,

Because of Original Sin Satan is the ruler of this world.  It is only by the power of Jesus Christ that He is cast out.

No matter how lovable a child may be, he is not worthy of the gift of heaven. It is only when the saving work of Jesus is applied to his soul that he is made worthy of heaven. Baptism is the application of that saving grace to a person’s soul. Truth is not based on what seems or feels right to you or me. Our feelings do not determine reality. The Sacrament of Baptism includes the Rite of Exorcism. The person’s soul that was separated from God is now brought into God’s Family, God’s Church, by Baptism and is given the protection that God’s grace provides.

To deny a child these benefits is cruel to the child.

John 14:30
“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me …”

Ephesians 6:11-18
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; 16 besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit …”


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