If there is a topic that divides Christendom, this is it; you are in one camp or the other. There are no in-betweens. I will take a look at the fundamentalists claims on the subject and see how much water they hold.
I have read and heard this assertion.
1. A proper subject
2. A proper administrator
3. A proper mode
4. A proper design
In the next two chapters I will concentrate on points 1 and 3 because the others are usually ignored in the diatribes of the fundamentalists.
The fundamentalist claims that the only subject for baptism is a confessed, repentant believer. I will agree that the above subject is a candidate for baptism; I will also assert that so are their children. This is when you see the red in their eyes and they proclaim "no babies baptized in the Bible." Though there is no direct evidence in the New Testament of an infant being baptized, there is ample evidence that it is a good and godly thing. If I donít baptize babies because I canít find it in Scripture, I must also forbid women at the Lords table because I canít find that either. There is not a command to withhold water from children in Scripture, so fundamentalist cannot claim to have the more solid practice in withholding water.
The asserted case is usually that babies, who have not reached the age of discernment, cannot be subjects of baptism because they cannot fulfill the requirements it takes to be baptized. I will ask, "what is this age of discernment and were is the solid scriptural teaching on it?" To the later part of the question I usually get a blank stare or a hem and haw. I have done their work for them, though, and I will show you what I have found.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I was a man, I put away childish things." I Corinthians 13:11
Paul says here that as a child, he spake and understood. So it canít be proof of an age of discernment because he doesnít say at one point in his life that he was unable to speak or understand.
"Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it." Deuteronomy 1:39
"For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings." Isaiah 7:16
"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." Romans 7:9
I will say it is possible that the above Scriptures could be talking of an age of discernment. But they all lack one thing. When is this age? If not specifically, then approximately? It is entirely possible that they are talking about before they were born.
"For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;"Romans 9:11
Notice that the condition of doing good or evil is birth, not an age of discernment. But if this assertion is not acceptable to them, I will ask again. When is this age? 4? 8? 13? 18? 21? Because if terms like "proper" and "requires" are used, how can there be room for any gray areas? A four or eight year old can say the faith statements, but how do I know they are not just parroting something they have been taught and are more concerned with obeying or pleasing their parents than having the faith and belief allegedly required for baptism? It is true that our society has recognized many ages of discernment. I canít enter school until Iím five or six. I canít go to a P.G. Movie until Iím eleven or twelve. I canít get a driverís license until Iím fifteen or sixteen. I canít vote until Iím eighteen. I canít purchase alcohol until Iím twenty-one. I canít become president until Iím thirty-five. So for different things there are different ages of discernment. Which is the age for baptism? Sometimes I think my five month old knows the difference between right and wrong, and other times I think my teenager has no idea between what is right and wrong. Who was the youngest person baptized in Scripture? I find no older children or teenagers being baptized in Scripture. Should we forbid water from them also? So were does this doctrine come from? Scripture is silent on the subject, if it is a subject at all. Do they get this doctrine from historical Church tradition? No luck there. How about just plain old reason and common sense? Yes, is the cry. Then I will ask, is this wisdom from God or man?
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." I Corinthians 3:19
We cannot assume the norms for our society are the norms for Christian doctrine. If they force me to make my point with solid Scripture, then they should play by their own rules and do likewise. For If I concede an assumption to them, they must do likewise to me. But they are rarely willing to do that.
Letís turn to some scriptural teaching on children.
"And they brought unto him also infants that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein." Luke 18:15-17
First we see that people brought infants to receive a blessing. One of the common theories among embracers of believerís baptism is that infant baptism snuck into practice over the centuries because parents desired the blessings of baptism for their children. This shows us that people from the start wanted Christís blessings on their children. If this was a natural thing, then it would have continued on in the early Church for it would have been natural for parents to desire blessings for their children. One cannot deny the blessings that accompany baptism, and right or wrong it would have been natural for parents to desire those blessings for their children. If this were contrary to the word of God, then there would have been a need for a well-defined rebuke for it because it would have been a widespread problem. Yet all we have is silence. Second, we see that the term "little children" applies to infants. The terms "little children," "little ones," "infant," and "babe," when they appear in Scripture, all apply to infants. Third, we see that Jesus commands that little children come unto him. I am going to let this verse stand as it is and let you digest it. It is one of the most argued-over verses in this controversy, and I feel it canít be used fruitfully to convince someone who is already biased against it. Fourthly, we see that if we are to enter into the kingdom of God, we are to do it as a little child. So entrance into the Kingdom of God is the same for infants and adults. There are not two standards! There are a few sects today that place a great emphasis on the Kingdom of God as being the Church. And if they are true to their beliefs they must admit that infants can enter the Church, for the Church is the Kingdom of God and our Savior says that they do enter it, And that this entrance is the same for adults and children. Is not baptism the way I enter the Church and thus the Kingdom of God? And if it is the same for infants, whom Christ teaches do enter into it, then should not they be baptized also?
"And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me." Mark 9:36
We see that the child was small enough to be held in Jesus arms. A natural for an infant or one who has not reached the alleged age of discernment. Jesus commands his apostles and us to receive children in his name. How are we to do this? Is not baptism the receiving of one into the Church? And donít we do this in Jesus name? And if baptism is not the way I keep this commandment, which way is the way? After this, John interrupts him so I will skip the next few verses but Jesus does not lose track and stays on subject and then adds:
"And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Mark 9:32
Now remember "little ones" applies to infants. Jesus holds a small child or an infant and says that little ones believe in him. Our friends say that little ones cannot believe in Jesus because they have not reached the age of discernment. Whom should we believe?
"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." II Timothy 3:15
The term "child" is the Greek word "brephos." It is the same word used in the passage from Luke translated "infant." So Paul tells Timothy that he has known the Holy Scriptures since he was an infant, not an age of discernment. Our friends say infants cannot know Scripture. Paul says they do. Whom shall we believe?
"And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" Matthew 21:16
Can there be any debate that infants are being spoken of here? Our Savior says infants give praise and not only that but "perfected praise" and if that, cannot one say that if one praises God, he confesses God also? Our friends say that infants cannot praise God, our Savior says they do, whom do we believe?
"But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my motherís breasts." Psalms 22:9
If you look at this verse in context, you will note that it is part of a prophecy of the coming messiah. This does not nullify this verse for my use because the psalmist is also speaking of himself. The psalmist by the Spirit says he had hope when he was upon his motherís breasts. Letís relate this to Hebrews 11:1
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Notice the close relationship between hope and faith. They are almost equals. If an infant can have hope is it not possible that he have faith also? For both the origins of faith and hope ultimately come from God.
I could go on, but I think I have made my point. If there is an age of discernment, then it is not as important to God in his system as it is to us.
Next letís look at some of their proof Scriptures. We will for now set aside what I have said about the age of discernment and assume it is a valid concept.
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16
Our friends will say "note the order, you must believe before you are baptized". It should be noted that the "oldest and best manuscripts" do not contain this verse. I will not use this as my trap door to escape because the traditional Church confirms this as Scripture and I will accept it as such. Look at the verse again. Notice what it does not say. For an example, "He that believeth and is then baptized shall be saved;" We are missing the crucial word "then" to prove a chronological order is implied here. For if you insist on an order, I will insist that it be consistent with Scripture and all such statements in Scripture will imply a chronological order. For an example:
"John did Baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Mark 1:4
If we were to use our friendís system, we would have to believe that John baptized before he preached. Hmmmm. Letís continue.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John 3:5
We will assume for the moment that when Jesus says, "born of water" he is talking about baptism. There are many that disagree with that assertion and we will deal with that later. There are many that do accept this assertion, though, so for now we will accept it as valid. If you turn to Acts 10:44-48, you will see that Cornelius and his household were born of the Spirit before they were born of water. I guess Peter did not pay attention to Jesus when he taught this fact and therefore damned them all. Letís turn again to our friendís proof.
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost:" Matthew 28:19
Our friends will assert that you must teach before you baptize. Besides the order problem I have demonstrated above, I will apply B.S.H. 1&2 in our study of this verse. Letís look at the next verse.
"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:..." Matthew 28:20
First of all, we must look at the words translated "teach" in these verses. The first occurrence is the Greek word "matheteuo" which is the verbal form of "mathetes" which means "disciple". The Greek word translated "teach" in verse twenty is "didasko," the normal word for "teach". So Jesus is using "disciple" as a verb which is best translated in English, to "make disciples of all nations." Most of the modern translations have it this way. He is not stating the first condition but the desired goal. If I am a football coach and I say to my team "Letís win the Superbowl. Weíre gonna practice real hard, and defeat all our rivals." I am not saying that we must win the Superbowl before we can practice hard and defeat our rivals. I am stating the desired goal, which is accomplished by practicing hard and defeating the rivals.
Well then, our friends say, Jesus wants us to baptize disciples. One must be a disciple before one can be baptized. Then I will demand the scriptural definition of disciple.
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple...So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26-33
Do you ask any of your baptismal candidates if they can comply with all these conditions? I suspect that you donít. For if you did, you would not baptize many people. Baptism marks the start of oneís trek towards discipleship, not the reward or diploma awarded once this goal has been accomplished. Letís continue.
"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Acts 8:36-37
Our friends will say that this is the prime example laid down in Scripture for all baptisms to model themselves by. Again, we find that verse 37 is not in the "oldest and best" manuscripts and many modern translations have omitted it. But also again, I will say Tradition considers it scriptural and thus so will I. Besides that, I ainít skeered of it anyway. We find that the subject requested baptism, the administrator asked the subject to give a statement of faith, the subject responded with a statement of faith, and then the subject was baptized. Seem logical? Does to me. O.K. this is all well and good but I will assert that if this is the prime example to follow, then all other baptisms in Scripture must also follow this example and its guidelines.
"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And when they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days." Acts 10:44-48*
To me the two seem quite different. Unlike the eunuch, there is no request for baptism by the subject; instead the administrator commands it. "Command" is no light language so we canít ignore it. How do I reconcile the two, for one seems to contradict the other? This is not hard because Peter gives us the reason he commanded baptism. That is because Corneliusís household had received the Holy Spirit. How does this connect with Philip and the eunuch? Why did Philip require that the eunuch believe and give a statement of faith? There is an answer.
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." I Corinthians 2:14
"Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." I Corinthians 12:3
Philip wanted to see if the eunuch had the Holy Spirit. So the true scriptural reason for baptizing is not so much that a statement of faith was given, (though this is a good thing), it is because one could discern evidence of the Holy Spirit. Can this apply to children? I believe it does.
"For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mothers womb." Luke 1:15
So John the Baptist had the Spirit in his mothers womb. If children can have the Spirit, who could forbid water that such a child be baptized? Our friends go "Ya, but thatís John the Baptist, wasnít he Elijah? That makes him the exception." You never can please them. I would warn anybody before they consider such an argument that they are coming real close to or right out endorsing reincarnation. Look at John ch. 1.
"And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou?" John 1:21-22*
Although Jesus proclaimed him to be Elijah or Elias as it appears here in the King James, he was not actually Elijah for he was his own person. He was a figure of Elijah, not a reincarnation of him. Back to our subject. I will ask them this; if babes and sucklings can give perfected praise, how else can they do this but by the Spirit? And if this is done by the Spirit, canít one say they have the Spirit. And is one who has the Spirit not Holy?
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." I Corinthians 7:14
Christian children are "holy." So how can one be holy unless by the Holy Spirit? What does "holy" mean? It means, "separated unto God." Christian children are separated unto God. Isnít any one who is separated unto God a candidate for baptism? Can anyone show me a person who is separated unto God who is not a candidate for baptism? I just read a diatribe in which the writer says what Paul is speaking of in this verse is legitimacy. I would suggest that after his logic twist he should go back and look at the verse again. If holiness were equivalent to legitimacy, then that would make the children of two duly married but unbelieving parents illegitimate. I donít think that is what St. Paul is talking about.
Letís continue with their proof.
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?......So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:14-17
"Can an infant comply with any of these conditions?" (Our friends chuckle to themselves.) "Get out of that!" Well notice that it does not say this. How shall one believe on him who one has not heard? And how shall one hear without a preacher? Notice Paul says "they", he is talking about how faith comes to the community, and more specifically the Jewish community, not so much the individual. A common error our friends make is to superimpose something specific onto something that is intended to be general. Then some may taunt: "faith comes by hearing. Can infants hear? Therefore infants cannot have faith." Iíll ask. Do you stand behind this? For if you do, buckle up, because we are going for a ride.
Infants have not faith.
"whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Romans 14:23
Therefor infants are of sin. Hmmmm
Infants have not faith
"But without faith it is impossible to please him:" Hebrews 11:6
Therefor infants are sinful and cannot please God
"Of such (infants) is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14)
Therefor the kingdom of heaven is sinful and cannot please God.
Except ye be converted, and become as little children,
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:13
Therefore, unless I convert and become sinful and displeasing to God,
I cannot enter the kingdom of heaven!
If this is the case, then come on boys, letís go buy us a case of malt liquor and some cigarettes and go hang out at the nudie bar because Iím heaven bound! Whoíd a thunk it?
Notice that Romans 10:17 does not say "faith originates by hearing". It says, "Faith comes by hearing." What is the difference? Well if my dog comes when I call him, does that mean before I called my dog I did not have one? If flowers come with the spring rain, does that mean that wherever the spring rain falls I will have flowers? So will flowers grow on asphalt and concrete? Can a flower grow were there is not already a plant or a seed?
"My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:" Deuteronomy 32:2
The faith that comes with hearing is faith that is already there that may become manifest when the word of God is heard.
O.K. smartie pants, where is the origin of faith? Well, the origin of faith is in God.
"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." Romans 12:13
It is also a gift of the Spirit.
"To another faith by the same Spirit;" I Corinthians 12:9
It is the fruit of the Spirit.
"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith," Galatians 5:21
So those who have the Spirit are those who will have faith, and thus are worthy candidates for baptism. Letís look at some more teaching on faith. Here, Paul is writing to Timothy.
"When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also." II Timothy 1:5"
Notice the origin of faith here. Timothyís faith was first his grandmotherís and then his motherís. It is as though Paul is speaking of his eye color, his looks, or some kind of behavior or talent. Can faith be inherited? Maybe so. Remember that faith is the gift and fruit of the Spirit. This shows that the Holy Spirit does work in Christian families. This is why Christian children are holy.
Letís say its still possible that little children have not faith. Can the faith of others suffice? Letís turn to some more teaching on faith.
"And behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." Matthew 9:2
Notice that Jesus saw "their faith," not "his faith". It was the faith of the group that brought about the forgiveness of sins and thus the healing.(See also James 5:15) Isnít this good to know? If I worry that my faith is not strong enough, others can join me in my quest. I am not alone. Letís continue in the same chapter.
"While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live." Matthew 9; 18
The daughter could not have had faith, for she was dead. If she were to be saved, it would have to have been by someone elseís faith. Here, the father showed great faith. It was enough to save his daughter. Remember from Matthew 9:2 and James 5:15 that with healing comes forgiveness of sins. The daughter could not have had her sins forgiven on her own for she was dead. It was the faith of the father that accomplished this. Compare this with the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. Letís continue.
"And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour." Matthew 9:20-22
Now we see the faith of the individual. I have no debate with the fundamentalist over the faith of the individual being sufficient to procure healing and forgiveness of sins. In this chapter we see the faith of the group, the faith of someone else, and the faith of the individual. All these faiths are sufficient to bring about healing and forgiveness of sins. In our society the role of the individual is given great importance. This is not a bad thing for it has helped to make our country great. We cannot forget, though, the role of others in our life and the power they have to affect our lives even to the point of saving our lives, whether that is the life on Earth or the life everlasting. Cannot I say that if a child have not faith, then the faith of the parent can save the child and bring the child to life? And will not this faith be translated to the child? Why should such a child have water withheld from him?
Letís look at more of their proof.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38
Our friends will assert can infants repent? This verse proves repentance is required before one can be baptized. If repentance is required before baptism, then I will assert that it must be consistent with all the baptisms recorded in Scripture. But you will notice that Peter in Acts 10:48 did not even give the household of Cornelius a chance to repent before he commanded them to be baptized. So why did Peter tell one group to repent and let the other group go Scot-free? Peter in Acts 2 had just given a moving sermon to a group of Jews condemning them for the death of Jesus. They were "pricked in their heart" and asked, "what shall we do?" So their repentance was for something specific (the Crucifixion of Christ) and not general. Repentance is a good thing but it is not mandatory for baptism. Scripture confirms this. Letís look at even more of their proof.
"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:" I Peter 3:21
Our friends will assert that an infant canít have a conscience, much less have an answer of a good conscience. First, letís look at the word translated "answer." It is the Greek word "eperotema;" it is a form of the Greek word for question. It is a rare word and appears in Scripture only once. It is understandable that it was a hard word to translate. It means "an inquiry". The verse could be translated (an inquiry of a [or, for a] good conscience toward God) which could very well apply to an infant. For one would be asking God for the grace of a good conscience. God is in control and is very capable of doing just that.
Another objection our friends have is that if you baptize infants you do them "untold harm" for it implies that repentance, confession, etc. are not necessary for Church membership. Well I donít know where one could get that idea, for if one is to stay a Christian, these must be daily activities, not just a one-time thing to prove oneís worthiness. The traditional church teaches this. I have attended a multitude of services at fundamentalist churches where confession of sin and repentance are not a part of the regular service. In traditionalist churches you find that confession of sin and repentance are required of all those who participate in their regular service.
They also object that countless baptized infants fall from the faith and baptism is desecrated. Well I was a musician for fifteen years and I can attest that the honky-tonks of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee are full of participants of believerís baptism. Withholding water is no guarantee that one will continue in the Church after one is baptized. When I was investigating the Roman practice of withholding the cup, one of the reasons given for the practice was that the cup could be spilled and the blood of Jesus would be desecrated. Countless people have never tasted the cup because a human concern has overridden a godly command: "Drink ye all of this." Likewise, our friends withhold water from those born into the Church of Christ and who are duly entitled to it. Is there harm in withholding the water? In the English speaking world the first people to embrace believerís baptism were also strong embracers of sovereign grace. But since believerís baptism stresses the act of the individual and discounts the community, they have had a slow creep over the centuries towards a salvation of works. Many will deny it. Some will readily admit it, depending on which sect they are from. I have read in one paragraph were the author will say he believes in a salvation of grace and in the next paragraph abandons the concept altogether. Many of the concepts of one of their heroes, Charles Spurgeon, have been abandoned in modern times, in part I believe because of this practice. Charles Spurgeon himself was an embracer of believerís baptism, but in many things he was closer to the truth than what I hear being preached today.
Another objection is that children are innocent and thus do not need baptism. For proof they cite
"for of such is the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 19:14
Notice that it does not say that children are of heaven but that heaven is of children. Jesus is giving us a relative image to try to understand what the Kingdom is like, not espousing universalism for children. For if he did, he would be contradicted by Holy Scripture. It is understandable that parents would look at their children and think of them as innocent and pure, I do it myself. But you will never find a phrase like "innocent child" or anything close to it in Scripture. Universalism for children is a dandy concept and I myself wish it were true, for it would make my walk with Christ seem easier. But if I were to believe this just because my heart desired it and not because of solid scriptural teaching, I would also have to accept other desires of my heart that seem to imply something good, such as universalism in general. I wish all people would be saved. I wish Satan himself would repent and come close to God. Would not that make life easier? Would that not be a wondrous and glorious thing? My honest study of Scripture tells me that this will not and cannot happen. So likewise, I cannot say all children are saved unless I have solid ground to stand on. I would agree to a relative sense of innocence in children, that is, a newborn babe has sinned less than I have, but both of us are sinful creatures. We are required to be in a perfect sinless state in order truly to enter into the Kingdom of God, which we cannot do, on our own. We are dependent upon Christ to cover our sinfulness. I could say that an infant is less sinful than I am and likewise more innocent, but I could also say that rattlesnake venom is healthier for me than cobra venom. If I have two rotten apples in my kitchen, and one is two weeks older than the other is, that apple would probably be more rotten than the other would but both would be useless to me. I am getting to that dreaded concept of "original sin". There is much misunderstanding of this concept by those who reject it so I will need to clarify what it is.
"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Matthew 7:18-19
One cannot bring something sinless out of something sinful.
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." Job 14:4
We are sinful (I John 1:8) thus our offspring are also sinful.
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned." Romans 5:12
Some will attack this concept and say a man cannot share the guilt of his parents. They will cite Ezekiel 18:20 as proof.
"The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father," Ezekiel 18:20
I am not claiming this. Though I am not guilty of my fathers sin, my father, who is sinful, beget me, therefore I have inherited his sinful nature; thus I am guilty of my own sins even from birth. How then can an infant sin?
"The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies." Psalm 58:3
My common sense may tell me that infants donít sin. Scripture says otherwise. Which should I trust? Letís look again at I Corinthians 7:14.
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
You can see that the children who are born of unbelievers are deemed "unclean" this shoots to hell any theory that says that all children are born innocent and pure. For if I was born innocent and pure, I must have been sinless for a while and then there must have been a time that I committed my first sin. And at that time, in a nanosecond, I would have gone from angelic being to subterranean slime slug, from the realm of the saved to the realm of the damned. Was I sick that day? How come donít I remember it? It must have been very traumatic. How old was I when this happened. This should be an important question for on that day is the day I should have been evangelized to save me from Satanís clutches. If all are born pure and innocent, how come does Satan eventually nab every single one of us at the age of discernment and God can keep none? If this is true, I should go and get me a goat head and pentagram tattoo for Satan is far superior to God.
Our friends still object and say, "Christian children are holy, therefore they donít need to be baptized". To this I will say, Paul says women are saved by "childbearing" (I Timothy 2:15); shall we withhold water from those who are pregnant or have given birth? They protest further. If the unbelieving spouse is sanctified, why not baptize him? Jesus commands us to teach those we baptize. (Matthew 28:19-20) Can we teach one who has rejected the Gospel? But we are commanded to teach our children.
"And, yea fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
So why is there no direct evidence of an infant being baptized? Remember that their culture was not the same as ours is today. Thus in many ways to understand some concepts, we have to learn to think the way they did. Letís turn to some more Scripture.
"Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?" John 7:22-23*
Notice that Jesus says "man" and not "child." The King James is true to the Greek here though some modern translations translate it "child." The word is "anthropos" which has several definitions but most commonly it refers to an adult male. But here, it is impossible for it to be an adult for Jesus is speaking of an eight-day-old child. So in such passages like the following:
"They were baptized both men and women." Acts 8:12
It cannot be said that this excludes infants because we have and example of an infant being treated as though he were an adult. Jesus says, "man" in one sentence and means infant, he says, "man" in the next and means an adult. I would have to take it as though difference between infant and adult meant less to Jesus as it does to us, and concepts such as an age of discernment were not as important either.
Why baptize infants, then? Infant baptism is more congruent with God and his covenants than "believerís baptism." Infants have always been a part of the covenants in the past and infants have always received at least one of the signs of covenant they were in. In what I call the covenant of Adam, some of the signs were "eating of the Ground", death, and childbirth. Infants can participate in all these activities. In the covenant of Noah, the sign was the rainbow. Likewise given unto infants as well as adults. In the covenant of Abraham, the sign was circumcision. Likewise, this was given unto infants. For us now who are under grace, unless we baptize infants, we leave them without a sign of our covenant. And if they are to be without a sign, they must not be of our covenant and thus have their own or be amongst the damned. But I can find no hint of this in either Scripture or tradition. Jesus said
"no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 14:6
And we have seen his attitude towards infants, so they must be included in this teaching. Consider again the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20). The desired goal is to make a disciple. Jesus says this is done by baptizing them and teaching them. Infant baptism fits perfectly with this command. Hereís some more.
"And if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?" Romans 16-24
I hope I did not bore you with this long quotation. I could not figure out which part to skip over. It explains much about the Christian community. An olive tree represents the family of God. Many of those who were branches of the tree were broken off because they rejected Christ. Those who were branches of another tree that received Christ were grafted in. I ask, how was one made part of the tree if one was of the house of Israel? By belief or by birth? The nature of the parable dictates birth because a branch cannot sprout separately from the root. So those of the house of Israel were part of the tree by birth. Some remained by belief and others were broken off because of unbelief. And if one who was not of the house of Israel came to belief, that person was taken from the wild olive tree he was a part of and then grafted onto the tree of the house of Israel. Thus, they became part of the house of Israel. And so the Christian community is of the house of Israel and of the seed of Abraham for that is the holy root we feed upon. If my parents were of another tree and then came to belief and thus were grafted in, need I be grafted in also? Of course not, because I will be part of the tree by birth for a shoot cannot grow separate from the branch. Thus I am part of the house of Israel by birth because of my parentís faith. So should the sign which shows I am of the tree be kept from me? Think about it. If I do come to unbelief, I can be broken off. If I return, God can easily graft me in. Read Luke 15:11-32
Next, baptism is the circumcision of Christ.
"In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism,..." Colossians 2:11
If baptism and circumcision share a like nature, and then it is only natural for infants to be baptized, for infants were circumcised. Our friends object to this, but I must warn them that any thing else could mean that baptism is not the circumcision of Christ. One objection is that circumcision is a sign of nationality, baptism is a sign of faith. This is similar to an argument put forth by a man dubbed by some as "Mr. Bible" in his diatribe called "Bible baptism." Well, he should have studied Bible circumcision for he would have read.
(That is, Abraham)
received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith...." Romans 4:11
"circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit" Romans 2:29
So circumcision is a sign and seal of faith. It is also a connection with the opening of ones heart in the Spirit.
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." Deuteronomy 10:16
We can see that circumcision goes well beyond the cutting of skin as baptism goes beyond the washing of water. Baptism and circumcision share many natures. Circumcision was a sign of faith and changing the heart. Circumcision was freely given to infants. A God, who does not change, commanded this even though (according to our friends) infants were unable to comply with the conditions that accompany it. Another objection is that circumcision was given only to boys, so if I hold my view I must not baptize girls. Circumcision is the foundation of which we have baptism. A house cannot go against its foundation for it will fall. But a house can be more dimensional than its foundation for that is its purpose. Girls were not circumcised because they were missing the right plumbing. They have no penis and thus no foreskin. Ya, they still object, but there is such a thing as female circumcision. Female circumcision is a different creature from male circumcision, but if you insist, I will comply. A year or two ago a young lady from Africa sought asylum in our country because she would have been forced to undergo female circumcision in her country. She feared the danger of the operation, for her aunt had died from it when it happened to her. Female circumcision is very risky but male circumcision is relatively simple. If you study the rituals of the Old Testament you will find that many made sense beyond the ritual behind it. Lepers washing themselves would be one. I have a hard time seeing how God would impose a ritual that was inherently dangerous. In the Old Testament, those who passed their children through the fire had committed an abomination against the Lord.
Infant baptism was practiced by all sects worldwide until the Anabaptists came along in the sixteenth century. If water was to be withheld, and this was doctrine, how did it get so widespread with out a peep of objection? We see no evidence of it starting in one place and then spreading to another. Nor do we see children considered being of another class of Christian than adults in any Scripture or early writings.
Tertullian objected (AD 200), some of the more learned protesters will say. This is true but Tertullian objected not because it went against apostolic tradition, but because of his own personal theology.
"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,"
Tertullian did not consider infants who were baptized to be unbaptized, nor did he suggest that such children be rebaptized. It must also be noted that Tertullian abandoned universal Christianity in favor of a particular form of Montanism. This sect was not too unlike some of the small more radical Charismatic sects today. Other early writers such as Origen attest to the apostolic origin of infant baptism.
Also note that if baptism is the way one enters into the Church, and baptism is forbidden to infants, thus infants cannot enter the Church. One must note that since infant baptism was the norm for over a thousand years, there could have been no Church. Some of the more honest of our friends will admit this. That is why some of them call themselves "restorers" of the Church. Others will site Revelation 12 and say that the true Church is the woman who went out into the desert. Thus the true church was kept from common view. Jesus said when speaking of his Church.
"the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18
So the Church could not have disappeared, not even for a nanosecond, much less over a thousand years. Jesus also said:
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16
So the Church was commanded to stay in view of all and not be hidden. But yet we see no evidence in history of such a Church (as our friends define it) continually existing. It wasnít until they came along that the "Church" appeared or reappeared.
So whom do we baptize? This is not hard. We baptize those whom we receive in the church so they can be taught. Teaching must always accompany baptism. Christ commands it. Our ancient friend Tertullian must have forgotten this while writing his treatise when he warns that the sponsors of the children to be baptized may not be able to fulfill their promises. The truth is that anyone who is baptized is a babe in Christ and must be taught; whether they are an actual babe or an elderly grandmother, this is the responsibility of the Church. If we take Tertullianís logic to its fullest extent, then we should not baptize anybody, because they may turn or return to evil ways. I think this is what St. Peter was speaking of when he wrote,
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. 2 Peter 2:22
But infants canít be taught, they object further. Well, the only people who canít be taught are those who reject teaching. Infants as they grow up are eager learners, if not by direct teaching, then by indirect. Children who grow up in dysfunctional homes can become accustomed to yelling, screaming, cheating, and lying and think they are normal. But all these go against Christian teaching. If one grows up in a true Christian home, he will learn that love and respect are the norm even though he was not taught this directly. Ya, but Philip did not teach the eunuch after he baptized him. Well Philip was physically removed by God after the baptism, for God in his wisdom had other plans for him. Otherwise Philip would have stayed with him for he would have been commanded to.
We have already read that "If the root is holy so are the branches." This is a concept well entrenched in the Old Testament. Noah found favor with God; thus his wife and children were included in being saved from the flood. Abraham found favor with God and thus his children were to be Godís chosen people. The Old Testament is full of examples of households being blessed when the head of the household found favor with God.
"And the ark of the Lord continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the Lord blessed Obededom, and all his household." II Samuel 6:11
It is also true that households shared in the curses when the head of the house had disfavor with God
"Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine." Genesis 20:7
The household concept stays consistent in our New Testament times.
Acts 16:31 "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house."
We have already seen in I Corinthians 7:14 how the children of believers were considered holy. Why? Because they are part of the holy olive tree of Abraham along with their parents. This is one reason why there are so many household baptisms in the New Testament. If you look at the Pentecost and post-Pentecost Christian baptisms recorded in Scripture, you will find there are about 11 or 12 occurrences. Five of these events are household baptisms, nearly half. So one cannot say these are rare or infrequent events or just odd cases. These were common events. They keep with the flow and context of Old Testament attitudes toward family and society. These attitudes clearly included children and infants. To exclude children and infants would have taken new teaching, which I cannot find in Holy Scripture.