Infant Baptism

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Biblical Arguments

Relevant Scriptures

Luke 18:15–16 tells us that "they were bringing even infants" to Jesus; and he himself related this to the kingdom of God: "Let the children come to me . . . for to such belongs the kingdom of God."

"Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children" (Acts 2:38–39).

The apostolic Church baptized whole "households" (Acts 16:33; 1 Cor. 1:16)

Even one believing parent in a household makes the children and even the unbelieving spouse "holy" (1 Cor. 7:14).

"In him you were also circumcised with . . . the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:11–12).

"[b]aptism . . . now saves you" (1 Pet. 3:21).

AGAINST Infant Baptism

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 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. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. [Acts 8:35-38]
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. [Romans 6:3-4]

To be fleshed out more.

FOR Infant Baptism

A lot of our argument comes from the inference that Baptism is to Circumcision as the Lord's Supper is to Passover.

- In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. [Colossians 2:11-12]

Just as circumcision was the "putting off the body of the flesh", so baptism is being "buried with Christ", "into death" (Romans 6:4).

Just as circumcision indicated membership in the Jewish covenant community, so too does baptism indicate membership in the Christian covenant community. Membership in the covenant community does not mean you will be saved. Jews can fall away after being circumcised, and Christians can fall away after being baptized.

Jews as early as eight days old were brought into this covenant community:

- For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. [Genesis 17:12]

So it's reasonable to assume Christian children are part of the covenant community:

- And Peter said to them, "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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." [Acts 2:38-39]

- For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. [1 Corinthians 7:14]

- And when she was baptized, and her household [Acts 16:15]

- and was baptized, he and all his family [Acts 16:33]

- believed on the Lord with all his house [Acts 18:8]

- I baptized also the household of Stephanas [1 Corinthians 1:16]

- While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word". "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. [Acts 10:44]

- As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord [Joshua 24:15]

Note in all these examples, nowhere is an exception made "except for the little children and infants". Even Jesus himself, when he gave the great commission, didn't set an age limit:

- Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]

In fact, Jesus thought highly of the children:

- Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 19:14]

- If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. [Mark 9:42]

And so while there is no explicit verse in the Bible that says "You should baptize babies", there is a clear underlying belief in covenant community and in households coming to faith together. Combining that with the historical truth that the entire church practiced infant baptism for believing families from its very beginning until 1523 AD suggests the default position should be belief in infant baptism, and those who do not believe in it should shoulder the burden of proof in attempting to prove it's NOT biblical (which, as we've seen, the bible pointedly does not exclude children in its statements).

It's also noteworthy that the Bible never explicitly says we should administer the Lord's supper to women (the only examples are with men)... and yet nobody has any issues doing so.

Church History

~100 AD | Didache: Neutral

Recommends baptizer fast (implying adult), and speaks of the modes of baptism.

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

- Quoted from The Didache, Chapter 7

~150 AD | Justin Martyr: Implies for

And many, both men and women, who have been Christ's disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years

- Quoted from The First Apology, Chapter 15
And we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God's mercy; and all men may equally obtain it.


~156 AD | Polycarp: Implies he was baptized as an infant

Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ; Polycarp declared, Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?

- Quoted from The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Chapter 9
  • Born AD 69, he died AD 156 at the age of 86 or 87.
  • If he died at the age of 86, and he said he had served Christ eighty and six years, it follows that he had been serving Christ since an infant, which implies he was baptized into Christ as an infant.
  • According to Jerome, Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle and John ordained Polycarp as bishop of Smyrna

~180 AD | Irenaeus: Implies for

For He came to save all through means of Himself - all, I say, who through Him are born again to God - infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord.

- Quoted from Against Hereses, 2.22.4

~200 AD | Tertullian: Implies for

And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary - if (baptism itself) is not so necessary - 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, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, "Forbid them not to come unto me." Let them "come," then, while they are growing up; let them "come" while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ.  Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the "remission of sins?" More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine! Let them know how to "ask" for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given "to him that asketh." For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred - in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom - until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence. If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay: sound faith is secure of salvation.

- Quoted from here

  • Tertullian implies it's customary to baptize infants, but recommends postponing. His reasoning is that baptism washes away all your sins, and there are certain types of sin that can only be forgiven through baptism, so it was best to postpone baptism until later in life
  • Some people interpret Tertullian's view as being against infant baptism completely, and some even go further and then ascribe this belief to Montanism, as Tertullian became associated with that sect later in his life. I find no evidence of Montanism being against infant baptism, nor of Tertullian beyond what is mentioned above (a recommendation of postponement).

215 AD | Hippolytus: For

Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them
- The Apostolic Tradition 21:16

248 AD | Origen: For

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

253 AD | Cyprian of Carthage: For

As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born... If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another.
- Letters 64:2, 64:5

388 AD | Gregory of Nazianz: For

Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith! [...] 'Well enough,' some will say, 'for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?' Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated
- Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7, 40:28

388 AD | John Chrysostom: For

You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ's] members
- Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21

401 AD | Council of Carthage V: For

Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians
- Canon 7

408 AD | Augustine: For

The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic
- The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39

416 AD | Council of Milevum II: For

[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers' wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration... let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, 'Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned' [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration
- Canon 3

~400 AD through ~1500 AD | Infant Baptism is a standard practice of the church during this time

From at least the 3rd century onward Christians baptised infants as standard practice, although some preferred to postpone baptism until late in life, so as to ensure forgiveness for all their preceding sins.
- Source

~1523 AD | Conrad Grebel & the Anabaptist movement: Against

In the monogenesis view the time of origin is January 21, 1525, when Conrad Grebel baptized George Blaurock, and Blaurock in turn baptized several others immediately. These baptisms were the first "re-baptisms" known in the movement. This continues to be the most widely accepted date posited for the establishment of Anabaptism.
Ana-baptism in Switzerland began as an offshoot of the church reforms instigated by Ulrich Zwingli. As early as 1522 it became evident that Zwingli was on a path of reform preaching when he began to question or criticize such Catholic practices as tithes, the mass, and even infant baptism. Zwingli had gathered a group of reform-minded men around him, with whom he studied classical literature and the scriptures. However, some of these young men began to feel that Zwingli was not moving fast enough in his reform. The division between Zwingli and his more radical disciples became apparent in an October, 1523 disputation held in Zurich. When the discussion of the mass was about to be ended without making any actual change in practice, Conrad Grebel stood up and asked "what should be done about the mass?" Zwingli responded by saying the council would make that decision. At this point, Simon Stumpf, a radical priest from Hongg, answered saying, "The decision has already been made by the Spirit of God."

This incident illustrated clearly that Zwingli and his more radical disciples had different expectations. To Zwingli, the reforms would only go as fast as the city Council allowed them. To the radicals, the council had no right to make that decision, but rather the Bible was the final authority of church reform. Feeling frustrated, some of them began to meet on their own for Bible study. As early as 1523, William Reublin began to preach against infant baptism in villages surrounding Zurich, encouraging parents to not baptize their children.

Seeking fellowship with other reform-minded people, the radical group wrote letters to Martin Luther, Andreas Karlstadt, and Thomas Müntzer. Felix Manz began to publish some of Karlstadt's writings in Zurich in late 1524. By this time the question of infant baptism had become agitated and the Zurich council had instructed Zwingli to meet weekly with those who rejected infant baptism "until the matter could be resolved." Zwingli broke off the meetings after two sessions, and Felix Manz petitioned the Council to find a solution, since he felt Zwingli was too hard to work with. The council then called a meeting for January 17, 1525.

Dissatisfaction with the outcome of a disputation in 1525 prompted Swiss Brethren to part ways with Huldrych Zwingli.

The Council ruled in this meeting that all who continued to refuse to baptize their infants should be expelled from Zurich if they did not have them baptized within one week. Since Conrad Grebel had refused to baptize his daughter Rachel, born on January 5, 1525, the Council decision was extremely personal to him and others who had not baptized their children. Thus, when sixteen of the radicals met on Saturday evening, January 21, 1525, the situation seemed particularly dark. The Hutterian Chronicle records the event:

After prayer, George of the House of Jacob (George Blaurock) stood up and besought Conrad Grebel for God's sake to baptize him with the true Christian baptism upon his faith and knowledge. And when he knelt down with such a request and desire, Conrad baptized him, since at that time there was no ordained minister to perform such work.

After Blaurock was baptized, he in turn baptized others at the meeting. Even though some had rejected infant baptism before this date, these baptisms marked the first re-baptisms of those who had been baptized as infants and thus, technically, Swiss Anabaptism was born on that day.
- Quoted from here

~1523 AD | Zwingli: For

Zwingli's views on baptism are largely rooted in his conflict with the Anabaptists, a group whose beliefs included the rejection of infant baptism and centered on the leadership of Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz. In October 1523, the controversy over the issue broke out during the second Zürich disputation and Zwingli vigorously defended the need for infant baptism and his belief that rebaptism was unnecessary. His major works on the subject include Baptism, Rebaptism, and Infant Baptism (1525), A Reply to Hubmaier (1525), A Refutation (1527), and Questions Concerning the Sacrament of Baptism (1530). Source

1529 AD | Martin Luther: For

That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost
- Source: The Large Catechism by Martin Luther

1536 AD | John Calvin: For

...infants cannot be deprived of it [baptism] without open violation of the will of God".
- Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, 16, 8

~1609 AD | John Smyth & the Baptist movement: Against

Historians trace the earliest Baptist church back to 1609 in Amsterdam, with John Smyth as its pastor. [...]

In 1609, while still there, Smyth wrote a tract titled "The Character of the Beast," or "The False Constitution of the Church." In it he expressed two propositions: first, infants are not to be baptized; and second, "Antichristians converted are to be admitted into the true Church by baptism." Hence, his conviction was that a scriptural church should consist only of regenerate believers who have been baptized on a personal confession of faith. He rejected the Separatist movement's doctrine of infant baptism (paedobaptism). Shortly thereafter, Smyth left the group, and layman Thomas Helwys took over the leadership, leading the church back to England in 1611. Ultimately, Smyth became committed to believers' baptism as the only biblical baptism. He was convinced on the basis of his interpretation of Scripture that infants would not be damned should they die in infancy.

- Quoted from here.

1638 AD | John Spilsbury & the Baptist Movement: Against, advocated believer's baptism by immersion

Position taken from here.