Infant Baptism?

On the Feast of St. Anselm, Kolbe was drawn into a new world.  He became a child of God!
Just as we did with his brother John Paul, we gave him up for adoption.  The cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) celebrating in the Church Triumphant included his namesake, St. Maximilian Kolbe, no doubt.

Kolbe's rebirth was also witnessed by the Church Militant, most notably his Godparents (Sarah's sister and our brother-in-law, who have agreed to help us raise him to be a saint), his grandparents Papa and Meme and Mim, and his Aunt Megan.  After this Sacrament of Initiation, over 50 friends and family members came to our house to celebrate with Kolbe his new life in Christ!

The 25th Hoffman to wear
this baptismal gown
Someday a Christian will inevitably ask Kolbe if he is "born again."  And he will point to this occasion and say "Yes!"  

Sadly, many Christians today have been taught a distorted interpretation of John 3.  Jesus told Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  The original Greek word used for "again" is anothen, which also means "from above."  Nicodemus shows his confusion by asking how a man can "enter a second time into his mother's womb."  Jesus clarifies, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God... you must be born anew [i.e., again/from above!]."

So how are we born "of water and the Spirit?"  Baptism!  It's a requirement.  Some Christians today think this regeneration is simply a moment when we pray the sinner's pray and confess Jesus as our "personal Lord and Savior."  It commonly happens at an altar call or during a Christian rock concert, for example.  

But this is a recent change in Christian theology, and it is not biblical.  According to the Bible, to be "born again/from above" is to be baptized.  John links water/Spirit/Baptism throughout his writings (see Jn. 1:33, 7:38-39; and 1Jn. 5:8).  Immediately preceding this passage, "many believed in [Jesus'] name... but Jesus did NOT trust himself to them" (John 2:23-24).  Believing in His name wasn't enough to be "born again"; the necessity of "water" is then explained to Nicodemus.  And what did Jesus and his disciples go out and do immediately following this explanation?  They went to Judea and BAPTIZED people.  And throughout the New Testament, Baptism is described as a sacrament of salvation (see Acts 2:38; 1Cor. 6:11; Tit. 3:5; 1Pet. 3:21).

If you believe in Jesus but have not been baptized, I pray you will reconsider Christ's words in John 3:5.  

And if you are a Christian with unbaptized kids because your community does not believe in baptizing infants or young children, I beg you to ask your pastor why.  The Bible implies that infants should be and were baptized in the first century, and the second generation of Christians (men who learned from the Apostles!) explicitly taught that infants should be baptized as soon as possible.  Why change this 2,000-year Apostolic rite? 

Denying children this grace until "the age of reason" is a recent Christian development without biblical support.  To many of our brothers and sisters in Christ:  know that we pray for you and your unbaptized children, on a weekly basis at least.  (We always offer for you our Monday 4th Joyful Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary, which is "The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.")

If you sincerely believe infant baptism is useless and it needs to happen at an age of reason, I beg you to explain this to me, because I then need to be "re-baptized" since I was baptized at 10 days old.  May we discover the truth, in love, together.

Finally, for more on the theology of rebirth, check out this video from a true master, Fr. Robert Barron:

Posted by Ryan at 6/10/2012 11:44 PM 

  • 6/13/2012 4:00 PMErin G-M wrote:
    Where in the Bible does it mention or that there is record of anyone being baptized who had not already PROFESSED Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? No infants were ever baptized according to God's word. There are examples of baptism in the New Testament that plainly states those that were baptized had FIRST BELIEVED in Jesus Christ. An infant has no capacity to believe or be accountable for their sin. Explain to me how an infant can understand the Gospel or can believe in Jesus Christ??? How can they even understand it? Or understand sin?

    Only the saved should be baptized, which means those who have believed in Jesus Christ and by faith has recieved Him as the personal Savior. Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. God teaches that salvation is given by His grace when a person by faith believes and stresses that salavation is not merited by any works which would include baptism. So baptism is an act or work and the New Testament teaches that rituals and works do not save or have any saving merit...Romans 4:5 or Titus 3:5.

    In Acts 16:30,31 there is a Philippian jailer who asked Paul and Silas.."Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved." More than 60 times in the New Testament God tells us to believe in Him!!!
    If someone is lost spiritually, but is baptized, how can you say he is saved or born-again? If this man doesn't believe in Jesus Christ or understand repentance and is baptized, the symbolism of baptism is saying he is confessing he believes when in fact he doesn't believe!! So this man is saved? Clearly not...Doesn't God want our hearts?! No one should be baptized who does not have a clear testimony or understanding of believing in Jesus Christ. You have to be able to recognize yourself as a sinner.

    Do I believe baptism is important?? Yes because its an act of submission and obedience to Christ after one is saved...Matt 28:19-20 Baptism is a public declaration of our inward faith. Its symbolic.

    Ok, Im aware of Acts 2:38, "Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." If Peter was sayin one has to be baptized in order to be saved then he would have COMPLETELY contradicted the teaching of Ephesians 2:89-9 and John 3:16. Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus how to be "born again" and enter the kingdom of Kingdom of Heaven. If baptism is necessary for salvation, why didnt he tell this Pharisee to go be baptized by John the Baptist? Because its not necessary for salvation...
    1. 6/13/2012 9:16 PMRyan wrote:
      Thanks for your comments, Erin!  Thank you for loving me enough to challenge me when I'm not living in conformity with (what you are convinced is) the truth.  Some responses:

      "Where in the Bible does it mention or that there is record of anyone being baptized who had not already PROFESSED Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?"The Bible does not explicitly give an account of an infant being baptized.  True.  But that does not mean it didn't happen.  I could ask the opposite:  Where in the Bible does it mention a single instance when baptism was delayed for a child of Christian parents until he/she could profess Jesus as his/her Lord and Savior? 

      "No infants were ever baptized according to God's word."Where does the Bible say this?  You are making a huge assumption here.  While an infant was not explicily baptized in Scripture, the practice is certainly implicit.  You mentioned Acts 2:38.  In v39 Peter says "the promise is to you and your children."  In 1Cor 1:16, Paul says he baptized the "household of Stephananas."  When Lydia converted in Acts 16, she was baptized "with her household" (v15).  Does it mention of a profession of faith from each member of her household?  And even the story you share about the jailer questioning Paul and Silas - you didn't complete verse 31:  "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."  Again, no mention of a profession of faith from every member of the household!  What are the chances that none of these "households" included infants or young children?

      "There are examples of baptism in the New Testament that plainly states those that were baptized had FIRST BELIEVED in Jesus Christ."Yes, of course, and the Church still requires a profession of faith for adults being baptized.  For the adults in the Bible, Baptism didn't exist when they were infants!  It still doesn't mean that children of Christian parents couldn't enter the New Covenant based on the faith of their parents.

      Under the Old Covenant, did every Israelite have to make a profession of faith in order to be initiated into a covenant relationship with the one true God?  No.  They entered the covenant based on the faith of their parents.  For boys, this meant circumcision at 8 days old!  Does the same pattern follow under the New Covenant?  Paul says it does in Col 2:11-12:  "In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead."

      If Paul did not intend for infants to be baptized, why did he say Baptism is the new circumcision?

      "If baptism is necessary for salvation, why didn't he tell this Pharisee to go be baptized by John the Baptist? Because its not necessary for salvation..." 
      First, the baptism performed by John the Baptist was not the real-deal.  He himself said as much.  It was a baptism of repentance (more of the symbolic version you believe in), which was a precursor to the efficacious Sacrament instituted by Christ to give us grace.  Second, Jesus said, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."  And even the verse from Titus you mentioned says we are saved "by the washing of regeneration."   If not baptism, then to what does "water" and "washing" refer? 

      "An infant has no capacity to believe or be accountable for their sin. Explain to me how an infant can understand the Gospel or can believe in Jesus Christ??? How can they even understand it? Or understand sin?"Doesn't this contradict your later statement that salvation is a "gift from God" and there is nothing we can do to merit it?  Why can't an infant recieve this free gift?  Why does a child have to wait until he is older?  Why does he have to do something (publicly profess his faith) in order to merit it?  In Luke 18:16, Jesus said "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God."  Was Jesus refering only to children old enough "to understand the Gospel or believe in him?"  No!  In v15, Luke says they were bringing even infants to him!  (the orginal Greek uses "brepha," which means infants)  And what about Original Sin?  Do we inherit it?  Don't infants need to have original sin washed away?  Are we born into a "saved" status or not?

      Finally, neither one of us can say that our position on infant baptism is explicitly taught in Scripture.  So wouldn't it be nice to know how the second century Christians handled this?  Wouldn't it be helpful to know how the men who learned from the Apostles handled baptism? 

      We do! Click here for many examples.  And if you want to check the unedited texts for context, see here.

      If the second-century Christians (and beyond) explicitly insisted on the practice of baptizing infants, then what makes you think the first-century Christians practiced/taught otherwise?

      Finally, in order to thoroughly answer your objections, I will have to address other Protestant doctrines embedded in your comments:  salvation by faith alone, once saved always saved, symbolic not literal sacraments, and Scripture as the sole authority.  But I'll save that for later.  Peace to you and your household.
    2. 6/13/2012 11:10 PMRyan wrote:
      I'd like to examine your comments regarding Eph 2:8, Rom 4:5, and Tit 3:5.  First, there is no indication of the sacraments being symbolic.  Over and over again Baptism is referred to as a sacrament of salvation.  It is certainly not treated as optional.  Peter regards Noah's family as being saved through water as prefiguring Baptism.  "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you..." (1Pet 3:21).  Again, see also John 3:5; Tit 3:5; Heb 10:22; Acts 2:37-38, 22:16; 1Cor 6:11; and Rom 6:4.
      In Eph 2:8, Paul is simply highlighting the fact that faith is a free gift from God and there is nothing we can do to merit it (so no reason to boast).  Baptism is not something we do; it is an act of God.  This free gift of salvation is initially conferred through the Sacrament of Baptism (1Pet 3:21).  Paul himself confirms this in several of the references above.  And he is not downplaying the importance of "good works" either.  For in the very next verse he says we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works."
      Titus 3:5... again, "he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness"... so how?  "by washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit."  Baptism!
      Rom 4:5... you have to read this in the context of the end of Chapter 3.  He is explaining that Gentiles can be saved by faith, apart from the works of the law.  This is what he is referring to in Rom 3:28:  "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law."  As noted above, he cannot be saying that man is justified by faith apart from Baptism. 
      Outside of Romans, Paul also refers to the "works of the law" 6 times in Galatians.  He can't be talking about good Christian works, because in many other passages he affirms their necessity (2 Cor 5:10, 11:15; Col 3:24-25; Rom 2:2-8; Gal 5:4-6; Eph 2:8-10; Phil 2:12-13).
      "Works of the law" refers to the works of the Mosaic Law, such as circumcision, dietary laws, etc. Paul is denying the saving power of Mosaic works, performed on the strength of human nature, while he (and James and John and Peter and Jesus!) affirms the value of Christian works, performed by the grace and power supplied by Jesus Christ.  (By the way, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls further validates this interpretation of the phrase "works of the law.")
      James (2:14-26) makes it pretty clear!
      "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?  Can his faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?  So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  But some one will say, 'You have faih and I have works,'  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.  You believe that God is one, you do well.  Even the demons believe - and shudder.  Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?  You see that faith was active with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness '; and he was called the friend of God.  You see that a man is justified by works and not faith alone.  And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead."

      Peter (1Pet 1:17) and John (Rev 20:12-13) tell us we will be judged by our works.  And Jesus also contradicts the Protestant idea of "faith alone."  See the parable of the two sons in Matt 21:28-31.  Also...

      "Not every one who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."  Matt 7:21

      "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."  John 14:21

      Didn't the rich man at the end of Matt. 19 ask the question for us?  "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" (v16).  Did Jesus say, "None, you are saved by faith alone?"  No, he said, "If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
      ...which leads us to the problems with the theory "once saved, always saved."  Stay tuned.
    3. 6/15/2012 3:11 PMRyan wrote:
      Erin, correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to indicate that you believe once a person is "saved," he/she is always saved.  So does that mean once a person "professes Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior," his actions for the rest of his life are irrelevant?  He automatically goes to heaven, no matter what happens after that point?

      Let me clarify the Church's position.  Baptism cleanses Original Sin, initiates a covenant relationship with God (that is, the person enters into Christ's divine sonship), infuses a soul with the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, and more.  But that does not mean a baptized person is "good to go."  This person is still free to reject his covenant friendship with Jesus Christ by sinning.  No sin can enter heaven (cf. Rev 21:27).  While a venial sin weakens our relationship with Christ, a mortal sin breaks it. (See how John distinguishes between the two in 1Jn 5:16-17.)  Sincere participation in the Sacrament of Confession, instituted by Christ (in Jn 20:22-23), restores our covenant relationship with God.  

      The story of the Prodigal Son demonstrates this.  He was in covenant relationship with his father ("saved"), rejected his sonship and blew his inheritance ("unsaved"), but then repented and ran back into the open merciful arms of his father ("saved").

      In Peter's second letter (2:20-22), he warns that genuine believers can fall from God's grace and ultimately lose their salvation.  The false teachers exemplify such a danger, for they have slid back into wicked ways, even though they were "bought" by the Lord (see also  2Pet 2:1, 1Cor 6:19-20) and "washed" clean of their iniquities (see also Acts 22:16).  One who has never known the Christian message is better off than one who has previously embraced it but later chooses to reject it (see also Matt 12:45; Lk 11:26).  

      Elsewhere, the Bible says we can "fall from grace" (Gal 5:1-5; Heb 12:14-16), be "cut off" from the vine from which we receive divine life (Jn 15:1-6; Rom 11:18-22), have our names removed from the Lamb's book of life (Rev 22:19).  It also assures us that if we commit certain sins and do not repent, we will not go to heaven (1Cor 6:9-11, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:3-5; Rev 21:6-8).

      So, to answer the question "Are you saved?" ... the most completely Scriptural answer would be...

      I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8, Tit. 3:5), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15,), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, Mt. 24:13). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).

      It's a process, a journey.  Baptism is the first step in the process.  But once we grow old enough to sin, the process of sanctification and salvation goes on.  And Jesus Christ instituted seven Sacraments (most importantly the Eucharist) to affect this transformation every step of the way.  We are saved by his grace alone, but we must cooperate with that grace through faith working in love.

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