Infant Baptism: Answers to Common Objections

On the heals of yes­ter­day’s entry, we can now move on to the next por­tion of the mem­ber­ship class out­line from which I’m working.

This is a very sim­ple por­tion of the out­line, list­ing five objec­tions. I did­n’t take notes, so I’ll be pro­vid­ing the answers as best as I can recall them. I apol­o­gize in advance for what­ev­er headache I may cause you! 

The New Tes­ta­ment does not com­mand infant baptism!

You’re right, it does­n’t. How­ev­er, it also nev­er pre­cludes the practice.

Remem­ber that the major­i­ty of the first Chris­tians were Jews. An impor­tant part of their cul­ture involved the cir­cum­ci­sion of their house­holds, infants includ­ed. They were accus­tomed to apply­ing a sign of faith to their infants, and it is high­ly unlike­ly that prac­tice would have dis­ap­peared with any speed as the Jews were con­vert­ing to Christ. Rather, we would expect them to have applied a sign of faith to their house­holds just as they did with cir­cum­ci­sion. We saw yes­ter­day that bap­tism replaced cir­cum­ci­sion as God’s appoint­ed sign of the faith, and so that would be what these con­verts would be apply­ing to their house­holds — infants included.

In fact, that infant bap­tism isn’t addressed at all in the Scrip­tures is a great argu­ment in its favor. If it was a big deal that these con­vert­ed Jews were apply­ing a sign of their new faith in Jesus Christ to their infants, why was it nev­er addressed? The prac­tice is sim­ply tak­en for granted!

Also, it must be point­ed out that the objec­tion is a log­i­cal objec­tion to itself and thus is made null: If your basis for not doing some­thing is that Scrip­ture nev­er com­mand­ed it, could it not also be argued that one should bap­tize infants because the Scrip­tures nev­er com­mand­ed not to do it?

The New Tes­ta­ment records no instances of infant baptism!

That line of rea­son­ing can be used against many things, sev­er­al of which I bet your church makes ample use of: choirs, pul­pits, offer­ing plates, ush­ers, bap­tis­ter­ies, church sec­re­taries, church nurs­eries, Sun­day school, mis­sions coun­sels, hym­nals, steeples, mid­week ser­vices, youth out­ings, mul­ti­me­dia pre­sen­ta­tions, and so very much more. Do you real­ly want to stand against infant bap­tism sim­ply because no instance of it is record­ed in Scripture?

As I said above, it is very like­ly assumed that infants were baptized.

Indeed, twice in Acts we have exam­ples of entire house­holds being bap­tized: Lydi­a’s and the jail­ers, both in Acts 16. Com­men­ta­tors, such as John Gill, claim that to believe infants were involved is to make too big a leap of faith; how­ev­er, read­ing such com­men­tary it is rather clear that sim­i­lar leaps in log­ic are being made.

Again, what would have been the prac­tice? It was cus­tom to apply a sign of faith to infants. They were nev­er told to stop doing that.

A child can­not pro­fess faith, so he should not be baptized!

That’s inter­est­ing; why then do we see infants being cir­cum­cised in the Old Tes­ta­ment? Cir­cum­ci­sion was done as an obe­di­ent act of faith, but can infants exer­cise faith? Of course not, yet still they had the sign applied to them. Indeed, many cir­cum­cised Jews would grow up with an “uncir­cum­cised heart” and die with­out faith, lost in their sin. Cer­tain­ly, the same would be true of infants who are baptized.

Sim­ply, to claim the “can­not exer­cise faith” argu­ment” is to direct­ly oppose God’s com­mands under the Abra­ham­ic Covenant to cir­cum­cise infants. Both are mat­ters of obe­di­ence, not faith! Tru­ly, an obe­di­ent Jew is a cir­cum­cised Jew; yet it is per­formed on infants as well.

It is impos­si­ble to oppose infant bap­tism then with­out also oppos­ing cir­cum­ci­sion. Fur­ther dif­fi­cul­ty is intro­duced when we recall that bap­tism is the direct replace­ment of circumcision.

Roman Catholics believe bap­tism saves a child. So we should not do what they do!

This objec­tion bor­ders on the ridicu­lous. To extend the same log­ic, the Mor­mons prac­tice bap­tism for the dead, so should we not bap­tize? The Roman Catholics believe that the ele­ments of the Mass become the very sub­stance of Jesus Christ, so should we eschew the Lord’s sup­per as a result?

Just because the Roman Catholics or oth­er pseudochris­t­ian cults cor­rupt bib­li­cal prac­tices does not mean we should aban­don the pure prac­tices. Indeed, it makes it ever more impor­tant that we do embrace them.

Also, in dis­cus­sion infant bap­tism, at least from a Pres­by­ter­ian point of view, it must be empha­size that bap­tism is in no way effi­ca­cious for sal­va­tion — a bap­tized infant is an unsaved infant, in need of faith in Jesus Christ just as any­one would be.

There is no ben­e­fit in bap­tiz­ing a child!

What was the (reli­gious, not med­i­c­i­nal) ben­e­fit of cir­cum­cis­ing an infant? The same ben­e­fits exist with bap­tiz­ing an infant.

Bap­tism is a priv­i­lege, just as cir­cum­ci­sion was. Both acts iden­ti­fy the per­son out­ward­ly as one of Abra­ham’s off­spring. The empha­sis has always been on the inward, cer­tain­ly — cir­cum­ci­sion did­n’t make a Jew saved any more than bap­tism makes an infant saved — but it does iden­ti­fy the infant as a mem­ber of a group of oth­ers who are liv­ing for God. To bap­tize an infant is to pro­claim for all present, “This is a Chris­tian’s child!”

And in that regard, it is also a pledge, a pledge that the child will be reared in a man­ner con­sis­tent with the Scrip­tures. “This is a Chris­tian’s child, and he is going to be raised in the ways of the Lord!” Just as cir­cum­ci­sion was the first step in an infants’ being raised in light of the Abra­ham­ic Covenant (and sub­se­quent­ly the Mosa­ic Covenant), so is bap­tism a first step.

It could be argued that peo­ple in the New Tes­ta­ment were only bap­tized after they believed. To that, I say “Duh!” Why would any­one be bap­tized if they weren’t a part of the church­es? These were all new­com­ers to Chris­tian­i­ty, and it makes sense that when they were saved, they would sub­se­quent­ly be bap­tized. They then would have their chil­dren bap­tized, just as they would have had their chil­dren cir­cum­cised if they had just con­vert­ed to Judaism.

Again, infant bap­tism only makes sense when view­ing the Scrip­tures from a covenan­tal per­spec­tive. The uni­ty of the Tes­ta­ments can­not be ignored, espe­cial­ly when Paul makes it ever so clear, as we saw yes­ter­day, that bap­tism is the cir­cum­ci­sion of this age.

I may still do a part three, on the var­i­ous modes of bap­tism, but I’m not for sure. Stay tuned!


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11 responses to “Infant Baptism: Answers to Common Objections”

  1. Glen Avatar
    Glen

    very inter­est­ing arti­cle. have no time to say a whole pile of Glen ram­bling, but I noticed some of the argu­ments raised against Infant Bap­tism are sim­i­lar to argu­ments against The prac­tise or remem­ber­ing Christ’s birth around Christmas.

    Also how does an Old Tes­ta­ment prac­tise of Cir­cum­ci­sion under the law, relate to an infant being baptized?

    Also was­n’t cir­cum­ci­sion insti­gat­ed as one rea­son being because the child was a Jew? What are the clear under­stand­ings of bap­tism in the New Tes­ta­ment, why was it per­formed, and what from clear teach­ing had to come first?

    A very inter­est­ing top­ic that’s for sure

    Glen

  2. Rick Beckman Avatar

    The Old Tes­ta­ment prac­tice of cir­cum­ci­sion was less relat­ed to the Law and more relat­ed to the Abra­ham­ic Covenant. This covenant is direct­ly applic­a­ble to Chris­tians, for we are more chil­dren of Abra­ham (and thus heirs accord­ing to those promis­es) than any cir­cum­cised yet unbe­liev­ing Jews.

    Gen­e­sis 17:12 estab­lish­es that heirs of the promise were to cir­cum­cise — or apply a sign of their faith — to their chil­dren. That act alone does­n’t make them true heirs any­more than bap­tiz­ing infants would make them saved. In fact, Gala­tians 3:29 estab­lish­es that those who are in Christ are “Abra­ham’s seed.”

    And Colos­sians 2:11–12 estab­lish that bap­tism is the New Tes­ta­ment replace­ment of circumcision.

    Putting it all togeth­er, infants should be bap­tized because of the covenant promis­es made to Abra­ham, that new­borns ought to be “induct­ed” into the covenant by an out­ward act — cir­cum­ci­sion then, bap­tism now — but that out­ward acts alone can­not save. Only those who are “in Christ” will inher­it the promises.

  3. Senior Avatar
    Senior

    “The New Tes­ta­ment records no instances of infant baptism!

    That line of rea­son­ing can be used against many things, sev­er­al of which I bet your church makes ample use of: choirs, pul­pits, offer­ing plates, ush­ers, bap­tis­ter­ies, church sec­re­taries, church nurs­eries, Sun­day school, mis­sions coun­sels, hym­nals, steeples, mid­week ser­vices, youth out­ings, mul­ti­me­dia pre­sen­ta­tions, and so very much more.”

    It seems to me that in the past you have writ­ten against the prac­tice of most of that list. Specif­i­cal­ly because there is no scrip­tur­al sup­port for them.

    Big changes afoot.

  4. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Per­haps, but not in that regard. I still whole­heart­ed­ly believe in the suf­fi­cien­cy of Scrip­ture to describe wor­ship for us. As men­tioned yes­ter­day, I still haven’t accept­ed the prac­tice of infant bap­tism; the posts about them have been made for the pur­pose of con­ver­sa­tion, though per­haps with me play­ing the role of “pae­dobap­tist advo­cate” a bit.

    As such, I was sim­ply point­ing out where the log­ic of the objec­tion “It’s not com­mand­ed in the Bible!” will get peo­ple. If they do not prac­tice that prin­ci­ple in so many oth­er areas of wor­ship and prac­tice, upon what do they stand if they prac­tice it only the area of paedobaptism?

    [pae­dobap­tist advo­cate] How­ev­er, even if infant bap­tism is not com­mand­ed in the New Tes­ta­ment explic­it­ly, the argu­ment for it based upon Covenan­talism is provoca­tive. [/pa]

  5. Justin Avatar
    Justin

    The one prob­lem I have about say­ing that cir­cum­ci­sion and bap­tism are syn­ony­mous: One was under the Old Covenant and the oth­er under the New Covenant. The New was dif­fer­ent from the Old, so would­n’t it fol­low suit that the sign and seal of that Covenant would change?

    Also, cir­cum­ci­sion was only used on males. How was the female sup­posed to show her sign and seal, see­ing as she did­n’t have the “prop­er equip­ment”? (I sup­pose I show my igno­rance in such a ques­tion, but it would be more wise to ask an igno­rant ques­tion to rest in qui­et idiocity).

    For the “house­hold” argu­ment, the prob­lem I have is that we “assume” there were chil­dren. Now, it is fea­si­ble that there were chil­dren, but it’s still just an assumption.

    Either way, I am still very igno­rant on the sub­ject. Like I said in Part 1, how­ev­er, I think it should be an indi­vid­ual church issue, and nei­ther should judge the oth­er for its practices.

  6. Rick Beckman Avatar

    Justin, in all hon­esty, the “house­hold argu­ment” isn’t a good one. I shared it because I was shar­ing my notes and that’s what the notes said. The pas­sages which men­tion house­holds also men­tion — in every case, as far as I can recall — that the house­hold like­wise believed. In those cer­tain instances, entire house­holds were elect­ed and enabled to believe, and so they were bap­tized, every mem­ber of the house.

    As for the ques­tion regard­ing women & the sign of faith regard­ing cir­cum­ci­sion… In times past, men were rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their fam­i­lies. If the “man of the house” was a Jew, that house­hold was Jew­ish, with­out ques­tion. That’s just an idea and isn’t at all based on exe­ge­sis, so the actu­al answer might be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. :P How­ev­er, in Christ we find that all are on equal spir­i­tu­al foot­ing — there is no Jew or Gen­tile, Greek or bar­bar­ian, male or female, mas­ter or ser­vant — so it makes sense that the sign of the Chris­t­ian faith would be one that is acces­si­ble to all.

    Regard­ing the Old & New Covenants, how­ev­er, keep in mind that the “Old Covenant” is root­ed in nation­al Israel. Hebrews 8 makes it clear that the Old Covenant was estab­lished at the com­ing out of Egypt, with Moses & the Law. The New Covenant, in being “new,” super­sedes the Old Covenant, which is ready to “van­ish away” (Hebrews 8:13).

    I always go back to WayOfLife.org when my Bap­tist roots are chal­lenged, just to go back over the mate­r­i­al that once served as my pri­ma­ry study mate­r­i­al in help­ing me learn the Scrip­tures. And David Cloud (of that web­site) has put forth one major rea­son (along with numer­ous oth­ers) why the circumcision/baptism com­par­i­son is erro­neous: we are not under the Law, and he cit­ed most of Gala­tians 3 in stat­ing that. [Source]

    To which I say, “Amen!” How­ev­er, we can­not stop with the Law/Grace com­par­isons of Gala­tians 3 and leave it at that. Indeed, that same chap­ter ends in this manner:

    “There is nei­ther Jew nor Greek, there is nei­ther slave nor free man, there is nei­ther male nor female; for you area all one in Christ Jesus” (v.28). The Law was for Israel, not for the Gen­tiles (Greeks includ­ed). It makes sense that if such nation­al dis­tinc­tions were done away with, so would the Law “fade” (as Hebrews puts it).

    Still, the chap­ter does not end there. We are all one in Christ Jesus… “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abra­ham’s off­spring, heirs accord­ing to promise” (v.29).

    Right there, Paul takes us back many hun­dreds of years before the Law was insti­tut­ed. He takes us back to — not the begin­ning of the nation of Israel — the promise that through Abra­ham the whole world would be blessed. That promise — that covenant — is foun­da­tion­al to the com­ing of Mes­si­ah, to God’s elec­tion of peo­ple from all nations & tongues! Gen­e­sis 17 pre­cedes the “Old Covenant” of the Law; it pre­cedes Israel completely!

    And that covenant of so long ago, made with Abra­ham, was made not only between God & Abra­ham, but to Abra­ham’s descen­dants as well. Accord­ing to the New Tes­ta­ment, that includes us.

  7. Justin Avatar
    Justin

    “And that covenant of so long ago, made with Abra­ham, was made not only between God & Abra­ham, but to Abraham’s descen­dants as well. Accord­ing to the New Tes­ta­ment, that includes us.”

    Amen!

    PS: Rick, I added a new post in the await­ing posts, and I was won­der­ing if you could get that one up real soon. I like it and would like every­one else to read it. But, if you don’t have the time, I under­stand. Thanks!

  8. John Avatar
    John

    Inter­est­ing arti­cle but after read­ing var­i­ous pas­sages I don’t know how you can rela­gate bap­tism as a sign. One pas­sage that I am sure you know states “he that believes and is bap­tized will be saved. Also 1 Peter 3:21 states that “bap­tism doth now save us”. Both of these pas­sages posi­tion bap­tism in a far more mirac­u­lous text than as a pro­claima­tion to oth­er believ­ers present.

  9. Rick Beckman Avatar

    It is entire­ly pos­si­ble that the bap­tism in those two pas­sages is the bap­tism of the Holy Spir­it which accom­pa­nies the new birth.

    That would fit with the act of cir­cum­ci­sion under the Old Covenant. Cir­cum­cis­ing infants did not save them, but when they were old enough to have faith and be cir­cum­cised in their hearts, they were saved.

    Bap­tism being the “new cir­cum­ci­sion,” so to speak, we would expect to find the same physical/spiritual sense about it, which we do.

    Water bap­tism cer­tain­ly isn’t nec­es­sary for sal­va­tion (there’s a slew of peo­ple in Hebrews 11, not to men­tion the pen­i­tent thief on the cross next to Jesus, that were saved by faith alone with­out men­tion phys­i­cal rites), but there def­i­nite­ly is a greater spir­i­tu­al mir­a­cle that is the bap­tism of the Holy Spir­it which bap­tism phys­i­cal­ly shows.

  10. John Avatar
    John

    It appears after read­ing var­i­ous pas­sages it isn’t the same bap­tism of repen­tence that John per­formed before the death and res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus and that the Holy Spir­it may be involved in bap­tism. The pas­sage I men­tioned ear­li­er from Mark 16:16 seems to be a broad, uni­ver­sal com­mand from Jesus,“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all cre­ation. Who­ev­er believes and is bap­tized shall be saved…If your expla­na­tion for bap­tism being posi­tioned with being saved in this pas­sage (and 1 peter 3:21) is that it may be a bap­tism of the Holy Spir­it then all bap­tisms post Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion would be that way based on this passage.

    I am not imply­ing that I believe you can’t be saved with­out baptism–faith only saves. But after study­ing these dif­fer­ent pas­sages it seems some­thing more mirac­u­lous is occur­ring in bap­tiz­ing some­one in the tri­une God that exceeds a sign and involves faith.

  11. Mike Peterson Avatar
    Mike Peterson

    As with all Bible dis­cus­sions, it all comes down to the issue of Bible alone and Authority.

    Before the Bible was even can­on­ized around 400, there was a Coun­cil held and the issue was not if infant bap­tism was right, it was if one had to wait 8 days or not which the coun­cil agreed they did­n’t for the next 1200 years after the Bible came to be, babies were bap­tized. Even the orig­i­nal Protes­tant church­es bap­tized infants. Not bap­tiz­ing them is fair­ly new phe­nom­e­non. A man made tradition.

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Rick Beckman