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!

11 thoughts on “Infant Baptism: Answers to Common Objections

  1. Glen says:

    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 says:
    Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

    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 says:

    “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 says:
    Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

    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 says:

    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 says:
    Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

    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 says:

    “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 says:

    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 says:
    Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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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