Baptism of Infants
Infant baptism has, however, been the subject of much dispute. The Church, however, maintains absolutely that the law of Christ applies as well to infants as to adults. When the Redeemer declares (John 3) that it is necessary to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God, His words may be justly understood to mean that He includes all who are capable of having a right to this kingdom.
But some people delayed their Baptism and thus fell in more sin losing the grace of Baptism. Some people refrained from Baptism as they were hooked to worldly pleasures and wanted more, so they kept postponing Baptism. Therefore, when Sts. Athanasius, Baselius and Gregory realized the dangers of postponing Baptism, for various reasons, they urged Christians to receive this Holy Sacrament at any stage of their life. At any rate, Apostolic tradition always stressed the necessity of baptizing both children and adults. The Holy church received this tradition from the Apostles directly who themselves practiced it. St. Peter declared on the Pentecost “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: 37-39). This is a clear statement that justifies baptizing children. Furthermore, when the disciples were preaching the Gospel, they accepted whole families into Christianity baptizing children and adults alike. St. Paul, for instance, baptized the whole household of Steven and there must have been children among them “I did baptize also the house of Stephan’s …” (I Cor 1:16). As mentioned earlier, Lydia, the seller of purple and her family were baptized, and the prison keeper and his family too.
The Holy church deemed necessary the Baptism of children for the following reasons:
Since all people, children and adults alike share the original sin, they all need to be purified and justified to inherit the kingdom of God, and thus baptism is necessary for their salvation.
Children have always been venerated. Both the old and the New Testaments gave them special honor. In the old Testament, God filled Jeremiah with the Holy Spirit while a baby in his mother’s womb and so did to John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). Children received special and affectionate treatment by the Lord Jesus who loved children very much and blessed them saying “Let the children come to me, and do not hide them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 18:3; 91:4). It follows that baptism is necessary for children due to their special honor and status.
The Holy fathers of the church present us with strong testimonies supporting the Baptism of children. Origence says “The church received the tradition of baptizing children from the Apostles”.
Children are baptized on the faith of their parents, and they must be baptized at a very early age lest they might die without being baptized, and thus be deprived of the Kingdom of Heaven. The best time for baptizing children is between the 8th and the 40th day after their birth. There are those who oppose to the baptism of children on the grounds that one has to believe first, and then be baptized. How can a child believe when he understands nothing? Does not faith come first and then Baptism? Our answer to these questions are:
1. Yes, faith comes first, and then Baptism, but this is true for adults, not for children, for adults need teaching preaching and persuasion to accept faith. Children, on the other hand, believe whatever they are told, and so they are baptized on the faith of their parents.
2. If a baptized child rejects the Christian faith when he reaches adulthood, his Baptism will do him no good any way. But if he confirms the faith of his parents, he is already baptized, and does have the great advantage of being worthy to enter the Kingdom of God if it happens that he dies in the period before his adulthood, because the other conditions of salvation, namely, faith, repentance, and good works do not apply to him. But, if an unbaptized child dies, although he has not a sin, he still carries the original sin with which he was born, and those who die with their original sin will not be able to enter the kingdom of God.
3. There are those who claim that Baptism should be performed at the age of 30. But what is magic about the age 30? Why can’t one be baptized at 25, or 20? Does he not understand faith less? We have great thinkers at the age of 20’s.
Moreover, St. Paul (Colossians 2) says that baptism in the New Law has taken the place of circumcision in the Old. It was especially to infants that the rite of circumcision was applied by Divine precept. If it be said that there is no example of the baptism of infants to be found in the Bible, we may answer that infants are included in such phrases as: “She was baptized and her household” (Acts 16:15); “Himself was baptized, and all his house immediately” (Acts 16:33); “I baptized the household of Stephanus” (I Corinthians 1:16).
The tradition of Christian antiquity as to the necessity of infant baptism is clear from the very beginning, as you have read above. The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism also to infants. Theologians also call attention to the fact that as God sincerely wishes all men to be saved, He does not exclude infants, for whom baptism of either water or blood is the only means possible. The doctrines also of the universality of original sin and of the all-comprehending atonement of Christ are stated so plainly and absolutely in Scripture as to leave no solid reason for denying that infants are included as well as adults.