|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Essays about Orthodoxy and Protestantism|
Is infant baptism permissible?
Due to ignorance of the real meaning of baptism, most of the Protestant world has rejected the baptism of infants. In this study, we shall briefly examine certain of these misunderstandings.
An important reason that Protestantism rejects the baptizing of infants is that they have misunderstood the significance of Baptism. So, why are we baptized?
To this question, we shall get a different answer by each Protestant group. But they will correctly comment: “for the redemption of sins”. Some more extreme views will say “as a dedication to God”.
If baptizing were indeed a “dedication”, we could most probably assert that it would have to be an adult. But Christian baptism is something else. Baptism is not a “dedication” by someone. It is the SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION of the person being baptized. We have shown this in another of our studies, so we shall only mention a few necessary points here. We shall begin with the Apostle Paul:
“Or are you not aware, that whomsoever of us is baptized in Jesus Christ, has been baptized unto His death? We have therefore been entombed with Him - through baptism - unto the death, so that just as Christ arose from the dead through the glory of His Father, thus we shall likewise enter into a new life. For if we become affiliated to the likeness of His death, we shall likewise be affiliated to the resurrection. On knowing this, that our former self has crucified itself with Him so that the body of sin be abolished and we no longer labor in sin …… for if we perish together with Christ, we believe that we shall live together with Him” (Romans 6/VI 3 - 8).
Thus, with Holy Baptism, man is resurrected spiritually, by receiving the Holy Spirit. This can be seen in verse: Acts 2/II 38:
“ Repent, they say, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
In the above verse it is again very clear that baptism is intended “for the remission of sins” and is not a “dedication”.
It is also apparent here, that whatever Adam had lost (under construction) when he first sinned and made himself Spiritually Dead, man can receive through Holy Baptism. This is the “gift of the Holy Spirit”.
When our baby is sick and in need of a doctor, should we first ask it and then call the doctor? Could it be, that the medicine we are giving the child is depriving it of the freedom to choose whether it will be saved? So, why should the Anabaptist Protestants be upset, when we Christians heal our child -through baptism- of the Spiritual Death that it inherited from Adam? Because, as we said, this is the purpose of baptism: the regaining of the Holy Spirit by mankind (whether infant or adult) that Adam had lost through his sin, thus becoming Spiritually Dead. We rush to restore our child’s physical health by calling a doctor without previously asking it. Shouldn’t we restore its spiritual health? Is the child’s spiritual health therefore more inferior, in the sight of Anabaptist Protestantism?
But, again, the Holy Bible itself witnesses that children can be baptized, saying:
“ Let each one of you be baptized…… for the remission of sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is addressed to you and to your children, and to all those who are distant, whomsoever that the Lord our God may invite” Acts 2/II 38, 39.
The word “for” that is mentioned above refers to baptism for the remission of sins. Therefore the children of Christians also participate in it.
Perhaps someone might say here: “But what sins has a baby committed, to be baptized “for the remission of sins”?
Observe what this verse has to say: Job 14/XIV 4,5 (Septuagint) “ for who is pure of any defilement? No-one. Not even if his life span on earth is but one day”. We therefore see that if someone is even one day old, he is not pure. This is witnessed in other verses of the Holy Bible also. Let’s take a look at one:
“..behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and my mother weaned me in sins” Psalms 50: 7.
Just think! Man is joined to sin from the moment of his conception. Could it be, that a doubter doesn’t know that our children also partake of the original sin? Didn’t our children inherit from Adam the SPIRITUAL DEATH? Weren’t they born DEPRIVED of the Holy Spirit that Adam used to have?
If an Anabaptist Protestant realizes that the purpose of baptism is the restoring of man’s partaking of the Holy Spirit as Adam once did, he will realize something else also: Who asked Eve if she wanted God to give her the Holy Spirit from the moment He created her? If Eve – as an adult – was not asked, but was given the Holy Spirit from the very first moment of her creation, why should children be asked? And if Eve was created with the Holy Spirit as a component of her existence (regardless whether she lost it afterwards), why should we refuse this same Holy Spirit for the children, so that they too may have the Holy Spirit as a component of their existence from the very beginning of their lives?
And, to go a little further, who asked the children -or us- what features our physical body should have? Why then should we deny our children the RIGHT to have from the very beginning of their lives the feature of the Holy Spirit as a component of their existence?
AND IF THE CHILDREN DECIDE THAT THEY NO LONGER WANT THE HOLY SPIRIT AS THEY GROW UP, LET THEM SEND IT AWAY just as Eve did, and just as every adult does, who denies God. God will respect their decision, and He will depart from those who deny the Holy Spirit.
But there is more! Check out what the Holy Bible says in Colossians 2/II 11,12: “..inasmuch as you have also circumcised yourselves by a circumcision not of human doing when divesting yourselves of the body of carnal sins in the circumcision of Christ, and when entombing yourselves with Him in the baptism, by which you have been resurrected by your faith in God’s act of raising Him from the dead”.
Baptism is therefore the “circumcision of Christ”. And what was the role of circumcision for the Israelites? It was so that they could become proper members of the Church of Israel. In the same way, when does someone become a member of the Christian Church? When one is baptized by a Christian baptism. But circumcision was also imposed ON INFANTS, and to be precise, ON THEIR EIGHTH DAY (Genesis 17/XVII 10-14). We have here a clear-cut parallel: Just as a child could be circumcised in ancient Israel in order to become part of God’s people, the same applies today. A child can likewise today become a part of God’s people – the Church. And just as it wasn’t compulsory in ancient times to ask the child, thus it also applies in our time, because the child always has the option of rejecting this baptism later on in its life.
Besides, it is written: “Leave the children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matthew 19/XIX 14).
It seems like Anabaptist Protestantism – contrary to these words of Christ – are actually hindering children from acquiring the citizenship of Christ’s Church through baptism, and from partaking of the heavenly kingdom.
Some may ask: “What does a baby understand when you baptize it?” This is usually a question posed by people who have been brought up with Western-type intellectual teaching, who are basically unaware of the significance of the Spirit. Not everything should necessarily be filtered through logic. Apart from logic, there is also spiritual benefit. This can be seen in the words of the Apostle Paul, in Corinthians I, 14/XIV 14,15, where he speaks of two kinds of benefits: of the mind and of the spirit. And he says that the charismatics who “speak in tongues” must interpret their utterances, if these occur in the presence of the Church, so that not only their own spirit, but the minds of those attending may be benefited. So he says: “for if I pray with my tongue, my spirit is praying, but my mind is fruitless. What therefore? I pray in the spirit, and I pray with my mind. I chant in spirit, and I chant in mind”.
Consequently, there is a spiritual benefit, which man acquires even when he doesn’t perceive anything. We are speaking of the SPIRITUAL BENEFIT that originates from the Holy Spirit when we receive it during baptism and it continues to work secretly on man’s spirit. This is the benefit that an infant acquires during its baptism, which is something totally independent of the intellectual mentality of the West,
We all know that John the Baptist baptized. But who baptized John? No-one! John the Baptist had an extremely rare characteristic: he was filled with Holy Spirit from inside his mother’s womb, as we are informed in Luke 1/I 15: “…and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, while still in his mother’s womb.” This was something that had been provided for, in view of his mission to prepare the way of the Lord (Malachi 3/III 1).
So, how did Christ first encounter John? We are told of this by Luke (chapter 1/I 43, 44). As soon as John’s pregnant mother came face to face with the pregnant mother of the Lord, she said: “… and whence is this, that the mother of our Lord has come to me? Behold, for as soon as I heard the voice of your greeting in my ears, the infant leapt joyfully inside my womb”.
Question: Which infant?
THE EMBRYO John had leapt joyfully when it heard the voice of the Holy Mother who was pregnant with the infant Christ. So, how did the embryo recognize who the Holy Mother was, and that Christ was inside her womb, for him to have reacted with such joy? A born infant, we can understand; but an embryo????
An Anabaptist Protestant reader would say that this happened “by the Holy Spirit”, but unfortunately, this person has to put aside a certain prejudice and reconsider the following: Just as an embryo can perceive the Holy Mother and the Christ through the Holy Spirit and can react joyfully to this spiritual benefit, in the same way, an infant can perceive with its spirit the Holy Spirit that resides inside it when it is being baptized and thus benefits spiritually.
A very important point that supports the not-so-Christian stance of Anabaptist Protestantism is the misconstrual of Biblical texts, as well as a certain ignorance regarding the Church’s role in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. Apart from seeing the Holy Bible as a kind of written “article of faith” and searching inside it to find EVERYTHING, they also do not acknowledge the Church as being the only source that can give the proper interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, given that they were written BY THE CHURCH. Thus, they are led to misconstruing everything. Let’s take a look at a few verses that are either misconstrued or not even thought out properly:
They frequently refer to the verse: Matthew 28/XXVIII 19,20: “ therefore go forth and teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to abide by everything that I have instructed you. And behold, I am with you for all days, until the end of time”.
What they tell us is: “According to these words, one must first be taught, then baptized”. And this is not only quoted by non-Greeks, but even Greek Anabaptists (as if they don’t know Greek). So, what does this verse say? It says:
“Make students of all nations.” (HOW?) “By baptizing them in the name of the Father an the Son and the Holy Spirit, (then) teaching them to…..” But: be careful! It doesn’t say: “first teach them, then baptize them”! It only specifies THE WAY that someone can become a disciple. The word “baptizing” indicates how someone can become a disciple. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have said: “baptizing” but would have said: “teach them and baptize them”. But this wording clearly shows that baptism refers to the WAY (along with the “teaching them”), in which the nations could become disciples.
And even if the order of the words was of any significance here (it clearly isn’t), we would have observed that the word “baptizing” precedes the word “teaching”.
What should we say therefore? That because the word “baptizing” precedes the word “teaching”, that teaching should take place after baptism? Of course not. If an adult is baptized, he is first taught (catechized). If an infant is baptized, it is catechized after baptism. We stress this point, because Anabaptists themselves use phrases such as: “whoever shall believe, shall be saved”. (Mark 16/XVI 16).And they point out the order of the words, to show us that this is the correct order. But on looking at the previous verse, the order there is entirely the opposite. The order of the words is therefore of no significance; even a baptized infant always has the option as it grows up of believing and being saved.
We shall refer to an example of certain extreme Anabaptist practices, which are indicative of the unfortunate dogmatic situation that their religions are in, and although its members are aware of them, they continue to use verses such as: Matthew 28/XXVIII 19,20, where they are baptized, NOT “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” but “in the name of the Father, the Son AND THE SPIRIT-GUIDED ORGANIZATION” (!!!!!!)
This is obviously a complete cancellation of the Christian baptism. And yet, they admonish Christians for not being correct, when baptizing infants!
So, let’s now take a look at a few more, indirect references to infant baptism, by the Holy Bible.
“ Send some men to Joppa and recall Simon –the one called Peter- who will speak to you those words that will save you and all of your house (family)” (Acts 11/XI 14-18, 10/X 44,47,48).
Here, Peter is baptizing all of those whom the Holy Spirit touched upon, of the family of Cornelius, and also all those who had listened to him (Acts 10/X 44,47,48). Now, weren’t there any children in that family? Because it very clearly says “and all of your house”. In fact, we have here a special instance, where the Holy Spirit has been received PRIOR to their baptism. So, if the baptism here comes after the baptism in the Holy Spirit, then why can’t teaching follow after the baptism of an infant in water?
Let’s take a look at some more verses:
“ Just after her house (family) had also been baptized, she requested, saying…..” (Acts16/XVI 15). There is reference here to the baptism of the “house” of Lydia. Does that mean that there were no children in Lydia’s house?
Similarly, the Prison guard and his family “.. and he was baptized, and all those with him”. (Acts 16/XVI 33). Could he too have been childless?
“Crispus, the head of the synagogue, believed in the Lord along with all of his house, and many of the Corinthians hearing of this, believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18/XVIII 8). Was Crispus also childless?
“And I also baptized the house of Stephanas” (Á´ Ęďńéíčßďőň 1/á´ 16). What is going on here? Wasn’t there a single house in the world with children?
We have so far mentioned 5 instances where it is recorded that “all of the house was baptized”. By using simple logic, it is more than obvious, that there is no way that there was not one single child in all of these 5 houses!
We have presented adequate evidence here on the subject. We therefore ask the Anabaptist Protestants to present their evidence; perhaps they can show us at least one verse in the Holy Bible that forbids the baptism of infants. One verse only. If they cannot present anything, we at least hope they can admit that their theory on the Holy Bible’s prohibition is an arbitrary one, and that they now see, how their Anabaptist tradition essentially annuls the word of God.
If infant baptism had been a problem in the original Church, as the Anabaptists claim today, it is only natural that we would have found SOMETHING, ANYTHING: a prohibition, a report, or a mention in the Holy Bible, or in preserved archaic-Christian texts that we have. But, there are no archaic-Christian references in the Holy Bible that are against infant baptism. But we do have a few exo-Scriptural texts that refer to the subject. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Saint Irenaios (202 A.D.) wrote: “Christ came to save through Himself all those who through Him are reborn in God – both infants and children – and the young and the old. That is why He came for the sake of all ages; He became an infant for infants’ sakes, to sanctify infants. An infant among infants, Who sanctified those of that age” (Irenaios, MPL 7, 784). We must clarify something here: that His purpose was REBIRTH. And holy baptism is the prerequisite for rebirth, as we showed in one of our other studies.(under construction). Obviously, infant baptism in Irenaios’ time was a given fact.
Origen (185-253/4) also informs us of an act of the Church in his time: “Children are baptized for the remission of sins…… not because no-one is clean of defilement, but because one puts away defilement through the sacrament of baptism, and this is why children are also baptized”. (Memo to Romans, 5/V 9 – Trembelas Dogmatics, vol.3, p.114).
Tertullian (196 - 212 A.D.), influenced by heretic reactions of his time (he was a Montanist), had opposed the Church’s act at the time, and reports: “Why does the age of innocence hurry towards the remission of sins? Could it be perhaps, that it desires to behave with greater care for transient things, while it entrusts divine gifts to someone that he doesn’t yet entrust with those transient things? (Tertullian, On Baptism, 18) It is interesting, how –despite Tertullian’s opposition to infant baptism- he doesn’t refer to it as something “anti-christian” or “anti-scriptural” as today’s Anabaptists do. Nor does he say that baptized children must be re-baptized as adults. He accepts this baptism, but considers it “premature”; not because it is not valid, but because he believes it is better if it is performed at a more mature age. Furthermore, it is significant to note that he too doesn’t disagree that “baptism is for the remission of sins” and that baptism is not a “dedication” as some modern-day heresies uphold.
Saint Cyprian (258 A.D.) informs us that: “it is not permitted to deny anyone that is born the mercy and the grace of God. Because, since the Lord says in His Gospel that the Son of Man did not come to destroy the souls of people, but to save them (Luke, 9/IX 56), it is impermissible –as long it depends on us- for any soul to be lost. For what else is missing from the one who has been formed in his mother’s womb by the hand of God?”
“If there were something that could hinder people from receiving the grace, then the graver sins would have been a greater hindrance to adults and the elderly. But if the absolving of sins can be granted to the gravest of sinners -even to those who had previously repeatedly sinned against God- and given that no-one is exempt from the baptism and the grace should they later return, how much less should it be permissible to hinder a newly-born child which has not committed any sin, but has merely suffered with its first birth the effects of the ancient death, because it – like Adam – was born of the flesh! For this reason it can acquire the absolution of sins much easier, because there are no personal sins to be forgiven, only foreign sins (Cyprian, Epistle to Fidus, BKV 2, 273-275).
In order to validate infant baptism, Saint Gregory the Theologian makes reference to circumcision which took place on the eighth day after the birth of the child (Genesis 17/XVII 12) and the smearing of doorways with lamb’s blood (Exodus 12/XII 7), and he underlines the following: “We have reason: the circumcision of the eighth day, which was an official seal and was given to those who had not as yet developed their logic. Similarly, the smearing of doorways with blood was customary for guarding the firstborn by means of an insensitive material” (Gregory the Theologian, Homily 40:28, PG 4,339). “Do you have an infant? Then do not make any allowances for malice. Baptize it from an infantile age, dedicate it to the Spirit from the age of tender fingernails”. (Gregory the Theologian, Homily 40: 17, PG 4, 311).
From the above, we not only saw the reasons that infant baptism is permissible, but also the misconstruing by those who reject it. We also saw that there are many indirect testimonies in the Holy Bible, and furthermore, throughout all of Christian history, this has always been the way of the Church since its beginning.
On the contrary, there is absolutely no evidence on rejection of infant baptism either by the first Christians, or during meta-Apostolic history. All of the above should be more than enough to make today’s Anabaptists review their theories, with the help of God!
“Evangelists: the anti-Evangelists” by Dimitrios Panagopoulos, pages 152-154.
“Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy” by Anthony Alevizopoulos, pages103,104.
“Orthodoxy and Cacodoxy” by Dimitrios Kokkoris, pages 247-255.
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 4-8-2005.
Last update: 4-8-2005.