Roman Catholic Infant Baptism

Horrific Argumentation Illustration #5498 – Pros Apologian

This is a good post against Roman Catholic Infant Baptism; or rather, it is against one Catholic apologist’s faulty views of Catholic infant baptism, at the very least.

Published in: on 2006/12/22 at 11:48  Comments (8)  


  1. have you read my quip about baby baptizing

  2. Yes, you used a very apt word illustration to describe it, too. I wish I had thought of it.

  3. I really am not sure how someone reading Acts 2:38-39 seem to misinterpret what St. Peter said. One can understand from reading the entire Book of Acts that the apostles were baptising entire “households”, adults, parents, children, and servants.

    Infant Baptism is a rite by which children who have not yet attained the age of reason are initiated into the Family of God-the Church. Original sin, which destroyed the life God in soul of our first parents, has been inherited by all their descendants. Infant Baptism remits the effects and stain of Original Sin while Sanctifying Grace is infused into the infant’s soul (Catechims of the Catholic Church no. 1250). Even though the majority of Protestants practice Infant Baptism it is rejected by many others. The rite has a biblical foundation and can be traced back to apostolic times, though first explicitly mentioned in the 2nd century.

    To grasp the background and origins of Infant Baptism we must understand the original recipients of the New Covenant. During the first years, the members of the Church were exclusively Jewish. The Jews practiced infant circumcision, as mandated to Abraham (Gn 17:12), reaffirmed in the Mosaic Law (Lv 12:3), and demonstrated by the circumcision of Jesus on his eighth day (Lk 2:21). Without circumcision no male was allowed to participate in the cultural and religious life of Israel.

    The rite of circumcision as the doorway into the Old Covenant was replaced in the New Covenant with the rite of Baptism-both applied to infants. St. Paul makes this correlation: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism” (Cor 2:11-12). The Catechism informs us that “this sign [of circumcision] prefigures that ‘circumcision of Christ’ which is Baptism” (CCC no. 527).

    When Peter preached under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost he was speaking to a Jewish audience (Acts 2:5-35). Peter announced, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized 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 for you and your children” (Acts 2:38-39). The Jews would have been dismayed had the New Covenant not included their children, especially since it was promised to them, and the New Covenant was to be an improvement over the Old in which they were included.

    The New Testament frequently implies that adults and children were included in the rite of Baptism. For example, when the head of a household converted and was baptized, his entire household was also baptized with him (Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Cor 1:16). The inference of course, especially based on Jewish understanding of the family and covenants, would include the aged, the adults, the servants, and the infants. If the practice of Infant Baptism had been illicit or prohibited it would surely have been explicitly forbidden, especially to restrain the Jews from applying Baptism to their infants as they did circumcision. But we find no such prohibition in the New Testament nor in the writings of the Fathers – a silence that is very profound.

    Many commentators see an allusion to Infant Baptism in the words of St. Luke, “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God’ (Lk 18:15-16). In the early Church this passage was understood as a command to bring the infants to Christ for Baptism. The very first time this passage shows up in Christian literature (c. 200), it is used in reference to Infant Baptism (Tertullian, De Baptismo 18:5). Even though Tertullian espoused a later baptism for children, he acknowledged that Infant Baptism was already the universal practice and does not try to avoid the interpretation of this verse’s reference to Infant Baptism. The Apostolic Constitutions (c. 350) taught that children should receive baptism based on the words of Jesus, “Do not hinder them” (VI 15.7)

    In the middle of the second century Infant Baptism is mentioned not as an innovation, but as a rite instituted by the apostles. Nowhere do we find it prohibited and everywhere we find it practiced. Early in the nascent Church we have St. Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200) who provides a very early witness to Infant Baptism, based on John 3:5. Irenaeus wrote, “For He [Jesus] came to save all through means of Himself-all, I say, who through Him are born again to God,-infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men” (Against Heresies, 2, 22, 4).

    Origen (AD c. 185-c. 254) who had traveled to the extents of the Roman Empire wrote with confidence, “The Church received from the Apostles the tradition [custom] of giving Baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentary on Romans 5, 9).

    St. Augustine confirmed the ubiquitous teaching of the Church when he wrote, “This [infant baptism] the Church always had, always held; this she received from the faith of our ancestors; this she perseveringly guards even to the end” (Augustine, Sermon. 11, De Verb Apost) and “Who is so impious as to wish to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven by forbidding them to be baptized and born again in Christ?” (Augustine, On Original Sin 2, 20).

    Throughout Christian history, only a very few have opposed Infant Baptism. The opposition resides mainly in those of Anabaptist heritage which originated in the sixteenth century and who were strongly opposed by Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin who both taught and practiced Infant Baptism. The Anabaptists’ opposition to the baptism of infants lies mainly in their belief-unsupported by Scripture and with no supporting evidence from the practice of the early Church-that one has to be of sufficient age to exercise personal faith in Christ and make a personal confession at baptism. Nowhere is this taught in Scripture that only adults can receive baptism. To hold this extreme view is to be outside the continuity of historical Christianity.

    An objection is often proffered that infant baptism may likely lead to nominal Christianity or abandonment of the faith in later years since the infant was baptized into the faith without his own consent and the obvious inability to “give proper instruction”. This argument can also be used against those who baptize only adults since the examples are too numerous to mention of those baptized as adults who become nominal Christians or apostatized later in life. Adult baptism is no greater guarantee of subsequent spiritual vitality. Confirmation, the rite that accompanies baptism, though usually at a later date, is intended to instruct the child or young adult in the fullness of the faith and commitment to Christ, instilling knowledge of the Gospel, spiritual vitality, and a personal commitment to the faith of their fathers.

    The Catechism summarizes the Church’s teaching: “Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism. . . . The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth” (CCC no. 1250).

  4. I find it interesting that the catholics attempt to steer a course that doesn’t deny original sin, but that finds an easy way to get rid of it. It’s amazing that a little “holy water” can wash it away. As much as I’ve tried, I just can’t find that in scripture. Wait, I read the Bible not some extra-biblical source to get my doctrine from!

  5. Josh,
    Yes it is amazing. It is the “mystery of salvation”. Your unbelief does not invalidate water baptism, but I do hope I can provide you with an apology for water baptism. It is then in the hands of the Holy Spirit whether you believe and accept the apologetic for water baptism or not.

    My response was to the original post concerning infant baptism. Patrick Madrid is an excellent Catholic apologist. No doubt his comparison cited above is taken out of context. But I believe my comment above provides ample support for infant baptism. I included citations from the Catechism, which is based upon Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Catholic Church guards the entire “deposit of faith”, which includes Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition is apostolic tradition. It is rituals and practices passed down from the apostles. The church fathers cited above, Tertullian, Origen, St. Augustine, and St. Irenaeus are witnesses to the tradition of the apostles. In addition, it is likely that Irenaeus knew St. Peter. So to dismiss Sacred Tradition, is to dismiss the apostles themselves.

    Josh, one of the things you should first understand is that you will never find anything in the Bible that contradicts the Catholic Church or the Catholic faith because it was the Catholic Church that assembled the Bible and gave it to the world. The Holy Spirit inspired the authors, but the canon of Scripture was established, authorized and “given the stamp of approval” by the Church. Thus the saving grace in water baptism will be found in scripture if you have the “eyes in your heart” to see.

    Apology for Water Baptism

    My guess if that you are a “Bible Christian” that does not believe in baptism, let alone in baptism that us Catholics practice. We understand baptism to be regenerative. It removes the stain of original sin and infuses sanctifying grace into the soul. Eastern Orthodox and many mainline Protestants think likewise, but Fundamentalists and Evangelicals disagree.

    They believe baptism is merely a symbol or sign that one has “accepted Christ as Lord and Savior” and therefore has become a Christian. It is the acceptance that matters. Undergoing baptism indicates to Christians that one is now one of them, but one would be one of them even if one never were baptized. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals call baptism an ordinance, a practice that Christ ordered his Church to perform, even though it does not effect a real change in the recipient.

    This understanding leads to scriptural difficulties for those who think baptism does not rise above the symbolic. “He saved us . . . by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit . . . so that we might be justified by his grace” (Titus 3:5–7). This “washing of regeneration” is baptism. It actually does something to us. It regenerates, says Scripture. Josh, here is one citation from Scripture that water baptism can wash away sin.

    The unity of water and the Holy Spirit brings us to John 3:5: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The Catholic Church understands this combination to represent the water of baptism that brings to us the Holy Spirit, which is to say his grace. “Bible Christians,” avoiding the plain sense, say that Christians misunderstood this verse from the earliest years right up to the Reformation. Instead of “water and the Spirit” being read as a unit (baptism), they should be read independently: water (baptism) and the Holy Spirit (accepting Christ as Lord as Savior). Only the second is functional; the former is decorative—commanded by Christ but nevertheless not really doing anything to the recipient.

    Turning once again to Acts 2:38 as we did in my previous comment, Peter says, “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.” Notice the sequence: First comes repentance; then comes baptism—which effects the forgiveness of sins—and then, as a consequence of that forgiveness and therefore of baptism, comes the gift (the grace) of the Holy Spirit. This verse makes sense only if it is understood as saying that baptism is not a mere symbol.

    The head of the apostles is supported by Paul, who said to the Corinthians that “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified” (1 Cor. 6:11). By washed he meant that they had been baptized, and it was their baptism that brought them, for the first time, a state of sanctification and justification. Baptism changed them internally, spiritually, as it changes us now.

    Peter is even more direct and clear, “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit… eight in all, were saved through water.

    This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Pt 3:18-21)

    Hence water baptism does save. And it is scriptural. I could continue by citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Church fathers but I believe this should suffice.

  6. Thank you for your comment. I really do appreciate your study of scripture. I complement you for the time you have taken to explain what Catholics believe as far as baptism goes. I have actually carefully studied Catholic theology ragarding the issue and I still disagree. For instance the Acts 2:38 passage is particularly troubling to Catholics when you tell them to check the original language and see that the idea of “for the remission of sins…” should be understood as “because of the remission of sins…” which supports the idea of baptism as a sign. I encourage you to learn Greek and Hebrew before you continue your defense of Catholic theology. The languages are a helpful tool in understanding theology. If you already do know the languages then I encourage you to do a careful translation on your own and I am willing to bet that you will come up with a different idea that will bring you into a position of baptism as a sign.
    I’d like to know what you think of the theif on the cross. How was his original sin wiped away since he was not able to be sprinkled?
    Also that leads another question. Why does scripture use the “baptizo” which means emersion, but Catholics only sprinkle?

  7. I want to make it clear that I am not rejecting the apostles when I reject the catechism! I accept the writings of the apostles. Actually, I would say that those who rely on the catechism are rejecting the writings of the apostles as being sufficient. The Holy Spirit did inspire the original authors, but the writers of the catechism were NOT inspired therefore I rely on the scriptures (the Protestant versions).

    As far as the Catholic church never differing from a teaching of the Bible, I can see why a Catholic would believe that. I mean, I hope you believe what your religion teaches. However, I want to let you know that what you say there is VERY arrogant! I want to let you know that there ARE things that the Catholic church teaches that are not supported in scripture. To give you a lesson of the canonization of scripture, the Catholics church did recognize (not establish, because God gave it) the canon. However, that happened before the Catholoc church left orthodoxy. I would have been a Catholic at that time if I had been alive. The Catholic church is not without error. I’m not arrogant enough to suggest that everything that I believe is without error, but I am certain that God is sovereign enough (due to the fact that I’m a Calvinist) to illuminate to me what I need. I do appreaciate the fact that I have scripture, but I do not thank the Catholic church for that. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    I am aware that you and I have differing basic presuppositions, and that unless you change yours we will never agree. I know that sounds arrogant, but that’s not the intention. I say that to make you aware that further dialogue will be unuseful and only end in aggravation for the both of us. Because of that, I want to let you know that I am glad to see that someone is attempting to learn what the scriptures have to say. I also want to encourage you to read the reformers. I know that is not exactly what you want to hear, but I have actually studied Catholic theology and the Reformers understood it tremendously. I hope that God blesses your search for truth.

  8. I’d like to know what you think of the theif on the cross. How was his original sin wiped away since he was not able to be sprinkled? Josh you are posing the typical red herring argument folks like to make to discredit Catholic baptism. I’ve been asked this question before by friends and acquaintences and my response to them is the same as to you…Do you believe that God is omnipotent? Do you believe Christ our savior will judge and determine who enters the kingdom of heaven? If the answer is yes to both questions, then you have your answer. God can do whatever he wants. God is not bound by time or space. Besides, do you think it more important at the time for Jesus to take himself off that cross and baptize the thief or to go ahead with God’s plan for his sacrifice on the cross?

    Also that leads another question. Why does scripture use the “baptizo” which means emersion, but Catholics only sprinkle? The Church baptizes in both forms and both forms are valid. It is up to the person being baptized or to the parents if an infant is being baptized to determine whether they desire immersion or sprinkling. No doubt there are limits given not all churches have the ability to baptize with immersion.

    “…I want to let you know that I am glad to see that someone is attempting to learn what the scriptures have to say. I also want to encourage you to read the reformers. I know that is not exactly what you want to hear, but I have actually studied Catholic theology and the Reformers understood it tremendously. I hope that God blesses your search for truth.”

    It is good to see that you approve of my reading of scripture. In fact, I will read the reformers. I’m working my way up though. I’m starting with the Church fathers, then work my way up through history so I’ll get them.

    Josh, it is true that we have differing views. Since you are so well versed in Catholic theology then maybe you wouldn’t mind telling me how the Church is incorrect in its theology on baptism. I believe I have made a spirited defense and apology of the Catholic theology on baptism. You disagree, but all you’ve been able to provide is a glib comment on holy water washing away sin, a red herring argument about the thief on the cross, and a comment about a variant in translation. Where exactly is the meat to your argument because I am unconvinced?

    Now is not the time for you to shy away from this discussion. If you want me to see and know the truth then explain it to me. Defend your viewpoint and theology.

    As St. Peter says, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15-16) I have made a defense for my hope in Christ. Where is yours?

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