Q: #243. Is infant baptism wrong?
By: Steve Shirley
A: This is a difficult subject for me, that I have not previously addressed on this site for two main reasons. First, it is a divisive issue amongst Christians. (I read that millions have been martyred in the past over disagreement on this issue!). A good number of religions that I consider Christian practice infant baptism, and I have not wanted to offend them. Secondly, I grew up in one of these churches, and because I was mislead for much of my life by its teachings (including infant baptism), I have hesitated to give my views on this practice for fear of condemning all churches that practice infant baptism because of my bad experience.
However, I would like to take the time to address this in as non-offensive a way as I can. I do not wish to condemn churches that practice infant baptism, but, I do want to show why I believe it is a practice that the Bible does not support, and depending on what a church believes occurs when a baby is baptized, CAN be terribly dangerous and misleading.
First, I will briefly address the dangerous part. As I have shared before on this site, the church I grew up in believes that when a baby is baptized, the Holy Spirit comes in at that moment, making him/her a part of the family of God. As a result, I believed it had saving merit, and when combined with other church teachings, including being confirmed, I believed I was going to Heaven because I had done all of these works I was taught. As a result, I had never surrendered my life to Christ, and made a personal decision to follow Him based on what the Bible says. I spent 32 YEARS in misery without the Lord before making that decision one night at a Billy Graham Crusade on Oct. 27, 1994. The joy and peace I received that night changed my whole life. Then, as I came to study God's Word after that night, it became clear to me that baptism should FOLLOW a decision for Christ, and not PRECEDE it.
Therefore, after I made this decision, I got re-baptized by immersion (which I believe is the proper way to be baptized: see previous question). In addition, after much study, I also firmly believe the Bible teaches that baptism does not play a part in salvation, nor does the Holy Spirit come in after baptism. I will address this in the next question. It is my desire that anyone reading this will not make the same mistake I did, and fail to surrender their life to Christ, because they trust in their baptism and church "works" to save them. The Bible teaches that we are saved by "believing," with belief consisting of several things. Once we do this, we begin a new life with Christ.
I sometimes use this paragraph to summarize this:
Being born again (or saved) is: trusting (Eph 1:12-13) and receiving/believing in Jesus Christ (Jn 1:12-13)(Jn 3:16) to save you by faith (Eph 2:8-9)(1 Pet 1:9) through hearing the Word (Rom 10:17), confessing He is Lord (Lord = God), believing in His resurrection (Rom 10:9-10), repenting of your sins (Acts 3:19)(Lk 13:3,5), and calling upon Him in prayer (Rom 10:13).
If you want to learn more about beginning this new life with Christ, you can go here.
The book of Acts shows numerous baptisms, and over and over people are shown making a decision before being baptized (Acts 2:38,41)(Acts 8:12-13)(Acts 8:36-38)(Acts 16:14-15)(Acts 16:30-34)(Acts 18:8)(Mk 16:15-16 is also good).
It should also be pointed out that the Bible does not ever show that an infant was baptized. Those who attempt to find support for infant baptism in the Bible must use inferences rather than specific examples. For example, when the Bible says "whole households" were baptized, (Acts 16:33)(1 Cor 1:16), it is inferred that some of those households must have included infants. Again, in (Lk 18:15-17), when parents brought their infants to Jesus to touch them and He said, "for of such is the kingdom of God," it is inferred that if Jesus said the Kingdom of God belongs to them, this makes it acceptable to baptize them. Several other verses are also used to attempt to support infant baptism, but again, these are all inferences, and run contrary to the examples in the Bible of a decision being made before baptism.
In fact, most scholars agree there is pretty clear historic evidence that the early church practiced "believer's baptism" (baptism after a decision) and baptism by immersion until around the Middle Ages, when the concept of "original sin" became a popular doctrine. This doctrine, first made prominent by Augustine (354-430), states that Adam and Eve committed the "original sin" in the Garden Of Eden, and as a result, all humans have inherited this sin from them because we are their descendants. In other words, we are innately sinners, because we are born that way. This doctrine gained even more attention when it became a part of a theology called "Calvinism" (named after John Calvin) in the 16th century, and was the basis for one of the Five Points Of Calvinism called "Total Depravity." As a result of the teaching of "original sin," it was deemed necessary by several religions to baptize a baby as soon as possible after it was born to "wash away" this "original sin." (This was also when aspiration [or sprinkling] became the primary form of baptism by many churches.)
This doctrine of "original sin" is the main reason why nearly every religion now baptizes babies. (Some denominations [often Reformed] also believe that infant baptism can be supported by tying it to circumcision in the Old Testament as a sign of God's covenant. [I do not agree with this position.] However, they do not believe infant baptism has any saving merit.) While we can debate whether or not the Bible supports the concept of "original sin" (I discuss this here: Q: #156), I do not believe having "original sin" means we need to baptize infants.
Therefore, based on two primary things: that the Bible shows a continual pattern of a decision preceding baptism and shows no examples of infants being baptized, I believe that baptizing infants is unbiblical at best and can be dangerous at worst if tied to salvation.