Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young
children. In theological discussions, the practice is sometimes
referred to as paedobaptism, or pedobaptism, from the Greek pais
meaning "child". This can be contrasted with what is called
"believer's baptism", or credobaptism, from the Latin word credo
meaning "I believe", which is the religious practice of baptising only
individuals who personally confess faith in Jesus, therefore excluding
underage children. Opposition to infant baptism is termed catabaptism.
Infant baptism is also called "christening" by some faith traditions.
Most Christians belong to denominations that practice infant
baptism. Denominational families that practice infant baptism
include Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans,
Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and other Reformed
denominations, Methodists and some Nazarenes, and the Moravian
3.1 Agreements among paedobaptists
3.2 Differences among paedobaptists
3.2.1 Roman Catholic Church
3.2.2 Other ancient Christian Churches
3.2.5 Presbyterian, Congregational and
3.3 Contrasts between infant and adult baptism
3.4 Arguments for infant baptism
3.4.1 Argument based on parallel with circumcision
3.4.2 Covenant theology
3.4.3 Corroborating evidence
188.8.131.52 Household baptisms
184.108.40.206 Original sin
220.127.116.11 Words of Jesus
18.104.22.168 Peter's speech
22.214.171.124 Early Christian practice
3.5 Arguments against infant baptism
3.5.1 Denominations and religious groups opposed to paedobaptism
5 See also
7 External links
The exact details of the baptismal ceremony vary among Christian
denominations. Many follow a prepared ceremony, called a rite or
liturgy. In a typical ceremony, parents or godparents bring their
child to their congregation's priest or minister. The rite used would
be the same as that denomination's rite for adults, i.e., by pouring
holy water (affusion) or by sprinkling water (aspersion). Eastern
Eastern Catholic traditions practise total immersion and
baptise babies in a font, and this practice is also the first method
listed in the baptismal ritual of the Roman Catholic, although pouring
is the standard practice within the Latin branch of Catholicism.
Catholic and Orthodox churches that do this do not sprinkle. At the
moment of baptism, the minister utters the words "I baptise you (or,
'The servant of God (name) is baptised') in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (see Matthew 28:19).
Although it is not required, many parents and godparents choose to
dress the baby in a white gown called a christening gown for the
baptism ceremony. Christening gowns often become treasured keepsakes
that are used by many other children in the family and handed down
from generation to generation. Traditionally, this gown is white or
slightly off white and made with much lace, trim and intricate detail.
In the past, a gown was used for both boys and girls; in the present
day it has become more common to dress children in a baptismal outfit.
Also normally made of white fabric, the outfit consists of a romper
with a vest or other accessories. These clothes are often kept as a
memento after the ceremony.
It is a naval tradition to baptise children using the ship's bell as a
baptismal font and to engrave the child's name on the bell afterwards.
Tracking down and searching for an individual's name on a specific
bell from a ship may be a difficult and time-consuming task.
Christening information from the bells held by the Canadian Forces
Base Esquimalt Museum has been entered into a searchable data archive
that is accessible to any interested web site visitors.
Scholars disagree on the date when infant baptism was first practiced.
Some believe that 1st-century Christians did not practice it, noting
the lack of any explicit evidence of paedobaptism. Others, noting
the lack of any explicit evidence of exclusion of paedobaptism,
believe that they did, understanding biblical references to
individuals "and [her] household" being baptised (Acts 16:15, Acts
16:31–33, 1 Corinthians 1:16) as well as "the promise to you and
your children" (Acts 2:39) as including young children.
The earliest extra-biblical directions for baptism, which occur in
Didache (c. 100), are taken to be about baptism of adults,
since they require fasting by the person to be baptised. However,
inscriptions dating back to the 2nd century which refer to young
children as "children of God" may indicate that Christians customarily
baptised infants too. The earliest reference to infant baptism was
Irenaeus (c. 130–202) in his work Against Heresies. Due to
its reference to
Eleutherus as the current bishop of Rome, the work is
usually dated c. 180.
Irenaeus speaks of children being "born
again to God." This reference has been described as
"obscure." Three passages by
Origen (185–c. 254) mention
infant baptism as traditional and customary. While Tertullian
writing c. 198–203 advises the postponement of baptism of little
children and the unmarried, he mentions that it was customary to
baptise infants, with sponsors speaking on their behalf. The
Apostolic Tradition, sometimes attributed to
Hippolytus of Rome
Hippolytus of Rome (died
235), describes how to perform the ceremony of baptism; it states that
children were baptised first, and if any of them could not answer for
themselves, their parents or someone else from their family was to
answer for them.
From at least the 3rd century onward Christians baptised infants as
standard practice, although some preferred to postpone baptism until
late in life, so as to ensure forgiveness for all their preceding
Agreements among paedobaptists
Based on their understanding of
New Testament passages such as
Colossians 2:11–12, paedobaptists believe that infant baptism is the
New Testament counterpart to circumcision. In the Old Testament, all
male converts to Judaism, male infants born to Jewish parents, and
male servants were circumcised as ceremony of initiation into the
Jewish community. Paedobaptists believe that baptism has replaced
Old Testament circumcision and is the religious ceremony of initiation
into the Christian community.
During the medieval and Reformation eras, infant baptism was seen as a
way to incorporate newborn babies into the secular community as well
as inducting them into the Christian faith.
Differences among paedobaptists
Baptism by submersion in the
Eastern Orthodox Church
(Sophia Cathedral, 2005).
Different Christian denominations who practice infant baptism attach
different meanings to the sacrament and explain its efficacy in
Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church considers baptism, even for an infant, so
important that "parents are obliged to see that their infants are
baptised within the first few weeks" and, "if the infant is in danger
of death, it is to be baptised without any delay." It declares:
"The practice of infant
Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the
Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second
century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the
apostolic preaching, when whole 'households' received baptism, infants
may also have been baptised". It notes that "when the first direct
evidence of infant
Baptism appears in the second century, it is never
presented as an innovation", that 2nd-century Irenaeus treated
baptism of infants as a matter of course, and that, "at a Synod of
African Bishops, St. Cyprian stated that 'God's mercy and grace should
not be refused to anyone born', and the Synod, recalling that 'all
human beings' are 'equal', whatever be 'their size or age', declared
it lawful to baptize children 'by the second or third day after their
birth'". In the 17th and 18th centuries, many infants were
baptised on the day of their birth as in the cases of
Francoise-Athenais, Marquise de Montespan,
Jeanne Du Barry
Jeanne Du Barry and Marie
Anne de Cupis de Camargo.
Infant baptism is seen as showing very
clearly that salvation is an unmerited favour from God, not the fruit
of human effort. "Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by
original sin, children also have need of the new birth in
be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the
freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called . . . 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
The Church has no official teaching regarding the fate of infants who
die without baptism, and theologians of the Church hold various views
(for instance, some have asserted that they go to Limbo, which has
never been official Catholic doctrine). "The Church entrusts these
infants to the mercy of God."
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued on 20 October
1980 an instruction on infant baptism, whose purpose was "to recall
the principal points of doctrine in this field which justify the
Church's constant practice down the centuries and demonstrate its
permanent value in spite of the difficulties raised today". The
document then indicated some general guidelines for pastoral
The document recalled that infant baptism has long been considered of
apostolic origin and that the first direct evidence of its practice,
dating from the 2nd century, does not present it as an innovation. It
then responded to objections that baptism should follow faith, that
the person baptised should consciously receive the grace of the
sacrament, that the person should freely accept baptism, that infant
baptism is unsuitable in a society marked by instability of values and
conflicts of ideas, and that the practice is inimical to a missionary
outlook on the part of the Church.
The instruction then gave guidelines for pastoral practice, based on
two principles. The major principle is that baptism, as the sign and
means of God's love that precedes any action on our part and that
frees from original sin and communicates divine life, must not be
delayed. The subordinate principle is that assurances must be given
that the gift thus granted can grow by authentic education in the
faith and Christian life. If these assurances are not really serious,
there can be grounds for delaying baptism. If they are certainly
absent, the sacrament should even be refused.
Accordingly, the rules for involvement on the part of practising
Christian parents must be supplemented with other considerations in
the case of "families with little faith or non-Christian families". If
these request that a child of theirs be baptised, there must be
assurances that the child will be given the benefit of the Christian
upbringing required by the sacrament. Examples of such assurances are
"the choice of godparents who will take sincere care of the child, or
the support of the community". If there is satisfactory assurance,
i.e., "any pledge giving a well-founded hope for the Christian
upbringing of the children", then "the priest cannot refuse to
celebrate the sacrament without delay, as in the case of children of
Christian families". If there is insufficient assurance, "it will be
prudent to delay baptism", while keeping contact with the parents in
the hope of securing the required conditions for celebrating the
sacrament. As a last resort, enrollment of the child in a course of
catechetical instruction on reaching school age can be offered in lieu
of immediate celebration of baptism.
Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Since
liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more
exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate". In the Roman Rite,
the wording of the prayer of exorcism is: "Almighty and ever-living
God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of
Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness and
bring him into the splendour of your kingdom of light. We pray for
this child: set him (her) free from original sin, make him (her) a
temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him
(her). Through Christ our Lord."
Other ancient Christian Churches
Christening photograph showing the oil moment and
Baptism in Greek
Eastern Orthodox Church,
Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian
Church of the East also insist on the need to have infants baptised as
soon as is practicable after birth. Similar to the Roman Catholic
Church, they teach that baptism is not merely a symbol but actually
Baptism is a sacrament because it is an "instrument"
Jesus Christ to impart grace to its recipients. Infants
are traditionally baptised on the eighth day, recalling the
biblical injunction to circumcise on the eighth day. However, this is
not mandatory. In many of these churches, the
Sacred Mystery of
Chrismation (Confirmation) is administered by the priest immediately
after baptism. Holy Communion, in the form of consecrated wine and
bread, is also given to infants after they are baptised.
Philipp Melanchthon baptizing an infant
Lutherans practice infant baptism because they believe that God
mandates it through the instruction of
Jesus Christ, "Go and make
disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)", in which Jesus
does not set any age limit:
The command is general. It includes infants, women, men, and
teenagers, even though none of these groups is specifically named.
Each of these groups is included in "all nations."
They also cite other biblical passages such as Mark 10:13–15, Mark
16:16, John 3:3–7 and Acts 2:38–39 in support of their position.
For example, in the
Acts of the Apostles
Acts of the Apostles Saint Peter's teachings on
Pentecost included children in the promise of Baptism, "Repent and be
baptized, every one of you, in the name of
Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit. The promise is for you and your children" 
For them baptism is a "means of grace" through which God creates and
strengthens "saving faith"  as the "washing of regeneration"
(Titus 3:5) in which people are reborn (John 3:3–7): "baptismal
regeneration". Since the creation of faith is exclusively God's work,
it does not depend on the actions of the one baptised, whether infant
or adult. Even though baptised infants cannot articulate that faith,
Lutherans believe that it is present all the same. Because it is
faith alone that receives these divine gifts, Lutherans confess that
baptism "works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil,
and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and
promises of God declare". In the special section on infant baptism
in his Large
Catechism Luther argues that infant baptism is
God-pleasing because persons so baptised were reborn and sanctified by
the Holy Spirit.
Lutherans believe that babies are conceived and born sinful (Psalm
51:5) and therefore need to be born again to enter the kingdom of
heaven (John 3:5–6). Through
Baptism the Holy Spirit works rebirth
(Titus 3:4–7), creates faith in them, and saves them (1 Peter 3:21).
Although some deny the possibility of infant faith, the Bible clearly
teaches that babies can believe (Mark 9:42, Luke 18:15–17).
Methodists contend that infant baptism has spiritual value for the
infant. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, held that baptism is a
means of grace, but it was symbolic. Methodists view baptism in
water as symbolic and believe that it does not regenerate the baptised
nor cleanse them from sin.
Wesley's own views of infant baptism shifted over time as he put more
emphasis on salvation by faith and new birth by faith alone. This has
fueled much debate within
Methodism over the purpose of infant
baptism, though most agree it should be continued. Wesley and the
Methodists would agree with the
that infant baptism is symbolic.
Infant baptism is particularly illustrative of the
of prevenient grace. The principle is that
The Fall of Man
The Fall of Man ruined the
human soul to such an extent that nobody wants a relationship with
God. In order for humans to even want to be able to choose, God must
empower their will (so that they may choose Christ) which he does by
means of prevenient grace. Thus God takes the very first step in
salvation, preceding any human effort or decision. Methodists justify
infant baptism by this principle of prevenient grace, often arguing
that infant baptism is God's promise or declaration to the infant that
calls that infant to (eventually) believe in God's promises (God's
Word) for salvation. When the individual believes in
Jesus they will
profess their faith before the church, often using a ritual called
confirmation in which the Holy Spirit is invoked with the laying on of
hands. Methodists also use infant baptism symbolically, as an
illustration of God approaching the helpless. They see the ceremony
additionally as a celebration of God's prevenient grace.
It should be noted that Wesley was an
Anglican minister. Not all
Anglicans in Wesley's time were Arminian. Augustus Toplady, John
Newton, and George Whitefield were all
Anglican ministers and
Calvinists. They interpreted the
Anglican formularies of the 39
Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Second
Book of the
Anglican Homilies from a
Calvinist perspective and would
have been more in agreement with the
Reformed churches and the
Puritans on the issue of infant baptism. The
Catechism in the 1662
Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer shows that baptism was an outward sign of an
inward grace. Prevenient grace, according to the
referred to unconditional election and irresistible grace, which is
necessary for conversion of the elect.
Infants are to be baptised
because they are children of believers who stand in surety for them
until they "come of age" and are bound to the same requirements of
repentance and faith as adults.
Presbyterian, Congregational and
Presbyterian, Congregational and
Reformed Christians believe that
baptism, whether of infants or adults, is a "sign and seal of the
covenant of grace", and that baptism admits the party baptised into
the visible church. Being a member of the visible church does not
guarantee salvation; though it does provide the child with many
benefits, including that of one's particular congregation consenting
to assist in the raising of that child in "the way he should go, (so
that) when he is old he will not turn from it". Elect infants (those
predestined for salvation) who die in infancy are by faith considered
regenerate on the basis of God's covenant promises in the covenant of
Presbyterian, Congregational and many
Reformed Christians see infant
baptism as the
New Testament form of circumcision in the Jewish
covenant (Joshua 24:15).
Circumcision did not create faith in the
8-day-old Jewish boy. It merely marked him as a member of God's
covenant people Israel. Likewise, baptism doesn't create faith; it is
a sign of membership in the visible covenant community.
Presbyterian, Congregational and
Reformed Christians consider children
of professing Christians to be members of the visible Church (the
covenant community). They also consider them to be full members of the
local congregation where their parents are members and members of the
universal Church (the set of all true believers who make up the
invisible church) unless and until they prove otherwise.
the mark of membership in the covenant of grace and in the universal
church, although regeneration is not inseparably connected with
Contrasts between infant and adult baptism
The disagreement about infant baptism is grounded in differing
theological views at a more basic level. Christians disagree about
infant baptism because they disagree about the nature of faith, the
role of baptism, the means of salvation, the nature of grace, and the
function of the sacraments. Pedobaptism and credobaptism are positions
which bubble up from theological views at a more fundamental level of
one's theological system.
If baptism is a sign that a person is a member of God's covenant
community, and if the children of believers are members of that
community, it follows that the children of believers should receive
the sign that they are members of God's covenant community by being
baptised, as an infant is entitled to a passport that indicates the
child as a member of a particular country.
Believers and the children of believers become members of God's
covenant community (or church) through baptism.
It is believed by some Christians that in the heart of a baptised
child, faith as a gift or grace from God, as distinct from an act by
the person, is made present.
It is believed by some Christians that baptism is not merely a symbol
and that it has a real effect, conveying divine grace.
Arguments for infant baptism
Paedobaptists do not completely agree on the reasons for baptising
infants, and offer different reasons in support of the practice. Among
the arguments made in support of the practice are:
Argument based on parallel with circumcision
Some supporters of infant baptism argue that circumcision is the sign
of the covenant God made with Abraham and should be received by all
the members of his covenant. The children of members of Abraham's
covenant are themselves members of Abraham's covenant. Christians
are members of Abraham's covenant  Therefore, the children of
Christians are members of Abraham's covenant. Since baptism is the
New Testament form of circumcision, the children of Christians
should receive the sign of the covenant by being baptised.
Presbyterian, Congregationalists and
Reformed Christians base their
case for infant baptism on Covenant theology.
Covenant theology is a
broad interpretative framework used to understand the Bible. Reformed
Baptists are in many ways
Reformed yet, as their name suggests, adhere
to Believers Baptism.
Covenant theology God makes two basic covenants, or
agreements, with humans. The first one, the Covenant of Works is an
agreement that bases man's relationship with God on human obedience
and morality. The covenant was made with Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Adam broke this covenant so God replaced it with a second more durable
covenant—the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Grace is an
agreement that bases man's relationship with God on God's grace and
generosity. The Covenant of Works failed because it was based on human
performance. The Covenant of Grace is durable because it is based on
All the covenants that God makes with humans after the Fall, (e.g.
with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David) all extend the Covenant of Grace
to its logical conclusion in
Jesus Christ. In Covenant theology,
however, there is a long-standing understanding that the Mosaic
Covenant is also a republication of the Covenant of Works, which
required obedience to receive its benefits. The underlying Covenant of
Grace extends through the whole Old Testament, which suggests that two
covenants are in play throughout the history of Israel. Consequently,
Covenant theologians see that the Church, or the people of God,
existed in the Old Testament. These are the people who placed their
faith in Christ in advance, and they are saved in the same way
Christians are. Not every Israelite is in the Church (or elect), many
exist under the Covenant of Works and its strict unattainable
requirements, but not under the Covenant of Grace.
Reformed Christians, this theological
framework is important to the Biblical case for infant baptism because
it provides a reason for thinking there is strong continuity between
the Old and New Testaments. It provides a bridge linking the two
Covenant Theologians claim that the
New Testament book of Hebrews
demonstrates that much of Israel's worship has been replaced by the
person and work of Christ. The result is that some important forms of
worship in the Old Testament have
New Testament equivalents. The
Passover festival, for example, was replaced by the Lord's Supper (or
It is across the bridge of Covenant
Theology that the sign of
Abraham's covenant, circumcision, walks into the New Testament. The
sign of the Covenant changes its external form to reflect new
spiritual realities. It was a bloody sign in the Old Testament but
because Christ has shed His blood, it has been transformed into a
bloodless sign, i.e. washing with water. Passover was a bloody form of
Old Testament worship and also transitions into the
New Testament in
the bloodless form of bread and wine.
Covenant theologians point out that the external sign of the covenant
in the Old Testament was circumcision.
Circumcision was performed upon
the male children of Israelites to signify their external membership
in God's people, not as a guarantee of true faith; the Old Testament
records many Israelites who turned from God and were punished, showing
that their hearts were not truly set on serving God. So while all male
Israelites had the sign of the covenant performed on them in a once
off ceremony soon after birth, such a signifier was external only and
not a true indicator of whether or not they would later exhibit true
faith in Yahweh.
In the New Testament, circumcision is no longer seen as mandatory for
God's people. However, there is compelling evidence to suggest that
the Old Testament circumcision rite has been replaced by baptism. For
instance: "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made
without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by
the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism." (Colossians
Some paedobaptists, then, think the analogy of baptism to circumcision
correctly points to children, since the historic Israelite application
of circumcision was to infants, not to adult converts, of which there
were few. Covenant theology, then, identifies baptism less as a
statement of faith than as an assumption of identity; that is to say
that infant baptism is a sign of covenantal inclusion.
Paedobaptists point to a number of passages in the
New Testament which
seem to corroborate the above argument.
In the Old Testament, if the head of a household converted to Judaism,
all the males in the house, even the infants, were circumcised. Some
paedobaptists argue this pattern continues into the New Testament.
Reference is made, for example, to baptising a person and their whole
household—the households of Lydia, Crispus, and Stephanas are
mentioned by name Acts 16:14–15, 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16.
Paedobaptists challenge credobaptists on this point: Why would a whole
household be baptised just because the head of the house had faith?
Shouldn't they baptise each member of the family as they come to
individual faith? Household baptism implies that the rules for
membership in Abraham's covenant have continued into the New
Testament, the main difference is the sign of the covenant.
Credobaptists counter with verses such as John 4:53, Acts 16:34 and
Acts 18:8 in which entire households are said to have "believed". As
such, the paedobaptist assumption is that household baptisms mentioned
in the Bible involved infants, presumably incapable of personal
Paedobaptists also point to Psalm 51, which reads, in part, "surely I
was sinful from birth", as indication that infants are sinful (vid.
original sin) and are thus in need of forgiveness that they too might
Credobaptists agree that infants are in need of salvation, but
paedobaptists push the point a step further arguing that it makes no
theological sense for infants to need salvation but for God to make no
provision for them to be saved (See 1 Cor 7:14 where Paul says that
the children of a believer are holy—separated—and therefore,
perhaps, would not need baptising even if baptism saved).
Credobaptists recant that there is a provision through which God
enables infants to be saved, belief on
Jesus Christ (See Mark 9:42,
John 3:14-21, John 11:25-26, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:1-21). Furthermore,
credobaptists argue that paedobaptism is affirming believer's
hereditary grace, a doctrine not found in scripture. Some
credobaptists who agree to the Psalm 51 interpretation, argue that
even though infants are sinful they are not accountable, because of
the "age of accountability". Although many theologians would argue
that an "age of accountability" is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.
An alternative viewpoint of some credobaptists is that since all
Christians are predestined to salvation (John 15:16, 1 Cor.1:27,
Eph.1:4, 1 Pt.2:4), God will not allow his elect to die before
receiving their need, even if they are in old age (Luke 2:25–35), an
argument whose relation to baptism whether of infants or adults is
unclear, unless it means that infants who die without coming to
explicit belief and baptism are not among God's elect.
Another Credobaptist position is called predispositionalism. This
suggests that baptism is only a mature response to eternal life, and
that infants generate their inner response to God's presence, i.e.
those who warm to him would, if dying in infancy, be with him
eternally; contra-wise those who chilled to him. This aligns to the
idea of individual faith/welcome (Jhn.1:14). Its point of determinism
predates the age of evangelism, which it holds is still valid in
crystallising predisposition into maturing faith in this life. It
considers shades of meaning in the keyword salvation.
Words of Jesus
In John 3:5,
Jesus says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a
man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God," which, according to some religious groups, means
that an infant who dies without being baptized cannot enter heaven and
may go to limbo instead.
According to the Book of Acts, "Peter replied, 'Repent and be
baptised, every one of you, in the name of
Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are
far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" (Acts 2:38–39,
NIV–UK, emphasis added) The
United Methodist Church
United Methodist Church argues that
the phrase "every one of you" recalls the use of the same phrase in
Deuteronomy 29:10–12, where there is explicit mention of the "little
ones" present; and it takes the phrase "and your children" to mean
that Peter included children in the covenant community.
Credobaptists counter that only those who believe, and children who
believe are recipients of the promise. Otherwise, all children of Adam
would be saved. Caleb Colley says that, also, Peter's
first instruction was to repent, and since repentance requires an
awareness and understanding of sin, baptizing an infant is pointless,
because they are not capable of such awareness and understanding.
Early Christian practice
Church Fathers seem to have taught that infant baptism
Origen states that the practice of baptising infants is of
apostolic origin.. The Didache, the earliest appearance of
non-biblical baptismal instruction, speaks only of adult baptism.
Arguments against infant baptism
Circumcision was a sign and seal of physical birth into the Jewish
nation, and baptism is a sign and seal of new birth (born again).
Baptist baptised people who were also required to be
Baptism in Scripture always has the prerequisite of repentance and
faith, which are impossible for an infant.
Infants can not outwardly express faith.
The Lord's Supper and
Baptism are both sacraments or ordinances and
are the same sign and seal, since the Lord's Supper may not be given
to unbelievers, neither should baptism.
New Covenant is not purely an expansion of the Old Covenant
Pharisees and all who did not have faith in
excluded from the New Covenant, but were acceptable under the old.
Some claim that there is no evidence that the early church performed
(or excluded) paedobaptism, and only that it performed credo baptism
Baptism represents more than just physical washing, but being clean
and good standing before God, and therefore regenerate (Romans 6).
Baptism is for the remission of sins, and infants are not capable of
repenting. (Luke 3:3, Mark 1:4, Acts 13:24, Acts 19:4)
Some opponents of paedobaptism point out that
Jesus himself was
baptised at the age of 30. They also point to the two (out of five)
Great Commission passages that speak of baptism. They see Matthew
28:18–20 as giving exclusive instructions about who is to be
baptised: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (verses
19–20, NKJV). They interpret this as referring to three successive
stages, with baptism following on becoming a disciple (which is beyond
the power of an infant), and instruction following on baptism, not
The Mark 16:15–18
Great Commission passage speaks of believing: "He
who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not
believe will be condemned" (verse 16, NKJV). This, they say, excludes
infants, whom they see as incapable of believing. If pedobaptists
accept this text as canonical, they can still point out that the
second clause mentions believing, but not baptism. Therefore, one
could be baptised and still not be a believer. They argue that this
may not exclude infant baptism, but rather corroborate it, since it
indicates that one baptised as an infant who rejects the faith is not
saved against their will. Pedobaptists who accept this passage may
also point out that although belief and baptism are both mentioned,
there is no order implied. In return, opposers declare that baptism is
for those who already believe and are able to state their belief,
which infants cannot do. In Peter's address to adults, "Repent and be
baptised" Acts 2:38, they see repentance as a prerequisite, and this
requires a mature understanding of sin and a decision to turn away
from sin. However, St. Peter was speaking to those who were already
adults, not to infants. Pedobaptists claim that it would follow that
his instructions are meant for adults and not for infants. Indeed,
adult candidates for baptism are required by most branches that
practice pedobaptism to make a confession of faith before baptism.
Some point to Deuteronomy 24:16 or 1 Peter 3:21 as evidence that each
individual must make a mature decision regarding baptism. See
Some oppose baptism of children as ostensibly incorporating them into
the church without their own consent. This, however does not absolve
the responsibility of biblical parents to raise their children in the
training and admonition of the Lord within the cultural context of the
Denominations that do not accept infant baptism as valid generally
require those who join them, after being baptised as infants
elsewhere, to be "rebaptised," or rather to be baptised for the first
time. They deny that they in fact rebaptise, saying that Christians
are to be baptised only once, but as believers, and they reject the
term "Anabaptist" (i.e. Rebaptiser) as a description of them.
Denominations and religious groups opposed to paedobaptism
Trinitarian Christian denominations that oppose infant baptism include
the Assemblies of God, Association of Vineyard Churches, Christian and
Missionary Alliance, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), Calvary
Chapel, Community Churches, Community of Christ, Elim Pentecostal
Baptist denominations and including Independent Baptists,
Gnostic Churches, the groups which originated out of the Restoration
Movement (Churches of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
and Christian Churches/Churches of Christ), as well as other
nondenominational churches, International Churches of Christ,
International Christian Church, Newfrontiers, Foursquare Gospel
Church. Church of God in Christ, Church of God of Prophecy,
Anabaptists (such as the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and
Amish), Schwarzenau Brethren/German Baptists, the Seventh-day
Adventist Church, some Methodists, and most
Several nontrinitarian religious groups also oppose infant baptism,
including Oneness Pentecostals, Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses,
United Church of God, and The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Religious groups that oppose infant baptism have sometimes been
persecuted by paedobaptist churches. During the Reformation,
Anabaptists were persecuted by Lutheran, Calvinist,
Catholic regimes. The English government imposed restrictions on
Baptists in Britain and
Ireland during the 17th century. The Russian
Orthodox Church repressed Baptists prior to the 1917 revolution, and
sought restrictions on Baptists and Pentecostals after being
re-established after the fall of Communism.
B.R. White describes the motivations behind persecution of the
Anabaptists during the Reformation as follows:
Other Christians saw the baptism of each new-born baby into the
secular parish community and close links between church and state as
the divinely-ordained means of holding society together. Hence many
other Christians saw the
Anabaptists as subversive of all order.
Consequently, from the earliest days, they were sharply persecuted and
leaders were soon executed.
Note: Christian Scientists, Quakers, the Salvation Army, and
Unitarians cannot be classified as specifically opposing infant
baptism, since they generally do not observe baptism in any form.
The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church)
completely rejects infant baptism. Little children are considered
both born without sin and incapable of committing sin. They
have no need of baptism until age eight, when they can begin to
learn to discern right from wrong, and are thus accountable to God for
their own actions. However, the LDS Church performs a non-saving
ordinance to name and bless children, customarily performed on
For Roman Catholics,
Confirmation is a sacrament that "confirms" or
"strengthens" (the original meaning of the word "confirm") the
grace of Baptism, by conferring an increase and deepening of that
For some other Christians the ceremony of
Confirmation is a matter not
of "being confirmed" but of "confirming" the baptismal vows taken on
one's behalf when an infant. This is the essential significance of the
Lutheran non-sacramental ceremony called in German "Konfirmation", but
in English "affirmation of baptism" (see
In Eastern Christianity, including the
Eastern Catholic Churches, the
Confirmation is conferred immediately after baptism, and
there is no renewal of baptismal promises. In the Latin-
Western) Catholic Church, the sacrament is to be conferred at about
the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the
Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is
danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason
suggests otherwise (canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law). The renewal
of baptismal promises by those receiving the sacrament in the Western
Catholic Church is incidental to the rite and not essentially
different from the solemn renewal of their baptismal promises that is
asked of all members of this Church each year at the Easter Vigil
service. Only in French-speaking countries has there been a
development of ceremonies, quite distinct from the sacrament of
Confirmation, for young Catholics to profess their faith publicly, in
line with their age.
Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer requires that all who are to be
confirmed should first know and understand the Creed, the Lord's
Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and be able to answer the other
questions in the Church Catechism.
Confirmation enables those who have
been baptised as infants, when they are of age to do so, openly before
the church, to take upon themselves and confirm the promises made on
their behalf by their godparents.
Within The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, confirmation
or "the laying on of hands" is an essential part of the baptismal
ordinance, and to receive baptism without confirmation is to leave the
Confirmation is the conferring of the gift
of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. To confirm means to
"make more sure" and the ordinance of confirmation stands as a witness
of the individual becoming a member of the LDS Church and not just an
acceptance of Jesus.
Sacraments of Initiation
William Wall (theologian)
Baptism Service". Church of England. Retrieved 8 June 2007. Q.
What's the difference between a baptism and a christening?
A. None, they are just different words for the same thing.
^ "Can I have my infant christened?". United
Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2007.
Christening is not a separate or different service. It is the same
thing as baptism.
^ For instance, the Roman Catholic Church: 1,100,000,000 (about half
of all Christians); the
Eastern Orthodox Church: 225,000,000;
115,000,000 members of the
Anglican churches; Lutherans and others
(Religious Bodies of the World with at Least 1 Million Adherents;
Major Denominational Families of Christianity). See also Worldwide
Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-1995
^ "So... You Want to Be Baptized? Leaders' Guide" (PDF).
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 December 2009.
Retrieved 6 November 2012. Christening bells
^ Stanley J. Grenz,
Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids,
MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 528
^ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Archived 17
February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.; Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.;
Jordan Bajis Archived 19 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine.,
^ "the Didache, the earliest surviving 'pastoral manual' of the
Christian church" (Fuller Seminary Bookstore Archived 27 September
2007 at the Wayback Machine.)
^ "Chapter 7, "Concerning Baptism."
^ "Before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and
whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two
days before" (Didache, 7)
^ The 1980 Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith states that "Many inscriptions from as early as the second
century give little children the title of 'children of God', a title
given only to the baptised, or explicitly mention that they were
baptised: cf., for example, Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, 9727,
9801, 9817; E. Diehl, Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres
(Berlin 1961), nos. 1523(3), 4429A."
^ a b Walker, W. (1919). A History of the Christian Church. New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons. p.95
^ Schaff, Philip (2001) [c. 1885] "Introductory Note to Irenæus
Against Heresies", Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, Against Heresies,
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
^ "For He 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. He therefore passed through every age,
becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for
children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the
same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and
submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and
thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for
old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as
respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age,
sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to
them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He
might be "the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might
have the pre-eminence," the Prince of life, existing before all, and
going before all."
Irenaeus of Lyons. (1885). Irenæus against
Heresies. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The
Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and
Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 391). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.
^ Against Hereses, 2.22.4.
^ The three passages identified by scholars are Homilies on Leviticus
8.3.11; Commentary on Romans 5.9; and Homily on Luke 14.5. They are
mentioned, for instance, in the following sites: 1, 2, 3 Archived 19
April 2008 at the Wayback Machine. 4, 5, 6 and, of course, in the
sites that give the full texts of
Origen on Leviticus and Luke.
^ The first passage cited has: "
Baptism according to the practice of
the Church is given even to infants"; the second has: "The Church had
a tradition from the Apostles, to give baptism even to infants"; the
third has: "
Infants are baptised for the remission of sins . . . That
is the reason why infants too are baptised".
^ "The delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the
case of little children. For why is it necessary . . . that the
sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? . . . For no less
cause must the unwedded also be deferred—in whom the ground of
temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of
their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom—until
they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence"
^ "The children shall be baptised first. All of the children who can
answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who
cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or
someone else from their family. After this, the men will be baptised.
Finally, the women" (The
Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome
^ "Infant Baptism: Scriptural and Reasonable". Archived from the
original on 9 May 2008. ; What does the Bible teach about the
subject of baptising of infants? by Don Matzat Archived 11 March 2008
at the Wayback Machine.; Infant
Baptism in Early Church History
Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.; Christian Heresies of
the Sixteenth Century
^ Genesis 17:10–14.
^ White, BR, Handbook to Christian Belief, Eerdman's,
p. 443 .
^ Code of Canon Law, canon 867.
Catechism of the Catholic Church - PART 2 SECTION 2 CHAPTER 1
ARTICLE 1". www.scborromeo.org.
^ "ANF01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and
Christian Classics Ethereal Library". www.ccel.org.
^ "Missing Page Redirect". www.catholicculture.org.
^ "The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly
manifest in infant Baptism" (
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250).
Catechism of the Catholic Church - PART 2 SECTION 2 CHAPTER 1
ARTICLE 1". www.scborromeo.org.
^ "Catechism". www.usccb.org.
^ Instruction on Infant
Baptism Archived 20 July 2009 at the Wayback
^ Instruction, Part II
^ Instruction, 28
^ Instruction, 30–31
Catechism of the Catholic Church - IntraText".
Baptism of Children, 86
^ John Henry Parker; et al. (1844). "The Epistles of S. Cyprian, with
the Council of Carthage, on the Baptism". Oxford, London. Retrieved 12
^ Ware, Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) (1964). "The Orthodox Church". New
York: Penguin Books: 284.
^ a b c "
Sacrament of Holy
Baptism – Circumcision". WELS Topical
Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical
Lutheran Synod. Archived from the
original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
^ "Infant Baptism". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical
Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008.
Retrieved 29 January 2015. In baptism, however, we do not do something
for God, rather he does something for us and in us. He works to either
create or to strengthen faith. It is true that neither baptism nor the
proclamation of the gospel will benefit anyone apart from faith.
However, through the proclamation of the gospel and through baptism
the Holy Spirit works faith. The means of grace have the power to
create the faith they require.
^ Colossians 2:11–12, quoted by Otto, Joel D., Alive in Christ
Archived 29 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine., pp 9–11
^ See "
Baptism and Its Purpose" Archived 6 February 2009 at the
^ "The Small
Catechism - Book of Concord".
^ "See "Luther's Large Catechism" subsection "Of Infant
^ "Assessing John Wesley's View of
Baptism with reference to The
Quadrilateral". 2002. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
^ Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 28, Section 1.
^ Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 10, Section 3.
^ Westminster Confession, Chapter 28, Section 1 and especially section
3. Baptised people are considered part of the covenant of grace by
faith unless they prove otherwise by committing apostasy.
^ Calvin asked: "If the children of believers are partakers of the
covenant without the help of understanding, there is no reason why
they should be barred from the sign merely because they cannot swear
to the provisions of the covenant" (Inst. 4, 16, 24, quoted in John
Calvin: Infant Baptism)
^ "If baptism was demanded of the Jews as a prerequisite of church
membership, we may reasonably conclude that the Gentiles were not
admitted to the privilege except on the same condition" (
Condition of Church Membership).
^ "When an infant is baptised God creates faith in the heart of that
infant. This faith cannot yet, of course, be expressed or articulated,
yet it is real and present all the same (see e.g., Acts 2:38–39;
Titus 3:5–6; Matt. 18:6; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:15)" (The Lutheran
Church, Missouri Synod). Archived 6 February 2009 at the Wayback
^ "The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptised sanctifying grace, the
grace of justification:
Enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him
through the theological virtues;
Giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy
Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
Allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues"
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1268)
^ Gen. 17:10–11
^ Gen 17:7, Dt. 7:9, 30:6, 1Ch 16:15, Psa 103:17, 105:8
^ Galatians 3:6–9 & Galatians 3:26–29; Romans 11.17–24; Rom.
4:16; Eph. 2:11–13; Eph. 3:3–6; Rom 2:28–29; 1 Peter 2:9; Gal.
6:16; Phil 3:2–3).
^ 1 Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:38
^ Col. 2:11–12
^ John 3:5 (KJV)
^ Acts 2:38–39
Baptism in the United
^ "Did Peter Authorize Infant Baptism?".
^ "The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving
baptism even to infants" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9, quoted, for
instance, in W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers (Liturgical
Press 1970 ISBN 9780814604328), vol. 1, p. 209).
^ a b Norman, Keith E. (1992). "Infant Baptism". In Ludlow, Daniel H.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
pp. 682–683. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.
^ Eerdman's Handbook to Christian Belief, William B. Eerdman's
Publishing Company, 1982.
^ Merrill, Byron R. (1992). "Original sin". In Ludlow, Daniel H.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
pp. 1052–1053. ISBN 0-02-879602-0.
^ Rudd, Calvin P. (1992). "Children: Salvation of Children". In
Ludlow, Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan
Publishing. pp. 268–269. ISBN 0-02-879602-0.
^ Hawkins, Carl S. (1992). "Baptism". In Ludlow, Daniel H.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
pp. 92–94. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.
^ Warner, C. Terry (1992). "Accountability". In Ludlow, Daniel H.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. p. 13.
ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.
^ Bangerter, Lowell (1992), "Children: Blessing of Children", in
Ludlow, Daniel H, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan
Publishing, p. 268, ISBN 0-02-879602-0,
^ "Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics
and hundreds more". www.bartleby.com. Archived from the original on 17
^ "Catechism". www.usccb.org.
^ cf. article Archived 24 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
entitled Redonner tout son sens à l'initiation chrétienne : un
défi à relever in Lumière et Vie 270 (June 2006), proposing the
establishment of as many as seven such occasions.
^ a b Craven, Rulon G. (1992). "Confirmation". In Ludlow, Daniel H.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
pp. 310–311. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.
^ Porter, Bruce Douglas (1992). "Gift of the Holy Ghost". In Ludlow,
Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
pp. 543–544. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.
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