Or: A Few Thoughts on Infant Baptism
Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been a practitioner of infant baptism. I have never baptized anybody. I was raised in the rural parts of Southwest Oklahoma, first among Southern Baptist churches, and finally among non-denominational charismatic churches. To my knowledge, there are no pedobaptists of any stripe in Southwest Oklahoma. Quite frankly, the very idea of infant baptism gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Infant baptism is the practice of the ancient church.
There are no denominations that trace their origins to before the Protestant Reformation, either “Orthodox” or “Catholic,” and which also practice credal baptism.
If infant baptism was an early innovation that differed from the practice of the apostles, it occurred so early and so quietly that there is no record of it whatsoever in church history.
If differences between between credal and infant baptism have caused such difficulties in our time, surely they would have caused a stir in an era that was willing to commit murder over a difference of one word in the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet there is no record of such a fight.
If infant baptism is unscriptural, so also are the use musical instruments and art of any kind in worship.
The modern practice of credal baptism stems from a radical application of Zwingli’s “regluative principle,” which says that only those practices which are specifically prescribed by scripture may be allowed in the church. It is on the basis of this principle that Zwingli banned art and music from his church’s worship. The Anabaptists were those who insisted Zwingli had not gone far enough, and wished to also ban infant baptism on the basis that it wasn’t clearly prescribed by scripture. Since there is marginally more support in scripture for infant baptism than for art and music, those who use these things in worship should not argue that infant baptism isn’t mentioned in scripture. Else, those who argue against infant baptism should also argue against art and music.
Credal baptism attempts to do the work of God by removing all the tares from the field before the harvest.
The effect, and usually the intent, of credal baptism is to ensure that the church is composed entirely of believers whose salvation is assured. Yet Jesus compared the church to a field in which an enemy had sowed tares in with the wheat. Credal baptism, then, is an effort to “weed out” the tares. This is a futile effort (there are always tares), and potentially harmful: Jesus himself said that removing the tares before the harvest could destroy some of the wheat.
Baby dedications are either infant baptism in disguise, or an unscriptural sacrament
Among churches which practice believer’s baptism, a new practice has arisen, which has all the effects of a sacrament: A newborn infant is taken before the church and blessed by the elders. Sometimes the child is annointed with oil; always they are prayed for. Often the congregation is invoked to support the child’s Christian development. The only discernable difference between this practice and that of infant baptism is the presence of water.
If baby dedication is a form of baptism, then these churches are guilty of performing two baptisms, and possibly creating a church within the church. If it is not a form of baptism, then they have created a new sacrament to replace infant baptism, and which has no support in scripture.
As I said in the title, these things *almost* persuade me to become a pedobaptist. There are other arguments in support of credo-baptism that are persuasive for me – particularly the fact that Jesus based his baptism on John’s, which was clearly performed on those who were themselves repenting, and also Paul’s comments on Christians and circumcision.
Nevertheless, the strongest motivating factor for me is tradition: baptism upon confession is the system that I grew up with and which I have known my whole life. I can’t imagine offending all my friends and family over this issue. But this is a pitiful appeal on an issue where the opposition has a **much** stronger tradition.
If tradition is my strongest point, then there is little doubt that if I had lived in Luther’s time, I would have been a pedobaptist.