Why Infant Baptism

infant baptism

     Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters have moved away from infant baptism and chosen to baptize only those who are mature enough to make the faith their own. While there is something very beautiful about a young man or woman standing up and accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior this choice is not proper grounds for delaying baptism. When one reads the Epistles of St. Paul he quickly realizes that infant baptism has not only been the tradition of the Church but is a part of the tradition for very good reasons.

     Part of the disagreement between Protestants and Catholics over when baptism should received results from a disagreement over what baptism is. While many Protestants believe that one is saved through baptism, where they accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, Catholics believe that baptism is the beginning of the Christian life. It qualifies the person for the Christian life but doesn’t guarantee he will finish. Man must continue to live a Christian life and is aided in this by the other Sacraments offered by the Church. To explain this teaching Taylor Marshal uses the analogy of a marathon. Baptism registers us for the marathon but it does not guarantee that we will finish.[1]

     Catholics hold that Baptism is the ordinary means of salvation because it incorporates us into Christ. St. Paul makes this claim when he says “for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ.”[2] It is at our baptism that we died with Christ and in dying with Christ can also share in His resurrection. “You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by a resurrection like his.”[3] It was in His death that Christ destroyed original sin so it is in our death with Him, through our baptism, that original sin is destroyed in our life. Children are born with original sin, shouldn’t they be invited to die with Christ so as to rise with Him and have original sin destroyed?

     The baptism of infants has been a practice of the Church from the very beginning. St. Paul himself baptized infants. In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us he baptized an entire household which includes children.[4] St. Paul further shows that the baptism of infants is appropriate. He links the circumcision of the Old Testament with baptism. He says tells the Gentiles in Corinth that they do not need to be circumcised because they have been baptized.[5] St. Thomas Aquinas, no doubt knowledgeable of this passage, claims that circumcision was done to infants and is a preparation for baptism.[6] It thus follows that it is entirely appropriate to baptize infants.

     When one reads the Epistles of St. Paul one comes to a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism. One sees that infant baptism is not only appropriate theologically and is for the good of the child while remaining the constant tradition of the Church.

[1] Marshal, Taylor. The Catholic Perspective on Paul. Dallas: St. John Press, 2012.71.

[2] Gal 3:26-27

[3] Rom 6: 3-5.

[4] “Yes, I did baptize the family of Stephanas, too; but besides these I do not think I baptized anyone.” 1 Cor (1:16)

[5] “In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision performed, not by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your natural self. This is circumcision according to Christ. You have been buried with him by your baptism; by which, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.” (Col 2: 11-12)

[6] ST III q 70 a1

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