Local News: This Thursday’s Mission Mississippi Prayer Breakfast will be held at Northminster Baptist Church (2955 Ridgewood Road–Jackson, MS). For more information, contact Donna Lewis at (601) 982-4703. The purpose of Mission Mississippi’s prayer breakfast, held twice a week at 6:00 a.m. throughout the metro-Jackson area, is to foster greater unity among Christians across denominational and racial lines. To learn more, go to www.missionmississippi.org.
It’s true that infant baptism is nowhere explicitly referred to in the New Testament. Household baptisms are mentioned, but it’s sheer conjecture that such households would’ve included newborns. Those who defend infant baptism generally point to the following facts:
· Infants were marked with the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament (circumcision). In the New Testament, infants continue to be marked with the sign of the covenant (baptism). Though not an exact parallel (as baby girls are baptized and included in the New Covenant, though they weren’t marked under the Old Covenant), baptism has replaced circumcision. As babies were included in the Old Covenant, we don’t need a proof text in the New Testament, confirming that this is to remain the norm. To the contrary, in order to justify not baptizing babies, we’d need a New Testament text stating that infants are not to be marked with the sign of the Covenant any longer.
· From the historical viewpoint, there’s no record of infant baptism being seriously challenged in Christendom until the 16th century. There is record of infant baptism taking place as far back as the late first century and early second century. All of the church fathers, without exception, taught the need of infant baptism. This is, according to Jackson Presbyterian Examiner, the most compelling defense. This isn’t relying on tradition instead of Scripture, but rather allowing Christian tradition to inform and be the lens through which one reads and understands Scripture. The one who challenges infant baptism has to assert that he or she is correct, while the first 16 centuries of Church teaching were wrong. The Church, from the Protestant view, isn’t infallible, and the Church could’ve been wrong, but it needs to be realized what a bold claim is being made.
· Proponents of infant baptism continue to be the overwhelming majority in the Church today, giving added validity to the position. Though Presbyterians don’t teach infant baptismal regeneration (neither do Methodists), they do, along with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, and Anglicans, practice infant baptism. In fact, according to recent statistics of the largest Christian denominations in the world today, Baptists and Pentecostals are the only two that do not practice infant baptism.
Different Christians have different reasons for defending the practice. As was mentioned earlier, Presbyterian and Reformed Christians generally make much of the connection between baptism and circumcision—what’s called a “covenantal” view. Luther’s Large Catechism, on the other hand, never appealed to circumcision, grounding the argument instead in the fact that babies needed baptism in order to be saved. The Catechism of the Anglican Church makes no mention of circumcision, but teaches children at confirmation to say they were “made a child of God” at their baptism, explicitly endorsing baptismal regeneration. Puritans such as Richard Baxter opposed the Book of Common Prayer’s teaching on this, not so much because it taught regeneration by baptism, but because it implied that baptism regenerated any infant recipient, not just children of believing parents.
In fact, the early church fathers such as Augustine all defended infant baptism on the grounds that a baby would otherwise perish. Opponents of infant baptism who disbelieve in baptismal regeneration point to this—the fact that it was universally defended on grounds of being a means of regeneration—as evidence that the church was in error on this issue until the Reformation. At any rate, the covenantal defense of infant baptism, rooted in the comparison between it and circumcision, may be just as much a recent innovation as believer’s baptism.
As would be expected, Jackson Presbyterian Examiner sides with Presbyterianism in affirming that infant baptism is good. That being said, it is a perplexing issue, one on which sincere people may legitimately disagree. JPE has no qualms conceding the point that though there’s a solid argument based on Church history, infant baptism is not explicitly taught in Scripture. May God grant to his church harmony on this point, which has divided believers for so long.