The anti-Catholics often attack the Holy Catholic Church through her practice of baptising infants, saying that babies are incapable of placing his or her faith in Christ so they need not to be baptised. However, is that really what the scripture says?
Infant Baptism, in theological sense, is also referred to as Paedobaptism, from the Greek pais meaning “child”. The practice is sometimes contrasted with what is called “Believer’s Baptism” or Credobaptism, from the Latin word credo meaning “I believe”, which is the practice of baptising only individuals (usually children in the age of reason to adults) who personally confess faith in the Lord. And yet, both of these baptismal practices are acceptable to the Holy Catholic Church (CCC 1247-1255).
Hence, those who are converted from outside the church are baptized (i.e. credobaptism) as new believers, which is not indeed at issue. What is at issue is what to do with those who are born and raised within the church. Should they be baptized as infants or should their baptism be withheld until they make their own profession of faith?
Naturally enough, the people whose baptisms told in the Scripture (and few are individually identified) are adults, because they were converted as adults; and Christianity was just beginning — there were no “cradle Christians”. In the books of the New Testament that were written later in the first century, during the time when children were raised in the first Christian homes, there was no, not even one, example of a child raised in a Christian home who was baptized only upon making a “decision for Christ.” Rather, it is always understood that the children of Christian homes are already Christians, that they have already been “baptized into Christ” (Roman 6:3). How about the children (including infants) of those converts? Of course, it is very unbiblical to have them remained unbaptised after their parents’ conversion.
The Holy Father Peter, first bishop of Rome, explained what happens at baptism when he said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). But he did not restrict this teaching only to adults. He added, “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (2:39). See? These commands are universal and not restricted to adults.
In the New Testament, it reads that Lydia was converted by St. Paul’s preaching and that “She was baptized, with her household” (Acts 16:15). The Philippian jailer whom St. Paul and Silas had converted to the faith was baptized that night along with his family (Acts 16:33). And in his greetings to the Corinthians, St. Paul recalled that, “I did baptize also the household of Stephanas” (1 Cor. 1:16). In all these cases, whole households or families were baptized. This means more than just the spouse; the children too were included.
Remember that the covenant which God made with Abraham remains in effect even up to this present age. The third chapter of Galatians spells this out carefully, concluding, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-7; 17:1-14) was confirmed to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5, 23-24) and his grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:10-15; cf. 48:15-16; 50:24). It continued with the nation of Israel (Exodus 2:24; 6:2-8), for whom the Law of Moses was added (as the Mosaic or “old” covenant) until the time of Christ (Galatians 3:17-19), in whom the promises given to Abraham were fulfilled (vss. 16, 22-28).
As a matter of fact, after Abraham exercised faith in God’s covenant promises (Genesis 15:6), the Lord added the rite of circumcision to the covenant arrangement (Genesis 17:9-14). He received “the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he [already] had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11). Not only Abraham, but all males in his household, were to be circumcised. Henceforth, all males were to be circumcised as eight-day-old infants, throughout the generations of the covenant community (Genesis 17:12-13). Circumcision marked one’s entrance into the covenant community; without it, one was to be “cut off from his people” (vs. 14). Into the circumcised community was born Jesus, in whom the promise of spiritual blessing for all peoples of the world would be fulfilled (Galatians 3:8-9,14). The line of physical descent from Abraham reached its climax in the person of Jesus (vss. 16,19). After Him, only spiritual descent mattered (vss. 7-9, 25-26). A covenant sign that focused on physical descent through the male line was no longer appropriate. A new sign of the covenant was needed — one that all people, whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, could receive. Consequently, water baptism was instituted by Christ as the new sign of entrance into the community of faith. Essentially, then, baptism replaced circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12). In the same letter to the Colossians, St. Paul refers to baptism as “the circumcision of Christ” and “the circumcision made without hands.”
The Lord said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). If Jesus said “let them come unto me,” who can say “no,” and withhold baptism from them? The anti-Catholics would argue that such passage implies the children to which Christ was referring were able to approach him on their own. But look at Luke’s account of this event, which reads: “Now they were bringing even infants to him […]” (Luke 18:15). In Greek, the verse was originally written as this: Prosepheron de auto kai ta brepha. The Greek word brepha means “infants” — children who are quite unable to approach Christ on their own and who could not possibly make a conscious decision to “accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.” The Lord did not require them to make a conscious decision as He says that they are precisely the kind of people who can come to Him and receive the kingdom. On what basis, then, that the infants be denied of baptism?
St. Peter, in his first epistle (3:21), he explicitly showed the connection of baptism and salvation, as it reads: “Baptism […] now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” And yet, the infants, too, are meant to inherit the kingdom of heaven. As it is written: “[…] unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Moreover, the Bible nowhere portrays baptism as the testimony of the person baptized. Passages that link faith to baptism (such as Acts 8:12; 18:8) simply show that faith, publicly professed, is a necessary condition for baptism. However, a baptism itself (the application of water, with accompanying words) is a statement by God (through the church) to and about the person being baptized, not a statement by that person. The person baptized is the recipient of baptism from a minister of Jesus Christ, acting in His name (Matthew 28:18–20; cf. Acts 2:37–42; 8:16; 35–38). Thus, the faith of parents fully suffices for the baptism of their children. In the Gospel of Mark (2:5), the paralytic was healed not because of His own faith but because of the faith of those who carried him. See? It is indeed a true divine manisfestation of God’s greatness. He does not just looking at one’s own faith but also of the others. Though babies are incapable of believing, yet the faiths of parents are sufficient enough for the infants to receive baptism; for the “children are baptized in the faith of the Church” (CCC 1282). If Jesus accepts the faith of others for one’s benefits, then who are these anti-Catholics to reject it?
The Holy Catholic Church teaches (CCC 1250):
“Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to 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 sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. 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 birth.”
LET THE CHILDREN COME TO THE LORD.