(Dedicated to the Holy Spirit and all those seeking to know the Truth)
WHY DO CATHOLICS BAPTIZE INFANTS?
Welcome to the LESSON Eight in our CATECHESIS CORNER. We appreciate your reading of this corner.
LET US PRAY: Spirit of the Living God, enlighten our minds to know the Truth, strengthen our hearts to accept the Truth and cause us to live for the Truth. Through this Catechesis Corner, restore those who have fallen from the Truth, convince the doubting hearts, clarify the confused mind and lead us all to the fullness of Truth through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
In this edition, we shall be responding to the following questions: Why do Catholics baptize infants? Where is it in the Bible? It makes no sense to baptize a baby who doesn’t understand what baptism means. These are the common objections against infant baptism. The Catholic Church, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and other Reformed denominations, Methodists and some Nazarenes, and the Moravian denomination, believe in the effectiveness and practice of infant baptism. Members of other Christian religions condemn such a practice. According to a Catholic convert Steve Ray: “Infant Baptism is discussed and argued about quite a bit in some circles. I, of course, was raised Baptist and taught that Infant Baptism was a man-made tradition invented by the heretical Catholics who abandoned the Word of God to follow ill-advised tradition.” The argument is that it is impossible for an infant to make an act of faith in order to receive the Sacrament. We shall answer the various objections to infant baptism in this edition with biblical, reasonable and historical evidence.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us the most important reasons why we must baptize infants: “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.” – CCC 1250
Original sin is a reality from which each and every human person desperately needs to be freed. Biblically speaking, Romans 5:12 is remarkably clear on this point: Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned. Even if nothing else was said in Scripture implying infant baptism, we could conclude it to be necessary just from this simple fact: babies need to have original sin removed from their souls.
As Catholics we believe that the sacraments are not simply signs, but are efficacious signs that make present the reality they signify. What does baptism do to us? It forgives sin (original and actual), liberates from the power of evil, bestows sanctifying grace, which is necessary for salvation, adopts as a son of God, incorporates into the Church, and places an indelible mark on the soul, which consecrates the baptized for the worship of God. It literally makes us a new person, a temple of God indwelt by the Spirit, and raises us up to the divine life! Since the New Testament era, the Catholic Church has always understood baptism differently, teaching that it is a sacrament which accomplishes several things, the first of which is the remission of sin, both original sin and actual sin—only original sin in the case of infants and young children, since they are incapable of actual sin; and both original and actual sins in the case of older persons. Peter 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). We also read: “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). Further, these commands make clear the necessary connection between baptism and salvation, a connection explicitly stated in 1 Peter 3:21: “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.”
In the article entitled: ‘Infant Baptism’ on FEBRUARY 10, 2018, STEVE RAY wrote that to grasp the background and origins of Infant Baptism we must understand the original recipients of the New Covenant. During the first years, the members of the Church were exclusively Jewish. The Jews practiced infant circumcision, as mandated to Abraham (Gn. 17:12), reaffirmed in the Mosaic Law (Lv. 12:3), and demonstrated by the circumcision of Jesus on His eighth day (Luke 2:21). Without circumcision no male was allowed to participate in the cultural and religious life of Israel. The rite of circumcision as the doorway into the Old Covenant was replaced in the New Covenant with the rite of Baptism—both applied to infants. St. Paul makes this correlation: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism” (Col 2:11–12).”
In other words, the Old Testament ritual of circumcision of infants prefigured the New Testament sacrament of infant baptism. Infants were circumcised; infants ought to be baptized. When we are born, we are born “in the flesh”, with a fallen human nature, separated from God. After Christ “made it right” through His atoning Death on the Cross, we can be brought into right relationship with God. This is accomplished through baptism in which we are “born again” in the Spirit. We become united again, as was originally intended, with God. We become children of God, members of His Body, the Church. We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We become born again into a state of grace.
We must note that Children in the church/babies with Christian parents are not treated as little pagans to be converted, but members of the covenant who owe their allegiance to Christ through baptism on the account of the faith of their parents and God Parent. Within the Holy Bible, there are numerous examples of Jesus accepting the faith of one on occasions of salvation, forgiveness and healing of another. In infant baptism, the faith of the parents and Godparents/sponsors is required. The following example involves Jesus accepting the faith of the Capernaum on behalf of the paralyzed servant. “When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,” and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,” and the slave does it…” “Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.” [Mt. 8:5-10, 13]
Another Biblical example of Jesus accepting the faith of others for a sick person is when Jesus accepted the faith of those who brought the paralytic to Him. “When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door, and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him: and after having due through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” [Mk. 2:1-5] Jesus forgave (also note that forgiveness of sin is connected to salvation) the sins of the paralytic base on the faith of his friends, so does God grant the grace of baptism on the infant base on the faith of believing parent and god parent.
Generally, infants under the age of reason cannot ask or request for something good or bad for themselves. Parents choose what they feel is good and best for their children at that tender age, such as food, clothes, school, and so on. Hence, there is nothing wrong in introducing your child to the faith through baptism if you feel it is good for your child. It is common sense. If the child grows to the age of maturity and decides to change denomination or religion, no one stops him or her, because they have the freedom and responsibility to follow their convictions and beliefs at that age.
Thanks for reading through, see you in our next edition, endeavour to carry out the study guide below little by little daily before the next lesson/edition. Help to deepen the understanding of the faith by giving a copy of DSD to someone and invite him/her to read the catechesis corner.
FURTHER BIBLE READING: Matt. 19:14, Psalm 50:6, Colossians 2:11-12, 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, 1 Cor. 1:16
CATECHESIS STUDY GUIDE: CCC No. 1250-1254
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Scriptural Roots of Catholic Teaching” by Chantal Epie
TAKE HOME QUESTION: WHY SHOULD WE BAPTISE INFANTS?