Welcome to the LESSON Nine 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 confuse mind and lead us all to the fullness of Truth through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Another argument that is made by our separated brothers and sisters is that no evidence of infant baptism is found in the Holy Bible. On the contrary, there are a lot of evidence to support infant baptism. Throughout the New Testament, passages that speak of the baptism of “whole households” abound. In the New Testament we read that Lydia was converted by Paul’s preaching and that “She was baptized, with her household” (Acts 16:15). The Philippian jailer whom Paul and Silas had converted to the faith was baptized that night along with his household. We are told that “the same hour of the night . . . he was baptized, with all his family” (Acts 16:33). And in his greetings to the Corinthians, 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. If the text of Acts referred simply to the Philippian jailer and his wife, then we would read that “he and his wife were baptized,”. Thus, his children must have been baptized as well. The same applies to the other cases of household baptism in Scripture.
Granted, we do not know the exact age of the children; they may have been past the age of reason, rather than infants. Then again, they could have been babes in arms. More probably, there were both younger and older children. Certainly, there were children younger than the age of reason in some of the households that were baptized, especially if one considers that society at this time had no reliable form of birth control. Furthermore, given the New Testament pattern of household baptism, if there were to be exceptions to this rule (such as infants), they would be explicit.
I would like to share a quote from Scott Hahn’s conversion story as written in his book “Rome Sweet Home”: “Studying the covenant made one thing clear. For two thousand years, from the time of Abraham to the coming of Christ, God showed his people that he wanted their babies to be in covenant with him. The way to do it was simple: give them the sign of the covenant. Of course, back in the Old Testament, the sign of entering God’s covenant was circumcision; whereas Christ changed it to baptism in the New Testament. But nowhere did I find Christ announcing that, from now on, babies were to be kept out of the covenant. In fact, I found him saying practically the opposite: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:14). I also found the apostles imitating him. For example, at Pentecost, when Peter finished his first sermon, he called everyone to embrace Christ by entering into the New Covenant: “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. For the promise is to you and to your children…” (Acts 2:38-39). In other words, God still wanted children in covenant with him. And since the New Testament gave only baptism as the sign for entering the New Covenant, why should the babies of believers not be baptized? No wonder, as I discovered in my study, the Church practiced infant baptism from the beginning.”
Even with the biblical principles laid out, many will still argue that the Bible does not specifically command infant baptism, and this is true, but honest Christians are still left with the evidence of tradition. Now, we should pause for a moment and clarify the concept of tradition in reference to the way it supplements Scripture. For some people, the word “tradition” itself makes some people uncomfortable as a result of their loyalty to the ironic tradition of “Scripture alone” which has developed among modern groups as the means of determining doctrine while divorced from Church authority. Having said that, I would like to point out that Scripture itself speaks of the importance of tradition: 2 Timothy 2:2 “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” 1 Corinthians 11:2 “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.”
So if Scripture advocates tradition, we must accept tradition, but naturally we’re left asking “well, how do we know which traditions are faithfully preserved according to God’s will?” Well, that is where we consult the Church, which St. Paul referred to as the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
From “Radio Replies” by Fr. Leslie Rumble, Catholic Answers edition: “…Not all revealed truth was written down. The divine teaching has been preserved and handed down completely in the Catholic Church, both by that section written in the New Testament, and by that section of revealed truth that was not committed to writing but that is declared by the living voice of the Church. For example, which books of Scripture are canonical, the very inspiration of those books, the teachings on infant baptism, or on the matter and form of the sacraments, and many other things, are known to us by the traditional and living voice of the Church only. But as I have pointed out, Christ intended that, for he did not order anything to be written but established his Church and sent it to teach all nations what he had revealed, and its applications in practice.”
It’s practically impossible to deny the authenticity of the practice of infant baptism after considering the traditions revealed in the writings of Church history: CCC 1252 recorded that “the practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole “households” received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.”
Hippolytus (A.D. 215) testified that “Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 ).
Origen (A.D. 248) wrote that “the Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9).
Gregory of Nazianz (A.D. 388) “Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit.” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 )
John Chrysostom (A.D. 388) “You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21).
Augustine (A.D. 408) “The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39).
Infant baptism was the norm, not the exception, in the early days of the Church. Such a practice has never changed in the Catholic Church. It is a simple historical fact that the Church has always baptized infants. Jesus says “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:15-17). “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it. If the infant is in danger of death, it is to be baptised without any delay.”- Can. 867 §1, §2
We have the weight of scripture and Apostolic tradition to encourage us and to confirm our practice. We baptize in obedience to Christ’s desire. The sacrament we administer is a sign of inclusion in the covenant community as circumcision was, and the water we sprinkle is a sign of cleansing from sin as the sprinkled blood of bulls and goats in the Old Testament was. We pray that the little ones will take advantage of all covenant privileges, acknowledge the Lord all the days of their lives and at the end of their sojourn on earth possess the kingdom which Jesus says belonged to them.
Thanks for reading through, see you in our next edition, endeavour to carry out the study guide below little by little daily before 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, Romans 5:6, 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: WHEN DID THE CHURCH START INFANT BAPTISM?