When Jesus Christ was baptised, the world came to a standstill: John the Baptist actually issued an apology, saying he is not even fit to carry Jesus’ sandals. The heavens opened and a dove flew from it and a voice boomed from the same. God, for the first time, told his creatures that Jesus was his son. This means baptism is important in Christianity, but what about baptising babies? BRIGHT MHANGO grapples with the question.
A friend of mine hopped on the seventh heaven last week when his new born son was about to be baptised at a church in Lilongwe. He declared that he was happy for his son, Samuel.
Infant baptism is the practice of baptising young children. Sometimes it is referred to as paedobaptism or pedobaptism.
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 religious practice of baptising only individuals who personally confess faith in Jesus.
This, therefore, excludes underage children. Infant baptism is also called christening by some faith traditions.
Jesus commanded people to be baptised (Matt. 28:18-20), but some critics say baptising babies is taking the gospel too far, saying babies do not know sin and neither do they have the ability to give consent.
Most Christians belong to denominations that practice infant baptism. Denominational families that practice infant baptism include Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Nazarenes, the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Reformed churches.
According to www.gospelway.com, a Christian blog, baptising babies is simply not biblical.
“The Bible reveals that a person must do certain things before he [or she] can be baptised. If these things are not done, then the baptism would not be scriptural. So, we ask whether or not a baby can fulfil the scriptural prerequisites of baptism.
“Note that God is no respecter of persons [Acts 10:34, 35; Rom. 2:11], so there are not two sets of prerequisites for baptism, one for babies and one for adults. Whatever the Bible requires of some people to be baptised, it requires the same of all people,” read a posting on the website.
Mark 16:15, 16 says all who are baptised must first hear the gospel preached to them. But what good would be done by preaching to a baby?
“Baptism is only for those who are capable of hearing and believing the gospel. No one is included in the command if they cannot first hear, understand and believe the gospel. Can a baby do these things? Galatians 3:26, 27 say however many people are baptized; all of them must do so by faith. Everyone who is baptized must first understand the gospel well enough to believe it,” writes the critic.
Again, the Bible says in Acts 2:38 that all who get baptised must repent their sins, but what sins can infants possibly harbour?
Some argue that babies are born with sin which can be traced to Adam and Eve when they betrayed their master in the Garden of Eden.
While there is debatable scriptural evidence (such as that in Colossians 2:11-12), paedobaptists believe that infant baptism is the New Testament counterpart to circumcision. In the Old Testament, all male converts to Judaism, male infants born to Jewish parents and male servants were circumcised as a ceremony of initiation into the Jewish community.
Paedobaptists believe that baptism has replaced Old Testament circumcision and is the religious ceremony of initiation into the Christian community.
So, little Samuel was receiving what would be circumcision in the biblical times?
Whatever the reasons for baptism are, some people will continue to offer their infants for baptism no matter what critics say.