When I told an acquaintance recently that we had our baby baptized she asked us why we did it. I knew she was of another Christian denomination and believed in Baptizing older children & adults only. When Catholics get asked this it leaves many of us tongue tied. Are we forcing our beliefs onto our offspring? Are we denying them choice and thus their free will? Is infant baptism even Biblical?
The short answer to those questions posed above is no, no and yes.
In the same way that babies need food and care to survive, Catholics also believe that the soul needs nourishment. A baby can’t get his own food or put himself to sleep at night and needs his parents to help him. Catholics believe that the purpose of life is to become a saint and ultimately reach Heaven. Being a good parent means that we not only feed and nurture our children physically, but spiritually as well. Catholics also have the Sacrament of Confirmation where that same baptized child can make their own decision about receiving the Holy Spirit and choosing to be a follower of Jesus, when they are older. So, it is not as if, we are forcing our children to be Catholic.
Baptism is the moment a person loses Original sin and joins the family of God. In Scripture, we read often that Baptism is necessary for salvation and we see it also as a continuation of the Jewish tradition of circumcision —and all babies rejoice that only water and oil is used! But, not only does the Sacrament have ties in the Old Testament, but the New Testament tells us to include our babies and children.
“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 and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:38-39).
“The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well…” (Acts 16:14-15)
When we Baptize our babies we are following Jesus’ clear instructions and not risking our children’t salvation by not having them baptized. Do you remember that Scripture where the children were rebuked for coming to see Jesus?
“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God’” (Luke 18:15–16).
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that only adults can be baptized, so while the Bible never explicitly says “baptize infants”, there are enough Scripture verses, like the ones above, that imply quite strongly that infants are to be included.
To me this disagreement about Baptism among Christians is one of the saddest ones. I mean, are we really arguing about whether to include innocent children? If Scripture supports it, and the earliest Christians included children and infants in the rite, then let us all concede that the Catholics got this one right and move on.