The Bible’s Viewpoint
Baptism—Is It for Infants?
“WHEN I had my babies,” said one parent, “I hurried to have them baptized. . . . I wonder sometimes if I did the right thing.” Why? Two of her three children have rejected her faith.
Perhaps you as a parent have entertained similar doubts about initiating an infant into your religion. If so, you likely know that church leaders—Catholic and Protestant alike—have done little to put your mind at ease. They nurture skepticism by arguing over infant baptism. Reformers call it a vestige of medieval superstition. However, traditionalists call denying baptism “repugnant to Christian feeling.”
By reasoning that way, church leaders have merely “indulged in rhapsodies of emotion as a substitute for substantial argument.” (Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, by Paul K. Jewett) Where, then, can you look for authoritative answers to your questions about infant baptism? These answers must be looked for in God’s Word.
Consigned to Hell?
Infant baptizers for the most part attempt to base their case on Jesus’ words at John 3:5: “Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” They argue that since water baptism is a requirement for entrance into heaven, infants should be baptized to avoid suffering in a fiery hell—or lingering in limbo.*
However, the Bible says that “the dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5; compare Psalm 146:4.) Since the dead are unconscious, they are incapable of any sort of suffering. Parents, therefore, need not fear gruesome consequences if they do not baptize their infants.
Still, there is the concern that unbaptized ones cannot enter heaven. This, however, does not mean that they cannot be saved. Jesus said: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this [heavenly] fold.” (John 10:16) Here, and in a parable recorded at Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus indicated that there would be saved ones who would not go to heaven. Where would they go? Jesus told the wrongdoer impaled alongside him: “You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43.
Had that wrongdoer ever been “born from water” by baptism? Obviously not, and heaven was thus closed to him. Where, then, would “Paradise” be? Recall that God placed the original human pair in an earthly paradise, with the prospect of living there forever. (Genesis 1:28; 2:8) Adam and Eve, though, chose to rebel and were put out of their beautiful garden home. Was earthly Paradise lost forever? No, for the Scriptures make plain that God will eventually restore Paradise on earth. (Matthew 5:5; 6:9, 10; Ephesians 1:9-11; Revelation 21:1-5) And it is to this earthly Paradise that most of those who have died—including infants—will eventually be resurrected.—John 5:28, 29.
Must an individual be baptized to share in this earthly resurrection? Not necessarily. Many have died in spiritual ignorance. (Compare Jonah 4:11.) Since they never had an opportunity to learn about God, they never dedicated themselves to him. Are such ones forever lost? No, for the apostle Paul said: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Doubtless included among those resurrected throngs will be infants. Therefore, claims that baptism is necessary to save infants are entirely unfounded.
Circumcision and Baptism
Those favoring infant baptism, however, point out that infants in Israel were circumcised shortly after birth. (Genesis 17:12) They reason that baptism has taken the place of circumcision as a means of saving infants.
However, did circumcision serve as a means of salvation? No, it was a visible “sign of the covenant” that God made with Abraham. (Genesis 17:11) Further, only males were circumcised. If baptism parallels circumcision, would it not be logical to refuse baptism to baby girls? Clearly, the parallel is invalid. It must also be remembered that the Scriptures specifically ordered Jewish parents to perform circumcision on their sons. If salvation were involved, why no similar command to Christian parents regarding baptism?
True, Jesus did say: “Let the young children come to me . . . for the kingdom of God belongs to suchlike ones.” (Mark 10:14) But Jesus was hardly saying that heaven would be populated by children. Interestingly, Protestant theologian A. Campbell said regarding the heavenly Kingdom: “It is not composed of children, but of those who are like them in docility, humility and meekness.”
Children of a Believer Are “Holy”
Jesus instructed his followers to “go . . . and make disciples [or, taught ones] of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” (Matthew 28:19) It is therefore those old enough to be disciples, or taught ones, who should be baptized. Thus, true Christians today endeavor to train—not baptize—their children from infancy. (2 Timothy 3:15) As children are brought up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah,” they develop their own faith.—Ephesians 6:4.
In the meantime, parents need not fear that the eternal welfare of their young children is endangered if they are unbaptized. At 1 Corinthians 7:14 the apostle Paul provides assurance that the children of a Christian parent are “holy.” This is not because of their undergoing some formalistic rite but because God mercifully extends a clean standing to them—as long as at least one of their parents remains faithful as a Christian.
The faithful example of parents, along with the Biblical training their children receive, can in time move young ones to make a dedication of themselves to God and symbolize this by baptism. Their appreciative hearts move them to follow through by rendering ‘a sacred service with their power of reason.’ (Romans 12:1) These are things a tiny infant simply cannot do.
States the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967): “In case of danger of death one should not wait to baptize until actual birth. A skilled person is permitted to baptize in the womb . . . through the use of a syringe or some other irrigating instrument.”