Questions From Readers
● Is it Scriptural to act as a godparent or to designate godparents for one’s children?—U.S.A.
The practice of designating some person or persons other than the parents as godparents for an infant or child at the time of its solemn baptism and, later, at the individual’s confirmation, is a ritual of the Catholic Church. The practice also applies to adults when baptized or confirmed.
In the baptism of infants the godparents or sponsors (usually relatives or friends who are baptized persons) ask “faith from the Church of God in the child’s name.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia) They also make a profession and declaration of faith and ask for baptism, in the child’s name. In the case of default of the parents, that is, their failure to bring up the child in the Catholic faith, the godparents are obligated to instruct it concerning faith and morals.
In the rite of confirmation (like baptism, considered a sacrament) usually another person (or persons), different from the godparent(s) designated at the time of the child’s baptism, acts as sponsor or godparent. He or she must be one well instructed in the Catholic faith.
What is the Scriptural position regarding this practice? First of all, infant baptism is unscriptural. In view of the fact that ‘receiving the word with one’s ears’ and ‘doing penance’ precede water baptism, and that baptism requires the individual to make a solemn decision, it is apparent that he must be of an age to do these things himself. (Acts 2:14, 38, 41, Douay Version) The apostle Paul writes: “For, with the heart, we believe unto justice: but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:10, Dy) This an infant or very small child could not do. Thus infant baptism is ruled out by the Scriptures.
Moreover, no person can actually believe with the heart or make confession by mouth for another person. True, the apostle Paul pointed out that obedient minor children are “holy” because of the faithful parent. This is because God holds the parents, not some outside individuals, responsible for the children. (1 Cor. 7:14) God thereby makes a kind provision in behalf of his faithful servants. But when such children come to the age of responsibility they are no longer covered by this arrangement. Each has to stand or fall according to his own personal faith.—Rom. 14:4; Ezek. 18:20.
It is true that the apostle Paul said to the congregation at Corinth: “For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.” (1 Cor. 4:15, Dy) However, Paul was not any “godfather” to this congregation. Rather, he had originally brought to them the gospel by which they became believers. In a spiritual sense he became a father to them through this life-giving message, though other persons had a later share in instructing them. Paul was forced to remind the Corinthian Christians of this fact because they were being seduced away from Christ by false apostles. It was not that he demanded to be called “Father,” or that he was referring to a church-appointed position of godfather.—2 Cor. 11:3, 13.
Today in many places the practice of having godparents is only a formality. The godparent usually gives the child a gift, and thereafter often has little to do with the child, as to training him in the faith. Nevertheless, since the principle is based only on Catholic tradition and is contrary to the Scriptures, true Christians will avoid any connection with such practice.