Since I attend a Reformed Presbyterian founded college, it should come as a surprise to no one that I am surrounded by many RPs and Calvinists, even though I myself and others like me are not. Such an experience has been an enlightenment to me in some ways; I have been challenged and pushed, in a mostly positive theological way. However, I do have a big beef that I cannot dismiss, but it is a beef I will try to respectfully address. Some of you may disagree with me, but that’s perfectly alright. All that I ask is that you simply hear me out on this.
The beef is infant baptism.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand why people practice it. It’s not that the motives or intentions are wrong. And I’m all for child DEDICATION, which, while being SOMEWHAT similar to infant baptism, is really just asking God to bless the child, and asking the parents to dedicate themselves to raising the baby in a godly manner– which, if you really think about it, is all they CAN do, when it boils down to it. The baby, when he/she grows up, have to decide for themselves if they want to follow Jesus or not. And baptism in and of ITSELF is a GREAT thing, an open profession of faith. But infant baptism, I earnestly feel, just isn’t quite right– and I’m going to explain why that is.
My first point I’m going to make is, part of the reason some Christians probably practice it, is because they want to protect their children’s souls. This is entirely understandable, and relatable. I can easily imagine what it would be like to have the cure for a fatal disease in hand, that could cure your child of such a dreaded illness– only to have the child refuse to take it, much to your chagrin. It would be much easier, some parents must figure, to ensure their child’s safe salvation at the very beginning, when they cannot refuse.
But there’s a problem with that.
Actually, make that two problems.
The first is that being baptized does NOT automatically make you saved. It is a public PROFESSION of faith in Christ, that comes after you are ALREADY born again. I know plenty of believers who are unbaptized, but still saved. Mind, many DO decide to get baptized, but NO ONE can decide for you. Which brings me to the second problem:
Baptism is a PERSONAL choice, between you, the priest/pastor, and God ONLY. That you are showing the world does NOT CHANGE THAT FACT. Having your baptism decided for you WITHOUT your consent is not right. It is a choice someone else CANNOT make for you. In infant baptism, who makes the real decision, the real public profession of faith? The parents and the priest/pastor. But why, then, isn’t it THEIR baptism? It just doesn’t make sense. They “baptize” the infant, believing that alone will help to secure salvation– but it won’t. That is almost as bad as– dare I use this provocative example– a young woman aborting a baby because she was led to believe that the baby wouldn’t want to live with “complications,” and it is for the best.
I know this because I came across such an incident a few years back, while helping as a summer Junior Missionary at Child Evangelism Fellowship, running a 5-Day Club. In one club we had, a young girl (probably no more than 4 or 5 at the time, I’d imagine) had been baptized as an infant, her mom being Catholic. (This is NOTHING against Catholics; one of my dearest friends is Catholic and holds more of my views than traditional ones when it comes to this issue, and I have Catholic relatives, as well. Not all Catholics are sold on infant baptism.) She saw it as leeway to actively misbehave at home, with the mindset of, “I’m already saved, since I was baptized as a baby, so I’m excused if I act up,” not only getting away with sinning and acting up, but her mother contributing her infant baptism to her. The relative who dropped the girl off confided in us that every time the girl would act up, the mother would excuse the behavior openly, saying, “She’s really a good kid.” This absolutely broke my heart. Baptism should not be used an excuse for sin; it only confuses children later, if they have been baptized as infants.
I myself was baptized twice, once as an infant (when my parents used to be Lutheran), and once as a PERSONAL CHOICE, at age 14. Why twice? Actually, it was only once– I never counted the first as an actual baptism.
The second reason many, especially but not limited to RPs and Calvinists, practice infant baptism is a particular passage of Scripture, in Acts 16:31-34. It tells the after-story of what happens after Paul and Silas, who had been imprisoned for their beliefs (a very admirable thing, BTW), experienced a massive earthquake that essentially freed them. The jailer was so distraught, and knew that his superiors would kill him anyways if they found the jail empty, that he drew his sword to kill himself and spare them the trouble– only to be stopped by Paul, who assured him all the prisoners were still there. Then (this is the part that is tricky to interpret, but what RPs, Calvinists and some others use as evidence for so-called “infant baptism,”), when the jailer asks what must he do to be saved, Paul tells him to believe in Christ, THEN be baptized– him, along with his household.
There are a couple screwy things with some Christians assuming that that automatically means INFANT baptism. Number one being, we have NO conclusive evidence that said guard/jailer had a baby in his household. It simply says, “your household.” It does NOT say, “You, your wife, your children and baby/ies.” There is no implication of WHO was in his household, so how are WE to know? Paul likely knew, or God revealed it to him, but we do not. For all we know, the guard/jailer had a wife, and two middle-aged kids– no babies. We will perhaps never know, until Jesus comes and sets things right again.
The second thing I want to look at with said passage is that it says, “…. he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God– he and his whole household.” (Acts 16:34, NIV.) This passage clearly reveals to us that not only the jailer but the HOUSEHOLD believed in Paul’s message of Salvation in Christ. However, this is where I must make a pivotal but astonishing point.
Babies cannot believe. They are fully human, don’t get me wrong there, but they have not matured enough in their knowledge and understanding to have believed for THEMSELVES; this may be yet another reason why parents baptize their babies for them. Children can believe, this I have both seen and hear happen on numerous occasions– but babies cannot. It does NOT mean that they can’t be saved in the near future, and that if they die in infancy they are going to you-know-where. I believe that God makes exceptions for certain circumstances, such as the latter. But babies do not have the mental comprehension to understand the significance of why some things are wrong and others right, and WHY they need a Savior in their lives; not at a point in time when they are simply learning to walk, talk, and recognize people they love. This passage clearly states that the “[jailer’s] whole household” believed, and THEN were baptized, so it may be fairly safe to say that there were likely no babies present in said household– thus ripping apart that part of the opposing party’s argument.
Overall and in conclusion, I tend to be very wary of things like infant baptism, for reasons such as I have listed. I do believe, however, that baptism and the IDEA of baptism is a beautiful thing. It is, in essence, representing openly saying that you are unashamed of the Gospel, unashamed of Christ, believe in Him and gladly follow Him. But it should be your own choice, since God gave you free will to choose– just like He gave you free will to choose between Him and the world. And no one can decide that for you, no matter how hard they may try. Remember that, even if you are born into a Christian family, this does not automatically make you Christian. Just a couple years ago, I’ve heard of a young teenaged woman in my own congregation back home, who came from a well-respected Christian family, recently accepted Christ into her OWN life– and became baptized as a PERSONAL profession of HER faith, no one else’s.
So think about it. But don’t just take my word for it– God made you with a mind, and free will, of your very own.
Image Credit: https://jimsomerville.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/i-just-cant-accept-infant-baptism/