Why do Catholics baptize infants ? Why do Catholics baptize…
Why do Catholics baptize infants ?
Why do Catholics baptize infants? Where is that in the Bible? Firstly, when Catholics are asked to show where in the Bible a particular teaching is, the first thing a Catholic should ask is, “Could you please show me where in the Bible it says that all Christian beliefs must be found there?” (The Scriptures, in fact, do not proclaim this at all. Rather, the Bible states that there are many things that the Bible could not contain (John 16:12-13) and that one must not look to the Bible as the pillar and foundation of Truth, but to the Church (1 Tim 3:15).
This is not to denigrate or dismiss the Scriptures, which are the Divine Word of God, but to say that the Scriptures do NOT state that all theological truths are found in totality in the Bible. Scripture is NOT sufficient–and nowhere in Scripture does it proclaim this. (Note: while Scripture is materially sufficient, it is not formally sufficient–but this is discussion for another day). Yet it remains that the Bible is the glorious, magnificent, sacred and inspired Word of God and must be treasured. “For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body…In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, but as what it really is, the word of God.” — 103-104 Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Secondly, we ought to ask the question to those who object to infant baptism, “Where does the Bible say that we CAN’T baptize infants?” (Answer: nowhere! In fact, the Bible states that “entire households” (Acts 16:15 and Acts 16:33) were baptized, and one could assume that in ancient Israel “households” included infants.)
While many Christians see baptism as an “ordinance”, in which an adult must proclaim belief in Christ as his Lord and savior prior to receiving baptism (something NOT found in Scripture, interestingly),Catholics view baptism as a sacrament (an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace), confirmed by the faith of the parents. From Catholic convert Steve Ray: “Infant Baptism is discussed and argued about quite a bit in some circles. I, of course, was raised Baptist and taught that Infant Baptism was a man-made tradition invented by the heretical Catholics who abandoned the Word of God to follow ill-advised tradition. “So why do Catholics baptize infants? “Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.” –1250 Catechism.
Again from Steve Ray (ibid) “To grasp the background and origins of Infant Baptism we must understand the original recipients of the New Covenant. During the first years, the members of the Church were exclusively Jewish. The Jews practiced infant circumcision, as mandated to Abraham (Gn 17:12), reaffirmed in the Mosaic Law (Lv 12:3), and demonstrated by the circumcision of Jesus on his eighth day (Luke 2:21). Without circumcision no male was allowed to participate in the cultural and religious life of Israel.
The rite of circumcision as the doorway into the Old Covenant was replaced in the New Covenant with the rite of Baptism—both applied to infants. St. Paul makes this correlation: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism” (Col 2:11–12).”
In other words, the OT ritual of circumcision of infants prefigured the NT sacrament of infant baptism. Infants were circumcised; infants ought to be baptized. When we are born, we are born “in the flesh”, with a fallen human nature, separated from God. After Christ “made it right” through his atoning death on the cross, we can be brought into right relationship with God. This is accomplished through baptism, in which we are “born again” in the Spirit. We become united again, as was originally intended, with God. We become children of God, members of His Body, the Church. We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We become born again into a state of grace. Why would we want to exclude infants from this then?
As was stated in a previous discussion, paraphrasing Fr. Vincent Serpa of Catholic Answers: If we could see the change that occurs in the soul of the newly baptized, nuclear fission would appear as child’s play! A sublime, profound change occurs, at our very essence, at the very moment we are baptized. An indelible (unchangeable, immortal) mark has been placed on our soul–more powerful than any mere nuclear fission!
The Catholic Church is nothing if not consistent: all our sacraments provide indelible, ontological (at our very essence) change to the universe! That is, what happens at a priestly ordination, wedding, baptism, etc is a change so profound, so sublime, so wondrous, that the explosive power of nuclear fission pales in comparison! We simply cannot fathom what power is unleashed via the sacraments! Crash helmets ought to be mandatory!
Finally, many non-Catholics often point out that the Catholics believe we can work our way into heaven. Infant baptism is proof that we believe that God’s salvation is entirely a free gift unto humanity–that we can do nothing to “earn” our salvation–for what “work” does an infant do in order to receive baptism? Absolutely nothing! Salvation is offered to the infant, freely and through no deed of his own. Baptism saves you now, as our first pope said in his first “encyclical”, 1 Peter 3:21. Infants ought not to be denied this salvific gift.