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Infant baptism
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Infant baptism

Infant baptism (also called paedobaptism and pedobaptism), the baptism of the infant children of believers, is an ancient custom of much of Christianity, including the Roman Catholic church, the Orthodox churches, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists, to name a few. Churches with the name "Baptist" in their titles usually practice Believers baptism.

Table of contents
1 Pedobaptism as status of membership
2 Opponents and supporters of pedobaptism
3 Baptism and faith

Pedobaptism as status of membership

Since baptism is the rite of initiation into the church, pedobaptists recognize that the children of believers are both members of their nuclear families and members of the church to which their parents belong. The alternative would be to treat them as mere unbelievers or inquirers. Pedobaptism also recognizes that membership in the church is not just a matter of intellectual understanding and assent. It is thus much easier for churches that practice pedobaptism to include people who are mentally impaired and may never be capable of intellectually understanding the creed, but nevertheless practice their faith and participate in the church as they are able.

Opponents and supporters of pedobaptism

Opponents of pedobaptism claim that is unbiblical. Pedobaptists however point to a number of passages where reference is made to baptising a person and their household – the households of Lydia, Crispus, and Stephanas are mentioned by name Acts 16:14-15, 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16. Pedobaptists argue that one's household would include one's children, even infants, and add that this is how the Church has traditionally understood baptism throughout its history. In addition, pedobaptists point to Psalm 51, which reads, in part, "surely I was sinful from birth," as indication that infants are capable of sin and thus in need of salvation.

When children are baptized, the ritual consists of two parts, separated by a few years. The first is when the parents act on behalf of their child, the second part (known as confirmation), is when the child accepts the baptism and takes responsibility for his or her own soul.

It is a well established Biblical precedent that parents must act on behalf of their children until they are of age. Christian infant baptism is analogous to circumcision in the Jewish covenant. (Also see Joshua 24:15.)

Baptists and some other denominations do not accept infant baptism as valid, and Christians who transfer membership to denominations that practice believers' baptism are generally required to be rebaptized.

Covenant Theology and Baptism

Covenant theology is a style of theology held by many Reformed churches which enables them to believe that Infant Baptism is Biblical.

Put simply, this theology sees that God's covenants recorded in the Bible are all one in the same (although with different emphases). God's covenant with Israel (via Abraham, Moses, Solomon and others) is transferable to the present with regards to the church. Covenant theologians see in Old Testament Israel the people of God (the church) before Christ was born. For the Covenant theologian, therefore, there is only one people of God - the church.

This idea is important when taking Baptism into account. According to the New Testament book of Hebrews, much of Israel's cultic worship has been replaced by the person and work of Christ. Moreover, important festivals in the Old Testament find a replacement in the New. The Passover festival, for example, was replaced by the Lord's Supper (or Eucharist).

Covenant theologians point out that the external sign of the covenant in the Old Testament was circumcision. Circumcision was performed upon the male children of Israelites to signify their external membership in God's people. This sign was not a guarantee of true faith - the Old Testament records many Israelites who turned from God and were punished, showing that their hearts were not truly set on serving God. So while all (male) Israelites had the sign of the covenant performed on them in a once off ceremony soon after birth, such a signifier was external only and not a true indicator of how they might feel about God as they get older.

In the New Testament, Circumcision is no longer seen as mandatory for God's people. However there is compelling evidence to suggest that the Old Testament Circumcision rite has been replaced by Baptism. In this sense, all believers should be baptised since this is a sign of their faith. Covenant theogians argue, however, that children of believers should also be baptised since they are the children of God's people, and are externally members of God's covenant people in the same way as Israel was before Christ.

Latter-day Saint condemnation of pedobaptism

According to Latter-day Saint doctrine, infant baptism is a perversion of Christianity. In respect to infant baptism, chapter 8 of the Book of Moroni in the Book of Mormon condemns it stating that:

"[T]he baptism of your little children" is a "gross error" and a "solemn mockery".

"[L]ittle children need no repentance, neither baptism . . . are whole . . . are not capable of committing sin . . . cannot repent . . . are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law."

Baptism and faith

Many pedobaptists view baptism as the place where a believer receives the Holy Spirit and thus mark it as the beginning of faith, whereas practitioners of believers baptism view baptism as an act of faith.

See also: