Why Do Many Evangelicals Find It Difficult To Accept Infant Baptism?

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During my past 9 years of pastoral ministry the discussion with Evangelicals that has resulted in the most confusion, tension, and conflict is most definitely the dialog over infant baptism. Otherwise stated, in my humble opinion there is nothing more offensive to our Evangelical brothers and sisters (those who believe that it is only proper to baptize those who are able to make a profession of faith) than the Lutheran view of infant baptism.

Now, for you lifelong Lutherans you may find this hard to believe, how a precious gift from God can cause such strain, but it is true that it does. My wife and I have unfortunately lost friendships over ‘the infant baptism’ talk. Furthermore, at one point in time I too was very indifferent towards the sacraments and rather antagonistic towards those that boldly cherished them. But you may ask, “Why the offense? What could possibly be so threatening about sprinkling water on a cute and helpless baby?”

In a previous article on Steadfast Lutherans titled, There Are Two Perspectives On Delayed And Legalistic Baptisms, I covered the basic confusion over the sacraments between many Lutherans and what I will call ‘Credobaptist’ Evangelicals.  I stated,

Which way is the arrow aimed when it comes to the sacraments? What? In other words, are the sacraments something that we do toward God as a way of showing our obedience OR are the sacraments the way that God shows His commitment to us and gives grace to us? Are the sacraments things that we observe in response to hearing the Gospel (i.e. fruits of faith) OR are the sacraments ways that God responds to our sinfulness with the Gospel; are they a result of His compassion and pursuit of sinners? Do the sacraments belong in our discussions on man’s obedience OR do the sacraments belong in the discussion of God’s justifying grace? Who does the verb in the sacraments?”

While these confusions are very prevalent in conversations with Credobaptist Evangelicals and may cause conversational tension, there is something that is not mentioned in the previous paragraph, something that is much more offensive and something that repeatedly upsets the theology of Credobaptist Evangelicals. That something is infant baptism itself; it is the ‘infant’ part that causes tension. I believe that the reason for strain is due to infant baptism being the quintessential picture of divine monergism. Monergism, as you know, is completely contrary to any and all free will theologies, thus the reason why infant baptism is so difficult for many Credobaptist Evangelicals to accept.

The most common criticism that I have heard against infant baptism is that it doesn’t allow for the baby to make a ‘decision’ for Christ or a ‘profession of faith.’ (At this point we could devote our time to show how the tenets of the Enlightenment have tainted this view of faith, but that can be saved for another time.) Many will protest that it is unjust to baptize a baby before the child can profess faith in Jesus and/or make a decision, therefore, one must wait until the baby reaches an older age.

So, why would it be unjust to baptize a baby before they are able to make their decision? Generally speaking, it is unjust in credobaptist theology because infant baptism infringes upon, violates, and overthrows the doctrine of free will; it takes the child’s ‘choice’ in salvation away. To say that an baby is saved in infant baptism when no choice/decision/profession has been made comes across as extremely scandalous for theologies that embrace the doctrine of free will and it is very offensive towards the old Adam.  The old Adam in all of us can’t stand monergism and he especially can’t stand the sacrament of infant baptism. The reason why, in infant baptism the old Adam has no room to play and exercise his supposed free will, but can only drown.

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Advertently or inadvertently to guard the doctrine of free will, many Evangelical denominations and many Evangelical movements will postpone baptism until the child is able to make a choice. However, this rationale creates additional problems. How should one handle original sin and consider children when they sin between conception and their decision of faith? To counteract children’s sinful nature from conception until the time they make a decision of faith, an age of accountability status is developed, thus granting the child a period of grace. The age of accountability status embraces that children below a specific age who perish are not held responsible for their sins because they were incapable of understanding wrong from right and were unable to comprehend Jesus’ death on the cross. Furthermore, some Revivalistic and Pietistic traditions can also fall prey to this ideology. They will rightly baptize the child in the name of our Triune God, gifting the child faith and grace, but the baptism is only viewed as a grace that extends until the child can make a decision for Christ at a later point. At that point of decision, the decision then takes the place of the child’s baptism as the location of assurance. Both the Pietist’s view and the Evangelical’s view are ways that attempt to: protect free will theology and avoid the divine monergistic qualities of baptismal regeneration.

So is infant baptism really that radical? One needs to keep in mind that infant baptism is not some rogue theology that is inconsistent with the rest of the scriptures. Take for example the miracles of Jesus. Individuals were not ‘mostly’ blind, but powerlessly blind from birth (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘kind of’ paralytic, but hopelessly and entirely paralyzed (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘partly’ leprous, but helplessly full of leprosy (e.g., Matthew 8). Individuals were not ‘almost’ dead, but dead-dead (e.g., John 11). These individuals are just like an infant, helpless. Yet in these miracles we see the power of the Word, a performative speech from Jesus, that speaks these miracles into existence. Jesus proclaims, “Let it be done to you! Stand up and walk! Be Cleansed! Come out!” The individuals, like an infant, contributed nothing to their healing. Just as the world was spoke into existence in Genesis, Christ spoke these healing miracles into existence. Furthermore, God’s word still speaks faith into existence today (e.g., Romans 10:17).  The Word is performative; the Word works faith and this is even true with infants.

As Lutherans we believe, teach, and confess that infant baptism does not work regeneration apart from faith (e.g., Mark 16:15-16, Romans 4:20-25).  With that said, we also believe, teach, and confess that faith is not a product of the man’s intellect, or a result of mankind’s will, or conjured up by a person’s arousing feelings. Faith is a gift, a gift worked by the Holy Spirit through the Word (e.g., Romans 10:17, Ephesians 2:8). Thus, Luther rightly taught that the Word is in and with the water making baptism’s efficacy entirely dependent on the Gospel promises, promises that are connected with the water (e.g. 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38). Otherwise stated, because the Gospel is attached to baptism, baptism is an effective means through which the Holy Spirit works faith and gives grace to infants, apart from any works of righteousness that they do or may do (e.g., Titus 3:5).

As we converse with our dear Evangelical brothers and sisters on this subject, may we not forget that there is a silver lining.  As we discuss infant baptism and its ramifications on free will theology may we boldly confess,

I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will’ to be given to me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavor after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities, and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground and hold fast my ‘free-will’; because, even were there no dangers, adversities, or devils, I should still be forced to labor with no guarantee of success, and to beat my fists at the air. If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt as to whether it pleased God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my own great hurt. But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him.” (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will)

So why do many Evangelicals find it difficult to accept infant baptism?  It is difficult for many to accept because it is bad news for the old Adam and presents a difficulty for decision/free will theology.  In infant baptism faith cannot be misconstrued into an act of the free will—faith does not make baptism but receives its. With infant baptism salvation is most clearly seen as a gift of God descending to a helpless baby, rather than the old Adam using baptism as a token of his obedience.  Alas, it is now very understandable why conversations on this subject will result in confusion, tension, and unfortunate conflict.

Regardless of the possible blowback due to our Lutheran baptismal theology, may we graciously esteem our most excellent Baptism as our daily attire in which we walk constantly, that we may always be found in the faith, for infant baptism is not only the quintessential picture of divine monergism, but is divine monergism—rich life-giving water with the Word that works faith, delivers forgiveness of sins, rescues us from the jaws of death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation making us God’s own apart from any and all man-made contributions. In a very literally sense, via infant baptism, we do not wash ourselves but are washed by God.  Praise be to God!  May we and our Evangelical friends grow ever more appreciative of this great gift.

PAX

 

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.

Comments

Why Do Many Evangelicals Find It Difficult To Accept Infant Baptism? — 88 Comments

  1. I’m not so sure free will is the main issue. Otherwise why would Methodists, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, etc. baptize infants? They have ‘free will’ theologies yet do it.

  2. Matt, I agree with your observation that infant baptism is the manifestation of Lutheranism most odious to generic evangelicals. I have had very little problem explaining the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper, but baptism is another issue.
    But I think Dan is right- it’s not primarily a free will issue for most people I talk to.
    There are multiple issues involved, including a misunderstanding of baptismal regeneration as “ex opere operato.” Perseverance of the saints (the Calvinist version, which would not point to free will) also is at work here, for if one is saved in baptism that salvation cannot be lost, and we simply have too many counterexamples to think that is true.
    I think the largest issue, though, is the nature of baptism itself: Is it an operation of the law (something we do for God, or an outward sign of an inward change, or a personal testimony of some kind) or is it gospel (something that God does for us, works forgiveness of sins, unites us with Christ in His death and resurrection, clothes us with Christ, saves us, etc).
    That foundational approach has been very helpful (and usually non-controversial) in a number of conversations I have had with those who oppose infant baptism.
    Matt, thanks for your posts.

  3. @Dan O’Day #1
    The point Pr Richard is making is that most Evangelicals are not Main-Liners (Methodists, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Lutherans). A very large number of who Pr Richard is addressing are “non-denominationalists,” Fundamentalists, various stripes of Pietists, Baptists, Free-Churches, and Anabaptists.

    Most of these groups are Pelgian (Finney Revivalism) or Semi-Pelgians (Arminians) or generally clueless about Grace Alone/Faith Alone. Pr Richard’s key argument is “Advertently or inadvertently to guard the doctrine of free will, many Evangelical denominations and many Evangelical movements will postpone baptism until the child is able to make a choice.”

    As a new Lutheran (in catechesis), I couldn’t agree more! We stumble of Monergism when we oppose Padeobaptism! This is a powerful, biblical way of pointing out the inconsistency and knee-jerk reaction we have in the Credobaptist heritage.

    This may be strange to life-long Lutherans, Presbyterians, or Orthodox (wannabies).

    @Wade Mobley #2
    The group you are addressing are Reformed Baptist or whatever Reformed varieties (and there are many) you may run into. Presbyterians would not have a problem with padeobaptism just the regeneration!

  4. I think the biggest issue is the view of Children’s status before Christ. If they don’t think of their children as members of God’s covenant/kingdom, then they don’t have a Scriptural view of their child’s status. Christ said refering to the children before him “such is the kingdom of God”

    Reformed Pastor Douglas Wilson has an interesting Baptism dialog here:
    http://www.dougwils.com/Previous-Publications/old-dialog-on-baptism.html

  5. “The reason why, in infant baptism the old Adam has no room to play and exercise his supposed free will, but can only drown.”

    Wow! I think you really hit on the mother lode here, Pastor Richard. If I may, let me exercise my freedom as a brother in Christ and play with your point a bit. I think you can use the same analysis in virtually every practical at issue amongst ourselves right now. Our issues of worship, table manners, office of the holy ministry, layman and women’s roles in the church, cell group studies, etc. all come back to and really should be examined by the light of this statement as follows.

    The reason why, in ________________ the Old Adam has no room to play and exercise his supposed free will, but can only drown [and be raised up by the work of God in Christ Jesus.]

  6. @Dr. Ralph “Rafe” E. Spraker, Jr. #4
    The point Pr Richard is making is that most Evangelicals are not Main-Liners (Methodists, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Lutherans).

    I find the definitions of “mainliners” interesting, to say the least. A generation (or three) ago, you could say (roughly speaking) the the mainline churches were those who were speaking English when they came to this country. Roman Catholics, Lutherans and E. Orthodox need not apply. They also had to have some history: inventions of the 20th century weren’t in the club and money was essential.

    Lutherans (elca, only) began to be spoken of as “mainline” after they cosied up to the various reformed groups that were ‘insiders’, particularly, the Episcopalians… the ‘gold standard’ of English Christianity (however odd that may seem these days!)

    From Beliefnet:
    Do Americans have less faith in God?
    Or is their crisis of faith in the professional bureaucracies claiming to represent Him — particularly in the old, historic “mainline” denominations — the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, Methodists and what remains of the Congregationalists?

    Philadelphia “Main Line” (from Wikipedia)
    The Main Line is an unofficial historical and socio-cultural region of suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, comprising a collection of affluent towns built along the old Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad which ran northwest from downtown Philadelphia parallel to Lancaster Avenue (US Route 30). The rail line, from which the area affectionately got its name, was central to creating the Main Line communities which in the 19th century became home to many sprawling country estates built by Philadelphia’s wealthiest families, many of whom had one house in the city and another larger country home on the Main Line. Long considered a bastion of “old money”, today the Main Line is a collection of exclusive and affluent towns…

  7. This really does make sense to me. I listened to a recent episode of Table Talk Radio, and Pastor Wolfmueller mentioned something similar and it really got me thinking.

    “To say that an baby is saved in infant baptism when no choice/decision/profession has been made comes across as extremely scandalous for theologies that embrace the doctrine of free will and it is very offensive towards the old Adam.” This really hits the nail on the head for me. Even though I identified myself as a Calvinist for a few years, and did not believe a person could make a decision for Christ, I still felt like baptism was something I did for Christ, not the other way around. It is something I still find myself fighting with my old Adam about. Thank you for driving it home once again, Pastor. I appreciate every bit of encouragement and knowledge I gain from great resources such as this, as I try to move away from both my Evangelical and Calvinistic roots.

  8. “Otherwise stated, in my humble opinion there is nothing more offensive to our Evangelical brothers and sisters (those who believe that it is only proper to baptize those who are able to make a profession of faith) than the Lutheran view of infant baptism.”

    A close second is our opposition to decision theology.

    What Emma says is true. As a former evangelical, I know that the adherence to decision theology is the real stumbling block in this discussion. A vast majority of evangelicals staunchly believe that we are saved not because God in his mercy blocked our march to hell by causing the Holy Spirit to impart to us faith in Christ and his work, but rather we are saved because we chose to be. Because then the recipient of baptism acts passively in baptism, it ceases to be a sacrament, but rather a statement we are making, because we chose to get baptized, just as we chose to get saved. Baptism is reduced to a symbol, and babies can’t make a choice before the world to take part in that symbol, and so it’s best left to adults who have chosen to get saved before making that public statement.

    Personally, I like the Lutheran doctrine better, where both baptism and salvation are gifts, where Almighty God serves us poor miserable sinners for the sake of his Son.

  9. An argument I have heard quite often is related to the “personal decision” idea and goes like this: “How can something someone else does (the parents, etc.) save the baby who is baptized?” So, it’s not just that the child didn’t make the decision, but that someone else made the decision for him/her. Put it simply, “Why does a decision that my parents made save me?” As you-all can see, it’s a fine point, and related to personal decision, but slightly different. And it opens up a different can of worms. Several years ago, a couple wanted to have their three-year old baptized in our LCMS church. The day of the baptism, everything went along fine, until she got up to the font, then she fought it like blazes, “I DON’T WANT TO GET BAPTIZED!” she shouted and cried. It was not only disconcerting, but troubling. Yes, she was finally baptized, but kicking and screaming all the way.

    I’m looking forward to the responses.

  10. Paul of Alexandria :
    @Joe Strieter #10
    So the casting out of Satan during the baptismal rite had special meaning in this instance.

    Interesting response, one I had not considered. I’d never seen an incident like that one before, and haven’t seen one since. You could be right–we may never know this side of heaven.

    Thanks.

  11. One argument I’ve used that has stumped them is this: If its unfair to place God’s name upon a child as an infant because he has not chosen to be in the family of God, why don’t you wait to give that child your family name until he’s old enough to decide if he wants to be in it. If you don’t believe he’s part of your family by a choice he’s made, why would you believe that becoming born from above is a choice a person makes. The other concept I’ve found useful here is that the Bible NEVER calls a believer the choosing ones (active verb) but the chosen ones (passive verb – God doing the choosing). Their stance is so backwards there are many even naturalistic arguments that can be applied. I also believe their erroneous view on this doctrine is the reason that evangelicals are especially sensitive to the abortion issue, in which the mother’s right to choose somehow makes her more human (or the fetus less human) than her child. The argument for abortion rests on similar grounds to their aversion to infant Baptism.

    JRBaseley
    Dearborn, MI

  12. Evangelicals don’t get infant baptism bc it is often practiced in an inconsistent manner. Why do some parents wait months for family to come in town to do the baptism? If you really thought your newborn daughter was an enemy of God and could go to hell if she died, why would you wait a month? Why do Pastor’s wait a while? If baptism is the new circumcision, it should be done on 8th day, no? There is NO way a Jewish boy is not circumcised on 8th day.

    Often families that believe in infant baptism only attend church briefly and then don’t come back until confirmation, if at all. Right or wrong, that’s what evangelicals see and they don’t get it. So to many evangelicals baptism appears to be a magical or superstitious practice by Lutherans and Catholics. They are much more comfortable with a baby dedication or believers baptism. Just saying.

  13. @Joe Strieter #10
    Another parallel to your story of the child kicking and screaming:
    I know of a pastor who had a woman come to him with her daughter who exhibited signs of demon possession. The mom described animal sounds, cuts from nowhere and her hands would burn after touching a Bible. She had wanted to take her to the Roman Catholic priest to do an exorcism, but he wasn’t there–so she thought the next best bet would be the Lutheran pastor.
    The pastor and elders met with the mom and girl and the mom wanted her baptized. At the baptism, some very strange physical things happened. She dropped to the floor and there was such a “dead weight” that several large men couldn’t not even move her. Upon coming to, she then ran screaming out of the church and ran around the neighborhood. After the Baptism took place, her mom said she returned to normal.

    What happens when you get baptized? You receive the Holy Spirit–not by any choice–but by God’s doing. This was apparent. We don’t need these signs to believe, but should not be surprised when we see this sort of physical display of what is actually happening inside the person.

  14. @God’s Own Child #16

    As I recall, the little girl kept crying until her parents had to take her out. There was no dramatic change in behavior. And, we never saw the parents or child in church again.

    The point of this story was only to indicate that the baptism was against her will, even at that early age, kind of demonstrating the objections I had heard to infant baptism. I don’t know what my evangelical friends would have said about the incident.

  15. @Joe Strieter #10

    Joe, Jesus answers the question quite clearly, succinctly, and beautifully about God saving someone on account of another’s faith (but not “by” another’s faith).

    In Matthew 9 where Jesus heals a paralytic, it is written that “when Jesus saw THEIR faith,” meaning those who carried this man incapable of coming to Jesus himself, “he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.'” If the point in this story is the faith of the paralytic, then Jesus as in other places would say specifically to the paralytic “your faith has saved you.”

    But that is not the case here. Jesus specifically references the faith of those who brought the paralytic to Him to be healed. On account of THEIR faith Jesus says to the paralytic “your sins are forgiven.” Now, since the forgiveness of sins is received only through faith we can safely say that on account of THEIR faith Jesus then gives this paralytic faith, forgiveness, and healing. (Just to be clear, the paralytic is saved by the FAITH that is given him. But it is clear also that Jesus does this giving on account of those who believed He would heal their friend and so brought him to Jesus)

    In the same way, mothers were bringing their infants to Jesus that He may bless them. What is this blessing but forgiveness from the one who is named and comes to “save His people from their sins.” And so, on account of their mother’s faith, Jesus does the same to these little “paralytic” children, that is, those who cannot on their own come to Jesus, and so blesses them with the same gifts of faith and forgiveness, that is, both the blessing and the means with which to receive the blessing.

    Unfortunately, the Evangelicals like the ignorant disciples at that time are still stuck under the Old Testament law in matters of faith, hindering children from coming to Jesus where He is for them with His gifts of faith and forgiveness. They reverse what Jesus clearly taught that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And so they teach, in reality, that one must become like an adult to enter the kingdom of God, that is, at an age of accountability, and likewise that Baptism is only the “obedience” (work) of the one baptized.

    Dedication (of infants/children), by the way, has no command of God and promise of God’s grace, and thus has no benefit whatsoever for the child, and in fact is simply evil in that it is done by the teaching and will of man in place of that which is commanded and done by the will of God. Go and see what Jesus had to say about this to the Pharisees – teaching as the commands of God, the teachings of men.

    Let them who have ears to hear, hear … that on account of their parent’s faith in the Word and promise of God in Baptism for their children, God blesses the children with forgiveness and the faith to receive it by that same Word and promise. That is the Gospel … that which is to be received like a little child, apart from which no one shall enter the kingdom.

    I hope this is helpful and thus also shows the seriousness of this error among the Evangelicals as it works to shift saving faith away from its proper saving object – Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins, to one’s own “decision for Jesus.” It is an old sleight of hand trick by the devil that turns one away from the continuous need of God’s mercy and forgiveness in Word and Sacrament, to what “I do” as a matter of keeping “my decision and commitment.”

    That is why our “worship” is so different than theirs.

    By the way, Peter was one of those disciples rebuked by Jesus for hindering little children (infants) from coming to Him. Peter finally got it, as he did many other things … and on the day of Pentecost proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is FOR you and YOUR CHILDREN.” (emphasis mine)

    This is not rocket science … it is simply a matter of FAITH.

    Peace and blessing in Christ.

    J. Gier

  16. My answer when someone tells me they are waiting for their child to become ‘of age’ until they are baptized is to ask if they also waiting to use a infant car seat until that child can make a decision about his need of protection while in a car?

    Why not just follow what the God teaches us in the Bible.

    Conversations with Evangelicals about the Bible usually begin and end with them trying to explain the teachings of the Bible according to human thought and not faith.

  17. Let me give you a few arguments to deal with that come from the mouths of evangelicals:
    1.) It’s too “Roman Catholic” (A weak one, to be sure)
    2.) It makes salvation by a work instead of by faith
    3.) It substitutes the gospel with baptism (In other words, you’re saved because you’re baptized, not because Christ died for you).

    If you can effectively argue from Scripture about these (and it’s really the third one that kept me away from baptismal regeneration for a long time, because I kept hearing Lutherans say “I was baptized” and I would answer “Isn’t the foundation of your salvation supposed to be Christ’s work on the cross and not whether or not you got wet?”), then you’ll have the ears of your evangelical brethren.

  18. Just a few reasons why……

    1. They don’t take the literal interpretation of the Baptism passages.

    2. They are totally ignorant of early church history (the first 600 years after our Lord rose from the dead, which deals with how the early church fathers were taught the faith from the Apostles themselves).

    3. Because of ignorance of the Word Of God, and early church history there are now some 40,000 Christian denominations since the Reformation, all saying that they are correct.

    4. We have to ask ourselves, what does the Word of God teach us? How did the early church fathers interpret such doctrines as the Supper and Baptism before we got our complete Bibles, as determined at the Councils of Hippo in AD 393 and the Council of Carthage in AD 397?

    5. The writing’s of the early church fathers (St. Justin Martyr, St Irenaeus, Tertullian, St Cyprian, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St Athanasius, St Basil, St. Ambrose of Milan, St Gregory, St. John Chrysostom and St Augustine), show that they all taught that water baptism regenerates and the baptizing of infants was a practice that came from the Apostles themselves.

    6. Ignorance of the Word of God and the teachings of the early church fathers leads to confusion, which God never intended.

  19. @Pastor Matt Richard #3
    Is it possible that Roman Catholics, Methodists, or Eastern Orthodox apply free will inconsistently? Perhaps only for adults?

    As far as I understand it they may say an infant has some portion of their sin removed (such as original sin) at baptism because but then has to work/cooperate to keep themselves saved. (At least Catholic, and Methodist) It seems to me to be an *inconsistent* holding to free will, an unbiblical separation of justification from sanctification, hence their inconsistent understanding of infant baptism. Like they’re trying to cover all bases.

    Catholic (which also teaches baptism as necessary for salvation even for infants):
    “The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin. As a consequence, no satisfaction for past sins is enjoined upon those who are baptized; and if they die before they commit any sin, they attain immediately to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.” – Council of Trent

    Methodist:
    “God Initiates the Covenant
    We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”…Baptism Is Forever
    Because baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant that God has initiated, it should not be repeated. However, God’s continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace, will prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such a time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers the ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, which implies that, while God remains faithful to God’s half of the covenant, we are not always faithful to our promises. Our half of the covenant is to confess Christ as our Savior, trust in his grace, serve him as Lord in the church, and carry out his mission against evil, injustice, and oppression.” (http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.1697379/)

    Sounds like an inconsistent understanding to me.

  20. @John Marquardt #20
    “My answer when someone tells me they are waiting for their child to become ‘of age’ until they are baptized is to ask if they also waiting to use a infant car seat until that child can make a decision about his need of protection while in a car?”

    Exactly – Jesus told us to go forth and make disciples, “baptizing and teaching them to obey…” and for some reason none of those ‘age of accountability’ parents wait for the ‘age of accountability’ before they teach their kids to obey…!

  21. Once again, Pastor Richard is addressing the non-Methodist, non-Catholic, non-Reformed since those traditions already have padeobaptism.

    The greater part of Evangelicalism or Non-denominationalism is inherently phenomenological or existential, Pelgian or Semi-Pelgian, Marconite (NT only), historically-challenged (something happened before 1970?), have no idea of any theological content (especially the Trinity), and are generally knee-jerk reactionaries to anything that smacks of historic, Catholic (not Roman), liturgical (Catholic calisthenics), or non-Contemporary! They practice Credobaptist!

    I have been in these churches since 1974 and they are clueless when it comes to anything outside their little existential worlds. Compared to the stalwarts of the universal catholic church of the likes of Augustine, Patrick, Irenaeus, Luther, etc., they are almost Christian mockeries in motion. Most of their pastors have no Greek/Hebrew or Theological training other than Strong’s since they believe “Seminaries are cemeteries!”

    So knowing that this is their worldview, and they will probably be our future Lutheran converts, how do we design an apologetic to overcome their objections?

    We can’t afford to just sit back and mock and scoff! We need to win them to the Faith once delivered to the Saints!

    It was Pastor Matt’s very work through PM Notes that dragged this reprobate Evangelical kicking and screaming into Catechesis!

  22. In Psalm 22:9, it is written, “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.” So, God can gift a child with faith. I have always wondered why this line from Scripture does not play a more prominent part in the discussion of infant baptism. Could be it does and I have just missed it.
    Having said this and having quoted the verse in discussions with those who do not accept infant baptism, I know that we are all quite capable of rejecting what does not line up with our preconceived notions.

  23. Good Start! And here are some more! 🙂

    “Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
    On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Pslam 22: 9-10 ESV

    “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalm 51:5-6 ESV

    “For you, O Lord, are my hope,
    my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
    Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
    you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
    My praise is continually of you.” Psalm 71:5-7 ESV

    “The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
    ‘Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you[b] shall be divided;
    the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the older shall serve the younger.’

    When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb.” Genesis 22-24 ESV

    “The Lord said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” Exodus 13:1-2 ESV

    “And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

    “For I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. ” Judges 13:3-5; 16:17 ESV

    “Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
    And did not one fashion us in the womb?
    If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
    or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
    or have eaten my morsel alone,
    and the fatherless has not eaten of it
    (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father,
    and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow)” Job 31:15-18 ESV

    “Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
    who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;
    even to your old age I am he,
    and to gray hairs I will carry you.
    I have made, and I will bear;
    I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 64:3-4 ESV

    “The Lord called me from the womb,
    from the body of my mother he named my name.
    He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
    he made me a polished arrow;
    in his quiver he hid me away.
    And he said to me, “You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” Isaiah 49:1-3 ESV

    “Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
    ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    and before you were born I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
    Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”
    Jeremiah 1:4-6 ESV

    “For he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” John 1:15 ESV

    “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” Luke 1:41-44 ESV

    In the Lamb!

  24. Hmmm. You frame Evangelical rejection of Lutheran baptism as an issue of/in terms of offense? I find that mildly patronizing. But I rather doubt you have actually offended anyone, so rest easy. Maybe they just disagree with you. There is a difference.

    I agree that “Free Will” is precious, pervasive, and presumed among Evangelicals in the “Pelagian Captivity” but I doubt the general rejection of the Lutheran formulation of baptism among evangelicals is based on a violated sense of Free Will justice, or that more than a few would even connect those dots, certainly not in the way you imagine them to. Precious few would be theologically astute enough (least of all concerning Lutheranism) to understand what it’s doctrine of Baptism might be negating in their respective theologies.

    As an early commenter noted, I think Free Will (it’s negation) is not really the main issue. I personally don’t know nor have I encountered anyone who rejects or would articulate their objections to the Lutheran formulation of Baptism on that basis. (I say that as one “well traveled” in Evangelical circles as a non-denom Pastor, Missionary, and Bible College teacher, a graduate of both non-denom, and Lutheran seminaries, and now as a teacher in a Reformed ministry.)

    I think the substance of the rejection of Lutheran infant Baptism comes when Evangelicals encounter the Lutheran language of “coming to Christ in the waters of Baptism.” I think you underestimate the issue and the objections, and misunderstand and perhaps misrepresent the objectors when you equate their rejection of Lutheran infant baptism as a protest of free will over and against Monergistic Grace.

    Evangelicals that I know who have any engagement with Lutheran arguments, or an understanding of Lutheran Baptism doctrine, object to it because they see it ultimately as more or less a “Salvation by Proxy.” They are not unfamiliar with standard Lutheran caveats that “Baptism is not regenerative apart from faith” that is works through Word and promise, and the Holy Spirit working faith, and the Gospel in the water…

    But ultimately they simply cannot scripturally conceive or recognize how an infant can be regenerated or “born again” by someone else doing something to it, utterly unawares and incognizant. They understand this formulation as a proxy act at best.

    So, rather than rejecting Lutheran infant Baptism because it violates some just notion of free will, (though some certainly might be offended) I believe Evangelicals primarily and ultimately reject it for what they see as sacramentally salvific language.

    If you want to engage the real crux of Evangelical’s rejections of Lutheran infant baptism, this is it. I found this to be the distinctive that clearly separates Lutheranism from Reformed, and from the broader Evangelical Church, not just in terms of Baptism but the larger implications of the sacramental formulations, that is the bone in the throat they can’t swallow.

  25. @Ethan #28

    You make the same point that some of my evangelical friends make–“Salvation by Proxy” is a very good way to put it. Yet, that argument is closely related to the “Free Will” argument when you think about it. It’s a sibling, not a distant cousin. I reckon that, sooner or later, one has to deal with election here. Now, that should make things interesting!

  26. @Ethan #28 Ethan – I mentioned in my above post (#22) a list of early church fathers that would take a view of baptism held by the Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans. A person will not find even one church father anywhere that didn’t take John 3:5 as anything but referring to baptism.

    It is important to look at what the early church fathers taught on this issue because we didn’t even have our complete listings of the books in the Bible until the Councils of Hippo in AD 393 and the Council of Carthage in AD 397. It is also of extreme importance to look at what the early church fathers taught on this issue because they learned the teaching’s from the Apostles themselves.

    Ignorance of the teachings of the early church fathers is what has led us to some 40,000 denominations (including the Reformed) since the Reformation, which all claim to have the correct view on this issue.

  27. From the main post: “there is nothing more offensive to our Evangelical brothers and sisters”.

    That’s simply not true of my Evangelical friends. (I’m a lifelong Lutheran.) They have greater concerns, rather, about some thoroughly anti-Christian world views out there.

    Outside my circle of friends, the Lutheran claim that “baptism creates faith” evidently elicits objections about Lutheran baptismal beliefs and practice. For obvious reasons, that claim gives the impression that (1) faith does not exist before baptism and (2) the faith once given in baptism endures into perpetuity. Consequently, Lutheran baptismal beliefs appear to presume too much and encourage complacency besides.

    And there’s a matter of focus: Some Lutherans seem to place their faith in baptism. Our Christian walk has a broader view; it has to do with how we relate to a living God, and how He continues mercifully to relate to us.

    Question: What does receiving a wedding ring and being pronounced man and wife tell you about your relationship to your spouse?

  28. @Jonathan Schultz #9

    Good point Jonathan. The other thing to remember about decision theology that I haven’t seen anybody mention here yet is that it “lets God off the hook” so to speak. With decision theology, evangelicals don’t have to deal with the question, “Why are some chosen and not others.” For them, the simple answer is that those who are not saved simply haven’t chosen Jesus as their Savior. For us, the answer to this question is a Divine mystery.

  29. “But ultimately they simply cannot scripturally conceive or recognize how an infant can be regenerated or “born again” by someone else doing something to it, utterly unawares and incognizant. They understand this formulation as a proxy act at best.”

    Then how do Credobaptists approach people with sever disabilities such as retardation, deaf and mute, deaf mute and blind, etc. Do they just wait around hoping that there’d be a moment of cognizance or sudden awakening?

  30. The author writes, “for infant baptism is not only the quintessential picture of divine monergism, but is divine monergism—rich life-giving water with the Word that works faith, delivers forgiveness of sins, rescues us from the jaws of death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation making us God’s own apart from any and all man-made contributions. In a very literally sense, via infant baptism, we do not wash ourselves but are washed by God.”

    There is a depth and beauty to the Lutheran understanding of baptismal regeneration, but I don’t see any way around the issue of human will; no tradition, including the Lutheran one, gets a free pass on human involvement in the process. Does not the performing of a baptism requires the exercise of human will on the part of the parents who present the child and the clergyperson who performs the baptism? I cannot conceive of a baptism (or any action performed by a human being) as anything other than an act of will. To say “infant baptism … is divine monergism … and gives eternal salvation … apart from ANY and ALL man-made contributions” sounds like a christianized version of Platonic idealism. The decision to baptize a child (or anyone) is exactly that — a decision, a conscious act of will. What happens at baptism might be a mystery, but we cannot deny our willful human involvement in the process. To claim that infant baptism IS divine monergism apart from any and all human involvement seems over-the-top, and leaves credobaptists, pietists and Reformed types (like I) scratching our heads at this argumentation. (And it’s not because we are semi-pelagian … we’re not.)

  31. OK here’s the rub; you guys cannot write so that evangelicals can understand the discussion. Most of them are badly trained and badly taught. I have 30 adults(25 yrs to 70yrs) in an evening Bible class. There are; Baptists, Pentecostal, Methodist, Presbyterians AND Lutherans here at First Lutheran in Blytheville, Ar. Even long time Lutherans could not follow your discussion. Now,I do not mind trying to break down the discussion into a readable, understandable format, and one they can understand. I’ll try this Tues. nite. But I beg you with all my heart, learn to speak to the most uniformed person seating in the pew. God’s blessing on your work. Dennis

  32. “You guys cannot write so that evangelicals can understand the discussion. Most of them are badly trained and badly taught.”

    Lutherans have a beautiful tradition and understanding to share. Unfortunately, this type of statement and attitude is a conversation stopper.

  33. may i suggest a slightly more focused and street level glossary?

    http://www.mbird.com/about/glossary/

    I have found both the glossary (and the site in general!) to be extremely helpful in explaining basic Christian doctrine to Christians who believed they understood what Christians believe.

  34. Why is the New Testament silent on Infant Baptism?

    Baptist/evangelical response:

    The reason there is no mention of infant baptism in the New Testament is because this practice is a Catholic invention that developed two to three centuries after the Apostles. The Bible states that sinners must believe and repent before being baptized. Infants do not have the mental maturity to believe or to make a decision to repent. If God had wanted infants to be baptized he would have specifically mentioned it in Scripture. Infant baptism is NOT scriptural.

    Lutheran response:

    When God made his covenant with Abraham, God included everyone in Abraham’s household in the covenant:

    1. Abraham, the head of the household.
    2. His wife.
    3. His children: teens, toddlers, and infants
    4. His servants and their wives and children.
    5. His slaves and their wives and children.

    Genesis records that it was not just Abraham who God required to be circumcised. His son, his male servants, and his male slaves were all circumcised; more than 300 men and boys.

    Did the act of circumcision save all these people and give them an automatic ticket into heaven? No. Just as in the New Covenant, it is not the sign that saves, it is God’s declaration that saves, received in faith. If these men and boys grew in faith in God, they would be saved. If they later rejected God by living a life of willful sin, they would perish.

    This pattern of including the children of believers in God’s covenant continued for several thousand years until Christ’s resurrection. There is no mention in the OT that the children of the Hebrews were left out of the covenant until they reached an Age of Accountability, at which time they were required to make a decision: Do I want to be a member of the covenant or not? And only if they made an affirmative decision were they then included into God’s covenant. Hebrew/Jewish infants and toddlers have ALWAYS been included in the covenant. There is zero evidence from the OT that says otherwise.

    Infants WERE part of the covenant. If a Hebrew infant died, he was considered “saved”.

    However, circumcision did NOT “save” the male Hebrew child. It was the responsibility of the Hebrew parents to bring up their child in the faith, so that when he was older “he would not depart from it”. The child was born a member of the covenant. Then, as he grew up, he would have the choice: do I want to continue placing my faith in God, or do I want to live in willful sin? If he chose to live by faith, he would be saved. If he chose to live a life of willful sin and never repented, and then died, he would perish.

    When Christ established the New Covenant, he said nothing explicit in the New Testament about the salvation of infants and small children; neither do the Apostles nor any of the writers of the New Testament. Isn’t that odd? If the new Covenant no longer automatically included the children of believers, why didn’t Christ, one of the Apostles, or one of the writers of the NT mention this profound change?

    Why is there no mention in the NT of any adult convert asking this question: “But what about my little children? Are you saying that I have to wait until my children grow up and make a decision for themselves, before I will know if they will be a part of the new faith? What happens if my child dies before he has the opportunity to make this decision?” But no, there is no record in Scripture that any of these questions are made by new converts to the new faith. Isn’t that really, really odd??? As a parent of small children, the FIRST question I would ask would be, “What about my little children?”

    But the New Testament is completely silent on the issue of the salvation or safety of the infants and toddlers of believers. Another interesting point is this: why is there no mention of any child of believers “accepting Christ” when he is an older child (8-12 years old) or as a teenager and then, being baptized? Not one single instance and the writing of the New Testament occurred over a period of 30 years, approximately thirty years after Christ’s death: So over a period of 60 years, not one example of a believer’s child being saved as a teenager and then receiving “Believers Baptism”. Why???

    So isn’t it quite likely that the reason God does not explicitly state in the NT that infants should be baptized, is because everyone in first century Palestine would know that infants and toddlers are included in a household conversion. That fact that Christ and the Apostles did NOT forbid infant baptism was understood to indicate that the pattern of household conversion had not changed: the infants and toddlers of believers are still included in this new and better covenant.

    Circumcision nor Baptism was considered a “Get-into-heaven-free” card. It was understood under both Covenants that the child must be raised in the faith, and that when he was older, he would need to decide for himself whether to continue in the faith and receive everlasting life, or choose a life of sin, breaking the covenant relationship with God, and forfeiting the gift of salvation.

    Which of these two belief systems seems to be most in harmony with Scripture and the writings of the Early Christians?

  35. I’m not educated from a seminary, nor do I desire to be. As a former Lutheran I was baptized as a baby, went through my first communion, then confirmation. I saw Jesus as an “optional deity” just like Mohammed, Buda, and Zeus. Whatever idea that the elders of the church had that going through the dogma presented was to make me into a “Christian” truly failed on me and many of those I knew.
    Looking back, I was not a Christian.
    I broke the laws of God, by definition: chose to sin (1John 3:4).
    I didn’t understand at that time but we, as humans, all sin and need salvation. I now know that Jesus atoned for all of our sins (breaking of the law according to scripture), and that we need to have faith in Him.

    It is this faith that must precede baptism. Faith in Jesus Christ is what makes us Christian, not the dogma, not the rituals, faith that He died to pay the price for my bad decisions.
    Now: did He give us the great commission to make disciples of all nations (which He did say to baptize)? Yes. Did he say “do this in remembrance of Me”, yes.

    What saves our souls is the regognition of who Christ is, and what He did. Sorry, I did not, nor do I believe anyone has done that as an infant.

    It really doesn’t matter to me except that; if there is someone who believes that he is “covered” by what his parents did to him as an infant, and really DOES wind up in hell (which I believe to be a real place), then doesn’t the ritual of infant baptism do the opposite of what we are charged to do?

    Your brother in Christ,
    Donnie

  36. @Donnie #40

    Excellent comment, Donnie. I grew up Baptist/evangelical believing just as you do now. Here is the big question, and precisely the reason why I became a Lutheran: Whose faith is it that saves you? Is it your faith or is it God’s?

    If faith is something that I produce by my own intellectual reasoning, my mature decision-making capabilities, then my salvation is partly dependent on ME. And if salvation is partly dependent on me, then it is no longer a free gift, AND it is no longer ALL God who saves me. If an action by me is required for me to be saved, then whatever that action is…it is a work! And the Bible says that works do not and cannot save us.

    It sounds like you were raised in a liberal Lutheran church (ELCA??). In an orthodox (confessional) Lutheran Church, you should have learned this in Lutheran catechism (Christian education classes):

    1. God has predestined before the world existed those whom he will save (however, paradoxically, he has NOT predestined anyone to hell).
    2. Since it is God who decides your salvation, not you, God can choose to save you at any time that he chooses: either as an adult, a child, or an infant.
    3. The Bible states that God “quickens” the souls of those he has predestined, gives them the FREE gift of faith, and they believe.
    4. The Bible indicates that infants CAN believe and are members of the Kingdom of God. (Please go to the official website of the LCMS and you can read these Scripture passages under “What we Believe”.
    5. The infant of Christian parents who is saved in his infant baptism does much less work to get to the baptismal font for God to save him, than does an evangelical convert who must choose to go to a church or listen to a gospel program to hear the Gospel and then “decide” to be saved.
    6. Infant baptism is not an automatic ticket into heaven. Any believer who takes his infant baptism for granted it, lives like the devil, and either rejects or ignores his faith, is likely to wake up one day in hell. Lutherans do not believe in the false teaching of “eternal security”. A Christian whose faith is in God need never worry about his eternal security. We are NOT saved by works. It is the believer who rejects or abandons Christ who needs to fear eternal damnation.

  37. @Donnie #40

    If you were taught that Baptism is an automatic ticket into heaven and that your faith did not need life-long nourishment by attending church, reading your Bible, praying to the Lord, and loving your neighbor as yourself, and receiving the Lord’s Supper…shame on your Lutheran pastor and Sunday School teacher! They sinned against God and you by poorly instructing you in proper doctrine as a young Lutheran Christian.

  38. Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller

    Infant Faith, A List of Scriptures

    “Will you have your baby baptized?” I asked a friend who is also a pastor of a non-denominational church in town.

    “No, Bryan,” he responded, “You know we believe in believer’s baptism.”

    Such was the conversation that provoked this short essay, for suddenly, and with profound clarity, did the connection between rejecting infant baptism and rejecting infant faith become apparent. The thinking is this, “If we only baptize believers, then of course we don’t baptize babies, because babies do not and can not believe.”1 Baptizing an infant is understood to be an “unbelievers baptism.” It is this thought which I propose to contradict with the Holy Scriptures by showing not only the possibility but also the reality of infant faith.

    Infant Faith, Old Testament and New

    Do babies have faith? While we might be tempted to answer this question with reason or by experience, there is only one trustworthy place to find the answer: the Holy Scriptures. What, then, does the Bible say?

    Psalm 71:5-6 (NKJV)

    5 For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;You are my trust from my youth.6 By You I have been upheld from my birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.My praise shall be continually of You.

    Note, first of all, that the word ‘youth’ is expansive in Hebrew, used as a word for infants even unto young men and women2. The context of this word indicates what the Psalmist (presumably King David) means by ‘youth’, adding to the text ‘birth’ and coming out of the womb. This is as young as young can be, and to this young youth the Lord is his ‘trust’, his faith, his Confidence.

    In verse 6 we would perhaps prefer a more literal translation. The word translated “have been upheld” by the New King James Version is reflexive, to ‘support’ or ‘brace oneself’.3

    Here are a few different versions:

    New International Version: “From birth I have relied on you.
    ”Revised Standard Version: “Upon thee have I leaned from my birth.”
    An American Translation: “I have depended on you from birth.”

    These phrases, ‘relied upon, leaned upon, depended on’, certainly imply faith. This verse, as the one before it, extols the faith and trust of the child “from birth.” This text tells of the trust and reliance of an infant in the true God, and this text is not alone in the Scriptures.

  39. As we turn to the pages of the New Testament we find a number of passages discussing the possibility and the reality of infant faith. There are a number of Greek words for ‘child’, and a quick survey of these words will help set the stage for our review of these passages.4

    paidion- [paidion] This is the most common word used of a very young child, infant, child, both boys and girls.

    brephos- [brefoj] This word can be used of unborn babies in the womb [St Luke 1:41,44] or of nursing babies and infants [St Luke 2:12,16].

    mikron- [mikron] Literally, “small one,” this word can be used to describe one’s stature [St Luke 19:3], one’s age [St Matthew 18:6,10,14], or in esteem, influence and power.

    napion- [nhpiwn] This word can be used of an infant, often nursing [Hebrews 5:13], or, in the legal sense, of a minor. [Galatians 4:1].

    thalazonton- [qhlazontwn] One who is nursing [St Matthew 21:16].

    teknon- [teknon] Child, with special reference to the relationship with the parents, used even for unborn babies in the womb.

    Jesus Blesses the Children

    St Luke 18:15-17 [And parallels in St Matthew 19:13-15 and St Mark 10:13-16] (NKJV)

    “15 Then they also brought infants (brephos) to Him that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children (paidion) come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child (paidion) will by no means enter it.’”

    Jesus would have the children come to Him, and would have no one forbid them. Why? Because “of such is the kingdom of God.” The children who possess the kingdom are the infants, the nursing babies being carried in their mother’s arms. (Infant and children are used interchangeably in this passage, the infants [brephos] that are being brought are the same children [paidios] that Jesus receives.) And their possessing of the kingdom is not accidental; as if Jesus says, “Because they have not attained the age of accountability I will overlook the necessity of faith and give these babies the kingdom because the are innocent” or some other such thing. No, theirs is the kingdom of heaven in such a sense that the children are the very picture of faith. The children are such a picture of faith that even adults must be like them in order to attain the kingdom of heaven. This same teaching is heard in the following text, where Jesus again talks of the necessity of becoming as a child to have the gift of the heavenly kingdom.

    True Greatness

    St Matthew 18:1-5 [And parallels in St Mark 9:33-37 and St Luke 9:46-48] (NKJV)

    “1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2 Then Jesus called a little child (paidion) to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children (paidion), you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child (paidion) is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child (paidion) like this in My name receives Me.’”

    Here Jesus sets a child before His disciples to teach them who the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is, and, what’s more, says that unless we, too, become as children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. There are not two ways to obtain the kingdom of heaven, one for adults (faith) and another for children (apparently just being children). Possessing the kingdom of heaven is the sole result of faith (faith alone). According to Jesus the children are the possessors of the kingdom and, therefore, the very picture of humility and faith. This is said plainly in the next verse.

  40. The Little Ones Who Believe in Me

    St Matthew 18:6 [And parallels in St Mark 9:42-43 and St Luke 17:2, see also 18:10 and 14] (NKJV)

    “6 But whoever causes one of these little ones (mikron) who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

    The little ones of verse six is the little child of the previous passage whom Jesus sets before His disciples. These “little ones” are explicitly described as the ones “who believe in” Jesus. The clarity of the text needs no comment.

    Later in the text these little ones are described as the possessors of angels who “behold the face of the Father” [18:10] and as those whom the “Father desires that they do not perish” [18:14].

    Jesus Gives Thanks to the Father

    St Matthew 11:25-27 [And parallel in St Luke 10:21-22] (NKJV)

    “25 At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes (napion). 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

    It is, Jesus teaches us, the Father’s will to reveal ‘these things’ to babies. What are “these things’ which the babes have? They are not offended by Christ, but trust that He is the Coming One, sent from God. [St Matthew 11:3-6] It is the wise and the prudent that have so much trouble with the works of Christ, but not the babes. These are the ones to whom the kingdom is revealed.

    While it might be a mystery to us, it is becoming clear that in the mind of Jesus and the context of the Scriptures it is not strange thing to think of babes, infants and children as those who believe in Christ. It might not seem good to us to ascribe to infants faith and trust in Christ, but it does seem good in the Father’s sight [11:26].

    Out of the Mouths of Babes and Nursing Infants

    St Matthew 21:15-16 (NKJV)

    “15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children (paidion) crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”
    And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,
    ‘ Out of the mouth of babes (napion) and nursing infants (thalazonton)
    You have perfected praise’?”

    Jesus here quotes Psalm 8:2 to support the accolades that the children are offering Him as He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Lord enlists children, babies, and nursing infants to sing His praises and announce His coming. While it is possible for the Lord to call forth His praises even from stones [St Luke 19:40], it is His good pleasure to perfect (or complete) His praise with the confession and singing of babes and nursing infants. This praise is certainly a fruit of faith.

    John the Baptist

    St Luke 1:15,41

    “15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mther’s womb.”

    “41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

    The circumstances of John the Baptists conception and birth are certainly unique, and we should, therefore not presume too much from it. What is clear is that it is certainly possible for the Holy Spirit to fill a child even in the womb, and that this child even responds with joy at the presence of His Lord (who is also in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary).

    From Childhood You have Know the Scriptures

    2 Timothy 3:14,15

    “14 But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood (brephos) you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

    The word ‘childhood’ would lead us to think of this as a young person, studying and leaning from a teacher, but the Greek word ‘brephos’ pushes us back further, to infancy. (NIV: “how from infancy you have know the holy Scriptures.”) Again, the Scriptures do not think it a strange thing for an infant to trust, believe, know, and praise the Lord.

    Because You Have Known the Father

    1 John 2:12,13

    “12 I write to you, little children (teknon), Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake…13 I write to you, little children (paidion), Because you have known the Father.”

    St John, here, addresses the little children much as our Lord did, as those who believe. In the first instance (verse twelve), this could be seen as a familiar address, as John does in 2:1 (My little children, teknia) and other places. But that John changes the word in verse thirteen is striking, and leads us to interpret the little children referred to as actual youths, babies, etc. This is certainly not out of the ordinary in the Word of the Scriptures.

    We see from the testimony of the Scriptures that infants can and do have faith. What this means is that infant baptism is believer’s baptism. So to the original conversation concerning infant faith,

    “Will you have your baby baptized?” I asked.

    “No, Bryan, You know we believe in believer’s baptism.”

    “Well,” and here comes the answer, “so do I.”5 While the faith does not give validity to the baptism, when we baptize an infant we are not just splashing water on a rock. This child can and does, by the power of God’s Word, have faith in Christ Jesus, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. What has now become apparent is that there are two different understandings of faith at work. On one hand, faith is seen as a gift of God, on the other, faith is the response of man to the offer of salvation. These two different understandings of faith we now take up as we consider faith as gift.

  41. Faith as Gift

    To get a handle on the Baptist/Evangelical conception of faith, we turn to a classic tract that has been used as a ‘witnessing tool’ for years: The Four Spiritual Laws. The Four Spiritual Laws are:
    1.
    God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.

    2.
    Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life.

    3.
    Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life.

    4.
    We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

    Notice that the Gospel, as expressed in the third law, is potential. “Through [Christ] you can know and experience God’s love.” It is possible to know God’s love, but there is a necessary first step for the potential Christian, there must be a response to God’s love and plan. Faith, then, is the “must” of the fourth law, “we must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.” In The Four Spiritual Laws, this “receiving” takes the form of the “sinner’s prayer”, asking Jesus into our heart. There are any number of ways that this “receiving” occurs in different churches, but all are a response to the offer of salvation. Faith, then, is a “response,” an act of man to whom the Gospel is offered.

    If this is how faith is understood, it is understandable that infants would be excluded. Infants have trouble praying the sinners prayer and walking forward for the altar call; infants have trouble talking and walking at all. So the inability to respond is equated with the inability to believe.

    The Bible, on the other hand, is careful to show how faith is a gift of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” [Ephesians 2:8] The gift of God is precisely the faith through which salvation comes. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” [Philippians 1:29] “You were raised with Him through faith in the working of God.” [Colossians 2:12]

    Faith, then, is a gift, created by God’s Word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” [Romans 10:17] Of course, God does not do the believing for us. It is we, infants and adults, who believe, just as it is we who live, and yet just as God gives and sustains our life, so God gives and sustains our faith. Though infants cannot speak, they certainly can hear. Though infants cannot respond, they can receive gifts. As we saw in the survey of Biblical texts, the trust and dependence and receptiveness of infants is very picture of faith.

    It might offend our reason and sensibilities, but the Scriptures are clear that infants and children can and do have faith. May God grant to all of His people, both young and old, the faith of a child in order that ours would be the kingdom of heaven.

    INJ Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller Oculi, Lent III, 2006

  42. You may believe what man has explained to you, and that is fine, but I see “Faith as a work” is something that only God understands, and will not risk the salvation of lost people on it. Men try to explain the Trinity as well, but I believe it only to be a God thing that man’s explinations try to descibe in an inadequate way.

    I still do not believe infants can make the descision to follow Christ, and many do not follow after becoming an adult.

    Wether they got swept away in God’s “cover everyone” thoughts and feelings of today’s society, or there truly is a hell and heaven, and people find out too late that they weren’t “covered” will only be found out only after we pass from this existance, and not be humans who think they know the mind of the omniscient, omnipotant, omnipresent God.

    I’ve heard some Christians tell non-believers that it would be safer to believe in Jesus and be wrong than to not believe and be wrong… well, I believe this to be another of those things: I believe it safer to make the descision to follow Christ and be baptized (and no, baptism is only the display of your change, not the actual saving part); than to think I’m ok, and find out that I have to spend an eternity seperated from God.

  43. The Lutheran who believes that he will automatically get into heaven when he dies just due to the fact that his parents had him baptized as an infant, may be in for a rude surprise when he wakes up one day in hell.

    Salvation requires faith. No faith—>no salvation.

    God gives us the free gift of faith/salvation in our baptisms, but we then, as Christians, have a free will to nurture our gift of faith and salvation and let it thrive, or neglect our gift and let it die. The sinner does NOT have a free will in spiritual matters, but the Christian does. A Christian can make a decision to reject Christ and abandon his gift of faith. The teaching of “Once saved, always saved” is false doctrine and denounced by the Lutheran Church.

    However, faith is not a one time experience, either in a baptismal font or in an evangelical adult “decision for Christ”. Faith is a life-long trust and walk with our Savior. The Christian who takes his salvation for granted, turns his back on God, and lives a life of willful sin runs the grave risk of eternal damnation in hell.

  44. A Secular Qustion. I have a 2 month old neice who is going to be dedicated at a Luthern Church in PA. All of my family are Roman Catholics and I am of another denomination. Since I live 22 hours away and will not be able to attend this event is a gift for the baby customary? If so, help on the gift possibilities.

    Thanks.

    Joe

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