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The History and Practice of Infant

Baptism in the Church Today

By Victor Chendekemen Yakubu

The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he
is old he will not depart from it” [Prov. 22:6]. This brief article on infant
baptism is an attempt to show that the practice has been in the Church
since Apostolic times. But do the churches of today believe in it and
practice it accordingly? This makes the topic controversial as to who is
right and who is wrong. However, The Catechism of the Catholic Church
says that “children also have need of the new truth of Baptism to b e
freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the
children of God, to which all men are called.” In Ps. 51: 3 we read,
“Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother
conceive me.” This makes b aptism very important. But at which stage is
the person to receive it? At inf ancy or adulthood?

The History and Practice of Infant Baptism in the Church
By Vict or Chendekemen Yak ubu
Introdu ction

The Ea rly Church carrie d out fa ithfully the com mand of C hrist, “Go int o t he
world and preach t he gos pel to the whole cre ation. He who be lieves a nd is
bapt ized w ill be saved; but he who does not be lieve will be condemne d” [Mk.
16: 15 – 16]. The e nabling S pirit em powe red them and we are told the apostles
conve rted 3,000 on Pe ntecost and ba ptiz ed them. They bega n the gospe l
proclamation from Je rusa lem t o J udea and the n t o the whole world as Christ
comma nded [cf. Acts 1:8]. The spre ad of t he gospe l t o othe r parts of the ea rth
symbolizes the unive rsality of t he G ood news.

The adm ission of new membe rs int o the C hristian fold was through the rite of
bapt ism. Scriptural analysis s hows t hat the bapt ism of adults is undisputable.
In Acts, Corne lius was bapt ized wit h his w hole house hold and t he Ethiopia n
eunuch was ba ptize d by Philip. Today all Christ ian de nom inat ions pra ctice a dult
bapt ism. But what is dis puted am ong denominations is “ infant ba ptism.” The
major Christ ian de nom inat ions –Catholic Church pa rticularly – pract ice t he
bapt ism of infants. But w hat is disputed a mong denominations is “infa nt
bapt ism”. Some maj or Christ ian de nom inations pract ice “infa nt bapt ism” today
while othe rs re ject t he pra ctice. This divergent posit ion on this importa nt
aspect of debate makes litt le diffe rences whether scripture has any actua l
refe rences to the practice of “infa nt bapt ism” or not. The scripture does not
possess explicit refe rences. But refe rence s are recorded in t he Bible that
indicate that whole “households” w e re ba ptized [A cts 16: 1 5, 33; 18: 8; 1 C or.
1: 16].
Victor C. Yakubu is a pries t of the Catholi c Diocese of Zaria, Nigeria. He can be
reached at viccheny@chendekemen.com

2 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

By im plicat ion it means t hese biblica l references support the pract ice of infant
bapt ism in t he first a nd second centuries of t he C hristia n e ra. I shall dwell on
these two s ources: the Bible a nd Tradition to treat this “ infant bapt ism
cont rove rsy”.

Hi storical Over view of In fant Baptism C ontrovers y

The practice of ba ptiz ing infants is considered a rule of im memorial tra dit ion
both in t he Eastern a nd in the Western Rites of the C hurch. Infa nt bapt ism
developed out of an ent ire ly diffe rent circumstance in w hich Christia nity found
itself whe n society departe d from pagan pract ices . I n other words , t he problem
of infant ba ptism arose from t he question of who should be ba ptize d int o t he
new fa ith. At what age should a new convert be ba ptize d int o t he Christian fold
and become a full membe r?

Baptism is the public ritua l of rece iving new membe rs into the Mystica l Body of
Christ , t he Church. This requires a pe rsonal fait h response, the willingness and
readiness of the new me mbe r t o rece ive t he sacrament accom panied by t he
grace of God. There is evide nce to show that infant bapt ism was pra cticed in
the Church in the third century. In the se cond, St. P olyca rp, Bishop of Smyrna
in about 177 A.D , was cha llenged to de ny his C hristia n fait h a nd rescue himse lf
from ma rtyrdom. He refused and answe re d, “For e ighty a nd six yea rs, I have
served Him , a nd He never did me a ny w rong. How can I blaspheme my K ing w ho
saved me?” 1 Let’s suppose t hat P olyca rp lived for eig hty six yea rs, this
statement would mea n t hat he was bapt iz ed as a n infant serving the Lord.
However, opponents t o infant bapt ism a rgue t hat P olycarp me ant his biolog ica l
age, the pe riod he ha d been alive. And this makes t he a rgument complicated
on bot h s ide.

3 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

Tert ullian [150 – 230 AD] one of t he gre at African theologians and teache r from
the West, devoted a w hole t reat ise on infant ba ptism . Te rtullian use d a lot of
imageries that illustrated t he importance of bapt ism. 2 He he ld that while not
denying that validity of infa nt bapt ism, t he sacrame nt should not be confe rre d
upon childre n unt il they attain the age of reason. They s hould be bapt iz ed
when t hey have le arned t o k now who Christ is.

He opposed t he v iew in Matt. 19: 14-15 w hich says, “Let t he childre n come to
me, a nd do not hinde r t hem , for t o such belongs the Kingdom of heaven. Rathe r
he propose d the following analysis of the text, “Le t t hem come the n, while they
are g row ing up; let the m come while they are lea rning, w hile t hey a re ta ught
whithe r t o come , let t hem become C hristians whe n they have become a ble to
know Christ. Why does the innoce nt period of life hasten to the rem ission of
sins?” 3

Tert ullian’s de nia l of infant bapt ism was on account of profa ning the ir
bapt ismal prom ises as youth am id t he a llureme nts of pagan v ice. He liste d
some ot her re asons for his de nia l of infant bapt ism as t hough t hey inherit a
bias t owards evil, infants have not actua lly sinned, a nd thus “they have no
need for rem ission of sins” “Ba ptism involves great respons ibilities , w hich
should be unde rtaken only by pe rsons of mature intelligence and established
character. Post-bapt ismal sin exposes the bapt ized and his sponsors to greate r
condemnat ion.” In his t ime, “sponsors undertake se rious respons ibilit ies, be ing
required to give assurance of the rea lity of t he candidate’s fa ith, repe ntance
and re nunciat ion of sin, and a lso to prom ise to watch over the candid ate ’s life
and direct his steps in the way of righteousness. 4

But Origen [185 – 254 AD ] a rgue d aga inst Tert ullian in de fense of the pract ice
of infant ba ptism. He a rgue d strong ly tha t bapt ism is give n for the remission of

4 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

sins to the conclus ion t hat if infa nts are baptized it is be cause t here is sin in
them which m ust be rem itted. Origen de clare d, “ The C hurch rece ived from t he
apostles the t radit ion of giving ba ptism also to infa nts’. He quoted Ps. 51: 3,
“Behold I was broug ht fort h in iniquity, a nd in s in did my mothe r conce ive me ,”
as a scriptural support t o the pract ice. St. Irenae us [c.140 – c. 202] supporte d
infant bapt ism as re ported by Origen, because this removes a stain inherited
from birth, a nd the sin and guilt brought with it from a prev ious l ife.

More support for Origen’s position came from his contempora ry St. Cyprian.
Bishop of Ca rthage [248 – 258 AD ]. At t he Council of Ca rthage in 253, Cy prian
and othe r C ouncil Fathe rs reprobated the opinion that t he bapt ism of infa nts
should be de layed unt il the e ighth day a ft er birth. He declare d, “F rom ba ptism
and from grace. ... must not be kept the infants w ho, beca use recent ly born,
has cont racted the contagion of the ancie nt deat h in its first nativ ity; and it
comes t o rece ive the re mission of sins m ore eas ily on this very account t hat is
not its own, but a not her’s s ins a re forgiv en it.” 7 According t o Cyprian ba ptism
is the church’s initiat ion rite, spiritua lly more significa nt that the Jew ish
circum cis ion rit ual, and that is affects regenerat ion w here by the Holy Spirit is
bestowed, “even upon infants , according to the ir ca pacity.” 8

Gregory of Naz ianz us [c. 325 – 390 AD] champione d infant ba ptism on the
ground that it bestowed on childre n of God “seal and consecrat ion”. But
Gregory also ma inta ine d t hat unless there was da nger of deat h, ba ptism of
infants should be de ferred until t he child was three years old, for then it could
bear and respond at t he ce rem onies. Such opinions were sha red by few a nd
they conta in no de nial of the validity of baptism t o infants. 9

The first systematic tre atise on infa nt ba ptism came from St. August ine of
Hippo [354 – 430] A ugustine had arguments with t he D onat ists and Pe lagia ns –

5 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

two he retica l m ovements at his tim e. The Pelag ians denied the the ology of
original sin, hence infa nt bapt ism was irrelevant. Original sin, according t o
Augustine , is t he here dita ry s infulness a ll men inhe rite d from A dam. It is t his
sin w hich makes the ba ptism of infa nts le gitimate beca use they too need
bapt ism to rest ore the ir state of g race with Christ and the Church. He de cla red
that “this the Church always held, a lways held, this she rece ived from the fa ith
of our ancestors, this she pe rseveringly guards even t o t he e nd. 11 The Donatists
were aga inst lapse d Christ ians or cle rgy who escape d pe rsecution as “unworthy
ministers” t o confe r bapt ism. August ine a rgued that t he e ffica cy of t he
sacrament does not depe nd on the unworthiness of the ministe r.

The infa nts at bapt ism a re reborn int o ne w life and free d from the guilt of
Adam. Ba ptism makes the child a be lieve r in the sense t hat whe n it attains to
reason it unde rstands the sa crame nt a nd accepts its t ruth. Alt hough he is not
yet a be liever in the sense of assenting a nd perceiv ing fa ith, A ugustine asserts
that the fa ith of the sponsors a nd of the pare nts will suffice. Behind the
pare nts and the sponsors is the fa ith of t he Church and betwee n them is the
force of the Holy Spirit. 12 Since the pa rents inhe rite d original sin through ca rna l
procre ation, so a lso do they have t he right to free the in fa nt from origina l sin
by the ir fa ith or of the sponsor? The ir fait h is of the Church w hich the Holy
Spirit brings about through regene ration in the ba ptisma l rite. 13

The argume nts of St. August ine won ove r the Pe lagia ns who accepte d a nd
pract ice d infant ba ptism. By the fift h ce ntury t he pract ice ha d become a
genera l norm throughout the C hurch. At t he Middle Ages, Christian the ologia ns
like St. Thomas Aquinas [1225 – 1274] supported infa nt bapt ism. What t he
theologians deride d was t he lack of pre -baptisma l a nd post-ba ptisma l
instruct ions. Howeve r, Aquinas sa id t hat all men rece ive a g reater or lesser
share in the grace of bapt ism depe nding on t he disposit ion at which they

6 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

rece ive the sacrament. S ince infants are baptized not in the ir ow n fait h but in
the fa ith of t heir parents a nd of the church, they rece ive a ll the graces of
bapt ism. 14 This brie f a rticle on infant ba ptism is a n attem pt to show that the
pract ice has been in t he C hurch since Apostolic t imes. The fa ith of the Church
is present w here the pe rsonal fa ith of t he infa nt is la cking.

Opposition at the Period of the Reformation

The P rotestant reformat ion in the sixteenth ce ntury le d Ma rt in Luthe r [1483 –

1546], a former Aug ustinian cle ric, supported by Ulrich Zw ingli [1484 – 1531]
and John Ca lvin [1509 – 64], broug ht fundamental points on t he tea ching of
infant bapt ism. Luthe r sa id t hat bapt ism is the sig n a nd t he w ork of God, not of
men, he nce infants could be bapt ized. But Thomas M unze r a nd Zw ickau in 1521
attacked ma ny of the doctrines of Lut her, especially his position on infant
bapt ism. They were ca lled Ana bapt ists.

This sixteent h century name “ Anabapt ists” was applied to a w ide diverge nt
group of re form-m inded pe ople w ho dissociated t hemselves from Luthe r and
Zwingli a nd t heir followe rs as we ll as t he Roman Catholic Church. The
Anaba ptists de nied t he va lidity of infant bapt ism and t here fore re-bapt ized
adults who had been ba ptize d in infa ncy. They als o denied orig ina l s in as
well. To meet the difficulty brought a bout by the Anaba ptists rebe ls that saving
fait h could not be excited in infant ba ptis m. Luthe r he ld t hat infant s s upplied
him wit h stre ngth t o w ork against his opponents. The Church could not have
been permitte d by God to rem ain in error for s o long a time. To de ny t his
bapt ism is clearly stated in t he C onfess ion of A ugsburg in 1530. 16

In Zurich, Zw ing li de fended t he t radit iona l pra ctice of t he Church on infant

bapt ism wit hout stressing hy pot hetical analysis like Lut her. Zw ingli simply

7 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

believed t hat bapt ism is covena nt-sign w hich belongs t o the family rathe r t han
to the individua l. 17 Calvin summe d up both Luthe r a nd Zw ingli in his t heolog ica l
treatise I nstitutes of the Christian Religion, whe re he he ld that ba ptism should
be rece ived in the light of the prom ise of Mk. 16: 16, “ He who be lieves a nd is
bapt ized w ill be saved.” The refore the s acrame nts pa rticularly bapt ism a re
useful rathe r t han essentia l. St. Augustine had de fined a sa crame nt as “a
visible s ign of sacre d t hings, as a v isible form of the invis ible g race.”

Infants w hen ba ptized sha red in t he inv isible grace of God, a nd regene rated
since ba ptism is a sacrament of regeneration a nd fa ith. Ca lvin a nswers that the
seed of fait h is pla nted in them by the se cret w ork ing of the Holy Spirit. The
error of t he A naba ptists was clea rly re jected by the C ouncil of Tre nt [1545 –
1563]. But the dilemma w ith which the A naba ptists dwe lt on still pe rsists in the
Protestant churches a nd accounts for the divers ity of t he pra ctice of infa nt
bapt ism. The Waldenses a nd Catha ri sects reje cted infant ba ptism which today
has an influe nce in som e secta ria n pos ition at m ode rn t imes.

Res olution fr om Chur ch C ouncils

The im portance of C ouncils or Synods in t he life of the C hurch ca nnot be

overemphasize d. At C ouncils t he officia l teaching of the church is a lways
uphe ld and heret ics re pudiate d. The ques tion of t he bapt ism of infa nts has had
a wide coverage at Church Councils especially at Trent.

The C ouncil of Tre nt proba bly ha d the most difficult task any C ouncil in history
could have ha d. Doctrina lly the Council F athers like a ll prede cessors professed
reverence for bot h S cript ure and Tra dit ion as inte rpreted in t he liv ing a uthority
of t he C hurch. But be fore t he Council of Trent , othe r Councils had passed a
resolut ion re-a ffirm ing the im portance of infa nt ba ptism. The Late ran Councils

8 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

were of im portance as regards this subject. For example at the Second Latera n
Council [1139] it was de cla re d that “. . . t hose w ho stimulat ing a kind of
religiosity, condemn the sacram ents of t he Lord’s Body and Blood, the ba ptism
of children . . . We a lso bind up the ir defende rs i n t he fetters of the same
condemnat ion.” 18 At the Fourt h Late ran Council [1215] t he C ouncil Fathe rs
declare d, “We firmly be lieve and simply confess . . . the sacrament of bapt ism
is consecrated in wate r at the invocat ion of t he undiv ided Trinity namely
Father, S on and Holy S pirit – and brings s alvation to bot h childre n a nd
adults.” 19

The Ca nons of t he C ouncil of Tre nt were most forceful and new insights were
promulgated: ba ptism once confe rre d cannot be repeate d, the re is no nee d of
repeat ing t he sacrame nts whe n the child attains t he age of discretion or of
defe rring t he sacrame nt until a mat ure ag e. The Canons of Trent were
promulgated in a negative form and directed against specific teachings of the
reforme rs espe cia lly Luthe r. For instance , conce rning infant ba ptism the
Council promulgated that , “If any one says that little children beca use they
make no act of fait h, should not afte r t he rece ption of bapt ism be numbe re d
among t he fait hful. . . Let him be a nathe ma.” 20

Modern The ological Viewpoints on the Infant Baptism Controversy

Among P rotesta nt the ologia ns who attack the doctrine of infant bapt ism is Ka rl
Barth. In his le cture published as Teachin g of the Church Concern ing Bapt ism in
1948, he ca lls the pract ice “a w ound in the life of the church.” His a n alysis
mainly concerned itse lf with the historica l context. Bapt ism requires a pe rsona l
fait h response, the w illingness and re adiness of t he bapt ized pe rson to re ceive
the promise of God. The child cannot do a ll these hence Barth describes t he
churches’ practice as “arbit ra ry and despotic.” 21

9 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

But Cullman has argue d aga inst Bart h t ha t the e pis odes of Christ blessing
childre n [Matt. 19: 13; Mk. 10: 13; Lk. 18: 15] w ould not have found the ir way
int o the gospe ls if the e arly church had not bee n fam ilia r w ith t he pra ctice of
child ba ptism. It is sa id that the re is no m ention of infa nt bapt ism in the bible,
yet phrases that im ply this pract ice abound. The use of phrases such as “house”
or “household” in “S he was bapt ized and her household” [Acts 16: 33] a nd “I
bapt ized t he household of Ste pha nus [1 C or. 1: 16].

The debate was furthe r ca rrie d out betwe en two schola rs of Protestant stock:
Joachim Jere mia h a nd Kurt A land. Both of them we re conce rne d w ith t he
historicity of the question. They agreed t hat the re is no dire ct evidence of this
pract ice until t he t hird cent ury , but hold that the re a re hints in the New
Testament itself espe cia lly in t he refe rences made to “house” a nd
“house holds”. The prefa ce t o A land’s book entit led Did the Early Church
Baptize Infants? says, “. . . t he quest ion of infa nt’s ba ptism is a question of
theology. It w ill not be settled fina lly by historica l de monstration, for it is
ult imately a t heolog ica l question.”

Anothe r s chola r of S. H. Childs gives a n insight on t he posit ion of infa nt

bapt ism. “The difficulty is ca used by t hinking t oo much of our side of bapt ism,
and not enough of God’s.” 22 He g oes on t o add: “ While t he infant is not able to
make any response t o G od, God is a ble to give gra ce t o t he infant , a nd the
Church has sure ly bee n r ight in finding an answer to any objection in C hrist’s
blessing of litt le children [Mk. 10: 13-16]. While t hey could not give an
adequate response to him , we da re not suggest that His blessing was
ine ffect ual.”

“Infant ba ptism te lls us more a bout God,” w rote David J. Randolph, “than it
does a bout infants.” He goes on to say that, “ This act tells us that the God of

10 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

the Christ ian reve lation is a God of grace , who re aches towa rds us and draws us
to himself, while we are yet he lpless. A little baby k ick ing in his crib is love d by
God. Ba ptism shows us that God’s love is poured out upon us, not because we
are w ort hy, but be cause we are nee dy.” 23

Catholic the ologia ns favour t he pra ctice of infa nt bapt ism in the Church. Afte r
the Second Vatican Council, the rite of infants has been rev ised t o m eet up
with m ode rn nee ds. No w onder the n that Karl Ra hne r, one of the greatest
mode rn Catholic t heologians said that it is a long solve d issue in the Catholic
Church. 24

Practice of Infant Baptism in the Chur che s Today

[a] The Catholi c Chur ch:

The Second Vat ica n C ouncil [1963 -65] ordered the revis ion of the two
bapt ismal rites for adults and for infants. In 1980, the Sacred Congregation for
the Propagation of Fa ith and o f the Doctrine issued an instruction on t he
bapt ism of infants w hich vindicated the Christian tradition of infant bapt ism
and s umma rize d contem pora ry difficultie s especia lly from plura listic societies.
In the 1980 instruct ion, the C ong regation advise d that infa nt bapt ism should
never be defe rre d a nd that the re ought to be a dialogue between pa rents and
pastors of churches. Two past ora l principles are proposed; first is that the
childre n a re God’s gift and t hus t heir baptism should not be de ferred, and
secondly; that “gua rantees a re to be made that t his gift can so grow through
genuine upbringing in the fa ith and Christ ian life that the sacram ent m ay atta in
its tota lity – “t rut h”. The guara ntees a re regularly to be offe red by the parents
or re lat ives, even if t hey ca n be supporte d in va rious ways in t he Christian
community. If however these guara ntees are not truly se rious , t here ca n be

11 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

reason to de fer the sacra ment if finally they are certa inly not serious the
sacrament is to be denied.” 25

The 1983 Code of Canon Law supplie d s ome re quirem ents for the ba ptism of
infants. Canon 868 says that t he pare nts must give t heir consent a nd prom ise
to bring t he infant in the Catholic re ligion. If these two conditions a re la cking,
the ba ptism should be put off a ccording t o the prescriptions of pa rticular laws
and t he pare nts a re t o be informed of the reason. Whe n t he pare nts are
prepare d t o profess the fa ith or t o undert ake the duty of bringing up childre n
as Catholics, 26 then the pastor must determ ine the t ime for the bapt ism o f the
infant according to the regulat ions of t he Confere nces of Bishops. It is the duty
of t he priests to educate pa rents on the importance of infant ba ptism.

Pope John P aul II me ntione d the we ll founded hope of infant ba ptism w hile
addressing a group of prelates from five American States in June 1993. He
emphasize d t hat t he child must be ra ised a Catholic and a llow t he sacrament to
bear fruits. He sa id, “Alt hough inte nde d neithe r t o discourage infant bapt ism
nor to rende r its cele brat ion unduly difficult , such diocesa n or pa ris h
guide lines have somet imes been applied in some rest rictive ways t han
prescribed by t he Holy See. On occasion Baptism has been unw isely denie d t o
pare nts re quest ing it for their child. Past ora l cha rity would bid us to we lcome
those who st rayed from the practice of their fa ith [cf. Lk. 15: 4 -7] a nd t o
refrain from making dema nds not re quire d by Church doct rine or law.” 27

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[b] Protestant Chur ches:

The practice of infa nt bapt ism is followed by few P rotestant churches w ho

believe that children in infancy a re included in t he e lect ion of grace ,
regenerated and saved by Christ. 28 I should not ment ion t hem here.

But t he Ba ptist Church does not acce pt t he pract ice of infa nt bapt ism on t he
grounds t hat there is no refe rence in t he Gospels or in t he New Testament as a
whole. The Bapt ists’ posit ion is t hat bapt ism is a volunta ry profession of fait h
and only pers ons old e nough t o com pre he nd its sig nificance and symbolism
should be acce pted for ba ptism. The refore the Bapt ists give t heir childre n t he
right to decide for the mselves whet her or not they w ish to be bapt ized. 29

Effe cts of Baptism on Chil dren

In ba ptism we be come sons of God [Rom. 8: 14 – 16; Gal. 4: 6], be nefa ctors in
Christ ’s S onship. The gift of the Holy S pirit in ba ptism is re lated to the com ing
of t he New Age. 30 Through bapt ism the he redita ry sinfulness of A dam is
restitute d w ith t he new life of Christ. Infa nts share in t his saving act of Christ.
Jesus himself said, ‘Allow the little children to come t o me , for t o t hem belong
the K ingdom of Heaven ’ [Matt. 19: 14-15]. Ba ptism g ives them a share in t he
heavenly gifts and be come pa rtake rs of t he Holy Spirit.

The necessity of ba ptism for infa nts a rise s from t he fate of the infants who die
un-bapt ized. Where do their souls go t o a fter death? S ince infants dying
without bapt ism have origina l sin on t heir souls, fa ith forces us t o conclude
that they ma y not e nter heaven. At the sa me time , t hey ca nnot be punishe d in
hell as adult sinners. Cat holic doct rine teaches that these infa nts go t o a
specia l place of rest for infa nts. The Church create d a specia l name k nown as

13 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

Limbo, 31 a place that infants without ba ptis m go t o a fter deat h. The doctrine of
Limbo is dism issed as “ erroneous” outside Catholic circles. Eve n w ithin the
Catholic circles it is not clear that this is an officia l Catholic dogma.

However, bapt ism of infa nts is necessary for the salvat ion of souls [cf. Can.
1752]. The rece ipt of bapt ism beg ins a pe riod of t ransform ation into the
like ness of the glorified Lord. That is w hy pare nts must take the education of
their childre n very im portant. “Tra in up a child in the way he should go, even
when he is old he w ill not de part from it” [P rov. 22:6]. Infants belong t o t he
Christ ian community t hroug h bapt ism and thus places them as be lieve rs “in
Christ” or “ in the body of Christ” , throug h the Spirit. They als o becom e a pa rt
of t he “ chosen race , a roya l priesthood, a holy nation, G od’s own people ” [1
Pet. 2:9].

Infant ba ptism s ignifies rege nerat ion, an action of God’s g race to mank ind. The
world is a world of sin, and childre n need bapt ism as adults t o fight sin w ith
the support of the Holy Spirit. J ust as adults seek goodness for t hemselves, so
too do infa nts ne ed g oodness which we m ust assist in a chieving.

C onclusi on

The infa nt ba ptism controversy w ill continue a mong the ologia ns and a mong
churches as long as biblica l schola rship is conce rne d. However, the Catholic
Church considers t he sa lvation of souls ve ry pa ram ount a nd essent ia l. The
Catechism o f the Catholic Church says t ha t “children also have nee d of the new
truth of Bapt ism to be freed from the power of da rkness and brought into the
realm of t he childre n of God, t o w hich all men are called.” 32 The t radit ion of t he
Church is undoubtedly right in pract icing infant bapt ism.

14 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

I recommend t he pra ctice in othe r churches outside t he Cat holic Church for the
sake of assisting the he lpless young souls find fullness of grace a nd re dempt ion
right from infa ncy. I be lieve that t here is no othe r way to salvation tha n
through C hrist.

Whe n infants a re in the font of ba ptism , a fa ith life is im planted in t hem

through t he death and resurre ction of Jes us. If Christians be lieve in this
proposition of saving souls , t hen there’s no need to be select ive a nd exclude
the infa nts. Let us initiate them in t he faith we rece ive a nd ba ptize our children
“in the name of the Father and of t he S on and of t he Holy Spirit .”

15 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

Endn otes

The m ater i al used i n thi s wor k i s par ti al l y fr om the wor k of Bayo O bi jol e, “I nfant Bapti sm :
a c r i ti c al r evi ew.” Afri ca n E ccl esi a l R ev i ew [AFE R], 30[O c tober 1988]5 , pp. 299 -312.
For exam pl es, 1] the fi sh ( i c thus) was fr om the ini ti al s of “ Jesus Chr i st, Son of G od
Savi our . ” Ter tul li an says “ But we l i ttl e fi sh as Jesus i s our g r eat fi sh, bor n i n the water , and
onl y whi l e we rem ai n i n the water are we safe” [de Bapt. 1]; 2] I n E x. 15: 23 -25, the tr ee
that thr ew i n, Ter tul l i an says, “ That tr ee was Chr i st who form wi thi n him sel f heal s the
spr i ng of that natur e whi c h was for m er l y poi soned and bi tter , c hang i ng them i nto the m ost
heal th g i vi ng water of bapti sm ” [De Bapt. 9]; 3] Bl ood – ‘sec ond washi ng ’. Ter tul l i an m eant
the “ washi ng of bl ood” by m ar tyr dom ; 4] Thr eefol d i mm er si on. Ter tul l i an l i nked wi th the
Tr i ni ty for not once onl y but thr ee ti m es ar e we bapti z ed i nto eac h of the thr ee per sons at
eac h of the nam es [Adv. P r ax. 26].
L or na Br oc kett, The Theol og y of Bapti sm , No 25. E dwar ds Yar nol d [G en. ed. ]. Th eol og y
To d a y , [Cor k: The Merc i er P r ess, 1971] 25. Cf. Hans Kung , Th e Ch u rch . [New Yor k: Im ag e
Books], 19 75: 42 5ff].
O bi jol e, ar t. c i t. , pp. 301.
Th e Ca tho l i c E n cy cl op ed ia . L ondon: The E nc ycl opedi a P r ess, I nc . 1907, p. 270; P astor al i s
I nstr uc ti on on I nfa nt Bapti sm , 20 O c tober 1980 in Austi n Fl anner y, O . P. [G en. ed. ] Va ti ca n
Co u n ci l I I , Vo lu me 2: Mo re P o st Co n ci l ia r Do cu men ts. [New Yor k: Costel l o P ubl i shi ng
Com pany, 1980] , n. 4.
Jor asl av P el i c an [ed. ] Twen ti eth Cen tu ry Th eol og y in th e Ma ki n g , Vol . 1: Them es of Bi bli c al
Theol og y. [L ondon: Wi l l i am s Col l i ns L td. , 1969] 3. 313.
Ca tho l i c E n cy cl o p ed i a , l oc . c i t.
G il m or e, A. , Ch ri sti a n Ba p ti sm. L ondon: L utherwor th P r ess, 1959 , p. 205. The per sonal
r esponse wi l l c om e i n l ife as expr essed i n, “ Bapti sm , E uc har i st and Mi ni str y,” Fai th O r der
P aper No. 111, W. C. C. G eneva i n I n terna ti on a l Rev i ew o f Mi ssi on s , Vol . L X X II No. 286, Apr i l
1983 , p. 165.
Th e Ca tho l i c E n cy cl op ed ia , l oc . ci t. Cf. Huber t Jedi n [ed. ] Hi sto ry o f th e Ch u rch , Vol . I I : The
I m peri al Chur c h fr om Constanti ne to the E arl y Mi ddl e Ag es. [L ondon: Bur ns & O ats, 1980] , p.
For m ore i nform ati on on O r ig i nal Si n, c hec k Geor g e J. Dyer , “ Or i g i nal Si n: Theol og i c al
Abstr ac ti on or Dar k R eal i ty?” Ch i ca go Stud i es, 7[Fal l , 1978]3 , pp. 385 -398.
Th e Ca tho l i c E n cy cl op ed ia , l oc . ci t.
P el ic an, op. c i t. p. 314.
I bi d.
Br oc kett, op. ci t. , p. 65.
New En cy cl o p edi a , Vol. II . New Yor k: McG r aw Hil l Book Com pany, 1966, p. 70.

16 G reenligh t T heol ogy Seri es 200 9

I bi d.
Br oc kett, op. ci t. , p. 69.
Nor m an P . Tanner , [ed. ] Decrees o f th e E cu menica l Cou n ci l s. Vo l. 2 [L ondon: Sheed &
War d, 1990] , p. 20. Cf. Counc i l of Toul ouse [1119, Can. 9].
I bi d. p. 230.
Som e hereti c s ar g ued that bapti sm c oul d onl y be r ec ei ved at the ag e of 30 l i ke Jesus
Chr i st. The Counc i l of Tr ent i ssued out thi s dec ree sayi ng suc h per sons shoul d be
anathem ati z ed” “ Si qui s di x er i t, nom i nem esse bapti z andum ni si ea aetate, qua Chr i stus
bapti z antus est, vel i n i pso m or ti s ar ti c ul o: a. s. ” Cf. Can. #12 as quoted i n Tanner , op. c i t. ,
p. 689.
Br oc kett, op. c i t. p. 78.
S. H. Chil ds, Th e G o sp el in E xp eri en ce : L ondon: SP CK, 1963 , p. 109.
D. J. R andol ph, Com pani on to the Book of Wor shi p, the Uni ted Methodi st Chur c h, USA,
[E d. By E. W. Dunkl e, Jr . and Joseph D. Qui l li an, Jr . ], 1970 , p. 46.
Cf. Karl R ahner , Th eo l og i ca l I nv esti g a tio n s, Vol . 15, p. 230.
Ac ta Apostol i c ae Sedi s 72 [1980] 1 151 a s quoted i n Th e Co d e o f ca n on L a w: A Text an d
Co mmen ta ry , L ondon: Chapm an, 1985 , p. 627.
I bi d. p. 626. Cf. G eor g e D. Smi th. [ed. ] The Teachi ng of the Cathol i c Chur c h. L ondon: Bur ns
& O ates, 1950 ed. , 79ff.
Kel l y Joseph, “ Man –Made O bstac l es to I nfant Bapti sm ” AFE R , [1994], p. 125.
New Ca th o li c E n cy cl op ed ia , i bi d.
I bi d.
Br oc kett, op. ci t. , p. 19.
The wor d L im bo i n our tim es r efer s to the pl ace or state i n whi c h dyi ng i nfants g o to,
those who di e wi thout the S ac r am ent of Bapti sm and who suffer p ai n o f l o ss but not the
p a in of sen se. The term was devel oped by Theolog i ans of the Sc hol asti c Ag e. I t i s a pl ac e of
r est for i nnoc ent c hi l dr en who c om mi tted no si n and who c annot be g i ven a pl ac e i n heaven
for the stai n of or i g i nal si n.
Th e Ca tech i sm o f th e Ca th o li c Ch u rch . I badan: St. P aul ’s, 1992 , p. 323.

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