Name: Greyson M. Gambrell
Infant Versus Believer’s Baptism
This debate has historically been fought as early as the third century. Origen treated infant baptism as a universal practice based on the human need for grace (421). Tertullian argues that the baptism of children should be after they know Christ(421). The New Testament gives no specific reference to infant baptism. At best it is wondered if it occurs when someone’s household is baptized (see Acts and 1 Cor). Some compare baptism with Old Testament circumcision as if they are counterparts. Therefore they believe in infant baptism (Col. 2:11,12). This is not a conclusive reading of this scripture. They are compared to show the putting off of the flesh in both rites. Karl Barth has three parts to his rejection of infant baptism. First the evidence of infant baptism is not in scripture but in the postapostolic period. Second it has led to belief in salvation as a result of their birth. Finally baptism marks the beginning of the human response to grace, and an infant cannot make such a response (421). Augustine said that infant baptism got rid of original sin. Some other beliefs are that baptism is a public declaration of faith, and Zwingli held that it is shows birth into a believing community (423).
There is one key passage that sheds light on the subject in a rather silent instruction on infant baptism from scripture. One must use reason like Paul, but the reason is conclusive that infant baptism is an incorrect practice. One should be of full understanding of salvation in Jesus Christ before being baptized. Acts 19 has the account of disciples of John the Baptist that had not received the Holy Spirit. After knowledge that they should believe in the one coming after John, namely Jesus, they were baptized into the name of Jesus. Now these men had the understanding of John the Baptist and were baptized after that understanding. They did not have the understanding to believe in Jesus. Now a child has no understanding of language or what is communicated to it until it grows old enough to understand. These were grown men with an incorrect understanding and Paul thought it necessary for baptism in Jesus name after the correct understanding. An infant does not have an incorrect understanding but no understanding—with the exception that God could communicate with the babe. Therefore the model is that infants should not be baptized but the child should be old enough to understand about Jesus—to believe in Him.
As to the passages of someone’s household being baptized, it must be that the family if they had kids the practice should have been that the household be of age to understand. If the common understanding was that of Paul’s, and it should be as Paul was an Apostle, they were old enough to understand and then be baptized.
As to the question of a church being split over the issue of infant baptism it is difficult to determine. If two parties have such dissention over an issue, such disharmony can overrule the pursuit of harmony. The correct party would be the one that believes in believer’s baptism. If a faction raises such clamor about the issue that there is no peace in the church that church should try to reach peace without abandoning doctrine. If peace is still not able to be reached then the church has the right to as the party to leave and should. If the situation is reversed and the church does not wish to listen to correct doctrine even after prayer and seeking scripture and guidance from the Holy Spirit and there is no peace in the church, then that party can split. The aim is unity in faith by truth uniting church members. This unity must be pursued but apostasy and incorrect doctrine must not be tolerated—especially if the issue is addressed in scripture.