Monday, May 14, 2012

Peds and Creeds Part 1

Shortly after we started attending the local Episcopal church, there was a baptism.  A baby baptism.

Now, in Fundamentalism, baptizing babies was heresy.  Even more mainstream Baptists, ironically, refuse to baptize infants.  I was always taught that it was ridiculous, unbiblical, and the height of unorthodoxy.

However, I found the baptismal service interesting - and extremely similar to the few baby "dedication services" I remember from my Fundamentalist background. The part that made me the most uncomfortable was where the parents reply for the child, but a great deal was nearly identical to my own child's dedication service.

Recently, I've been thinking more about this issue, so I decided I needed to start reading up on infant baptism.

Imagine my surprise when, on reading the wikipedia article (hey, I figured it would be one of the least biased sources out there), I discovered that the vast majority of Christianity for the vast majority of Christian history has baptized infants.  It's quite probable that it was standard practice from the very beginning, as evidenced by New Testament head-of-household conversions being followed by baptizing the entire household - presumably including small children and infants.  There was certainly no injunction to avoid baptizing them.

Well. Infant baptism has been a longstanding widespread practice of the Church. I honestly never knew that.  And since it's a sacrament-level practice, not just a custom, I'm having a very difficult time dismissing it without exquisitely clear reasons to do so.

Continuing the historical information, how about the people who don't baptize infants?  Baptists, Pentecostals, Church of Christ, Mennonites, Amish, and a few others.  A relatively small and inconsequential segment of Christianity.  Most of whom are denominations I want nothing to do with and who seem to be particularly good at spiritual abuse.  Also many of whom are strongly Arminian - and as someone who now leans rather Reformed, that in and of itself makes me a little fussy.

Unfortunately, denominations who do baptize infants don't seem to agree much on just why it should be done and just what it means, largely because of varying views on deeper issues such as soteriology, grace, original sin, etc.  But it does seem pretty clear that it is at least acceptable to do, and it's been done for a long time - early church fathers seemed to accept it as standard practice, even desirable, and certainly nothing innovative or controversial.

So I'm still reading up on it.  I really want to read more of what the earliest church fathers had to say about it, but their complete writings are a little harder to find offhand than say, Wesley's or Luther's.   Not that I'm pooh-poohing later writers, but I figure the closer to the source, the better on something like this.

And honestly, the main reason for thinking about this so thoroughly is because I'm going to have to be really really well-versed on this issue.  Because if I choose to have the next child - or even the current child - baptized, a great deal of heck is going to be unleashed. 

(Minced oaths.  I know.  Silly. That part of me is still Fundy... least in print.)


  1. check out Hippolytus, circa 215 AD (Written in Arabic, sometimes called the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus):

    rough translation:
    First baptize the children, and if they can speak for themselves, they should speak. If not, parents or other relatives can speak for them.

  2. Thanks, Ellen. I looked up Hippolytus of Rome on Wikipedia; sounds interesting.

    Today I got an email from the Westminster Bookstore about a book called "Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children" - and it was advertised as "If you only read one book on Infant Baptism, read this one."

    I don't think this website could possibly be tapping in to my Google search history, but it's spooky either way, lol.