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Louise Barrowman wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a practicing Catholic in Joliet, Illinois. I attend a Protestant Bible Study every week. We were studying Baptism and I interjected on the Sacrament of Confirmation.

I explained that you receive Baptism by water to remove original sin, then you are confirmed by the Holy Spirit at the age of understanding. I was asked when the Church began baptizing babies instead of adults, as the Bible says.

  • I couldn't answer this question; can you please help?

Have a great day,

Louise

  { When did the Church start baptizing babies? }

Eric replied:

Hi Louise,

Thanks for the question.

Catholic Answers, an excellent Catholic apologetics organization, has ably addressed this issue in two tracts:

Basically, the New Testament is ambiguous on the question; it's not as cut and dried as they claim, and early Christian Fathers give testimony to infant baptism.

Here is another angle, related by Mark J. Bonocore:

Infant Baptism

There is an early church Father, St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who at the occasion of his martyrdom, when urged to renounce Christ, said,

  • "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me injury. How can I blaspheme my King and Savior?"

However it is well documented that he died at the age of 86. Consequently, he is referring to his baptism as an infant. Moreover, elsewhere it is stated that the Apostle John baptized him personally.

The implication: Infant baptism is Apostolic.

Now, what is important to understand is the differing theology behind this disagreement. For an Evangelical, baptism is merely a public sign that one has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It doesn't actually do anything. Since a baby cannot accept Christ in this fashion, it makes sense that they don't allow babies to undergo the procedure.

For Catholics, baptism:

Normally speaking, you cannot be saved without baptism. We believe that infants are born with the stain of original sin, which must be washed away by baptism in order for them to be saved. (Some Protestants do not believe in original sin in this way, but rather assume that any child under the age of reason will be automatically saved.) We baptize infants in order to:

  • bring them into a relationship with Christ
  • bring them into the grace of Christ
  • save them, and
  • bring them into the Kingdom of God.

So, because Catholics and Protestants have different views of baptism, they have different views about who may be baptized.

Eric Ewanco

Mike replied:

Hi Louise,

Thanks for the question.

You may be interested in sharing with your friends what the very first Christians taught and believed on infant baptism and Confirmation:

I wanted to bring up one last concern I had.

You said:
I am a practicing Catholic in Joliet, Illinois. I attend a Protestant Bible Study every week. We were studying Baptism and I interjected on the Sacrament of Confirmation.

While I admire you efforts to evangelize and share the Catholic view with other non-Catholics, remember, their interpretations of our Holy Scriptures have an underlying assumption:

That Catholic teachings are incorrect and wrong.

I would encourage you to either start your own Catholic Bible Study program or join one at a local Catholic parish.

I once did what you are doing. The people at these Bible Studies are very kind and welcoming. Nevertheless, when a Catholic attends a non-Catholic Bible study, they are implicitly saying:

There is something lacking in the Catholic Church, that I hope this Protestant Bible Study will fill.

If you are a practicing Catholic, I don't think this is the kind of message you want to be sending.

Take care. These Bible passages from my Scripture Passages web page may help:

To be administered to children "Infant Baptism".
Matthew 8:5ff
Servant healed because of Centurion's faith.
Matthew 15:21ff
Daughter healed because of the Canaanite woman's faith.
Matthew 18:14
It is not the will of God that children be damned.
Matthew 19:14
"Let the children come to me."
Mark 10:14
Let the children come, for such is the kingdom of Heaven.
Luke 7:1ff
Just say the word, and let my servant be healed.
Luke 18:15-17
People were bringing even infants to him ... whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."
John 3:5; Mark 16:16
No one enters Heaven without baptism of water and spirit.
Acts 16:15
Paul and Silas baptize Lydia and her whole household.
Acts 16:30-33
Paul and Silas baptize a prison guard and his whole family.
Acts 18:8
Crispus, his family, and other Corinthians are baptized.
Romans 5:18-19
All are born with Adam's sin and need baptism.
1 Corinthians 1:16
"I baptized the household of Stephanas."
Colossians 2:11-12
Baptism has replaced circumcision.
See also:
Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15, Acts 2:39, 1 Corinthians 15:22
St. Hippolytus of Rome (c. 215 A.D.)
"Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them." (The Apostolic Tradition 21)
Origen (post 244 A.D.)
"The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism also to infants." (Commentary on Romans 5, 9)
St. Cyprian of Carthage (252 A.D.)
This council [Council of Carthage] condemned the opinion that infants must wait until the eighth day after birth to be baptized, as was the case with circumcision. (Letter 64 (59), 2)

Interested in what other Christians in the Early Church thought, taught, and died for?
Check out what they said on this topic.
I'll keep you and your local parish priests in my prayers.

Mike

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