This Is Intended
To Promote Thinking
A friend recently posted a question on Facebook about infant baptism.
It seemed like he was genuinely asking, not saying, or baiting. He addressed his question to “scholar” types.
The essence of the question was:
When the Bible mentions baptizing an entire family (household) when the head of the house is baptized, does this imply infant baptism?
It’s a good question. The Book of Acts does record two incidents when one person – the head of a household – believed and was baptized. Lydia was one and the other was the superintendent of the city jail.
The interesting thing is, in both cases, all the family members were baptized at the same time.
It doesn’t specifically say each family member confessed or believed but the idea that faith comes before baptism is so well established in Scripture it doesn’t need to be repeated ad nauseam.
Both incidents occurred in Philippi and you find the details in Acts 16.
The question naturally arises:
Does this imply infant baptism?
The short answer is “no it doesn’t” but that isn’t much of an argument. There are many churches that baptize infants – I was sprinkled as an infant in a Presbyterian Church – so the question can’t be easily dismissed. It is an established practice.
Here are my reasons for thinking infants were not involved:
Both Lydia And The Jailer Were Heads Of Homes
In the culture of that day family leaders were respected, even revered. Leaders were protective shields for the family and when they functioned well, family members learned to appreciate that. They followed.
Both were probably Type-A personalities but not purely. There was a twist. They both showed a strain of humility.
The Jailer fell down before Paul and begged for salvation. Lydia offered the use of her home to Paul and his team on condition that he judged her a true believer. Both showed servant-like qualities
What that means is they were power-leaders but they weren’t pushy, and they apparently were effective. They weren’t just followed, they were loved.
These types of leaders would allow and encourage each family to make serious decisions personally. Nothing coerced!
Saying the household was baptized along with the respective leaders doesn’t imply anyone was being forced to do anything. It could be a great compliment to the effectiveness of the leader and the bond of the family.
They respected the leader enough to take the Gospel seriously.
Lydia And The Jailer Were Older
These two leaders were not youngsters.
The Jailer would have proven his capabilities over many year’s of faithful service before being made responsible for the city jail. I doubt the city fathers would trust an unproven individual.
And Lydia was wealthy at a time when get-rich-quick schemes didn’t exist. She was a wise and capable business woman (seller of purple) and her wealth would have been gained over many years.
She not only owned a home, she was the authority in the house. She offered the use of her home without asking permission.
None of these observations suggest a young age for either one. It is doubtful they had nursing infants at home to baptize.
Now for the good stuff.
Forcing Infants To Be Baptized Implies Baptism Alone Is Effective
I know force is a strong word. Sorry if it offends, but what else would you call it? It’s not like changing a dirty diaper or rocking a baby to sleep.
Leave the diaper unchanged and you’ll eventually have one very sick baby. Forgo the baptism and there’s no resulting backlash.
But logically, if it’s okay to force infants to be baptized, then it only follows that you can force others to do the same, regardless of age, and expect the same outcome. Baptism will be effective even when imposed.
Additionally, if we can’t convince adults to comply, maybe we should hold them down and give them a sprinkle. Or put them in a coma.
I’m not being entirely facetious. There are church groups that have ceremonies for the dying and even the dead. I don’t agree with the practice but it is consistent. What works for infants works for adults.
In Practice It Doesn’t Work
Most infant baptizers (IB’s) believe the ceremony confers some sort of special blessing on the infant, from protection in this life to salvation in the next. It’s an insurance policy of sorts. Who doesn’t need that?
Unfortunately, there are problems. IB’s don’t all agree on exactly what blessing is conferred and the disagreement creates doubt. How can you convince someone to baptize an infant if the blessing is vague.
Besides, the conferees don’t all end up believing or blessed. Marilyn Manson, a confessed atheist, was christened in the Episcopal church. Makes you wonder. Does this really work?
Conversely, some infants aren’t baptized but grow up to become great examples of belief.
Ideas Can’t Be Extrapolated Beyond Established Teachings
If baptizing infants was really a Bible teaching, it would have been emphasized more clearly and more emphatically than a few obscure references. You can’t make a passage say what it doesn’t say.
Well, you can, but it isn’t smart to do so. Once you start, there is no end to how far down the road it goes.
The Greek word for “house” is “Oikos.” It’s a broad term. If we assume infants are being baptized, only because they are in the house, maybe we should include the extended family also. Shall we exhume grandpa and grandma, or even older relatives? What about siblings, distant cousins and so on?
You can see where this might lead.
What Difference Does It Make
This is most important!
Baptism doesn’t save! It is symbolic. If baptism saves then waving an American flag liberates. Making pledges to allegiance doesn’t matter if it isn’t executed. Anyone can say the words.
The only people effected when an infant is baptized are those observing the baptism. The infant isn’t conscious of it and will never know unless someone tells them later.
My experience is proof. I was baptized as an infant. I know this only because my parents gave me the certificate. I may still have it somewhere but instead of helping it caused a lot of friction.
When I did became a Christian – age 13 – and asked my parents if I could be baptized, it started a firestorm. They took it personal. That saw my request as a rejection of their spiritual influence.
Not that it amounted to much. We hardly went to church. When we did go it was like repeating my first day at school over and over. I never knew anyone.
The point is, the baptism made no real difference to them or to me. Even the discussion doesn’t make a lot of sense.
My conclusion: If you want to baptize your infant children, please do, but be prepared to allow your children to have a redo later if they so choose.