Why do Catholics & Lutherans baptize infants?
Question: Why do Catholics & Lutherans believe in infant baptism?
Hello, I’m Pastor Rick Cody, the pastor at Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Glad you’re with us here today. One of the questions that I get quite often as a pastor here in North Texas and it’s something that I really didn’t have to deal with whenever I was up in Missouri, but now that I’m back in Texas one get this same comment or the same question on infant baptism.
Why do Catholics & Lutherans believe in infant baptism?
And the question is, “why is it that you Lutherans baptize infants when they should be baptized as adults or young adults fully cognizant of what they’re doing?”: And they add, “Baptism should be done by the believer’s baptism.”
Why Do Catholics & Lutherans baptize infants?
And that’s a great question and it’s a question that has its origins during the time of the Reformation with the Anabaptist movement and the Anabaptists were those individuals pushed the idea of baptizing again and they argued against the legitimacy of infant baptism.
So what we need to talk about are contracts. Some would say that you can’t ask a child to coming to a legal contract and so when we think about baptism, that’s exactly what baptism is. It actually is a contract that’s going on between God and the child and one of the things that we need to understand about the contract is that when God goes to a covenant and let’s use that word (covenant) for a better sense of the word today.
When God enters into a covenant with somebody particularly in the sacrament of baptism, it is unilateral. Typically when you go to the famous scripture you look at the covenants that God made these people that’s exactly the way that he did things. We could go and we can look at Saint Paul talking relations chapters three and four about the idea of baptism and us being connected to Christ in our baptism and that also be connected to our being adopted as sons ’cause we share the same faith as Abraham so therefore by faith we are children and heirs of Abraham. so in that adoption then we become a child of the heavenly king.
Whose work is infant baptism?
So therefore when we think about baptism we need to also think about whose work baptism is. This was not our work and so if you look at it that way then, yes; that would only make sense that we would exclude him that’s from coming to the altar because that’s something that you would make a decision on it, something that you would be responsible for. But in baptism and the way that God makes covenants with his people. It’s been this way all along; the covenants have always been unilateral, which means that it is one direction.
When God makes a covenant with his people he’s the one who is making the covenant and it’s different because if it was a bilateral covenant that means that we would make it come in between us and God that means that we would have to keep our end of the bargain, our end of the covenant and the situation is that you and I cannot keep that covenant with God so if I sit there and say that I’m going to follow Jesus all the days of my life I’m going to dedicate my life to him and I’m gonna decide to follow him all the days of my life. I know that I’m going to fail just by my own history of my own walk with Christ and how I’ve let him down, done. But if God is the one who is making a unilateral company with me in my back is where he’s calling me his child he promises to be my God. I know that he cannot fail because God cannot do not keep prompts that make sense so when we think about baptism think about God doing that he’s the one that’s making his claim on us he’s the one that’s putting his mark on us he’s the one who’s writing our name in the lamb’s book of life. It’s not us. In this particular situation, God is the one doing the work; that’s why baptism is his work; that’s why it’s a unilateral covenant.
the covenant promise to Abraham
Another great example that we have of this in the scriptures is the time in Genesis Chapter 15 and God is making his covenant promise to Abraham. So there are animals that usually were brought between two people and they were cut in half and the two people that were making a covenant would walk between them, but in Genesis Chapter 15 it’s different God cut the animals in half and lays them down on the ground and he puts Abraham asleep and he’s the one who walks through, making the covenant with Abraham. It’s a fantastic example because it shows that Abraham was not really participating in this coming in action; it was God doing all the work. So it’s good for us to understand that God is the one making the promise.
Now let’s take that into where we are with infants. In the contract that people make when they go to adopt a child; let’s just call it an infant for all practical purposes. That child doesn’t know what’s happening. That child doesn’t participate in the adoption proceedings they don’t go before the judge. They don’t say, “I want to go to this family.” But this family goes to the judge. They go to the adoption agency; they’re the ones that enter into the contract. They’re the ones who sign the paper on behalf of the child and that does not negate or legitimize any part of that contract between that family and that child. But that family promises as they saw in those papers that they’re going to care for this child. They’re going to raise that child. They’re gonna nurture that child and so it is a legally binding contract and the child has nothing to do with it.
So can God make a unilateral promise to us?
So can God make a unilateral promise to us? Yes because that’s the way baptism works. Baptism is not a two-way street. This is not a God you do this and I’m gonna do my part. No. Salvation was one way. Jesus was the only way that we were able to obtain salvation it was only through Christ’s death and his resurrection that we now have the salvation that’s given to us. And so when we think about it; when we go to Galatians Chapter 2, verse 21 says “if salvation could be gained through the law or works of the law then Christ died for no purpose. And so if there was just one thing that we could do, if it was about my commitment was about me making a covenant relationship with God. If it was about me going up to the front of dedicating my life to Jesus, that’s what we would be doing that. Christ would not have had to die; we could do this. So if that were the case, salvation would be by works and not by grace with faith and so that’s what we’re talking about here when we answer the question about children entering into a contract with God in holy baptism.
Conclusion: Why do Catholics & Lutherans believe in infant baptism?
Again it’s not their work; it’s God’s work. So if God says that he can do this that; if he can claim that child as his own and he can put his stamp of salvation on them, that he would mark them on their forehead and upon their heart to mark them as one redeemed by Christ the crucified and still God can do that because guess what? God is God and we’re not; so we don’t want to take away or rob God of his salvific work on our behalf.
So it was a great question and I hope that this has helped you understand a little bit more about why Lutherns baptize infants. If you want to get into the idea about children needing to have safer the Christian needing to have faith in order to be baptized and we can get into that in a later discussion. We can talk about in Paul’s letter to Timothy — Second Timothy 3:15-17 — where it talks about how from infancy you’ve known the holy scriptures which are implementing wise under salvation that work brephos there talks about our having faith in God from an “embryonic stage” so check out the Greek there; that’s what they need.
So we can have that discussion at a later time; but there are other passages in Holy Scripture that talks about children having faith and their ability to come to Jesus and Jesus’ Kingdom of God is often equated with children.
So again, thanks for the question for the individualism who submitters it. I hope this is helpful thank you for watching and if you have any other questions leave them in the comments section below and I’ll try to answer that as quickly as I can. Thanks for watching and the Lord be with you.
Transcribed by Liezel Angangco (Manila News-Intelligencer)