Baptize Infants?

by David Lasseter


I'll approach the answer to this question by asking two fundamental questions.  By finding the answers to these two questions we'll understand the teaching of the Bible regarding infant baptism.  Fundamental question #1:  Is an infant in sin?  Fundamental question #2:  Can an infant fulfill the requirements for baptism as outlined in the New Testament?  If the answer to both is yes, then an infant must be baptized.  If the answer to either is no, then an infant cannot be baptized according to the pattern outlined in the NT.

Let's turn to the book of Ezekiel as we consider the answer to our first question.  Please consider carefully Ezekiel 18:1-25.  We see in verse 1 that what Ezekiel is about to write is the word of the Lord.  In verse 4, Ezekiel introduces the idea of souls, sin, and death.  He states that the soul of the father and of the son belong to the Lord.  However, the soul that sinneth shall die.  In verses 5-9 Ezekiel deals with the soul of the father that follows the statutes of the Lord.  If the father is obedient, he shall surely live (verse 9).  But, this father may have a wicked son.  We read of this wicked son in verses 10-13.  Such a son shall surely die (verse 13), but his father shall live (verse 9).  But what happens if the father is wicked?  Will the son pay for the sins of the father?  We read the answer to this vital question in verses 14-17.  We see the son has a wicked father (verse 14).  But the son sees the sins of his father and does not follow his wicked example (verse 14).  Is such a son doomed to die because he has a sinful father?  No!  Ezekiel tells us the son shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live (verse 17)!  The father, on the other hand, shall die for his iniquity (verse 18).  Ezekiel asks a question that I believe many people ask today.  Notice what he says in verse 19.  "Yet say ye, Why?  doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?"  Many people today teach that man is born with an Adamic nature, that is, born in sin due to the sins of the father.  I copied the seventh article of the Methodist discipline, and have pasted it here for your consideration:  (

Article VII--Of Original or Birth Sin

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.

Not knowing what a Pelagian was, I searched for the meaning of this word and found the following:

Pelagianism (

Beyond the classic heresies of Arianism and Gnosticism, there are several other heresies that are of particular influence even in modern day Churches.  One of them is Pelagianism. Pelagianism is the belief that Adam and Eve's Fall from Grace didn't bequeath to humans anything other than a bad example. According to Pelagians, humans don't HAVE to sin, and can -- if we attain the proper knowledge of God's Will -- by our own free will, DO what God wants us to do, not sin, and achieve salvation. According to Pelagians, Jesus doesn't give us anything except (1) forgiveness of sins, and (2) a good example of how to live in God's Will. For Pelagians, NO Grace is needed to BE a Christian. For Pelagians, salvation depends entirely upon the human's will to respond to Jesus' teachings.  Most Pelagians today are legalists who view Christianity as more a set of rules and regulations than a living relationship with a Risen Lord. They don't deny the resurrection, but they do deny the normative Christian understanding of the purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus. While Jesus' death does pay for our sins, we do not need anything other than right teaching and a good example for us to be able to be "good Christians."  These three ideas -- Arianism, Gnosticism, and Pelagianism -- are theological ideas that we, as a denomination, oppose. Jesus is Fully Human, Fully Divine, and died so that we might live ... and live with the power and life of Christ within us.

(The above definition was taken from a Methodist minister's website.)  So, a Pelagian believes that the sin of Adam and Eve did nothing other than bring sin into the world ("bequeath to humans anything other than a bad example").  Unfortunately for this Methodist minister, Ezekiel 18:20 says something along those lines.  We know from Romans 5:12 that sin entered the world through Adam, we know from Ezekiel 18:20 that the son will not die for the sins of the father.  So, the son has the opportunity to look at his sinful father and decide not to follow his sinful ways (Ezekiel 18:14).  Does this mean the son will never sin?  No!  Romans 5:12 (along with other verses) tells us that all have sinned.  However, one is not born with sin, one commits sin of his own free will and suffers the consequences of his own sin should they go unforgiven.  One does not suffer the consequences for his father's sin.  What does article VII of the Methodist discipline say about Methodist doctrine?  Man is born with sin ("Original sin... is the corruption of the nature of every man").  What does Ezekiel 18:20 say?  "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father."  Who should we believe?  (A rhetorical question).  Other tenets of Pelagianism are false (assuming a Pelagian would agree with the definition a Methodist minister used for them).  For example, if a Pelagian believes he/she can live a sinless life, they are wrong (Romans 5:12, 1 John 1:8-10).  But those who state an infant is born suffering the sin of his/her father are equally wrong.  I've published an extensive study on original sin elsewhere on my site.  Please take a few moments to review this vital topic.

The Catholic Perspective


The main argument for the perennial practice of the Church regarding infant Baptism is the absolute necessity {necessity of means) of the Sacrament for entrance to heaven. If Baptism is necessary for salvation, it must be administered to infants as well as to adults. If not, we would be guilty of thinking that God had deprived infants of every means of salvation.

We can find many examples of infant Baptism in the New Testament. For example, when Paul baptized Lydia and her household (ACTS 16:15), there were obviously children in that group. A jailer and his whole family (ACTS 16:33) and the household of Stephanas (1 COR 1:16) are other examples. The probability is that in these households there were at least some young children.

The Fathers of the Church also testify to infant Baptism: St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, and Pope Siricius, to mention only a few. Even in those countries where for a time it became a custom to defer Baptism so that the recipient, having the use of reason, might benefit more from its effects, still the Sacrament was administered to infants in danger of death.

In the SCDF's Instruction on Infant Baptism of 20 October 1980, we are given two clear pastoral principles with regard to infant Baptism:

1.  "Baptism, which is necessary for salvation, is the sign and the means of God's prevenient (guiding) love, which frees us from original sin and communicates to us a share in the divine life. Considered in itself, the gift of these blessings to infants must not be delayed.

2.  "Assurances must be given that the gift can grow by authentic education in the faith and Christian life, in order to fulfill the true meaning of the Sacrament.  As a rule, these assurances are to be given by the parents or close relatives, although various substitutions are possible within the Christian community. But if these assurances are not really serious there can be ground for delaying the Sacrament; and if they are certainly nonexistent the Sacrament should even be refused."

Interesting.  Let's evaluate the Catholic view in light of the scriptures.  First, they state that baptism is an "absolute necessity" for entrance into heaven.  Under section 1 they clarify the stance they take on baptism and what it does for the recipient:  it "frees us from original sin and communicates to us a share in the divine life."  As we've seen in our study thus far, original sin is not a scriptural concept.  Again, the son shall not bear the iniquities of the father.  Section 2 of the same paragraph makes some interesting points as well.  The acknowledgment is made that an infant cannot fulfill the requirements necessary for baptism as outlined in the NT.  Note the statement that's made:  "Assurances must be given that the gift can grow by authentic education in the faith and Christian life..."  If such an education is necessary, then does the one being baptized truly understand the reason for their baptism?  Can they believe as they must?  (Mark 16:16)  Can they repent of sin they don't know they have?  (Acts 2:38)  Can they confess Jesus as the son of God before men if they are unable to speak the language?  (Romans 10:10)  If one cannot be sure that serious attempts will be made to teach the newly baptized infant one has a "ground for delaying the sacrament; and if they are certainly nonexistent the sacrament should even be refused."  Evidently the granting of baptism to a Catholic infant is based more on the parents than on the needs of the infant.  If the Catholic church is in doubt as to whether the infant will receive the teaching he/she needs from "parents, relatives, or various substitutions within the Christian community" the baptism "should even be refused."  Doesn't this seem odd?  Baptism is required for salvation, but another person may prevent one from being baptized!  So the Catholic view on baptism requires understanding, but is backwards on when the understanding should occur.  As we've seen in many scriptures, understanding is required before one is baptized.  We will cover this in more detail when we address question #10.

The Catholic doctrine lists "examples" of infant baptism.  But are they really examples?  They mention the conversion of Lydia and her household, the Philippian jailer and his house, and the house of Stephanas.  Notice the language used in this paragraph of the Catholic doctrine.  After Lydia the word "obviously" is used when referring to the likelihood that infants or young children were part of her household and received baptism.  However, after all three examples are mentioned the language used is that the "probability is that in these households there were at least some children."  "Probability" is much less certain than "obviously."  It's quite a leap to base a doctrinal position on something as important as baptism on something so open to doubt.  Since no children were specifically mentioned in the scriptures do we know children were present?  How old was Lydia, the jailer, or Stephanas for example.  Do we know their children weren't grown and of an age to submit to baptism, if they even had children?  Are these insignificant points?  Certainly not!  Remember our study of opinion earlier?  What was an opinion:  a "belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge; a generally held view."  Is the language used expressing positive knowledge, or something less?  I believe we can all see that something less than positive knowledge is expressed in this statement.  Therefore, what is it?  An opinion.  Do you wish to base the fate of your eternal soul on an opinion?  In the doctrinal statement above the sources of the opinion are mentioned:  St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, and Pope Siricius, to mention a few.  What did Jesus say in Matthew 28:18?  "All authority is given unto me (Jesus) in heaven and in earth."  In order to believe the opinions of other human beings we must show where Jesus has given them the authority to express opinion as doctrine.  He is the only one who is in a position to grant such authority to a man.  The Apostle Paul (who was certainly given the authority to speak for Jesus, rf Acts 9:15, 1 Corinthians 14:37) warns in Galatians 1:6-9 against any who would speak a gospel other than that the Galatian Christians had received from Paul and other men with the authority to speak for Jesus.  Jesus Himself in Matthew 15:9 tells us that those who teach for doctrine the commandments of men worship Him in vain!  Are the doctrines we've examined above of men or of God?  If not of God, of what value are they?

It appears that a disagreement has existed in the past even within the Catholic church regarding the validity of infant baptism.  Notice the doctrinal statement above.  The statement is made that "Even in those countries where for a time it became a custom to defer Baptism so that the recipient, having the use of reason, might benefit more from its effects, still the Sacrament was administered to infants in danger of death."  What?  So some countries baptized all infants, and others didn't.  Those who didn't felt that the one baptized, having use of reason, might benefit more from its effects.  But the justification for infant baptism by the modern Catholic church is made on the grounds that these countries baptized infants in danger of death.  What infants weren't in danger of death?  The infant mortality rate centuries ago was astronomic compared to today's standards.  It seems illogical to acknowledge that one who is baptized later benefits more, but those who are about to die, even though they won't benefit as much, still should be baptized.  Why not baptize all infants and allow them to grow into their knowledge (evidently the current teaching of the Catholic church).  But why would the current church fall back on the illogical acts of those within its ranks from the past to justify its use of infant baptism today?  I still wonder about the large group of apparently healthy infants who weren't afflicted with a mortal illness.  Actually, a place has been designated for them should they die.  A place called "limbo."  However, Catholics don't agree on this doctrine.  The information below is taken from the Catholic Pages (

Infants who die without Baptism cannot go to heaven. This does not mean, however, that they go to hell.

Infants cannot have Baptism of Desire. The reason for this is because it requires the use of reason. And in our times, infants have a very small chance of being slaughtered out of hatred for Christ, and so rarely can they have Baptism of Blood. Therefore they must have the Baptism of Water, and if this is not given them, they die unbaptized through no fault of theirs and can never go to heaven.

This doctrine that an unbaptized infant can never enter heaven and live with God may at first sight seem extremely harsh and cruel. This divine design becomes still more difficult to understand and more mysterious if we consider also that the child's failure to be baptized would be due to no fault of his own. But Christ's word regarding the necessity of Baptism is absolute: "Unless a man (that is, a member of the human race or species) be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (JOHN 3: 5)

9. What Is Limbo?

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Limbo is the place where unbaptized infants go. It is a place of natural happiness surpassing the most exquisite joy of the present life.  When we stated in the previous question that unbaptized infants (that is, below the age of reason) cannot go to heaven, we are not implying that they either go to hell or purgatory.

Hell and Purgatory are places of expiation for those who have committed actual or personal sins. Infants only have original sin. Not having the use of reason, they cannot be guilty of personal sins. And so, they cannot be sent either to Hell or Purgatory.

They are in a place where they do not see God, but where they do not suffer any pain. They are in Limbo.

Notice the sin infants possess.  They do not have "actual or personal sins", only "original sin."  As we've seen, original sin is not a scriptural doctrine.

This information is also taken from the Catholic Pages:

The condition of the Saints of the Old Testament (Adam, Abraham, John the Baptist, etc.) before Christ's redemption opened heaven to them is called the Limbo of the Fathers. As the Creed announces, Christ went there to announce to them the glad news that redemption was at last accomplished.

This is the only doctrine of Limbo that the Church has ever held and still holds today.

The notion of a Limbo for unbaptized babies never was a doctrine of the Church and the Church never taught it. At most it was a speculation on the part of certain theologians, and one never hears of it nowadays. There is no "official doctrine on the subject." God has not revealed the destiny of babies who die before baptism.

One source will speak of unbaptized infants who die going to this place of bliss, but outside the presence of God.  Other Catholics will state that "limbo" has never been a doctrine of the Catholic church and we must leave the fate of these infants in God's hands, since nobody knows what happens to them.  But both doctrines are listed within the same web site.  The second states that "one never hears of it nowadays", but it is still being promoted within the web site to which he contributes.  Who are we to believe?  Who do Catholics believe?  It seems like they have a choice of belief, whichever doctrine they prefer.

Fundamental question #2:  Can an infant fulfill the requirements for baptism as outlined in the NT?  A brief review of our earlier study shows the answer must be no.  What is necessary for belief?  The ability to understand.  If one cannot understand what one hears, one is incapable of the belief necessary prior to baptism.  Does an infant need to repent?  Again, from our study one sees an infant has nothing of which to repent.  When they reach an age of accountability (that is, an age where they understand the difference between right and wrong, and choose to commit wrong), they then are sinners and must repent.  At this point they are capable of understanding, believing, and are in need of repentance.  They are then able to obey.

What is the answer to question #7?  No!  An infant should not be baptized.  They cannot be baptized in the manner outlined by the Lord in the New Testament.  The answer to both fundamental questions is no!  An infant is not in sin, and is incapable of following the requirements prior to baptism as outlined in the NT.


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