Note: I asked our youth to write down any questions that they had about faith, the church, or life in general. This is a part of that series.
Question: Why do we baptize infants?
A question about infant baptism reminds us that there are two ways to understand baptism, those who baptize infants, children, and adults and those who only baptize adults. The second group is generally those who perform “believer’s baptism.” This group (and a great many churches belong to it) believes that in order to be baptized, a person must be old enough to understand what baptism means and make a conscious decision to put their faith in Jesus before being baptized.
Our church (the United Methodist Church) does not subscribe to this interpretation of scripture for two basic reasons (although I’m sure theologians could identify – and argue about – more). The first reason for why we baptize infants is because the disciples did. In Acts 16:14 Lydia and her household are baptized. In Acts 16:32 the jailer who oversaw the imprisonment of Paul and Silas, “and his whole household,” are baptized. In Acts 18:8, Crispus and “his entire household” are baptized and finally, in 1 Corinthians 1:16 Paul remembers that he baptized “the householdof Stephanus.” It was a time in history when the head of the household, male or female, decided the faith of everyone. We might think that’s odd until we remember that our world isn’t all that different. Few of us decided to attend church as children. We came to church because our parents decided we were going to church. Then, the head of the house decided for everyone, adults, children and even servants, and today parents still make some of those same decisions for their children.
The second reason was one that mentioned in my last blog “What is Baptism?” We believe that the “thing that happens” at baptism is something that God does and not something that we do. At baptism, the Spirit of God enters into us and begins work inside of us. After baptism, God’s presence goes with us and is active in our lives drawing us toward faith and a belief in Jesus Christ. Since the disciples baptized whole families, we understand that God can do what God does in the lives of children even before they are old enough to make a conscious choice to follow Jesus. We may not completely understand what it is that God does, or how God does it, but we choose to allow God to be a part of the lives of our children, even as infants, through baptism.
Previously: What is Baptism?
Other questions and answers in this series can be found here: Ask the Pastor
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