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Infants

(children).

A. Scripture.

1. God's people in the OT and NT viewed children as a blessing (Gn 21:1–8; 22:17; Ps 127:3–5; 128:3) and barrenness as a deprivation and, at times, reproach (Gn 15:2; 30:1; 1 Sm 1:11, 20; Lk 1:7, 24–25). After the Fall, God promised the Woman's Seed to crush the Serpent's head. This first Gospel promise provided the message of hope. Longing for the coming of the Messiah grew in the heart of God's people (Gn 3:15; 4:1; 49:10; Is 7:14; 9:6, 7; Lk 2:25–26).

2. Children were involved in worship life from infancy. Ceremonial acts after childbirth were prescribed (Lv 12; Lk 2:22–27). The firstborn son belonged to God; redeemed after Levites became priestly tribe (Ex 13:2, 13, 15; 22:29; Nm 3:12–15; 18:15–16; Lk 2:23). Sons were circumcised on the 8th day (Gn 17:12–13); males not receiving circumcision were rejected (Gn 17:14). Children were involved in religious observances (Ex 12:26; 1 Sm 1:24–28; Lk 2:21–51) and given religious instruction (Dt 4:9; 6:6; Pr 22:6; Eph 6:4; 2 Ti 3:15).

3. Children were at times received into special relationship with God (1 Sm 3:1–18). Jesus loved children and praised their faith (Mt 18:1–6; Mk 9:36–37; 10:13–16). Children are mems. of the kingdom of God (Lk 18:15–16). Many see a reference to little children in Acts 2:38–39.

4. After the Fall, all men are born in sin and hence separate from God (Gn 3:1–19; 8:21; Ps 51:5; Ro 5:12–19; see also Sin, Original). This alienation is overcome by Christ's work of redemption and reconciliation (2 Co 5:19; Eph 2:13, 16; Heb 2:17; see also Justification). Connection with Christ (Ro 6:3–8; Gl 3:27), sanctification and cleansing (Eph 5:25–27), regeneration (Tts 3:5), salvation are est. through Baptism. in the NT, believers are described as circumcised in Christ by Baptism (Cl 2:11–13).

5. The requirement of baptism applies to all, since the NT makes no distinction bet. adult and infant baptism and mentions no age for baptism. Evidence suggests that infants were baptized from the very beginning. The NT term oikos derives from OT usage (e.g., Jos 24:15) and indicates that entire families were baptized (1 Co 1:16; Acts 16:15, 33–34; 18:8).

B. Patristics.

1. Earliest known direct patristic evidence for infant baptism is in Tertullian (De baptismo XVIII 4–5). Indirect evidence includes: Polycarp* was probably baptized in infancy (Martyrium IX 3); Irenaeus* mentions infants, children, boys, youths, and adults as being born again (renascuntur) in the Lord (Adversus haereses II xxii 4). Apparently there was no age limitation in the first 2 cents.

2. Hippolytus* (Order of Service for the rite of baptism, 21) regarded infant baptism as the rule and instructed parents or other mems. of the family to speak for them. Origen* (Commentary on Romans, V, 9, on 6:5–7) held that the tradition of baptizing infants came from the apostles. Cyprian* (Epistle LVIII [LXIV]) held that, because of original sin, baptism should not be postponed till the 8th day, but that infants should be baptized on one of the first days immediately after birth.

3. Augustine* of Hippo (De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum, III [vi] 12) and Pelagius* (in Augustine, De gratia Christi et de peccato originali, II [xviii] 20) said they had not heard of a heretic or schismatic who renounced infant baptism.

C. Middle Ages.

In the Middle Ages the objective nature of baptism was stressed.

D. Reformation Era.

1. In the 1520s Anabaps. rejected infant baptism, insisted on “believer's baptism,” and denied that infants can have real faith.

2. M. Luther* fostered instruction and tried to involve infants and other children in the life of the ch. He advocated baptism for infants and other children because it is God's will. He granted that Scripture does not explicitly command infant baptism, but pointed out (1) that Scripture does not say “You are to baptize adults and not children” and (2) that “nations” (Mt 28:19) includes infants (WA 26, 158 and 166). LC IV 57 holds that infants should be baptized because of God's gen. command. Later catechisms hold that infants should be baptized because they can believe (Mt 18:6; Mk 10:13–16) and because Baptism is the only means whereby they can ordinarily be regenerated.

3. Ap IX 1 states that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but the Luth. Confessions and Luther do not say that the unbaptized are damned. In Baptism children are committed to God and become acceptable to Him (AC IX). Ap IX 2: “It is most certain that the promise of salvation also applies to little children.… Therefore it is necessary to baptize children, so that the promise of salvation might be applied to them according to Christ's command (Mt 28:19).” SA-III V 4: “children should be baptized, for they, too, are included in the promise of redemption which Christ made.…” Infants are in need of regeneration because they are born in sin (AC II; Ap II; FC I). By Baptism a child is received into the Christian community, receives the promise, and enters Christ's kingdom (LC IV 2, 39, 67).

E. Since the Reformation.

1. Emphasis on form under state ch. influence tended to externalize baptism.

2. Pietism* tended to minimize infant baptism and the role of children in the ch. Rationalism* reduced baptism to an initiation ceremony, a view held also by some Luths. in Am. in the 1st half of the 19th c. (see also Definite Synodical Platform).

3. Many denominations in Am. followed Anabaps. in rejecting the right of infants to receive baptism for various reasons: denial of inherited sin; a child's inability to believe; faith ought be in evidence before baptism; an age of accountability must first be reached. Baptism is gen. viewed by these as merely a sign or symbol. CML

See also Grace, Means of, III 4.

O. C. Hallesby, Infant Baptism and Adult Conversion, tr. C. J. Carlsen (Minneapolis, 1924); Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 6th ed. (Göttingen, 1967); F. Pieper, Christliche Dogmatik, III (St. Louis, 1920), 297–339, Eng. tr. Christian Dogmatics, ed. W. W. F. Albrecht (St. Louis, 1953), 253–289; Christian Baptism, ed. A. Gilmore (Chicago, 1959); The Book of Concord, tr. and ed. T. G. Tappert (St. Louis, 1959); J. Jeremias, Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries, tr. D. Cairns (London, 1960) and The Origins of Infant Baptism: A Further Study in Reply to Kurt Aland, tr. D. M. Barton (London, 1963); O. Cullmann, Baptism in the New Testament, tr. J. K. S. Reid (London, 1950); E. Schlink, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions, tr. P. F. Koehneke and H. J. A. Bouman (Philadelphia, 1961); M. E. Marty, Baptism (Philadelphia, 1962); K. Aland, Did the Early Church Baptize Infants? tr. and introd. G. R. Beasley-Murray, pref. J. F. Jansen (London, 1963); H. Fagerberg, Die Theologie der lutherischen Bekenntnisschriften von 1529 bis 1537, tr. G. Klose (Göttingen, 1965); R. Jungkuntz, The Gospel of Baptism (St. Louis, 1968); J. H. Elliott, The Christ Life (Chicago, 1968).


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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