A gracEmail subscriber writes that his infant grandson is soon to be baptized, although Grandpa raised the baby’s mother in a church that baptizes only confessing believers. This grandfather requests more information on the subject.
Whether babies ought to be baptized or not, their situation clearly differs from that of adult converts to Christianity. Christians on both sides of this issue agree that believing parents bear primary responsibility to nurture their children in such a way that with God’s blessing the children will grow to personal faith and consciously commit their lives to Jesus Christ.
Most baby-baptizers perceive the infancy ceremony as incomplete by itself and expect the child to declare faith for itself later through Confirmation. Similarly, many who do not baptize babies sense the need to publicly dedicate their infants to God and to pledge to nurture the infants in Christian faith. These parents also regard that infancy ceremony as incomplete by itself and expect the child to declare its own faith later through baptism. Leaving aside for the moment the question whether baptism requires immersion, both sides in this scenario share all the same elements, though in a different order. They differ as to whether the child’s baptism belongs at the beginning of that process or at its end.
My own understanding of Scripture sees repentance and faith as the heart’s responses by which we reach out with empty hands to receive God’s grace. It sees gospel baptism as the tangible, eventful declaration and embodiment of such repentance and faith. On that basis, I encourage the dedication of infants, followed by baptism when the children actually come to faith. I also encourage believing adults who were baptized as infants now to be immersed as a further confirmation and expression of their personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. (This said, let me seek shelter, for I shall soon be dodging bullets from all sides!)