A gracEmail subscriber requests some larger perspective on the differences among Christians regarding infant baptism. In the following answer, we will distinguish between Christians holding two points of view and practicing accordingly. PEDO- Baptists baptize babies; CREDO-Baptists baptize only professing believers.
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In the Book of Acts, Luke tells how the Holy Spirit empowered the gospel proclamation to produce the original generation of Christians throughout the Mediterranean world. Sometimes Luke says that converts believed (Acts 16:33-34), were baptized (Acts 16:15) and experienced salvation (Acts 11:14) by the “household.” Were any babies among those baptized? If so, it seems to me, those babies had to be capable of exercising saving faith as well, since we read that the “household” also believed. Within a few years the question of infant baptism would arise naturally, as Christian couples had their own families and wondered about their offsprings’ relationship with God.
Christians generally agree that baptism is ordained and commanded by Jesus Christ personally. They also agree that the physical rite of water baptism standing alone cannot produce any spiritual blessing. There is also widespread agreement that in the New Testament, when done in faith, baptism is a means through which (as sacrament), or a historical marker of the occasion when (as ordinance), the believer formally abandons all claims of merit, casts self wholeheartedly on God in Christ, and subjectively experiences forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Different Christian traditions appeal to various biblical concepts, analogies, and symbols to express their understanding of baptism’s meaning and how it works.
Here pedo-baptists and credo-Baptists might have more in common than either group at first supposes if we think in terms of the best theologies on both sides. For example, pedo-baptists expect that when baptized babies become of age they will, after appropriate studies, affirm and claim as their own the faith their parents presumed regarding them as infants. In the larger picture, therefore, both pedo-baptists and credo-Baptists teach, expect, and require a personal profession of faith and baptism, even for children of believers. One might conclude that the chief difference between pedo-baptist and credo-baptist understanding is only a matter of timing. But that would be an oversimplification.
For now, convictions differ and passion follows conviction. For example, pedo-baptists wishing to join a credo-baptist church are often required to be “re-baptized” (as the pedo-baptist sees it), which the credo-baptist only sees as being baptized “right” for the first time. It can be surprising to a credo-baptist to realize that a pedo-baptist’s refusal to be (re)baptized reflects that person’s high regard for baptism (which the pedo-baptist believes he or she already received as an infant) and not a low regard for baptism–which the credo-baptist is accustomed to suppose is the only reason someone would object to being (re)baptized.