Infant Baptism

Discussion in 'Sacraments, Sacred Rites, and Holy Orders' started by Jeff F, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. Jeff F

    Jeff F Well-Known Member

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    I have honest questions from a historical perspective, and want a civil, knowledge based discussion please! ;)

    This is one area where I'll admit that there "appears" to be many theological interpretations within the Anglican Communion, but are the variances from historical Anglican perspectives, or from Reformation influences? Let's start with what I believe. As stated in our BCP, baptism is full initiation by water into Christ's body the church, and being a sacrament, it's not what we do or present to God, but what He presents to us. If the church is analogous to the ark, then baptism would be the gangplank inside the boat. In regards to infants or children, their "immersion" into the church through baptism provides loving instruction, counsel, wisdom, and leadership to form them into the image of Christ, and when appropriate they may make their profession of faith at confirmation.

    One thing I've noticed (in America) is that the denominations who oppose infant baptism, tend to connect salvation with it in some manner. Even the Baptists who vehemently oppose baptismal regeneration, link baptism to a post salvation experience or profession. With infant baptism being analogous to circumcision, the Old Testament still frequently mentions that even though they were circumcised, and that all had passed through the waters of the Jordan, that God was sore displeased with them. I guess my big question is this, do we err historically by connecting baptism with salvation in any way?

    Jeff
     
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  2. Symphorian

    Symphorian Well-Known Member

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    Two 17th century Anglican Divines writing on infant Baptism:

    George Hickes, 'The Case of Infant Baptism, in Five Questions'.

    “Wherefore, if the relative nature of circumcision, considered as a Sacrament, was the same under the Law that Baptism is under the Gospel, it must needs follow that children under the Gospel are as capable of this (supposing no new command to exclude them) as under the Law they were of that. If infant Church-membership, or the initiation of infants was then no absurdity, surely it can be none now. If God under the Old Testament vouchsafed it as a gracious privilege unto children to be incorporated with actual believers, and with them to be made members of His Church, without a prohibition to the contrary, they must needs be capable of the same privilege still. Nay, if infants were admitted into the Church, when the entrance into it was more grievous, and not without blood, how unreasonable is it to assert that they are now uncapable of admission into it, when the entrance into it is made more easy and more agreeable to the natural weakness of a young and tender child? Certainly if the Jewish infants were circumcised with the most painful and bloody circumcision made with hands, Christian infants, without a special countermand from from God, must be deemed capable of the circumcision made without hands, I mean of Baptism, which is the circumcision of Christ. What God has sanctified and adopted and made a member of His Church, let no man presume to think it uncapable of sanctification, adoption and Church-membership”.

    Jeremy Taylor, 'The Great Exemplar'.

    "In Baptism we are born again; and this infants need in the present circumstances and for the same great reason that men of age and reason do. For our natural birth is either of itself insufficient, or is made so by the Fall of Adam and the consequent evils, that nature alone, or our first birth, cannot bring us to Heaven, which is a supernatural end, - that is, an end above all the power of our nature as now it is. So that, if nature cannot bring us to Heaven, grace must, or we can never get thither; if the first birth cannot, a second must. But the second birth spoken of in Scripture is Baptism. A man must be born of water and the Spirit. And therefore Baptism is the laver of a new birth. Either then infants cannot go to Heaven any way that we know of, or they must be baptized. To say they are to be left to God is an excuse, and no answer. For when God hath opened the door and calls that 'the entrance into Heaven' , we do not leave them to God when we will not carry them to Him in the way which He hath described and at the door which Himself hath opened.......And if it be objected that to the new birth are required dispositions of our own which are to be wrought by and in them that have the use of reason, besides that this is wholly against the analogy of a new birth, in which the person to be born is wholly a passive and hath put into him the principle that in time will produce its proper actions, it is certain that they that can receive the new birth are capable of it. The effect of it is a possibility of being saved, and arriving at supernatural felicity. If infants can receive this effect, then also the new birth, without which they cannot receive this effect. And if they can receive salvation, the effect of the new birth, what hinders them but they may receive that that is in order to the effect and ordained only for it, and which is nothing of itself, but in its institution and relation, and which may be received by the same capacity in which one may be created, that is, a passivity, or a capacity obediential?"
     
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  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    There's a variety among Anglican adherents, just like there are those who in the Roman church functionally reject the Pope's teachings, or those considering themselves Calvinists while functionally acting contrary to monergistic theology.

    So mere surveys of adherents do little to establish church doctrine.

    According to the doctrine in our formularies, enshrined in the Articles and the Prayerbook, regeneration occurs in the moment of baptism, specifically when the Baptismal Formula is pronounced, with the presence of water as an outer manifestation of inward grace:

    "when the Minister dipping the Infant in Water, or laying Water upon the Face of it (as the manner also is) hath pronounced these Words, I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the Infant is fully and perfectly Baptized"

    Canon XXX, http://www.anglican.net/doctrines/1604-canon-law/
     
  4. Celtic1

    Celtic1 Well-Known Member

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    I will not comment on this, although infant baptism is something that I have studied in-depth. The subject is too personal and something I have strong opinions about.

    I will only say this: baptismal regeneration is a false and unscriptural doctrine and one of the most harmful ever invented by the imaginings of man.
     
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  5. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Man is justified by faith, not faith plus baptism. The only baptism that saves is the spiritual one of inward regeneration that occurs when one receives faith. It is through faith wherein the holy spirit indwells in him and he is made a new creature. Sacramental baptism is a covenant sign which gives witness to the world of the salvific reality of the internal work which is the circumcision without hands. Baptism saves, not the sacrament.
     
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  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Baptism is never supposed to justify. But Justification is not the only step that exists in salvation.
     
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  7. Jeff F

    Jeff F Well-Known Member

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    Stalwart (and others), thank you for the reply. In the link you posted, article 30 of the canon seems to agree with Hickes and refute Taylor, if I read him correctly.

    "Secondly, It is apparent in the Communion Book, that the Infant Baptized is by Virtue of Baptism, before it be signed with the Sign of the Cross, received into the Congregation of Christ’s Flock as a perfect Member thereof, and not by any Power ascribed unto the Sign of the Cross. So that for the very remembrance of the Cross, which is very precious to all them that rightly believe in Jesu Christ, and in the other respects mentioned, the Church of England hath retained still the Sign of it in Baptism: following therein the Primitive and Apostolical Churches, and accounting it a lawful outward Ceremony and honourable Badge, whereby the Infant is dedicated to the Service of him that died upon the Cross, as by the words used in the Book of Common Prayer it may appear."
     
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  8. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    In 1 Corinthians 1:16, St. Paul the Apostle tells us that he baptized the whole household of one Stephanas.

    In Acts 16:33, St. Paul baptizes the faithful & fearful Jailer, along with his whole household.

    Baptism is a renewal of Circumcision, both as a sign and a means of putting a human person into the Body of Christ. Remember that God treated every circumcised male to be a full Jew sacramentally - whether he was wicked or virtuous. Also, since babies had always been circumcised in Israel, there is no reason to believe that the effective sign had been dropped for infants after the dawn of Truth.

    When the Lord said "by water and the Spirit", I believe that He referred to the regeneration of "the laver", as well as justification by faith. The fact that He made this statement to Nicodemus so soon after having been baptized tells me a lot. There were "disciples" in Acts who had only been baptized by John, but who had good faith - they simply needed to be properly baptized, and that was that. :)

    Anyway, Hilary of Poitiers says this, around the A.D. 350s, in "De Trinitate" Book 8.9:
    Again, "On the Councils of the East", Par. 78:

    Again, "On the Councils", Par. 91:

    Though he's just one theologian, he certainly witnesses to Baptismal Regeneration, which is at the heart of the baptism of infants. He mentions it almost casually.
     
  9. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Very true. The Scriptures identify baptism as the circumcision of the new covenant. So what is circumcision then? Does it justify? Does it save?St. Paul discusses this in his letter to the Romans:



    Thus outward "sacramental" circumcision is only an echo of the internal and spiritual circumcision, and does not save. It is but a work of the old covenant law. St. Paul says this about works of the law:


    While the sacrament of baptism, which you have pointed out is the new covenant equivalent of sacrament of circumcision, is like circumcision in that it bears witness to the righteousness to the regenerative work of faith; it is the faith that saves, whether circumcised or uncircumcised outwardly, whether baptized or unbaptized outwardly.

    St. Paul goes on in chapter 4, to look to the example of Abraham:
    Here then is the purpose of sacramental baptism, just as it was for circumcision: it is a seal, a sign, and a witness or testimony of the righteousness God imparts inwardly through faith and which stands apart from the sacrament. Should we despise sacramental baptizism? Absolutely not! It is a command of Christ and a witness to the world that you have been set apart. But it is faith that saves and the inward baptism of the heart that takes place, not sacramental baptism. Trusting in the fact that you underwent the sacrament of baptism for your salvation is like the Pharisees to trusted in their physical descendency from Abraham. Both ideas are wrong.

    To get back on topic, since outward or sacramental baptism is equivalent to outward or sacramental circumcision, which was perform on both adults who wished to enter the covenant as well as infants of parents who had already entered the covenant, baptism can be performed on both adults and infants. Faith, some would hold, must either precede the sacrament or, alternatively, does not actually get imparted until the sacrament is performed. I think both miss the point. A covenant sign, like the sacrament of baptism, is a work, which exists apart from faith, thus it can occur before, after, or during one’s receipt of faith. And it is only effective if it mirrors the spiritual reality which come internally by faith. If the internal is lacking, the outward is ineffective. As St. Paul said, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit.”
     
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  10. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Lowly Layman, I'll read the entire post thoroughly in a little while, but after a quick scan of your reply I can only ask this:

    Taking all this to heart, what of infants, toddlers, and small children?

    These cannot possibly understand Christ at a level in which they can have faith in God for His fulfilled prophecies, promises, and mercy. How can a child be a Jew inwardly, so to speak, if he has not received the Spirit, or is unable to receive the Spirit? All of this is directed to healthy adults who have an understanding. Do children & the mentally-retarded go to Hell?

    The only reason for the baptism of infants is security for their precious, vulnerable, and defenseless souls.
     
  11. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Great question, but perhaps not totally germain to this topic. If faith is a gift from God, and god knows how to give good gifts to his children, then what stops him from imparting that gift to Children. Faith is not an intellectual exercise, requiring a certain amount of IQ or life experience before one is "ready". Learning the faith is not the same as having the faith. The bible is very clear about this, knowing facts about jesus does not constitute faith, at least not the kind that saves, since even the demons have this kind of faith. Faith that saves is trust in and reliance on God for one's salvation. Not only can the very simplest of us have it. We can even have it in utero. John the baptist lept for joy in his mother's womb when the Blessed Virgin visited his mother. I see that as an act of faith, performed as best as a baby could while in the womb. Our salvation is at the election of God, not us. Because of that, I have great hope that even tiny children and the mentally disabled, whom I have had the great pleasure to work with, have been gifted with a profound trust in God's goodness, regardless of their mental understanding of that gift. In fact, I have found that their faith often surpasses that of the smartest among us. While some may trust in the efficacy of a sacrament to accomplish this, I trust in the Goodness of God, who said that the kingdom of heaven is made up of little children and that we must all become like little children if we hope to enter His kingdom. Now does that mean we have no reason to cultivate the faith that is in us as adults? No, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling constantly striving for the perfection that Christ has called us to. As Our Lord said in St. Luke's gospel (Luke 12:35-48), ignorance is a defence, but willful shirking of one's duty to remain faithful is cause for punishment, "Everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom much is entrusted, they will demand the more."
     
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  12. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I read Taylor to say the same thing as the canon...

    It is more than that. It is the engrafting of the person into the Body of Christ.

    We shouldn't conflate all of salvation into a single act of faith. According to Christ, he who has not been born of water and spirit cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And Christ himself was baptized, not because it was a mundane and burdensome 'obligation', a Law-works mentality.
     
  13. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    None of that voids what St. Paul said in Ephesians 2:8 " For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God".
     
  14. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    And none of what Paul said voids what the Church has said and what Christ said.
     
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  15. Jeff F

    Jeff F Well-Known Member

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    I apologize, my sub-therapeutic caffeine levels this morning caused me to erroneously thank Stalwart for the quote from the canon, instead of Symphorian.:blush:

    I think the correlation to circumcision is an easy example to understand, but again when we tie salvation into the equation, how were Old Testament women and infant girls saved? I also think it's interesting that with Luther's staunch belief in salvation by faith alone, he still baptized infants. This again makes me think that he and others thought it a mistake to tie salvation in with baptism. Thoughts?

    Jeff
     
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  16. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    What does that even mean?
     
  17. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It means that If Salvation consists of, say, 5 steps, and Paul says that step 2 is absolutely true and essential, it says nothing about the truth and necessity of the other 4 steps.
     
  18. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    The Lutherans, as far as I can tell, sees baptism as a means of grace, where the seed of faith is planted and awakened. And even call it the "Word of God in Water". Lutheran teachings stand squarely against Anabaptism. The Augsburg Confession says: "Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism."

    The Large Catechism speaks specifically about Infant baptism here: http://bookofconcord.org/lc-6-baptism.php

    Yet for all their push for the necessity of baptism. They left it out entirely in the both the Epitome of Concord and the Solic Declaration of Concord, even while renewing their condemnation of Anabaptist sects.
     
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  19. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    How many steps are ther in salvation? Please lay them out. Scriptural sources would be helpful too.
     
  20. Celtic1

    Celtic1 Well-Known Member

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    Not one scripture supports baptismal regeneration. Further, baptismal regeneration is not the reason to baptize an infant.
     
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