Friday, September 16, 2011
Why Do We Baptize Babies? 1
As an Anglican priest I am regularly given the occasion to explain our theology and practice of baptism. The main question I get asked is, "Why do you baptize babies?" In the next series of posts I aim to answer that question the way I do with folks I meet with in my parish. I hope you find it helpful!
On to my answer.
The first reason we baptize babies is we believe it is biblical. Before unpacking that, a word about what I mean by biblical. There are a number of ways something can be Biblical. The most basic is when there is a verse of scripture that makes a statement about the question at hand. For example, is it biblical to lie? Well, no, because in Exodus 20 it says, "You shall not lie." Now, baptizing babies is not Biblical in this first manner. There is no verse that says, "You shall baptize babies." Some stop there and conclude baptizing babies is therefore not Biblical at all. However, there are other ways something can be Biblical - ways we use all the time. Another way we conclude something is Biblical is if it does not contradict the teaching of scripture. The Bible is silent about automobiles. But I would argue that driving a car is perfectly Biblical. Why? Because it does not contradict the teaching of the Bible and there is no prohibition of the activity. Anglicans would argue that baptizing babies is Biblical in this way - we see no prohibition in scripture against this form of baptism. This way of being Biblical is pretty weak though. Thankfully there is another way something can be Biblical. While something may not be explicitly commanded or exemplified, it can be an expression of the teaching of scripture. Anglicans believe infant Baptism is Biblical in this sense. It is an authentic expression of the meaning of Christian baptism and salvation as taught in scripture.
In the next few posts I will explain how Anglicans see baptizing babies as an authentic expression of the teaching of scripture.