Blessing of Little Children or Infant Baptism

COGwriter

Does the Bible endorse blessing little children? Does the Bible endorse baptism of infants?

Traditionally, the Church of God has a ceremony, most often in the Fall in modern times, called the “blessing of little children” for infants and young children. To see such a ceremony watch The Blessing of Little Children Ceremony.

Greco-Roman faiths do not do that.  Instead, groups such as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans practice infant baptism. (Here is a link to some of this information in the Spanish language Bautismo de infantes o bendición de los niños pequeños.)

Which is scriptural?

Children Can Be Blessed and the Children of Believers are Sanctified

The Bible tells that children can be blessed.

Notice what God said to Abraham:

18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice. (Genesis 22:18)

As the above shows, blessings to and from descendants happens because believers obey God's voice.

God also teaches:

32 "Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways. (Proverbs 8:32)

7 The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. (Proverbs 20:7)

Notice, that if one parent is a believer, any children he/she have are sanctified by God:

12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:12-14)

Notice that the children are NOT mentioned as being sanctified because of being baptized, but simply because one or more parents is a true Christian.

Baptism of Infants/Children

Of the 100 or so times the terms Baptist, baptize, baptized, etc. are used of those in the New Testament, there is never one time that infants or young children are specifically mentioned as being baptized.

There is no recorded instance that baptism was allowed unless there was some type of repentance or professed belief. The Roman Catholic Church (as well as other churches, like the Eastern Orthodox) understand that, but they changed the practice for infants.

Notice what what Catholic named Jodocus Tiletanus admitted:

We are not satisfied with that which the apostles or the Gospel do declare, but we say that, as well as before as after, there are divers matters of importance and weight accepted and received out of a doctrine which is NOWHERE SET FORTH IN WRITING. For we do blesse the water wherewith we baptize, and the oyle wherewith we annoynt; yea and besides that, him that is christened. And (I pray you) OUT OF WHAT SCRIPTURE have we learned the same? HAVE WE NOT IT OF A SECRET AND UNWRITTEN ORDINANCE? And further what scripture hath taught us to grease with oyle? Yea, I pray you, whence cometh it, that we do dype the child three times in that water? Doth it not come out of this hidden and undisclosed doctrine, which our forefathers have received closely without any curiosity, and do observe it still? (Harvet, Gentianus. Review of Epistles, PP. 19B, 20A, London 1598, as quoted by Hislop, A in The Two Bablyons, emphasis mine).

Hence it is known and declared that infant baptism is not from scripture. Notice that it is claimed to have somehow entered Catholicism from a secret ordinance.

Furthermore, notice more about what the Catholic Church itself teaches that following about baptism:

Baptismal Vows The name popularly given to the renunciations required of an adult candidate for baptism just before the sacrament is conferred. In the case of infant baptism, they are made in the name of the child by the sponsors (Delany J.F. Transcribed by Janet Grayson. Baptismal Vows. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

1427 Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 398).

However, since a baby cannot repent nor confess belief in Christ, any statement by an adult sponsor cannot be imputed to the baby. That is one of the most important reasons why infant baptism is not appropriate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sort of even admits that when it states:

1231…By its very nature infant baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate. Not only is there a need for instruction after Baptism, but also for the necessary flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth…

1254 For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism…

1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents help is important. So too, is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized–child or adult–on the road to the Christian life. There task is a truluy ecclesial function (officium) (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, pp. 342,351).

What is a required post-baptismal catechumenate? The statement does not make logical sense (as the dictionary definition of catechumenate does not seem to mean “godparents”, it seems to mean one new to the faith instead, which is about the same definition of a catechumen). More importantly, an infant does not have any faith to begin with, hence does not the have faith that grows after baptism. An infant is incapable of repentance and no one can repent for someone else (the Bible, in Philippians 2:12 teaches, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”).

In addition, there is nothing in the entire Bible that suggests that any “godparents” are assigned to either children or adults after baptism (there also is no example of infant baptism in the entire Bible). How can “the role of the godfather and godmother” be an important and ecclesial function if it is not even mentioned in the Bible? It is also not mentioned in any early Christian writings.

Here is something from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Baptism of infants

Infant baptism has, however, been the subject of much dispute. The Waldenses and Cathari and later the Anabaptists, rejected the doctrine that infants are capable of receiving valid baptism, and some sectarians at the present day hold the same opinion. The Catholic Church, however, maintains absolutely that the law of Christ applies as well to infants as to adults.

When the Redeemer declares (John 3) that it is necessary to be born again of water and the Holy Ghost in order to enter the Kingdom of God, His words may be justly understood to mean that He includes all who are capable of having a right to this kingdom. Now, He has asserted such a right even for those who are not adults, when He says (Matthew 19:14): "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such." It has been objected that this latter text does not refer to infants, inasmuch as Christ says "to come to me". In the parallel passage in St. Luke (18:15), however, the text reads: "And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them"; and then follow the words cited from St. Matthew.(Fanning, W.Baptism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Retrieved October 6, 2015 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02258b.htm)

Some of those who are referred to as Waldenses, Cathari, and even Anabaptists were part of the Church of God. Thus, the Church of God has long come out against this non-biblical practice. For information on the history of the Christian church, check out the free online booklet Continuing History of the Church of God.

Interestingly, Irenaeus says that the Valentinians had heretical views regarding baptism:

But there are some of them who assert that it is superfluous to bring persons to the water, but mixing oil and water together, they place this mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated, with the use of some such expressions as we have already mentioned. And this they maintain to be the redemption (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book 1, Chapter 21, Verse 4).

The Catholic and Orthodox saint Irenaeus condemned the oil and water mixture on the head as a heresy. Yet is this not close to what is done today within Roman Catholicism, as well as other groups, that practice infant baptism?

It should be noted that the Church of God leader, Polycarp of Smyra, denounced Valentinus, while he was tolerated for decades by the Church of Rome (see Valentinus: The Gnostic Trinitarian Heretic).

Notice something else from:

The tradition of Christian antiquity as to the necessity of infant baptism is clear from the very beginning. We have given many striking quotations on this subject already, in dealing with the necessity of baptism. A few, therefore, will suffice here.

Yet, this claim from 'antiquity' is very misleading. Origen, who the Church of Rome condemned in the sixth century, did not write until the late second/early third century. He cites no source, but claims a tradition not found in the Bible nor in the writings before him.

It is clear from the beginning that the Bible never records that the Apostles baptized infants--infant baptism is not stated in the Bible. Oh yes, some have made assumptions and claims, but the Bible and early church writings do not support it.

Infant Baptism is Simply a Tradition of Men Without A Solid Early Foundation

Some claim that because the New Testament records that some households were baptized that this proves that infants were also baptized. But this is reading something into the Bible that is not there. Let's look at the first example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. (Acts 10:1-2)

13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.' 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" (Acts 11:13-17)

Thus, since the household was also fearing God, and infants obviously cannot do that, the term household should not be concluded as proof that infants were baptized. Using passages like Acts 11 is not a solid foundation; and few would insist that infants started speaking then. Furthermore, if that was the case then early Christians would have accepted infant baptism and there would not have been controversies associated with it. Thus, early Christians did not understand that the baptism of households in the New Testament authorized infant baptism.

If infant baptism was a a New Testament need or practice, why, then, does the Bible nowhere command us to baptize children? While circumcision was required for infant boys in the Old Testament (Genesis 17:12), there is no similar requirement for the baptism of infants in the New Testament. In those days infant mortality rates were high, one would expect Scripture to mandate infant baptism if it was essential to a child's salvation.

To the contrary, there is not a single clear example of a child being baptized in the New Testament

There are many admitted traditions that the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and others follow, including infant baptism. But one amazing one is a false conclusion about Polycarp of Smyrna (a church leader in the second century). Notice the following false tradition that supposedly proves infant baptism (I have read similar claims from other Catholic writers).  Note: Any bolding is in the source:

St. Polycarp, who was the disciple of the Apostle John himself (as well as an associate of the Apostle Philip). And, in AD 155, St. Polycarp said this at his execution:

"Polycarp declared, 'Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me injury. How can I blaspheme my King and Savior?" (Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp 9 c. AD 156)

Now, it is well documented that "The Martyrdom of Polycarp" was written the year after the saint's execution; and so the quote above is extremely reliable. It is also well documented that Polycarp was 86 years old at the time of his death. Therefore, if the saint claims to have served Jesus for 86 years, it therefore follows that he was Baptized as an infant. And, in another place, we are told that Polycarp was Baptized by none other than the Apostle John! :-) Therefore, at least in the case of St. John, we can show conclusively that the Apostles Baptized infants (Bonocore MJ. Infant Baptism.  Apolonio’s Catholic Apologetics. http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a26.htm viewed 10/06/08).

Polycarp stated at his martyrdom (167/8 A.D.) that he had been in the "service of Christ" for eighty-six years. Other recorded dates from Polycarp's life make it likely that eighty-six years was his age from birth. Joachim Jeremias, in The Origins of Infant Baptism, concludes the following from these facts: "This shows at any rate that his parents were already Christians, or at least were converted quite soon after his birth. If his parents were pagans at his birth, he would have been baptized with the 'house' at their conversion. But even if his parents were Christians, the words 'service of Christ for eighty-six years' support a baptism soon after his birth rather than one as a child of 'mature years'...for which there is no evidence at all." (Bajis J. Infant Baptism. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7067 viewed 07/04/15)

Now while the above may sound plausible, the truth is that Polycarp never claimed to have been baptized as an infant. Nor did he claim he was 86 years old when he died. An ancient manuscript called the Harris Fragments shows the following with one addition from me in {}:

Polycarp...He was… {an} old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age.  He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle.(Weidman, Frederick W.  Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions.  University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43,44).

So, if Polycarp lived to be 104, then he was baptized at age 18, and thus was not baptized as an infant (more on Polycarp's age can be found in the article Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter).  Hence, the Harris Fragments are one other way to help disprove mythological traditions that are simply not biblical. No early true Christian advocated, nor practiced, infant baptism.

Polycarp had to have been older than 86 when he died to have possibly been appointed a bishop by any of the original apostles, especially if this happened when Polycarp was around age forty. Notice what Coptic Orthodox Bishop Youssef has claimed:

Polycarp...Appointed to be Bishop of the See of Smyrna by the Apostles themselves, at the age of 40, he provides us with an important link in our long historical chain of Orthodox tradition clasping together the Apostles and the Second Century Church. (Youssef HG, Bishop. St. Polycarp the Blessed Peacemaker. Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States. http://suscopts.org/resources/literature/174/st-polycarp-the-beloved-peacemaker/ viewed 12/01/2012.)

Perhaps it may be of interest to mention that in 1821, “Cler. Gloc.” wrote that Polycarp was placed in charge of the “See of Smyrna” for around seventy years, that he calculated that Polycarp probably lived around 100 years based upon other historical records, and that the idea Polycarp died at age 86 was a “misconception”(Gloc. C. Letter to the Remembrancer, August 1821. As shown in Scott W. Garden F. Mozely JB. The Christian remembrancer. Printed for F.C. & J. Rivington, 1821. Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized Nov 21, 2007, p. 454).

Blessing of Little Children is Scriptural

On the other hand, the Bible does enjoin the fact that infants/toddlers can be prayed for and blest. Notice what Jesus said and did:

14 “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:14-16).

15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there. (Matthew 19:13-15)

It is likely that the worldly churches, who had read the accounts in the gospels and perhaps heard of it performed in the early COG, may have used that as part of their justification.

In fact, when I researched this further, I found that the Catholic Church does refer to this passage in Luke 18 & Matthew 19 as part of its justification for infant baptism (see article Baptism in The Catholic Encyclopedia). But sadly, they are confusing a blessing ceremony with baptism.

None of the children that Jesus laid hands on are recorded to have been immersed into water or sprinkled with water prior to Jesus blessing them (which is part of why I thought I should list all the accounts in the gospels on this).

Hence what Jesus did WAS NOT a form of infant baptism, but instead a ceremony that is retained by relatively few today, like those of us in the Continuing Church of God (you can also watch that ceremony The Blessing of Little Children Ceremony). But oddly, those groups that embrace infant baptism do not seem to have kept this.

We in the Church of God normally have this ceremony during one of God's festivals as that is when children will often be gathered together in one place--but the ceremony is not restricted to then.

But this is a practice we get from following Jesus' example and not one involving non-biblical and pagan practices, like those associated with infant baptism.

More on baptism can be found in the articles Baptism, the Early Church, and the Continuing Church and All About Water Baptism.

Thiel B. Blessing of Little Children or Infant Baptism? COGwriter (c) 2015 http://www.cogwriter.com/blessing-little-children-baptism.htm 2015 1006

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