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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

8- Paedobaptism (Infant Baptism)


Our Protestant brethren do not baptise little children, insisting on the necessity of belief before baptism and depending on the Lord's saying: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved" (Mark. 16:16) and also on the fact that little children do not comprehend what is happening in baptism. So how can baptism be administered without belief or without comprehension?

But we insist on paedobaptism for the following reasons:

(1) We are concerned about the eternal life of children because the Lord says: "...unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John.3: 5). So how can we prevent children from being baptised and expose them to God's Judgement as long as the Lord did not exempt children when He said the above words?

(2) Through baptism, little children are given the opportunity to practise the life of the Church and enjoy the divine Sacraments therein together with all their efficacious. They can also enjoy all the means of Grace in the Church and their effects on their lives. In this way, we practically prepare the infants for the life of faith. If we excluded them from the Church we would be depriving them of faith and of the means of Grace.

(3) The Lord's saying: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved" is meant for adults who are capable of comprehending the meanings of faith. That is why we cannot baptise adults unless they believe, according to the Lord's words in (Mark.16: 16). As for infants, we apply the Lord's saying: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19: 14).

(4) From the point of view of faith, little children are in the stage of believing and accepting everything; they do not refuse or reject faith; the doubt, inquiring, questioning and reasoning of adults have not yet entered their sphere. There is nothing in them to prevent them from the kingdom of heaven. Baptising them conforms to the principle of "Free Salvation" which is believed in and strongly propagated by our Protestant brethren.

(5) If we were utterly strict on the condition of belief, we would have forbidden from baptism many adults who were not mentally mature to comprehend the facts and depths of belief, such as the peasants, labourers, illiterates, the poorly educated and those of too limited understanding to get into the depth of the theological facts. May we ask: What would be the extent of those people's belief? Should we prevent them from being baptised, as little children should be?

(6) Some ask: What happens if the little child refuses the faith when he grows up? Image: A Coptic Bishop baptizing an infant at St. Takla Himanot Church Baptistery, Alexandria, Egypt صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صورة أسقف قبطي يعمد طفل صغير في معمودية كنيسة أنبا تكلاهيمانوت القبطية الأرثوذكسية، الإسكندرية، مصر Image: A Coptic Bishop baptizing an infant at St. Takla Himanot Church Baptistery, Alexandria, Egypt

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صورة أسقف قبطي يعمد طفل صغير في معمودية كنيسة أنبا تكلاهيمانوت القبطية الأرثوذكسية، الإسكندرية، مصر

He will be considered an apostate. He may refuse the grace he received in baptism by his own free will. We had done our duty towards him and the matter is left to him. He will be like a person who, after having begun in the Spirit, is now trying to be made perfect by the flesh (Gal.3: 3).

Probably the little children who are baptised and live in the Church, tasting all the means of Grace therein, are less liable to perversion than those who are left without baptism until they grow up.

(7) Those who deny paedobaptism are in fact denying the necessity of baptism for salvation (Mark. 16:16); because if they believe in the necessity of baptism for salvation, it would be a serious matter to deprive little children of salvation.

Since our Protestants brethren hold that belief is a condition for salvation and that little children have no belief, what then, from their point of view, is the destiny of little children who are unbaptised and have no belief? Will they be saved without belief and baptism? The question remains unanswered.

(8) We baptise little children because the Holy Bible indicates this. The Holy Bible mentions baptisms of whole families or of a person with his entire household, and there is no doubt that there must have been children in those families.                     Divider of Saint TaklaHaymanot's website فاصل - موقع الأنبا تكلاهيمانوت

The following are a few of numerous examples:

(a) The baptism of the jailer at Philippi: St. Paul and St. Silas said to him: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16: 31), and we have discussed this issue before here on in other pages. This means that the jailer's belief would be the first step which would lead his household to salvation. That is why it is said after that: "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house" and then "immediately he and all his family were baptised" (Acts 16:32,33). The Holy Bible did not exempt little children from the household of the jailer at Philippi but said about their baptisms: "...he and all his family”, of course including little children.

(b) In the event of baptising Lydia, the dealer of purple cloth, it is written: "And when she and her household were baptised" (Acts 16: 15).

(c) St. Paul the Apostle said: "Yes, I also baptised the household of Stephanas" (1Cor.1: 16). Could all these households have been without little children?

(d) The Holy Bible does not mention that there were no little children among those who were baptised on the Day of Pentecost.

(9) Paedobaptism was practised in history. Here we remember the disagreement between St. Augustine and St. Jerome on the origin of the soul: whether is it born or created?. St. Augustine said that it is born with man and St. Jerome said that it is created. St. Augustine asked: "If it is created, it does not inherit Adam's sin. Why then do we baptise infants?" St. Jerome could not reply to this question.

(10) There is not a single verse in the Holy Bible that forbids paedobaptism.

(11) With regard to belief, we baptise little children on the belief of their parents which in essence has many examples in the Holy Bible:

(a) Circumcision in the Old Testament symbolised baptism as we have previously explained. The circumcised was considered a member of God's people according to the covenant between God and Abraham (Gen.l7: 11). It is known that circumcision was to be done on the eighth day after birth, according to God's command (Gen.l7: 12). What understanding did the eight-day old baby boy have regarding the covenant between God and Abraham? To what extent was he aware of this membership in God's people? Undoubtedly, he had nothing of the sort, but he was circumcised on his parents' belief in such a covenant; he became a member of God's people and was entitled to the promises which God endowed upon our Father Abraham. The baby attained all these through the belief of his parents.

(b) The crossing of the Red Sea was a symbol of baptism or a baptism itself as St. Paul the Apostle explained in (l Cor. 10:2). It represented salvation from the slavery of death, Satan and sin. Adults who were aware of God's promise to the Prophet Moses crossed the Red Sea; they knew that they were slaves to Pharaoh; they knew the meaning of salvation from slavery by the Mighty Hand of God and when they crossed the Red Sea (baptism), they were saved. What was the position of the little children who were carried by their mothers and fathers across the Sea? Of course they received salvation from slavery; they were baptised, not on their own faith but on the faith of their parents because those children were not aware of any of the occurring events.

(c) Another important and very strong example 1s the salvation of the little children, through the blood of the Passover lamb, from the hand of the Angel who killed every firstborn son. The Lord commanded Moses to kill a one-year-old male goat or sheep without any defect and put its blood on the sides and tops of their doors, and said: "And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Ex. 12:13).

The blood of the Passover lamb was a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ's Blood through which we have received salvation, as St. Paul the Apostle said: "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1Cor.5: 7).

And the question now is: What was the belief of the little children who were saved by the blood of the Passover lamb? What did they know about the covenant between God and Moses or of the Passover and the salvation from death by the blood of the Passover lamb? Undoubtedly they were not aware of anything but they were saved by the faith of their parents; the parents who believed in the blood, its effect and the importance of the blood of the Passover lamb for salvation from death.

These little children who were saved by circumcision, by the blood of the Passover lamb and by the crossing of the Red Sea, came to know the meaning of all these things later on when they grew up. Nevertheless, they received salvation freely in their childhood through the belief of their parents in God's promises and covenants with men. When the children grew up, they entered into this belief practically.

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