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The Catholic Church, possibly the Orthodox Churches, and even some Protestant churches practice Infant Baptism. However, I understand that Catholicism teaches that infant baptism cleanses the infant from original sin, but I am unaware of where this doctrine draws its biblical foundation. So, that is my question:

What is the Biblical basis for the Catholic doctrine that infant baptism cleanses from original sin?

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This might not really answer your question but the Wikipedia article seems legit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_baptism#History –  Nicolás Carlo Feb 7 '13 at 16:32

3 Answers 3

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There are biblical references to baptism as imparting new life in Christ on which to base the practice.

And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." [Acts 2:38–40]

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [Romans 6:4]

God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 3:20–21]

The Church cannot deny the grace imparted by baptism to a child simply because he is a child.

1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called [Cf Col 1:12–14]. [Catechism of the Catholic Church]

The Catechism holds that infant baptism is "an immemorial tradition", practised from the earliest days of the Church recorded in Acts.

1252 The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may also have been baptized [Cf Acts 16:15, 33; Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16]

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Interesting... could any of these verses be referencing baptism by the Spirit rather than by water, since it was the baptism of the Spirit that Jesus was going to bring, while John brought baptism in water. –  Narnian Feb 7 '13 at 20:36
@Narnian I don't believe any of them are; they are all water. Acts 2:41 implies water; Rom 6:4 brings the imagery of death which is evident in full-immersion baptism in water; 1 Peter specifically mentions water "not as a removal of dirt from the body," which the way baptism is practised [either immersion or pouring] won't achieve. –  Andrew Leach Feb 7 '13 at 20:40
@AndrewLeach It might be good to note two things: Firstly, nowhere (that I'm aware of) does Christ, by whose mandate we perform baptism, attach conditions to the sacrament. Secondly, in Roman Catholic belief, the Church has authority over the forgiveness of sins on Earth. Thus, the Church's best Biblical basis is probably the combination of the necessity of baptism for salvation, the unconditioned mandate to baptize all nations, and the authority over sin given to the Church. –  svidgen Feb 7 '13 at 20:56
@svidgen All true; but I've tried to answer in a way which will satisfy a Sola Scriptura Protestant. Feel free to add another answer. –  Andrew Leach Feb 7 '13 at 21:22

Catholic church believes that among other things, baptism is for remission of sins both original as well actual. Original in case of infants and original as well as actual in case of adults.

Baptism removes original sin:

Baptism is closely related to regeneration or ‘Born again” which is the transformation from death to life that occurs in our souls when we first come to God and are justified. He washes us clean of our sins (original as well as actual) as Psalm 51 points out:

Psalm 51:5 Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.

Baptism gives us a new nature, breaking the power of sin over us, so that we will no longer be its salves but its enemies who must fight it as part of Christian life (Rom. 6:1-22; Eph. 6:11-17).

Jesus taught of this transformation through baptism of water and Spirit in John 3:5. In the water-and-Spirit rebirth that takes place at baptism, we are transformed from state of sin to the state of grace.

Peter mentioned this transformation from state of sin to grace when he exhorted people in Acts. 2:38-39.

Acts 2:38 Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receieve the gift of the Holy Spirit'


Acts 2:39, For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord out God calls to him'

Peter explains the removal of original sin from our nature:

1 Pet. 3:20-21 ‘After they were disobedient long ago when God patiently waited in the days of Noah as an ark was being constructed. In the ark a few, that is eight souls, were delivered through water. 3:21 And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you – not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Furthermore Paul notes that baptism has replaced circumcision.

In Col. 2:11 In him you also were circumcised – not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. 2:12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.

If Paul meant to exclude infants, he would not have chosen circumcision as a parallel for baptism.

Augustine also taught that,

“ It is this one Spirit who makes it possible for an infant to be regenerated ... when that infant is brought to baptism; and it is through this one Spirit that the infant so presented is reborn. For it is not written, ‘Unless a man be born again by the will of his parents’ or “ by the faith of those born again of water and the Holy Spirit’[John3:5]. The water, therefore manifesting exteriorly the sacrament of grace, and the Spirit effecting interiorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that man who is generated in Adam”(Letters 98:2)

Origen also wrote in the third century that 'according to the usage of Church, baptism is given even to infants'(Homilies on Leviticus, 8:3:11,AD 244).

The council of Carthage, in 253, condemned the opinion that baptism should be witheld from infants until the eight day after birth.

Later Augustine taught,'The custom of Mother Church in baptising infants is certainly not to be scorned ....nor is to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic' (Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39, AD 408)

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The only recorded connection between original sin and baptism appears to be in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness... CCC 1250

However, I can find no connection in scripture between the two, not during the time of Christ nor later. Saint Paul is the very first to make a connection between Original Sin and Adam in his Roman Epistle (Romans 5:12-21), but neither he, Christ nor the original apostles draw any connection between baptism and original sin within canonical gospel. Moreover, Saint Augustine muddies the water further by stating that those born of baptized parents have no need to be baptized:

  1. In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God does not remit sins but to the baptized. The very sins which He remits first, He remits not but to the baptized. When? When they are baptized. The sins which are after remitted upon prayer, upon penance, to whom He remits, it is to the baptized that He remits. For how can they say, "Our Father," who are not yet born sons? The Catechumens, so long as they be such, have upon them all their sins. If Catechumens, how much more Pagans? How much more heretics? But to heretics we do not change their baptism. Why? Because they have baptism in the same way as a deserter has the soldier's mark: just so these also have Baptism; they have it, but to be condemned thereby, not crowned. And yet if the deserter himself, being amended, begin to do duty as a soldier, does any man dare to change his mark?

A Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, Paragraph 16

It's clear that the above Catechism reference was certainly required as clarification. However, it remains that there is no scriptural source for any direct association between original sin and a subsequent requirement for baptism.

Also, the use of David's Psalm 51:5 in this argument is unjustified. The Psalms were composed by David while he was a wanted fugitive running from King Saul. It was common practice in ancient times (to some extent today) to blame all misfortune on sin or wickedness. Therefore, no further expansion was made of this within Jewish worship. Subsequently, Original Sin is not contained within the Jewish Talmud.

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Welcome to the site. When you get a chance, I'd recommend reading the help page and How we are different than other sites? Also, I hope you don't mind, but I removed the invitation to email you. That's generally frowned upon in an answer, but you could include it in your profile if you really wish to invite emails. –  David Stratton Jul 2 '13 at 3:16
Edited in the paragraph you cited, you might want to point out where St. Augustine actually said what you said he said in there though. Also, it's the Catechism, not the Canon (these are completely different things) The Catechism of the Catholic isn't made up to justify Sacred Tradition, it is an explanation of Tradition for the masses. Check out the footnotes of the Catechism link I put in there if you get a chance, it references. 1. the Council of Trent and 2. Col 1:12-14 to support itself. Also, do you mean Talmud or Jewish Scripture? –  Peter Turner Jul 2 '13 at 4:19

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