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What traditions espouse infant baptism and why?

In those traditions, why do parents often baptize their children at very young age, and why is this better than giving their children the opportunity to choose for themselves?

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3 Answers 3

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At least the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches do. A fairly comprehensive list is available on the wikipedia article.

As to the why, at least from the Presbyterian perspective, children of saints are viewed as being born into a covenantal relationship in similar vein to the males of ancient Israel being required to be circumcised.

Fuller paedobaptist theology is also covered on the wikipedia page.

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The Wikipedia article on the subject is very thorough.

Most Christians practise infant baptism. Denominations that practise infant baptism include the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, the Anglican churches, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Church of the Nazarene, the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the Continental Reformed.

Some of the reasons for doing it include:

  1. Baptism of infants is extremely old, going back to at least the 1st Century and possibly New Testament times;
  2. Baptism is not merely symbolic, but actually a means of conveying the grace of God to the infant;
  3. Baptism is analogous to circumcision, which God mandated to be done to infants
  4. From the Book of Acts: "Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39, NIV)"
  5. Children are no less members of the church than adults, and should be welcomed into full membership.

Again, Wikipedia is helpful here.

It should be noted that many traditions that practice infant baptism have a secondary initiation, such as Confirmation, in which the person does get to "choose for themselves".

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While I agree that Catholics and Orthodox always get to choose for themselves, it should be noted that thinking of the Sacrament of Confirmation as a secondary initiation isn't practiced in the eastern Churches. Confirmation is conferred at the same time as baptism. As a Religious Ed. teacher, I'd rather not have the kids see Confirmation as an 'end of catechises' as they often do. –  Peter Turner Sep 20 '11 at 14:19
    
I stand corrected. So Confirmation is practiced on infants in the Orthodox churches? –  DJClayworth Sep 27 '11 at 16:36
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Yeah, they call it 'Chrismation' though. It's recognized as Confirmation in the Catholic Church (as in, you don't need to get re-confirmed if you hop aboard) –  Peter Turner Sep 27 '11 at 16:42

In the Methodist tradition, baptism of infants is a holy sacrament, welcoming the child into the church family and into God's grace.

It also involves a covenant by the parents and the congregation to teach and guide the child, to raise the child within a faith community, and to help lead the child to make a faith profession and become a disciple of Christ.

They don't "choose for themselves" because our sinful human nature does not give us the ability to make such a choice. We can only make that choice through the grace of God. The baptismal covenant is one way God imparts that grace to us.

The practice of baptizing one's children goes back to New Testament times (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33). And baptism is analogous to circumcision (Colossians 2:11-13), which was practiced on infants as far back as Abraham's son Isaac.

If someone is older, and has not been baptized, and wishes to join the church, they can be baptized at that time. In fact, they must be baptized before making a profession of faith in front of the church, again to indicate that it is God's grace and not our own righteousness that enables us to make that profession.

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