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For those denominations who practice Infant Baptism, does baptizing the baby have anything to do with the destination of the infant’s soul?

Which denomination believes that Infant Baptism is a mean of securing the afterlife of the baby? Do they believe that they are actually sending the infants to heaven by baptizing them? And if the child dies before knowing good and evil, does the baptized infant go to heaven?

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3 Answers 3

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No, in Protestant understanding infant baptism does not in itself affect an infants' soul.

The same goes for adult baptism actually. The rite of baptism itself is not seen as having any direct effect on the eternal status of the soul. It's primarily a visible acknowledgement that God has made a promise and a reminder of how Christs atonement works.

In the case of infant baptism, it is typically only done when at least one, preferably both parents (and indeed the rest of the visible church) are committed to raising the child in knowledge of and obedience to God's commandments, including teaching them to trust in Christ for their salvation.

Whether an infant who dies before being able to confess (or reject) faith in Christ has been baptized or not is not a determining factor in their eternal security. We can only trust in Christ for that.

Catholic and Orthodox understandings of baptism are somewhat different.

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I'll address the two main questions from a Roman Catholic perspective:

Question 1: Does baptizing the baby have anything to do with the destination of the infant’s soul?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:

  1. Baptism is normally a prerequisite for entering heaven, BUT
  2. There are other forms of baptism besides water baptism, AND
  3. At least one of those (the baptism of blood) is available to infants -- in fact the Church has a feast day for the infant martyrs of Bethlehem killed by Herod (Matthew 2:16); THEREFORE
  4. Water baptism is not absolutely necessary for heaven, and MOREOVER
  5. It's within the bounds of Catholic orthodoxy to hope for the beatitude of infants who die without water baptism (cf. CCC 1261)

All that being said, #1 is the most important point on a practical level. Catholic parents are encouraged to have their babies baptized as soon after birth as reasonably possible. For a healthy baby this means a baptism with full ceremony in a church, but Pope Pius XII exhorted midwives to be ready to baptize infants immediately in the context of a birth-related medical emergency, because:

The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude (CCC 1257, emphasis mine).



Question 2: If the child dies before knowing good and evil, does the baptized infant go to heaven?

Yes! In fact in the traditional Roman liturgy the vestment color for the funeral of a baptized infant is white, which is normally worn on the feast day of a saint. And it's not uncommon for Catholic parents whose young baptized children have died to venerate those children as they would venerate any other saint.

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This answer is not meant to replace the other well stated answers, but is meant to supplement/support them by addressing the following question:

Which denomination(s) believes that infant baptism is a mean of securing the afterlife of the baby?

Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Nazarenes, the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the Reformed churches all practice infant baptism.

The Catholic Church, as well as the Orthodox churches teach and believe that baptism is sacramentally regenerative. This means that baptism is not only an outward sign, but is also an inward rebirth or regeneration.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states explicitly:

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word." (CCC 1213)

The Catechism continues to explain the sacrament of Baptism within the context of infant regeneration:

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. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth. (CCC 1250)

The Church also emphasizes that "baptism is a required sacrament of faith."

The writings of the early Church Fathers clearly indicate that the sacrament of baptism has been thought of as necessary for the salvation of infants since the Ante-Nicene period of the Church.

"And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family." Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition, 21 (c. A.D. 215).

"Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous." Origen, Homily on Leviticus, 8:3 (post A.D. 244).

"But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day...And therefore, dearest brother, this was our opinion in council, that by us no one ought to be hindered from baptism...we think is to be even more observed in respect of infants and newly-born persons…" Cyprian, To Fidus, Epistle 58(64):2, 6 (A.D. 251)

See INFANT BAPTISM

During the Reformation period of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the early reformers adopted the doctrine of sola fide (by faith alone). This doctrine teaches that the only way a person can obtain salvation is by an inward assent of faith in the saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ and the imputation of his righteousness. Sola fide consequently and necessarily rejects baptismal necessity, therefore reducing the act of baptism to an outward symbolic acknowledgment of salvation.

Reformed theology teaches that since infants lack the capacity to place faith in Christ, there can be no inward assent to faith in Christ, rendering the salvific element absent from baptism. It also intended to celebrate the covenantal relationship between the infant and God.

In summary - The Catholic/Orthodox churches have taught since the apostolic era that baptism sacramentally "saves" the infant, whereas most Protestant denominations have taught since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that baptism is a sign and seal of God's covenant to that child.

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Also your use of Origen quotes is a bit dubious. Whether you are right or wrong on the overall issue, the specific quotes you used are specifically about a different point and do not support the issue you quoted them as proof for. –  Caleb Aug 20 '13 at 20:49
    
@Caleb See my edit concerning public dedication vs. covenantal acknowledgment –  Charles Alsobrook Aug 20 '13 at 21:01
    
Much better, thanks, and I removed my comment about that. I also edited out one more line you kind of missed. (Protestants that do baptize infants typically don't believe in anything like "age of accountability", that terminology is used by believers's baptism only Protestants or Catholics. On the other hand they do tend use use Cateshisms more, but baptism isn't specifically a commitment to do that, that's just a given anyway.) –  Caleb Aug 20 '13 at 21:06
    
@Caleb Thank you, and I also removed the Church Father quotes that were rather vague . –  Charles Alsobrook Aug 20 '13 at 21:11

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