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Luke 18:15-17 (DRB) And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it.

I'm aware of course that this most likely means:

Not only must you allow them to partake in the Kingdom of God, but unless you become innocent and simple like these infants, you yourselves cannot enter the Kingdom.

Question

However, has Luke 18:17 ever been interpreted by the Fathers of the Church as a direct teaching of infant baptism (i.e. the impossibility of the inheritance of heaven for the unbaptized)?

That is, interpreted it as having the meaning:

Let the infants come to Me: the Kingdom of God is for them also [and they, too, are in need of it as sons of Adam]. Indeed, unless a child is born again in baptism, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God [i.e. a potential tragedy to be avoided by the above teaching].

Thanks in advance.

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Yes – in a letter to Augustine, Pope Innocent I interprets this passage as supporting the teaching that the baptism of infants is necessary for their salvation. He writes:

That other doctrine which your Fraternity claims that [Pelagius and other heretics] preach, that little children can attain the reward of eternal life without the grace of baptism, is very foolish. [...] Those who claim this for them without regeneration seem to me to wish to nullify baptism, since they teach that these children have what they believe is not to be bestowed on them in baptism even by themselves. If, then, they do not wish anything to stand in their way, let them confess that there is no need of rebirth and that the sacred stream of regeneration has no effect. But in order to disarm the vicious doctrine of vain men by the swift reasoning of truth, the Lord proclaims this in the Gospel by saying: "Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come to me." (Letter 182, January 27, 417)

  • Excellent! Thank you. A Pope no less :). I've marked yours as the answer. – Sola Gratia Feb 16 at 1:03

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