On Infant Baptism

The following was written by John Henderson in response to a fellow Christian’s stance on infant baptism:

Dear Brother,

Since our discussion on infant baptism was in a public setting, I feel at liberty to share this response through my emails and online posts.  It is a matter of the topic itself, not about you or me, and that is why I am protecting your anonymity as well as I can.

Infant baptism has haunted Christendom for as early as 180 A.D.  That was about the time that the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” as predicted in the New Testament began to throw off their cover and promote unscriptural heresies openly and enthusiastically—just as it is happening today.  There has always been God’s remnant in spite of the massive bureaucracies that have pretentiously asserted themselves as the true church.  The gospel was always carried through all of the deception that was going on by those who were committed to the truth of Jesus Christ at any cost, just as it is happening today.  God’s people may be accused of thinking they are the sole possessors of truth but it is actually that they are possessed by the Truth.

No theologian is above scrutiny but the Bible is far above human or demon scrutiny.  It is obligatory upon all students of the Word of God to measure everything that is said in the light of what the Scriptures say.  We should all be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11.

As to infant baptism itself, I must say it is not taught or even debated in the Scriptures, nor was it debated or practiced in the Early Church.  It appears nowhere in the New Testament.  Its practice did not appear until the second century after the Apostles were all gone.

You mentioned that the Church of the Nazarene practices infant baptism.  Unfortunately to the denomination’s discredit, that is true—at least, to some degree.  Some Nazarene writers have claimed that has always been the case among Nazarenes.  You also expressed a commitment to the church Manual.  I should say that, for me, the Manual is just that—a manual.  My allegiance to the statements in the Manual is limited first by an unwavering allegiance to the Scriptures as ultimate, final authority; and then to good sense.  The Manual has been edited and re-edited every four years by the will and vote of man, not something declared by God.  The Scriptures are completely and inerrantly inspired by God.

The origin of infant baptism might be implied from the practice of the Hebrews in initiating Gentiles into Judaism.  It was equated at the time with circumcision, and underage children could be included.  All males were circumcised and the father spoke for the underage children who were also baptized, male and female.  It became a ritual associated with proselyte initiation.  Jews were not baptized in this way.

Some will claim that the household conversions and subsequent baptisms recorded in the New Testament included unreasoning infants, but that is mere unfounded speculation.  Those recorded conversions were clearly connected with responses to the message of Christ and the only logical implication is that the same was true of the household.  If unreasoning babies had been included as participants, it must be concluded that the Scriptures would have said so.  It must be also understood that, biblically, baptism always follows conversion and is never a part of the salvation process as many erroneously teach even today. To teach that baptism, whether of infants or adults, is a means of regeneration is to teach heresy. Infant baptism is historically and traditionally thought of as having to do with the child’s salvation and the Scriptures do not teach that.  A Roman Catholic writer says:  “The sacrament of baptism is administered to infants or adults by pouring of water and the pronouncement of the proper words, and cleanses from original sin.” This often relates to the unofficial Catholic doctrine of Limbo.[1]  The incorporation of this idea into the mind has the potential for deluding a person baptized in infancy who may never actually come to Christ in repentance and faith because he or she depends on the baptism as a means of salvation.

The Nazarene Manual doesn’t go that far but defines infant baptism in such ambiguous and soft terms that other words would serve their meaning better.  By using the term baptism, it still shows an intentional connection to Catholicism in my mind and I take the position that if I want to be Catholic, I know where to go to make application.  It makes no sense to become like them when one can just become one of them, unless you happen to believe they are the sole arbiters of truth for us all.

Since I must reject the idea of infant baptism as biblically valid, I am very content to talk of dedication—a commitment to raise a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and let that child accept Christ as personal Savior and be baptized as a Christian when he or she reaches an age of reasoning and accountability.  There is no need to leave the commandment of God to follow the traditions of men by baptizing infants.

The concept of baptismal regeneration has been a wound on the church at least since AD 370.  One writer says this came about as the result of the idea of adult baptism and infant baptism as being regenerational in nature and that it has caused more bloodshed from both Catholics and Protestants over time than any other conflict. Both Catholic and Protestant bureaucrats have enforced this evil doctrine at the point of military sword rather than relying on the Sword of the Spirit.

The teaching of Jesus according to the unerring Bible is to allow children to come to Him, and forbid them not.  A child capable of reason and choice will easily go to Him, but it must be that the child makes that choice.  We cannot make such decisions for children of any age.

The underlying problem behind all of this in our day is the tragic and rapid development of what is called the emergent church movement among evangelicals.  The movement has many expressions and far too many Christians are simply not aware of what is happening right under their very noses.  The emergent church movement has infected and crippled evangelical denominations in many areas to the point that I question if those denominations will survive as an effective witness of the gospel very much longer.  Their only hope of survival is to return to their first love.

These kinds of false doctrines are part and parcel to that movement.  Most, if not essentially all, of them are deeply embedded in postmodern/New Age and ancient mysticism right out of the medieval church heresies.  Most tragically, many of God’s redeemed today have not learned to discern between truth and error because they have not been adequately taught and do not have the will to search the Scriptures themselves.


John Henderson


[1] Limbo refers to states of oblivion, confinement, or transition that is derived from the theological sense of Limbo (the edge of Hell) as a place where souls remain that cannot enter heaven, for example, unbaptized infants or unbaptized adults who otherwise led a good life.