Baptism is for everyone

To the editor:

In Paul Stead’s column of June 15, “Water baptism because of salvation, not for salvation,” he delivered a vitriolic condemnation of infant baptism. The writer claimed there is no justification in Scripture for performing this sacrament on the newly born. One must ask the gentleman, where in Scripture is this procedure prohibited? What we have is merely a statement of sectarian tradition instead of Scriptural doctrine. The axiom that what is not prohibited is allowed appears to be appropriate here.

In Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15-16, one sees the command “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit.” It does not add “except for infants.” In Acts 2:38, one sees “Peter said ‘repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins,'” again, with no exceptions listed. In Acts 10:48, Peter baptized the whole of Cornelius’ family, and in Acts 10:31-33, Paul baptized the whole family of his jailer.

The entire gamut of the early church fathers (those who collated the Bible) preached infant baptism from the beginning to the time of Gregory Nazienzus, including Augustine and Cyprian. The doctrine was carried on by the major reformers of the 15th and 16th centuries. From Ireaneaus we read that baptism is for “All I say, who through him are born again to God, infants, children, boys, youth and old men.” Most of these early clergymen recognized baptism as the new circumcision and recommended that it be performed at the same schedule as the Jews performed circumcision, namely on the eighth day of life.

The whole subject of baptism in Scripture is treated not as a ceremony, but as a sacrament of initiation into the Christian community. One can read Christ’s pronouncement in Mark 10:14, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” as approval of the performance of this sacrament to everyone, no exclusions.

The unsubstantiated statement that “infant baptism condemns one to hell” is completely unfounded in any legitimate theology and refuted by those early church fathers who collated the Bible, which recognizes only one judge and allows even for deathbed conversions. My faith tells me that the writer of the column is not that judge.

Ed Bednar