The Evangelical church at large today seems to often misrepresent and misunderstand Infant Baptism in a number of ways. This list should not be seen as comprehensive or extensive. It is really just a cursory look at some of the common misunderstandings. It should also not be seen as a diatribe against any particular position, though the views and biases of the author, a committed Presbyterian, will certainly be seen in how I interact with some of these myths.
1) It’s a Roman Catholic practice
Many evangelicals automatically associate infant baptism with the Roman Catholic church. Because of this it can seem strange when they encounter Protestant brothers and sisters who have what seems to be very similar theology as them who also baptize infants. This (like many of the other myths) stems from the fact that infant baptism is a practice that predates the institution of the Roman Catholic church. Reformed churches and Catholic churches share this practice because they both recognize it’s historicity, though they have very different theological rationales for it.
2) It washes away Original Sin
Those who associate infant baptism with Roman Catholicism might also mistakenly associate it with the Roman Catholic doctrine of Original Sin. In their minds, infant baptism may serve to remove original sin from the baby allowing the child to start with a proverbial moral blank slate. This is not the historic Reformed position on baptism. To the Reformed, baptism is not so much a literal washing away of sin, but a sign and a seal that points to the ultimate washing away of sin in Christ.
3) It is a heretical practice
People in evangelical circles like to throw the “H word” around a little bit too loosely and sometimes claim that infant baptism is heresy. However, there has never been any historic church council that has condemned it as such and it has no real logical or practical ties to any recorded heresy. If someone is going to call infant baptism heresy, the only real justification they could have for doing so is that they just really want to consider it as such.
4) It represents Baptismal Regeneration
Some also associate Infant Baptism with Baptismal Regeneration. They think that in Infant Baptism’s theological system, the baptizing of the infant makes the baby saved. This is simply not true. According to historical Reformed theology, baptism has never marked the actual salvation of the infant.
5) Credo-Baptism is the standard position
In the current state of affairs, it certainly does seem that baptist theology is the standard position of the church and that those who hold to Infant Baptism are the outliers. It should be noted, however, that throughout history this was not at all the case. From the earliest days of the church up until around the Reformation, baptist theology did not exist. Even after the Reformation, it did not come to prominence until it spread in North America. Historically speaking, the standard position of the Church regarding baptism was always Infant Baptism.
6) The Burden of Proof is on the Paedo-Baptist
With that being said it should also be noted that when talking about baptism the burden of proof should be on the credo-baptist to show why their position should be adopted in the face of such historic and pervasive opposition.
7) It is based only on tradition
One might then bring the argument that Infant Baptism is based solely in tradition and that historicity does not necessarily ensure that a doctrine is true. However throughout Church history, there have been many exegetical investigations into the Biblical precedent for Infant Baptism. The tradition of the doctrine in this instance is built upon Scripture.
8) There is no Biblical Precedent for it
Along with the previous myth is the myth that there is no actual Biblical precedent for Infant Baptism. This is quite false indeed. There may not be any proof-texts that outright say “baptize your babies” but the Church has historically recognized that infant baptism fits in with God’s dealing with whole nations, peoples, and families in redemptive history. It notices a continuity of the way in which God deals with his people from the Old Testament context to the current day in light of New Testament developments.
9) It has nothing to do with circumcision
Opponents of infant baptism might deny that there is any correlation between the Old Testament practice of Circumcision and the New Testament practice of baptism. This is where the continuity between Old and New Testament is most focused for the advocates of Infant Baptism. Paul Connects the two in Colossians 2:11-13. What needs to be recognized is that in the Reformed conception, both circumcision and baptism are signs and seals of the same thing. The signs are different but the thing signified is the same. The thing signified is Christ’s redemptive work. Peter says that baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clean conscience. It is appeal to something greater, an appeal to a greater washing. Circumcision likewise is an appeal to the redemption of Christ as well. As God revealed overtime, baptism became the clearer sign, a preliminary fulfillment of Circumcision.
10) Since we don’t see any infants being baptized in the Bible we shouldn’t baptize infants.
Just because we don’t see many explicit baptisms of babies in the New Testament doesn’t mean that that was not the practice of the New Testament church. In Acts 18:8 we see a whole household (which most likely contained children) being baptized. We see this again in 1 Corinthians 1:16 and again with the Phillipian jailer in Acts 16:30-34. We also see in Acts 2:38-39 that Peter even goes so far as to say “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Don’t miss that the promise is for you and for your Children. Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 10:2 that all who passed through the Red sea were baptized in the cloud and in the sea… including the children.