Monday, December 28, 2009

Argument for Infant Baptism

This is going to be my first contribution to the blog so hopefully I can present something of substance in the area of theology. This is my first so hopefully you all will not be too harsh. This argument is being primarily taken from Ursinus' commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, in his exposition on Question 74 "Are Infants also to be baptized?" From his work I hope to add support and present it as strong and clear argument in favor for paedobaptism that does not rely on covenant theology (though I do personally hold to it).

In the exposition Ursinus states:

"Those who are not yet disciples of Christ, not being of the number of those who are called, and not believing the doctrine of the gospel, nor obeying the ministry, are not to receive baptism... And the reason why they ought neither to receive, nor desire baptism, is, because Christ says, first, teach or make all nations my disciples, and then baptize them"(Ursinus, p. 366)

He then, soon after, states in regard to infants: "They are, therefore, also disciples of Christ, because they are born in the church, or school of Christ; and hence the Holy Spirit teaches them in a manner adapted to their capacity and age"(ibid, p. 366) The arguments appears to go as:

1. All disciples are to be baptized
2. Infants/children are disciples
3. Infants are to be baptized

The proof of these premises can be proven as follows. In regard to the first premise it is clearly presented within the Great Commission: "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"(Matthew 28:18-19). I am guessing this will not cause any major dispute. Premise two seems to be the only major point of contention in the syllogism given that it appears to be valid.

The strongest evidence for the second premise seems to come from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 where the qualifications for Overseers and Deacons are given. Paul gives the qualification that:

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?( 1 Timothy 3:4-5)

Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. (1 Timothy 3:12)

if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. (Titus 1:6)

Verses such as these appear sufficient to show that children are within that category of disciple in that their parents are to guide them in the way of submission not only to themselves but also to the word of God. Those who were within this position of authority are to be examples to the world and their congregations of the godliness. Are we not to also treat our children as learners of pupils(other possible translations of μαθητής)? One who gives an objection to such a thing will be hard pressed to give distinctions between what a believer is to teach a child and an adult new convert. This would need to be a sharp distinction so as to justify the placing of the two in two separate categories of disciple and simply child of believer.

Also let us not forget how the Lord Himself interacted with Children and infants. In response to the disciples preventing infants from being brought to Him, Christ replies "
Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God"(Luke 18:15). Also Jesus receives praise from Children in Matthew 21. The Chief Priests and scribes were against what they were say but Jesus responds "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise"(Matthew 21:16)? Thus showing that children hold a place within the kingdom of God and God is even able to receive praise from them as infants.

Finally Paul places of children within covenant which he does, not on the basis of their profession of faith but merely that of a believing parent. As he states "
or the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy"(1 Corinthians 7:14). Given such things as: holiness, receiving biblical guidance, kingdom membership, and the ability to give God acceptable praise it seems we cannot deny the status of disciple from the children of believers. It follows from this that we must baptize them in order to be fully obedient to the Great Commission.


Ursinus, Zacharias. The Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism .2nd American Edition. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company , 1852. 366. Print.


  1. This seems like a strong argument, but couldn't a credo-baptist just say that some benefits of discipleship are restricted based on age? Couldn't they say baptism is kinda like eldership--restricted to adults, becaues it requires faith, which implies a degree of responsibility and intelligence impossible for a child?

    On the other hand, might one use the verse in Hebrews that says it is impossible to please God without faith? One can use the verse that says God has prepared praise to come from the mouths of infants, and argue that this implies infants can do things that are pleasing to God, which seems like it would mean they can have faith. I can see problems with this, but tell me what you think.

  2. Hello MG,

    With respect to your first paragraph: I do not think this is a live option for the credo because of two very good reasons. The first is that children are called holy in 1 Corinthians 7:14 and every baptist interpreter takes this to mean some sort of holy influence and in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus we see that children are to be submitted to faith. Clearly infants in the category of children and the to disciple simply means to to be taught under a instructor. This seems true of infants who are raised in the faith and hence they should be baptized. The second reason is that Judas was a disciple and our Lord knew that he was not a believer, so clearly it does not necessarily follow that a precondition for discipleship is belief. So I do not think there is any biblical way that baptist can limit discipleship to believers.

    With respect to your second paragraph: I agree. That is a pretty strong argument.

    Happy New Year and God Bless,


  3. I realize this is an old post, but Jonathan Edwards does a good job of showing the problem with your argument in his response to the Halfway Covenant:

  4. Hello Brandon,

    It is rather unclear to me what premise Edwards denies in this argument. Could you perhaps explain what premise it is and why he rejects it?

    Thank you!


  5. Sorry for being unclear. Edwards rejects P2 - that all who receive instruction are therefore disciples.

  6. Hello Brandon,

    Thank you for clearing up which premise Edwards denies. But it is still rather unclear to me why Edwards denies premise 2. Could you help me out and explain it clearly in your own words as to why he denies premise 2?

    Thank you for your time.