Colin Buchanan states that “proselytes present on the Day of Pentecost heard ... that the promise was to them and to their children, and that they were now to be baptised into the name of Christ” (Acts 2:38-39). He takes that to mean that the children were baptised along with their parents; but it may be that the word “children” should not be taken literally, but rather taken to mean “descendants” (as, for instance, in Psalm 89:30 “if his children forsake my law”, Psalm 132:12 “if your children will keep my covenant”, and also in Romans 9:8 which refers to “the children of the flesh”, i.e. Abraham’s descendants). And in fact it is stated in verse 41 that “they who gladly received the word of Peter were baptised”, the reference of course being to those to whom the word was addressed.
Bishop Buchanan says that “If children in believing homes are being taught to pray to God as ‘Father’ and to trust in the love of Jesus, they are in fact being treated as believers from the start”. But surely the parents are doing no more than preparing the way for their children to become believers later on; at present they are much too young to understand what is involved in believing in the Christian gospel.
He also states that “whether baptism is given to an infant or an adult, thereafter that baptised person has the same symbolism pertaining to him or her as a baptised person, irrespective of when the baptism was given”. But surely the important question is whether the events
symbolised, namely repentance, conversion, adoption and so on, have really occurred in the life of that person? Baptism could well be regarded as meaningless unless those events have already occurred.
Even supposing that the tradition of infant baptism commenced in New Testament times, it does not follow (as Clifford Owen points out on p177 of his book “Baptise every baby?”) that this tradition should be continued, because it may not have resulted from an enlightened view of baptism.
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