On Sunday, November 3rd, we will administer the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, particularly to the children of parents who desire this for their children. For many, the baptism of infants and children will constitute a significant departure from the Christian traditions from which they came. I thought that I would take this time to give a brief catechesis on the baptism of infants: why we Anglicans continue this practice.
In the 39 Articles, the baptism of young children is called “most agreeable with the institution of Christ.” What this means is that when the Lord Jesus Christ gave the gift of Baptism to His Church, He did not preclude the baptism of infants. But, I would take that a step further, that there is not one baptism for adults and another for children, but one baptism, with the same inward grace.
In our catechism, we state the following:
Q. 108: Why is it appropriate to baptize infants?
Because it is a sign of God’s promise that they are embraced in the covenant community of Christ’s Church. Those who in faith and repentance present infants to be baptized vow to raise them in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, with the expectation that they will one day profess full Christian faith as their own. (Acts 2:39)
What, if anything, differentiates the baptism of infants and children from the baptism of adults is that the parents and godparents who present these children make vows to raise these children as Christians, instructing them in the Faith and leading them in a life of prayer and virtue. But, what happens in that baptism is the same: "a death to sin and a new birth to righteousness through union with Christ in his death and resurrection.” (Q. 106, To Be a Christian) Anglicans believe that baptism is not merely a mark of profession, but that baptism is regenerative, initiating the new life of grace by putting the old man to death. We believe this because it is, put simply, the teaching of Holy Scripture.
Paul teaches that all who are baptized are baptized into the death of Jesus, so that just as Jesus was raised from the dead, we might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4) But, let’s be clear: this new life is not distinct from the life of faith. The New Testament is clear: part-and-parcel with baptism is an appeal to God in faith to grant us His grace, to sanctify us for a heavenly life, and to bring us into the life of the Triune God. Parents, by presenting their children for Holy Baptism, make an appeal to God in faith to give to their children the very gifts that God has given to them.
Speaking for myself, I have baptized my children out of a desire for them to be raised as Christians, full of the Holy Spirit, receiving the Eucharist, and living out a joyful faith in the Lord Jesus. I must be reminded that all of this is a gift of God. It is my job to make sure that my children are in church on Sundays, that I pray with them, that we eat together, and that I encourage and coach them as they discern their vocation, especially with regard to marriage. By baptizing my children, Ela and I have placed our kids in the grace and loving providence of Jesus, praying that they will be formed to be saints!