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Holman Bible Dictionary

Infant Baptism

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Christening a baby by the church. Christian groups take varying stances on the practice and meaning of infant baptism. Those who emphasize a conscious faith response in the salvation process limit baptism to believers. Those who interpret baptism as the sign of God's new covenant reserve the rite for the children of believers (compare 1 Corinthians 7:14 ). Those viewing baptism as a means by which God's grace becomes effective for salvation welcome all children.

Those favoring infant baptism raise the following arguments: (1) household baptisms likely included some infants (Acts 16:5 ,Acts 16:5,16:33 ; Acts 18:8 ; 1 Corinthians 1:16 ); (2) Jesus' welcome and blessing of children is a mandate to baptize infants (Mark 10:13-16 ); “hinder” is a technical term associated with baptism (Acts 8:36 ); (3) circumcision which prefigured baptism (Colossians 2:11 ) included children (Genesis 17:12 ); (4) in the Old Testament children participated in ceremonies of covenant renewal (Deuteronomy 29:10-13 ; Joshua 8:35 ; Joel 2:16 ).

Baptists and other adherents of believer's baptism raise the following arguments and counter-arguments: (1) The New Testament prerequisite of baptism is faith (Acts 18:8 ) which is evidenced by confession (Romans 10:9-10 ) and repentance (Acts 2:38 ); (2) infant baptism rests ultimately on the fear that infants are held accountable for organic sin; Baptists counter with a doctrine of an age of accountability at which conscious sin occurs (Genesis 8:21 ; Psalm 25:7 ; Jeremiah 3:25 ) and at which a conscious response to God is possible (1 Kings 18:12 ; Psalm 71:5 ,Psalms 71:5,71:17 ); (3) household baptisms need not have included children; baptism is prefigured in the salvation of Noah and his exclusively adult household in the ark (1 Peter 3:20-21 ); (4) Jesus' blessing of the children demonstrates Christ's love for children; children are presented as an example to disciples rather than as disciples themselves (Matthew 18:2-4 ); (5) circumcision is an imperfect analogy to baptism; only males participated in circumcision, whereas in baptism there is “neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28 ); the witness of the New Testament is that “what is born of the flesh is flesh” and that a spiritual birth is necessary to enter God's kingdom (John 3:5-6 ); it is not the Israel of the flesh that inherits the promises of God but those who are spiritual Israel by a faith commitment (Romans 6-8 ; Galatians 6:16 ); (6) the responsibility of the faith community to its children is instruction in the way of the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:9-10 ; Deuteronomy 11:19 ; Proverbs 22:6 ); participation in covenant renewal is educational for children. See Accountability, Age of , Baptism .

Chris Church

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Infant Baptism'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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Infant Salvation
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