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"Let the Children Come to Me"
A Defense of Infant Baptism

 Mario Derksen  

Protestants disagree vehemently on the nature and effects of baptism, and thus their views on whether an infant should be baptized differ by the same degree. This fact suggests that the Scriptures, taken by themselves without any other binding authority or testimony, are inconclusive on the matter. Therefore, I always get a little surprised when I hear or read a Protestant argue that the Catholic cannot make a case for infant baptism from the Scriptures alone. So what? -- we Catholics don't go by Sola Scriptura (Latin for "Scripture Alone") anyway, and as long as the Bible does not disprove infant baptism, we don't have a problem with it! This does not mean, of course, that a tight case cannot be made for infant baptism by the Scriptures alone (as I will demonstrate momentarily), but it does mean that if we're looking for certainty that goes beyond a reasonable doubt, the Scriptures alone will not suffice (and Protestantism has demonstrated this wonderfully in its 500-year history).

Recently, David H. Lasseter, a member of the so-called "Church of Christ," sent me his article arguing against infant baptism, and this is essentially the reason I am writing this piece. He starts off as follows:

Should an infant be baptized? I'll approach the answer to this question by asking two fundamental questions, then looking for the answers to these. Fundamental question #1: Is an infant in sin? Fundamental question #2: Can an infant fulfill the requirements for baptism as outlined in the New Testament? If the answer to both is yes, then an infant must be baptized. If the answer to either is no, then an infant cannot be baptized according to the pattern outlined in the NT.

Unfortunately, I have to object to his very opening paragraph already. These are not quite the fundamental questions. I think they are instead:

  • Does Baptism regenerate the soul and make it capable of enjoying the Bliss of Heaven, washing away original sin?

  • Is Baptism necessary to enter Heaven?

If the answer to those is yes, then it follows that infants ought to be baptized. If the answer is no, it would make no sense to baptize infants. Therefore, the entire issue of infant baptism once again leads back to the nature of baptism. So a discussion about infant baptism is actually nothing but a discussion about the nature and essence of baptism in general. With this in mind, I would like to consider and respond to Mr. Lasseter's challenge:

Let me, to be fair, first answer Mr. Lasseter's two fundamental questions. First, is an infant in sin? Yes and no. Here we must distinguish between original sin and actual sin. The infant has not committed any actual sins, but he is infected by this inherited disease from Adam called original sin. Original sin is the loss of sanctifying grace and the lack of supernatural life in the soul of anyone born after the Fall (except, of course, Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother). That is, instead of looking at original sin as a type of positive defilement, it might help to look at it as something essential that's missing, the lack of a good that should be there. It is a negative defect. With the Fall and original sin, man inherited the tendency to sin ("concupiscence") as well as all sorts of physical pain and suffering, culminating ultimately in death. This horrible state of the soul after conception (due to Adam's first sin) is the reason our Lord insisted that, in order to be fit for Heaven, into which nothing undefiled shall enter (cf. Revelation 21:27), we must be born again: "Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God'" (John 3:3). Just what is this rebirth, though? Christ states: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:5-6). In other words, some kind of "water-birth" confers the holy ghost to effect regeneration of the soul, so the soul can enter Heaven. This is clearly confirmed by the holy prophet Ezekiel:

For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24-28)

Wow! Could this be any clearer? The Lord God promises a rebirth involving water that would cleanse us from all our iniquities through the sanctification of our soul by the holy ghost! Why is it, some wonder, that the Lord would use corporal means to convey his grace? Can he not do it without all the material stuff, that is, could he not rebirth us without water, just with the Spirit? He sure could! But he chose not to, as Divine Revelation shows. Why? Because we are creatures composed of body and soul. We are not just angelic spirits. Matter is not evil. We are both material and spiritual. Look at the Incarnation. Christ could have redeemed the world in a different way. Yet, to make clear once and for all that matter is not evil in and of itself (though it can certainly be used for evil -- but then again, so can spirit), he decided to become like us in all things but sin -- and so he became man, a bodily being. 

Now here are some biblical examples of how God can put matter to use for the conveying of his grace: 

And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent round to all that region and brought to him all that were sick, and besought him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well. (Matthew 14:35-36)

And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. (Acts 19:11-12)

And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:14-16)

Isn't that amazing? God conveys his grace, but not merely by means of an invisible "blob" or emotional outburst, but through ordinary material things (Catholics call those, roughly, "sacramentals"). Another very telling passage that makes the same point is John 9:6-7:

As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the manís eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Again, Jesus could simply have snapped His finger, and everything would have been fine. Yet, He chose to deign to use His own created matter -- clay, in this case -- to heal.

Now, what's the point of all this? Weren't we talking about baptism? Yes, sure. I merely felt obliged to point out those examples so people can accept that the regeneration of the soul occurs in baptism, which is conferred using water. Many Protestants do not believe this to be the case. But biblically, this Catholic view of the conveyance of sanctifying grace through water baptism is quite defensible, as we have seen. In fact, our Lord himself emphasizes again the utter necessity of baptism: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). 

Let me now answer Mr. Lasseter's second fundamental question: "Can an infant fulfill the requirements for baptism as outlined in the New Testament?" It's a very good question, but I will have to say that the New Testament does not unequivocally answer it. There are no requirements outlined for baptism that would apply to infants. Since the Bible mostly talks about the baptism of adults, and no "general requirements" are given for baptism, it follows that we cannot answer Mr. Lasseter's second question with certitude. I cannot expect an infant to follow the same guidelines or requirements as an adult if these requirements specifically pertain only to an adult. But do they? We don't know; the Bible doesn't say. The Bible does mention, however, an example that pretty much helps the Catholic position. St. Paul writes: "We gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Strictly seen, this would mean we'd have to starve infants, for they don't work. But is this what Paul meant? Of course not. This requirement doesn't apply to those to whom it is a priori inapplicable. And I argue the same for baptism. Infants cannot be expected to meet a certain criterion (such as personal conversion) which they are, by their very nature, unable to meet. 

And now, of course, the big question becomes: should we baptize them anyway? Since, as demonstrated above, baptism effects an inner ontological change in the soul of the recipient, without which we are unable to enter Heaven, guaranteed by the very Words of Christ, the answer is an overwhelming YES (or should I say, "Heck yeah!"). Besides, nowhere in the Bible does it say that belief in Christ must precede baptism for the sacrament to be valid. Obviously, for adults, it makes no sense to baptize someone who does not believe anyway, since his unbelief hinders the effect of the sacrament (more on that later).

What, however, does Mr. Lasseter propose? He points to Ezekiel 18:14,17: "If this man [any sinful man] begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and fears, and does not do likewise . . .; he shall not die for his fatherís iniquity; he shall surely live." According to Lasseter, this shows that a child who does not commit sin (infants included, obviously) does not inherit original sin from his father (and, consequently, would not need to be baptized). But this is a severely woeful twist on the biblical words. Ezekiel is not talking about original sin; he is talking about actual sins a person commits. Ezekiel says that if a son is not guilty of adultery, for instance, whereas the father is, then the son shall not be held accountable for his father's sin. Ezekiel doesn't specify an age for the son -- the son could be 12, 38, or 53, for instance. The point is that the context talks about actual sins, not original sin, and so the prophecy has nothing to do with infants and their state of original sin. How do we know this prophecy is not talking about infants and inherited, original sin? Because in verse 14, we read: "But if this man begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and fears, and does not do likewise...," and then the next few verses list all kinds of actual sins, such as idolatry, adultery, robbery, usury, etc. Therefore, this proves that the context is actual sins. Note that it says in verse 14 "who sees all the sins which has father has done" -- this can hardly refer to an infant. It must refer to a person that has reached the age of reason. Thus, infants are inheritors of original sin, and Mr. Lasseter's first argument falls to the ground.

Next, flirting with the Pelegian heresy, Mr. Lasseter states quite bluntly: "One is not born with sin, one commits sin of his own free will and suffers the consequences of his own sin should they go unforgiven." We all know what the Church says about this Pelegianism, but since Mr. Lasseter does not accept the authority of the Church, we will have to resort to an authority he does accept, namely the Bible, and prove him wrong from there. What does the Bible say about original sin that is inherited by any descendant of Adam? Let's see: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5); "Who can make him clean that is conceived unclean?" (Job 14:4, transl. from Latin Vulgate: Quis potest facere mundum de inmundo conceptum semine?"); "From the woman came the beginning of sin, and by her we all die" (Sirach 25:33, Douay); "But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it" (Wisdom 2:24). Now, these verses should suffice to demonstrate the concept of original sin is in the Bible. But the clearest verse is found in the New Testament (note especially the italicized phrases):

Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinnedósin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one manís trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one manís sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one manís trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Then as one manís trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one manís act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one manís disobedience many were made sinners, so by one manís obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)

In fact, if it is true, as Mr. Lasseter asserts, that there is no such thing as original sin, then how come we all (without exception!) experience death? Where does death come from? As St. Augustine said, "All have sinned in Adam, therefore all die." Now, one might wonder why towards the end of the quoted passage, we read that "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners," and not all. The key here is to properly understand biblical language. Dr. Ludwig Ott says: "The words: 'Many (oiJ polloiv) were made sinners' (V. 19a) do not limit the universality of original sin, since the expression 'many' (in opposition to the one Adam, or Christ) is parallel to 'all' (pavnte") in V. 12 d and 18 a" (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 109). After all, "all" certainly are many! By using "many," the biblical writer (in this case, St. Paul) is better able to contrast it with "one man" (Adam & Christ, respectively).

All of this having been established, Mr. Lasseter asks the following rhetorical question concerning infants and their baptism: "[1]Can they believe as they must? (Mark 16:16) [2]Can they repent of sin they don't know they have? (Acts 2:38) [3]Can they confess Jesus as the son of God before men if they are unable to speak the language? (Romans 10:10)"

The problem is that none of the cited passages make faith or confession of faith a general requirement for the validity of baptism (the requirement of faith exists only for adults). In answer to the questions: (1) They don't have to believe in order for infant baptism to be valid; the passage says no such thing (rather, the passage talks about believers, not about infants); (2) Baptism concerns original sin only, not actual sin in the case of infants, so the passage does not apply; (3) again, no mention of baptism, much less infant baptism, is made in Romans 10:10.

Now, some people might, at this point, be really surprised. If faith isn't necessary for baptism to be valid, that means faith cannot be the efficient cause of initial justification (i.e., the first time ever we're justified). And that's true. But if it's not faith -- what is it? Quite simply, sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is the cause of our justification, whether it be intitial justification or justification later after we have fallen from grace. And the first time our soul can receive sanctifying grace is through the sacrament of Baptism.

Faith, though it is necessary for a worthy and fruitful reception of Baptism in the case of people above the age of reason, is not necessary for validity. This means that though someone, God forbid, should desire and receive the Sacrament of Baptism without believing, he need not and may not be baptized again, though the effects and fruits of baptism (i.e., cleansing from original and actual sin, etc.) will not be realized until he believes (and removes any other mortal sin that keeps him from receiving baptism fruitfully). Such an unworthy reception of baptism would imprint the indelible character and mark of baptism on the recipient's soul, but it would not forgive his sins until he believes and repents. (For more details, see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part III, Q. 69, Art. 9 &10.)

As for the baptism of children, as we have said, faith need not be present: "According to Catholic teaching, faith, as it is not the effective cause of justification, but merely an act of disposition, need not be present. The faith which the infants lack is, according to the teachings of St. Augustine . . ., replaced by the faith of the Church" (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 359).

Thankfully, there are several Bible passages that very probably imply the baptism of infants. Among them are 1 Corinthians 1:16 and Acts 16:15,33. Now, Lasseter very rightly observes: 

The Catholic doctrine lists 'examples' of infant baptism [in the Bible]. But are they really examples? They mention the conversion of Lydia and her household, the Philippian jailer and his house, and the house of Stephanas. [...] However, after all three examples are mentioned the language used is that the "probability is that in these households there were at least some children." "Probability" is much less certain than "obviously." It's quite a leap to base a doctrinal position on something as important as baptism on something so open to doubt. Since no children were specifically mentioned in the scriptures do we know children were present? How old was Lydia, the jailer, or Stephanas for example. Do we know their children weren't grown and of an age to submit to baptism, if they even had children? Are these insignificant points? Certainly not!

That's a very good point, but the Catholic position has always been that the: 

validity of child-Baptism cannot be proved with absolute certainty from Holy Writ, but it can be indicated with a high degree of probability. When St. Paul . . . and the Acts of the Apostles . . . repeatedly speak of the Baptism of a whole "household," then any children present in the family are included, all the more so because circumcision, which was replaced by Christian Baptism (Col 2, 11: "circumcision of Christ"), and the late Jewish Baptism of proselytes were performed on children. 

(Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 360; emphasis added)

That is, the Scriptures give us no clear indication on the matter. In other words, the issue of infant baptism did not come up, so it must have been taken for granted. But which was taken for granted? That they should be baptized or that they shouldn't be? Well, since the Jews always had their children included in the Covenant (through circumcision, as early as the 8th day after birth!!), and since we read of whole "households," it seems extremely likely that infants were baptized. When we read in Acts 2:38: "And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'," St. Peter doesn't add, "Except the children." But, if infants should not be baptized, we would have to expect that, since children were always included in the Jewish covenants, and so St. Peter would have had to say something to the effect of, "Whoa! Back off, guys......Only the adults.....children below the age of reason have no part of God's Covenant." The people would have been outraged! Yet we read about none of this.

Concerning the household verses, Lasseter is right to point out that a "household" does not necessarily include children below the age of reason, which is the reason Catholics maintain that the Scriptures alone do not give us absolute certitude concerning the baptism of infants. However, if Mr. Lasseter's position is right, and given what I've said above, it should have been the case that the biblical authors, when mentioning "entire households" always added, "And he and his entire household were baptized, except his children, of course, since they couldn't believe yet." Why don't we hear anything of this sort? If Lasseter accuses Catholics of arguing from silence, then this same charge can be brought against him.

Then Mr. Lasseter makes another typically Protestant blunder. He says, in appendix to what he just pointed out about the "households" passages: "It's quite a leap to base a doctrinal position on something as important as baptism on something so open to doubt." While I think the doubt cuts both ways, Lasseter is wrong in assuming that the Catholic position is based on the testimony of Scripture. It's not. The Catholic Church didn't search through the Bible one day and wonder, "Hm....I wonder if children should also be baptized.....let's see....ah! here we read entire households were baptized....this might include infants, so let's do it." No. That's not the way it happened. Rather, the Biblical testimony is entirely based on the doctrines handed down by the Apostles to this very day, making up the deposit of faith. It is this deposit of Faith, which originated with Christ of course, that tells us that we should baptize infants. Acts is merely the (inspired, of course) transcription of what happened in the very early Church, and it must be interpreted in the light of the Church which recorded those things and received orthodox doctrine from the Apostles.

I also wish to make clear that Lasseter's reference to doubtful interpretation on the Catholic Church's part leads to a dead end. As I just showed, no doctrine is based on the Bible alone, but on the deposit of faith (of which the Bible is merely a part). However, Lasseter himself has a huge problem, because infant baptism is not the only doctrine that is unclear in Scripture. What does Mr. Lasseter believe about the Most Holy Trinity? The Divinity of the Holy Ghost? The personhood of Jesus Christ? The substance of Christ, whether it is only "like to" or "the same as" the Father's? What about moral problems such as contraception and masturbation? The Bible, when taken by itself, is not very clear on these matters. Does Lasseter pretend that we can't know any of these certainly important doctrines either? Remember that the Bible is not very clear about the Holy Ghost being God, that is, that he is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, proceeding from the Father and the Son, having equal status with them, being a distinct Person, yet not separate. That's not in the Bible. No doubt, Protestants like Lasseter pull out their Bibles and try to find a verse that might indicate or imply what we believe about the Holy Trinity -- but think about it. If you had only the Bible without already-clearly-defined doctrines about the nature of the Godhead, would you come to the same conclusion? No. Of course not. And many sects haven't, such as Arians and Unitarians. Why is it, however, that Lasseter believes these things? Because of the Bible, which is utterly unclear and vague about it? No. It's because of the Catholic Church, which has defined those doctrines to the precision of an iota (literally! -- cf. the homo(i)ousious controversy) over 20 centuries and later pointed to individual Bible passages to support the dogmatically established belief. That's why. But Protestants like to pick and choose. They accept the First Lateran Council, which agrees with their opinion on the Holy Trinity, but they reject the Council of Trent because they disagree with what it says about baptism, for instance. Sorry to say, but that's not consistent.

Next, Lasseter mentions the Limbo of Infants. He says: "I still wonder about the large group of apparently healthy infants who weren't afflicted with a mortal illness. Actually, a place has been designated for them should they die. A place called 'limbo.' However, Catholics don't agree on this doctrine." He is right; Catholics don't all agree on it -- but it doesn't, to my knowledge, have the status of doctrine, that is, you do not have to believe it to be a Catholic, if memory serves me right. The Limbo of Infants is a pious opinion and held by many theologians and lay Catholics, and it originated with the thought of St. Augustine. Limbo makes a lot of sense. Ott says: "Theologians usually assume [--note the careful language--] that there is a special place or state for children dying without baptism which they call limbus puerorum (children's Limbo)" (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 114). Also, Scripture seems to support this view somewhat: if we look at Mark 16:16, we find that in the case of unbaptized infants who die, neither Heaven nor hell fits. Read Mark 16:16 and you'll understand. Therefore, Limbo is a reasonable solution. Lasseter, with respect to this "we don't know for sure" status of the Limbo of Children, writes: "Who do Catholics believe? It seems like they have a choice of belief, whichever doctrine they prefer." Now, funny that a Protestant should say that, of all people! On this matter, yes, there is somewhat of a "choice" of belief, because the Church has not yet definitively settled the matter. But then again, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was not clear until centuries after Christ, either, yet now it is de fide, i.e. infallible, and one cannot question it without losing the true Faith.

In the end, Mr. Lasseter wrestles with another important issue. The so-called "Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" of the Novus Ordo Church, which Mr. Lasseter understandably but falsely identifies with the Catholic Church, issued the following principles concerning infant baptism (the statement, though issued by the false Novus Ordo Church, nevertheless seems orthodox and correct to me): 

    1. "Baptism, which is necessary for salvation, is the sign and the means of God's prevenient (guiding) love, which frees us from original sin and communicates to us a share in the divine life. Considered in itself, the gift of these blessings to infants must not be delayed.

    2. "Assurances must be given that the gift can grow by authentic education in the faith and Christian life, in order to fulfill the true meaning of the Sacrament. As a rule, these assurances are to be given by the parents or close relatives, although various substitutions are possible. . . . But if these assurances are not really serious there can be ground for delaying the Sacrament; and if they are certainly nonexistent the Sacrament should even be refused."

(Instruction on Infant Baptism, October 20, 1980)

Commenting on this, Lasseter says: 

Note the statement that's made:  "Assurances must be given that the gift can grow by authentic education in the faith and Christian life..."  If such an education is necessary, then does the one being baptized truly understand the reason for their baptism?  Can they believe as they must?  (Mark 16:16)  Can they repent of sin they don't know they have?  (Acts 2:38)  Can they confess Jesus as the son of God before men if they are unable to speak the language?  (Romans 10:10)  If one cannot be sure that serious attempts will be made to teach the newly baptized infant one has a "ground for delaying the sacrament; and if they are certainly nonexistent the sacrament should even be refused."  Evidently the granting of baptism to a Catholic infant is based more on the parents than on the needs of the infant.  If the Catholic church is in doubt as to whether the infant will receive the teaching he/she needs from "parents, relatives, or various substitutions within the christian community" the baptism "should even be refused."  Doesn't this seem odd?  Baptism is required for salvation, but another person may prevent one from being baptized!  So the Catholic view on baptism requires understanding, but is backwards on when the understanding should occur. 

It may seem odd indeed, but of course Mr. Lasseter is not the first person to raise this question. Our holy Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas replied to this as follows:

The custom of the Church [not to baptize children of infidels] has very great authority and ought to be jealously observed in all things, since the very doctrine of catholic doctors derives its authority from the Church. [...]
There are two reasons for this custom. One is on account of the danger to the faith. For children baptized before coming to the use of reason, afterwards when they come to perfect age, might easily be persuaded by their parents to renounce what they had unknowingly embraced; and this would be detrimental to the faith.
The other reason is that it is against natural justice. For a child is by nature part of its father: thus, at first, it is not distinct from its parents as to its body, so long as it is enfolded within its mother's womb; and later on after birth, and before it has the use of its free-will, it is enfolded in the care of its parents, which is like a spiritual womb, for so long as man has not the use of reason, he differs not from an irrational animal; so that even as an ox or a horse belongs to someone who, according to the civil law, can use them when he likes, as his own instrument, so, according to the natural law, a son, before coming to the use of reason, is under his father's care. Hence it would be contrary to natural justice, if a child, before coming to the use of reason, were to be taken away from its parents' custody, or anything done to it against its parents' wish. As soon, however, as it begins to have the use of its free-will, it begins to belong to itself, and is able to look after itself, in matters concerning the Divine or the natural law, and then it should be induced, not by compulsion but by persuasion, to embrace the faith: it can then consent to the faith, and be baptized, even against its parents' wish; but not before it comes to the use of reason. Hence it is said of the children of the fathers of old that they were saved in the faith of their parents; whereby we are given to understand that it is the parents' duty to look after the salvation of their children, especially before they come to the use of reason.
No one should be snatched from natural death against the order of civil law: for instance, if a man were condemned by the judge to temporal death, nobody ought to rescue him by violence: hence no one ought to break the order of the natural law, whereby a child is in the custody of its father, in order to rescue it from the danger of everlasting death.
Man is directed to God by his reason, whereby he can know Him. Hence a child before coming to the use of reason, in the natural order of things, is directed to God by its parents' reason, under whose care it lies by nature: and it is for them to dispose of the child in all matters relating to God. 
[...] To provide the sacraments of salvation for the children of unbelievers is the duty of their parents. Hence it is they whom the danger threatens, if through being deprived of the sacraments their children fail to obtain salvation.

(St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II.2, Q.10, Art.12)

And further:

According to the natural law they [the infants] are under the care of their parents as long as they cannot look after themselves. For which reason we say that even the children of the ancients "were saved through the faith of their parents." Wherefore it would be contrary to natural justice if such children were baptized against their parents' will; just as it would be if one having the use of reason were baptized against his will. Moreover under the circumstances it would be dangerous to baptize the children of unbelievers; for they would be liable to lapse into unbelief, by reason of their natural affection for their parents. Therefore it is not the custom of the Church to baptize the children of unbelievers against their parents' will.

(St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part III, Q.68, Art.10)

In other words, St. Thomas Aquinas considers it less dangerous to the souls of the children of unbelievers to refrain from baptizing them until they attain the age of reason (at which point they can decide for themselves whether or not they want to be baptized), rather than baptizing them as infants and then risk having them, as baptized Christians, reject Christianity. The Bible itself makes this point very emphatic:

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.

(Hebrews 6:4-6)

To conclude, let me state that Mr. Lasseter's essay is a wonderful example of how we can make the Bible mean anything we would like. This sect uses the Bible to deny Christ's divinity, another sect uses it to deny original sin; that denomination across the street uses the Holy Word of God to maintain that the soul is not immortal (yes, I've heard it all -- based on the Bible, supposedly), whereas that other denomination down the road uses it to defend that the soul is immortal.

Well, which is it? Obviously, the Bible alone is not enough. Sola Scriptura (and I know this is not our topic here, but it's a terrific opportunity to point it out) does not work and leads to utter confusion. There are as many theologies as there are heads. And yet the Bible tells us:

And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

I ask you: to which Church does this description fit? No answer necessary.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved