Not long ago I was asked several questions about infant baptism. When did it start? Why are infants baptized? Why do some denominations do it even though they do not believe in the necessity of baptism? First of all, we must understand there is rarely a practice of infant baptism performed today. The fact is, that when the procedure referred to as infant baptism is done today the infant is not immersed in water. Instead, a few drops of water are poured or sprinkled upon the child. Obviously this is not baptism of the Bible, for the Greek word baptisma consists of the process of immersion or submersion (from bapto to dip).
So where did the practice come from? There is nothing in the New Testament that remotely suggests that infants had water applied to them by sprinkling or pouring. In fact, there is no command, example or inference (reasonable or necessary) in the New Testament that would sanction any procedure (even immersion) meant to either secure or demonstrate salvation on the part of an infant.
Infant baptism had its beginnings in the post-apostolic era in the 3rd century, some 200 years after the establishment of the church. When it began, infants were immersed. History records only one case of sprinkling as early as A.D. 251, and it was not recognized as valid. It wasn t until A.D. 1311, in the Council of Ravenna, that the Catholic Church first ordained these substitutes and sprinkling and pouring became accepted. As Protestant churches developed during the Reformation Era, infant sprinkling and pouring was also embraced.
History records that infant baptism developed because of the idea of the hereditary total depravity of the entire human race. The notion that babies are born into this world as sinners held accountable for the original sin of Adam came from such early theologians as Augustine. The result was the doctrine that infants needed to be saved from their inherited sin and, therefore, need to be baptized.
While Catholics today continue to sprinkle babies so that their sins might be forgiven, the irony is that most denominations that practice infant baptism today do not do so for this reason, for they do not believe in the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins. I suspect that the vast majority of religious people in this day do not understand what this doctrine really is, even the millions who belong to churches that have this doctrine as a foundation in their denominational system. What many today call infant baptism is often regarded only as an act of dedication. While they are not sprinkling water on the babies, some Churches of Christ (I m told even here in Tyler) have begun dedicating babies to the Lord in a similar fashion as denominations.
Baptism for the remission of sins is certainly necessary to salvation (Acts 2:38), and every case of conversion in Acts specifically records that they were baptized. Baptism is the event in which a penitent believer completes the obedience necessary to be saved (see Heb. 5:9). The Scriptures clearly show that baptism stands squarely between the sinner and the forgiveness of sins. But the practice of infant baptism is not authorized in the New Testament. Its origin is with men, not God. And there is no evidence in the New Testament to show that the apostles ever baptized anyone who was too young to hear the gospel, believe it, and repent of his sins.