Malankara World

What Shall I Do To Be Saved?

By Rev. Dr. Curian Kaniyamparambil

Question 54. What does the Early Church Fathers say about infant baptism?

St. Irenaeus: - He came to save all through Himself, - all, I say, who through Him are reborn in God, - infants and children and youth and old men.

St. Hippolytus: - Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise let their parents or other relatives speak for them?

Origon: Baptism is for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the church, Baptism is given even to infants?(496) The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism even to infants. (501)

St. Cyprian: If, in case of worst sinners and of those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from Baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam. (586)

Tertulian: According to circumstance and disposition and even age of the individual person, it may be better to delay Baptism; and especially in the case of little children- Why? If it be not a case of necessity? that sponsors too be thrust into danger, when they themselves may fail to fulfill their promises by reason of death, or when they may be disappointed by the growth of evil disposition? Indeed Lord says, "Do not forbid them to come to me.". (310a)- But Tertulian was converted into a Christian at an adult age.

From the above the following can be inferred:

  1. St. John, who lived long, died in AD 100. The above writings came from church leaders about 50 to100 years after St. John's death. So they have written what they had seen during apostolic times, which means that there was infant baptism during the apostolic times.

  2. Among these above mentioned fathers of the church, Irenaeus was born in Asia Minor (i.e. native of Smirna) in about AD 140, which is about 40 years after the death of St. John. He was the disciple of Polycarpus who was the disciple of St. John. Irenaeus was ordained a bishop at the age of 37 and was martyred in Ephesus where St. John lived during the latter part of his life.

  3. St. Hyppolytus was ordained a bishop in Rome. Born in AD 183 in Alexandria, he had written a number of books.

  4. St. Cyprian was a bishop in Africa. Emperor Valerian martyred him in AD 258 during the time of persecution. He was beheaded.

  5. Tertullian was born in AD 155. He was born to a Gentile family in Carthage. He became a Christian in AD 193. He was a priest.

The reason why their biographies are given is that they wrote their articles/books from either Asia or Africa or Europe, which means the known world during that time. Therefore it means that infant baptism existed, throughout the known world during that time. This could only happen if the source of Christian teachings (the apostles) taught in such a manner.

  1. The writings prove that, there were bishops, and priests in the first, second, and third centuries.

  2. They believed that baptism was for the remission of sins

  3. They believed that baptism is for the salvation

  4. Infant baptism will cause the remission of original sins (inherited from Adam)

  5. Infant baptism was continued from the apostles

It is not surprising that Tertullian, who became a Christian by getting baptized at the age of 33, opinioned that "it may be better" to baptize late. He did not say that infant baptism is incorrect. He was certainly not against the word of the Lord "let infants come to me."

If anyone still denies infant baptism he means that these early church fathers did not have enough knowledge of the Bible and church procedures, and hence were wrong - or that he might have more knowledge than these church fathers. Can we say that these fathers, who were martyred and who learned from the apostles, were wrong? I would not.

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