Should We Baptize Children And What Age Is Appropriate?

I have just read this article by David Rogers over at SBCImpact.  He addresses the issue of baptizing children and at what age it is appropriate to baptize them.  This is an issue that my wife and I are discussing right now.  Our 8 year old daughter has expressed an interest in being baptized but in our discussions with her she has admitted that her main reason for wanting to be baptized is that my wife and I and her older sister have been baptized.  She feels left out.  We have examined her extensively and have come to the decision that she is not ready yet.  She knows the basics about our faith but she does not yet understand her sinful nature, the penalty for her sins necessitate she spend eternity in Hell, and thus, her need for salvation.

The article refers to baptizing children under the age of 12 as “semi-infant” baptism.  Read the article and you will see that he makes a good case for this.  Iam not sure that I agree completely with some of his reasons but some of them are quite compelling.  I am also torn because my oldest daughter (she will be 12 in a couple months) was saved and baptized at 7.  My wife and I examined her and were confident in her decision at that time so we allowed her to be baptized.  She had a maturity that was far beyond her age (still does, most of the time).  With her, we could easily have waited and her decision would not have changed.  I think, unfortunately, that many feel that if a child makes a profession that we need to baptize them before they change their mind.  I know that is not true of everyone but it seems to be true for many.

After you read the article, what do you think?  Should we delay the baptism of kids until the reach a certain age?  The article suggests 12.  Or should we baptize any who come forward?  Also, how many parents actually take time to question and fully examine their children to see if they are truly ready and able to make such a committment?  I hope most do, but I really am a bit skeptical.

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23 Responses to Should We Baptize Children And What Age Is Appropriate?

  1. mothergreen says:

    My wife and I had been discussing almost this same issue. We have attended a Presbyterian church a few times, the pastor is very good but they baptize babies. Actually what they do is more like a baptist baby dedication, because he says at every baptism that “being baptized doesn’t save any one or guarantee them a spot in heaven”. But I feel it sends the wrong message to the parents and the children. I made the following post in response to an article that was given to my wife in explanation to he question of why they baptize infants.

    http://mothergreen.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/infant-baptism-and-why-it-is-not-biblical/

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  2. minnie says:

    I have the same skeptic situation at this church that I have attended several times the church body is only very, very few but the pasture is always asking the children who come because there are always more children than there are adult church members. I don’t agree with his asking the children to be baptized but still continue to go for my own purpose. I searched and searched for a solution to this and for some FACTS to present this situation to the church body but have not found anything to do so. If you or anyone out there can present an answer for this ,in my opinion, tuff and important decision for children, post it or e-mail me a solution. HELP !!!

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    • Domingo says:

      If the requirement for baptism is the ability or mental capacity of a person to profess his or her faith in God, it disqualifies infants, toddlers, early gradeschoolers, and persons with mental retardation. What do you do when an unbaptized child is dying? Infant baptism makes sense. Look for answers in churches or religions that believe in infant baptism. If one will search it with an open mind, he or she will find the truth.

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  3. Scott Hollander says:

    Tom,
    like you I have become reformed-minded and although I grew up Baptist, I have transitioned to reformed Presbyterian.
    I was very hesitent, and quite apprehensive at first to even consider paedo-baptism. Over time though I started really searching Scripture and doctrine.
    Not only was I becoming more reformed, I began to think more covenantally both in relation to Scripture and family. Scripture tells us that God is a God of generations.
    I won’t get into a discertation on why you should consider paedo-baptism. I trust the more reformed-minded you become and the more you study (should you choose to study that subject) the more you might appreciate the benefits and Scriptural doctrine that supports it.
    For the record, I have no issues should believers choose credo-baptism (believer’s baptism) whether for their children or as an adult new believer. And the bottom line, to answer one of your commenter’s, neither baptism is a means of salvation it is however a means of grace.
    My final point, to get closer to your original comments, is to relate that as we became Presbyterian and moved to a new neighborhood and joined a new church, we were faced with what to do with our 8 & 6 year old boys who both professed Christ but had not been baptized. They were too old for paedobaptism so as we became members through the elder board, the boys were also interviewed for baptism and communing membership. They both had to account the purpose of Christ’s death, that we are sinners and must rely on Christ’s sacrifice and atonement for salvation and that they have done so themselves. Because of their profession and understanding they were able to be baptized as professing believers and be welcomed as communing members of the church. Our daughter however, a couple of weeks following her birth was baptised as an infant into the covenantal community being sanctified (not to be understood as saved) as a member of a professing family. One day she will need to make a personal connection to saving faith as one of God’s elect as we trust and hope that she is. In the meantime we treat her as such and hold the same expectations of her faith and behavior as one would an adult who just professed Christ and was baptised.
    In my opinion. the infamous age of 12 is as bad doctrinally as the age of accountability that holds no Scriptural footing. Although I am sure he tries to rationalize that exact age, it would be more effectual to teach sound principles than a potentially legalistic line in the sand that doesn’t exist.
    (you have my email address should you like to see some of the documents I read in my growth towards paedo-baptism should you desire)

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    • Sherry says:

      First of all I am baptist and I was baptized at the age of 8. In this day and age my thinking is different than my mother’s. If a child does not understand the gravity of sin and what is right and wrong he is not old enough to be baptized. The church in a whole is guilty of mental molestation of a child that is younger than 18. It is morally wrong and inappropriate. To say, so to speak, get em while they’re young, is the same thinking as that of a pedophile our children should remain pure and free to form their own decisions till of age. The parental involvement should only be to care for, provide for, protect. and educate. We should not:
      Coerce yes, you can lead but, give them a choice so many children out there never learn to think for themselves. This is precisely why so many of us are the FLOCK and not the leader. The only reason we go to church to begin with is to pose ourselves as doing the right thing. Think about it you sit there and actually pay someone to read and interpret what they are reading to you. You are fully believing what this person is telling you and and are gullible enough to think he actually knows what HE is talking about. We are a LAZY Nation and nobody wants to take the time to research for themselves. Do you really think that the bible is the actual word of GOD? The bible is nothing than a compilation of letters from one religious sect to another. One asks of another sect how to handle a certain situation that has arisen in his sect and the other sect replies. The bible you see today is nothing like the original text anyway. You are sheep in a herd that are being lead by the nose. You do not know how to make a determination on your own. Look at yourself! You are asking a group of sheep in another herd what to do. WAIT TILL YOUR CHILD IS OLD ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND ALL RAMIFICATIONS OF HIS ACTIONS AND CAN TELL YOU HE WILL GET BAPTIZED WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. That, my dear, will be a child that knows his own mind and will lead millions instead of being the millions that is looking for someone to lead them.

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  4. Tom Shelton says:

    Scott,

    Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog. Please feel free to come back and comment at any time.

    I have not studied paedo baptism extensively but I have studied it enough to know why I don’t agree with it. One of my co-workers is Presbyterian and we have discussed the issue at length. He brought me some of the literature his church uses on the issue. I have also read RC Sproul’s defense of paedo baptism. And I have listened to a Presbyterian (Sproul or Ligon Duncan, I think, can’t remember which at the moment) and a Reformed Baptist (I think it was Al Mohler) discuss paedo vs credo baptism. I have also heard paedo baptism compared to the baby dedication ceremony performed in many baptist churches (my wife and I have done this for all three of our daughters).

    As to the age of accountability, I believe there is a time when a child becomes aware of there sinfulness. I believe that until that time, God has made a special provision for that child. I don’t know what that age is. I believe it is different for every child so setting an arbitrary age may not be a correct thing to do but it does eliminate the possibility of a false conversion in a young child.

    This is a huge issue and has been debated for a long time by men much more knowledgeable than me but the debate is still fun and can be efficacious for all involved. I look forward to hearing more from you on the issue.

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  5. Scott Hollander says:

    If one understands election however, there is no need for an age of accountability or a false conversion. The child is one of God’s elect and one day it will come to fruition. Children of believer’s should be reared as if they were a believer already. And true, a time will come when they truly understand and personalize their faith.
    My wife and I both grew up in Christian homes and we both agree that there was no time that we didn’t believe what we were taught about Scripture and Christ and redemption. I wish I had known then what I know now. I kept going back and questioning whether I was really saved and needed to be rebaptized; did it really count the first time, did I really understand it as a 9yr old? It also drives me crazy when pastors say if you’re 98% sure your saved, you’re 100% lost. What a terrible way to live. It’s by their fruits you will know them…do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself?
    A person is either elect or not and many have been baptized in both camps that are never true believers. But I believe two things, in either camp we need to look back to baptism (a sign of joining the community of Christ) and hold the person accountable for their fruit. And we know that sometimes even believer’s rebel and lose their way, but we pray them back. And sometimes we realize that the person was never saved at all. But specifically to children born in Christian homes they must be treated that way from the start and held accountable in such a way as being part of the sanctified household and family of the church (which is in essence what you are doing in a dedication). On a side note, if we didn’t believe this, we’d have no reason to teach our children to pray if God does not hear the prayer of the unrighteous.
    Just something to think about.

    I’ve noticed even with our small differences in doctrine, we are quite a lot alike in general, and I am just pleased when Christians care at all about what they believe and why. It is sad that too many in our churches could careless and either don’t bother to figure out what they believe or they simply just take someone else’s word for it and never bother to investigate for themselves. Keep up the studying, it is certainly my passion!

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    • Tom Shelton says:

      If one understands election however, there is no need for an age of accountability or a false conversion. The child is one of God’s elect and one day it will come to fruition. Children of believer’s should be reared as if they were a believer already. And true, a time will come when they truly understand and personalize their faith.

      Maybe I should clarify my point a bit. I believe the doctrine of election. I believe that all children who die before the age of accountability are elect. That is how I reconcile the two.

      There is one point in your above quoted comment that I must address. I do believe that all children should be raised in a manner that will expose them to God and His truths so that if / when He calls them they will recognize that it is Him. However, there is no guarantee that just because a child is raised by Christian parents that that child is one of the elect. God is not obligated in that way. I would think that a child raised by Christian parents is more likely to be one of the elect but again there is no guarantee of this.

      But I believe two things, in either camp we need to look back to baptism (a sign of joining the community of Christ) and hold the person accountable for their fruit. And we know that sometimes even believer’s rebel and lose their way, but we pray them back. And sometimes we realize that the person was never saved at all. But specifically to children born in Christian homes they must be treated that way from the start and held accountable in such a way as being part of the sanctified household and family of the church (which is in essence what you are doing in a dedication).

      I agree that children need to be taught how to conduct themselves properly. I don’t think this is something that should be done simply because of the family they were born into. I also don’t think that being born into a particular family carries favor with God. Acts 10:34 says “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,“. This is a very clear principle. God even followed it in choosing the Elect. He did it by His own good pleasure and not by any merit in the person chosen.

      I am not trying to pick a fight because it seems we have more in common than we differ on. This difference is not one that will keep either of us out of Heaven but it is worth discussing. Maybe we both can grow from it and God will be glorified. That is all that matters.

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  6. Scott Hollander says:

    I do agree with you.
    I do reference 1 Corinthians though as our children being holy.
    1COR 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
    I ref: Proverbs 22 as a promise that if we raise our children correctly they WILL NOT depart from it.
    6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.
    and Genesis 17
    7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

    These are the hopes that we have in rearing covenantal children. And you are right, God owes no man.
    I trust I am using those passages contextually even though I pulled out a few “randomly” for our discussion.

    Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron,
    and one man sharpens another.

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  7. Mark says:

    A child in Jewish Law is a child until 13 years of age
    the Boy becomes a man at his barmitsva.Chales
    spergion wrote that invent baptism is an abomination to God ,and he is write,aJohn the baptised never baptised children.Hope this is helpful.
    yours in christ Yeshua Mark

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  8. Nancy says:

    Hi
    I’m a christian Mom and I have a 4 year old. I’m not certain but much like the author of the above article my 4 year old understands WELL beyond his years. I have read the bible (of course toddler/childrens) since he was born and as his understanding grew I went to a more expanded childrens bible. We do daily devotions and bible reading. At 3 years old he accepted Christ, said the prayer to except Christ and asked for forgiveness of his sins (his definition is naughty or bad things he does). Shortly after he turned 4 years old while reading this version (8 years old and above) of his childrens bible for the 5th time, he asked me if he could be baptised, I immediately said “no, you’re too young”. He cried. I started searching his little heart and mind to find out why he wanted to do this and to see if he truly understood what it was all about. He had an understanding that amazed me and our Pastor when I went to them and explained the situation. After a 4 month period of prayer and questions, NOT feeding him the “right” answers or drilling him but allowing him when he wanted to talk about it, to explain what he thought and believed, I finally agreed and the Pastor did too. He explained Jesus lives in his heart, he wanted to be baptised because Jesus said to and to wash away his sins. He understands without Jesus he will go to a very bad place with fire and be without Jesus. He understands with Jesus he will live (his mind, soul, spirit) with him and all the ones who except Jesus (Momma, Grandma, Poppa, etc forever and there will be no more sickness, tears, or hurting when he’s there). He said he wanted to live his whole life for Jesus (I pray he does). I dont know if when he experienced a tramatic situation in his life right before he turned 3, he had an experience with Jesus face to face or what, but I do know he said “Momma I wasnt afraid, Jesus was with me”, has anything to do with his understanding but sometimes I think so. I know as he grows up his understanding will expand but as the Pastor said “he grasps more than most adults” when talking about baptism. Please do not respond critically. I am only sharing my personal situation with my son, I’m not saying I agree children this small should be baptised, I wasnt for it until I prayed and was satisfied with his level of understanding and spoke with our Pastor. It wasnt something I just did because my son wanted to play in the water or because someone else did it, he truly believed this was something he needed to do. His statement to me after he was baptised: “Momma, I was a little scared, but I knew Jesus wanted me to be baptised, so I let go of the wall”. Maybe we all should let go of the wall and fall into our loving God’s arms.

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  9. sarah says:

    POST DELETED BY TOM. SUCH LANGUAGE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED HERE.

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  10. sarah says:

    POST DELETED BY TOM. SUCH LANGUAGE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED HERE.

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  11. Tom Shelton says:

    Tristan and Sarah,

    If you wish to participate in the discussion of this post you are welcome to do so but you must do so in an appropriate manner. Inappropriate language will not be tolerated. Please keep this in mind before making any future comments on this blog. If you can’t follow this guideline then you are not welcome here.

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  12. zaynah says:

    hello tom,
    im 13 and i was wondering what are the expectations of a child with baptist religion??

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  13. Tom Shelton says:

    Zaynah,

    I am not sure exactly what you are asking but I will assume that you are speaking of the expectations concerning salvation. If this is not correct, then please clarify your question and I will try again to answer it.

    As to salvation, Baptists have the same expectations of children as they do of all people. No distinction is made for age. We are all born lost sinners and must repent and believe Jesus in order to be saved. Once you do that, then baptism is the first act of obedience that we do. Baptism does not save anyone and is not vital to salvation. It’s only purpose is to show publicly that we have identified with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

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  14. eric pitcock says:

    Ac 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Only the men and women of his household were baptized.

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  15. Henry Westin says:

    How did you explain Hell to your young daughter? Has she visited a hospital burn unit, or seen color pictures of burn victims? henry_westin@hotmail.com

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  16. marjory says:

    Our daughter was baptized two months before her 7th birthday.we had been to two baptisms previously-one was our 8 month old neice and the other was a 4 year old girl cousin.We explained fully to the daughter about baptism and what it meant and she said she wanted to be baptized also.So we talked to father and he said he would baptize her and we set the date.She told me she wanted to wear the cute poofy,white dress and bonnet,lace socks and white shoes the 4 year old cousin wore as she thought the cousin looked adorable in her outfit.We found a cute white,poofy above the knees dress in her size with a matching bonnet,and got her the lace socks and white shoes.Since the 4 year old cousin had a cloth diaper and rubberpants on under her dress,the daughter said she wanted to wear them under her dress also so i made her a white cloth diaper and got diaper pins and a pair of white youth size rubberpants and put them on her when i dressed her.she was excited about being baptized and loved her baptism outfit and looked very nice and adorable in it.she entered gods kingdom that day as a baby girl and was happy to be baptized.

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    • Nadine liggett says:

      A 8 month old is far to young! They have no understanding. At the least age 5 years. My 7 year old and 6 mths son mentioned baptism. I think simply due to the fact me and my husband are getting baptised. I think he is much too imature. He is going to watch our baptism which will show his young mind what it is all about. May God bless him x

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    • LeaAnne says:

      To Marjory-we just baptized our 15 year old twins,son and daughter recently.we had been putting it off since they were infants so we finially had it done.The son wore a white suit and the daughter we did in the same outfit as your daughter wore.we found a very cute,poofy,above the knees dress with a matching bonnet for her,then got the lace anklets and white mary jane shoes.I got her a cloth diaper and a pair of white rubberpants in adult size and put them on her when i dressed her.She looked so cute and adorable in the white dress and bonnet.Both of them will be making their first communions in may and the daughter is going to wear the diaper and rubberpants again under her communion dress.

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