Lutheran, Episcopal and Catholic Views of Infant Baptism

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The Augsburg Confession of 1530 is an early Lutheran confession of faith, authored mainly by Philip Melancthon and approved by Martin Luther and presented to King Charles V. In Article IX, “Of baptism,” it says:

Of baptism [the churches with common consent among us] teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by Baptism the grace of God is offered, and that children are to be baptized, who by Baptism, being offered to God, are received into God’s favor. They condemn the Anabaptists who allow not the Baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without Baptism. (Creeds of Christendom, Vol. 3, p. 13)

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The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (American, 1789) provides a service for the baptism of infants with the following elements. First there are prayers: “We beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon this Child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ’s Church.… We call upon thee for this Infant, that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration.”

Then there is the exhortation: “Doubt ye not therefore, but earnestly believe, that [God] will likewise favorably receive this present infant; that he will embrace him with the arms of his mercy; that he will give unto him the blessing of eternal life, and make him partaker of his everlasting kingdom.” Then another prayer: “Give thy Holy Spirit to this Infant, that he may be born again, and be made an heir of everlasting salvation.” Then the parents are addressed as the “sureties” of the child and actually take vows on the child’s behalf: “Dost thou, in the name of this child, renounce the devil and all his works…. Dost thou believe all the articles of the Christian Faith… Wilt thou be baptized in this Faith…” Then the assurance given: “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks.” Finally the thanks are given: “We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church.”

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The Catholic Catechism, by John Hardon has the official Catholic imprimatur, which means the book is declared “free from doctrinal error.” In it, baptism is described as the sacrament that has efficacy “to omit original sin and actual guilt…. It infuses into our souls the life of grace that Christ won for us by his death and Resurrection…. Through baptism we become united to Christ as the head of the Mystical Body” (pp. 506-508). Since baptism is a saving act, it is crucial that infants receive it. Hardon quotes the Roman ritual: “The first consideration is the welfare of the child, that it may not be deprived of the benefit of the sacrament…. If the child is in danger of death, it is to be baptized without delay” (p. 511). Hardon explains: an infant “baptized by the short ritual for emergency reasons, has already been received into the Church” (p. 512).

Pastor John