Friday, September 14, 2007

Origen and the baptism of infants

In the recent debates over pedobaptism and credobaptism, Dr. Pursiful makes brief mention of Origen's comments on the subject. In the interest of broadening the discussion, I would like to cite Origen more fully:
The church has received from the apostles the tradition to give baptism even to infants. For those who were entrusted with the divine mysteries knew that all men have the natural pollution of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit. No man is free from the defilement of sin, even if he is one day old. Since the inborn uncleanness is washed away through baptism, little children also come to be baptized. For unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (Origen, "Commentary on Romans," V. 9)
I have a question for credobaptists or for anyone who holds that pedobaptism is invalid: If the early church held infant baptism to be of apostolic origin, on what basis would you deny that it is of apostolic origin? And if it is of apostolic origin, is there any valid basis for a Christian to reject it? Here we may see different constructions of Sola Scriptura come into play. Lutherans hold to the primacy of Scriptures but are still informed by the witness of the early church, especially in cases where the early church explicitly cites the apostles' teachings not elsewhere written.

3 comments:

D. P. said...

This is a very good question and, despite my misgivings (and perhaps my better judgment), I have attempted to answer it.

Diane said...

Let's see..hmm.....when did Origen live? The thrid century? That isn't the early church. The early church are the first one and a half centuries, or even maybe up to 200 AD. There is nowhere in the Scriptures or any 1st or 2nd century apostolic/bishopric writing that I know of that approves of infant baptism. Theefore, it doesn't seem to be valid to me, although dedication of infants certainly would be acceptable.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Diane

There's no apostolic writing that disapproves infant baptism, so to say that there's none that (you think) approves it, that's not much of an argument.

However, I disagree that there are no apostolic writings commenting on infant baptism. If you'll see the related post on the historical background of household baptisms in Judaism, you'll see that these included baptism of infants.

So the question becomes whether we believe the early church, and also whether we believe that the Jewish historical background applies (they baptized infants).

I think most of the anti-pedobaptists assume that baptism is not for cleansing but as a profession of faith. But where does the Scripture refer to baptism as a profession of faith? It refers to it as cleansing quite a bit ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF