Saturday, August 09, 2008
Augustine and Pelagius Pt 3: Original Sin, Augustine and Infant Baptism.
In Augustine’s debate with the Pelagians, the doctrine of Original Sin came to the forefront very early on. The denial of Original Sin by the Pelagians led Augustine to another conclusion: They will soon deny infant baptism.
Infant Baptism and Original sin were intricately tied together for Augustine. Infant baptism proved Original Sin, while at the same time, Original Sin necessitated Infant Baptism.
When a parent brought a child for baptism, this was acknowledged:
“[Christ] came to call not the righteous, but sinners…For who would dare to say that Christ is not the Savior and Redeemer of infants?” (On Forgiv. Bapt. Chpt 24,33)
This did not mean all baptized infants were saved by the mere fact that they were baptized. Indeed: “many who seem to be on the outside are in fact on the inside, and many who seem to be on the inside are neverless in fact on the outside.” (Bapt. 5.27.38)
But if baptism does not assure salvation or even indicate predestination, why perform infant baptism? Beyond the biblical covenantal considerations already considered, it would be beneficial to consider Augustine’s close connection between original sin and infant baptism. The image in an infant baptism becomes the image we all experience in salvation:
God comes to us in our infirmity, our helplessness, our inability to feed ourselves, and blindness to our need and gives to us grace. Why baptize infants? Because they are sinners in need of a Savior, and a parent acknowledges this every time they bring a child for baptism. The confession of a person’s salvation becomes the confession of God’s coming to him, and confessing God’s initiative. The adult convert who is baptized is not allowed to see this as an acknowledgment of his decision and then God’s response, but is taught every time he sees an infant baptized, THIS is the story of your conversion, God’s initiation, not yours.
In fact, the practice of bringing infants to Christ is as old as the time when Christ walked the earth. In Luke 18:15-18, mothers bring their children to Jesus to bless. The disciples rebuke the mothers, but Jesus in turn rebukes them saying “let the children come to me, do not hinder them…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Clement has a great line commenting on this verse that "mothers still bring their children for Jesus to touch."
Whoever receives the kingdom is one who is brought without their own ability, as one without ability to save themselves.