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My brother is doing an assignment onthe sacrement of baptism and his question is:
why do we baptise babies before they can understand what it means
Requested by Lil Mz My Anglez and Answered by Fr. Antonios Kaldas on 26-Jul-2009 05:50 (3450 reads)
In the Protestant Churches, baptism is usually nothing more than a symbol. For some, it is not even necessary to be baptised to be a Christian (although we would point out that this is unbiblical - see below). If baptism is nothing more than an optional symbol, then it stands to reason that you should be old enough to understand and appreciate its significance when you are baptised. But if Baptism is more than a symbol, then we need to approach it differently.

There are many dimensions to a Church Sacrament. Remember that a sacrament consists of a visible sign and an invisible grace. That grace, that work of the Holy Spirit, may be just as effective for a baby as for an adult. The Orthodox Church differs from the Western forms of Christianity in that it accepts that there are things about God that cannot be comprehended by the human mind. The work of the Holy Spirit in the baptised and chrismated Christian is one of those things. The Holy Spirit can work in us without our understanding what He does; sometimes without our even knowing. Thus He is able to work effectively int he life of a newborn who is baptised as they grow and develop.

We baptise infants for the following reasons:

1. So that they will have the benefit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit throughout their formative years, while they are developing their personalities and character.

2. Jesus said "Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them". Why deprive a child of Holy Communion? By being baptised they are also able to partake of Holy Communion regularly throughout their childhood.

3. A full understanding of a sacrament, whilst beneficial, is certainly not compulsory. If it were so, then we would not be able to baptise or give Communion to intellectually disbled people or people whose mental abilities are damaged through illness or trauma. No one would deny Holy Communion to a disabled person, just because they are disabled, so why deny it to children just because they are young?

4. In the Old Testament, God commanded that the male children be circumcised at the age of 8 days. When they grew up, they came to understand and appreciate the value of this sign. The same may be said of Baptism in the New Testament. The baptised adult is responsible for him/herself, but the baptised infant is commended to the care of the parents and/or godparents. They are given a very strict commandment that is read out to them on the day of the baptism, outlining their responsibility before God to care for the spiritual growth of the child.

5. There are verses in the Bible that link baptism to our being able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (e.g. John 3:3-5). Why take the chance of the child possibly dying without being baptised?