What do Presbyterians Believe about infant baptism?
Infant baptism — it's all about grace
By Tom Walker
Reprinted from the March 2006 issue of Presbyterians Today
The overstuffed shoebox lay long forgotten in the back of a closet in my mother's apartment, I ran across it while looking for something else. When I opened the shoebox, out poured more than I ever could have imagined.
Inside were letters recording four years of correspondence (1958–62) between my parents and the North Carolina Children's Home Society, an adoption agency. The letters ended in February 1962—the month of my birth and my adoption. Four years of expectation and hassle, of yearning and hard work, of dutiful preparation and burgeoning excitement—all documented in that little shoebox.
Four years before I was even born, my parents were hard at work preparing a place for me. Even before I received my name, before I was baptized in our small Presbyterian church, before I could respond with the words "I love you," my parents cared for me. In that shoebox was a history of love and grace that preceded any action on my part.
This discovery has given me an image to share with parents in the congregation where I am pastor, as we journey together toward the baptism of their children. Baptism is the church's celebration of the fact that God has "shoeboxes" for all of God's adopted children, meaning all of us. In infant baptism we visibly proclaim the central tenet of our Reformed faith: God's grace towards humanity.
When we baptize an infant we testify that God's grace acts on our behalf before we are capable of responding.
If a baby can be biblically baptized before he can say "I love you", why did Philip give the precursor in Acts 8 to the Ethiopian eunuch "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest [be baptized]?" Can an illiterate baby understand the gospel? God's grace is on those he has called (Romans 8 :28-30), but baptism is not God's plan for testifying an appreciation of his grace.