Why do we baptize infants at Christ Church Anglican?
The most basic answer is this: we are an Anglican congregation, and Anglicans have always baptized infants. It is a hallowed tradition of our church which we inherited from ancient times. But even more fundamentally, Anglicans have retained the tradition because we believe it to be consistent with biblical revelation.
The New Testament does, however, commend the faith of young children (Mark 10:14-15). It does speak of God ordaining praise from the mouths of infants (Matthew 21:16). It does provide evidence that babies even in the womb are capable of expressing faith (Luke 1:41). And perhaps most importantly, the whole of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, exhorts the practice of intentionally bringing up children in the true faith of God and treating them as full members of God’s people. Baptism is the sign of inclusion in the New Covenant community, the Church, and we believe that even the youngest of our children belongs to our community. We therefore initiate them into our community like we would anybody else, by baptizing them.
The nature of faith also lends itself to the practice. Faith is very much a personal thing. But is not merely personal. It is communal. When we enter into the covenant community of God’s people, we enter into a communal faith, a faith which transcends the sum of its individual members. We have all experienced times when it was the faith of the community around us, and not our own, which sustained us. Jesus himself provides healing for people on account of the faith of their friends or families (Matthew 8:10, 13; Mark 9:24; Luke 5:20). Until a child is capable of expressing an adult faith, they naturally share in the faith of their parents and their larger community. The baptism liturgy expresses this when the child is said to profess faith “through” their parents. We believe that this faith, while shared, is genuine in God’s eyes.
Anglicans have a rite of initiation for adults baptized as infants, a rite which expresses a mature acceptance of the faith of their baptism: Confirmation. As the name of the rite suggests, what is being “confirmed” is the profession of faith made by one’s parents when they could not speak for themselves. The two rites, while separate in modern liturgies, originally formed two parts of the ancient baptismal rite. Baptism and Confirmation, then, cannot be understood in isolation from each other, but rather they point to and are reinforced by the other. One might even say that for an Anglican, the “moment” of their baptism stretches from the time they are infants to the time they stand before the bishop asking to be received into the community as full adult members. All this is why, within the baptism liturgy itself, the parents are exhorted to prepare their child for Confirmation. This is also why we generally prefer to Baptize and Confirm at the same time any adult who comes to Christian faith.
Ultimately, it is God who makes baptism effectual. It is his power to transform, and not water or our liturgy. The baptism liturgy Anglicans use very much makes this clear, as we at multiple places in the rite beseech God to save those who are being baptized. We believe not only that all things are possible with God, but also that it is his express desire to save. We express this belief by offering to God our children in baptism.