She has a question about infant baptism which she has posted on Catholic Answers and she also emailed it to me.
When I was considering how to answer it occurred to me that it might be helpful to post it here so that some of you reading here, could perhaps shed a bit of light on her question.
Here's what she said:
" I am hoping to convert soon but there are a few questions I have and I would greatly appreciate help.I'm not seeing how this verse *precludes* infant baptism.
The first is baptism. There are scriptures that can be said to support 'believer's baptism' and others that seem, by assumption, to include infant baptism. However I am stumped by this scripture that seems to clearly preclude infant baptism in favour of believer's baptism:
John 1:27-27 says '12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.'
This not only says that to become children of God, we need to actively receive him (it then clarifies - to 'believe' in Jesus as the Messiah) - it clearly states that simply to be born naturally, whether planned or simply a natural result of sexual union - is not sufficient, whether or not the child is then baptised (as it could not actively believe in Jesus)."
So here are my thoughts, with the obvious caveat that I'm no theologian and am totally open to correction in the com box.
We are still required to cooperate with the graces we receive at baptism.
The grace of baptism for an infant is somewhat like receiving a great inheritance. They may squander it or leave it sitting in a bank vault and live like a pauper.
If this verse meant that active belief was necessary for salvation then those who are incapable of active belief ( the very young or the mentally unfit) would be excluded from God's covenant.
Catholics believe that baptism is necessary
( "and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you.." 1 Peter 3:21 )
and that children are included in Gods covenant just as the children of Israel were ( circumcision being a type of baptism under the old covenant)
Also, this site explains that the Greek translation of Acts 23 " Repent and be baptised" literally means "If you repent, then each one who is a part of you and yours must each be baptized” (“Metanoesate kai bapistheto hekastos hymon.”)
In Acts 2:39 Peter says "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
So he is saying that baptism is given to children, who are also part of Gods covenant family.
According to the site linked to above "those who are far off" refers to those who are at home, primarily infants and young children.
But that doesn't mean that to be baptised *guarantees* our salvation. We are still free to reject or accept Christ and to sin or to pursue holiness.
In baptism we have the hope rather than the assurance of salvation.
Nor does it mean that those who die without baptism are damned.
The Catechism puts it like this:
"The Lord himself affirms that baptism is necessary for salvation [John 3:5]. . . . Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament [Mark 16:16]" (CCC 1257).
And here it talks about the possibility of salvation for the unbaptised:
"Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized" CCC 1281
The catechism also allows for the possibility of salvation for unbaptised infants ( CCC 1260-61 and CCC 1283 )
In today's reading at Mass Paul and Barnabas are quoted as saying
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God"
( Acts 14:21-27)
They are exhorting new Christians to persevere in the faith, but surely they are not precluding the newly baptised infant who dies without undergoing any hardships whatsoever from entering the Kingdom?
I'd be really glad if any reading this have any comments on this question. How would you reply to Charlotte?
Please add your thoughts in the combox!