Yesterday I came across a brief article I wrote some time ago. Although I did not/ do not agree with most of the material presented in Erwin Lutzer’s book “The Doctrines that Divide”, I did find his historical perspective on the origin of infant baptism both helpful and insightful. Thus we share the following words in hopes that they will enlighten others in their search for truth.
“With Constantine in power, Christianity was no longer a sect within the empire but was to become synonymous with the empire. One would now be a Christian simply by being born into the empire, not necessarily by having personal faith in Christ.Infant baptism became the link by which the church and the state were united.
Augustine gave credence to the belief that the church and state should be united by affirming (1) the right of the church to use the state in the enforcement of Christianity. Thus “heretics” could be killed and dissenters massacred; and (2) infant baptism should be required.
Infant baptism played a crucial role in the marriage of church and state. This is why Anabaptists (those who were rebaptized as adults)were persecuted so severely. This dispute was not merely theological but political. During the days of Charlemagne (crowned in the year A.D. 800), those who were rebaptized after personally believing in Christ were put to death. The fear was that if the church was considered only a group within society rather than coextensive with society, the whole unity of the church and state would be fragmented. Infant baptism was the “glue” that united the church.
The famous Swiss theologian Karl Barth admitted that the real motivation behind infant baptism was Constantinianism, that is, the unity of church and state. Speaking about the Reformers who held to infant baptism, he commented, “Men at the time would not renounce, for love or money, the existence of the Evangelical church in the form of the Constantinian corpus Christianum. When the church breaks with infant baptism, People’s church in the sense of a state church or a mass church is finished.” He went on to say that even Luther confessed that there would not be too many baptized people If a man,instead of being brought to baptism, had to come to it. Barth pointed out that the Bible teaches that the Christian church is a minority; when everyone is included in it, the result is sickness not health. He concludes by saying that “it is high time to announce that an urgent quest after a better form of out baptismal practice is long overdue.”
I would like to highlight several key phrases from this quote:
"Infant baptism became the link by which the church and the state were united."
"Infant baptism was the “glue” that united the church."
"...even Luther confessed that there would not be too many baptized people if a man, instead of being brought to baptism, had to come to it. "
"...the Christian church is a minority; when everyone is included in it,the result is sickness not health."
Words to ponder my friend.