Infant baptism has been practiced by the church since the very first believers had kids. While some will argue that parents should wait till their kids are old enough to make their own decision to be baptized, there’s no clear biblical basis one way or the other for what to do with children born to Christian parents. What we know from early church writings is that infant baptism was happening as far back as anyone can remember. We also know that different early churches focused on different scriptures for their key understanding of what happened in baptism. Those arguing today to only have ‘believer’s baptism’ will focus on Romans 6 (repentance first), while those arguing for infant baptism will focus more on Jesus’ baptism (as a sign of our identity as children of God), The Great Commission (baptism comes before teaching), and Acts 16 (the jailer’s entire household was baptized with him). What appeals to me, and to most about the arguments for infant baptism, is the concept that this little one is being identified as God’s child long before he or she could ever understand or claim it for his or herself. This prevenient grace, or grace that goes before we know about it, is the key theological theme for infant baptism, or the baptism of someone mentally disabled to the point they cannot answer for themselves. What is required of this sort of baptism is that the ones answering for them are making a covenant to support their faith journey, to be responsible for them, to teach them in the way of discipleship. It’s far less individualistic, and far more evident that God is the one working, and that God calls us into a covenant community through baptism.
Believer’s baptism is crucial, too, because we need to be going out there and making disciples, not just assuming that the church will continue forever just because we keep having babies. And there are loads of parents who decide to not baptize their children, but let their children make the decision when they are older (usually older elementary or Middle School age…the same time most churches offer confirmation for those baptized as infants). I think what matters most here is that baptism marks a new identity…one where the community is always seeking to teach the Gospel, to children, and to adults, and that we are working towards accountability as we move from death to resurrection.