Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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A non-Christian doctor was asking why we baptize new born babies and what sins do they have?

The path of salvation begins with the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. Every human being is born with Original Sin. Thus, only one Holy Baptism is required for the absolution of that grave sin. By immersion, the baptized individual dies and rises with Christ and puts on Christ. He/she has then become a truly new person. Thereafter, cleansing and renewal are obtained through the Holy Sacrament of Confession. Holy Baptism is the initiating rite into the family of God which replaced the former mandatory ritual of circumcision. A child at eight days old is unaware of this rite into salvation at the time under the Jewish law. Yet, this ritual was exercised in order to bring the male child into the fold of God's chosen people.

There are several accounts in the Holy Scripture which reveal that salvation was promised and carried out to entire families:

  • Rahab's family: "Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death" (Joshua 2:12,13).

  • Zacchaeus and his household: "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:9).

  • Lydia, the seller of purple from the Thyatira, and her household: "And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.' So she persuaded us" (Acts 16:15).

These examples illustrate how the call of salvation was to the entire family and household. This could include infants, young children, servants, and the elderly. There is no discrimination of age, status, or mental functioning. The entire household was called to salvation. In these three episodes, all it took was one person who initiated the invitation and took leadership for the spiritual edification of the entire family. Thus, even today, whether an adult or an infant is baptized, the church appoints godparents for that individual to help guide him/her on a sound spiritual path.

A more contemporary example is that of citizenship. When one aspires to obtain citizenship in the United States, he/she must first pass an oral/written exam on elements of the U.S. Constitution and other pertinent facts relating to U.S. history. If he/she passes the exam, then he/she can be sworn in as a bona fide American citizen with full rights to vote and experience all the benefits as a native of the land. However, when there are children involved who are below a certain age and who were not born in the U.S. but came as immigrants with their families, they are granted citizenship according to the status of their parents.

Since our heavenly citizenship is the one for which we are striving, we must not be complacent about our family members, young or old, abled or disabled. All are called to salvation. No one can guarantee the life of the infant, so it is incumbent upon the parents to ensure that the child will have an opportunity to be baptized unto salvation. Therefore, based on the faith and commitment of the parents to raise godly children in the love and fear of God, infant baptism had been allowed and practiced since the beginning of Christianity.

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