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NewOrtho
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« on: March 28, 2010, 02:35:13 PM »

Simple question:  In Orthodoxy, what is the purpose of baptizing infants?  In Catholicism, speculation on Limbo of Infants is allowed, where an unbaptized infant would not go to Heaven, but some sort of location/state outside of the immediate presence of God.  From what I have read, Orthodoxy does not entertain such a position, and says that unbaptized infants go to Heaven.  Is this correct?

I guess my question ultimately is, what is the state that infants are born into, and what does baptism do for them such that it is necessary to baptize infants?

Thanks!
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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2010, 05:17:38 PM »

Just so you are aware, I am not yet a baptized member of the Church, so please take my answer with a grain of salt.

The answers that you will get on this are going to vary quite a bit. There was a time when the Orthodox churches would have perfectly affirmed the Latin understanding of why infants must be baptized (I'm thinking of the 1672 Council of Jerusalem here). Isa is especially familiar with this and can perhaps verify if this is a part of the council.

But that was a temporary situation during the "Western Captivity" of the Orthodox hierarchy, we have since returned to the mind of the Holy Fathers on these matters.

Infants are baptized primarily because it is their birthright. We are under the New Covenant with God, and the blessing of this are for all of our generations. Just as the Jews circumcised their infants, so we baptize them. St. Paul the Apostle discusses baptism as circumcision without hands (Colossians 2:10-15), meaning it is the circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6).

There is a distinct difference here between Orthodoxy and the Vatican, which is that we do not primarily baptize infants to make insure that they do not get trapped in purgatory, but rather because they are full members of the covenantal community, which is the Church. So they are not only baptized, but also chrismated (confirmed) and communed all at once from the outset. They are full members of the Body of Christ from birth, as much as a member as any bishop or priest, or even the Mother of God. Nothing is withheld from them as it is now if the West, because we do not place a premium on rational faculties. The faith of a child is the ideal, and we treat them as such.
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2010, 06:41:25 PM »

Infants are baptized primarily because it is their birthright. We are under the New Covenant with God, and the blessing of this are for all of our generations. Just as the Jews circumcised their infants, so we baptize them. St. Paul the Apostle discusses baptism as circumcision without hands (Colossians 2:10-15), meaning it is the circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6).

There is a distinct difference here between Orthodoxy and the Vatican, which is that we do not primarily baptize infants to make insure that they do not get trapped in purgatory, but rather because they are full members of the covenantal community, which is the Church. So they are not only baptized, but also chrismated (confirmed) and communed all at once from the outset. They are full members of the Body of Christ from birth, as much as a member as any bishop or priest, or even the Mother of God. Nothing is withheld from them as it is now if the West, because we do not place a premium on rational faculties. The faith of a child is the ideal, and we treat them as such.

Well said.  I would only add the following (re: communion):

We baptize & chrismate infants in order to facilitate the most meaningful relationship of their lives - the union with God in the Holy Eucharist.  While understanding may not be present, the ability to be one with Christ in Holy Communion is not one based on the operation of the nous or logical faculties, but rather is solely based on His mercy and condescension for our salvation.  We do not deprive infants of this experience, but rather immerse them in the relationship with their God, praying that as they grow their mental faculties will grow in and appreciate this relationship with their Maker.
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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2010, 07:34:04 PM »

But that was a temporary situation during the "Western Captivity" of the Orthodox hierarchy, we have since returned to the mind of the Holy Fathers on these matters.

Not everyone buys the whole "Western Captivity" dude.
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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2010, 07:59:23 PM »

But that was a temporary situation during the "Western Captivity" of the Orthodox hierarchy, we have since returned to the mind of the Holy Fathers on these matters.
Not everyone buys the whole "Western Captivity" dude.

Yes, and I tend to be one of those people myself, DUDE. I was simply trying to present the "objectively" Orthodox position on the matter, as he'll get that explanation from most people. He asked a simple question, and for now at least, it's probably best to keep the answers somewhat simplified.
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« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2010, 08:14:47 PM »

The Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrisimation and Communion give a human being through Grace what they lack through nature. It makes no difference whether you are an infant or a middle-aged adult with a PhD- there is nothing you can do or say or think which will give the same effect as this Grace.
An infant doesn't understand anything about nutrition, but this doesn't prevent the child benefiting from eating and drinking.
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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2010, 08:33:43 PM »

The Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrisimation and Communion give a human being through Grace what they lack through nature. It makes no difference whether you are an infant or a middle-aged adult with a PhD- there is nothing you can do or say or think which will give the same effect as this Grace.
An infant doesn't understand anything about nutrition, but this doesn't prevent the child benefiting from eating and drinking.

Amen.
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2010, 09:14:43 PM »

The answers that you will get on this are going to vary quite a bit. There was a time when the Orthodox churches would have perfectly affirmed the Latin understanding of why infants must be baptized (I'm thinking of the 1672 Council of Jerusalem here). Isa is especially familiar with this and can perhaps verify if this is a part of the council.

But that was a temporary situation during the "Western Captivity" of the Orthodox hierarchy, we have since returned to the mind of the Holy Fathers on these matters.

Infants are baptized primarily because it is their birthright. We are under the New Covenant with God, and the blessing of this are for all of our generations. Just as the Jews circumcised their infants, so we baptize them. St. Paul the Apostle discusses baptism as circumcision without hands (Colossians 2:10-15), meaning it is the circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6).

There is a distinct difference here between Orthodoxy and the Vatican, which is that we do not primarily baptize infants to make insure that they do not get trapped in purgatory, but rather because they are full members of the covenantal community, which is the Church. So they are not only baptized, but also chrismated (confirmed) and communed all at once from the outset. They are full members of the Body of Christ from birth, as much as a member as any bishop or priest, or even the Mother of God. Nothing is withheld from them as it is now if the West, because we do not place a premium on rational faculties. The faith of a child is the ideal, and we treat them as such.

Whether there in fact exists a sharp difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the salvific necessity of Holy Baptism is a debatable question, I think.  As noted, the necessity of Baptism is emphatically affirmed in the Orthodox Confession of Dositheus.  Were the Eastern Patriarchs who signed this confession deluded by Western influence?  Are we to believe that the Orthodox Church forgot the Orthodox faith for 500 years?  I think not.  It's quite one thing to say that between the 16th and 20th centuries Orthodoxy sought to express its faith in theological categories ultimately deemed inadequate; it's quite another thing to say that for half a millennium Orthodoxy taught falsehood.  

Let's not also forget that the Holy Fathers are not restricted to Eastern Fathers.  Consider Canon 110 of the Synod of Carthage (A.D. 419):

Quote
Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.

For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, “By one man sin is come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned,” than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith (regulam fidei) even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration.

As I understand the matter, the African Code was received into the Eastern Church by the Council of Trullo (A.D. 692).  We may wonder how Eastern Christians interpreted the claim that baptism effects a cleansing of that which is the "result of generation," but surely there is an acknowledgement here that even "innocent" infants need the regeneration in the Spirit that Holy Baptism confers.  Origen may not be a Church Father, but he speaks for the consensual Tradition when he writes: "Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And, indeed, if there were nothing in infants that required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of Baptism would be superfluous."  The necessity of baptism for infants is hardly a Western innovation.  To deny the salvific requisite of Baptism for infants is Pelagianism, and the Orthodox Church rejects Pelagianism.  The Orthodox Church rightly repudiates the rigorous Augustinian claim that infants who die without Baptism are necessarily consigned to the sufferings of Hell--the Catholic Church also rejects this claim--but the death of unbaptized infants still poses a problem.  This problem is recognized in The Great Book of Needs:

Quote
For an unbaptized infant, however, the Burial Service is not sung (meaning not performed) as he/she is not cleansed of original sin. Concerning the future lot of infants who die unbaptized, St Gregory the Theologian says that they will be neither glorified nor punished by the Righteous Judge, as unsealed (referring to Chrismation) and yet not wicked, but persons who have suffered rather than done wrong. For not everyone who is not bad enough to be punished is good enough to be honored; just as not everyone who is not good enough to be honored is bad enough to be punished. (Vol.III, p. 158)

The Catholic Church continues to struggle with the question of the eternal salvation of unbaptized infants.  All who are interested should examine the recent document "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Baptism."  I think it is accurate to say that the contemporary Catholic position has moved in a decidedly Eastern direction, trusting in the merciful God to accomplish in and for the child that which is normally accomplished in the baptismal rite (see the Catholic Catechism, 1257-1261).

It's easy enough to caricature and dismiss the scholastic speculation on Limbo, but the theologians who invented the idea were wrestling with a real problem posed by both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition.  The scholastics rejected the Augustinian teaching of infant damnation, yet they could not find sufficient biblical and patristic authority to assert eternal theosis of those infants who died without baptism.  They knew that regeneration in the Spirit is necessary for the salvation of every fallen human being ("Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [John 3:5]), but because of the lack of scriptural warrant, they were unwilling to assert willy nilly "All infants who die without Baptism immediately go to Heaven."  Hence they invented an eternal condition of natural beatitude and happiness for unbaptized infants (and virtuous pagans), which they called Limbo.  Sounds silly to us today, perhaps, but we need to acknowledge that these theologians were trying to be faithful to the Tradition.  For my own fallible take on the issue, take a look at my 2006 musings on Limbo.  
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2010, 12:13:04 AM »

We baptize children for the forgiveness of sins, sanctification, illumination, union with Christ etc.
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2010, 12:15:55 AM »

nfants are baptized primarily because it is their birthright. We are under the New Covenant with God, and the blessing of this are for all of our generations. Just as the J
Quote
ews circumcised their infants, so we baptize them. St. Paul the Apostle discusses baptism as circumcision without hands (Colossians 2:10-15), meaning it is the circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6).

There is a distinct difference here between Orthodoxy and the Vatican, which is that we do not primarily baptize infants to make insure that they do not get trapped in purgatory, but rather because they are full members of the covenantal community, which is the Church. So they are not only baptized, but also chrismated (confirmed) and communed all at once from the outset. They are full members of the Body of Christ from birth, as much as a member as any bishop or priest, or even the Mother of God. Nothing is withheld from them as it is now if the West, because we do not place a premium on rational faculties. The faith of a child is the ideal, and we treat them as such.
Although not necessarily unorthodox, this is not the way Orthodox traditionally talked. It sounds more like a "rectified" (i.e. made orthodox-like) Calvinist/Reformed explanation.
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2010, 12:40:24 AM »

Although not necessarily unorthodox, this is not the way Orthodox traditionally talked. It sounds more like a "rectified" (i.e. made orthodox-like) Calvinist/Reformed explanation.

So was the explanation of paedobaptism simply described in the way you did in the previous post? I have some Reformed theological influence in my brain simply from coming through a couple of years of Calvinism, so perhaps I am incorporating ideas from their camp, and "baptizing" them. Wink
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2010, 02:25:33 AM »

Simple question:  In Orthodoxy, what is the purpose of baptizing infants?  In Catholicism, speculation on Limbo of Infants is allowed, where an unbaptized infant would not go to Heaven, but some sort of location/state outside of the immediate presence of God.  From what I have read, Orthodoxy does not entertain such a position, and says that unbaptized infants go to Heaven.  Is this correct?

I guess my question ultimately is, what is the state that infants are born into, and what does baptism do for them such that it is necessary to baptize infants?

Thanks!

With every agreement with Fr. George's responses to this, I would add the following, since this issue is a hot topic with a lot of different perspectives, and thus it's always worthwhile to address the common generic "believer's baptism" argument.

Faith is obviously essential to the Christian life. It is common in the West to see baptism delayed until the age of reason because of this. This is dependent, however, upon a limited and impoverished understanding of what "Faith" is. The Scriptural concept of Faith includes intellectual belief, but is not limited to it, including also the realities we express in English with the word "trust." Children may not be able to believe, but they are supremely capable of implicit trust. (hence the faith like a child which the Lord praised so highly) Baptizing them as infants is intended to create that same relationship of implicit trust with Christ and the Church as they have with their parents. Obviously that relationship is nascent and must grow and develop, and eventually must acquire the fullness of intellectual belief along with a more informed submission. But it can, and ought, begin as soon as they are capable of a relationship of trust. Which happens as soon as they are born.
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2010, 03:57:36 AM »

A spanner in the works:

What of infants with intellectual disabilities, either genetic such as Down's syndrome, or acquired during birth or infancy? Is it at all within anyone's conscience, irrespective of Christian denomination, to deny these "little ones" baptism, because they could never be capable of "knowingly" or "rationally" know the Faith, or, worse, "consign" them to some sort of "limbo"?
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2010, 04:14:38 AM »

A spanner in the works:

What of infants with intellectual disabilities, either genetic such as Down's syndrome, or acquired during birth or infancy? Is it at all within anyone's conscience, irrespective of Christian denomination, to deny these "little ones" baptism, because they could never be capable of "knowingly" or "rationally" know the Faith, or, worse, "consign" them to some sort of "limbo"?

I don't see how it is a spanner. Trust in the Lord is a faculty which develops according to one's natural capacities as those capacities themselves grow. They are able to trust, if not to "believe"...and they trust more perfectly than most of us.
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Τῷ μεγάλῳ χρίεται μύρῳ καὶ χειρονεῖται βασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ τῶν Ῥωμαίων, πάντων δηλαδὴ τῶν χριστιανῶν...οὐδὲν οὖν ἔνι καλὸν, υἱέ μου, ἵνα λέγῃς, ὅτι ἐκκλησίαν ἔχομεν, οὐχὶ βασιλέα, οὐκ ἔνι δυνατὸν εἰς τοὺς χριστιανοὺς, ἔκκλησίαν ἔχειν καὶ βασιλέα οὐκ ἔχειν. – EP Anthony to Basil of Moscow c. 1395
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2010, 04:40:43 AM »

Regeneration precedes faith.

"(...) but according to his own mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit," Titus 3:5
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« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2010, 05:34:05 AM »

A spanner in the works:

What of infants with intellectual disabilities, either genetic such as Down's syndrome, or acquired during birth or infancy? Is it at all within anyone's conscience, irrespective of Christian denomination, to deny these "little ones" baptism, because they could never be capable of "knowingly" or "rationally" know the Faith, or, worse, "consign" them to some sort of "limbo"?

I don't see how it is a spanner. Trust in the Lord is a faculty which develops according to one's natural capacities as those capacities themselves grow. They are able to trust, if not to "believe"...and they trust more perfectly than most of us.

I have known, and currently know, folks who were/are afflicted with profound intellectual disability, where even a sense of "trust" would be/have been quite beyond their understanding. I am in no way being patronising. If anything, these "little ones" (of whatever chronological age) are true innocents, and will reach the kingdom of heaven far more easily than those of us of "sound mind". The point of my earlier post was to point out the fatuity of those (heterodox)who insist that baptism should only be performed on those who, by their own "reason" or "rationality", accept the Christian faith.

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« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2010, 05:34:46 AM »

A spanner in the works:

What of infants with intellectual disabilities, either genetic such as Down's syndrome, or acquired during birth or infancy? Is it at all within anyone's conscience, irrespective of Christian denomination, to deny these "little ones" baptism, because they could never be capable of "knowingly" or "rationally" know the Faith, or, worse, "consign" them to some sort of "limbo"?

When I was first assigned to the parishes in this country in the early 1980s, I found that a number of families (not members of our parishes) were bringing their intellectually impaired children up for communion.  I discovered that the reason was that other priests felt unable to commune them since it was uncertain whether they could discern the Body and Blood of the Lord. (I have no idea how they justified communing infants.)   The same reason was applied to not communing elderly people who suffered from mental degeneration.   I never argued with these priests (and I thank the Lord that the new generation does not believe in this way) but I would commune these impaired people.
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« Reply #17 on: March 29, 2010, 05:43:11 AM »

When I was first assigned to the parishes in this country in the early 1980s, I found that a number of families (not members of our parishes) were bringing their intellectually impaired children up for communion.  I discovered that the reason was that other priests felt unable to commune them since it was uncertain whether they could discern the Body and Blood of the Lord. (I have no idea how they justified communing infants.)   The same reason was applied to not communing elderly people who suffered from mental degeneration.   I never argued with these priests (and I thank the Lord that the new generation does not believe in this way) but I would commune these impaired people.

My point exactly, Father.
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« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2010, 07:28:07 AM »

A spanner in the works:

What of infants with intellectual disabilities, either genetic such as Down's syndrome, or acquired during birth or infancy? Is it at all within anyone's conscience, irrespective of Christian denomination, to deny these "little ones" baptism, because they could never be capable of "knowingly" or "rationally" know the Faith, or, worse, "consign" them to some sort of "limbo"?

When I was a Baptist, we had a pastor once whose daughter was severally handicapped- both mentally and physically.  I don't think she was ever baptized because she was "unable" to "believe."

I would be interested to here some of our recent credo-baptists opinions on this.  Where are Cleopas and David?
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« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2010, 10:21:16 AM »

A spanner in the works:

What of infants with intellectual disabilities, either genetic such as Down's syndrome, or acquired during birth or infancy? Is it at all within anyone's conscience, irrespective of Christian denomination, to deny these "little ones" baptism, because they could never be capable of "knowingly" or "rationally" know the Faith, or, worse, "consign" them to some sort of "limbo"?

I don't see how it is a spanner. Trust in the Lord is a faculty which develops according to one's natural capacities as those capacities themselves grow. They are able to trust, if not to "believe"...and they trust more perfectly than most of us.

I have known, and currently know, folks who were/are afflicted with profound intellectual disability, where even a sense of "trust" would be/have been quite beyond their understanding. I am in no way being patronising. If anything, these "little ones" (of whatever chronological age) are true innocents, and will reach the kingdom of heaven far more easily than those of us of "sound mind". The point of my earlier post was to point out the fatuity of those (heterodox)who insist that baptism should only be performed on those who, by their own "reason" or "rationality", accept the Christian faith.



This is precisely the point I am trying to make. Trust is NOT a rational thing, but is a question of relationship, dependence, and love that is possible for any human being in any condition from birth to the grave. To reduce it to a question of intellect and understanding is to demean the reality and concurrent complexity and simplicity of Communion that is the core of the Christian Faith.
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Τῷ μεγάλῳ χρίεται μύρῳ καὶ χειρονεῖται βασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ τῶν Ῥωμαίων, πάντων δηλαδὴ τῶν χριστιανῶν...οὐδὲν οὖν ἔνι καλὸν, υἱέ μου, ἵνα λέγῃς, ὅτι ἐκκλησίαν ἔχομεν, οὐχὶ βασιλέα, οὐκ ἔνι δυνατὸν εἰς τοὺς χριστιανοὺς, ἔκκλησίαν ἔχειν καὶ βασιλέα οὐκ ἔχειν. – EP Anthony to Basil of Moscow c. 1395
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« Reply #20 on: March 29, 2010, 10:31:10 AM »

I note that the link I provided to the Vatican document on Limbo doesn't seem to be working.  Let me try again:
The Hope of Salvation for Infants.
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