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Author Topic: something about infant baptism that confuses me  (Read 1525 times) Average Rating: 0
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erracht
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« on: June 24, 2004, 07:18:21 AM »

I don't understand one thing about infant baptism. Long ago I read something about how people should follow God's commandments. One of the things it said was that when you don't, you break a vow made at baptism, even if the vow was said by your sponsor. I was present at one baptism and I saw the priest ask the sponsor 3 times "do you renounce Satan?" to which he replied affirmatively - while the baby of course didn't seem aware of what was going on. Now I ask you to explain this to me: how is it possible for someone to make a vow for another person who doesn't (apparently) even know what's happening, and for that vow to be binding?
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Shiloah
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2004, 08:36:34 AM »

I was present at one baptism and I saw the priest ask the sponsor 3 times "do you renounce Satan?" to which he replied affirmatively - while the baby of course didn't seem aware of what was going on.

Erracht, you say it right, the baby didn't seem aware - but its soul was altogether aware. It takes 9 months for the body to be put together and grow to be born, and then it takes years for it to grow to maturity - but the soul  is a different matter.

Do we have any teachings about the age and consciousness of the soul? Maybe other readers can help out with that. I found one statement on the subject of 'soul' at  http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b05.en.the_illness_and_cure_of_the_soul.02.htm (passage on The Soul of Man) and it appears in a very long context. Therefore I have to take it out of context here. It says:
Quote
However we believe that the world and man, therefore man's soul also, is a positive work of God the creator. It is not the fruit of the fall of a real world; in that case evil would be immanent in the creation of the existing world. God created the soul. The soul is not a particle of divinity, neither God's breath, as some people say. But since, as Holy Chrysostom says, the in-breathing of God is the energy of the Holy Spirit, it is this energy of the Holy Spirit which created the soul, without itself becoming the soul. This is a very important point to be stated, because thus we realise that we cannot examine the soul autonomously, but in connection with God.

Those who say baptism is for persons who are old enough to make a decision for it do not realize that the soul is fully conscious at all times, even in the mother's womb, and needs the comfort of the Sacrament. I consider baptism of a baby an act of love and part of God's providential care for the soul.

On the other hand, in the early days of the church only adults could receive baptism. It usually was done on the Day of Pentecost. And they were to have had instructions first.
In the 3rd century the Church mandated baptism for children and infants to assure their salvation in case of accident.

In Mark 16:16 we read that " He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."  Can an infant believe? What part of us is it that we believe with? And then also consider Chrismation.  At Chrismation the gifts of the Holy Spirit are being embedded as spiritual seeds into the soul of the one being baptized (according to my Orthodox Catechism from 1968).

Maybe you clerics on this forum have more and better words to share. This is just an humble attempt of an answer.

Shiloah





« Last Edit: June 24, 2004, 08:37:51 AM by Shiloah » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2004, 08:49:41 AM »

Could you please explain what this means:
"its soul was altogether aware"?

How is a soul aware and what does it mean to have a 'soul' that is aware?
BTW - do you mean 'soul' or 'spirit,' ie, are you positing a tripartite nature of humanity (body, soul, spirit) or a bipartite nature (material, immaterial)?
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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2004, 09:25:37 AM »

Erracht,

Quote
I don't understand one thing about infant baptism. Long ago I read something about how people should follow God's commandments. One of the things it said was that when you don't, you break a vow made at baptism, even if the vow was said by your sponsor. I was present at one baptism and I saw the priest ask the sponsor 3 times "do you renounce Satan?" to which he replied affirmatively - while the baby of course didn't seem aware of what was going on. Now I ask you to explain this to me: how is it possible for someone to make a vow for another person who doesn't (apparently) even know what's happening, and for that vow to be binding?

Part of the problem people now days may have with understanding something like this, is that we live in a culture which lays heavy emphasis on the idea of personal autonomy.  In recent years, this has even filtered it's way down to small children, who properly speaking cannot make decisions for themselves.

Common sense should indicate, however, that this libertine indulgence of children is unreasonable.   Parents most certainly have the right to make decisions for their offspring, particularly when they are well below the age of reason  (though the soul of man is created rational, it takes years for a child to grown into this.)  And given that the parents have turn some of their rights over their children's upbringing over to select persons for varying reasons (such as a teacher for example), in that capacity that person participates in this authority over the child in question.

Thus, it is perfectly reasonable for a Godparent to make promises on behalf of their Godchild.  Of course, it goes without saying that in the end the child in question will certainly have a personal role in this - in so far as they choose (and choose they must) to continue once they get older in these Baptismal promises.

While our personal choices are extremely important, they never totally exempt us (even in adulthood) from the decisions of our forefathers.  I did not disobey the simple fast imposed by the Lord upon our ancient ancestors, and sink my teeth into the forbidden fruit - yet I was born in the condition of sin, defiled, and overwhelmed in mortality and all of the ugly consequences of this.

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erracht
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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2004, 06:48:10 AM »

Okay, then, let's analyze this further:

1) so when an infant is baptized, do they somehow accept the vows, although they're too young to speak and look like they're not aware of what's happening?

2) let's say there was an older child who could voice an opinion on the matter. The parents wanted the child baptized, the child refused to be baptized, but the parents had managed to bring them to church anyway. If the child was vocal about not wanting to be baptized/said they did not believe in the teaching of the Church/said no when asked by the priest "do you renounce Satan", could/would the priest baptize such a person anyway?
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« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2004, 11:21:33 AM »

Erracht,

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1) so when an infant is baptized, do they somehow accept the vows, although they're too young to speak and look like they're not aware of what's happening?

The vows are accepted on their behalf, by those who have the right to speak for them on the matter.

Quote
2) let's say there was an older child who could voice an opinion on the matter. The parents wanted the child baptized, the child refused to be baptized, but the parents had managed to bring them to church anyway. If the child was vocal about not wanting to be baptized/said they did not believe in the teaching of the Church/said no when asked by the priest "do you renounce Satan", could/would the priest baptize such a person anyway?

I'll give an example which is hopefully illustrative...

In the Orthodox Church infants are given Holy Communion.  Since they cannot personally sin, small children are communed - parents can freely bring their child for Holy Communion every time they attend the Divine Services, with no qualms about whether or not the little one is properly prepared.

However, at the discretion of the Priest, the child will begin to have to receive confession before communing, or at least examining their conscience in those Churches where this long standing practice (of confessing before every reception of the Holy Gifts) is not strictly put in place.  Typically, this is usually at around the age of seven, though there are always exceptions to this (particularly with some children younger than this, who may be more morally developed).  Once again, at the Priest's discretion.

What this example demonstrates, is that there is a point where the child begins to become morally culpable, and capable of putting obsticals in the way of their fruitfully receiving the sacraments.  Sadly, that means they can receive the Holy Mysteries in a sacreligious manner.

So if we're talking about a little child (say an infant or a toddler), their Baptism is not an issue to be worried about.  But say it's an older child (like a ten year old) who for whatever reason has some strong objection to becoming Orthodox, they should not be Baptized.

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erracht
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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2004, 07:33:31 AM »

Well explained, Augustine.
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