Theologian, philosopher, and evangelical convert to Catholicism Dr. Douglas Beaumont is one of the most insightful apologists working in the field today. As a writer and podcaster I read a lot, listen to a lot of lectures and talks, and speak to a lot of interesting people but, when speaking with Doug, I always come away with one or another sweeping new insights into how I understand my Catholic faith.
Maybe because Dr. Beaumont talks about Catholicism like an evangelical; we speak the same language and I think those that have been on the journey we’ve been on, those that are taking tentative steps to cross the Tiber, feel the same way too.
So when I sat down to speak to Dr. Beaumont for an episode I was calling The Catholic Case for Infant Baptism, I wasn’t too surprised when he threw out some pretty earth-shaking ideas about how and why Catholics baptize babies.
The interview as a whole is fantastic. Doug walks us through why the Bible alone isn’t a sufficient case for proving, or disproving, infant baptism. Both the faith traditions that Dr. Beaumont and I grew up in practised a believer’s baptism—that is, you have to be able to believe for yourself, confess your own belief in Jesus, in order to follow the biblical mandate of being baptized.
I was in late high school when I publicly confessed a belief in Christ and was baptized in front of the church.
But this, argued Doug, has no better case in the Scriptures than the Catholic view of baptizing babies.
We can find support for both perspectives in the Bible, says Doug, so we have to look elsewhere to help us decided which is right. In this case, the compelling case of history and the view of the vast majority of Christians throughout time and, worldwide today, is on the side of infant baptism. It is, says Dr. Beaumont, the historical practice of the Church throughout time and impossible to argue otherwise.
But it was what Dr. Beaumont suggested next, as a comparable case to infant baptism, that was truly a shocking claim.
If we aren’t going to baptize babies, said Dr. Beaumont, then we have to stop giving Communion to women.
“If you’re going to say X never happens to Y therefore you can’t do it,” he says, “we shouldn’t be giving women Communion anymore than we should be baptizing infants.”But, he continues, you never meet Baptist who denies women Communion although the principle he presents is sound.
Because those who argue against the practice of infant baptism as wrong and “unbiblical” will point to the fact that we don’t have explicit examples of babies being baptized in the New Testament. And they’re right. We have examples of “household baptisms” and we can reason that those households probably contained infants—after all, in the Greek context of the word “household” includes servants and their families too—but it isn’t sufficient proof nor does the Catholic Church claim it to be.
Scriptures provide examples of whole households being baptized and individuals too but, in both cases, it is nowhere clear that we have to practice baptism one way or the other—nowhere do we see Christ or His apostles saying, “Baptize adults only,” or, “You better get dunked while you’re young!”
But if we’re not going to baptize babies because nowhere in Scripture is it crystal clear that we should be doing that then, says Doug, we have to be consistent across the board—and since nowhere in Scripture do we see women receiving Communion maybe they shouldn’t be taking part either.
Such a notion seems insane but it throws light on the inconsistency, the problem, with understanding baptism (or communion) by using the Bible as our only guide. There are instances, like these two examples, which aren’t explicit from Scripture. So how do we understand them? This, Dr. Beaumont argues, is where the Church has to step in to inform. The Church argues that from as far back as we can see, in the Tradition passed on from the Apostles, infants were being baptized.
The Tradition of the Church, handed on from the beginning, is what fills in those blanks left by the collected books of the New Testament and here the case is unanimously on the side of baptizing infants—and giving Communion to all baptized believers!
To listen to this fantastic episode of the podcast in full click here or listen below.