Children, Church and Baptism

I recently posted a brief statement on “Children at the Table” in which I suggested that the practice of sharing table communion with our children might be a good idea.

One question this raises, among others, is the relationship of children to the kingdom of God. For our paedo-baptist friends, it is obvious. Children are baptized into the community of faith based on the promise of God to the children of the covenant and through the faith of their parents. For those who do not practice infant baptism the question is rather different. Both traditions, however, struggle with the problem of “accountability,” that is, when does a child own their faith as their own (thus “confirmation” or other rituals in paedo-baptist traditions).

Within Churches of Christ we have historically held that children are “safe” (without sin) until they reach the “age of accountability” at which time they own their sin and become sinners (guilty). At that point, as I generally understood the theology, they are not only unsafe but also outside the grace of God. They do not belong to the kingdom. Consequently, children (ranging from ages 9-13 generally) are instructed about baptism, their sin, and their need for Jesus. As a result, Churches of Christ usually reap a baptismal harvest from among their children between the ages of 9-13 (I myself was 11 when I was baptized by my father).

This approach assumes that children move from “safe” to “lost” and then are “saved” when they are baptized. The tricky point, however, is how to identify the exact moment, time and circumstance when they move from “safe” to “lost.” Existentially this is an important question. If one’s child dies at the age of ten unbaptized is the child “safe” or “lost”? What if the child is thirteen or fifteen? It is a harsh question but a living one.

I would hope that we might all have the grace and mercy to say the  deceased child now experiences the embrace of the loving Father covered in the mercy of Jesus. But on what theological or biblical grounds do we say that  if we believe that children within the church move from “safe” to “lost” at some point which we cannot identify.

When I baptized my daughter at the age of eleven, I can say with absolute certainty that if she had died the night before I would have “preached her into heaven” (as the saying goes). Existentially, in my mind at least, my daughter was not baptized to move her from “lost” to “saved.”

So what do we do with this theological impasse? I suppose one could argue that my love for my daughter blinded me to her “lostness.” I suppose one could suggest that she was not ready for baptism if she was not “lost” and perhaps she was baptized too early. But I question the theological underpinnings of the notion that our children move from “safe” to “lost” to “saved” (once baptized).

My daughter always believed in Jesus. There was never a time when she did not believe. She always believed according to her capacity to believe. Her faith developed through various levels of faith and discipleship but her faith was present throughout. From her first singings of “Jesus loves me” to her confession of faith at her baptism–faith was a constant in her life.

What do I do with that? I believe that through faith she was not merely “safe” but “saved,” that is, living in communion and relationship with God as her faith developed and her discipleship matured. As our children grow up in faith and live within a faith community, they enjoy a relationship with God through family, community and their own childlike faith.

Their growth in faith is marked throughout their family and communal life. Some faith communities have rituals to mark the various moments of faith, even something as simple as reciting the Lord’s prayer or as dramatic as a “graduation into the Youth Group.” The most dramatic, biblical and initiatory ritual is baptism.

When our children who have been nurtured in faith and have expressed their faith in a multitude of ways come to baptism, I do not believe they come as “lost” people. Rather, they come as children of the church, children of the faith community. They come already belonging to the kingdom of God–they are not “lost” nor “safe” but already in communion with God.

They come to baptism to declare their faith. They come to publically embrace their discipleship. They come to become full participants in the life of the faith community through owning their own faith and committing themselves to following Jesus to the cross. They follow Jesus into the water in order to follow him to the cross.

Baptism for our children is a climatic act of faith. It dramatically initiates them into a life of discipleship.

I think the baptism of Jesus is a model for this. Jesus did not come to his baptism as one who was “lost.” He came to his baptism to declare his discipleship–a follower of the Father who intended to do the will of the Father, even to cross. His baptism began his public ministry, his public life as a disciple. But he had been a disciple long before his baptism. He had been nurtured in faith by Joseph and Mary, he had been taught at the synagogue, he had celebrated Israel’s redemption at the Passover, etc.  In effect, he had matured as a disciple through his first thirty years and owned his mission at his baptism in obedience to the Father.

Our children do something similar. They have been nurtured by family and community. They have walked a path of faith and discipleship throughout their years. And when they come to their baptism, they do not come as “lost” little people. They come as believers–people who have lived in relationship with God since their birth–ready to own their discipleship, declare their allegiance to the Father, and commit to the way of the cross as followers of Jesus.

That view of baptism is a bit higher than just moving from “lost” to “saved.” To convince a child they have done bad things and they need forgiveness is much simpler task than to wait for them to own their discipleship and commit to the way of the cross.

Perhaps if we thought that our children lived in communion with God through faith we would not rush them to the water as soon as they become aware of some distinctions about good and evil. Perhaps if we thought our children were saved by God’s grace through faith we could patiently wait for the moment when they are fourteen or sixteen or even eighteen for them to declare their discipleship and take up the mission of Jesus.

I am not suggesting a particular age for baptism. I don’t know what that should be; everyone must decide for themselves. But what I am suggesting is that to pressure our children into baptism in order to soothe our own worries and fears about their salvation is rooted in a misguided theology.

While I do not know if David Lipscomb would agree with what I have written above, I do know that he believed that a child was sufficiently prepared for baptism if she believed that she was acting in obedience to the Father whether she believed she had sin or not. In conclusion, I offer a few selections from David Lipscomb which I think share the principle I applied to this discussion. I offer them for not only historical perspective, but for careful reflection as well.

It is not an accident that those whose hearts and lives were most deeply steeped in sin, like the slayers of Jesus Christ and Saul seeking the death of all Christians, were told how to be freed from sin; while nothing of this is said to Timothy, trained and nurtured in the religion of the Bible to understand and obey its teachings, or Cornelius and Nicodemus, seeking to know the will of God, or Jesus Christ, willing to die to honor his Father’s will. Each was taught as his condition required, and God was well pleased with obedience of all classes. [1]

The spirit in which one should come to Christ is that of a little child, knowing but little, but trusting in God, and glad in his ignorance and helplessness to follow God and do what God desires him to do, and because God desires it. “Ye are my friends, if ye do the things I command you.” A better motive to do than because God commanded it never moved a man. [2]

When one reared in the training and instruction of the Lord like Timothy desires to enter Christ, his case is divine inspiration to guide him. The little girl’s wish to be baptized because Jesus wanted her to be, is as much the direction of the Spirit of God as for the murderers of the Lord to “be baptized into the remission of sins.” Those desirous to learn and do the will of God while children cannot be oppressed with a heavy weight of guilt, but find direction into the body of Christ, where all evils are banished and all blessings abound. Were one as faithful as the Son of God to be found, it would only be necessary that he be baptized to fulfill the will of God. [3]

[1] David Lipscomb, “What Must a Man Know to Fit Him to Enter Christ?” Gospel Advocate 55 (27 November 1913) 1156.

[2] David Lipscomb, “Query Department,” Gospel Advocate 52 (6 October 1910) 1109.

[3] David Lipscomb, “A Summary. No. 2,” Gospel Advocate 56 (1 January 1914) 11.

39 Responses to “Children, Church and Baptism”

  1.   kamelhaarjoe Says:

    thank you, i needed to hear that. our church is struggling with this because of a more or less open table (which i advocated) and now the parents with older children who are not baptised are confused because a lot of young kids who are not baptised either are taking part in the meal. viewing children like you described it makes a lot of sense to me. nobody really knows what to do with baptism anymore. what does it mean? what is t for? only the teens and young adults who have been baptised recently kinda have an idea. but then, i used your bok on baptism to instruct them. 😉

  2.   Adam Metz Says:

    This subject has served as a constant topic of interest (and confusion) for me. My ministry has revolved around children (and teens) my entire life. Now, with three children of my own, I am faced with theory meeting practice even more acutely as my wife and I must decide how we will raise our own children. We both feel that the theology of our upbringing is insufficient, but continue to search for more complete alternatives.

    First off, we have decided to share in the communion feast with our children each Sunday. In all of our understanding of what that time is about, we are committed to allowing our children to share in that meal. It seems counterproductive to make that meal something you “get to do” once you are baptized. As you have helped me see in your work, would Christ refuse anyone at His table? We try to help our oldest(at least) – who is 4, know that this is a special meal, about Jesus dying on the cross. We get some funny looks, but most people are not too judgmental (but a few probably wish we wouldn’t do it).

    Baptism is a little bit hairier. When we had our first child, I honestly desired to have him baptized as an infant. My position in the church (and, frankly, an unfamiliarity with churches and pastors who would help) helped choose not too. I look at infant baptism as consistent with the Jewish circumcision ritual – a sign from the parents of their dedication of the child to the Lord. Our congregation has a yearly “baby dedication” which we try to keep in place the same ideal.

    “When is she ready?” seems to be the question most frequently asked of me when it comes to their children, and what I think you are getting at here. I think the great problem with the biblical text here is that there is a lack of “second generation Christians.” We don’t know what they did with their children. Depending on who you read, paedo-baptism was practiced very early . . . or not until much later. In any case, it has been a very widely practiced act of the church for a good part of its history. Anyone who practices that has a corresponding confirmation practice or similar event.

    The problem for me in most of these discussions is the necessity of a line of demarcation – who’s in, who’s out? When? We must bathe this conversation in grace every bit as much as any other discussion we have. We must find doctrinal grace.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Adam, I appreciate the comment, my friend.

      I would not be supportive of infant baptism because I see baptism as a discipleship commitment rather than the function of circumcision in Israel. Jesus is the model here, I think. His circumcision did not mean his baptism was unnecessary. They served different functions. But that is another discussion. 🙂

      I do like “baby dedications”–and other rituals for children growing up in a faith community. They are markers which nurture, develop and encourage faith as well as commitment from the community in which they participate.

      I am suggesting that our children, as part of the faith community and growing in faith themselves, are always “in” by the grace of God. So, we don’t have to worry about the “when” as if if salvation depended upon it, but rather we encourage the “when” as their faith leads them to discipleship commitment through baptism. I hope that makes some sense. 🙂

  3.   jde22 Says:

    Thank you for your thoughts on this subject. Like the commenter above, I have also served in ministry and have girls of my own that I am trying to lead in the faith. This year the issue became more acute to me as my 4 year old daughter aksed several questions regarding the death of Jesus. There are certianly many things to consider, so again, thanks for putting them out on the table.

  4.   Jr Says:

    Thanks, John Mark. Not sure where I’m going to go with this, but here goes:

    It is said that in the nature of the development of Christian doctrine, controversy often produces theological precision. It may be time for some real and loud controversy within the Churches of Christ because we are so theologically imprecise on some of these issues it borders on embarrassing. May truth and grace abound.

    JMH wrote: “Within Churches of Christ we have historically held that children are “safe” (without sin)” — and where is the Scripture for this? To the contrary; Scripture is littered with points to the exact opposite reality of man. (Rom 3:23, 3:9-11, 6:17-18, 7:18, Eph 2:3, 4:17-18, 1 Cor 2:14, Jer 17:9, 1 Kings 8:46, Psalm 51:5, 143:2, 1 John 1:8, and on and on)

    The point of moving from “safe” to “lost” to “saved” is simply not found in the Scriptures; and it is this same mentality that brings us the teaching that you can be “saved” then “lost;” which is completely antithetical to the teachings of Jesus when He said “no one can pluck them from my hand.” (John 10:28-30). If one is considered to be once “saved” then “lost,” they were never true born-again believers to begin with (1 John 2:19). Did He die for your sins or didn’t He?

    At the core of both teachings (safe, then lost, then saved — and saved, then lost) is human emotion, human centerdness, and the need for control and understanding.

    I do not claim to judge a little child; for there is only one judge; but I have a 3 year old son and a 1 year old daughter and if I am to listen to the Scriptures I am not going to dupe them into believing they are hunky dory in the eyes of God when Scripture tells me otherwise. There is no submission in that teaching; only an unfounded presupposition of youthfully-ignorant self-justification. Is that what any of us should teach a 2-year old? “It’s OK Tommy, you’re too young to understand anything so you’re safe.” Are we willing to bank the souls of our children to a teaching that relies on such an unbiblical game of chance?

    Another problem cited is the thought that baptism is the actual act that saves anyone. There are, shall I presume, many people who have been baptized who are condemned because they were never born again; born of the Spirit; born of God. (John 3:3)

    I agree that baptism is the outward confession that you die with Christ and are raised with Him and into Him; but only for true believers who have been compelled to do so and are indwelt by the Spirit. And anyone who would deny the purpose for baptism is neglecting one of Jesus’ teaching’s in the “great commission;” to their own folly.

    Being raised in the Church of Christ: I was baptized at 12; but I can tell you for a fact that intellectually I had no clue what I was doing (though, in that mind, I thought I was simply saving myself from hell). But today I look at the baptism as a true confession; since I now know what it means to die and to be raised in Jesus. So when was I actually “saved”? I’m not so sure the “when” is as important as the fact that “I am”! And praise God for His mercy and grace; to pull me from my life of death I formerly lived.

    (apologies on the length of this comment)

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:


      I could have been more precise. As you know the arguments are much more complicated than I indicated in my summary of “safe (without sin).” What is meant by that, historically, is that children are not held accountable for their actual sins until they come to an age of discernment. And, historically, whatever Adam did to them was reversed in Christ. Thus, they are “safe.”

      I myself do not think in terms of “safe,” but “saved”–that is, saved by the work of Christ (which includes the reversal of Adam’s work) through their childlike growth in faith within the faith community. They are “maturing disciples” within the faith community.

      So, I would move along the lines of maintaining the we are all saved by grace through faith. Through faith I am assured that God holds me in his hands and will never let me go. But without faith I have no such assurance and no promise.

      Along with Calvin and the Reformed creeds of the Reformation, I would not say that baptism is the act that saves us but that God gives through baptism what it signifies. It is a means of grace.

  5.   Terrell Lee Says:

    Nothing is closer to the heart of a C of C parent than this discussion. Thanks.

    What scares me is the thought that some well-intentioned minister, leader or parent feels compelled to put the fear of God into youths by scaring them with the thought of hell and eternal punishment when the kids still struggle with being away from parents too long at a time.

    When appropriate, I’ve used the tadpole as an illustration. A tadpole filters its oxygen out of the water and would die on dry land. A frog gets its oxygen out of the air and would drown on dry land. In between, there is a transitional period, a period of continuous grace, when God is working to develop faith in a child and when he calls parents and the church to teach, model, etc. Most of the young people I baptize are more in the early stages of that transition. A gracious, loving God knows exactly how long is needed for one to become a disciple or to rebel; no human can know that nor should pretend to know the mind of God.

    In speaking to those “baptized” as an infant, my general practice is to praise the parents for wanting to do the right thing, for prioritizing a spiritual launching of their children. Then I urge the now adult to be grateful for her parents’ faith but now to express their discipleship through their own faith. I don’t have all the answers but it makes no sense to me that a child would have to come to some realization that he is lost before he can be baptized.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Terrell, I have used similar analogies and thoughts on the subjects you addressed. I would hope that we would rather put the love of God in their hearts rather than the fear of God.

      I know, like JR above, I was baptized at 11 so that I would not go to Hell. I value my baptism but because of what I have since learned and not for that specific motive that moved me with tears of fear.

  6.   Quiara Says:

    Thank you. You have articulated this beautifully and helped me flesh out of few points in something I have believed for some time.

    I believe that baptism is a process that proceeds not only from the water onward, but back again over the past. It’s another step and a fuller perspective and it’s something amazing. It seems, to me, to be the wedding. It’s not that the two to be wed are not already in love or that they are somehow estranged. It’s just making the ultimate commitment to experiencing the fullness of that love.

  7.   hoopster Says:

    Excellent! My then 6 yo asked me if she was a Christian some time ago. The old me (when I was trapped in legalism) would have said no, not until you are baptized. The new me said, “yes, you are a believer, you are a Christian”.

    We went camping with our small group once a while back and shared the LS in the woods together that Sunday. All the kids were allowed to join in with us. Awesome is the word that comes to mind.

  8.   Royce Says:

    The Bible is explicitly clear that those who are actively trusting Christ are Christians. The points you make about children are right on the money and the same is true of adults. Baptism, for a child or for an adult is the formal, public, “coming out” (for lack of a better phrase) for Jesus. I think no person disagrees that belief in Jesus is a prerequisite for baptism and Jesus and others declare those “family” who believe.

    Of course, when a young adult or an older prson chooses to habitually live in open sin “rebellion” against God and the teachings of the Bible that person is “not safe”.

    Thanks you for having the courage to tackle a difficult, but necessary subject with clarity and grace.


  9.   K. Rex Butts Says:


    Watch out for those lightning bolts from heaven:-).

    I met someone from a fairly popular Christian music group that believed any child who died without baptism was lost and doomed to hell. I sat in silence, not knowing what to say. Little did they know they were speaking to a father who had buried his unbaptized child only six months prior to that conversation. Fortunately, like you, I believe our children are redeemed in Christ. But at the time, that conversation was one more nail in the coffin that was trying to bury my faith in God for good.

    On baptizing Children, what age, and for what reason… I have often thought the baptism of Jesus was a model but had never heard anyone in the CoC express that same idea except for one Professor at Harding University (undergraduate) and that was only in a private conversation. As for myself, I was baptized at the age of 9 during a gospel meeting, when the preacher lit a candle for the invitation song and dared anyone to hold their hand over the candle for 5 minutes and asked us to ponder what it would be like spending eternity in the flames of hell (little did the preacher know but I was feeling pretty guilty that night for somehting I did wrong at home – hence my big sin). So I was baptized for fear…and fear only works as a motive so long as that fear continues. Later on in my life, I was “re-baptized. Though I do not teach and insist that others who had similar baptismal experiences as mine,pursue re-baptism, I was re-baptized because I believe baptism is for those who can willingly confess Jesus Christ as Lord and willingly committ their life to Jesus as a disciple and I wanted to make that committment in baptism.

    Thanks for this post and enjoy dodging those lightning bolts:-).

    Grace and peace,


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Unbaptized infants go to hell? That I do not understand in view of the love of God but I do understand why some believe such given their theology. Indeed, for some, there is no knowing about unbaptized infants–the great debate among Calvinists in earlier centuries left the question undetermined for many.

  10.   richard Corum Says:

    What a helpful discussion. I hate to admit it, but man you are smart. Every time I come to your blog I go away with a suitcase full of information to unpack. I would say more, but the others are covering the bases quite well.

  11.   Jonathan Says:

    Great post – and so timely thanks JM; there have been many discussions regarding this and other issues lately in our neighborhood. I am not sure if these angles have been covered:
    1. If the child grows up in faith, but doesn’t get baptized, and is now an adult.. when do they step into ‘lostness’? By a cognizant turning away?
    2. If this is the case, are we closer to the Baptists than many have thought they were? Faith being the key, and transformation happening through Christ’s act with the Spirit towards us? And so the cognizant understanding of a ‘point of salvation’ is blurred, but because they have essentially done the same thing as a C of C person (ie Restorationist), is that ok?

    Titus 3
    4. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
    5. he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
    6. whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
    7. so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

    3. The Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc seem to equate infant and adult baptism as a sacrament alongside of The Lord’s Supper – I think you wrote about this as well… John Piper speaks strongly against trusting our baptisms for our salvation… should it really be a dividing point of fellowship?

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I don’t know the answer to question #1. I suppose when faith refuses baptism, or faith is lost, or rebellious and persistent lifestyle is obvious…if not to us, at least to God. Deliberate willful rejection of God is certainly one indicator as Hebrews 10 suggests.

      I think, like Lipscomb, that the difference between Baptists and Disciples (Churches of Christ) is not as great as debators make it out to be. Baptism is part of the process and it is a sacramental event, in my opinion. I think Titus 3 says as much–it is the washing of rebirth.

      I think Piper buys into Zwinglianism a bit too much and should listend to Calvin a bit more on baptism as a means of grace. 🙂 No one with any seriousness trusts their baptism, but they trust God who acts through and attaches promises to the obedient act of baptism.

      Those are my ruminations…and I’m sticking to them. 🙂

  12.   WesWoodell Says:

    Thanks for posting this.

    I would like my own children to be welcomed to partake of the Lord’s supper pre-baptism. In thinking about the types of people Jesus invited to His table while He was walking the earth, I have a hard time believing He’d reject ANYONE – baptized or not – from partaking in a meal in His honor.

    And thank you for posting those comments from Lipscomb – very insightful as well.


  13.   Daniel Oden Says:

    Thanks for the post. Do you discuss (elsewhere perhaps) the following passage in relation to these excellent questions you bring ‘to the table’ regarding the nature of christian community?

    1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy.

    yeah, I know, just the question a WTS alum would ask…


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      As far as I remember, I have never written anything on 1 Corinthians 7:14. But in my reflection it does factor into the equation but not as strongly as some others might.

      In essence, my opinion is that Paul is saying that the marriage is holy and the children of the marriage are holy (that is, legit). I’m not sure that it has much to do with the relationship of children to community or even to salvation.

  14.   eirenetheou Says:

    Having seen and experienced what children are capable of doing — to themselves, to each other, and to the rest of the created world — i have come to agree with a saying attributed to the great Augustine, that “the supposed innocence of children is due to weakness of limb, not purity of heart.”

    Among the weakest limbs that human children are developing and beginning to exercise, as they grow toward “maturity,” are the rational faculties — an ability to think in abstraction from immediate, “concrete” reality — and consciousness of a “world” — or worlds — beyond the mundane routine of the family, then clan, then neighbors, then school. Many children encounter “reality” quite early, in traumatic events, but they have not yet developed the means to understand what is happening.

    In Genesis 3 the man and the woman are naked, but they do not “know” it — that is, they have no knowledge of clothing and its purpose, to “cover nakedness.” Only when they acquire what was forbidden to them, “the knowledge of good and evil,” do they come to understand their natural state — nakedness — as somehow evil. Why, then, was their nakedness not “evil” in the beginning? It was not evil then, because they did not “know” it then. Now that they are conscious of their nakedness, they rush to cover it. Until they “knew” nakedness, they were not accountable for it, but now they are. As the Lamarckian heirs of this great etiological saga have done ever after, they reached for what they were told to avoid at all costs . . . and here we are.

    At what point does a child’s consciousness of “sin” and its consequences require baptism into Christ? One child may experience every kind of grievous “sin,” even in his own flesh, and yet have no framework in which to understand what he has done or what has been done to him, as “sin” — that is, as separation from God. Another child may be so reared that early in life she may develop a tender consciousness of every mistake or error as “sin” requiring restitution and forgiveness. (Which is the worse of these childhoods, we may well ponder.) i think that whenever we encounter a well-developed sense of need for God’s grace and mercy, for one’s relationship to the world to be “made right,” we have a candidate for teaching that will lead to baptism. Everyone who is baptized into Christ becomes, immediately, a “babe in Christ,” be she nine or ninety. We should pray for discernment, that we may recognize the need when we see it.

    God’s Peace to you.


    •   K. Rex Butts Says:

      There is know doubt that children are capable of doing some horrible things. One only needs to look at all of the school shootings as an example. However, if there is indeed evil residing in the heart of a child, is that evil due to the inherint original sin or is it a product of their environment?

      I don’t have the answer to that question but I think the “environmental influence” is something that needs to be explored in the question of original sin/guilt and its later development of total depravity.

      Just some conversation thoughts…

      Grace and peace,


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Children certainly carry an “Adamic” (if we want to use that term) nature with them–they are broken little people born into a broken world. Thus, we train them, lead them to Jesus, etc. But I don’t think that undermines God’s gracious attitude toward them in their situation as God judges according to what a person has and not according to what they don’t have.

      Do children do evil things? Of course, they do. I’ve seen alot of kingdom people (saved people) do some evil stuff too. 🙂 God is graciou and we have great need of his mercy.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Don. I always learn something from you.

  15.   rich constant Says:

    AND i dissagree with you on that one.
    although i will read that one more time…

    from the point of view i hold from that scrip. a child becomes an individuial by way of gov i became a man by law at 21…
    my children at the age of 18 now that is the guage that i have always used .
    i was baptised at or about christmas when i turned 21 my birthday is oct28

    my yonger brothers were baptised durning there early teens…

    blessings rich

  16.   rich constant Says:

    the risk in that in my opinion is do i believe the scripture.
    raise a child up right and he will not depart from the way when he is older…
    ALL my children (6) were baptized except 2 when they became an adult by law.
    the other 2 were motavated by peer presure…in my opinion…which is fine i just don’t like that sort of motovation.
    also if they would ask me dad can?i be baptised i would say your too young…

    •   Quiara Says:

      What happened to “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Rich? Is it really your call to decide whether they’re too young? If they’re responding out of the fullness of their capability to the best of their ability to the love of God in Christ, I say let them. But then, I’m not God either, as Royce has pointed out. I trust God work his will in the lives and hearts of those who’ll let him, regardless of age.

  17.   Royce Ogle Says:


    HUH?? So, the law decides for God when a child is no longer a child? In one country it would be one age and on another it would be different? Tell me you are not serious. This must be a joke, right?

    And you are satisfied that just so your children have been baptised, for what ever reason, that is good enough for you?

    I’m glad I’m not God. He sure has his work cut out for him…


  18.   rich constant Says:

    no royce the law decited for me the age of accountability…
    when gods word was ambuigeous

  19.   rich constant Says:

    again that is how i apply 1cor. 7.14
    and the believing parent

  20.   rich constant Says:

    by the way
    that was my best choice i could be wrong i just have a reason to believe that today…
    allthings considered again
    you know what is said about opinion’s

    i am open to any thing.
    when my 2 kida said dad i AM GOING TO BE BAPTISED THIS SUNDAY…

  21.   rich constant Says:


    THERE IS THE CHOICE OF THE WORD HOLY THAT PAUL USED in expressing the realationship
    of the realatonship of the believer and the
    un believer, you would know the jewish law concerning marriage… i would think that changes the meaning of
    a marrage relationship under new cov.santification through faith for the reason of peace with god on a family bases in striving to convert the non believing
    hope that makes sense…

  22.   rich constant Says:

    now then john mark
    seems i dug this big ole deep hole and jumped in,
    how bout throwing in a rope. if ya got one long enough…


    ya know some times i just gota laugh


  23.   l.s. Says:

    First off, we should try to do our best to dig ourselves out of a hole if we dug it. Then maybe we wouldn’t be so careless next time, we might think twice after two big shovel fulls and put the shovel down. As far as baptism, I believe you should understand the act you’re about to take part in, but most, if not all churches, would only baptize an understanding believer. So, as far as your thoughts about peer pressure being the motivation, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. I think many of us have been baptized out of some type of pressure, but after we’ve been baptized, I think most rise to the occasion, and the meaning becomes clearer, if it wasn’t to begin with, and the way we live our life does change. I guess you’d be the one to see if your two children do have Jesus in their life today, and what kind of children, or rather adults, they are today. Then you could see if peer pressure really was such a wrong reason, if it even was the reason to begin with.

  24.   rich constant Says:

    to be sure i agree with you.
    al though i am pretty sure john mark got almost as much of a laugh at me as i did while trying to express my self through this medium.
    i don’t write well and cut short my thoughts accordingly.most of the time. then the cats outa the bag…
    i have learned not to take myself to seriously even though being in the church all ny life…
    now that is a funny way of putting that i know but please tell me why i should not think like that..
    as i have stated what i think about a child and his realationship through the believing and the parents realationship to the father through our lord…
    if god condiders the child HOLY that imparts to me that paul is speaking in spirtuial terms to ease any doubt to one i like circumstance…
    now i have been in the church all my life and never took comunion before being baptised and why not i think that john mark has raised more questions about clutural hurmunutics based in the cutural theological tradition of the coc that the body as a whole is ready to acknowledge else why are they not here giving input in the form of good questions…
    anyway blessing
    hope that responds to to your question.

    anyway thanks
    blessings from rich inca

  25.   rich constant Says:

    i hope you see i really didn’t need that rope
    i was just funnen
    although i am not saying john mark hasn’t had to and did if i ask him in a seriously…

  26.   rich constant Says:

    the kids BLOW MY MIND

    it is a pleasure to be there dad

    thanks.for asking and prais god my wory was for naught today

  27.   Bill Brewer Says:

    Hi John Mark,

    Thanks for your thoughts on the baptism of children.

    I think there’s an angle though that sorts out many of the difficulties really well.

    It has to do with a “confessional” vs. a “conversional” understanding of Christian identity that intersects with a similar “confessional” vs. “conversional” understanding of adult identity. It is the combination of these two influences that clouds the status of unbaptized children.


    First Christian identity . . .

    From a conversional standpoint, the mark of a Christian is subjective– a personal testimony to a salvation experience.

    From a confessional standpoint, the mark of a Christian is objective– most prominently, baptism.

    From a conversional standpoint, self-doubt prompts the desire for rebaptism.

    From a confessional standpoint, objective defects in a person’s confession prompts rebaptism.

    From a conversional standpoint, rebaptism is an individual choice and is common.

    From a confessional standpoint, rebaptism is decision made by the church and is rare.

    From a conversional standpoint, a person can easily move in and out of Christianity based on moods of the moment.

    From a confessional standpoint, becoming a Christian is a once-for-all event.

    From a conversional standpoint, the church never really knows who is and who is not a Christian.

    From a confessional standpoint, the church has an objective claim on who is and who is not a Christian.


    The emergence of the teenage social role (which blurs the distinctions between child and adult) has had much the same effect on adult identity in fostering a confessional understanding of adulthood versus a conversional one.

    From a “conversional” standpoint, status as an adult is a subjective experience.

    From a “confessional” standpoint, status as an adult is an objective event.

    From a “conversional” standpoint, young people can move in and out of adulthood based on moods of the moment.

    From a “confessional” standpoint, becoming an adult is a once-for-all event.

    And on and on…


    “Confessional” and “conversional” understandings of Christian and adult identity cannot coexist as equals (see above). They can, however, exist in subordinate relationship; i.e., an objective event (confession) can have a subjective component (conversion experience) or vice-versa.

    Which is better? It depends on the value placed on personal subjectivity.

    Subordination of conversion experiences to confessional events sets groups and individuals FREE FROM their subjectivities while subordination of confessional events to conversion experiences does the very opposite, locking groups and individuals INTO their subjectivities.

    The basic choice is whether (1) Christian identity and (2) adult identity are defined by (a) objective history or (b) personal experience.

    I would go with (a) objective history (confessional) on both counts.


    How does all of this play out for children?

    In a confessional regime, the normative transition of a God-fearing child to a Christian adult would be an act of baptism that would accomplish both transformations in objective history. For children of guilty conscience, it would be expected for them to have had a conversion experience, whereby they could stand before God, not having been baptized, but with a clear conscience because the believing community held them ineligible for baptism. God would respect the lack of baptism because God respects the church’s binding and loosing authority.

    The net effect is to say that a confessional understanding of Christian identity is appropriate to adults while children are limited to a conversional understanding. All of this is well and good and works smoothly.

    Problems arise though when people try to hold onto a confessional understanding of Christian identity (i.e., adult baptism) while also trying to accommodate a new social role (teenager) that blurs the distinction between child and adult.



    –Bill Brewer

  28.   Scott Says:

    Hi All,

    I’m a Johnny-come-lately to this discussion, but having thought about this matter more than a little (my kid brother committed suicide just after turning 16) I’d like to add my thoughts.

    What Scriptures might be cited to help answer the question of when one becomes accountable before God? Consider these:

    “And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.”
    – Deuteronomy 1:39

    “But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”
    – Isaiah 7:16

    “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.”
    – John 15:22

    “…And where there is no law there is no transgression.”
    – Romans 4:15

    “He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old)…”
    – Mark 5:41-42

    “All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD.”
    – Exodus 30:14

    There are more to be cited, but I think these are sufficient to show that any child who does not have sufficient knowledge is not accountable before God.
    This is not to say this child has not ever done wrong. Even a cat or dog is capable of “knowing” it has done wrong on some level – that is obvious. And I have witnessed a deacon’s two year old haul off and slap his twin brother in the face because he wanted to sit with him. We are born, even animals, with a sinful nature. In the garden, I believe the lion lay down with the lamb.

    So I think we must not confuse impulsive acts of the sinful nature with deliberate choices to do sin against God (and not simply break some rule you’ve been taught). I don’t know when a person reaches that stage, but I think it’s telling that Jesus addresses the 12 year child he resurrects “little girl” and that only those twenty years or older were required to make an offering.

    Medical researches say that the human brain develops at a faster rate during the teenage years than at any other time except for the first year or so.

    I close, then, with these verses from the lips of Elihu (who takes the side of God in the book of Job):

    So listen to me, you men of understanding.
    Far be it from God to do evil,
    from the Almighty to do wrong.
    He repays a man for what he has done;
    he brings upon him what his conduct deserves.
    It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
    that the Almighty would pervert justice.
    – Job 34: 10-12

    Likewise, it is unthinkable that God would condemn a child (or, say, a retarded person) who really didn’t know what he was doing.

    God bless,



  1. Children and the Kingdom of God « John Mark Hicks Ministries
  2. Boxing up Baptism « A Disciple’s Journey
  3. Acts 2: What Does Acts 2 Say About Baptism for Later Generations? | One In Jesus
  4. » On Children, Baptism and David Lipscomb (1914) John Mark Hicks Ministries

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