Only recently have I come to believe that God intends for Christians to baptize their infants. Before November 15, the date of my “conversion” on this matter, I was a committed Baptist for about a year. Before that, I wrestled with the arguments for and against infant baptism over the course of another year.
During the two years when I was agnostic on this, and then when I was a Baptist, I largely dismissed the relevancy of the household baptism accounts that we read in the book of Acts. Essentially, I considered that both sides were arguing from silence, because I processed the debate in terms of whether infants were actually present or not. So, I assumed that the paedobaptists were arguing, “Surely there must have been an infant at one of those household baptisms!” And, of course, there is no Bible verse that says, “And then they baptized all of so-and-so’s household, which, by the way, included one infant.” Because this is an argument from silence (which Baptists are quick to point out), I felt that the evidence from household baptisms was irrelevant at worst and inconclusive at best.
Only after I became a paedobaptist (which happened for different theological reasons) did I come to the realization that I had completely misunderstood the terms of the debate–in fact, I was shocked to find out that I had been dealing with a credobaptist caricature of the paedobaptist arguments from household baptisms. My error was that I did not understand that paedobaptists were arguing from the definition of the word “household.”
When Luke wrote the book of Acts, he didn’t just pick a word out at random to describe how the early church administered the sacrament of baptism. “Household” is a word with a long history among God’s people. Specifically, God had told Abraham to circumcise all those who were born in his “house.” Even in the New Testament, there is every reason to believe that one’s “household” included that person’s children (see 1 Tim. 3:4-5).
If Luke had intended to speak of baptism in a way to exclude the infants of believers, wouldn’t it be counterproductive to use the word “household” in reference to those who were baptized? How could that not have caused incredible misunderstanding in the early church, since the natural understanding of “household baptism” would mean baptizing one’s infants, since “household circumcision” had always meant circumcising one’s infants?
More pertinently, why don’t we read anything about such a misunderstanding–and about the apostles’ correction of this misunderstanding!–in the book of Acts or in early church history documents?
Even if I don’t completely understand the theology behind infant baptism (I’m still working through a lot of issues), I think that the mention of household baptisms in the book of Acts is the “smoking gun” that puts the weight of evidence largely on the side of paedobaptism. Far from being irrelevant or inconclusive, the accounts of household baptisms have become one of the biggest factors in my being a Presbyterian.