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In this brief clip from his teaching series A Survey of Church History, W. Robert Godfrey explains how much we can know about the practice of baptism in the first 300 years of church history. Watch this entire message for free.
And as is too often the case with ancient church history is we can’t be as certain as we’d like to be. We certainly know that by 300 the universal practice of the ancient church was to baptize children, to baptize the children of believers. The problem is what happened before 300 and how certain can we be about it? A number of years ago now two German Lutheran scholars marshaled all of their vast learning, one to say the early church did baptize infants, that is very early, and another to say the evidence just isn’t clear. Part of the problem in evaluating evidence is you can quote an early father saying, “We baptize children,” but that doesn’t tell you how old the children were. Obviously it’s one thing if you baptized a one-month-old, it’s something very different if you baptized a thirteen-year-old, and yet they’re both children. And so when we look at the evidence in the early church in the second and third century, the evidence is simply inconclusive. I don’t think either side of this debate can entirely win, which is okay because in the end of the day history doesn’t answer this question. The Bible answers the question, theological reflection on the Bible answers that question, and that’s really the way it ought to be.