I read somewhere just recently (2010) that two basic problems relating to the Christian faith remain unsolved – baptism and the millennium. I categorically deny this. If it is true that a rite as important as the sacrament of baptism appears to be beyond our ability to solve, the inference must be drawn that the theology behind it has not been adequately understood. On the assumption that all the doctrines of the NT lie behind baptism, what I take to be a more adequate biblical theology can, I believe, provide a solution to both of these problems. Here I want to take a look at baptism. (On the millennium, see my Preunderstandings of the Millennium?, A Summary of Reasons Against the Return of Christ to Earth, Is Jesus Coming Back to Earth?)
Biblical Theology in General
Given an adequate appreciation of biblical theology as a whole, there is not the faintest suggestion, even including references to the baptism of households (e.g. Acts 16:33), that infants lacking all moral awareness are appropriate subjects of baptism. First, it should be noted that baptism as such does not appear till we reach the NT, more specifically the new covenant. Then, if baptism signifies as is generally agreed repentance, faith and regeneration by the Spirit of God poured out by Jesus after his glorification (John 7:39; Acts 2), it would appear to be an inescapable inference that infants were automatically excluded. Admittedly, straws in the wind emanating from bad theology and a predisposition to support traditional church practice have been perceived during the course of church history, hard evidence has been conspicuously lacking. To my knowledge only one potentially serious theological argument purporting to support the practice of paedobaptism has ever been mounted, and that is based on covenant theology. However, since all traditional covenant theologies known to me are in my view false, even this argument proves unsustainable on examination. (See further my Covenant Theology, Covenant Theology in Brief)
Traditionally it has been held on the basis of OT practice that since parents are “in the covenant”, even participators in the covenant of grace, so are their children. Does not the promise of Acts 2:39 relate to believing parents, their children and those who are far off? A little reflection makes it clear that since those who are “far off” are usually the heathen Gentiles (Eph. 2:13,17; Heb. 11:13, cf. John 8:56) who are not included in the (new) covenant until they believe (cf. Eph. 2:12f. Col. 1:11-13, etc.), so the same must apply to children who are incapable of belief. The notion that children born during new covenant times can be regarded as new covenant children does not hold up. This idea derives from old covenant practice where parents who were themselves Jews by birth (Gal. 2:15) were under a legal obligation to circumcise boys on pain of breaking the covenant (Gen. 17:14). But this was a different covenant applied to the chosen people redeemed from Egypt (Ex. 20:2) as the conspicuous exclusion of girls indicates (contrast Acts 2:18; Gal. 3:28). The very fact that circumcision occurred on the eighth day excludes faith and underlines its legal nature (Gen. 17:12), for even Isaac, the child of promise, was subjected to it (Gen. 21:4). This proves beyond reasonable doubt that his circumcision was different in kind from that of Abraham his father for whom it was a seal of the righteousness he already had by faith (Gen. 15:6, cf. Rom. 4:11). Certainly, in due course Isaac became a believer in the covenant of promise, but it was his faith not his circumcision that differentiated him from others in his father’s household like Ishmael who despite circumcision (Gen. 17:23,25f.) was explicitly excluded from the covenant people (Gen. 17:18-21). And the Scripture makes it abundantly clear that, Abraham apart, circumcision relates to law not to grace (cf. John 7:22f.; Gal. 4:21-31; 5:3). (1* It is arguable that incomers like the slaves and aliens referred to in Exodus 12:44,48 were motivated by faith, cf. Rahab and Ruth, but it is doubtful whether this was usually the case.) This is made crystal clear by the fact that it was eventually subsumed under the law (Lev. 12:3, cf. Gal. 5:3).
The attempt has been made historically to equate, or at least to substitute, circumcision in the old covenant with baptism in the new. For example, Colossians 2:11 has been frequently appealed to. However, it seems to be properly recognized nowadays (2010) that circumcision performed “without hands” is categorically different from the surgical operation performed on babies “with hands” (2* See further my Manufactured Or Not So). The difference is that between flesh and spirit, no less (cf. Gal. 4:21-31). Clearly two different covenants with different implications are involved. (Cf. my Covenant Continuity and Discontinuity)
False Covenant Theology
Indeed, the real point at issue is covenant theology. The so-called organic unity of the covenant of grace traditionally embraced by many blurs, even erodes, the underlying distinction between the different covenants as propounded by Scripture. (3* On the unity of the covenant of grace, see e.g. John Murray.) Indeed, it makes a highly misleading monolith out of the rich and variegated character of the covenants as they are presented to us in the Bible. What is more, it plainly erodes the biblical differences evident in the races (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:32), individuals and even in the individual as such as we shall see below. Again, federal theology which suggests that there was a covenant of works made with Adam as the covenant head and representative of all mankind as reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith and taught by various theologians in the Reformed tradition is a serious deviation from what is actually taught in the Bible. The assumption that from the beginning God made a covenant with creation is not valid since it manifestly lacks a biblical foundation (4* See my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?). It is thus a figment of man’s imagination comparable to the teachings of the false prophets (Jer. 14:14; 23:16, etc.).
It follows that when the assumption that there was an original covenant with creation is erroneously extended to the idea that God made a covenant with Adam, we are clearly in the realm of fantasy. Historically, this has had disastrous repercussions on the church’s understanding of biblical theology. It has led to the notion that Adam’s sin was imputed to all his offspring so that they were born sinners in spite of its implicit denial in Scripture (e.g. Dt. 1:39; Num. 14:3,31-33) and the fact that where there is no law there can be no transgression (Rom. 4:15, etc.). For all that, original sin remains to this day one of the main supports of infant baptism. (5* See further my articles mentioned below on original sin including An Exact Parallel?) However, if it is deemed correct, Jesus as a son of Adam (Luke 3:38) and a true human being (Heb. 2:17; 4:15) must have been born a sinner like all his fellows, and this Scripture rigorously disallows. (6* I find it impossible to take seriously the so-called covenant theology of the Dispensationalists. It is little more than an amalgam of elements of Scripture which though they have value in themselves hardly contribute to a coherent full-fledged theology. On Dispensationalism see, for example, Dispensationalism Today by C.C.Ryrie, Prophecy and the Church by O.T.Allis, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow by C.I. Crenshaw and G. E.Gunn, Dispensationalism by K.A.Mathison.)
True Covenant Theology
It is widely agreed that according to the Bible there are five divine covenants made with man. They constitute those with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. Of these, the ones with Abraham and David are purely promissory and are accepted by faith as part of God’s revelation to Israel (cf. Rom. 4:1-8). By contrast the other three are dispensational. Though the covenant of law made through Moses applied strictly speaking to the Jews alone, since, however, it relates to human nature it has historically “spilled over” into Gentile territory. And it is worth noting that the reference to “schoolmaster” in Galatians 3:25 (KJV) though not exactly accurate is a reflection of God’s dealings with his chosen people, the Jews. These covenants, which apply to the race though they are not mentioned as such, appear in the first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The Gentiles were the beneficiaries of the foundational covenant with Noah and remain so to the end of the world (Gen. 8:22; Acts 14:17, cf. Luke 17:26f.). Obviously the Jews who began in heathendom as Gentiles continued to enjoy the benefits of the covenant with Noah too, but they had the added advantage of the law of Moses (e.g. Rom. 2:17-3:2; 9:4). However, since they proved incapable of gaining the eternal life promised by the law (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Rom. 7:10, etc.) which they constantly and universally broke (1 K. 8:46; Ps. 130:3; 143:2, etc.), they were promised a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34), and this was eventually established by Jesus. But while the Mosaic law was essentially exclusive and was imposed (7* I use the word ‘imposed’ guardedly since it needs to be recognized that a covenant involves at least a degree of agreement. An entirely unilateral covenant is a contradiction in terms. Hence there could be no covenant with an inarticulate creation. At Sinai, the Israelites positively accepted the terms of the covenant even if they promptly proceeded to renege on it, Ex. 19:8; 24:3,7.), on them alone (Dt. 4:32-40; Ps. 147:19f.), the new covenant proved gloriously inclusive for all who exercised faith in Christ (John 3:16,36). It broke down the barrier built by the law between Jew and Gentile and made one man out of the two (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15; 4:13).
So I contend that just as the history of the race is covenantal, so is the experience of the individual. Recognition of this is basic to our understanding of Christian baptism.
It is occasionally pointed out that the word ‘Adam’ in Scripture means both man the individual and man the race, though in the early chapters of Genesis differentiating between the two is apparently somewhat difficult even for scholars. This being so, it is hardly surprising that the covenant theology which embraces the race as set out above is epitomized or recapitulated in the individual. Alternatively expressed, what is true of the race is mutatis mutandis (making the requisite adjustments) true of the individual. This becomes apparent when we compare Romans 1-3 and John 1:9-13 with Romans 7-8 and Galatians 4:1-7. Regrettably this insight, which was clearly perceived by Irenaeus, the so-called father of theology in the early church, has been almost completely lost to view in the theology of Augustine which has dominated the church since the fifth century. For all that it is of vital importance if we are to understand the doctrine of baptism. As we saw above, just as the race (Adam) like creation itself was initially devoid of covenant status and but for the grace of God manifested to Noah would have been obliterated by the flood, the same is true of babies which are born unprofitable flesh without a covenant guarantee (John 1:13; 6:63). It is only after undergoing a degree of development or maturation that they are “baptized” into Noah (1 Pet. 3:19). In other words, as children in contrast with the rest of creation who have learned to name animals and recognize rainbows, they are capable of living a life of faith just as he was (cf. Heb. 11:7).
Later, of course, like Abraham in his heathen state under Noah, they are in a position to believe the promise of God if and when it is explained to them (cf. Eph. 2:12). Later still in the course of their development Jewish boys undergo their bar mitzvah and become sons of the commandment. In this way, they are according to Paul “baptized” into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2). An obvious example of this was Jesus who as a Jew was circumcised on the eighth day and after living like his forebears as a slave in Egypt (Mt. 2:15) under the covenant with Noah at the age of thirteen took personal responsibility for keeping the law (cf. Luke 2:40-52). And it is while playing his role as a servant rather than a slave under the law (cf. Lev. 25:39ff.) that an understanding of the promise made to David regarding the Messiah would have impinged on his mind and that of all well taught and faithful Jews. This would of course undergird Jesus’ understanding of his mission to the world.
The Order of Salvation
Before being in a position to accomplish this mission, however, Jesus had meet certain preliminary requirements relating to the order of salvation. (8* It is usually forgotten that Jesus as man had from the start to seek glory and honour like all the rest of his brethren, Ps. 8; Rom. 2:7,10. See my The Order of Salvation, Cart-Before-The-Horse Theology, etc.) The primary one was to flawlessly keep the law by which God had initially promised life to Adam in the Garden (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5, etc.). For the first and only time in the history of man, he succeeded (Isa. 53:9; 1 Pet. 2:22) and in doing so met the precondition of life which was righteousness (Dt. 6:25; Rom. 2:13; 1 John 3:7, etc.). It was thus that Jesus earned the approbation of his heavenly Father and was acknowledged and confirmed as his Son. It was here that ontology complemented action. Consequently, he was baptized and thereby received the regenerating Spirit of God which remained on him (John 1:32, cf. 6:27). In plain words, in accordance with his own teaching, Jesus was born again and proclaimed as the true Son of God (John 3:1-8, cf. Gal. 4:1-7). Just as he was the first and only man in history to keep the law and gain righteousness before God (Mt. 3:13-17, cf. Job 4:17), so he was the first to experience regeneration (Lev. 18:5, cf. 2 Tim. 1:9f.), and eventually the immortality and incorruption of his Father (2 Tim. 1:10).
It is at the baptism of Jesus, the second Adam, however, that his recapitulation of the history of the race, the Jewish race in particular, came to an end. Prior to his coming, no son of Adam had managed to go further along the path to perfection (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2) precisely because they all failed to keep the law (1 K. 8:46, etc.). Since he had succeeded, however, he was at last able to fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:15), pioneer new covenant or regenerate life himself (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:21; Heb. 6:1, etc.) and finish the work his Father had given him to do (John 17:4).
Regeneration/Adoption Universally Necessary
This prompts the question as to why it was necessary. Since the time of Augustine it has been insisted that regeneration is necessary only for sinners especially as those who had fallen prey to original sin (see e.g. Needham, p.251). But apart from the fact that original sin has a very dubious foundation in Scripture (9* See my Does Romans Teach Original Sin?, Some Arguments Against Original Sin, More Arguments on Original Sin, Short Arguments Against Original Sin in Romans) John 3:1-8 makes no mention of sin at all, and there is not the slightest evidence indicating that it was a consideration. What is brought to the fore in this passage is the natural condition of human beings as flesh. So we must ask what the point is that Jesus is trying to make to Nicodemus.
Surely he is trying to impress on his mind the fact that the human goal of perfection or likeness to God (Mt. 5:48; 19:21) can only be fully achieved in heaven in the presence of God (cf. Heb. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:18). But getting to heaven depends, first, on moral perfection which is every human being’s challenge (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2; Mt. 5:48; Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet. 3:7, cf. Acts 14:22; Col. 1:13; 2 Pet. 1:11), and, second, on generic perfection which cannot by its very nature be achieved in the flesh (1 Cor. 15:50). Jesus, however, had uniquely achieved legal perfection and gained life, that is, immunity to death by keeping the written law. But in order to finish the work his Father gave him to do (John 17:4; 19:30) he had to fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:15) and freely give his life in death for his sheep. In the event, his death was vicariously offered and was not the consequence of wages personally earned. This being so, it could not retain its hold over him (Acts 2:22-24). Thus Jesus rose again not having experienced the corruption which follows in the normal course of nature. For all that, he could not live forever in naturally transient flesh (Ps. 78:39) or on the temporal earth which he himself had taught would eventually pass away (Mt. 24:35) like everything else that is physically visible (2 Cor. 4:18). Since this was so, the transformation that he had undergone at his incarnation had to be reversed or overcome (e.g. John 13:3; 16:28). Having permanently assumed human nature he now had to take his place once again at his Father’s side but this time as man. In order to be glorified, however, he had to be retransformed (John 17:5, cf. 24) – a point implicitly hammered home time and time again (5 times at least in the letter to the Hebrews alone: 1:3;13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). In brief, his glorification necessarily involved his transformation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:53), and if this is true of him, it is necessarily true of us (Phil. 3:21, cf. Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 15:50-54). As Paul told the Corinthians, flesh and blood cannot by nature inherit the kingdom of God nor can the naturally perishable inherit the imperishable (15:50).
What is the relevance of all this to Christian baptism? It must be that just as Jesus as the second Adam recapitulated the history of the race (the Jewish race in particular, cf. Gal. 4:1-7), so do we. But whereas he served as the trailblazer of the Christian life, we follow in the steps he pioneered. This cannot occur, however, until we have undergone the same sort of preliminary experiences and process of maturation that he had. So like him who was born of woman, we also must begin at the beginning, and that beginning is manifestly not Christian. Indeed, it is not covenantal at all. For we all begin life in the womb (cf. the Garden of Eden) and successively become babies, children, adolescents and finally adults, as Irenaeus taught. As babies, like Adam and Eve at the beginning, we initially know neither good nor evil since we do not know the law, or, more specifically, the commandment (cf. Dt. 1:39). (This being so, we cannot be sinners since where there is no law there is no transgression, Rom. 4:15; 7:8, etc.) But what is this commandment? Clearly the parental ‘no’ that all of us inevitably encounter in the course of our early development (cf. Prov. 1:8; 4:1-9; 6:20). This was obviously Paul’s own experience as he makes clear in Romans 7:9-10. Prior to receiving the commandment he claims that like Adam and Eve in their (spiritual) infancy he was “alive”. But when the commandment eventually made its impression on his developing mind, like his first parents he failed to keep it and so ‘died’! First, as a child like Eve and the heathen who did not have the written law (Rom. 2:14-16, cf. 1 Tim. 2:14), he gave way to temptation and deception (Gen. 3:6, cf. Rom. 1:18-32; 7:11; Eph. 4:17-19). Next, like Adam and later the circumcised Jews who knew the law he rebelled against it (cf. Ex. 32) and/or failed miserably to keep it, even though like the Psalmist (119) he loved and prized it. This meant he needed a means of escape (cf. Rom. 7:14-25).
But neither the heathen, who like children were far off (Acts 2:39), nor the Jews, who like adolescents were near (Eph. 2:17), were baptized as Christians were to be. Why? Because, so long as both Gentiles and Jews remained unbelievers in Christ, they lacked proper access to God and the spiritual maturity and Trinitarian fullness that it brought (Eph. 2:18, cf. John 14:6). They were under law or, to express the issue more relevantly to the issue of baptism, they were under more primitive and different covenants suited to their immaturity (diminished responsibility, cf. Gal. 4:1ff.) which they failed to keep (see Rom. 1-3). It was only when they repented and confessed Christ as Saviour that they gained the righteousness necessary to receive eternal life (John 3:16; Rom. 3:21-26; 6:22f.) and became Christians by baptism (Rom. 6:3) in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19).
So it is now clear that we are, first, “baptized” as children (not babies) into Noah (1 Pet. 3:19, cf. Acts 14:17; Gal. 4:1f.), second if we are Jews, “baptized” into Moses as spiritual adolescents under law (1 Cor. 10:2, cf. Gal. 3:23f.), and, third, baptized into Christ as believers in him (Rom. 6:3). Of course, it may well be complained at this point that Gentiles come to Christ apart from circumcision and the law. But so did Jewish women. So our inference must be that the Gentiles who did not have the law of Moses as such and were deceived like Eve (Gen. 3:6; Rom. 1:24ff.; Eph. 4:22, cf. 1 Tim.2:14) were nonetheless saved by faith apart from the law. This was true even of the heathen Abraham who was justified as a sinner by faith before he was circumcised. Little wonder that Jesus refers to the woman with the issue of blood as a daughter of Abraham (Luke 13:16)!
It is interesting to reflect that the Jews would have been extremely unlikely to consider children as fit subjects for baptism when they considered circumcision necessary (Acts 15:1,5). But more to the point, since Paul saw himself as deceived like Eve in his childhood (Rom. 7:11) before he took responsibility for keeping the law as a son of the commandment at age thirteen, he would have dismissed infant/child baptism out of hand as Galatians 4:1-7, which clearly reflects growing maturity, suggests. So too would the author of Hebrews who saw the law as only the shadow of the good things or realities to come (Heb. 10:1).
If all this is true, the tragedy of history is that the church has failed to reckon with the development or maturation of man both as community and individual. Just as Christianity came to the race in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) and at the end of the ages (1 Pet. 1:20), so it comes to the individual in his relative maturity. To eliminate development, maturation or evolution is radically to misunderstand baptism, covenant theology and recapitulation. It is reduce the Bible to a flat uniformity and treat Gentiles like Abraham who lived under the covenant with Noah as though they were Christians even though Jesus himself saw matters differently (John 8:56).
The Meaning of Baptism
This of course prompts another basic question: what is the meaning of baptism? In light of the prior ministry of John the Baptist who maintained that his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4; John 1:6f., etc.) would be followed by Jesus’ baptism of the Spirit, Christian baptism’s prime significance is clearly the reception of the Spirit or regeneration. How then is the Spirit received? How in other words are we born again? First, in Matthew 3:13-17 Jesus as man, the quintessential man, the last Adam, the author and pioneer of our faith (Heb. 5:9; 12:2), having gained righteousness (pleased his Father) by keeping the law, is paradigmatically portrayed at his baptism receiving the Spirit and therefore eternal life. This was in accordance with the original promise made first to Adam (Gen. 2:17) and then to the chosen people (Lev. 18:5; Neh. 9:29; Ezek. 20:11,13,21, cf. Rom. 10:5, etc.). Secondly, Paul answers the question in Galatians 3:1-5, for example. We are born again not by personally keeping the law, of which we are incapable (Gal. 2:16; 3:11, etc.), but through faith in Jesus. Why is this so vitally important? Because man was never meant to be his own saviour (cf. Isa. 45:22f.; Phil. 2:9-11) and be in a position to boast about it (1 Cor. 1:29; Eph. 2:9, etc.). So it was precisely Jesus the Son of God who as man, the second Adam in fact, gained life and glory and honour and was able to serve as our Saviour by laying down his life for the forgiveness of our sins (Heb. 2:9f.; 10:14-18). Since he himself had to achieve righteousness (Rom. 2:13) in order to receive life (Mt. 19:17) and perfection (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:26,28), so through faith in him do we (Phil. 3:9,12-14; Heb. 6:1; 9:14). In other words, if perfection, or to be like God (cf. Gen. 3:5), is the goal of human life (Mt. 5:48, cf. Heb. 6:1; 7:11), we have no option but to commit ourselves to him who laid down his life for us and redeemed us by his blood (Eph. 1:7). Thus through faith in him as our covenant head and representative, we gain forgiveness for our sins, and being accounted righteous (justified by faith) we are baptized and receive the Spirit just as he did. It is in this way that we are born again in accordance with the original promise made to Adam (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17; Rom. 10:5-13). All this – repentance, faith, baptism in water and reception of the Spirit – constitutes, in the words of Bruce, “one complex experience” (p.281). Otherwise expressed, since we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), it is divine not human action (cf. Col. 2:11-13) that ultimately gives baptism its effective meaning. Needless to say, this rules out infant baptism which for its recipient is in any case meaningless.
Baptism in the New Testament
As I have already noted there is no evidence of infant/child baptism in the NT. The prime reason for this is that baptism, so far as we ordinary mortals are concerned, requires both repentance for sins actually perpetrated (cf. John the Baptist and washing with water, Mark 1:4) and faith in Christ (John 3:16) which leads to the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:38). Since as early as Genesis 2:17 it is taught that eternal life for mortal man can only be gained on the condition of fulfilling the commandment, and later the whole law (Lev. 18:5), failure must be overcome through faith in Christ who as man’s representative and covenant head lived a sinless life and achieved the perfection that his Father required. (Alternatively, we may say that he matched his divinity with his humanity and proved who he was by his actions.) He died on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins and provided the righteousness apart from which salvation is impossible (Phil. 3:9, cf. Acts 4:12).
So it is only those capable of making a credible profession of faith in and confession of him as Lord (Rom. 10:10) who are the proper subjects of baptism. To baptize babies/children is to deny biblical teaching with regard to recapitulation, sin personally committed, covenant theology, repentance, faith, regeneration and perfection – all of which are integral to complete human experience and hence to the plan of salvation. Again, alternatively expressed, infant baptism is in effect a denial of our humanity.
Jesus Our Paradigm
At the end of the day, Jesus, the Man, the only man to keep the law, serves as our paradigm (cf. Heb. 2:17). And he does so not least in baptism. The onus probandi or burden of proof rests on those who deny it.
Among the various reasons why infant baptism was adopted historically lay the concern about the salvation of babies. The question of whether they are saved or not is not directly broached in the Bible, though they are clearly regarded as innocent (Num. 14:3,33ff.; Dt. 1:39; 1 K. 3:7,9; Isa. 7:15f.; Heb. 5:12-14). So while they could not be damned a la Augustine, by the same token they could not be saved. Since they lack knowledge of the law which promises life, they are unprofitable flesh (John 6:63). As such like animals they cannot exercise faith and so cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). On the other hand, in view of a great deal of OT teaching summed up in Hebrews 11 we should have no qualms about the salvation of those who exercise an immature kind of faith like Noah but never embrace Christ for historical/chronological/covenantal reasons. For just as those who lived before Christ were by faith ultimately made perfect through him (cf. Abraham, Mt. 8:11), so are children who fail to exercise faith in Christ as ‘adults’ do (Heb. 11:39f.). The order of salvation (ordo salutis) is of prime importance here. To put regeneration before faith in order to overcome the imagined effects of original sin which does not exist is not only to pervert baptism but also much of the rest of our theology, as history amply demonstrates.
It should never be forgotten that Jesus taught that despite physical death all (believers) are alive to God (Luke 20:38). Certainly the idea embraced by Augustine that apart from baptism children are damned is totally alien to the Bible. It is to posit a rift between creation and salvation. Indeed, it is in effect to render creation meaningless. In any case, regeneration cannot be conveyed by sacrament administered by man any more than it could by a ‘hand-made’ circumcision. (See further my articles on Concerning Infant Salvation and Are Babies Saved?).
F.F.Bruce, Paul Apostle of the Free Spirit, Exeter, 1977.