Why do Baptists not baptize infants? Answering this question in 1853, Patrick Hues Mell (1814-1888) wrote very bluntly: “Infant Baptism finds no warrant in God’s Word. No precept enjoins it – no inspired example sanctions it, and no analogy suggests it…The Scriptures furnish, in precept and example, no baptism but that of a believer, upon a profession of his faith in Christ.” So then, based on what P.H. Mell contends, infant baptism is an unbiblical baptism and thereby, what we might call, a pseudo-baptism. With neither a divine command nor a biblical example to support its practice – as Mell points out – it ends up falling under the indictment of being labeled a false church ordinance.
But P.H. Mell’s strong words against infant baptism were merely an echo from the Baptist Catechism of 1693 – where question ninety-nine reads: “Are the infants of such as are professing believers to be baptized?” The answer follows: “The infants of such as are professing believers are not to be baptized, because there is neither command or example in the Holy Scriptures, or certain consequence from them to baptize such.”
What is most significant to highlight from both the Baptist Catechism and the pen of P.H. Mell, is the larger doctrine driving Baptists in their refusal to baptize the unconverted infants of Christian parents. It is the doctrine known as “The Regulative Principle of Worship.” This doctrine simply states that true worship is only that which is commanded by God in His Word. False worship is anything other than what is commanded.
Expanding further on this principle, Ernest Reisinger (1919-2004) wrote: “The regulative principle flows from the fact that humanity’s ability to approach God was barred as a consequence of the fall, and that it was impossible for man on his own to renew the fellowship that he had enjoyed with God in the garden. Thus, the way of communion with God could be opened again only by God’s determination. Not only that but the very terms of a renewed communion, intercourse and fellowship with God had to be determined by God and God alone.”
Now for our Baptist forbearers, the regulative principle was applied exclusively to church ordinances, church government, and acts of worship. Hence, in Chapter 22 of the 1689 Baptist Confession, this principle is expressed as follows: “But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God, is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshiped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.”
This confessional statement makes it unmistakably clear that the only “acceptable way” to worship God is determined by God and not man. Moreover, this statement implies the obvious fact that if extra-biblical practices are enjoined to what God has commanded for worship, then such unscriptural elements will actually undermine what God has appointed. Furthermore, the sufficiency of the Scriptures themselves are called into question by the addition of unwarranted sanctions in worship. Is not God’s holy infallible Word enough to instruct us and reveal to us what He has commanded for worship, without adding what we believe would perhaps enhance the worship experience? The question answers itself.
Therefore, when it comes to rejecting infant baptism, Baptists are only being faithful and obedient to what God has appointed in His Word. Infant baptism is a practice introduced by man and sanctioned by man and thereby established as a tradition according to man. God does not approve it because He has never appointed it as a divine ordinance to be carried out in His church. Thus, to carry out this practice as an integral part of sanctioned worship in the church, is the equivalent of Nadab and Abihu’s “strange fire” offering before the Lord (Lev. 10:1-3). While God did not forbid the sons of Aaron from offering their “strange fire”, yet He did not authorize it. In short, God did not command the offering given by these young men. Hence, their offering was condemned by God because it was not commanded by God. And for infant baptism, it’s no different.