Minimum age for non-Infant Baptism

The title basicaly says it all. Having grown up in a church which performs infant baptism, I very seldom see someone who is not either a small child or an adult baptized. Seeing someone who did not fit one of those categories started me wondering, and now I want other people’s opinions. What age should someone be in order to choose to be baptized?

(Posts which include official positions for various churches will be accepted, but please read the note below.)

Note: This thread is NOT intended as a debate about infant baptism or non-infant baptism. Nor is it intended for a discussion about sprinkling vs. immersion or other techniques. Rather it is an IMHO-style poll about the age at which a child becomes sufficiently mature and aware of the consequences to decide that he or she desires to be baptised. Since religious threads outside of GD tend to attract posters who can’t remember the difference in appropriate behavior for threads in GD vs. other threads, I’m trying to save the moderators trouble and just starting it in GD.

I don’t have a strong personal opinion, other than that I doubt a child younger than nine or so has sufficient emotional maturity.

I was raised in a church which practiced “believer’s baptism.” Children were baptized, if the pastor (after talking with the baptismal candidate) concluded that the individual child asking to be baptized had reached what was, for him/her, the “age of accountability”. This is a term I have heard used by a broad spectrum of Protestant churches. Some churches set it at 12 or 13, period; no bending the rules to baptize someone younger permitted. My personal understanding of the meaning of the term is that the young person has a fully developed sense of right vs. wrong, has experienced what evangelicals, etc., describe as “feeling convicted of [his/her] sins,” and understands the concept of “repentance”, i.e., not doing the same wrong things, over and over (I sometimes wonder how well adults comprehend it!). {AFAIK, this applies to both “sprinkle” and “immerse” styles of baptism.}

[I think that perhaps the Catholic church (and other “infant baptizing” churches) deems children to reach the “age of accountability” at around 6, or they wouldn’t have First Communion then. If I’ve got this wrong, somebody please speak up!]

So the next question is why the Protestant churches that do so selected that particular age: I suspect that most people who have never encountered this issue before would assume it had something to do with puberty. If my understanding is correct, there is only an indirect connection. This age (12/13) is set because Jesus was bar Mitzvah’ed at 12 (as a first-born son; later-born sons must wait until 13).

While I am not aware of any scriptural explanation of why that age is when a Jewish adolescent (and IIRC Jewish girls bat Mitzvah at the same ages) is eligible to take on the religious responsibilities of an adult, it seems pretty obvious that there is some kind of connection with puberty. Presumably it was the conclusion that an individual who has become (theoretically, although Jewish girls often married very young in Bible times) able to reproduce :dubious: ;j

[I think that perhaps the Catholic church (and other “infant baptizing” churches) deems children to reach the “age of accountability” at around 6, or they wouldn’t have First Communion then. If I’ve got this wrong, somebody please speak up!]
I was born in a Roman Catholic household, and baptized. I did have first communion. However, after then I became an agnostic, and of course never had Confirmation. My understanding of the faith is that I never became a full member, as I refused of my own free will Confirmation.

I’m a member of Assembly of God, which practices believers baptism & urges rebaptism of those infant-baptized or non-immersed-baptized (tho I differ with that). I’ve seen five yo’s get baptized. Basically, AOG view seems to be that if a child seems to really love Jesus & wants to be baptized & the parents are OK with it, we go for it.

I personally am not opposed to infant baptism or communion, nor am I hung up on the mode of baptism.

“The age of reason” or “the age of accountability” are what are the standards for “believer’s baptism” as practiced by some churches – and their definitions for when a child reaches that age vary. (This is pretty much what others have said.)

I knew a young woman (she now lives in Illinois, so I need to use past tense) who started attending a Catholic church, with relatives, as a pre-schooler (her mother being agnostic), and who opted for Catholic baptism at age six – with her mother’s consent, and AFAIK no real family pressure one way or the other. She had a conception of what it meant to be baptized and desired it – so she made the choice. Granted at age six it wasn’t a mature choice – but it was what she was capable of, and was her full will (and not merely changeable whim – anyone who has or has had young kids knows the difference) at the time.

My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) baptizes children at age 8, which we consider the age of accountability. As a general thing, we figure that an average child of 8 should know the difference between right and wrong and be able to choose to follow Jesus Christ. Before that, we don’t baptize at all. Babies are named and blessed. Children are not counted as members of the LDS Church until they are baptized.

We consider baptism to be a saving ordinance for repentance and cleansing of sin and a covenant to follow Christ. Young children are innocent (they don’t know right from wrong well enough yet and therefore cannot sin) and not in need of this ordinance until they grow old enough to do wrong intentionally.

Eight seems to me to be a pretty good age for a general policy. Kids vary, but most of them are reasonably able by 8.

I know the Anabaptist sects, such as Mennonites and Amish, won’t baptize before adulthood, considering it a serious commitment than can only be made by an adult.

Catholics divide the process into two (or perhaps three*) parts. Baptism welcomes the baby into the community, and the community pledges to help the child grow in a religious sense–thus, the baby is not joining or pledging anything. Confirmation is when the child chooses to become a member of the Church, so this sacrament is more comparable to those churches that follow adult/age of maturity Baptism.

Although I have heard of Confirmations as young as eight, it is my understanding that, in the USA at least, Confirmation is undertaken sometime during the high school years, 13-18, because this is when the person become an adult within the church (and a soldier of the faith is some older accounts).
*First Communion is usually done at age 7, or second grade. To be able to take Communion, a child must be able to distinguish right from wrong, because, prior to taking Communion, a person should participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (some still call it Confession). This seems to tie into some other churches’ requirement that, before Baptism, the child understand good/evil, right/wrong, etc.

I grew up in a church that didn’t practice infant baptism, the Church of Christ.

They didn’t have a set age at which a child could be baptized. Instead, they waited until a child asked to be baptized. The child would have a short, private conversation with a minister or elder to verify that he or she understood what baptism was and could express an appropriate reason for wanting it, and if the minister was satisfied that the kid understood, then the kid was baptized.

I remember being baptized at 8, and my mother being concerned that I didn’t really know what it was, and some dithering before I was allowed to be baptized.

Sometime around 12 was pretty typical, but it varied widely.

Seventh Day Adventist parents dedicate their children to an Adventist upbringing, but the children are not baptised until they reach the age of reason. In the SDA Church, this seems to be between 9-13, although I admit to encouraging our children to wait until they were older teens or even young adults before making such an important decision.

I think the age which someone “should” be baptized is when they accept Jesus.

My grandfather got saved when he was 5. I was 7. My mother’s parents walked her down the aisle when she was 12 and she went through the motions, but didn’t really get saved until she was 17. It’s all about when you understand. Were my 4 year old to get saved right now, she’d be baptized. We don’t really have a minimum age at my church.

12 seems to be the “age of accountability” because Jesus was 12 during His scene in the temple with the rabbis.

Abbie, in disagreeing with you in part on this statement, I am not trying to start a fight with you nor attempting to enter into the argument which the OP requested not be gotten into.

What you say is 100% valid, and something I could agree with, on the perspective that Baptism is an “ordinance” – something one does in response to becoming a Christian, in fulfillment of Christ’s command.

What you need to recognize is that for Orthodox, Catholics, Old Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and Episcopalians, Methodists, Nazarenes, Moravians, and several other groups, it’s a sacrament – a physical means by which God acts to give grace to the person receiving the sacrament.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

Certainly nobody of an age to make a mature choice should be baptized unless he or she accepts Christ – the entire point is to enter into a relationship with Him. But a child, a retarded person, etc., not of mental capacity to make a mature decision to accept Christ, is in quite a different situation. And there is where the issue of whether it’s something we do in response to Christ, or something God does (through His minister) to accept us as His children, enters into play.

So you are absolutely right – given your assumptions about Baptism. And you are dead wrong from the Sacramental perspective – it’s God’s gift to all His children, including those too young or incapacitated to make that commitment.

In the Baha’i Faith, 15 is considered the age of consent. At this age, one may choose to make their Declaration (very much like Confirmation or Baptism, 'cept there’s no water involved, just the signing of a contract), marry (but only with the consent of the woman’s and man’s parents, and I’ve never seen parents in this country give consent so young), and is expected to observe the Fast and daily obligatory prayers. Why 15? I dunno. I guess cuz the Prophet said so. :slight_smile:

I was baptized at 17 (this past April). There were seven or eight other people getting baptized the same day. There were two others around my age, an adult, and some younger kids (the youngest was 8.) Before being baptized, we each picked an adult mentor from the congregation and spent a couple months talking to them about God and stuff.

(this is in a Baptist church)

Hey, Norine, when you have time, would you start a GD thread on the theology of the Baha’i Faith. I know a bit about the history and inclusivity of it, but not a whole lot about how it addresses some of the issues that are central to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. – and I’d be very interested in expanding my knowledge about it. (Besides, I’m getting one of those sensations that I’ve learned not to ignore, that questions about Baha’ism are going to come up in the near future and I’d better be educated about it.)

Like, how do Baha’is see Jesus, Mohammed, Baha’ullah etc.? What is “salvation” and what are our ethical duties according to God? You know the sorts of things that you’re apt to be asked – consider them asked. I conceive of it as a sort of “Ask the Baha’i Woman” thread, if those are not totally verboten these days.

Polycarp, I’d be happy to do that for you. I’ll be going to bed soon tonight, but tomorrow, I’ll start one.

I grew up in a church that didn’t have hard-&-fast rules, & kids would get baptised at 8 or 9 a lot. I was going to wait until I was 12, the “age of accountability” (I got this from my mom; maybe it was from an older tradition in the communion). But at 11, I found that all the kids I knew had gotten baptised younger, so out of some weird mix of fear of hell & social pressure, I did it. A serious understanding of repentance? Nope.

If there is some mystical meaning to baptism, my baptism, guided by a spirit of fear, probably damned rather than saved me. It did a lot of damage, though I think that did help me question my faith. I think the Amish are sensible to defer a final decision regarding one’s life to adulthood, though the most sensible thing is not to teach your children a mind-warping exclusivist religion.

Nope. The official Assemblies of God (AG, the O isn’t used in the abbreviation of our church’s name) doctrine states that in order to be baptized, one must be able to clearly represent that they have had a true salvation experience – recognized their sinful nature, realized their need for a savior and repented of their sins while inviting Christ to reign as sovereign Lord in their lives – and that they are seeking baptism as the outward sign of the death of their old sinful nature and their resurrection into new life walking with Christ.

Therefore, a child must be able to demonstrate this – well beyond “really loving Jesus” and wanting to be baptized – in rather meaningful ways before their baptism would fulfill the New Testament mandate, and AG pastors should be acting mindfully of this before baptizing a young child. In 44 years of AG attendance, in five different churches in five different districts, the youngest child I’ve ever seen baptized was 10. I was 12, and my pastor still had qualms until I engaged him in a substantive discussion comparing and contrasting AG doctrine on baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit. :smiley: (What can I say, I was a precocious kid.)

I was baptized into the Catholic Church of my own free will at age 14. It was my will at the time. I probably wasn’t ready, though; later on, I realized that I couldn’t reconcile my utter disbelief in Hell with Catholic doctrine. And, believe me, I tried. I’ve since fallen away from the Church, and, to a large extent, from Christianity.

I’ll be honest, though–it really depends on the person. I thought that having that one minor difference in faith–with, admittedly, a whole lot of pagan baggage that I did reconcile with Catholicism–wouldn’t be such a big deal. So much of the faith, though, was built upon the idea of Hell, though, that I realized it just wasn’t going to work. I wish it did. I didn’t think things through. There were others of my age who were, perhaps, more thoughtful that wouldn’t have had that problem in the first place. They would’ve been ready. I wasn’t.