The persistence of paedobaptism according to Karl Barth

September 12, 2009

Halden has recently questioned, rightly so, the typical “voluntarism” charges against credobaptists (here and here) — voluntarism understood, of course, as a very bad thing. It just so happens that I was recently reading Barth’s critique of infant baptism in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. Here’s an excerpt:

“The real reason for the persistent adherence to infant baptism is quite simply the fact that without it the church would suddenly be in a remarkably embarrassing position. Every individual would then have to decide whether he wanted to be a Christian. But how many Christians would there be in that case? The whole concept of a national church (or national religion) would be shaken. That must not happen; and so one proposes argument upon argument for infant baptism and yet cannot speak convincingly because fundamentally he has a bad conscience. The introduction of adult baptism in itself would of course not reform the church which needs reforming. The adherence to infant baptism is only one — a very important one — of many symptoms that the church is not alive and bold, that it is afraid to walk on the water like Peter to meet the Lord, that it therefore does not seek a sure foundation but only deceptive props.”

“Die christliche Lehre nach dem Heidelberger Katechismus,” Lectures given at the University of Bonn, Summer Semester, 1947.

The Heidelberg Catechism for Today, trans. Shirley Guthrie (John Knox Press, 1964), p. 104.

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2 Responses to “The persistence of paedobaptism according to Karl Barth”

  1. […] response to the recent discussions of baptism here, Kevin has posted the following quote from Karl Barth on infant baptism: The real reason for the […]

  2. Great, thanks! What Barth says is spot on. I have to look those lectures up to see his more theological comments.

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