Karl Barth on Infant Baptism
Recently I came across mention of Barth’s little book containing his lectures on baptism, titled The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism (SCM, 1948). I’ve found several good bits of theology to mull over in the volume, but one of the most surprising things about the work is that Barth rejects infant baptism. For Barth scholars, I’m sure this is no surprise, but I had always assumed that Barth, a Reformed theologian, affirmed paedobaptism, while in fact, he argues against it in this work. Here’s a short passage (pp.40-41):
Baptism without the willingness and readiness of the baptized is true, effectual and effective baptism, but it is not correct; it is not done in obedience, it is not administered according to proper order, and therefore it is necessarily clouded baptism. It must and ought not to be repeated. It is, however, a wound in the body of the Church and a weakness for the baptized, which can certainly be cured but which are so dangerous that another question presents itself to the Church: how long is she prepared to be guilty of the occasioning of this wounding and weakening through a baptismal practice which is, from this standpoint, arbitrary and despotic?
We have in mind here the custom of the baptism of children, or more exactly the baptismus infantium . . .
This short book might just be worth a series of posts on Barth’s theology of baptism.