The Reformation is for the Mentally Disabled and Infants

By Joel A. Hess

“A Baby can’t believe,” a lady told me on our church Facebook page. How many times have I heard that? She probably thinks herself an heir of the reformation. Luther and the reformers didn’t go far enough. “You gotta accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, “she wrote, “A baby can’t do that.”

Of course, I told her that Jesus commanded Baptism. He didn’t discriminate. He said, “All nations.” All means all! Also, it appears that babies were baptized in the book of Acts as Peter said, “The promise is for you and your children” (Acts 2:39). Often when one person of a household came to faith, he or she had the whole household baptized (Acts 16:33)! No one ever mentioned the requirement to make an individual decision for Jesus.

But what probably really bugged me was her pompousness. I know a lot of people think this way, and they don’t mean to be egotistical. But really. Who do you think you are? You think you came to some point where you could accept the God who made heaven and earth, the one who spoke at light appeared, the one who walked on water, calmed the waves, and rose from the dead? When Peter saw Jesus miraculously cause the catch of fish, he stepped away and cried, “I’m not worthy!”

We have a group of severely mentally disabled people who sit up front by the baptismal font. They stare ahead, hit each other, make funny noises, and move their legs back and forth so much they almost cause the chairs to tip back. They need a leader to sit them down and get them up. Quite honestly, they are hilarious!

They are a great reminder as to how God looks at us. When He looks down from heaven except for His divine perception, He probably couldn’t tell who has Down syndrome and who doesn’t. Seriously! Look at the decisions we make in our lives. Do you think you are smarter than them?

So, Jesus demonstrates as much when He scolds his Baptist disciples who thought they were smarter and had more potential to believe than babies: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it!” Wow. He wasn’t saying that babies were cute, innocent, or gullible and prone to belief. Babies are weak and stupid! They also are sinners who desperately need someone to save them. Jesus is simply saying that if you think you are smart enough, strong enough, innocent enough to get to heaven, it ain’t going to happen. Jesus only came for weak, foolish, sinners. If you don’t like sitting next to my mentally disabled friends, get behind, me, Satan!

Infant baptism isn’t an oddity-deserving contention. It isn’t a difficult teaching or an anomaly in God’s Word. It makes complete sense within God’s narrative! It really is the norm. It epitomizes how we all are saved, no matter what age we came to faith in Christ. In fact, according to Jesus’ advice to his disciples, we were all infants when we first came to faith, whether we were a 47-year-old doctor of engineering or an 4-year-old kid with Down syndrome.

What’s the difference between a Christian who denies babies baptism and the Pope of Luther’s day who told people that their money could buy time off purgatory? Nothing. Both rob the helpless from the comfort, peace, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Anathema deserved indeed.

For all the academic sweat poured into the writings of the reformers, the Reformation was not for the rich and powerful. It was for the widowed moms raising kids on a waitress salary, for the orphaned kid in and out of juvenile jail, for the adulterer, porn addict, thief who knows they could never have enough money, smarts or intellectual ability to choose Jesus as Lord. The Reformation is for babies, the mentally disabled, sinners, you and me.

6 thoughts on “The Reformation is for the Mentally Disabled and Infants

  1. Like you, I have also disagreed with the “free will” Christians who focus on salvation as purely a matter of your choice to “accept” Jesus as your Lord and Savior. And infant Baptism, to many of them, is anathema. They reason that an infant cannot rationally “choose” to receive Our Lord as their savior. Of course, they cannot offer an explanation as to how our righteous God saves His elect from among the unborn children killed in the womb, from the mentally ill, the mentally afflicted by drugs, the simply slow of mind, the illiterate, the man of woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. “Oh,” my mother used to say to me on many occasions in my youth, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It is all grace. It begins in Baptism, and for all babies, I believe in my heart, who perish in the womb.


  2. Be careful with what you teach. Scripture is quite clear on this matter. We do have a part to play though I believe we are brought to that point by God’s grace. “…confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 He is a loving God and I will leave it to him to take care of a baby’s eternal destination as he will those with disabilities. But for those of us who can reject His truth our infant baptism will not save us.


    1. Paul is not Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. Paul speaks of his authority to followers from his own lips. Jesus was sent to man with the authority to speak God’s Word. These words of Paul do not reflect Christ’s teachings. The Bible was compiled under Roman authority. There was no consensus among Christians about which books should be in the Bible and which books should not. As for me, I can only follow the teachings of Jesus – not some self-professed prophet who followed after. Otherwise it would imply that Christ’s mission on Earth was a failure and that Paul needed to be sent to provide the real “truth” where Christ did not. I cannot and will not believe such a scenario.


  3. What a load of tosh! Seriously you want to dispense with the historicity of the NT and the work of the Patristic fathers? You don’t think Paul talks about Jesus? You don’t think Paul suffered persecution for proclaiming the teachings of Jesus, the “gospel” if you will? That is, that the kingdom is inaugurated and Jesus is now King and Caesar is not. The gospel is not just about your eternal destiny, in fact it’s not even about that, but the defeat of sin and death and the new creation.


  4. Paul Marceau, your comments are, erroneous, disconcerting, and troubling on many levels. Although Christians often disagree on doctrines of the faith and interpretations of Holy Writ, most agree that the Bible contains the whole counsel of God, that it is the inspired word of God, and that it is inerrant. When we read scripture, we see how the Lord spoke through the prophets, and Jesus established His church through Paul and the Apostles. Jesus, in His own words, ordains those who He had appointed to guide His people. You simply cannot dismiss Paul, as some “self professed prophet who followed after.” No doubt, there have been and will be false teachers in the church, until the Lord returns, but even false teachers cannot prevail. They are exposed by their own words, by their fruit, by their deceptions. You must pray that the Lord will open your spiritual eyes to a renewed faith in the Bible, and to an acknowledgment that Paul, despite his admitted flaws, was God’s servant and His teacher appointed to guide the infant church into the future.


  5. Are you saying that lack of baptism “keeps the helpless from the comfort, peace and salvation of Jesus Christ”? I don’t believe that for a moment.


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