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Believer's baptism (occasionally called credobaptism, from the Latin word credo meaning "I believe") is the Christian practise of baptism as is understood by many evangelical denominations, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist and English Baptist tradition. According to their understanding, a person is baptized on the basis of their profession of faith in Jesus Christ and as admission into a local community of faith.
The contrasting belief, held in nearly every other Christian tradition, is infant baptism (pedobaptism or paedobaptism, from the Greek pais meaning "child"), in which infants or young children are baptized if one or both parents are already members of the denomination. Such is the practice in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Coptic and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Lutheran Churches, Anglican and Episcopal Churches, and others.
Baptisms are carried out in various ways: believer's baptism is typically only by immersion or pouring (also called affusion), and infant baptism by either immersion, affusion, and aspersion (sprinkling). Believer's baptism is often referred to as adult baptism, due to the belief that faith cannot exist prior to the age of accountability. Believer's baptism is also often extended to children, so long as they are old enough to earnestly profess their faith.
The Anabaptists regard their ideas as being based on the teaching of Jesus Christ, who invited to make disciples in all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28. According to some theologians, it is natural to follow the order thus suggested, either to baptize someone who has become a disciple before, which is not possible with a baby or a child. They contend that in the New Testament, references to the baptized relate only to believers who have experienced a new birth.
For the first 300 years of the church, the common requirement for baptism was a profession of faith following a conversion to Christianity. Advocates of believers' baptism argue that this implies infants would not be baptized since they could not profess faith for themselves. Beginning with Augustine, the Catholic Church solidified the practice of infant baptism and there is little mention of competing practices until the 1500s. Augustine held the view that baptism was a requirement for the washing away of sins. He was faced with the issue of whether an unconscious or unwilling individual on their deathbed should be baptized; he felt it was better to err on the side of caution and baptize such a person.
In the early 16th century, the Anabaptist movement began demanding that baptismal candidates be able to make a freely chosen confession of faith, thus rejecting the baptism of infants. This, and other doctrinal differences, led both Catholics and Protestants to persecute the Anabaptists, executing them by fire, sword, or drowning. Anabaptist groups spread across Europe and later to Russia and the Americas. In 1641, the Baptist movements began adopting baptism by immersion. Some of them may have insisted on credobaptism by affusion a few decades earlier.
The book Martyrs Mirror documents the history of credobaptists through 1660.
Another argument posed by some advocates of believer's baptism focuses on the fact that most churches that practice infant baptism were heavily intertwined with the state in medieval and Reformation-era Europe. In many instances, citizens of a nation were required under penalty of law to belong to the state church. Infant baptism marked the infant as a citizen of the nation and a loyal subject of the reigning political order as much as it marked the infant as a Christian. To denominations like the Baptists, which have historically stressed religious liberty, toleration, and separation of church and state, this practice is an unacceptable violation of the basic human right to self-determination in matters of spirituality and religion.
Advocates of believer's baptism contend that non-Biblical records are not authoritative, and that no evidence exists from the Bible or early Christian literature that infant baptism was practiced by the apostles.
Advocates of believer's baptism argue that the New Testament does not describe instances of infant baptism, and that during the New Testament era, the early church required converts to have conscious, deliberate faith in Jesus Christ. Defenders of infant baptism have claimed that baptism replaces the Jewish practice of circumcision, citing Colossians 2:11-13 as New Testament support, and is therefore appropriate for infants. The KJV says in Acts 8:36-37, "[...] and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."[non-primary source needed] Modern Bible versions omit the 37th verse, which is used to argue that the requirements for baptism are to believe in Christ. Since infants cannot "believe with all [their] heart", infants are not baptized.
Many Reformed Baptists (Calvinistic Baptists) agree with the principles of Covenant Theology and agree that Baptism has, in a sense, replaced circumcision as the sign of covenant. They disagree with the typical Calvinist argument that, as the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament (namely circumcision) was administered to infants, so should the sign of the covenant in the New Testament church (namely baptism) be ministered to infants. They (Reformed Baptists) argue that the Old Testament covenent pertained to the actual descendants of Jacob which made up the physical nation of Israel, whereas the covenant community in the New Testament constitutes the spiritual sons of Abraham and thus form the spiritual Israel. Thus, they argue, the sign of the covenant should only be administered to spiritual sons. From Galatians 3:7, they (Reformed Baptists) argue that it is "people of faith who are the sons of Abraham" and baptism should be administered only to confessing believers and not infants, who are incapable of producing the requisite faith.
Believer's baptism is administered only to persons who have passed the age of accountability or reason, which is based upon a reading of the New Testament that only believers should be baptized. Some claim that it is also based upon the Jewish tradition of Bar Mitzvah at the age of 12 or 13, at which point Jewish children become responsible for their actions and "one to whom the commandments apply." This analogy is not very helpful since a Jew who is not Bar Mitzvah is nonetheless considered to be fully a Jew--whereas the notion of an "unbaptized Christian" is more problematic. However, many (pedobaptist) Christian theologians, including Calvin and Zwingli, regard baptism as analogous to the Jewish practice of circumcision, rather than analogous to the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, although there are no explicit sections of the New Testament that support this idea.
It is common for churches which practice believer's baptism to administer the ordinance to children aged eight or nine, following some training in the rudiments of the faith. Seventh-day Adventists generally consider that around age 12, young people are equipped to make reasoned decisions and may choose to be baptized. There is no stated lower age limit, however, and when a young child voices a desire for baptism, it is strongly encouraged that they enter an instructional program that may lead to baptism.
Believer's baptism is one of several distinctive doctrines associated closely with the Baptist and Anabaptist (literally, rebaptizer) traditions, and their theological relatives.Among these are the members of the Restoration Movement. Churches associated with Pentecostalism also practice believer's baptism.
In many nondenominational Evangelical, Baptist and Pentecostal churches, a ritual known as child dedication.  However, unlike baptism, the rite is centered upon the parents, who dedicate the child to God and vow to raise him or her in a God-fearing home. Although Dedication often occurs at the same age as infant baptism, it is not considered a replacement for baptism nor is it considered salvific for the child.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints completely rejects infant baptism. Little children are considered both born without sin and incapable of committing sin. They have no need of baptism until age eight, when they can begin to learn to discern right from wrong, and are thus accountable to God for their own actions. People completely incapable of understanding right from wrong, regardless of age, are also considered as not accountable for their actions, and are not baptized.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, immersion baptism is not required again for Seventh-day Adventist membership. However, if a person feels that he has received new information that makes a difference and/or has experienced a reconversion, it is available if he wants it.
Adherents.com has related that statistics based on membership totals reported by various denominations state that churches that practice infant baptism represent about 80% of Christians.
Many churches that baptize infants, such as the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, Moravian, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox denominations, previously functioned as national, state-established churches in various European and Latin American countries. Defenders of infant baptism have attempted to trace the practice to the New Testament era, but generally acknowledge that no unambiguous evidence exists that the practice existed prior to the 2nd century. During the Reformation, the relationship of the church to the state was a contentious issue, and infant baptism was seen as a way to ensure that society remained religiously homogeneous. As a result, groups that rejected infant baptism were seen as subversive and were often persecuted.
Even in theological circles where some response to God's call is considered necessary for the convert (such as belief, confession, repentance, and prayer), a believer's baptism is sometimes categorized as a work instead of a response of faith, though not always (see Baptism in the Christian churches and churches of Christ). Among the Churches of Christ, for example, baptism is seen as a passive act of faith rather than a meritorious work; it "is a confession that a person has nothing to offer God." While Churches of Christ do not describe baptism as a "sacrament," their view of it can legitimately be described as "sacramental." They see the power of baptism coming from God, who chose to use baptism as a vehicle, rather than from the water or the act itself, and understand baptism to be an integral part of the conversion process, rather than just a symbol of conversion. A recent trend is to emphasize the transformational aspect of baptism: instead of describing it as just a legal requirement or sign of something that happened in the past, it is seen as "the event that places the believer 'into Christ' where God does the ongoing work of transformation." Because of the belief that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, some Baptists hold that the Churches of Christ endorse the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. However, members of the Churches of Christ reject this, arguing that since faith and repentance are necessary, and that the cleansing of sins is by the blood of Christ through the grace of God, baptism is not an inherently redeeming ritual. One author from the churches of Christ describes the relationship between faith and baptism: "Faith is the reason why a person is a child of God; baptism is the time at which one is incorporated into Christ and so becomes a child of God" (italics in the source). Baptism is understood as a confessional expression of faith and repentance, rather than a "work" that earns salvation.