Last week, I mentioned Peter of Bruys and that the way he interpreted the four Gospels, baptism had to be preceded by personal faith. Actually, this heretical doctrine comes from misinterpreting just one of the four Gospels: Mark's, specifically chapter sixteen and verse sixteen. I said "four Gospels" last week to emphasise that he rejected the rest of the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament.
This is the text in question: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved..." Peter of Bruys took this to be an ordered list: first you must believe, and then you must be baptised. In addition to this, he held that this believing must be the mature faith of an adult. Thus, he taught that one must reach the age of reason before being baptised; therefore, children cannot be baptised. Unfortunately, this misinterpretation persists today among various heretical sects.
The error of this heretical interpretation of Mark 16:16 becomes self evident when the second half of this verse is taken into account: "...but he who does not believe will be condemned." If the first part of this verse excludes children, then, logically, the second part of this verse would have to include children since it is in the same contexts. Consequently, when the same logic used for the first part of this verse is applied to the second part, this interpretation demands that all children who have not reached the age of reason are condemned.
This logical conclusion, of course, is not accepted by those that hold to this heretical interpretation of Mark 16:16. This only shows their lack of logic when interpreting the Bible. Either children are excluded in the first part of the verse, and included in the second; or, children are included in the first part, and excluded in the second. There is no other alternative.
Obviously, children that have not reached the age of reason are not condemned, so what does this verse mean? I like to quote Matthew 11:25, Matthew 18:3-6, Matthew 21:15-16, and Luke 10:21 to prove that children have more faith than adults (Matthew 21:16 actually uses the Greek word νηπιων (nepion), which means infants). A major example is John the Baptist, who recognised and had faith in his saviour when they were still both in the womb (cf. Luke 1:41).
However, the Church sees this faith as being more than just personal. The Catechism says this:
1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: "What do you ask of God's Church?" The response is: "Faith!"
1254 For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth.
1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents' help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized - child or adult on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium).The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.
Only with the Church's broader view of faith do both parts of Mark 16:16 make sense. Any other interpretation is not only heretical, but illogical.