I am opposed.
First, my misgivings. Although I hold my viewpoint adamantly, I do so with some measure of fear and trembling for the following reasons:
I do encounter people who convincingly argue that the churches should indeed refuse to baptize anyone younger than some threshold age. Some of these people are beloved to me. Some of them are inordinately smarter than I am. The very fact that I am so outgunned intellectually in this debate makes me tremble to bring it up, but I bring it up nonetheless as a learning opportunity for us all.
I do see powerful demographic and anecdotal evidence in our churches that we are baptizing enormous numbers of people who give very little evidence of having experienced conversion (or who even testify of themselves later that they were not converted at the time of their baptism). I do agree that this is a bad thing and that churches need to take action to stop it. I do not know that setting a threshold age for baptism is the right action, nor that it will be an effective action, but I agree that we must do something else if we do not do this.
I do agree that churches are sometimes under inappropriate pressure to baptize children who have not yet been converted. Sometimes it is the pressure of a desire for higher numbers of baptisms. Other times it is the pressure of parents who are eager for their child to “make a decision” right away. The clarity of the gospel and the spiritual well-being of children demands that we beware those pressures upon ourselves and that as pastors we do not inflict them upon others. Simply saying that nobody under the age of, say, 15 will be baptized is indeed one way to remove that pressure entirely.
I do agree that there is no foolproof way to sit down with any given six-year-old and effectively determine whether that child is merely curious about all of that splashing in the water up there on Sunday morning or has genuinely experienced conversion.
I do agree that the predominant New Testament narrative is one of adult conversions, that a church unable or unwilling to reach adults with the gospel is unhealthy, and that the unhealthiness of some churches in this regard has been masked by their increasing dependence upon the conversion of a younger and younger set of prospects.
All of these things I readily admit, not only with regard to their veracity, but also with regard to their gravity. Nonetheless, I am opposed to setting a threshold in age for baptism. Here's why:
I see no biblical warrant for it. Where in the New Testament do we find instructions for limiting baptism by age? Nowhere. The Bible associates baptism with conversion. It is the sign of the burial of the old man with Christ and the raising up of the new man to walk in newness of life with the risen Christ. It is the spiritual circumcision marking those who have just been spiritually born through conversion. It is the immediate action of obedience for those who repent, believe, and are saved in the New Testament narratives. Baptism is too important for me to impose upon he or she who is not a believer; and likewise it is too important for me to forbid it to he or she who is a believer.
Young children can indeed experience genuine conversion. I was five (nearly six). I was genuinely converted. I was genuinely convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit. I was genuinely repentant. I was genuinely trusting in Christ for my salvation. I genuinely understood that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and that He rose again the third day. I genuinely understood that by God's grace I could go to Heaven but that apart from it I was bound for Hell. I genuinely experienced a powerful, inward, spiritual new birth at that moment. My commitment to Christ genuinely issued forth in changed behavior in my life.
In all of this I eventually grew and matured, but all of it was present from the beginning.
So, I confess that I come to all of this with personal baggage, good and wonderful baggage that it is. Might I suggest that others may come to the question with baggage of their own? Isn't it possible that some of those who were not converted as children—perhaps especially those who experienced some false profession of faith as a little child—might approach this topic with the presumption that God operates in everyone's life in the same manner as He has worked in theirs? Is it not possible that they are wrong?
I see no strong indicator that false professions of faith are any less likely at 16 than they are at 6. If our records are any indicator, a great many people profess conversion in late youth or young adulthood without any lasting evidence of genuine conversion. I can say that I have only one demographic category of people in which every individual whom I have baptized has turned out to be undeniably the real thing: People over the age of 65. Each and every senior adult that I have baptized (and I've had the privilege of doing that several times) has given every ongoing indication of having been entirely sincere and truthful in the testimony of what God had done in their lives. Now please understand, I'm no more able to see the inward hearts of 75-year-olds than I am able to see the inward hearts of 9-year-olds, but I'm just reporting on the fruit that I've seen.
Given that experience, should the threshold be 50 or so?
Refusal of baptism is a sin. If I refuse to baptize a genuinely converted child, I am forcing them not to do what Jesus has commanded them to do. Nay, all the worse, I am refusing to do what Jesus has commanded me to do in the Great Commission. Those who have been made disciples are to be baptized. No, their salvation is not dependent upon their baptism. Yes, if they are genuine believers, they will still be around to be baptized later. But none of that contradicts the plain biblical commandment to be baptized upon conversion. I want to be obedient, and I want to encourage new converts to be obedient, and so I have no artificial, unbiblical policy to prevent the genuinely converted from being baptized, merely because of how many birthdays they have or have not celebrated as of yet.
I think that another, better, alternative exists. Baptize only those who can and will give to the church a credible and orthodox testimony of having experienced conversion. It may be videotaped. It may be live and in person. But however it takes place, let the churches hear the testimonies and determine whether the content of the gospel and the evidence of the gospel's work in conversion is genuinely there. Baptize those whose testimonies give every indication of sincere and informed embrace of the biblical gospel. Do not baptize others. Practice this consistently regardless of age. Where the church decides wrongly (and we will indeed err), then correct the error when it become evident, either by excluding from membership those who give no appearance of having been genuinely converted or by baptizing those who give every appearance of having the indwelling Christ.
Thanks to all for your patience in hearing me on this topic.