While at first the dialogue seems to be a bit heated, John and I eventually get into a very nice conversation, and I only wish that it would've continued further. I was also joined in this conversation by two other Catholics, who we will call Tom and Harry. This conversation was actually one of the first times I ever debated and defended my faith on a large scale, and I learned a lot myself as I responded to John's questions and comments. It's my hope that our conversation here (which has been edited only to stay on the relevant topic of infant baptism) will be educative and edifying for other Catholics and Protestants as well.
As usual in these combox discussions, all participants words will be color coded. My words will be in blue, John's words in red, Harry's words in orange, and Tom's words in purple:
|Baptism of St. Francis of Assisi- Antonio del Castillo|
No. You obviously need to study more church history.
Baptism by immersion was a necessity, but then became baptism by sprinkling. Baptism for solely believers was expanded to allow the baptism of infants. A Christianity that allowed for the marriage of priests became a Christianity that forbade it. Saints were venerated without being recognized by Rome, then Rome demanded they be involved. The Pope controlled marriage rights, then he didn't. Confirmation didn't become a sacrament until the Middle Ages. Forget any marriage between a Catholic and non-Catholic being recognized in the Church - guess we can exclude those people from the official numbers, too.
I mean, I could go on, but I don't really need to. A LOT has changed in 2000 years, and it's delusional to pretend it hasn't.
I'm just focusing on your last post here John, because anyone baptized Catholic... well, IS Catholic. Being a practicing Catholic is an entirely different thing, but they are TRULY Catholic if baptized.
Anyways, it would indeed be delusional to pretend nothing has changed, but you may be mixing up disciplines and doctrine here. Yea, disciplines change. But doctrine does not. There are so many things wrong with your previous post it would take a huge wall of text to correct it all. In short...
Priestly celibacy is a discipline, and not all Catholics observe it. Roman Catholics do, but most of the other 23 Eastern Catholic Churches do not have the discipline of priestly celibacy. Case in point, my cousin is a married Ukrainian Catholic priest with 4 kids.
The Pope still controls marriage rights, the bishops and tribunals are his vicars.
Confirmation has been a sacrament since the first century. Eastern Catholics have been baptizing, confirming, and giving First Communion to their infants since at least the second century.
And lastly, baptism by immersion was never, ever required, just preferred. Look at the Didache from the late first century:
"Concerning baptism, baptize in this manner: Having said all these things beforehand, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living water [that is, in running water, as in a river]. If there is no living water, baptize in other water; and, if you are not able to use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water three times upon the head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
Also, infant baptism has been around since the Gospels were written, since it's actually implied in the Gospels themselves:
I was speaking of the Roman Catholic Church, which I thought I made clear in my continual references to Rome. Confirmation has been practiced, but it wasn't a sacrament until the Middle Ages, which is also what I said.
Baptism by sprinkling was ONLY used (as you've so well pointed out) if there was NO. OTHER. OPTION.
The RCC uses it as the ONLY thing they do. I have YET to see a Catholic baptize by immersion in my lifetime.
And no, infant baptism is not implied by the Gospels themselves. The lack of specifics as to the makeup of the household being baptized doesn't prove it affirmatively included infants. You cannot infer that since the Gospels say you CAN'T baptize infants that it means you SHOULD. The Gospels also don't say you CAN'T marry children, but we know (hopefully we do, anyway) that you SHOULDN'T.
Also, the early Church would have no reason to think infants couldn't be baptized since circumcision was performed on infants. Continuity between the two Covenants is well established (like between the Passover and the Eucharist). And Acts 2:38-39 says baptism is for children. The argument against infant baptism isn't really an argument. It's a claim to insufficient evidence.
Let me get this straight...you're arguing that part of the essential form of the Sacrament of Baptism used to be immersion (rather than that just being the norm) *and* that it wasn't a sacrament (meaning it would have no essential form anyway)? And that's why Catholics can ignore the Church, use contraception, and still be living as Catholics?
John, you misunderstand what the Catholic Church is in relation to the Eastern Churches. We have the Catholic Church. No prefixes, nothing else. We just have the Catholic Church.
Now, there are 24 autocephalous (self-governing) churches WITHIN the Catholic Church. These 24 Churches are all in communion with one another and all recognize the primacy of the Pope in Rome.
The Roman Catholic Church is the biggest of these 24 Churches, and usually in the media and in other places throughout are daily lives, the entire Catholic Church is referred to as the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously that's not correct, and lots of Catholics get confused by that too. It's just a common mistake.
Knowing that now, your comment, "Confirmation has been practiced, but it wasn't a sacrament until the Middle Ages" is plainly false. The Catholic Church has always taught Confirmation (also called Chrismation) has being one of the seven sacraments. I hate using Wikipedia as a source, but this explains it well.
And yes, you're right, sprinkling was used if there was "NO. OTHER. OPTION." So your previous statement, "Baptism by immersion was a necessity" is also false. Eating and drinking is necessary to live. Human beings can't use photosynthesis if there are no other options to sustain life. This isn't the same with baptism. If using immersion was the only way to be baptized, as you claimed, then those wishing to be received into the Church would have to be brought TO running water and immersed in order to be baptized. Obviously, there were exceptions, meaning that immersion was not a 100% requirement as you previously said.
Here is a Catholic being baptized by immersion. Now you can say you've seen it happen, second-handedly via video, of course:
If you read the second article I posted in my previous post, you will see that infant baptism is IMPLIED by the Gospels. Yes, it's not explicitly said, but neither is baptism of those 8 years of age. Or is anything said of teenagers being baptized. I'll also turn your statement around on you. "You cannot infer that since the Gospels do not (explicitly) say, 'You CAN'T baptize infants', that it means you SHOULDN'T."
Now if the text didn't support this, my position would be in jeopardy. Fortunately, it does support my (and the Catholic Church's) position:
"And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us." (Acts 16:15)
Typically a household, especially in the first Century Jewish world, was a family, and included children and infants. I can give more Biblical support if needed, or again, read the article I posted previously.
|Baptism of Christ- Luciano Borzone|
The argument FOR infant baptism isn't even insufficient. It just isn't there. The Didache speaks to this very thing, instructing those about to receive baptism to fast... not "and the child's parents shall refuse to give the child food before baptism."
Baptism by immersion wasn't terribly difficult in the early church, actually. Look here.
See how deep they are? Right. That is a very strange (and incorrect) reading of Acts 2:38-39. But even if it was for children, it would be for children who profess faith, as Paul says is required again and again and again.
John, do you have any evidence that infants were not baptized? Maybe an early Church Father condemning the then-innovation as against the purpose of baptism?
You want me to prove a negative? Do you have any evidence that unicorns didn't exist?
How about you prove a positive. Prove to me that the 1st century church baptized infants. Nothing in any of the writings or archaeological evidence suggests it, and your "they didn't say it, therefore it happened" isn't logical.
So if infants can't be baptized, can you tell me the earliest someone can be baptized? Please provide some scriptural references or an early Church document that lays out the requirements for believers baptism.
And it should also be noted that only converts were baptized in the Bible. Should a person be baptized if they were raised Christian? The Bible doesn't say if non converts were baptized, so should we just assume?
First, I agree baptism by immersion wasn't that difficult. So what? Does that imply running water though, as the Didache prescribes? It also doesn't prove what you said earlier, that one had to be immersed to be baptized, without exception.
Second, on who's authority is that an "incorrect" reading of Acts? I thought that the Bible could be plainly understood by anyone? Yet here we are, both claiming we have a clear understanding, yet we come to two different conclusions.
Now if you want to get into children who are not able to speak, keep in mind that proxies (godparents) can act on their behalf until they themselves DO make a profession of faith. As for the actual argument for infant baptism, it is not insufficient. Let's look at Acts 2:41-42:
"So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
Were all 3,000 of these souls adults? Were they all male? Were they all female? I don't know. And neither do you. There very well could have been babes in arms. You and I can't prove there were no infants there, that's a fact. An infant has a soul right? We can reason there WERE infants there based on that fact.
Acts 2:41 says "...all who believed were baptized," so I'd go with "The earliest someone can express belief." An infant cannot express belief in the risen Christ.
"...only converts were baptized in the Bible. Should a person be baptized if they were raised Christian?"
They should be baptized when they are able to express a belief in the risen Christ, like everyone else.
[And], Nicholas, whoever told you the Bible could be plainly understood by anyone has greatly deceived you. Take it from me, I've studied enough Greek to see how often people go astray because they don't look at the text in the Mother tongue.
I make my decisions on what it means based on the language and surrounding culture, not what someone told me it means.
"...keep in mind that proxies (godparents) can act on their behalf until they themselves DO make a profession of faith."
Someone else cannot speak for me to make a profession of faith anymore than I can speak for the dead.
"You and I can't prove there were no infants there, that's a fact."
...that's not how it works. You can't say "I can't prove it, therefore the affirmative fact is true." The Bible doesn't say anything about the United States; that doesn't mean early Christians talked about it.
I apologize John. I don't believe the Bible can be plainly understood by anyone. I was being facetious because I assumed you were like many Protestants who do believe that. That was wrong of me and I apologize for making that assumption. I'll continue my reply in a moment.
As to your other reply John, "Prove to me that the 1st century church baptized infants. Nothing in any of the writings or archaeological evidence suggests it..."
As to your other reply John, "Prove to me that the 1st century church baptized infants. Nothing in any of the writings or archaeological evidence suggests it..."
I can't definitely prove to you the first century Church baptized infants. But, will the 2nd century suffice?:
"He (Jesus) came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . (so that) he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:22:4).
That's from 189 A.D., and from a disciple of the Apostle John.
If the only way to be reborn is through baptism, then the only way these infants and children were reborn was through baptism.
Also, no one here posited, "they didn't say it, therefore it happened". That indeed isn't logical. What we're saying is that it doesn't EXCLUDE the fact infants could have been baptized. Also, we ARE positing they DID say it... although not explicitly, in the Bible, but implicitly. Instead, YOUR argument is weak. From the earlier article I posted. The three points are your argument:
1. We don't know of any infants who were baptized in the Bible;
2. Therefore, there were no infants baptized by the Apostles;
3. Therefore, the Church must have forbidden baptism to infants.
But there's no way to jump from (1) to (2), or from (2) to (3).
I do have a question for you, Max, before we continue that I think will really help our discussion on this:
Baptism is the act by which you pledge to God that you want a new life in Christ. What provides salvation is the faith... not the water. The water is the pledge... being buried with Christ, and rising with Him also. It's the public declaration of fealty.
[John,] do you believe in baptismal regeneration?
Do you believe in forensic justification?
I can't seem to wrap my head around what that means, even though I'm looking straight at a website that says it defines it. Can you give me a sentence on what 'forensic justification' means?
When a person comes to faith, Christ declares them saved and forgives all their sins (past, present, and future), and no quality of the individual can affect this. In other words, you are covered by the righteousness of Christ, and your personal righteousness cannot affect your salvation.
"You want me to prove a negative?"
Yes. You don't get a free pass from proving your claims just because your claim is a negative one. If infants were not baptized in the early Church, then there would be condemnations of the practice as an innovation that distorted the theology of baptism.
As for the first century writings, there's, what, three of them? None of them dealing with the essentials for a valid baptism? That's a non-nonsensical standard for arguing for infant baptism.
What we know is that the Church Fathers and councils who spoke on the subject agreed that infants should be baptized; St. Augustine even taught that it was an Apostolic practice. We know that this does not seem to be an open question since no fathers condemn the practice. We know this was practiced by each Sui Iuris Church, which would be odd if it were not apostolic. We know that whole households were baptized in the Bible (Acts 16: 15, 16: 33, 1 Cor: 1: 16). We know that St. Paul taught that baptism is the circumcision of the New Covenant (Collisions 2: 11-12) and that infants were circumcised in the Old Covenant.
Knowing all this, it is certainly on you to prove your assertion. You made it despite the obvious assumption of Scripture being that infants were baptized, which is an assumption supported by Church law and theological commentary. And, unless I missed something, there is not a single example of a Church father supporting your argument.
So, please, prove it.
Tom, no, that's not how logic works. The burden of proof is on the one making the affirmative claim. You are saying infants were baptized. That is not justified by the proof we have of the first century church (see all those big, deep baptismal fonts in the link I posted?). If you believe it IS justified, then it's up to you to prove it. My position (that it takes an expression of faith to be saved) is backed by the Scripture (I quoted the verse already).
Harry, yes, I agree with that.
John, I never said "I can't prove it, therefore the affirmative act is true." That's illogical. I said that just because the Bible doesn't mention infants being baptized, does NOT definitively mean it didn't happen.
Remember in the Gospel of John, he said that many things were not written in this book. The Bible is not the end all, be all in this, and many other cases. We've established the fact that the Bible does not explicitly state infants were baptized. That does not mean that infants were not baptized period. Your argument from silence does not work here.
From your reply on what your belief on baptism is, I can see that we have sort of been talking the past each other. I disagree with what you say about baptism being a pledge. You have effectively reduced baptism to being something we do for God, and not something that God does for us. Baptism is absolutely a grace from God. Not to mention the Bible mentions in several places that unless you were born of both the water and the spirit you will not have eternal life with in you.
I have another thought exercise though. If we are saved by just faith, and not the act of baptism, then what becomes of children between the ages of zero and four, who have Christian parents, die? Keep in mind, these Christian parents did not baptize these children between the ages of 0 and 4. Since they have not proclaim their faith through baptism does this not mean that they have not been saved (since they gave no pledge of faith) and are now condemned to damnation?
Nicholas, I'm not talking to just you - I understand that you didn't say "I can't prove it, therefore the affirmative act is true." Tom is the one with the bad logic here.
Very well, I misunderstood, but I hope you can see that what I stated is what both I and Jared are looking to get across.
I look forward to your reply on my last question.
If you believe in forensic justification and baptismal regeneration, your position is contradictory. If no internal change is required for salvation, and baptism makes us born again (internal change, no longer dead in our trespasses), Titus 3:5 disproves your position:
"...he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water[a] of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."
If we are saved through rebirth, then our salvation is dependent on an internal change for Christ. This simple argument disproves Protestantism.
"I disagree with what you say about baptism being a pledge."
"And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him."
- 1 Peter 3:20-22 [NRSV-CE]
The trouble is, that word that's translated as "appeal" is ἐπερώτημα, which could mean "appeal," "demand," or "pledge." Now, there's plenty of arguments (good, civilized arguments) that have come out of deciding which word to use in translation. I use pledge. I understand others don't. But this is one area where your interpretation is totally fine. I see it as a pledge, you don't, there's no way to know for SURE how the passage translates, so I accept your interpretation as equally valid as mine.
"what becomes of children between the ages of zero and four, who have Christian parents, die"
Let's expand that, actually. What becomes of children between the ages of one second (zero seemed odd to me, hope you don't mind the slight change) and children of the age where they can make the affirmation of faith? What about children or adults that never have the mental or physical capacity to make an affirmation of faith?
James 4:17 says that if anyone knows what's good but doesn't do it, then that's sin. If you don't have the ability (separate this from the desire) to distinguish right action from wrong action, you aren't culpable for the wrong actions - you're saved by your own innocence (or ignorance, to put a point on it).
True, the Bible doesn't provide an exact answer on this point. But just because it isn't stated doesn't mean I can call that evidence for another position. While you may find "It seems to me that they're saved by their innocence" unsatisfying, trust that I find the idea of baptizing children without their consent to be as unsatisfying as baptizing any adult without their consent.
Harry, I jumped too quickly into the affirmation of the baptismal regeneration before. I thought I remembered what that referred to, but upon further reflection, I remembered it meant something else, so I deleted my affirmation of baptismal regeneration almost immediately. I apologize for the confusion.
No, I don't think baptismal regeneration is correct.
What does it mean to be reborn then?
It means God sees the change in the human heart that comes with the desire to repent and turn one's life to Christ, and makes him a new creation.
According to Titus 3:5, this "change in the human heart" is required to be saved. If we must be a "new creation," how can faith alone merit salvation?
If you have the faith, you are already a new creation.
"For we hold that man is justified by faith, and not works of law."
- Romans 3:28
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation."
"Works of the Law" refers to Jewish Law, and cannot save. And the only place "faith alone" appears in the Bible, is James 2:24: "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."
James is explicitly refuting your doctrine of faith alone salvation. And if we are a "new creation" (reborn) through faith, why does the Bible make a distinction between the two? Jesus clearly states that faith and rebirth are necessary for salvation.
I'll try to keep this as coherent as possible. The discussion seems to be branching off so I'm only going to focus directly on your reply to me right now, John, regarding specifically baptism.
It's interesting how you interpret James 4:17. What you've stated sounds a lot like Invincible Ignorance in Catholic theology. This of course applies to those who were incapable of hearing the Word of God (i.e., some far flung tribe) but still stayed true to the Natural Law that is imparted on the hearts of all humans.
But the thing is, you've applied it to these babies and children. What if baptism has still been delayed for them until they were adults, or because of some handicap you mentioned? Can we claim invincible ignorance then?
Also, you seem to have a dilemma here. In addition to coming close to the invincible ignorance teaching the Church holds, you also seem to be inching closer to the Church's teaching on the baptism of desire (or Baptismus flaminis). However, you have no teaching authority to tell you that's true. It seems that you are using the Bible as the sole rule of faith. I have the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (together WITH Scripture and Sacred Tradition) to tell me that it is possible for the ignorant to be saved. You do not have such an institution to rely on, so how can you back up your conclusion that these babies (or these people in general) are definitively saved? So I don't completely find your answer unsatisfying, I just don't understand how you can honestly reach that conclusion when it isn't said in the Bible, specifically where you quoted from James.
Now I totally understand what you mean here, "But just because it isn't stated doesn't mean I can call that evidence for another position." However this all stems back to what we believe baptism actually does.
You say you "find the idea of baptizing children without their consent to be as unsatisfying as baptizing any adult without their consent.". These are two different things. If I believe (and the Catholic Church believes this) that a person is SAVED by baptism, in other words that baptismal regeneration takes place, then baptism should not be denied to any human being, including babies. I don't know if you believe in original sin, do you? We as Catholic Christians do, meaning that every human has the stain of Adam on them. So unless we are "saved... through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)", we will not have salvation. Cyprian of Carthage wrote this in 253 A.D., 70 years before the Council of Nicea. He speaks more eloquently about these infants than I can:
"As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born.
"If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another." (Letters 64:2, 5)
After reading Cyprian's words, and my words regarding the salvific nature of baptism, can you at least concede to me, that if one were to understand that baptism is necessary for salvation, and that humans must be cleansed of Adam's sin, that that would be a very compelling reason for a mother and father to baptize their infant son or daughter? Would not those parents want the best for their children; in other words... wouldn't those parents want their infant child to inherit the Kingdom of God if they were to suddenly die before reaching even their first birthday?
Nicholas, may I just say, I've loved your responses. They've really made me look more critically at the things I believe than I have in quite some time, so thank you for that.
Why would baptism be delayed? The handicap question is valid, but I'm curious what else you think would delay them. Finding water? I suppose it doesn't matter. Okay, if someone knows sin is sin, has faith in Christ, and desires baptism, but doesn't get it... so what? It's not the water that does the saving, it's the faith.
"...you have no teaching authority to tell you that's true."
I have modern scholarship to tell me what's true. Sometimes, a lot of scholars give credence to the Catholic interpretation of a certain passage of Scripture, and sometimes they say there just isn't enough evidence for it - Scripturally or culturally.
I am using the Scripture in the original tongue, the work of the last 500 years of scholars (who were affected by the previous 1500 years of scholars, believe you me), contemporary literary parallels, and ardent faith. The Magisterium is made up of people educated just like me (save they took permanent holy orders and I only took temporary ones back in the day), and I don't think there's anything to holding to "Sacred Tradition" if it contradicts what was actually going on in the culture and the language of the time period when the Church would've taken root. Surely you can see that even a hundred years after the founding of any institution that it can go sour and off the intentions of its founder?
You say that baptizing children without their consent and baptizing adults without their consent is different, but you haven't clarified why. If anything, your "baptism should not be denied to any human being, including babies" could be very easily extrapolated to mean that if we don't require consent for baptism to occur, we should just "baptize" everyone. Right now. Regardless of their faith.
"After reading Cyprian's words, and my words regarding the salvific nature of baptism, can you at least concede to me, that if one were to understand that baptism is necessary for salvation, and that humans must be cleansed of Adam's sin, that would be a very very compelling reason for a mother and father to baptize their infant son or daughter?"
IF one were to believe those things, then STILL no, because you can't baptize someone without their consent. You aren't baptizing them, no matter how much pomp and circumstance you attach to the event in church. You are getting them wet. Without faith from the one being baptized, a ceremony of baptism is meaningless.
Thanks John. I think that's what any good discussion should do. You've made this discussion very worthwhile as well with your responses, and this is the first time in a long time that I've had such a good theological discussion. most times it seems to denigrate into incoherent thoughts and name calling, so I thank you for the engaging conversation.
Regarding a delay of baptism, I was just replying to the previous post where you said, "What about children or adults that never have the mental or physical capacity to make an affirmation of faith?" You said "never", but for some reason I thought you meant "delay" as I was writing my response. I was just referring to the mentally or physically handicapped remark, not anything else so my mistake on not being clear.
You said, "if someone knows sin is sin, has faith in Christ, and desires baptism, but doesn't get it... so what? It's not the water that does the saving, it's the faith."
This is where we extremely differ. Right there you've admitted that being baptized is not required to be admitted into Christ's family, i.e. the Church. (I think we can both agree Christ established a Church, whether it's the one I perceive or the one you perceive isn't relevant right now. We just know Christ founded a Church.) By affirming baptism is not necessary, then it seems you're saying all one needs is faith to be saved and enter into Christ's Church. Therefore, any baptism taking place at your church is superfluous because it doesn't do anything. Again, you are making baptism into something YOU do for God, instead of understanding it as baptism being something GOD does FOR us. By reading the Scriptures, I can see that that specific understanding of baptism is not supported by the Scriptures.
Remember when you quoted me 1 Peter 3? Let's look closely at that again, specifically verse 21: "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you." Baptism... SAVES YOU. Baptism includes the immersion into or sprinkling of water, and receiving the Spirit. This contradicts what you told me above, "It's not the water that does the saving, it's the faith." Two contradictory things cannot be true. Either you are wrong, or the Bible is wrong. I must say, I believe what the Bible explicitly says there over your comment. The Bible says "Baptism... now SAVES you."
Let's look at this passage as well, spoken from Christ himself:
" He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned (Mark 16:16)."
You say you have modern scholarship to tell you what's true... but is that the infallible Word of God? Are not men fallible? If I believe that Christ established a Church, and that not even the gates of Hell would prevail against it, and that he would send his Holy Spirit to guide that Church after he left this Earth... then shouldn't I trust in Him and the vicars he has left in his stead? Modern scholarship is good to go by, no doubt, but not everything in modern scholarship is infallible, but I believe that Christ's Church is on matters of faith.
If some understanding of something in the Bible contradicts, as you said, "contradicts what was actually going on in the culture and the language of the time period", that as a valid assertion. I agree with what you said there. But in this case of infant baptism, I see no contradiction unless you point it out to me. Any institution CAN go sour after a century, yes, but if Christ established a Church... then I have to trust in Christ that it WON'T go sour in terms of the understanding of faith and morals. If things went sour, as you said, then Christ isn't Lord, but a liar.
You said, "If anything, your 'baptism should not be denied to any human being, including babies' could be very easily extrapolated to mean that if we don't require consent for baptism to occur, we should just 'baptize' everyone. Right now. Regardless of their faith."
Now, I'm not saying we should just baptize everyone regardless of faith or age. That would be wrong. The reason it's different for infants is because of the fact they cannot speak yet. Again, I see baptism (and the Church sees Baptism) as NECESSARY for salvation. Therefore, if Christ came to redeem and save all humans, why should infants and small children be excluded from this salvation. Simply, they shouldn't.
The Catholic Church does not baptize anybody without faith. In the case of infants, it is the faith of the Church. It's the faith that the Church has in the infant's parents that they will raise their child in accordance with Christ's teachings. Those parents and godparents act as a proxy since the child cannot speak. Again, I do not believe (nor does the Church) that faith is what saves you. It is baptism itself, and as many of the Byzantine Catholic Churches say in their liturgies, baptism is an "interior enlightenment" and is called the sacrament of enlightenment. Faith received causes the veil lying over their minds to be removed when one turns to the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:15-16).
Parents make choices everyday that are essential for a child's life and its well-being. A neutral attitude towards baptism, i.e. waiting until adulthood to receive the sanctifying graces in baptism, would be a horrible choice depriving the child of an essential good, salvation. This is why infant baptism is different from forcing a baptism on a non-believing adult. Therefore, infants are not just "getting wet". They are truly being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and are then welcomed into the community of Christ's Church.
I'm sorry our posts keep getting longer and longer, but there's a lot to unpack here. I don't mind if your response is twice as long though! I wish to keep this dialogue going, and I look forward to your response.
LOL don't worry, the length is what makes it interesting. There's a lot to unpack, and it's wonderful.
Yes, Christ founded a Church. See, we've found an area we agree! LOL.
No, I don't think being baptized is required to be admitted into Christ's family. I do think, however, that it shows the proper devotion. If you CAN do it, but refuse, that doesn't show that you're eager enough to serve God, does it? I think of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Philip convinces him of the power and glory of the risen Christ, and he's like, BOOM, I'm in. "Look, here is water, what's to prevent me getting baptized?" Nothing. That's devotion. That's what we want as members in our churches. That's who we want to be spreading the Gospel. Those are the people who live and breathe Christ.
"...it seems you're saying all one needs is faith to be saved..."
Yes, but not just me. Paul was pretty convinced of it, too. "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
"...any baptism taking place at your church is superfluous because it doesn't do anything."
That's absolutely NOT what I'm saying. The baptism is a pledge to God. It shows devotion. It shows a willingness to obey. It does something - but it doesn't provide salvation.
"...you are making baptism into something YOU do for God, instead of understanding it as baptism being something GOD does FOR us."
I'm not even certain what you're trying to say here. Of course baptism is something we do FOR God. He can't do it for us. It's entirely in our ballpark.
1 Peter 3:21 is describing what baptism represents, which is what saves us. The baptism is a fruit of faith (works, as in James, are a fruit of faith). It's the pledge of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ signified in baptism that saves us. The faith saves; the water baptism is the testimony of the faith.
You quoted Mark 16:16. The trouble that immediately springs to mind is the Christ is separating the people in question into two camps: those that believe and are baptized, and those that don't believe. There is no statement for "...those that believe but haven't yet been baptized." It's unwarranted to assume that He meant those who believe but haven't yet been baptized are condemned, especially since there is no such statement in the rest of Scripture. Instead, the rest of Scripture attests that we are saved by faith. The thief on the cross was saved but not baptized. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized, according to Acts 10.
According to John 5:24, we have eternal life the moment we believe. Not after baptism... the moment we believe. A Muslim in Iran picks up a Bible and believes, he's saved whether or not there's someone there to baptize him.
"... if Christ established a Church... then I have to trust in Christ that it WON'T go sour in terms of the understanding of faith and morals..."
That statement baffles me. We certainly understand now that punishing those that believe differently than the teachings of the Church with death is a bad idea, don't we? We certainly understand war claimed to be in the name of God to be a bad idea, don't we? We certainly understand prosecuting Christians who dissented from the doctrines of Catholicism is a bad idea, yes? We understand the anti-Jewish teachings that came out of Catholicism was a bad thing, yes? We don't still stand by Pope Innocent III's papal bull of 1213 where he ordered Jews and Muslim to wear badges to distinguish them from Christians and deny them public office, do we? The Catholic Church is largely a wonderful organization now, but let's not pretend twas ever thus.
"The reason it's different for infants is because of the fact they cannot speak yet."
They cannot UNDERSTAND. If they were, by miracle, granted the ability to form sentences, their minds are not developed enough to understand the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. You cannot stand in for one who does not understand - no matter how much you want them to be baptized. They just... aren't baptized. Infants and small children are not excluded from salvation by not being baptized, for reasons I mentioned earlier when I talked about mental incapability to acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ.
"The Catholic Church does not baptize anybody without faith. In the case of infants, it is the faith of the Church."
Well, sorry, but neither Christ nor any of the writers of the New Testament think someone else can 'stand in' for your faith. It has to be YOUR faith. As you and I likely know... you can't TEACH faith. It has to be FELT. You can teach children about justice and Christ, and I believe you should, but you can't teach them faith.
Well John, I'm glad we can indeed agree on one area lol! I knew we had to have some common ground with us both being brothers in Christ!
So you said, "No, I don't think being baptized is required to be admitted into Christ's family. I do think, however, that it shows the proper devotion. If you CAN do it, but refuse, that doesn't show that you're eager enough to serve God, does it?"
|Confiramtion- Giuseppe Maria Crespi|
So if being baptized isn't a requirement to be in Christ's family, why even bother to show "proper devotion"? So that we're not doing the bare minimum? Yea, sure, that makes sense. But if you already assured of your salvation just because you've made a profession and pledge of your faith... then it REALLY doesn't matter if you're eager to serve God. Your salvation is assured already, right?
Now, if you're going to quote Paul about faith alone, then I can quote James who says in black and white:
"Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.' You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:20-24)"
Here we can see that while, like you said, good works CAN certainly be a fruit of faith, we are also JUSTIFIED by those same good works that may spring from our faith. James says it plainly, "Was not Abraham JUSTIFIED by works". As I'm sure you know to be justified is to be saved. Therefore, we are saved... we are justified by good works AND faith! However, you're interpretation of 1 Peter makes no sense to me. Peter does not say, "this water baptism represents your faith, and that faith saves you." He says, "Baptism... now saves you." It's the ACT of baptism that gives us salvation; it is NOT a representation of anything. Baptism IS God's grace, which sanctifies us. I think this is why you can't understand what I mean when I say you've turned baptism into something you do for God. The Catholic Church and I believe the opposite, and that's because as Catholics (as well as the Orthodox and other non-Catholic Christians) we believe it cleanses Original Sin...
You said, "The trouble that immediately springs to mind is the Christ is separating the people in question into two camps: those that believe and are baptized, and those that don't believe. There is no statement for '...those that believe but haven't yet been baptized.'"
That's because in the books of the Bible, we're dealing with only adults. We don't see Christian families until the very end of the Bible with people like Timothy who were second generation Christians. Therefore, since the Apostles had a big job in convincing not only Jews but Gentiles that Jesus was God, a baptism typically succeeded evangelization. The rest of Scripture DOES attest that we are saved by faith, but not by faith alone as you are saying. The Bible explicitly says in James' letter: "A person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
I'm going to skip a paragraph of yours real quick. You say my statement on trusting in Christ's Church baffles you. Let me clarify since you have misunderstood me. I am NOT saying that people within the Catholic Church have never done anything wrong or heinous. There have been some horrible bishops, even worse popes, and some downright hateful clergy members throughout Church history. But that doesn't mean that the institution of the Church (that is, the Catholic Church itself) has gone sour or is corrupt. The teaching authority of the Church (through the Pope and the Magisterium in the Deposit of Faith) is infallible ONLY in matters of faith or morals. It's members are not impeccable, which is something very different from being infallible. The Catholic Church has always been a safeguard of Truth, Mercy, and Love, so yes, I believe it always has been a wonderful "organization", as you say. However the people that have been within it have not always been morally upright. Thankfully, through Christ's promise, the Church will never err in Her teachings thanks to Christ's divine Providence and the Holy Spirit. I would love to talk more about this subject, but can we please save that for another time, as I'd really like to continue discussing baptism and whether it is salvific or only a testimony of faith.
Now, you also said, "A Muslim in Iran picks up a Bible and believes, he's saved whether or not there's someone there to baptize him." I completely disagree, since he was not anointed by water and the Holy Spirit, meaning he wasn't cleansed of original sin.
You also mentioned Cornelius being saved before baptism. This is one of the very few times we see in the Bible the sacrament of Confirmation preceding Baptism. I mentioned before, in the Eastern Catholic Churches, the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation/Chrismation, and the Eucharist) are received all at the same time. Here, we see Confirmation (which has always been understood as the filling of the Holy Spirit upon a person) immediately preceding Baptism. This also happens to Paul when Ananias lays his hands on him and fills Paul with the Holy Spirit before Paul is baptized. Notice what Ananias says to him, "...you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name (Acts 22: 15-16).
Now you might be thinking, "Well the Holy Spirit was imparted on them either way, why make two distinctions between baptism and confirmation?" That's because both of these baptisms do indeed impart the Holy Spirit, but in DIFFERENT ways. There's a distinction between the Trinitarian baptism and Confirmation, that is, the laying on of hands. Baptism cleanses us from sin and welcomes us into Christ's family, while Confirmation is the imparting of the Holy Spirit's gifts to build up the Body of Christ and draw others into it.
The distinction between the two sacraments that I just laid out explains the two times that Confirmation precedes Baptism in the Bible. Peter is speaking with Cornelius and other Gentiles he's not even positive that he CAN baptize, and then we see Ananias talking with Paul who is a known persecutor of Christians. When the Holy Spirit descends upon these people, both Peter and Ananias know that it is all right for them to baptize these people.
As for standing in for an infant who is to be baptized, I've already made my point. Baptism is administered through the faith of the Church. This is where I think you kind of sound like the Apostles when they rebuked the children for bothering Christ. But Christ says, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Luke 16-17)." Christ didn't reject the children. Shouldn't we do likewise and bring them into the fold of salvation? Otherwise, that would be like saying there is no such thing as a Christian 2 year old.
And just for kicks, Christ does this in Mark's account of the same incident: "And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them (Mark 10:16)." Sounds like he's imparting the Holy Spirit on these infants to me.
You said, "neither Christ nor any of the writers of the New Testament think someone else can 'stand in' for your faith". If you replace "think" with "said", then you're right. They never did say this was possible. But I don't believe everything revealed to Christians on earth is solely in the Bible. I have already shown that early Church Fathers like Irenaeus and Cyprian DID think that, and Augustine even said this baptizing of infants was a tradition from the Apostles themselves! You're right, we can't teach children faith, it's something they have to come to. But we can give them a head start by baptizing them in Christ's name. That is so they may receive His graces and have that "interior enlightenment" to bring them closer to that faith in Christ, which they otherwise wouldn't have had access to if they were not baptized.