Friday, December 29, 2006

Of Necessity and Wetness

Unfortunately, I can't take credit for the witty title of this post. It comes from a thread started by "grace saved sinner" in the God board at Relevant Magazine. He began with the following post:
okay so i have not been around here that long so if this an old topic then dont hate me. i am interested about everyones thoughts on baptism. and since people seem to like lists ill make this easy:

1. define baptism.
2. emmersion or sprinkling? why?
3. necessary part of salvation or public confession of faith?
(side note- dont use "public confession of faith" in your definition)
4. any interesting baptism stories?

that's it. it has been an interesting topic for discussion lately so i though you guys my enjoy it. thanks and GOD bless.
I thought his thread would be a great opportunity to share the Catechism, so I responded in the following manner [his words are in silver]:
1. define baptism.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word."

2. emmersion or sprinkling? why?

Either one is sufficient. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1239 The essential rite of the sacrament follows: Baptism properly speaking. It signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ. Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate's head.

3. necessary part of salvation or public confession of faith?

Necessary part of salvation. again, from the Catechism:

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

4. any interesting baptism stories?

Sorry, I don't remember mine (since I was baptized as an infant and all)
"gonzoguy" posted twice in response. Here are his posts with my response to them. This promises to be a worthwhile debate.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - -
Yeah, the whole thing about baptism being necessary for salvation seems somewhat contradictory to Christ's (and Paul's) teaching.
Even though Jesus said, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:5) and Paul said, "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4)? Baptism seems perfectly in line with their teaching.

Seems to me like Catholicism has placed a little bit too much emphasis on the doing rather than the being regarding this matter.
I disagree. Faith requires action, and it is our Faith in Christ that compels us to be baptized.

[after someone else added that Scripture seems to disagree with him, gonzo added this second post]
No it doesn't, you just left out the parts that argue the other side. Here's a big one...

Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
I think the crucial point here is the nature of faith. What are the qualities of a saving faith? We know that it is not mere intellectual assent, because James says that faith without works is dead (Jam 2:17,26). Thus, a saving faith is a faith that compels us to act, and in very particular ways. One such action is baptism. Look at what Jesus says:

Mk 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

We must believe, and then this belief must compel us to be baptized if we are to be saved. Faith saves, initially, when it calls us to baptism, and ultimately insofar as it compels us to live a life in accordance with His will. That's why Paul says you will remain grafted to the tree of life “provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom 11:22). Jesus will present us to the Father “holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith” (Col 1:22-23). We must “stand fast” (Gal 5:1) and “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1), working out our salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil 2:12), “for we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Heb 3:14).

BBM, you would be hard pressed to find anything in Scripture that says a lack of baptism is synonymous with a lack of salvation. Indeed to come to that conclusion you would be forced to use reverse logic which is almost never helpful when it comes to Scripture.
I think the verses I have provided, particularly Jn 3:5 and Mk 16:16, show a definite link between a lack of baptism and a lack of salvation. No reverse logic is necessary.

As has already been referenced, the theif on the cross, John the Baptist, and possibly the disciples would be in danger of a lack of salvation since there is nothing that says they were baptized.
Regarding the theif on the cross, his circumstances certainly prevented him from being baptized, and God, being the just Judge that He is, would certainly not hold that against Him. Also, note that we are bound by the Sacraments, but God is not. He can certainly do what He wishes, and we see that He exercised this perogative when He promised the theif a place in His Kingdom.

For the record, I think that if a believer has the opportunity to be baptized they should be, but to say that it is necessary for salvation is to say that Christ's work is not enough which, coincidentally, flies in the face of his teaching. If baptism were a requirement for salvation we would still be under a sort of law and God's grace was only sufficient if we completed the "work" of baptism. It just doesn't make sense.
Your logic does not follow. It is plain to see that God requires certain things from us. This does not mean that we are under the "law" and not under grace. It just means that the Christian life places certain demands upon us. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (Jn 14:15).

Furthermore, when I defend the necessity of baptism it does not follow that I am likewise asserting that Christ's work was deficient or "not enough." This is because it is the very work of Christ on the cross that gives baptism its efficacy. That's why Peter says:

1 Pet 3:21-22
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Baptism would not cleanse us from sin or initiate us into the Body of Christ were it not for Jesus' passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. After all, He had to return to the Father before He could grant to the Church the Spirit that gives the Sacraments their power. Baptism does not deny Christ's work, it affirms it.

Furthermore, Baptism is a particularly poignant affirmation of Christ's work because it is through Baptism that we actually enter in to His work. That's why Paul says:

Rom 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Col 2:12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Pax Christi,


Jason Gennaro said...

Excellent responses, phatcatholic! I would also point out that

1. With the thief on the cross, Jesus had not yet died, let alone risen, when He promised the man paradise. St. Paul in Romans 6:3-6 shows that baptism joins us to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. As Christ had not died or rose from the dead, baptism was not relevant. Instead, the promise to the thief was the same promise to all of those under the Old Covenant, including St. John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, and all the other righteous people before Christ. Baptism only becomes necessary after Christ's passion.

2. To suggest that the necessity of baptism is to believe that "Christ's work is not enough" is to ignore the Lord's orders in Matthew 28:19.

3. The Romans 10:9-10 argument is a straw man. St. Paul is not enunciating a definitive "this is all that's needed for salvation statement". In fact, one of those definitive statements never occurs in Scripture. Instead, we are told the necessities of salvation in bits here and there, as one would expect from myriad letters addressing sundry issues. For instance, we are told at various times that in order to reach heaven we must
i. have faith (Romans 3:28)
ii. do the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21)
iii. forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15)
iv. keep the commandments (Matthew 19:16-17)
v. participate in the Eucharist (John 6:51-58)
vi. do good works (James 2:14-26)
A single verse from Romans does not invalidate all the rest.

Thanks for sharing the debate.

Benedicamus Domino!

rhapsody said...

Thank you for posting -

Happy New Year &
God Bless!

phatcatholic said...

jason, your points were amazing!! thank you very much!! i had never thought to use any of that before, although i suppose i always knew it. you have been a great help!!

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

As for the penitent thief the Catechism also says:

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.


1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

That can make some easy work of the issue with the penitent thief.

Also, about sprinkling. I recently converted to the Church and I was sprinkled in my former denomination. You are right in saying that the Church accepts it but it does distinguish sprinkling from pouring and considers sprinkling "incorrect" but not "invalid" (or at least that's my understanding of it)

totustuus said...

this blog is excellent.
Stop by Sweet Dreamz sometime. It's just opened and is for Catholic/Conservative and Pro Life Bloggers.
I also have a Catholic discussion forum.
Not as good at Phatmass;but we are a close group.Have been together for better than 3 yrs.
Will post a link to your blog there!

Love Phatmass.Have one of their awesome desktop wallpapers.
Last but not least PLS be sure to sign the petition to oppose Obama's invitation to Notre Dame.

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