Thursday, March 27, 2008

In my last posting I talked about the differences between how Evangelical Protestants and Catholics look at baptism. I also gave some of the biblical support for the Catholic position of baptism being necessary for salvation as opposed to it just being an ordinance, but having no real effect. The necessity of water baptism at times will be challenged by Evangelicals by giving examples such as the "Good Thief" who was never baptised but was told by Jesus "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). The following is from a Catholic Answers article on the Necessity of Baptism that address this argument.

Christians have also always realized that the necessity of water baptism is
a normative rather than an absolute necessity. There are exceptions to water
baptism: It is possible to be saved through "baptism of blood," martyrdom for
Christ, or through "baptism of desire", that is, an explicit or even implicit
desire for baptism. Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Those who
die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing
of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and
strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized" (CCC
1281; the salvation of unbaptized infants is also possible under this system;
cf. CCC 1260–1, 1283).
CCC - Catechism of the Catholic Church
Now I'd like to share the historical Christian view of baptism by quoting some of the early Church Father's views on baptism being necessary for salvation.

"‘I have heard, sir,’ said I [to the Shepherd], ‘from some teacher,
that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins.’ He said to me,
‘You have heard rightly, for so it is’" (The Shepherd 4:3:1–2 [A.D. 80]).
-- Hermas

"As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach
and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly . . . are brought
by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we
were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the
universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then
receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Except you be born again,
you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:3]" (First Apology 61
[A.D. 151]). -- Justin Martyr

"Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of
our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . . [But]
a viper of the [Gnostic] Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has
carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first
aim to destroy baptism—which is quite in accordance with nature, for vipers and
asps . . . themselves generally do live in arid and waterless places. But we,
little fishes after the example of our [Great] Fish, Jesus Christ, are born in
water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water.
So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine,
knew full well how to kill the little fishes—by taking them away from the
water!" (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203]). -- Tertullian

"Without baptism, salvation is attainable by none" (ibid., 12).

"It is not possible to receive forgiveness of sins without baptism"
(Exhortation to the Martyrs 30 [A.D. 235]). -- Origen

These are just a few of the writings of some of the Early Church Father's who all believed in the necessity of baptism. Now some people will say not all the Father's were in agreement on this issues but I would challenge them to prove it.

So my brothers and sisters I hope this small introduction into baptism will challenge you to dive deeper into your faith. As well as give you a bit of ammunition when faced with questions about the Catholic view on baptism.

Peace and God Bless...