December 2, 2020

The Evangelical Untouchables 3: Rebaptizing Someone Else’s Church Members?

untouchUPDATE: Lindsey Williams has added his take on the question.

NOTE: There are several IM posts on Rebaptism in an SBC context. Use the search function and they are on the first page.

The Evangelical Untouchables are seven diverse evangelicals who will give us a window into what’s happening in evangelicalism today.

Who are the Evangelical Untouchables?

Michael Patton is the director of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, blogs at Parchment and Pen and is one of the teachers on The Theology Program.
Tony Kummer is on staff at a Southern Baptist Church in the midwest and blogs at SBC Voices.
Ryan Couch is a Calvary Chapel pastor in Oregon, and blogs at Small Town Preacher.
Kirk Cowell pastors a Church of Christ in North Carolina. He blogs at A Soul In Training.
Lindsey Williams is planting a PCA Church in North Carolina, and blogs at From Acorns to Oaks.
Matt Edwards is a small groups pastor in a Non-denominational/Bible church in Washington, and blogs at Awaiting Redemption.
Darrell Young pastors a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church near Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

This episode’s question: “Evangelicals love to convert and baptize other people’s church members.

Recently, I received word that one of the elders of a church where I served as supply pastor for many years had been baptized and proclaimed himself a new Christian. This was a man I discipled, prayed with, ministered with and was constantly encouraged by in my own ministry. While I’m not God, all my understanding of the evidence of true faith says he was a Christian. Now he’s been told by his new church that all those years- including years serving as an elder- were spent as an unconverted person.

Sometimes this happens with a stress on questioning assurance. Sometimes it comes because of the claims of the church involved.

How do you process, in your own understanding of conversion, grace and baptism, the “conversion” of your own church members into “new converts” at other churches? Would you tell a person who considered themselves a Christian that they weren’t, and needed to be rebaptized?”

profileMichael Patton (Independent/Bible Church): How do you process, in your own understanding of conversion, grace and baptism, the “conversion” of your own church members into “new converts” at other churches? Would you tell a person who considered themselves a Christian that they weren’t, and needed to be rebaptized?

Let me start by saying that I do believe that there are a lot of unconverted people in the pews of Evangelical churches everywhere. I never assume that just because someone is a member of this or that church that they have ever truly and personally trusted in Christ. I think one of our biggest problems in pop-Evangelicalism today, ironically, is the discharge of the Gospel. I am not one to continually call people’s assurance into question, but we must realize that there is a faith that does not save, and there are a lot of people in possession of such faith. Making our calling sure is very important.

Having said that, baptism would not be the issue. Baptism is a sign of your conversion, not the conversion itself. Therefore, rarely, would baptism come up unless we were to discover that this person was never truly a believer to begin with. If, upon discovery that this person had never trusted in Christ, the issue would be their trust in Christ. After this, I would discuss baptism. At this point I would think it a good idea for that person to be rebaptized, but we would not push this too much. I think I speak in line with my tradition, but my tradition on these issues is very broad.

Kirk Cowell (Church of Christ): Churches of Christ have historically held a very high view of baptism. A proper conversion in our fellowship involves an adult (loosely defined) who is baptized by immersion as an act of faith and repentance, following a public confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It is generally believed that a person is saved at the moment that he or she rises out of the baptismal waters. We don’t say sinner’s prayers or ask Jesus to come into our hearts. As a consequence, there is a very clear line of demarcation between sinner and saint. Although I’ve known people to leave Churches of Christ and later come to believe that they hadn’t fully received the Holy Spirit, or that they hadn’t properly understood grace, or that they had been indoctrinated into an overly restrictive and sectarian mindset, I don’t personally know of anyone who didn’t think that their conversion experience hadn’t been efficacious for salvation. One thing we’re good at is jumping through all the hoops!

And yet: The fundamental quality of a Christian is that he or she has submitted themselves to the Lordship of Jesus. I would never tell a people who have done so that they aren’t Christians. They might be misinformed–even badly so–but if the grace of Jesus doesn’t cover a person’s failure to properly grasp the normative process of conversion, then I certainly can’t trust it to cover lust, rebellion, greed and hatred–and we’re all in trouble. It’s been a long time since I could really sympathize with the mindset of folks who think that the same Jesus who said “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” in regard to the people carrying out his execution would willingly (if regretfully) send pedobaptists off to hell, unable to forgive their doctrinal error. I’ve often asked my colleagues in ministry why it is that Abraham’s faith alone was credited to him as righteousness if we have to have faith + x (for divergent values of x, depending on your denomination) to be counted righteous? How is it good news if the work of Jesus resulted in it being harder for me to be saved than for Abraham? Wouldn’t I have been better off before the cross? But, of course, Paul’s point is that our God has, through Jesus, extended to all people the opportunity to be reckoned righteous in exactly the same way that Abraham was.

The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

If it were just me making the call (and it isn’t), folks whose conversion process differ from the template we teach would be welcomed as full, participating members of our congregation, but we would simulatenously continue to teach that our tradition is believer’s immersion and it is our belief that such practice is in harmony with the best reading of the scripture. That might be a tricky balance to maintain, but I don’t know how else to live out the fruit of the Spirit in this regard: love for all who confess Jesus, joy in our mutual service, peace in spite of our differences, patience while Jesus leads all of us more fully into his truth, kindness to people who read the Bible differently than I do, goodness (not doctrinal conformity) as our calling, and yet faithfulness to my Lord and to the scriptures as I understand them. In a lot of ways it would be easier to say clearly “you’re in” or “you’re out,” but I see more wisdom in saying “I love you in the Lord; let’s walk together and keep talking about this one.”

Tony Kummer (Southern Baptist): There’s a joke down in Louisville that the largest Baptist church in the city is actually Southeast Christian Church. Maybe that’s just seminary humor, but something about it rings true. Our little town is similar. All the churches take turns loosing membership to whichever church has momentum (newest buildings, dynamic preacher, cool music).

I don’t call that conversion, just church-shopping. The current hot church is a Christian church that blends Campbellite doctrine with attractional church growth techniques. It’s a bit eclectic, but they still like to baptize former Southern Baptists. We believe this is an invalid use of the ordinance. Baptism should be a one-time symbolic act of public confession to faith in Christ. It’s a testimony to conversion, and it does not contribute to justification.

We discourage re-baptizing, mainly because it confuses the symbolism of the resurrection, which is a one-time deal. We make exception for people not literally “dunked” since we insist (with pompous Greek exegesis) that Baptism = dunked. I would counsel people to find assurance in personally knowing Jesus, not in the ordinance of Baptism.

Lindsey Williams (Presbyterian Church in America):First of all, I would say that as a pastor I can never guarantee someone’s conversion. I know plenty of people who have shown all the evidences of faith, and yet years later seem to have turned away from that faith which they professed (1 John 2:19). As pastors we are called to investigate and see if people give a credible profession of faith and show the fruits of such a faith before we admit them as communing members in a church. We are then called to treat those people as “believers” and encourage them in their faith and in the assurance of that faith. But it is entirely possible that an elder in my own church could end up not being a believer down the road. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 helps to keep me from being too consumed with whether or not previous people in my church were believers or not should they be “new converts” in a church that preaches the true gospel. Regardless, the credit goes to God and it doesn’t diminish God using me whether as a planter or as one who waters (either way, I can be confident God used me!). Obviously, the key issue is whether or not this new church is actually preaching the gospel and not some heresy. There are Christian traditions that confuse assurance of salvation with salvation itself, so it is possible that there is merely a poor teaching as it relates to these respective terms, and that is the cause for their “new conversion”

I would most certainly tell someone they aren’t a Christian if they don’t assent to the truths of the gospel. However, it gets trickier when it comes to addressing their Christian experience. There must be some evidence of “good works” in their life, but it is difficult to get a clear picture depending on how long you have known this person (and allowing for the reality of temporary backsliding). I would actually never rebaptize someone if they had already been baptized by an ordained minister in the name of the Trinity with water. In my denomination there is some debate as to the question of someone baptized in a Catholic church. The basic denominational position (which I tend to agree with) is that as long as the baptism meets the criteria above, then it is a legitimate baptism (Ephesians 4:5). The basic reformed position is that baptism is not ultimately about what we have to say to God, but what God has to say about us. It is God’s sacrament to us, not our sacrament given to God. We baptize those who profess faith, but we also baptize the children of those who profess faith precisely because God has declared that he has a special interest in the children of those in the covenant community (1 Cor. 7:14; Genesis 17; Acts 2:38,39; Colossians 2:11-12). This may be a whole other discussion topic on the question of infant baptism, but we’ll just assume I’m right on this and move on. A person’s actual conversion is not necessary for baptism, only the profession of faith on in the case of an infant (the profession of their parent’s faith). This is a good thing, because the whole point is that we can never be totally sure of someone’s conversion. Only God can. Furthermore, infant baptism has the exact same meaning as an adult baptism. Baptism does signify the signs of conversion like the remission of sins, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the only difference is that with a child we look to that from a different perspective in time. We hope that he will one day embrace all that baptism signifies. With an adult, he simply is baptized as one who has already embraced its significance. The difference between the two is only a matter of chronology (not unlike Abraham’s faith in the coming Christ as compared to our faith in the Christ who has already come). I’m writing this now at 2am, so pardon me if I have not sufficiently addressed this topic from my theological position.

Darrell Young (Christian and Missionary Alliance): I will leave it to some of the other Untouchables to articulate the theological nuances of this. I’ll just relate how some of this has worked out for me. The Internet Monk’s frustration over his friend is understandable. I had seen a man and his family through conversion, baptism, growth, membership, the whole deal, only to have him leave over an awkward conflict. He began reporting real spiritual progress in his next church. Then, during that same season, other fringe people left us for that same church and promptly became drawn right into it. While I didn’t like any of this, and doubted myself, it did give me a greater sensitivity when the opposite happened.

As for the person who thinks they are saved, I certainly would not base my opinion on which church they were from. I would simply get to know them, and should be able to get a good sense of their understanding and acceptance of the Gospel. From a church leadership standpoint this becomes important to discern if they want to get baptized and become a member. We hope to take only the truly converted through this. Our denomination requires “believer’s baptism” for membership. This can be frustrating for those baptized as infants, but its who we are and what we believe. We don’t twist arms for people to get rebaptized, but will do it if they want. At the same time, we don’t think this says anything about when they became converted. We would not take someone in from another denomination and insist they were not saved, must now convert and be rebaptized. In our tradition you can attend and even be involved in certain ways, and even for years, without becoming a member. We would simply start to walk along together and let the Lord work it all out.

Matt Edwards (Independent/Bible Church): he number one question we get about our church is “You guys aren’t some kind of cult, are you?” There is no offering plate passed, no baptismal, no membership, and no senior pastor. It’s weird for a lot of people, but it’s who we are. We are “Low Church Gone Wild.” So, there is no doubt in my mind that former attendees are asked to get doubled dipped when they join other churches. It’s sad, but I’m not losing any sleep over it. I grew up in the Baptist church. We double dipped people with extreme prejudice. If you wanted to be a part of our church, your baptism needed to be “on the right side of your salvation.” My dad is a Baptist and my mom is a Roman Catholic. If my mom was ever to join my dad’s church, she’d have to get double dipped (and that’s not going to happen).

I taught Sunday school to young married couples at an SBC church years ago. This great young couple joined our class—the wife was from an SBC background and the husband was from a Methodist background. The husband had a kind of religious awakening when he got married and had kids. When they joined our church, he was asked to get re-baptized. He initially responded, “I was baptized as a baby. Why do I need to get baptized again?”

Fair question.

He eventually consented to the baptism, not because he felt he needed it, but because the church required it. Our class all joined him at the baptismal, and as he was drying off I heard his wife ask him, “Did it take this time?” He laughed and said, “I hope so.” The whole experience turned me off to the practice of re-baptism. My friend obviously didn’t feel the need to be re-baptized, but he did it because it was best for his family. It wasn’t an act of faith; it was ecclesiastic hoop-jumping.

How do I respond to other churches converting and/or re-baptizing former attendees of my church? I don’t let it get to me. It says more about that church than it does the legitimacy of that person’s faith or baptism. I have zero expectations of most churches. Churches are controlling and sometimes abusive. But, I would also admit that perhaps the person did find something in this church that they didn’t find in my church. Different strokes for different folks. Maybe God is doing something new in their life. Does my understanding of conversion lead me to convert people of other denominations? Yes and no. There are people who have been sitting in the pews of my church for 30 years who need to be converted. Obviously we are not reaching them. If the Presbyterian church down the street can convert them, praise God. If we can reach their members better than them, praise God. Like I said, different strokes for different folks. But do we feel the need to convert and re-baptize members of other denominations? Not if that church affirms the Nicene Creed. In my mind, if someone believes in the Trinity and the death and resurrection of Jesus, and if they have “faith,” then they don’t need to be converted. I allow for re-baptism if someone thinks that their first baptism was not an act of faith, but I would not try to persuade someone to get double dipped.

Ryan Couch (Calvary Chapel): Like most church planters, I’ve never set out to “steal” people from other churches. But like all church plants we’ve had many people come to us from other churches over the last 7 years. That being said I have never told any Christian that they need to be re-baptized into our church or our brand of Christianity. However if someone who believed themselves to be a Christian because they were raised in the church or went forward during an altar call yet later realized that they were never truly converted; I would not hesitate to ratify that revelation by praying with them for salvation, baptizing (or re-baptizing) them in obedience to Scripture, and discipling them so that they can truly bear fruits worthy of repentance.

In my opinion it is the height of arrogance to assume that people are not truly converted unless they make that decision in your church. It reeks of sectarianism and it is exactly what is wrong with the Church. There is only one baptism into one Church (1 Cor. 12:13). Granted there are many wacko “churches” and religious groups that sadly attach Jesus’ name to their idiocy. When “converts” arrive to our church from those cults and pseudo-churches we do not hesitate to let them know that they were fed a false gospel and are in need of true conversion, baptism into Jesus’ Church, and discipleship to strip away all the heresy and root them in the essentials of Christianity.

This arrogant sectarianism stems from a general misconception regarding salvation in evangelical circles. Responding to an altar call, raising your hand (while everyone’s eyes are closed and head is bowed) apparently to join some secret club does not equal conversion. Conversion happens when election and faith working in tandem revolutionize a life which is then substantiated by works that were already prepared by God and now made possible to walk in (Ephesians 2:8-10). True conversion is not a onetime response, it is a life of faith (Romans 1:17) that perpetually abides in Christ and rests in the finished work of the cross. A church with poor soteriology that wrongly believes that a person must get re-saved every time they sin will make these unbiblical demands of their people so that they can inflate their numbers to impress headquarters.


  1. Petra:

    IOWs, if you don’t have the Catholic/Orthodox/Lutheran view, why is Rebaptism a problem.

    Answer: It’s not the same kind of problem, but like most sacramentalists, your choice of the phrase “only a symbol” exhibits the kind of “either/or” approach that many of us reject.

    To believe that Baptism is a powerful sign of a powerful God’s work in Christ is entirely possible. To honor the meaning of that sign by refusing to make it about church franchises or subjective feelings is completely in line with what we believe. Rebaptism teaches the wrong thing about Christ and the church. Honoring Baptism as an ordinance of Christ and a powerful enacting of the Gospel in water is best represented by treating baptism as CHRIST’s ordinance presenting CHRIST’s Work. Regeneration is once. Incorporation/Union with Christ is once. Baptism should be once.

    Our view is not, as you may have been led to believe, a demeaning of baptism because it rejects the Catholic view. We’re entirely convinced that the Catholic view openly states that Baptism only begins the Christian life. We believe Baptism sums up the entire action of Christ and our response in one picture, from beginning to end. But we do not believe the action of the HS is joined to Water, but to the Word of God and faith.



  2. Michael,

    I don’t understand why just instructing the disciples in Ephesus more acurately about Jesus and the HS wouldn’t be sufficient as it was for Apollos. If Apollos submitting to John’s baptism and then coming to believe in Jesus was sufficient for Apollos then why not for the disciples in Ephesus? They had recieved John’s baptism had they not?


  3. Petra,

    Good questions. With regard to the theology of credobaptists, I think you present the two extremes–baptism as a sacrament/means of grace, and baptism as purely symbolic. I think there are mediating positions (similar to mediating positions between Transubstantiation and memorial only).

    Personally, I don’t think that there is anything special about the water. But that doesn’t mean that baptism is the same as taking a bath. Baptism, as an expression of faith, is of spiritual benefit to a believer. Systematic theology is not my strong point, but I think I would compare it to Calvin’s “spiritual presence” view of the Eucharist. It’s just water, but something spiritual happens when the water is combined with faith. Ultimately its the faith that is of benefit, but the baptism is a (necessary?) expression of that faith.

    Why do we only baptize once? That seems to be the model we have been left with. Baptism is an initiatoy rite.

    One of the reasons that I have put forth “that’s not very nice” arguments is out of epistemic humility. Like I posted, I am a credobaptist. But I recognize strong historical support for paedobaptism. There is a good chance that I am wrong. I am more convinced that baptism is a “once for all” initiatory rite than I am that credobaptism is the only way. So, I would show respect to other Christian traditions by not forcing people to do it my way.

    Now if someone was baptized as an infant and wanted to get dunked as an adult (because they didn’t feel that their infant baptism was an act of faith), then I would consider re-baptizing them. If the earlier “baptism” wasn’t combined with faith, then it wasn’t a baptism. It was a bath or something. (Please don’t take this as an attack on the legitimacy of infant baptisms, I think that it can be an “act of faith,” and thus perfectly valid.)

  4. “But we do not believe the action of the HS is joined to Water, but to the Word of God and faith.”

    I think within evangelicalism there is room to believe that the three are joined together. Both the Holy Spirit and Baptism are natural outcomes of faith, so there is at least some interrelationship going on.

  5. @IMonk:

    I quite understand the original rationale of credobaptist communities: First have faith before you are baptized, because Baptism is an expression of your faith. Because in earlier times you usually stayed with your community all your life and had a stable religious background and development, that was really a one-and-for-all decision.

    But today, when people’s religious and social life is much less stable and people (especially in America) do church hopping all the time, the problem is quite real.

    Take a Baptist kid who has an intense spiritual life and gets baptized at 14. Everyone is very moved and thinks that he will lead a holy life. Then, at 16, he gets into a crisis, dumps his faith and lives on as an agnostic for 15-odd years. Then, at over 30, he gets to know some serious Christians from a non-Baptist credobaptist community, converts to Christ and wants to join them. I am quite sure that such a person would want to receive baptism again in that community. And I guess people there will also tell him so, because both they and he are convinced that he hasn’t “really believed” in Christ before.

    So how would you argue that he should not be rebaptized?

  6. Tim,

    I think the difference is that the Jews viewed Baptism as an initiatory rite. If you are already along the journey (as was Apollos in Chapter 18) the initiatory rite was not necessary. If you were just beginning the journey, then the initiatory rite was appropriate, as was the case with John’s disciples in Chapter 19.

    Now I think we have to be careful about how we apply that today, but it does make me hesitant to rebaptize more mature Christian.

    As I mentioned above, “A second baptism can’t mark the beginning of Christian discipleship for someone who has been a disciple for [some time] already.” It can however mark the beginning of Christian discipleship for those just coming to the faith for the first time on their own.


  7. Wow,

    I go camping with my son for a night and miss a great post. (It was worth it)

    This is a big one.

    I’ll add a few thouthts.

    Bro. Kirk,

    You are the most open minded C.o.C I have ever met. Please come and serve as an evangelist to all the C.o.C’s I grew up around in NE Alabama. They would have your head. 🙂


    If a baptist is going to be honest about being a baptist, then he has to ask that all those who were baptized as infants and are wanting to join the local congregation to be repabtized. Other than creating a two-tiered membership (which some have suggested) there is just no theological, or intelectually honest away around it. I understand that there are a lot of family and sentimental issues involved but peodo-baptism from a baptist view historicaly as I understand it is not baptism anyway so it’s not re-baptism to begin with.

    Now when we talk about re-baptizing those who have had adult believers baptist from another denomitaion then that should not be done. If a person has been baptized as a believer by immersion using a Trinitarian formula then that persons baptism is valid.

    There are some baptist who will not accept that but they have then turned themselves into the keeper of the only “true baptism” in town and that leads to other errors.

    Two other things,


    I would love to see a discusion on asssurance. I think we have really as evangelicals really messed this whole thing up. I’ll preach hell fire and damnation just as much as the next guy if the Lord wants it, but I have vowed to never make my way by casting doubt into peoples lives making them question their conversion. I sat thru too many summer revivals of that stuff night after night scared to death as a 10 year old to do it to anyone else.

    Second, if you want to see crazy let’s talk about ordinations. There are some Missionary baptist churches where I grew up that have 13 Articles of Faith. They will not let a man pastor, even if he is SBC, until he has been ordained by a church with the exact same A.O.F. And some churches will not even accept a deacons ordiantion from one church to the next.

    It’s all very odd.

  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    “Jewish baptism” (mikveh, ritual immersion) is used for converts to Judaism, but also for a bunch of other things thought to require purification, such as various sins, childbirth and menstruation, touching a dead body, stuff like that. Immersion is the rule, but there may be alternative provisions “in extremis.” Among ancient Christian churches, I understand that there is evidence for sprinkling as well as immersion, perhaps based on special circumstances (like being in the catacombs).

    Water used for baptism is now a kind of dedicated indoor pool, but several Middle Eastern groups insist that “living” (naturally flowing) water (as from a river) be used. Bruce Chilton in “Rabbi Jesus” indicates that this was an ancient controversy.

    An interesting question is what baptism meant for John (i.e., what was so unique about his practice, that he would be called “John the Baptizer”?), and why Jesus apparently didn’t baptize people himself (though the early church did).

  9. Michael Bell,

    The fact that Luke calls them diciples means to me that the were believers. I may be mistaken but Luke consistently uses disciple for those who are believers/followers of Christ both in Acts and his gospel. I don’t see any difference between these men and Appolos. In this case two things are sure. Those in Acts 19 recieved John’s baptism and Paul thought it nessesary that they be baptized in the name of Jesus so they could receive the HS. We can’t say Appolos was or wasn’t baptized in the name of Jesus as it’s not said one way or the other. The fact that Luke is silent about Appolos proves nothing as to whether he was was or wan’t.


  10. The Council of Trullo in the 690’s dealt with the subject of rebaptism. Mind you, rebaptism of Christians had long been forbidden. But, at the time they had had a lot of “returning” schismatics and heretics. The question came up as to what to do with those who had been baptized in the schismatic or heretical group.

    They developed three policies. Some were simply asked to renounce their stance and were welcomed back in. Some were only chrismated, that is, anointed with holy oil. Some were fully baptized and chrismated. Those policies still are applied to this day.

    Because many evangelicals do not use oil as part of their baptism, then I suspect that groups two and three would simply become the same group. You rebaptize. But, it does show that the Early Church, following what one reads in the Book of Acts in chapters 18 and 19, had a rather nuanced view of “double-dipping.”

    To this day, my priest’s manual gives me some definitions as to which people who call themselves Christian can either simply come in, be chrismated only, or be baptized and chrismated.

    I mention this to actually support the idea that, in some case, baptism is indicated for a person who is coming into the Church, even though they have used the label Christian for many years.

    However, just like the Early Church, it is important for modern communities to develop clear, but nuanced, guidance as to how to handle those coming in from “outside” groups who have used the label Christian.

    For instance, I am required to baptize people from groups that deny the Trinity or people who were baptized by a non-Trinitarian formula, even if they come from a group that is Trinitarian.

    Does your group have a nuanced definition or is it just up to the personal decision of the pastor in charge?

  11. I forgot to mention that I was baptized at 12 years old. I did it because it seemed fun and I wanted to get in the water. I, under no compulsion or advice, was baptized again when I was 20. I was very glad to have the opportunity to do it again as it was meaningful the second time around.

    Michael, you should get a “subscribe to comments” plugin for this blog.

  12. Tim,

    Your argument that the example of Apollos is an argument from silence would be stronger, if the story of Apollos was not immediately preceding the story of the Ephesians disciples. Instead it is much more likely that there is an intentional contrast going on in these passages.

    Were the Ephesian disciples already Christians? They had not received the Holy Spirit and Paul had to explain to them that Jesus came as a fulfillment of John’s ministry. The best explanation is that they were disciples of John.

    The Baptism administered by John seemed to be good enough in one case (Apollos) but not in another. Darrell Pursiful (another Baptist professor) has a very interesting series on Baptism where he notes that:

    The difference, it seems, is that while Apollos had an accurate understanding of Jesus and gave evidence of the Spirit (namely, his bold speech; see Acts 4:8, 31, etc.), the Ephesian disciples did not.

    This fits with the idea of baptism being an initiatory rite in Scripture. Apollos had already established himself as a teacher of the faith, and as such had no need to be reinitiated into it.

    Baptist theologian Beasley-Murray (and teacher of iMonk) points out that Apollos was not the only one who was not rebaptized.

    At Pentecost the Spirit came upon the disciples with no other condition than that of prayer; they are not baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, either prior to or after the event.

    Tertullian, writing around 200 A.D. makes note of the fact that the disciples had only experienced the baptism of John and had not been rebaptized into Christ. This makes sense in that they were already part of the inner circle, believers in Christ, and had no need to be reinitiated as believers. In fact, when Jesus is washing the disciples’ feet, Peter says “wash my head and my hands as well.” Jesus’ response is that he had already made the disciples clean, and as such he only needed to wash their feet. In effect Peter was asking for a baptism, and Jesus declined to do it. You will also note that when John the Baptist asked to be baptized, Jesus declined as well.

    Beasley Murray point out that “everything that baptism signified in its divine and human aspects had been realized in [the disciples].” But then the same could be said for mature Christians where we see profession of faith, baptism into Christ in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, discipleship and desire to be part of a fellowship of like minded believers.

    Rebaptism was also not required in Scripture when the initial baptism was not accompanied by the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8 Philip preaches the gospel in Samaria, those who believed were baptized, but they did not receive the Holy Spirit. It was only later under the ministry of Peter and John that the Holy Spirit came. Pursiful writes:

    I don’t want to get bogged down in why the normative pattern is broken here. Suffice to say, if there were ever a story that would justify the rebaptism of those who, having previously been baptized, only later came into the fullness of Christian experience, this is it. And yet, the Samaritan believers were not rebaptized! Even though their baptisms did not result in (or spring from; see Acts 10:44-48) the reception of the Spirit, it was not deemed necessary to baptize them all over again. Now that they had at last received the Spirit, their prior baptisms were considered sufficient. Do we have here an apostolic warrant for the idea that, even if an element of the conversion-initiation complex is initially missing (in this case, the gift of the Spirit), the baptism itself need not be repeated when all the pieces have finally come into place?

    Pursiful then asks us to draw the following conclusions:

    The above exceptions to the normative pattern of Christian conversion-initiation ought to warn Baptists against being overly legalistic when it comes to acknowledging the baptisms of those who were baptized [in other ways]… The New Testament reveals a normative pattern for Christian conversion-initiation. It also reveals that God is at liberty to dispense with this pattern at his good pleasure. I would argue that acknowledging this possibility does not threaten the dearest values Baptists hold on the issue of baptism.

  13. Lindsey Williams says

    Within my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I am not allowed to rebaptize a person that was baptized with the Trinitarian formula, by an ordained minister, with water in any church of Jesus Christ. The Mormon church for example would not qualify because I don’t believe they baptize in the Trinity, plus we would argue they are not a church of Jesus Christ. Catholics are a little tricky, so it is left to the individual discretion of the local church as to whether they are legitimately a “church of Jesus Christ”. Obviously, within the Presbyterian & Reformed tradition, the whole rebaptism issue is not as mirky because of our position that Baptism is for those who “profess” faith along with their children. So, one’s actual conversion does not determine the validity of a given baptism. In the case of infants, we baptize them because they are indeed part of the covenant community according to God, and with the hope that like the children of Abraham will one day come to embrace all that their baptism signifies. Furthermore, we believe the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment in which the baptism takes place. Plus, Baptism is an act of God on our behalf, not the opposite. I do find it interesting (and troubling) that Baptists are in the same camp as Catholics in not accepting baptisms from other denominations. Granted, in the case of Baptists it is just in the case of infant baptism, but nonetheless it seems a little exclusive and inconsistent with the general catholicity of the church of Jesus Christ. In light of the belief that Jesus intended one baptism in the name of the Trinity, I find it difficult to counsel people who were baptized as an infant to join a baptist church where they would be forced to be rebaptized. I would welcome a change within the SBC in this regard. How about it imonk?

  14. Lindsey,

    “I do find it interesting (and troubling) that Baptists are in the same camp as Catholics in not accepting baptisms from other denominations.”

    Catholics consider a baptism valid from any denomination as long as the Trinitarian formula is used. We do not consider a baptism valid if the words “I baptize in Jesus’s name” is used.

    I find it interesting that as a person jumps from church to church (especially in the non-denom world), in many instances the person is not saved from the point of view of that particular church – hence must be baptised again. Kind of water’s down the significance of baptism – don’t you think?

  15. Lindsey Williams,

    I may be mistaken on this as I am not Catholic, but it is my understanding that Catholics are very free to accept baptisms from other denominations. Perhaps iMonk could clarify this from his experience.


  16. Lindsay:
    Catholics accept the baptism of other Trinitarian denominations. If we cannot be certain that a valid baptism took place, we baptize conditionally, as to not commit a sacrilege.

    Interestingly, the old Rituale Romanum specifies three conditionals. One is for when it is uncertain whether the recipient has been baptized: “If you have not been baptized already, I baptize you &c”. One is for when the recipient may not be human, a disfigured fetus for instance: “If you are human, I baptize you &c…” And lastly, one for when it is not certain if the recipient is alive: “If you are alive, I baptize you &c”

    All this is to ensure against sacrilege while ensuring nobody goes unbaptized.

  17. this is so timely – i have a friend who is interested in membership at our church (CAMA) – but she was baptized as a baby, and would have to be rebaptized. she doesn’t feel she needs it, but the idea is that she should see it as a form of obedience. To whom, though? To God? Did He say to do it again? Or would she be obeying the Alliance monolith? Or the pastor? Is that even appropriate?

    One question about baptism i’d like to see posed by iMonk 🙂 is the age of baptism – i was in the CAMA church when i was little and i wanted desperately to be baptized when i was eight. I read the Bible, and i saw that it was the “next step” for me – but the church made me wait till i was eleven, and even then i wasn’t allowed to give a statement of my faith. That taught me that you can’t be a “real” Christian until you are a grown up. So far none of my children have asked to be baptized, but i don’t know what i will do if it comes up. i think probably a family baptism in lieu of church rites. it’s what we’ve done with baby dedications, too…

  18. “I do find it interesting (and troubling) that Baptists are in the same camp as Catholics in not accepting baptisms from other denominations.”

    Hang on a minute, I thought we did? I am open to correction on this, but my understanding is that as long as water was poured, the Trinitarian formula was used, and the intent was baptism, then that’s valid.

    In emergency cases, anyone (a layperson, a non-Christian, even an atheist) can baptise, as long as those conditions are met.

    There have been problems with the formula of baptism (some trendy idiots are now doing it in the name of ‘the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier’ instead of Father, Son and Spirit – even in the Catholic church herself; there was a very recent document out clarifying this) and some churches are problematical, e.g. the Mormons as you instance. There is also conditional baptism, where someone is unsure if they were baptised as a child or has no evidence of prior baptism.

    But my understanding was that if a Baptist or a Presbyterian or whomever wished to convert to Catholicism, their baptism is accepted.

  19. Okay, had a gander at the old Catholic Encyclopaedia online to see what they said, and in the context of rebaptism they mention “the reply of Pope Nicholas I to the Bulgarians”.

    So I Googled this, and it’s a very interesting document (it also makes me glad I wasn’t around in Bulgaria in those times). To avoid cut’n’pasting huge chunks of text, it boils down to: in the 9th Century, there was a Greek pretending to be a priest who visited Bulgaria, baptised many, and when the natives found out, they “condemned him to lose his nose and ears and to be killed with the harshest of beatings and then to be cast out of (their) country.” Then they wrote to the Pope for advice on various matters, including were the baptisms this guy had performed valid?

    The Pope told them off for what they had done to this unfortunate, said that they had indeed sinned against this man, recommended they do penance, and gave his judgement that the baptisms were indeed valid and there was no necessity for rebaptising.


    Chapter XV.

    You also asked whether the people who received their baptism from this man are Christians or should be rebaptized. Now then, if they were baptized in the name of the highest and individuated Trinity, they are clearly Christians, and it is not fitting that they be baptized again by any Christian, because, as the aforementioned apostolic pope Anastasius wrote to his Emperor of the same name, ‘… and the baptism, which may be far from a church and have been given by an adulterer or a thief, comes unimpaired to the one receiving the gift: for that voice, which sounded out through the dove, excludes every spot of human pollution and declares and says: “Here is the one who baptizes.”[Jn.1:32]’ If baptism comes unimpaired to the person receiving the gift, even though it was given by an adulterer or a thief, why does it not therefore stand unimpaired and without need of repetition when some worldly fellow, pretending for I do not know what reason to be a priest, has offered it? Certainly Acacius, former bishop of Constantinople, pretended to be a priest, after he was condemned by Pope Felix. But let us hear what the aforementioned Bishop Acacius said about him; among other things, he said: ‘When he’ – namely Acacius – ‘claimed the name of priest for himself, although he had been condemned, the tumor of pride was inflicted upon his own head, because it was not the people, who thirsted after his gift in the mysteries, that was excluded, but rather it was only the soul which had sinned, that was properly liable for the just judgment, as numerous passages of scriptural instruction attest,’ and this is true because, as that most famous apostle says, “neither the person who plants, i.e. catechizes, nor the one who waters, i.e. baptizes, is anything; rather it is God who gives the increase.[I Cor. 3:7][10] Hence, when evil men administer good things, they pile damage not upon others, but upon themselves, and therefore it is certain that no portion of injury shall touch those whom that Greek baptized, because It is He who baptizes, i.e. Christ, and again: God gives the increase; with “and not man” left understood.”

  20. How many people were re-circumcized in the Old Testament?

  21. Liberty,

    One correction. The Catholic Church accepts any baptism that was done with water and with the standard Trinitarian formula, i.e. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If a person doesn’t have the records to verify it, then they may get conditional baptized.


    You were asking about adults being re-baptized after being away from the church for a season etc. IF it were clear that it was just a visible rededication to all involved, I don’t have a problem. If, however, it says or even implies that the first baptism wasn’t valid, then it bothers me big time. Who sets the rules for it?

    (I am not talking about infant baptism compared to convert baptism, because I accept and understand the differences. But those guidelines tend to be more specific and more even-handed in application.)

  22. Jenny Bluett says

    “But we do not believe the action of the HS is joined to Water, but to the Word of God and faith”

    Not so certain how one could ammend the above a wee bit and “the word” in any representation of what the RCC teaches so it doesn’t appear she excludes that. Thanks!

    “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word” -ccc1213

    I’d encourage you read early Christian documents about rebaptism, ones written prior to the reformation.


  23. Wait – halt – slow down – I thought Catholics did accept baptism in other denominations? My friend Michele went through RICA classes to convert to Catholism, and she told me she did not have to be rebaptized. She just had to take communion and be confirmed.

    I got baptized when I was 12, but I don’t think I realized the significance of what I was doing. I just looked at it as correcting something that should have happened when I was an infant – I did go to Catholic School after all. Now, I fell away from the church in my teen years and walked in darkness for several years. Then, my understanding of baptism has changed significantly – because I went to a Mennonite college – but, I have still never thought it would be right to be baptized again.

    For my son (now age 20) I told him that I didn’t want him to get baptized before he was 18 because getting baptized is like getting married. You’re making a commitment to live a certain way for the rest of your life. We don’t let people under 18 get married, nor should we let them get baptized.

  24. Most Baptist Churches don’t rebaptize those immersed as we understand Baptism.

    A minority of SBCers and fundys refuse all Baptisms except their group. That was what got going at the SBC’s International Mission board and that’s why it was controversial. Most Baptists would accept other Baptistic Christians (and many pastors wink at those sprinkled, esp if the congregation doesn’t know.)

  25. When I was working at a Salvation Army shelter several years ago, a resident and I were having a knock down drag out about whether or not baptism had to be by immersion. He said yes. I said no. So, we decided to ask the Captain who said neither – the Sal Army doesn’t do water baptism. They lay hands and pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Quakers also don’t observe water baptism – though many of us who are convinced Quakers were baptized before we joined – they believe in an inward baptism.

  26. Louisiana Catholic says

    With respect to Catholic recognition of Baptisms celebrated outside of visible communion with the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church does recognize Baptisms using water [the proper matter] and the Trinitarian formula [proper form].

    So from the Catholic perspective, what makes one a Christian is Baptism in the Holy Trinity, which also requires a belief in the Divinity of Christ and his Passion, Death and Resurrection. The Sacrament of Baptism and the underlying Theology behind it is critical, from the Catholic Theological view, of who is a Christian.

    As someone who works with RCIA (assisting those who are seeking to become Catholic) I can also add the following. Even some groups that use the Trinitarian formula would be at minium re-baptized. For example, 1) 1) While Mormons may use the Trinitarian Formula to Baptize, the underlying Theology of Mormonism is not consistent with how the Catholic Church understands the Trinity (Eastern Orthodox and Traditional Confessional Protestants share the same belief about the Trinity).
    Here is a link explaining this issue

    Therefore, Mormons who enter the Catholic Church are are “Unconditionally Baptized”. 2) While the Protestant Traditions do not agree with the Catholic Churches Doctrine on some issues (and this is ok), among the Doctrines we do share is belief in the Holy Trinity and the Divinity of Christ and therefore persons from the Traditional Protestant Confessions (Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, Methodists, and Baptists) are “not rebaptized.”

    In closing, the notion of “One Baptism” in the Catholic Tradition is taken very seriously consistent with St. Pauls statement “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (c.f. Eph 4:5) and the ancient Creeds (Apostles and Nicene, which affirm one baptism) as well as the use of Water and the Trinity. Thus, for ecumenical dialogue, it is very important for Protestant Traditions to hold to the classical formula and matter. Not trying to stir up anything but in the last few years, some Protestant groups [Not any that folks here are associated with] have started to use non-classical Trinitarian formulas [I am thinking of some ELCA, PCA and Episcopalian churches], which causes further divisions in Christianity.


  27. Lindsey Williams says

    Thanks for the clarification on Catholics and rebaptism. Answer this question then. Do Catholics allow non-catholics to celebrate Communion in their mass? I thought this was the case, and just assumed that it would have translated to baptism as well. There seems to be an incongruity if this is the case that they do not allow protestants to celebrate communion.

    Imonk, do I hear you right that Baptists do not accept baptisms “not” done by immersion? If that is the case then you are basically saying that you don’t accept the practice of infant baptism. Do we really have to have a discussion on the mode of baptism in order to validate a baptism? That seems to be rather silly based upon the lack of clear biblical evidence that baptisms were indeed by immersion. I’m happy to argue for “sprinkling”, but to make that an issue which trumps the much clearer biblical support for the universality of the church seems unwise. By the way, let it be known that I am enjoying trying to stir the pot here

  28. None of the comments mentioned why many churches really rebaptize – They count how many baptisms they do each year. We were recently part of a group that measured the church by three yardsticks:
    1) Are the leaders, especially the elders and deacons and those who provide the majority of the finances happy?
    2) How much money are we receiving?
    3) How many baptisms are we doing?

    Since most new people were already believers, baptisms were almost exclusively rebaptisms. There were many reasons given as to why one should be rebaptized. (Curiously, some of these rebaptisms were “by invitation only” events in regard to who was permitted to be present when the person was being rebaptized. Perhaps someone reading this can point out the Scriptural reference for that practice.)

    At a leadership meeting, with the staff and most of the leadership present, where the number of baptisms done in the previous year was being touted, someone asked how many of those represented new believers. The group was stunned by the impertinence of such a question. When asked if even one of those baptisms represented a new believer, no one, including the pastor, had an answer.

  29. Lindsey, no, we don’t permit non-Catholics to receive Communion. The Orthodox are a special case; they could receive in emergency situations, but are bound by the discipline of their churches.

    The nature of the Eucharist is a whole other topic and can degenerate into a dogfight; the Reformation tussles over this one were very bad, to the extent that in the Anglican 39 Articles, the Mass is described as a “blasphemous fable” due to the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation.

    Briefly, the RC idea is that the celebration of the Eucharist is not merely a meal shared between friends, or a method of gathering everyone around a table, but is the sacrifice of Calvary represented on the altar, and is physically changed from bread and wine to being the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is therefore necessary to be in a state of grace (free from mortal sin, therefore you need to have gone to Confession recently) when receiving communion, to have fasted for at least an hour prior to receiving (used to be you had to fast from midnight beforehand!) and, most importantly, to believe and accept that this is indeed the Real Presence.

    Communion also means that you are ‘in communion’ with the church, that you accept her claims and believe her teachings. Anyone who says “I don’t accept x, y or z of the Roman church’s claims” therefore is not in communion with us, and so to go to the altar and receive the Eucharist would be a false act on their part and on ours.

    I know this restriction annoys, offfends and even wounds other Christians, but we take the sacrament very, very seriously (we do believe that whole warning of St. Paul about eating and drinking condemnation).

  30. Rules on receiving Communion in Catholic churches (from the worship aid for the installation of the new Archbishop of New York!):

    “For Catholics
    As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (Code of Canon Law, canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

    For our fellow Christians
    We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).
    Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 §4). Members of Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic Discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 §3).

    For those not receiving Holy Communion
    All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

    For non-Christians
    We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
    Copyright © 1996, United States Catholic Conference.”

  31. Lindsey: Baptists only accept immersion. They do not accept infant baptism because they don’t believe it is baptism, not having a proper subject, mode or meaning.

    Lindsey: All major baptism scholars- and I don’t mean Baptists, agree that the first baptisms were immersions. David F. Wright, Ferguson’s new 1000 page study, and Beasley-Murray. The WCC statement on Baptism and Ecumenism says the first baptisms were immersions. That discussion is over. The legitimacy of infant Baptism doesn’t rest on how the Ethiopian or any other adult convert was baptized. Baptism scholarship is united on the chronological development.

    On Catholic communion: According to “Surfnetter,” they do it all the time with the full knowledge of priest and bishops. Sorry you missed that surprising piece of news 🙂

  32. Justin Taylor summarizes Ferguson’s massive work (It’s gone out of print after the first printing.)

  33. Just for the record, I would personally agree with Dr. John Piper in suggesting Baptists accept those who are infant baptized if it is a matter of conscience.

  34. Martha:

    >Anyone who says “I don’t accept x, y or z of the Roman church’s claims” therefore is not in communion with us, and so to go to the altar and receive the Eucharist would be a false act on their part and on ours.

    Therefore either:

    a) Protestants do not commune with Christ


    b) Those who commune with Christ may not commune with Christ’s people unless they accept doctrines like the infallibility of the Pope.

  35. iMonk,

    To say the case is closed on mode is stretching things a bit.

    Ferguson notes concerning mode that there were exceptions based on lack of water or sickbed. In fact, the early church was always willing to make exceptions in the mode of baptism. For example, the first detailed description of how to baptize comes from the Didache (circa A.D. 70-120) It states:

    And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

    It should be noted that these instructions were written either when some of the disciples were still alive or during the next generation of Christians following the disciples. This would have been detailing the generally accepted practice. According to the Didache, both Baptist and non Baptist practices today are included within the range of options available to the early church, and both vary from the ideal.

    This willingness to allow sprinkling or pouring as an acceptable alternate form of baptism is confirmed by many early church fathers and condemned by none. Among these are Tertullian (circa A.D. 193-207), Hippolytus (circa A.D. 215), and Cyprian (circa A.D. 255).

    So while I believe that immersion best represents the best way to do baptism. I do believe that other modes have been with us from the beginning. It is for that reason that I would not require a rebaptism for someone who has been sprinkled or poured upon as a believer.

  36. RC doctrine is that immersion is the preferred mode of baptism, but pouring is also permitted. Many old churches in Europe have pool-size baptisteries so immersion was obviously the normal practice for a long time. Somewhere along the way we slipped away from this, and I’m not sure why.

    At my parish we baptized six adults at last weekend’s Easter Vigil by full immersion. We aren’t really equipped for this and had to bring in one of the big metal cattle troughs. The cradle Catholics who had never seen immersion were in great wonder at this, much to the amusement of the ex-Baptist contingent.

  37. Michael: I’m not arguing against any kind of exceptionalism. I’m saying the case is closed on the normal mode of adult conversion baptism as far as the scholarly community is concerned. Of course there are the beginnings of other kinds of baptism, but I have had to listen to people tell me Jesus sprinkled infants my entire life, and that’s just pure denominationalism. If we could agree on where we started with adult conversions, there would be a lot less rancor in the baptism debate. Attempting to make infant baptism the original form of baptizo requires a bizarre trajectory of baptisimal development, whereas immersion that then developed into other forms makes perfect sense from every direction.



  38. The older folks at my church think that getting re-baptized is “just how you become a baptist.”

    There are times where I want to bang my head on the wall until I fall into unconscious bliss.

    This has led to a good number of struggles with some folks in our church who want me to get some younger couples “into membership” (read, on to boards so we can keep our by-laws) – but they come from other Christian traditions and I won’t demand that they renounce legitimate Christian experience for the sake of joining a club.

    So, if a person desperately wants to be baptized even though they were baptized as a believer, I’ll do it. If nothing else than as a re-affirmation. If someone else doesn’t believe a re-baptism is necessary but wants to join the church I’ll encourage them to say that they are following the example of Paul circumcising Timothy and so their immersion is for the conscience of the people they have come to love. If someone says, “No, I’m not being re-baptized it’s wrong to demand that,” then I won’t violate what the Lord’s done with them.

  39. Michael, I’m saying these are the rules for receiving communion in a Catholic church.

    And undeniably the doctrine of the Real Presence was one of the hot topics during the Reformation.

    I don’t know what else to say; either it’s going to be hurtful (no, sorry, you can’t receive here because you don’t believe that this really is what we say it is, and pretending we don’t have any differences is not going to make it better) or we end up like some of the more novel experiments, where communion can come before baptism because it’s only a community meal and it’s the same as inviting a friend to a birthday party.

    If I get the gist of this thread on re-baptism, according to some Baptists, I would not be considered to be baptised. Yet I could perfectly well walk up and receive the Lord’s Supper in their church? I don’t see how that works.

    Neither do I see how it works for someone who says “Well, I think you guys are completely wrong on baptism, justification, sanctification, what sacraments are, the role of the Pope, the necessity for a pope at all, Mary, the Communion of saints, the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, the canon of the Bible, inerrancy, Purgatory and a few other things for starters – but I’m happy to take the bread which says we are all one in our beliefs.”

    If we are wrong on this, then pray to God to forgive us and pray for us, for we sorely need it.

  40. Pray for us anyway, because we need it, is what I meant.

    At least we agree that this is Easter – though for the Orthodox, they’re only going into it this week 🙂

  41. If it’s any consolation, Giles Fraser (the vicar of Putney) wouldn’t be happy with either of the pair of us; me, because I hold with the Pope’s view, and you, because you’re an evangelical:

    “Yet despite this clear identification with the victim, much official Christianity holds on to the sacrificial reading of Christ’s death. The present pope has insisted that the Eucharist must be seen as a sacrifice rather than as a meal among friends, and evangelical Christians remain committed to their theory of Christ being sacrificed to offset human sin. Lord have mercy.”

  42. Lindsey Williams says


    Based on my limited research, I think it is a stretch to say the “case is closed” in regards to the early church’s support of adult conversion baptism. I can give you works from scholars that would argue the opposite. While I would not be one of those who would say that throughout church history it has always been largely paedobaptist, I also don’t think you can make a church history argument on credobaptism either. This seems to be one of the issues for which we don’t have a ton of clarity in the early church, and recognizing the prevalence of so many heresies in the first 3 centuries of church history, I don’t think we can put too much stock in just what the practice of the church was in the first century or two.

    The only real arguments of substance can be made on the biblical theological level. In that regard if we are talking about a “bizarre trajectory”, I would say that 2 thousand years of God’s people always including their infants in the sign of God’s covenant of grace (being circumcision), and then for the early church to all of a sudden reject the new sign of the covenant (being baptism) qualifies as profoundly “bizarre”. If Jesus is proclaiming a kingdom that is much wider in its trajectory than the Old Covenant (by including Gentiles), why on earth would he be more restrictive in regards to baptism? If for 2 thousand years, God’s people always gave their children the sign of the covenant, God would have to make it explicitly clear in the bible if he were to all of a sudden change the types of people included in the “covenant”. I firmly believe the burden of proof in regards to baptism falls on the credo-baptists to find one verse that explicitly teaches not to baptize infants, because the assumption of a new testament believer, would be to assume God does not change the status of infants of believers in the covenant. I completely agree that there is not a verse in the bible that explicitly says to baptize infants, but my point is that it is assumed everywhere and was explicitly practiced by those who believed in the coming Christ in the Old Testament!

  43. Martha,

    “But I’m happy to take the bread which says we are all one in our beliefs.”

    I am not Catholic, but have taken communion in Catholic churches on a couple of occasions. Yes we disagree on a bunch of things, but then I disagree on a bunch of things with my fellow Evangelicals. Where we do agree is on the early creeds, and I am happy to take communion with anyone who holds those same beliefs.

    In 1 Cor 11:27-29 it says that a person is to examine himself before partaking. It does not say that the church or its representatives are to examine him. This is why I believe in an open communion in which all believers are free to participate.

  44. Lindsey: I’m not talking about 2000 years. I’m talking about 200 years. No one disputes that infant baptism has been normative for mosst of church history. I simply am telling you that the scholarly consensus, as reported by paedobaptist scholars, credos scholars and Catholics is that the initial baptisms in Christianity were adult conversions and were immersions. Infant sprinkling is an anachronism until it began, very early, for all the reasons any book on baptism, such as Ferguson’s, will show. It’s not disenfrancising anyone. It’s just making the conversation about baptism one that doesn’t start with Presbyterianism or Baptists. It starts with what was going on with John the Baptist and QUmram.

  45. Martha: You are correct on the inconsistency, and that’s why I advocate recognizing infant baptism in cases of conscience within a credobaptist context. Most Baptists vehemently disagree and would deny you both elements if possible. So yes, the RCC is actually more generous on the sacraments than most Baptists.

    But the RCC has the same problem exactly. You say I am baptized and belong to Christ, but the RCC requires me to affirm a library full of dogma unrelated to Mere Christianity in order to commune.

    Neither church would fall apart to be as generous as Christ with his people. Both churches would simply have to give up their presuppositions of infallibility, which are the real reasons we separate from one another. We refuse to let God be right and everyone else silent.



  46. I can understand somewhat why the RCC does not have open communion because Paul says that those that do not know what they are doing when they receive communion can bring problems upon themselves. (Sorry I am in a hurry at the moment and am not looking for the exact passage.) BUT…there are cradle Catholics that take communion who believe the Eucharist is “symbolic” and not the actual body and blood of Christ, even though that is not what the RCC teaches. Then, there could very well be non-Catholic people at the Mass who have done some extensive reading of the Apostolic fathers and some intense praying and they may believe in the transubstantiation present in the Eucharist. So it seems to me that the RCC should not be saying, “Only Catholics can take communion here.” What is happening during communion to the individual needs to be between the individual and God. But, hey, I am not a very good Catholic, I guess.

  47. Michael, we’ve got clashing views on this, and I certainly don’t want to start a fight on your blog, where you are so gracious a host to us all.

    We would say the reason we’re so sticky about things like who may receive the Eucharist is because it’s not just an unrelated dogma, but is one of the core beliefs at the heart of the Church.

    I don’t think it’s possible to just jump over Protestant teachings such as were found in the Anglican 39 Articles and say “Oh, we all believe the same thing nowadays, more or less, and if I don’t believe exactly what you do on this matter, it’s no biggie”. It is a very big deal – from our side, anyway.

    “XXVIII. Of the Lord’s Supper
    The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

    Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

    The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

    The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped.

    XXXI. Of the Oblation of Christ of Christ finished upon the Cross
    The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.”

    On one hand – the Mass is wrong and there is no physical change but a spiritual reception by the truly faithful. On the other – the Mass is the Institution of the Last Supper and the Body and Blood are physically present. Splitting the difference here just doesn’t work.

  48. I’d make a very good Pharisee, wouldn’t I? 🙂

    Today is Divine Mercy Sunday – may we learn to trust in the infinite mercy of God!

  49. Martha: I’m the last one to want to take communion at the RC. Trust me. I just sat through mass and was reminded all over again that the Supper Jesus instituted is barely recognizable to me in some (not all) of the Eucharistic prayers.

    But I am the first one to lament anyone- Baptist, LCMS, RCC, OPC, etc- making requirements past the Nicene Creed essential to the Lord’s Table. Jesus took a Passover meal and made it about his New Covenant sacrifice. We all took over from there, and I lament it ALL. Our part in it and everyone else’s as well.

    And I haven’t met an unessential Catholic doctrine yet. Which Catholic belief can I stand up and say :”I defer from the teaching of the church on this?”