Theology Thursday - The Roman Catholic Church on Baptism

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful (and drab) characters and institutions. Some are orthodox, but decidedly outside the Baptist orbit. Others are completely heretical. Regardless of heresy or orthodoxy, we hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3). 

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit 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 and in the word.’”1

“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.”2

“By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.”3

“Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”4

“Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: ‘Therefore … we are members one of another.’ Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: ‘For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.’”5

“Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.”6

Notes

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1995), Article 1213.  

2 Ibid, Article 1257.  

3 Ibid, Article 1263.  

4 Ibid, Article 1265.

5 Ibid, Article 1267.  

6 Ibid, Article 1272.  

3127 reads

There are 7 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

...well, a single point of agreement actually.

"Baptism cannot be repeated"

They have that much right. A genuine baptism is only genuine once.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The catechism reads:

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:

Wow. Quite different. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Newman's picture

I'm reasonably sure SI readers aren't going to go with infant baptism with regeneration, but there are increasingly voices even within our region saying that baptism is really, really close to salvation.

Bert Perry's picture

Per Tyler and Steve's comments, there are actually seven things the Catholic Church argues help save a person; baptism, communion/eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation, anointing, marriage, and holy orders.  So theoretically each Catholic can be saved six times, as obviously a person cannot partake of both marriage and holy orders in the Catholic Church.   And yes, this does lead to people admitting to sowing wild oats through the week and than rejoicing after they partake of communion.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The catechism reads:

Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation

This explains why baptism is so important to them. It actually removes original sin and places the recipient into a state of grace, regardless of whether that person ever shows any fruit at all.

I spent a lot of time reading the catechism when I preached through Galatians. The Judaizers were amateurs. The RCC could have taught them a thing or two.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Helps to remember that salvation is not binary in RCC doctrine. You can be a little bit saved, mostly saved, barely saved.... and that can change over time in either direction, even after you die. (Maybe it can only improve after death)

TylerR's picture

Editor

More on baptism:

Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an “adopted son” he can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church (Article 1997).

Through baptism, the RCC teaches a person is placed into a state of grace and the process of justification begins (cf. Article 2020). Then, we are given grace by God to cooperate in our own salvation:

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life . . . (Article 2010).

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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