Baptism prior to the 1520s

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Matt Black, Apr 27, 2005.

  1. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    I'd like to discuss the practice of baptism prior to the rise of the Anabaptists in the 1520s (and obviously prior to the Baptists in 1611). This is fundamentally linked to the question: how do we believe that people become Christians?

    I'll use two analogies to explain what I mean.

    To buy a house several things must happen. We must hear or know that it is for sale. We must be tempted, drawn, moved, swayed or inclined to buy it. Unless we know it is for sale, and are inclined to buy it, nothing happens. But it still isn't a sale until we clinch the deal, sign the dotted line, "hereby enact the sale". We have to do something that executes the sale - typically sign and exchange a contract, or whatever.

    Similarly in marriage. We cannot be married until we know that someone is available and we are inclined to marry them (hopefully, we have fallen in love). But the marriage doesn't occur until we "clinch the deal" by a wedding ceremony. It doesn't have to be elaborate or costly - a mere "registry wedding" will suffice. But we have to make a definitive act of commitment to this relationship - or it doesn't exist. It is not a question of whether I feel married, or feel in love, it is a question of actually committing myself in a definitive way.

    Now, what is the equivalent for the relationship between man and God called being a Christian? My understanding, from the scriptures, supported by early church history, is that a person (a non-Christian) who has heard the gospel, and is inclined to enter this relationship with Christ, does so by baptism (more or less like a wedding: two single people enter the church, one married couple walks out; so in baptism a non-Christian enters the church, and a Christian walks out - if I may so put it, they have just tied the knot with Christ (they are "bound" to Him)).

    I readily grant that modern Baptist churches do not act this way. It is the practice, in some at least, to get a non-Christian to make a definitive commitment to Christ by means of a prayer of repentance (sometimes called the sinner's prayer). Whereupon the minister or evangelist will declare this person a (new) Christian. It never occurs to people in these churches to suggest to the enquirer that they might become a Christian by baptism, in such manner that it really IS a dying and rising - a prayer with the whole of their body to accept Christ as their Saviour. Consequently, they commit themselves to Christ by means of a non-baptismal prayer, then later undergo a ceremony with the outward trappings of baptism, but which has little of the original meaning of baptism because that has already been pre-empted by the "sinner's prayer". Then they ponder the scriptures ("Baptism even now saves you...") and have to water them down, because the scriptures don't fit contemporary practice.

    I also readily accept that there is a heap of historical baggage in the contemporary Baptist churches which might make it difficult to institute such a "conversion-baptism": baptism as _the_ means of making the definitive commitment, rather than as a follow-up to the definitive commitment made in a some private act of prayer.

    But my main concerns here are: (1) what was baptism 2000 years ago in the NT church? (2) what was baptism 1600-1700 years ago in the ancient Nicene church? (3) what is baptism in the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican churches?

    My limited understanding had been that all three gave and give the same answer: the way a non-Christian, who has heard the gospel and is inclined to commit their life to Christ as Lord, - the way such a non-Christian actually effects their commitment to Christ was/is by baptism - not by a "sinner's prayer", or similar, before baptism. Hence the older churches, as I understood them, teach baptismal rgeneration: not that the ceremony magically causes new birth, but that a person seeking new birth uses _this_ ceremony to effect their side of it (and to receive God's side of it). Just as the purchaser uses scribbling on a piece of paper (signing a contract of sale) to effect their definitive commitment to the purchase of a property, and at the same time to receive ownership of the property.

    For the NT and the early church, baptism - as far as I can tell - was the "great divide". Baptism was the "sinner's prayer" back then, which is why Paul says we are buried and risen in baptism and we are baptised into Christ, etc. These things really happened in the act of baptism - at least in NT times - because people were baptised when they sought these changes, when they wanted to "sign the dotted line".

    It is difficult to write a whole treatise on baptism in one post, when it is so much at variance with modern church practice and has to address so many (mis?)conceptions about baptism in order to be intelligible. I apologise for the length.

    What do others think?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  2. BobRyan

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    Here is the Catholic "confession" of history and the Didache in complete agrement.

    BELIEVERS Baptism!

    However in here we will find "details" and there are some here who are allergic to "inconvenient details".

    So with that understood...

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Didache on Baptism by Immersion:
    </font>[/QUOTE]
     
  3. MEE

    MEE
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    Matt, I think your post is great! BTW, your reference to the scriptures below tells it all.


    Ro 6:3) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

    Ga 3:27) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

    MEE [​IMG]
     
  4. MEE

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    One more thing...I don't believe in Catholic water baptism. It's not Biblical! ;)

    MEE [​IMG]
     
  5. Doubting Thomas

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    Good analogy and good post!

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Matt Black

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    I am familiar with not just the Baptist practice here, but also quite a few Pentecostal, Charismatic and similar non-descript independent churches, and these (at least the ones that I have observed) seem to baptise people "any old time" after they make some decisive commitment to Christ by means of a private prayer (perhaps at an "altar call"). I have also seen an evangelist, after leading several people at once through a prayer of confession and commitment at the front of the church, turn to the congregation and introduce these people as new-born Christians. Baptism is seen as a kind of casual, "whenever" ceremony - a good thing to do after you become a Christian. At least, that is my impression of the churches I have seen up close.

    The problem is, in my mind, they stress that baptism is commanded and important, and then turn around and teach that it doesn't do anything - it doesn't really change anything. The candidates are already Christians, and already have everything in Christ. To me, it seems like an empty ceremony, one that is insisted on simply because it is commanded. What's more, it doesn't seem to fit those scriptures that do suggest something important happens (or can happen) in baptism - like salvation, death and resurrection, regeneration.

    I would say that the historic protestant (Magisterial Reformation) churches, with their emphasis on mature, personal faith and simultaneous practice of infant baptism, do experience a split between baptism and conversion. I am not so sure that Catholics, who seem more to emphasise conversion as a life-long process where children of the faithful are concerned, do feel that baptism is split from conversion.

    A legal analogy: A person is killed in a car-crash while driving to his solicitor's office with the draft of a new will. The person was going to sign the will at the solicitor's office before witnesses, but missed out by only minutes owing to the fatal crash. Question: which will do you execute: the old one that is duly signed and witnessed, or the new one that is evidently a truer reflection of the person's final wishes, but lacks a signature and witnesses?

    Such difficult cases do occur in law as well as in pastoral theology, but I don't think they invalidate the normal rule of "it is not valid until it is signed". Signing a will or contract or marriage certificate marks the end of a process, just as baptism marks the end of a process. Sometimes that process is abnormally interrupted. But the normal rule would seem to apply in normal cases (i.e. most cases). And my OP was talking mainly about normal cases of adults and baptism.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  7. BobRyan

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    As the "details" point out - they were fasting and praying and "Believing" long before Baptism in the early centuries.

    One may well point out that this was "tradition" added beyond the NT text.

    I am happy with the NT text "details" as well.

    In either case - it is full water baptism of believers prior to the 16th century.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  8. SouthernBoy

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    Where there Baptist before 1520's?
     
  9. Deacon's Son

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    Matt:

    I completed a fairly short but comprehensive paper on initiatory practices in the Church during the first three centuries. In it, I refer to and discuss every extant primary source on the subject. It's not perfect and it does not discuss theology (it is a purely secular scholarly piece) but it is thorough and well-referenced with copious footnotes.

    It's a good point of reference and I think you'd be interested in reading it. If you're interested in having a copy, post a reply on this board and I'll email you a copy in Microsoft Word.

    (Of course, if anyone else here would like a copy, they are welcome to it as well. Just let me know here or by email.)

    In officio Agni,
    Deacon's Son
     
  10. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    Southern Boy: no, despite what some would have you believe

    Deacon's Son: yes, please!

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  11. BobRyan

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    Though we have shown "baptism prior to 1520" from BOTH the RC sources AND from ECF sources -- believers baptism by full water emersion.

    How instructive.
     
  12. Deacon's Son

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    Bob:

    I'm a little confused about the above statement. There are PLENTY of primary sources from before 1520 with EXPLICIT instructions for baptism that DO NOT incude "full water emersion."

    IOA,
    Deacon's Son
     
  13. bmerr

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    Matt,

    bmerr here. I could not agree more with the idea that modern ideas have supplanted the pattern so clearly laid out for us in the New Testament. You mentioned the "sinner's prayer". Did you know that nobody nowhere had ever heard of such a thing until 1950? I know some had the "mourner's bench" and other similar inventions, but the phrase "sinner's prayer" has it's origins within the lifetime of many of us members!

    With this in mind, one wonders how it came to be so prevalent in so many churches as a means of becoming a Christian. In short, Billy Graham has been very effective in spreading his plan of salvation.

    On the other hand, if one were to simply give what the Bible says about baptism from the pulpit of most any Baptist church, he would be all but thrown out of the assembly as a heretic. (Ask me how I know.)

    There is a great need in the religious community to examine what we believe and why. Also, the need to abandon all man-made confessions of faith, church manuals, creed books, catechisms, etc., in favor of the Bible (specifically the New Testament) as our sole source of religious authority. Our very souls depend upon our adherence to the New Testament pattern of salvation, doctrine, and practice.

    In Eph 4 Paul said there is "one faith". But what do we see when we view the religious world around us? Denominations (divisions) as far as the eye can see. Phrases such as "Christians of all faiths" are commonly used to apply to people who are supposed to only have "one faith".

    The Biblical doctrine of baptism is but one of MANY areas which scream for a return to the New Testament as the sole authority.

    I'm new here, so I'm not acquainted with you very well yet, but from what I've read so far, I commend you for your attitude toward the Scriptures. If I can be of any help to you at all, please feel free to contact me here or by e-mail, or however you wish.

    In Christ,
    bmerr
     
  14. violet

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    how do you know?
     
  15. bmerr

    bmerr
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    violet,

    bmerr here. I spent about four years as a Southern Baptist, actively engaged in that religion, teaching Bible class to young adults and teens, and occasionally preaching.

    At some point I made the commitment to let the Bible have the final say in all doctrinal matters, no matter who it set me against. A friend from my youth got me studying the subject of baptism in the New Testament, and I was shocked at how different Baptist doctrine was from the Bible.

    My next opportunity to preach, I spoke on the subject, "What does the Bible say about the meaning and purpose of baptism in the New Testament".

    These people who I had grown to love and admire listened in shocked silence as I read to them passages of Scripture that hadn't been heard from that pulpit in at least as many years as I had been there. At one point I opened up the floor for comments, and got some Scripture, and some Baptist doctrine, but mostly just cold stares from my friends and brothers.

    At the invitation (which nobody responded to - imagine that!) I offered the same words as Peter did at the close of the first gospel sermon ever preached, to anyone who believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

    It was a long walk to the back of the auditorium, and not too many offered to shake my hand. Later on, I was summoned to a meeting of the "pastor" and all the "deacons", where I was told that I could remain a member there, but I would not be permitted to preach or teach any more unless I retracted the contents of my sermon.

    I told them that as long as the Bible kept saying what it said, I would not retract my statements. However, I refuse to be a spectator in any assembly of believers or "believers", and so I left.

    I'm still friends with those I was close to, and cordial to the rest, but we don't see each other much anymore. The cost of truth can be high, but truth is well worth it.

    In Christ,
    bmerr
     
  16. BobRyan

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    I agree that infant baptism was practiced prior to the 16th century and that other forms of baptism besides the NT form were also practiced prior to the 16th century.

    My list of ECF sources and the RC historical survey quoting ECF sources shows that Full water baptism of believers-only was the starting point and that other ideas crept in over time and evolved "to the very different thing that it is today".

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  17. Living4Him

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    Bob,

    Your little cut and paste from the Catholic Digest is a little deceptive. You merely added the little synopis that is found in the index; however, you cannot read the entire article to see exactly what "changes they are talking about". You are assuming that these are changes that would support your arguement.

    As you state, "details"

    Please provide the link where we can read the article in its entirity
     
  18. BobRyan

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    You "claim" to know something about this article as IF I had misquoted it -- or simply taken (I don't know what) from then "index".

    And then you ask to actually "SEE" IT -- so that you might back your accusation up with "actual fact"??

    What a riot!!
     
  19. BobRyan

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    Here is the post "again".

    Please note that NOT ONLY does it tell you of the issue and the page in that issue for EACH section - it also points to the web link for CD.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Didache on Baptism by Immersion:
    </font>[/QUOTE]</font>[/QUOTE]
     
  20. Living4Him

    Living4Him
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    Bob,

    Please help me out.

    I clicked on your link and it didn't take me to the article.

    It takes me to the homepage of Catholic Digest. So, I clicked under Back Issues and selected
    June, 1999 and here is the only thing that comes up there is no place to read the article.


    June 1999


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I Witnessed a Wedding at Cana
    The wine smelled of sunshine, fruit, and flowers
    By Patricia Kasten

    Ok, it wasn't the weddding at Cana, but it was a wedding. And it was at Cana, in Galilee, in the Holy Land.

    Our Wisconsin tour group was on the first stop of our pilgrimage. And just as the Evangelist said, "On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee" (Jn 2:1), we were on the third day of our journey. A stop at the Franciscan wedding church is common for pilgrim tours. Married couples often renew their vows in the 118-year-old church with its white towers and vaulted dome. That's what the dozen couples in our group planned on.

    [Page 6]


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    The Culinary Adventures of Nasr-ed-Din Hodja
    A Turkish folk hero grazes his way through Turkey
    By Kathleen Stauffer

    By the time he scraped open the gate of the courtyard leading into his earthen home, Nasr-ed-Din Hodja's face bore a smile. He could smell all the wonderful foods his neighbor, the merchant Jemal Pasha, was serving at the party. Surely his neighbor would understand if he, Nasr-ed-Din, a friend all these years, came straight from working in his cabbage patch to the banquet. Why change his robe? Nasr-ed-Din saw no need for such formality, not today! His belly had spoken.

    [Page 16]


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    An Evening With St. Paul
    By Bernard McDonagh

    Though Turkey is today a Muslim country, such was not always the case. Indeed, for Christians, Turkey is of particular interest given its role as the cradle of early Christian evangelization efforts and the birthplace of St. Paul. As Christ had directed, the Apostles set forth from Jerusalem to build the Church.

    [Page 25]


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    Road to Christianity
    Chicago Tribune

    Not long after the Crucifixion of Jesus, the first Christians got into a shouting match over the nature of their faith. They lived in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish world, and one faction felt that to be a follower of Christ still meant keeping kosher, just as their parents had. Others were just as convinced that believing in Jesus freed them from the religious code of their ancestors.

    [Page 30]


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    Baptism Comes Full Circle
    Today's rite is much the same as it was in the Church's beginning.
    By Bill Dodds

    Like a masterpiece of art that, over time, has been touched up, varnished, and maybe even mishandled a bit, the rite of Baptism has undergone centuries of change. Tacking on a little here and dropping a bit there has never altered the essence of the sacrament itself, but by the Middle Ages, the rite had evolved into something ever different from that used by the early Christians. Today, however, the Church is returning to its roots. The modern rite of Baptism reflects much of the color and image of the original masterpiece.

    [Page 42]


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    When the Girls Took Over St. Columbkille
    An early lesson in gender equality
    By Sean Patrick

    We boys were a pretty smug lot at St. Columbkille. Boys were altar servers. The boy's choir always had the starring role at Mass. Boys were school crossing guards. And boys enjoyed competitive football, baseball, and basketball, as well as a fearsome outdoor track and CYO boxing.

    [Page 52]


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    Even in Depression, God Is With You
    One man's struggle has given him a mission to help others
    By Patrick T. Reardon

    It was August 23, 1995, and Father William Burke, pastor of St. Cajetan Catholic Church in Chicago, was having what he thought was a great year. Holy Week had gone well. And the school play, one of his favorite projects, had been a success.

    On this particular Sunday, once Masses were done, the parish staff was going away for an important all-day meeting to grapple with the sort of problems, complexities, and questions that face every parish.

    But Burke was distracted and tense.

    [Page 58]


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    Encounter in a Taxi
    Small acts of kindness can work miracles of healing
    From the book: Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace

    Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboy's life, a gambler's life, a life for someone who wanted no boss, constant movement, and the thrill of a dice roll every time a new passenger got in the cab.

    What I didn't realize when I took the job was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a rolling confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me of their lives.

    [Page 67]


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    Adventures in Priestly Garb
    People's reactions to my clerical "uniform" can be interesting
    The Tablet

    I call them the "GAFAW" reactions. People tend to notice anyone who wears a uniform, like police officers, soldiers, or letter carriers. And priests are no exception.

    Over the years, I've noted that the responses we priests receive are of five basic varieties, hence the "GAFAW" reactions: Guilt, Anger, Friendliness, Assistance, and Wonder.

    [Page 72]


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    When They Passed the Prayer Basket
    Strangers suddenly became partners in prayer
    By Richard Bauman

    We were visitors at the parish, stopping for Mass during our vaction in Colorado Springs. Just before the Offertory, as the collection basket was passed to us, we deposited our contribution and passed it on. Then -- to our surprise -- came another basket.

    Bigger than the first, it was filled with brightly colored slips of paper. Some people dropped in strips of paper; others took a piece.

    [Page 85]


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    Singing the Saints to Life
    Tom Franzak's unique musical idea is now playing in parishes across the country
    By Dana Mildebrath

    Tom Franzak spends a lot of time driving to concerts, but not in a fancy tour bus. His 14-foot white van is nondescript, lacking even a bumper sticker. But the inside tells a far more colorful story: It's packed to the ceiling with musical instruments, a fully automated sound and light system, and a full stage set.

    [Page 88]


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    Faith Comes Alive in Los Angeles
    Small groups turn passive churchgoers into committed Christians
    America

    Mario Fuentes is coordinator of Comunidades Eclesiales de Base (Basic Ecclesial Communities, or C.E.B. groups) at Dolores Mission Catholic Church in East Los Angeles. Working in small groups, C.E.B. members meet to worship and support a wide range of parish initiative. To be sure, this model of dealing with a community's immediate needs and concerns through small worship groups can work in any parish. Fuentes's story illustrates how faith can be put into action to promote community well-being and justice everywhere, regardless of how great or how small a community's challenges.

    [Page 98]


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    Ten Musts for Every Marriage
    A Seattle couple has repackaged biblical wisdom for husbands and wives.
    Home Life

    Marital advice is as common as breath mints -- and lasts about as long. Everyone, from profesors to parents, seems to have the secret formula for a happy marriage. But eventually, superficial advice wears off.

    [Page 105]


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    A Gift of Tears and Laughter
    My mother's humor and dignity amid loss amazes me.
    By Mary Ann Warner

    A month ago, I announced to Mom and Dad through a flood of tears that they would have to be separated after 56 years of marriage. She was to leave their lovely assisted-care apartment to move to a nursing home.

    "It could be worse," Mom replied after a moment of reflection. "I could be a young person with a family to care for."

    Both of my parents have a special way of looking at troubles and inconveniences as blessings and gifts. And they share those gifts. My parents have always been wonderful teachers.

    [Page 109]


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    Clara's Castellano Lesson
    She was only a toddler, but she had something to teach me about overcoming fear.
    Chrisian Science Monitor

    I arrived in Argentina with 100 words of Spanish, a desire to learn, and unlimited confidence. Two days later, I was exhausted and discouraged. I had underestimated how different everything -- language, food, money, housing, and transportation -- would be. More important, I'd forgotten that learning requires trememdous energy.

    [Page 115]


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    Old Gold
    San Jose Mercury News

    You may think this is going to be one of those fish tales. Apparently some folks are prone to exaggeration when it comes to their relationships with nature's denizens of the deep. They fudge about the size, they double the weight. They flat-out lie about the number that got away.

    But do they ever fabricate a fish's age?

    [Page 126]
     

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