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Image:Baptism - Marcellinus and Peter.jpg
Baptism in early Christian art.

Baptism is generally a purification ritual using water practiced in many of various religions including Christianity, Mandaeanism, and Sikhism. Christian baptism has its origins with the Jewish ritual of mikvah. The word baptize derives from the Greek word βάπτειν (the infinitive; also listed as the 1st person singular present active indicative βαπτίζω), which loosely means "to dip, bathe, or wash". To some groups it is a matter of religious conviction to assert that baptism is literally equivalent to, to plunge something entirely into the water, so that the water closes over it. To other groups, baptism is a symbolic term meaning "identification with" (e.g. Jesus) having no connection with earthly ritual.


[edit] Practice of Baptism

Today, water baptism is most readily identified with Christianity, where it symbolizes the cleansing (remission) of sins, and the union of the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection so that he becomes one of Christ's faithful. Most Christian groups practice some form of literal water-based baptism and agree that it is important, yet strongly disagree with other groups regarding any or all of several aspects of baptism, such as:

  • form of the baptism
  • recipients of baptism
  • meaning/effects of the act of baptism

However, a few Christian groups assert that water-based baptism has been supplanted by the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit, and water baptism was unnecessarily carried over from the early Jewish Christian practice.

[edit] Form of Baptism

Among those Christians espousing the practice of baptism, the ritual is performed as:

Aspersion - sprinkling water over the head,
Affusion - pouring water over the head, or
Immersion - lowering the entire body into a pool of water.

For Christians who baptize by pouring or sprinkling, the washing with water from above pictures the cleansing of one's sins by the blood of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, who unites the baptized person to Christ in His death, and in His resurrection from the dead. It is administered from above to point to that gift of the life-giving Spirit, and to portray baptism as an act not of man, but of God. In contrast, a person baptized by immersion is enclosed under the water and brought out, to signify cleansing through death and burial with Christ, and consequent raising again in newness of life by the Holy Spirit. Regardless of the form, baptism is a public rite, in testimony to others of the grace of God bestowed upon the person, and as a seal of God's promises in Christ to those who believe.

[edit] Meaning/Effects of Baptism

There are grave differences in views about the effect of water baptism for a Christian. Some Christian groups assert baptism is a requirement for salvation and sacrament for Christians, calling this "baptismal regeneration". This is the general view shared by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, by churches formed early during the Protestant Reformation such as Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist, and Restorationist churches such as the churches of Christ. For example, Martin Luther stated in The Large Catechism of 1529,

"To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, to 'be saved.' To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever."

By contrast, Baptist groups espouse baptism as a worthy practice, but deny that baptism has any sacramental power, but rather only testifies outwardly to the operation of God's power, which is invisible, internal, and completely 'separate' from the rite itself. Other Baptist groups teach and preach that the baptism 'ceremony' is 'meaningful and necessary'.

For Catholics, baptism is a sacrament of initiation into the life of children of God. (Catechism 1212-13) It configures the person to Christ, (1272) and obliges the Christian to share in the Church's apostolic and missionary activity (1270).

[edit] Background in Jewish ritual

Main article: Mikvah

Although the term baptism is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites (or Mikvah - ritual immersion) in Jewish laws and tradition are where the ritual of baptism can find its origins. In the Tanakh, and other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for specific circumstances – in order to be restored to a condition of 'ritual purity'. For example, Jews who become ritually 'defiled' by contact with a corpse (according to the Law of Moses), had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. Through practices such as these, immersion in the mikvah represents purification and restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community. (See Numbers Chapter 19.)

In modern times, views regarding the mikvah differ greatly among the Jewish denominations. Owing to the destruction of the Holy Temple, immersion in a mikvah no longer carries its original purpose. In modern times, Reform and Conservative Jews generally do not use the mikvah. Orthodox and Haredi still do. It is required of Orthodox converts and those returning to Judaism after a time within another religion, and a woman is required to immerse in a mikvah following menses to purify herself before resuming sexual relations with her husband. For more details see niddah.

[edit] Explanation

The Christian explanation of baptism as the definitive rite, by which the baptized person is indicated to be fully-qualified for participation in the life of the Church, begins with the career of John the Baptist, who was thought to be the cousin of Jesus. Those who believe that John was a prophet identify baptism with his message concerning repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

"He [John] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'" Luke 3:3-6
"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." Luke 3:8

John declared that repentance was necessary, prior to forgiveness. There must be a return to God. This implies that the stain of sin is not ineradicable, but can be removed by putting off polluting acts and returning to "the way of the Lord", all of which was symbolized in his baptism.

Christians believe that John also taught that his baptism was not finally sufficient, and that repentance would not attain to its goal of separation from sin, apart from a greater baptism which it was not in his power to give. According to the Gospel of Luke, John taught, "I baptize you with water; but one comes who is stronger than I, of whom I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire; his winnowing fork is in his hand to clean out his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his storehouse, but the chaff he will burn with inextinguishable fire." (Luke 3,16-17) Christians believe that John's baptism shows that the effort to make oneself acceptable to God by repentance would be superseded, made complete by the coming of the Lamb of God that 'takes away' (not 'covers over') sins.

According to the Gospel of John, after John baptized Jesus, he testified concerning him,

"I have seen the Spirit coming down as a dove from heaven, and it remained upon him. And I had not known him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water, that one said to me, On whomever you see the Spirit coming down and remaining upon him, this is the one baptizing with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and I have testified that this is the son of God." (John 1,32-34)
"Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world."

From this point on, water baptism became identified with the followers of Jesus, who preached "Repent, for the kingdom of God is near", and explicitly identified the coming of the kingdom with his own appearing.

At the end of his recorded ministry, Jesus charged the Apostles to baptize "in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), which has become the common method for baptizing. The Apostles are recorded baptizing only in the name of Jesus in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:38 8:16 10:48 19:5) - a fact which figures prominently among groups who reject the trinitarian formula.

At present the faithful still wet their faces and arms after a baptism in the Jordan River, shouting 'amen' and 'hallelujah'.<ref name=examiner>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Ecumenical statement

The ecumenical paper Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, prepared by representatives across a spectrum of Christians, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestants traditions of Christianity attempts to express a common understanding of baptism, as it is derived from the New Testament.

" ... according to Acts 2:38, baptisms follow from Peter's preaching baptism in the name of Jesus and lead those baptized to the receiving of Christ's Spirit, the Holy Ghost, and life in the community: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (2:42) as well as to the distribution of goods to those in need (2:45). Those who heard, who were baptized and entered the community's life, were already made witnesses of and partakers in the promises of God for the last days: the forgiveness of sins through baptism in the name of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on all flesh (2:38). Similarly, in what may well be a baptismal pattern, 1 Peter testifies that proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teaching about new life (1:3-21) lead to purification and new birth (1:22-23). This, in turn, is followed by eating and drinking God's food (2:2-3), by participation in the life of the community — the royal priesthood, the new temple, the people of God (2:4-10) — and by further moral formation (2:11 ff.). At the beginning of 1 Peter the writer sets this baptism in the context of obedience to Christ and sanctification by the Spirit (1:2). So baptism into Christ is seen as baptism into the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13). In the fourth gospel Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus indicates that birth by water and Spirit becomes the gracious means of entry into the place where God rules (John 3:5)." [1]

The most commonly cited reference for the command justifying the continuing practice of baptism by Christians, is the "Great Commission", found in the book of St. Matthew chapter 28, verses 18-20. It is typically viewed as the rite by which a person is joined to Jesus and his body, the Church, in connection with which the baptized person who has received the Holy Spirit is considered to be a Christian.

[edit] Baptism in most Christian traditions

The baptistry at St. Raphael's Cathedral, Dubuque, Iowa. This particular font was expanded in 2005 to include a small pool to provide for immersion baptism of adults. Eight sided font architectures are common symbology of the eight persons saved on Noah's Ark.

The liturgy of baptism in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist traditions makes clear reference to baptism as not only a symbolic burial and resurrection, but an actual supernatural transformation, one that draws parallels to the experience of Noah and the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea divided by Moses. Thus baptism is literally and symbolically not only cleansing, but also dying and rising again with Christ. Catholics believe that baptism is necessary for the cleansing of the taint of original sin, and for that reason infant baptism is a common practice. The Orthodox also practice infant baptism on the basis of various texts such as Matthew 19:14 which are interpreted to condone full Church membership for children, and so baptism is immediately followed by Chrismation and Communion at the next Divine Liturgy regardless of age. Anglicans believe that Baptism is also the entry into the Church and therefore allows them access to all rights and responsibilities as full members, including the privilege to receive Holy Communion. Most Anglicans agree that it also cleanses the taint of original sin, though those Anglicans who agree with a more Eastern understanding of original sin think it exactly the same was as the Eastern Orthodox.

Latin Rite Catholics generally baptize by affusion (pouring); Orthodox and Eastern Catholics usually by immersion. However immersion is gaining in popularity within the Catholic Church. In newer churches, the baptismal font may be designed to expressly allow for baptism by immersion. Older church building may feature this as well by either building a new baptismal font or expanding an existing one. Anglicans practice myriad ways to be baptized, from immersion to sprinkling. Baptizo means immersion, but immersion is not the only meaning of baptizo. Sometimes it just means washing up. Thus we read in Luke 11:38 that, when Jesus ate at a Pharisee’s house, "[t]he Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash [baptizo] before dinner." They did not practice immersion before dinner, but, according to Mark, the Pharisees "do not eat unless they wash [nipto] their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they wash themselves [baptizo]" (Mark 7:3–4a, emphasis added). So baptizo can mean cleansing or ritual washing as well as immersion.

Although the New Testament contains no explicit instructions on how physically to administer the water of baptism, Fundamentalists argue that the Greek word baptizo found in the New Testament means "to immerse." They also maintain that only immersion reflects the symbolic significance of being "buried" and "raised" with Christ (see Romans 6:3-4).

From the discovery of ancient baptistries and the artwork of 3rd century Christian catacombs, we find evidence that the earliest Christians were baptized while standing in a pool with water poured over their heads.

The act of baptism has, therefore, become synonymous with infant pouring in the common parlance of the members of most of the churches listed in this section. The bible does not explicitly tell us if infants were baptized, and though children may have been baptized, their exact ages have not been determined. Infant baptism is generally practiced by those who believe in the doctrine of original sin; later Protestant denominations tend to practice baptism based upon the confession and faith of the child of an accountable age. Although it is not considered wholly necessary for salvation, United Methodists and others baptize infants as a recognition of our complete dependence on God. That is, the wisest adult is no closer to understanding the mystery of baptism than a newborn is.

In some traditions, cold water is preferred over warm. The water must be in a state of motion (living water implies motion), so immersion in stagnant water is thought less than pouring or even sprinkling.

The Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches practice a triple baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity following the model in the bible which instructs us to "baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" .

[edit] Comparative summary

Comparative Summary of Baptisms of Denominations of Christian Influence.<ref>Good News. Issue 3. St Louis, MO. 2003. p 18-19</ref>

Denomination Beliefs about Baptism Type of Baptism Baptize Infants? Baptism regenerates, gives spiritual life Name(s)
Anglicans Necessary to salvation because it conveys spiritual rebirth. By immersion or pouring. Yes. Anglo-Catholic Yes,
"Low church" No.
Matt 28:19
Apostolics Necessary for salvation because it conveys spiritual rebirth. By immersion only. No. Yes. Acts 2:38
Baptists A divine ordinance, a symbolic ritual, a sign of having already been saved, but not necessary for salvation. See Baptist - Believer's Baptism. By immersion only. No. No. Accept Jesus as Lord
Churches of Christ / Disciples of Christ Baptism is necessary for salvation. One receives forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 Immersion only No. Yes. Acts 2:38
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints An ordinance essential to salvation. A covenant where God promises forgiveness of sins and person promises to stand as a witness for Christ and keep his commandments. Attendees over 9 are only counted as members if they have been baptised. By immersion performed by a person holding proper priesthood authority. No. Yes. Matt 28:19
Eastern Orthodox The "Mystery" (Sacrament) is necessary because it confers regeneration from the consequences of the original sin and forgiveness for actual transgressions. By immersion 3 times (sprinkling accepted only in emergency). Yes. Also receive Holy Communion and the Chrismation (anointing). Yes. Matt 28:19
Episcopal Necessary to participate in communion of Lord's Supper. By pouring or immersion Yes Yes Matt 28:19
Jehovah Witnesses Baptism is necessary for salvation as part of the entire baptismal arrangement: as an expression of obedience to Jesus' command (Matthew 28:19,20), as a public symbol of the saving faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10), and as an indication of repentance from dead works and the dedication of one's life to Jehovah.(1 Peter 2:21) By immersion, but not done in their meeting places (Kingdom Halls) No. Acts 2:38
Lutherans Baptism is how God miraculously delivers a person from sin, death, and the devil; gives new life; and brings one into Christ’s kingdom forever (Titus 3:5). By sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Yes. Yes. Matt 28:19
Methodists (Arminians, Wesleyans) Baptism not necessary to salvation, since it is an outward sign of one’s membership in the Christian community. By sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Yes. Matt 28:19
Pentecostal (Various “Holiness” groups, Christian Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God) Water Baptism is an ordinance, a symbolic ritual used to witness to having accepted Christ as personal Savior. By immersion. Also stress the necessity of a “second” Baptism of a special outpouring from the Holy Spirit. No. Varies. Varies.
Presbyterians An ordinance, a symbolic ritual, and a seal of the adult believer’s present faith. By sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Yes, to indicate membership in the New Covenant. No. Varies
Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) Only an external symbol that is no longer to be practiced. Do not believe in Baptism of water, but only in an inward, ongoing purification of the human spirit in a life of discipline led by the Holy Spirit.
Roman Catholic Necessary for the infusion of the sanctifying power called grace that starts one on the path to salvation. Usually by pouring. Yes. Yes. Varies.
Salvation Army Do not baptize anyone today. Believe it was to be done only at the time of Christ.
Seventh Day Adventists An ordinance, symbolic ritual, not stated as necessary to salvation, but stated as necessary for church membership. A time for person to express personal faith in Christ. By immersion only. No. No. accept Jesus as Lord
United Church of Christ (Evangelical and Reformed Churches and the Congregationalist Churches) Not necessary for salvation because it is only an outward ritual. However, is listed as one of a handful of ways of obtaining membership with a local church. By sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Yes, to indicate membership in the New Covenant. No. accept Jesus as Lord

[edit] Catholic baptism and salvation

In Catholic teaching, baptism plays an essential role in salvation. This teaching dates back to the teachings and practices of first century Christians, and the connection between salvation and baptism was not, on the whole, an item of major dispute until Martin Luther's teachings regarding grace. The Church teaches that "baptism is necessary for salvation" (Catechism, 1257) and entry into heaven; and therefore, a person who knowledgeably, willfully and unrepentantly rejects baptism has no hope of salvation. Three forms of baptism are acknowledged by the Church. Baptism by water refers to the traditional baptism where the individual is immersed or infused with water in the name of the Trinity.

Catholics are baptized in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit — not three gods, but one God subsisting in three Persons. While sharing in the one divine essence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, not simply three "masks" or manifestations of one Person. The faith of the Church and of the individual Christian is based on a relationship with these three Persons of the one God.

Many Catholics also baptize using the name of Jesus Christ alone, as authorized by Pope St. Stephen I. Later, both formulas were validated as acceptable by Pope Nicholas I, who declared (in a letter to the Bulgarians), "a person is not to be rebaptized who has already been baptized 'in the name of the Holy Trinity' or 'in the name of Christ' only, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (for it is one and the same thing, as St. Ambrose has explained.)"

The Church also recognizes two other forms of baptism: "baptism of blood" and "baptism of desire." Baptism of blood refers to unbaptized individuals who are martyred for the Faith, while baptism of desire generally refers to catechumens who die before they can be baptized. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes these two forms:

The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (1258)
For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (1259)

Non-Christians who seek God with a sincere heart and, moved by grace, try to do His will as they know it through the dictates of conscience can also be saved without water baptism; they are said to desire it implicitly. (cf. Catechism, 1260). As for unbaptized infants, the Church is unsure of their fate; "the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God" (Catechism, 1261).

[edit] Conditions of the validity of a baptism

Image:Baptism - Saint Calixte.jpg
Baptism - Saint Calixte Catacomb - 3rd century.
Since the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches teach that baptism is a sacrament having actual spiritual and salvific effects, certain criteria must be complied with for it to be valid (i.e., to actually have those effects.) These criteria are actually broader than the ordinary practice. Violation of some rules regarding baptism renders the baptism illicit (in violation of the church's laws) but still valid. For example, if a priest introduces some variation in the authorized rite for the ceremony, the baptism may still be valid (provided certain key criteria are met).

One of the criteria for validity is that the correct form of words be used. Roman Catholics use the form "I baptize you..."; some Eastern Rite Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches use the form "Let this servant of Christ be baptized..." or "This person is baptized by my hands...". However, both churches recognize the other's form as valid. The Catholic Church teaches that the use of the verb "baptize" is essential.

It is also considered essential that the Trinitarian formula be used; thus they do not accept as valid baptisms of non-Trinitarian churches such as Oneness Pentecostals. There was an ancient controversy over baptism using the formula that Oneness Pentecostals use, with some ancient authorities holding it to be valid. Baptising "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is essential for validity.

Invalid forms for baptism include "I baptize thee in the name of the Trinity", "I baptize thee in the name of Jesus", and "I baptize thee in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier", for example. If these forms are used, the Sacrament of Baptism does not take place.

Another condition is that water be used. Some Christian groups historically have rejected the use of water for baptism, for example the Albigensians. These baptisms would not be valid, nor would a baptism in which some other liquid was used.

Another requirement is that the celebrant intend to perform baptism. This requirement entails that the theology of baptism which the baptizer holds be sufficiently similar to that of the Catholic Church, although an exact identity is not required. However, where another denomination has a somewhat different and somewhat similar theology of baptism, it can be difficult to be sure whether the requirement of intention is met. This is why conditional baptisms are often performed in these cases.

Another requirement is that the water must be poured on the skin of the forehead; the water must flow across the skin.

Yet another is that the person must say the words "I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" or "I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" as he (or she) is pouring the water or immersing the individual. The person saying the words must pour the water. If one person said the words and another poured the water, the "baptism" would be invalid.

Some conditions expressly do not affect validity — for example, whether immersion, infusion or aspersion is used. However, if water is sprinkled, there is a danger that the water may not touch the skin of the unbaptized. If the water does not touch the skin, the "baptism" is invalid.

Water must be poured on the head. If the water is poured over another principal part of the body, such as the chest in the case of an emergency, then the person will be conditionally baptized later.

In many communions it does not affect validity for a single immersion to be performed rather than a triple, but in Orthodoxy this is controversial.

According to the church, the act of baptism imparts an indelible "seal" upon the soul of the baptized. Thus, once baptized, an individual cannot be baptized again. There was an ancient practice in some areas of rebaptizing those who had returned to the church from heresy, but that practice has been rejected.

[edit] Baptism by other denominations

The Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist churches accept baptism performed by other denominations as valid, subject to certain conditions. It is only possible to be baptized once, thus people with valid baptisms from other denominations may not be baptized again upon conversion or transfer. Instead, for these individuals, either the sacrament of confirmation or a reaffirmation of faith is performed. However, in some cases it can be difficult to decide if the original baptism was in fact valid; if there is any doubt, a conditional baptism is employed, in which the officiant says something of the form of "if you are not yet baptised, I baptise you...". The need for conditional baptisms is motivated not only by factual uncertainties regarding the original baptism, but also by the uncertainty of some of the baptismal theology regarding the precise conditions for the validity of baptism (the Church holds one cannot be certain that opinions offered by pious theologians, but on which the Church has not made an authoritative pronouncement, are in fact correct, and even authoritative pronouncements can have multiple interpretations which the Church has neither definitively endorsed or rejected).

Practice in the Eastern Orthodox Church for converts from other communions is not uniform, but the original baptism is generally not regarded as valid even when no new baptism is performed. Situations where a new baptism is not done might arise where the form of the original baptism was acceptable, consisting of a triple immersion in the name of the Holy Trinity. Instead, whatever form is used to receive the convert is taken as retroactively filling with grace an acceptable form that is held to have been graceless. If the original baptism was unacceptable in form then it is more likely, although not certain, that a new baptism will be required. Otherwise, a convert might be received by chrismation or confession. The exact procedure is dependent on local canons and is the subject of some controversy.

On July 17, 2001, the Roman Catholic Church officially declared baptisms performed by the Latter Day Saints or Mormons to be invalid, due to a difference in beliefs concerning the Holy Trinity, and the nature of God.

[edit] Who may administer a baptism

In normal circumstances, a licit baptism must be performed by a priest (for the Orthodox) or by a priest or deacon (for Roman Catholics and Anglicans) or by a duly ordained or appointed pastor or minister for Methodists and many other Protestant denominations. However, in cases of a genuine emergency, anyone may perform the baptism - if, for example, an unbaptized person, in danger of imminent death, desires baptism, but a priest is not available to perform one, and there is a real danger the person may die before a priest can baptize them. However, if serious doubt exists about the validity of the baptism performed, a conditional baptism by a priest may occur at a later time. The concern would be any deficiency in the celebration of the sacrament.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that even when a baptism is illicit, it may be valid if done with water and by the proper form (Trinitarian formula), with intent to baptize, by any person, even a non-Christian. In the Orthodox Church, the baptism must be performed by another Orthodox Christian based on the understanding that a person cannot convey that which he himself does not possess, in this case membership in the Church. The teaching of the Eastern Catholic Churches on the matter coincides with that of the Orthodox Church.

[edit] Anabaptist and Baptist baptism

Image:River baptism in New Bern.jpg
A river baptism in North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century. Full-immersion baptism continues to be a common practice in many African-American Christian congregations today.
Baptist groups derive their name either from the restrictions that they traditionally place on the mode and subjects of the ordinance of baptism or from a shortening of the term Anabaptist which means to rebaptize. Anabaptists were labeled such because they re-baptized people who had received infant baptism, sprinkling, or baptism of any sort by another denomination. Modern Baptists do not believe baptism by immersion is the only legitimate form of baptism, they simply require that you be baptised by immersion to join the Baptist church. It does not imply that any previous form of baptism, like sprinkling, is invalid. It is just a requirement of membership similar to any other organization which has an initiation ritual, only with theological meaning.

Baptist theologians (such as John Gill) teach that baptism is only for those who can understand and profess their faith. This is called believer's baptism. Some, such as Gill, argue that the regulative principle of worship, which many paedobaptists also advocate and which states that elements of worship (including baptism) must be based on explicit commands of Scripture, is violated by infant baptism. Some would argue that according this understanding, the re-baptisms that Baptists generally perform if a person was not regenerate when baptized also violate the Regulative Principle for Worship. Furthermore, because the New Covenant is described in Jeremiah 31:31-34 as a time when all who were members of it would have the law written on their hearts and would know God, Baptist theology teaches that only those who are born again, as indicated by a profession of faith, are members of the New Covenant. They view this text as speaking of the visible church in the present age, rather than as a prophetic text of God's New Covenant in Christ administered to all saints from Genesis to the present, which will be fulfilled when Christ returns to earth. Baptism is therefore not administered to those unable to make a credible confession of saving faith in Christ prior to being baptized; but it will be administered upon making this confession, regardless of the confessor's age. Some Baptist churches take exception to this and are very hesitant to baptize young children because they want to confirm whether or not they are regenerate. A confession alone is not enough for these churches, they want to see fruit of regeneration in the life of the person to be baptized, which some argue violates the example set forth in the book of Acts, which performed immediate baptisms.

Those who hold views influenced by the Baptists may perform the ceremony indoors in a baptismal, a swimming pool, or bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river: as long as there is water, nothing prevents the performance of Baptism. Protestant groups influenced by these convictions usually emphasize that it memorializes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6), which according to the grace of God has become the basis of repentance and new life for those who have professed belief in Him, symbolizing spiritual death with regard to sin and a new life of faith in God. They typically teach that baptism does not accomplish anything in itself, but is an outward sign or testimony, a personal act, indicating the invisible reality that the person's sins have already been washed away by the cross of Christ, and applied to their life according to their profession of faith. It is also understood to be a covenantal act, signifying entrance into the New Covenant of Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-12, Romans 6). For Baptists, baptism is a requirement for church membership, rather than a necessary requirement for salvation.

The above description applies not just to those denominations using Baptist in their title, but also to a wide variety of other Protestant denominations deriving from the Anabaptist tradition, including some Mennonites and Pentecostals.

[edit] Reformed and Covenant Theology view

Paedobaptist Covenant theologians see the administration of all the biblical covenants, including the New Covenant, as including a principle of familial, corporate inclusion or "generational succession." The biblical covenants between God and man include signs and seals that visibly represent the realities behind the covenants. These visible signs and symbols of God's covenant redemption are administered in a corporate manner (for instance, to households), not in an exclusively individualistic manner.

Baptism is considered by the Reformed churches as the visible sign of entrance into the New Covenant and therefore may be administered individually to new believers making a public profession of faith. Paedobaptists further believe this extends corporately to the households of believers which typically would include children, or individually to children or infants of believing parents (see Infant baptism). In this view, baptism is thus seen as the functional replacement and sacramental equivalent of the Abrahamic rite of circumcision and symbolizes the internal cleansing from sin, among other things.

[edit] Baptism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This section is a part of a series on the Latter Day Saint movement.

In the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism), baptism is recognized as one of the four basic principles of the gospel, in addition to faith in Jesus, repentance, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. As with many other Restorationist faiths, baptism must be by immersion for the remission of sins (meaning that through baptism, past sins are forgiven), and occurs after one has shown faith and repentance. LDS baptism does not intend to remit any sins other than personal ones, as the LDS Church does not believe in original sin.

Latter Day Saint baptisms also occur only after an "age of accountability", or the age at which a child begins to know right from wrong, which is defined by the church as the age of eight years. Mormonism rejects infant baptism. In addition, Mormonism requires that baptism may only be performed with one who has been called and ordained by God with priesthood authority. Since the LDS Church has a lay priesthood, children raised in an LDS family are usually baptized by a father or close male friend or family member who has achieved the office of Priest which is conferred to "worthy" male members at the age of 16.

Latter Day Saints do not believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit occurs immediately after baptism; rather, the gift is given by the laying on of hands in a separate confirmation ritual after baptism. This ritual is confirmed by Paul's actions in Acts 19:6, where, following the baptism of several followers of Christ, he "laid his hands upon" those who were baptized and they then received the Holy Ghost.

The process of repentance and sanctification continues by partaking of the Sacrament every Sunday which Latter Day Saints consider to be a renewal of one's baptismal covenant with God. They also believe that baptism is symbolic both of Jesus's death, burial and resurrection and of the death and burial of the natural or sinful man and rebirth as a disciple of Jesus of the one baptized.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or "Mormon" Church), baptism and confirmation are only the first of several ordinances believed to be required for exaltation. Membership into the LDS Church is granted only by baptism whether or not a person has been raised in the church. As Latter-day Saints do not recognize the validity of baptisms of other faiths, all who come into the church as converts are baptized, even if they have previously received baptism in another faith. The person being baptized must be at least eight years old. The church also practices baptism for the dead (along with all other ordinances) "vicariously" or "by proxy" in their temples for anyone who did not receive these ordinances while living.

Baptisms inside and outside the temples are usually done in a font, although they can be performed in any body of water in which the person may be completely immersed. In Latter-day Saint temples, where proxy baptisms are performed for the dead, the fonts rest on the sculptures of twelve oxen representing the twelve tribes of Israel, following the pattern of the "molten sea" in the Temple of Solomon (see 2 Chronicles 4:2-5). Great care is taken in the execution of the baptism; if the baptism is not executed properly it must be redone. The person administering the baptism must recite the prayer exactly, and immerse every part, limb, hair and clothing of the person being baptised. If there are any mistakes, or if any part of the person being baptized is not fully immersed, the baptism must be redone. In addition to the baptizer, two priesthood holders witness the baptism to ensure that it is performed properly.

[edit] Jehovah's Witnesses

Baptism is also done by Jehovah's Witnesses, who believe that it should be performed by complete immersion only when one is old enough to understand the significance of it. They teach that water baptism is an outward symbol that one has made a complete, unreserved, and unconditional dedication through Jesus Christ to do the will of Jehovah God. Jehovah's Witnesses usually baptize converts at large conventions rather than at the local Kingdom Halls.

[edit] Baptism in Churches of Christ

  • Baptism, as commanded in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is a full immersion in water (Acts 8:38). Acts 2:38 teaches that repentance precedes baptism and the remission of sins occurs at baptism. This is further explained by 1 Peter 3:21 in which Peter says that "Baptism doth also now save us", indicating that it is essential to salvation (For the remissions of sins: Acts 2:38). Romans 6:3 also states that baptism puts one into the death of Christ; "into Christ" Baptism clothes one in Christ(Galatians 3:27). No salvation without Baptism which is inferred in John 3:1-7; "born of the Water...". Note: The gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the early Christians by the laying on the hands of the apostles (compare Acts 8:14-18)before the full revelation of the Bible; now the Spirit indwells by the word of God and how a person directs his life by it (compare parallel passages in Col 3:16 and Eph 5:18,19).

[edit] Baptism in Hyperdispensationalism

Hyperdispensationalists assert:

  • The great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and its baptism is directed to early Jewish believers, not the Gentile believers of mid-Acts or later.
  • The baptism of Acts 2:36-38 is Peter's call for Israel to repent of complicity in the death of the Messiah; not as an Gospel announcement of atonement for sin, a later doctrine revealed by Paul.

Water baptism found early in the book of Acts is now supplanted by the one baptism (1 Cor 12:13) foretold by John the Baptist {Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Matt 3:11, Acts 1:5}. The one baptism for today is the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11:15-16). Many in this group also argue that John's promised baptism by fire is pending, referring to the destruction of the world by fire (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17, 2 Peter 3:10).

John, as he said "baptized with water", as did Jesus' disciples to the early, Jewish Christian church. However, Jesus himself never baptized with water (John 4:2). Unlike Jesus' first Apostles, Paul, his Apostle to the Gentiles, was not commanded to baptize (1 Cor 1:17) in the same manner as them (cf. Math 28:19).

[edit] Other baptisms

[edit] Non-Christian religions

Many cultures practice or have practiced rites similar to Christian baptism, including the ancient Egyptian, the Hebraic/Jewish, the Babylonian, the Mayan, the Norse and the Japanese cultures. In some, such evidence may be archaeological and descriptive in nature, rather than a modern practice.

[edit] Mandaean baptism

Mandaeans, who abhor Jesus and Moses as false prophets, revere John the Baptist and practice frequent baptism.

[edit] Sikh baptism ceremony

Main article: Amrit Sanskar
  • The Sikh baptism ceremony, dating to 1699, was established when the religion's tenth leader (Guru Gobind Singh) baptised 5 followers of his faith and then was baptised himself by his followers. The Sikh baptism ceremony is called Amrit Sanchar or Khande di Pahul. The Sikh has taken Amrit once they have been baptised. In Sikhism, the baptised Sikh is also called an Amritdhari literally meaning Amrit Taker or one who has Taken on Amrit.
  • Khande Di Pahul (Amrit ceremony) was initiated in the times of Guru Gobind Singh when Khalsa was inaugurated at Sri Anandpur Sahib on the day of Baisakhi in 1699. Guru Gobind Singh asked a gathering of Sikhs, who was prepared to die for God? At first, the people hesitated, and then one man stepped forward, and he was taken to a tent. After some time, Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent, with blood dripping from his sword. He asked the same question again. After the next four volunteers were in the tent, he reappeared with the four, who were now all dressed like him. These five men came to be known as Panj Pyares or the Beloved Five. These five were initiated into the Khalsa by receiving Amrit. These five were Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Mukham Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh. Sikh men were then given the name "Singh" meaning "lion" and the women received the last name "Kaur" meaning "princess".

Filling an iron bowl with clean water, he kept stirring it with a two-edged sword (called a Khanda) while reciting over it five of the sacred texts or banisJapji, Jaap, Savaiyye, Benti Chaupai and Anand Sahib. The Guru’s wife, Mata Jito (also known as Mata Sahib Kaur), poured into the vessel sugar crystals, mingling sweetness with the alchemy of iron. The five Sikhs sat on the ground around the bowl reverently as the holy water was being churned to the recitation of the sacred verses.

With the recitation of the five banis completed, khande di pahul or amrit, the Nectar of Immortality, was ready for administration. Guru Gobind Singh gave the five Sikhs five palmsful each of it to drink.

[edit] Metaphorical baptisms

[edit] Baptism of objects

Although it is technically an improper use of the term, the word baptism is sometimes used to describe other non-sacramental ceremonies.

  • The name Baptism of Bells has been given to the blessing of (musical, especially church) bells, at least in France, since the eleventh century. It is derived from the washing of the bell with holy water by the bishop, before he anoints it with the oil of the infirm without and with chrism within; a fuming censer is placed under it and the bishop prays that these sacramentals of the Church may, at the sound of the bell, put the demons to flight, protect from storms, and call the faithful to prayer.
  • Baptism of Ships: at least since the time of the Crusades, rituals have contained a blessing for ships. The priest begs God to bless the vessel and protect those who sail in it, as He did the ark of Noah, and Peter, when the Apostle was sinking in the sea, and the ship is sprinkled with holy water.

[edit] Non-religious baptism

Although even the use of water is often absent, the term baptism is also used for various initiations as rite of passage to a walk of secular life.

[edit] See also

[edit] Related articles and subjects

[edit] People and ritual objects

[edit] Resources

"In Defense of Infant Baptism"

[edit] Footnotes


[edit] External links

[edit] Jewish

[edit] Orthodox

[edit] Catholic

[edit] Lutheran

[edit] Calvinist

[edit] Anglican

[edit] Methodist

[edit] Mennonite

[edit] Mormon

[edit] Other groups

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