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Doubting Thomas
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« on: July 30, 2003, 11:48:40 AM »

I think this will be my last new topic for a while as I have other things in my life I need to attend to.

Anyway, I understand that the Orthodox Church (as well as many others including RCs, Lutherans, Anglicans, Church of Christ) believe in baptismal regenertion.  Of course, as a Baptist, I've always believed that Baptism doesn't regenerate but is however the most important act of obedience the new Christian makes.  Over the past several months I've read more and more Scriptures that seem to imply some sort of salvific efficacy to water baptism.  These verses are of course often interpreted by Baptists to refer to SPIRIT Baptism or are explained differently to deny that one is saved by water baptism.  Recently, I've found those efforts at explaining away those passages somewhat wanting.

However, there is one particular passage that continues to give me pause, and that is Acts 15.  In this passage, Peter is speaking before the council of Jerusalem and says that:  "But we believe that by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we (the Jews) will be saved in the same manner as they (the Gentiles)" (v.11).  He was of course referring back to his encounter with Cornelius when the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles BEFORE water baptism.  Peter explains that: "God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them (the Gentiles) by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us" (v.Cool.  The implication is that God gives the Holy Spirit irrespective to the chronology of baptism since He "knows the heart"--ie, He knows who has FAITH.  This seemingly would have a profound impact both on the significance of water baptism and possibly the age of baptismal candidates.  If this Gentile conversion is indeed a model of how one is converted (v.11), it seems to support the Baptist's position of "believer's baptism".

Also when comparing baptism of the NT to circumcision of the OT, Abraham is said to be justified before circumscision and later receiving the "sign" of circumcision as seal of the faith he had before hand (see Romans 4).  As baptism is analogous to circumcision, shouldn't it be viewed in the same way--as a "seal" of the faith a believer has BEFORE baptism?  This could help interpret 1 Peter 3:21 in which baptism is said to save us since it is "the answer [?seal, ?response] of a [an already] good conscience before God."  (In the same way, Noah was found just in the sight of God BEFORE entering the ark.)

Comments?
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2003, 12:09:52 PM »

DT:

I think taking the Acts 15 statement equivalent to making an exception the rule.  Far better to note the normal way conversion takes place in the NT: preaching/hearing, repentance/confession, immersion/forgiveness/reception of Holy Spirit.

The distinction between water baptism and Spirit baptism, then, has more to do with coming to the text with presuppositions to support.

A more literal rendering (without the paraphrastic insertions) would read:

"Baptism is an antitype which now saves us--not the removal of the filth of the flesh but a plea [or response] of a good conscience to God--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Baptism does save on the basis of the Resurrection.  There is nothing here to indicate spirit vs. water baptism.
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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2003, 01:11:52 PM »

CDHealy,

You may be right.  But didn't John the Baptist say WTTE: "I baptize with WATER; Christ baptizes with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT" (Matt 3:11)?  Perhaps this could indicate that the two--water and spirit baptism--are not always synonymous.  Also, the author of Hebrews (Paul?) in Heb 6:2 mentions the "doctrine of baptismS (plural)".  Could it be that he's referring to Spirit baptism and water baptism as being two different things?  Or is something else in view here?

I'm not trying to be contrary.  I'm just trying to come to terms with whether long my long held beliefs actually correspond to the truth.

God Bless.
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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2003, 03:08:55 PM »

Doubting Thomas,

Having neither the knowledge or the eloquence of many here, I would instead invite you to read "Of Water and the Spirit" by Fr. Alexander Schmemann.  This was the first book I read on Orthodoxy as a Baptist, and it gets to the very heart of this matter.  I think it will help you tremendously, and can often be found in libraries(if not it is a very inexpensive book, under $10).

I'm glad to see you're giving all of the bold claims of Orthodoxy due investigation, and are not acting passionately in either rejecting or embracing them.  A real conversion takes time, careful thought, and most of all, prayer.  Wherever you end up, if you continue your path with the same diligence, I think you will find a relationship  with God more fulfilling than ever before.
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« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2003, 03:34:32 PM »


I'm glad to see you're giving all of the bold claims of Orthodoxy due investigation, and are not acting passionately in either rejecting or embracing them.  A real conversion takes time, careful thought, and most of all, prayer.  Wherever you end up, if you continue your path with the same diligence, I think you will find a relationship  with God more fulfilling than ever before.  

Amen.  Smiley

I have seen that book you mention on Amazon.com.  I guess I'll have to add it to the "list".  (I'm still waiting on the four books on Orthodoxy I recently ordered from there  Grin )
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« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2003, 03:52:49 PM »

CDHealy,

You may be right.  But didn't John the Baptist say WTTE: "I baptize with WATER; Christ baptizes with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT" (Matt 3:11)?  Perhaps this could indicate that the two--water and spirit baptism--are not always synonymous.  Also, the author of Hebrews (Paul?) in Heb 6:2 mentions the "doctrine of baptismS (plural)".  Could it be that he's referring to Spirit baptism and water baptism as being two different things?  Or is something else in view here?

I'm not trying to be contrary.  I'm just trying to come to terms with whether long my long held beliefs actually correspond to the truth.

God Bless.

John's Baptism was different than the Christian Baptism, it was a baptism of repentance to prepaire the way of the Lord, whereas in the Christian Baptism we meet the Holy Spirit in the waters, fulfilling this prophacy about Christ Baptizing with the Holy Spirit.  I don't really know much about this, but I think the reference to fire may also relate to receiving the Holy Spirit in Chrismation after Baptism, like how the Apostles received Him at Pentecost in the likeness of tounges of fire.

I'm guessing that what you're thinking about (correct me if I'm wrong), is how can a Baptism really have its affect on a child if that child is then raised without much contact with the Church or Christ, and only later if ever really takes Christianity seriously?  Well in Baptism we are restored, we enter the Church, and we are able to receive all the other Sacraments.  But if we don't continue in the Christian way, we will sin and become again separated from Christ by our sin, until we confess our sins to Christ before the preist and are absolved of our sins.  So if someone receives the grace of Baptism but doesn't use it, it doesn't necessarily have much affect on their lives since they're not using Confession & Communion to stay in the narrow way.  Christ talked about this when He washed St. Peter's feet.  He said that if we've already washed (Baptism), we don't need to wash again, we just need to have our feet washed (Confession), so in considering this issue it's important to consider the affect of Baptism and Confession together, otherwise it won't make sense & it'll sound like we're talking about magic.

In this book: http://suscopticdiocese.org/stmaryhouston/ss/comp_theology.pdf  there is a chapter about 20 pages long about the topic of Baptism, in reply to Evangelical arguments.

When the gentiles were given the Holy Spirit, and then St. Peter responded by Baptising them, this was not to become the normal way of doing things, rather it was an exception where God did things out of the normal order to show the early Church that it must include gentiles and not be a Jewish movement.
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« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2003, 04:48:40 PM »


I'm guessing that what you're thinking about (correct me if I'm wrong), is how can a Baptism really have its affect on a child if that child is then raised without much contact with the Church or Christ, and only later if ever really takes Christianity seriously?  Well in Baptism we are restored, we enter the Church, and we are able to receive all the other Sacraments.  But if we don't continue in the Christian way, we will sin and become again separated from Christ by our sin, until we confess our sins to Christ before the preist and are absolved of our sins.  So if someone receives the grace of Baptism but doesn't use it, it doesn't necessarily have much affect on their lives since they're not using Confession & Communion to stay in the narrow way.  Christ talked about this when He washed St. Peter's feet.  He said that if we've already washed (Baptism), we don't need to wash again, we just need to have our feet washed (Confession), so in considering this issue it's important to consider the affect of Baptism and Confession together, otherwise it won't make sense & it'll sound like we're talking about magic.

Funny you should mention this, because my wife (who is very skeptical of this whole Orthodoxy quest of mine) and I just had a similar conversation.  She implied (I think) that since we know of infants and adults who have been baptized yet show know evidence of Christ by their lives, that baptism is not that crucial, especially when compared to LIVING daily for Christ.  Again, I hope I'm not misrepresenting her views.  Maybe I should get her to read this thread, though I don't think she's too keen on the idea of confessing sins to a priest.  :-


Quote
When the gentiles were given the Holy Spirit, and then St. Peter responded by Baptising them, this was not to become the normal way of doing things, rather it was an exception where God did things out of the normal order to show the early Church that it must include gentiles and not be a Jewish movement.

That sounds reasonable, I guess.  It does seem like later on in Acts it was back to the more familiar pattern of baptism THEN receiving the Holy Spirit.   However, I can't shake the idea that the Spirit "blows where it wishes".

PS:  I have read that part of the booklet you linked and it makes some good points, I suppose.
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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2003, 04:54:02 PM »


Hi Thomas,

I will be put things in a little different context, so I hope no one takes offense. Wink

Orthodox take the Bible way more literally than many protestants do. Baptism being one example.

When we're baptized, we are baptized (ie: united) into the death, burial and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. (Romans 6:3-5) For us this is a literal event. We literally die with Christ, and literally rise with Him, although we do so Mysteriously. (hence the term Mystery)

Baptism joins us to the body of Christ which is the Church, and we put off our old man and put on the new man.

The age of person isn't relavent. For Christ said, "suffer the little children to come to me, and do not forbid them. For such is the kingdom of heaven."

The way we see it, is by not baptizing infants we'd be denying our children the Mysterious union with Christ and entrance into the Church.

Christ said, "Unless one is born of water AND the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." John 3:5

Yes, we have to be born of the Spirit, but this happens in water baptism. At a baptism its not "just" water...it LOOKS like just water. But we walk by faith and not by sight. We "see" someone being dunked in water, but at the same time, thingd happan that we can't see. At a baptism God uses material things, in this case water, and unites His Holy Spirit with the water. So at a baptism, at the invocation of the Holy Trinity, a person is being born not just of water, but water AND the Spirit.

John's baptism was just a baptism of water. But Christ's baptism is a baptism of water AND the Spirit. Its a simultaneous event. Where we are born from above. And Mysteriously die and rise with Christ, shedding our old man, and putting on the new. However, the grace of being born from above doesn't automatically make us perfect. We must be taught, and nurtured in how to USE the grace we receive at baptism.

As for baptizing infants...well obviously you believe Salvation is a free gift from God right? You believe there is nothing we can do to earn and achieve any merit to be worthy of Christ's sacrifice. If this is true, (or at least its the baptist motto) then why do baptists say we must 'achieve" understanding before we can be saved?

For low church protestants there is a certain amount of 'knowledge' one must gain, or achieve, before being able to be saved. Theres even a saying we must "come to a saving KNOWLEDGE of Jesus Christ"

To us, this doesn't make sense, for we can NEVER gain enough knowledge to acheive salvation. We dont even have the ability, as finite beings, to fully understand all of what Christ did for us.

For us, we can't DO anything to earn merit to be joined to Christ. This is in fact why we baptize infants. For as an infant, at baptism a person is freely receiving, without any merit whatsoever, the gift of being born from above.

An infant receives God's gift FREELY. In this way, God's grace, the Mystery of Illumination is truly a free gift, that is bestowed upon an infant, not earned by logically accepting what Christ did. Christ even said we must receive Him as a 'little child' (but in the Greek the context is that of a child less than 2 years old) so we're simply doing what He said.

An infant may not understand what is going on, but then again, do adults truly understand whats going on when they come to faith?

Now of course, as the child grows they may later choose to leave Christ and go there own way...but to us, its better to raise them as a complete and full member of the Church of Christ where they can receive the Mysteries and hopefully grow in the Faith rather than deprive them from being in the Church.

This probably wasn't much help as I'm not really thinking clearly today....so I apologize if I've only confused you...

In Christ, Chuck

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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2003, 08:09:33 PM »

ChuckS:

Here's a blurp about baptism from the EERDMAN'S HANDBOOK TO THE HISTORY OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY, 1977, p.9-10:

"Baptism was originally an occasion for witnessing to faith in Christ on conversion, and was the entrance ceremony to the church, identifying the person with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Only those who had been baptized took part in the communion service.  Then, from an early period, considerable preparation was considered before baptism took place.  Candidates often had a period of three years probation, to see if they were of good character.  Then came an instruction in Christian doctrine, often memorizing a short statement of Christian belief (the 'creed').  It was very likely that the creed began in the form of questions put to the candidate when he was baptized, and later became a statement of belief memorized and then recited at baptism.

Baptism was normally by immersion either in the river or in the bath-house of a large house.  The person was normally immersed three times, in response to the three questions about belief in the three persons of the Trinity.  From the early second century, baptism by pouring of water was allowed in the cases of emergency or sickness.  From the third century, the baptismal service also included the laying-on-of-hands by the chief minister of the church (the bishop), with a prayer that the candidate would receive the Holy Spirit.  

At first baptism was probably only administered to adults.  The first definite mention of child-baptism comes early in the third century, and infant baptism was common by the mid-third century.  Both adult and infant baptism were practised until the sixth century, after which only infant baptism was practised.

As early as the end of the second century some people had come to believe that baptism had a magical effect.  Tertullian mentions prayer to 'sanctify' the water, and from then on it was widely believed that baptism automatically washed away sins.  From this period, too, there arose the practise of exorcising the candidate before baptism, often accompanied with the annointing of oil."

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

There seems, then, to have been an evolution (IF this account is accurate) of both the meaning of baptism and the age when baptism occured as practised by the church.  

Just thought I'd share stuff I've read about the subject.  Comments?  Is the author of this way off base?
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« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2003, 08:52:19 PM »

Quote
Maybe I should get her to read this thread, though I don't think she's too keen on the idea of confessing sins to a priest.  

D.T. ,

Please point out to her that we confess our sins to Christ, with the priest as a witness, a representative of His Body.  To be sure, the priest is given authority by Christ to forgive us through proxy, via the Mystery of Confession and Absolution, but it is God who hears our Confession and forgives us.
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« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2003, 09:12:09 PM »


I think your "Eerdman's blurb" is wrong in its account of infant baptism, especially given the historical fact that Jews of the first century baptized the children of their converts (see the article on baptism in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church).

We know the Apostles baptized whole families and households in an era that pre-dated "the pill" by nearly two thousand years (see Acts 10:44-48; 11:14; 16:14-15, 33; 1 Cor. 1:16).

Are we to believe there were no young children or infants in all those households? Are we to believe that Jewish Christians would have found baptizing infants and young children unusual, given the Jewish practice of baptism mentioned above (not to mention circumcision)?

The account of the conversion of Cornelius and those with him in Acts 10 actually strengthens the idea of the sacramental and regenerative nature of baptism, not otherwise. Compare what is reported in Acts 10 to Jesus' description to Nicodemus of the new birth in John 3:3-8. In verse 5 Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. That is the normal order: water and the Spirit.

In the case of Cornelius and those with him that order was reversed. Why? Just as Jonathan said: because the Lord was making a point about the Gentiles, not about baptism. He had something to show the Jewish believers before the Gentiles could be made acceptable (in their eyes) for baptism.

But what happened immediately after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and the others? They were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). This was sacramentally necessary because, as our Lord said, one must be born of WATER and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God, even in extraordinary cases like the one involving Cornelius.

Christians are not saved by baptism alone nor by mere faith. Faith and baptism are just the beginnings of the lifelong process of salvation. Of course we all know folks who were born again in the waters of baptism yet show no evidence of Christ in their lives. I have also known plenty of persons who have at one time had faith and even prayed "The Sinner's Prayer" and yet later showed no signs of Christ in their lives.

Faith first and baptism after is the normal procedure for adult converts. To claim faith yet fail to be baptized is to belie that faith and to stop short of the new birth by water and the Spirit. To deny the efficacy of baptism and to make of it a mere symbolic ceremony is to deny the plain teaching of the Bible and the Church and that God makes use of physical means to impart grace.

St. Paul called the children of believers holy (1 Cor. 7:14). How are they "holy" if they are not fit to be baptized and to enter the Church? How are they holy if they remain unbaptized?

Remember that when St. Peter called on his audience to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), he also told them "the promise is to you and to your children" (Acts 2:39).

Abraham received the sign of the Old Covenant, circumcision, because of his faith, yet it was applied to his infant male children (and the infant male children of his descendants) while they were as yet incapable of exercising a like faith. So baptism, the sign of the New Covenant, is applied to the children of believers because of their (the parents') faith.

Well, I could come up with more, but you have probably already heard or read most of it. Baptism is no mere symbol. It is the means of the new birth, just as Ananias told St. Paul:

"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).

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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2003, 09:38:46 PM »

Linus,

Very well put.  I guess the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church would be a more accurate reference work than Eerdman's (which appears to have a Protestant bias).

Oblio,

Good point about confession.  That does seem to be the literal sense of John  20:23.


Well that's if for tonight, and for now I bid "adieu".
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« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2003, 03:31:57 AM »

DT,
if I may, I would like to direct you to St. John Chrysostom's homilies on Acts 10 and Acts 15. Better to hear the passages explained by someone much graced with the Holy Spirit than by an unworthy sinner such as myself.

http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-11/npnf1-11-31.htm
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-11/npnf1-11-39.htm

You mention that your wife is not too keen on confessing her sins to a priest, perhaps you yourself have certain misgivings about this. You are not alone Grin as it can be a painful process as can much of the daily struggle to become like Christ. But ask her, if she can, to put aside her fears and anxieties for a moment and consider how beneficial and effective it is.

You are accountable not just to God, but to someone who is flesh and blood who you see on a regular basis. It is one thing being accountable to God who we cannot see and another thing entirely being accountable to someone we can see. It should not be so, but God understands our human frailty and our inability to see things of the Spirit clearly. Thus in His mercy, He gives us flesh to work with flesh.

As wayward children, we do not always discern God's voice when he speaks to us and corrects us. We have no such excuse when our priest corrects us and there will be times where a strong word from our priest is necessary, particularly if we are deluding ourselves about the severity of some sin in our lives. Also, if there are recurring sins that we struggle with, our priest is able to give us 'exercises' to perform to help strengthen us towards overcoming those sins, whether that be fasting from specific things, a particular rule of prayer to follow, avoiding certain things (or people) which are detrimental to our spiritual growth, or not partaking of the eucharist for a time to help us better understand the enormity of the sin we are dealing with. These things are not punishments for our sins but rather spiritual exercises to strengthen us, rather like the training and exercise an athlete undertakes to overcome his weak areas.

Nothing does more to wear down our pride and help us grow in humility than confessing our sins to another person. When it comes to pride, I need all the help I can get.

All of the above we could get directly from God if only we were not so deaf, blind and simply unwilling to listen. God is merciful though and meets us in our need through the priests who have been given this gift.

Something else that might help is if your wife can understand that the role of the priest is not to command or to lord over his congregation, but rather he is their servant, given the task of shepherding his flock. Unless you are unlucky enough to run into a bad priest, he will have nothing uppermost in his mind than your salvation and will speak and act accordingly. A priest who is also a confessor has an enormous responsibility and is fully accountable to God for everything he says to his spiritual children and he knows it (Mark 9:42 "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.)

I hope was helpful.

John.
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« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2003, 12:14:33 PM »

I've heard people describe the difference between RC and Orthodox confession before (something about being a punishment vs helping/spiritual exercises).  Someone more eloquent than I care to explain?  Thanks.
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« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2003, 12:20:08 PM »

Can't help with the orthodox pov .

You might like my Spiritual Director's 'definition', bearing in mind that I was a nurse.

He suggested I told him all the signs and symptoms
He would then make the diagnosis and prescribe the medicine/treatment.
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« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2003, 01:11:56 PM »

Can't help with the orthodox pov .

You might like my Spiritual Director's 'definition', bearing in mind that I was a nurse.

He suggested I told him all the signs and symptoms
He would then make the diagnosis and prescribe the medicine/treatment.

Slave, it sounds like your Spiritual Director would make a good candidate for the Orthodox Catechumenate!   Wink Grin Tongue

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« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2003, 02:24:59 PM »

Hypo,

He has been  great as an SD but I honestly don't think he approves of my Eastern tilt Sad

At the moment I have a BIG problem and I can't help feeling that may be , just may be.........
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« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2003, 02:40:20 PM »



Hi Thomas,

That 'blurb' thingy isn't accurate at all! All the Fathers confessed infant baptism. I will try to find a site with quotes from the Church Fathers (pre 300AD) on this....

I remember I was shocked when I first starting reading the Fathers who all professed infant baptism but they most certainly did. it didn't evolve like this protestant article said...(if it did then that brings up a whole different issue regarding the Church itself)

www.ccel.org is a great site to read all the Fathers writings, but of course one has to go through every single thing as they're not laid out in subject format.

I'll try to get you a link with direct quotes from the Fathers on this issue. I can't recall now for sure, but I think St. Ignatius talked about infant baptism (100AD or so) but I'm not positive. (I know he absolutely believed in the priesthood though)

Again, sorry I dont have references. I didn't save all the websites I went to from my journey, though I now wish I would have. I will try to find a link for you though...

As for confession, we dont confess to the priest. We confess to God in the presence of a priest, who becomes a spiritual guide, who can give us practical  advice to help us overcome our sins and addictions etc...

Its nothing like in the catholic church. the priest isn't behind a screen, seperated as some all mighty powerful judge. Rather he stands next to us or slightly behind us and we both face the Icon of Christ (in the Greek custom. Different cultures vary in minor details here)

But we definitely do not confess "to a priest"....and certainly its nothing like in the catholic church. For us, our priest becomes our spiritual guide. It becomes a very personal relationship.

Hope this helps some...

In Christ, Thomas


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« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2003, 04:01:06 PM »

Again, I think you are off, Chuck. Gregory the Theologian, as just one example, had to fight tooth and nail to get people to accept early baptisms. He wrote an entire Oration refuting the varous objections that people brought forth for waiting until the end of their life to get baptised. Constantine waited until the end of his life. Theodosius waited until what he thought was the end (he was very very ill and decided to get baptized just in case he died). Gregory the Theologian himself, though having two Christian parents (one Christian parent at birth, I think), didn't get baptized until after he almost died at sea and got scared into getting baptized. Infant baptism was always an option, but it wasn't always the main option exercized.
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« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2003, 04:16:50 PM »

Justin, AFAIK, the delays in the Baptisms at this stage in the lives of the Christian journeys of these great Saints, e.g., St. Emperor Constantine the Great (who was baptized by an Arian bishop on his deathbed), was due to the fact that the Mystery of Repentance and Confession, that "Second Baptism of Tears," if you will, could only be received once in the Early Church.  No one wanted to hedge his bets on having his sins remitted, so they delayed their Baptisms as long as possible, for Baptism is also for the remission of sins!  The remission of sins in Confession is an extension of the forgiveness of sins in Baptism.  (I wish I could express myself better, but I hope the gist of what I'm saying is getting across.)

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« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2003, 04:28:19 PM »

Okay...now I'm really confused.  I've seen some people reason that infant baptism was the practice from the beginning and others claim it was not.    Huh

I guess I've got some investigating to do.
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« Reply #21 on: July 31, 2003, 04:49:45 PM »

Okay...now I'm really confused.  I've seen some people reason that infant baptism was the practice from the beginning and others claim it was not.    Huh

I guess I've got some investigating to do.

If you think you're confused...... Grin

I guess we could say that there was a certain "tension" in the Early Church between what was preached, i.e., infant Baptism, and what was practiced.   Some members of the "choir" weren't in the Church to receive the message, or simply were shutting their ears to it.  Still there were many infant Baptisms.  Remember: Baptism is an unrepeatable Sacramental Mystery, and, at least in the Early Church, Confession could be received only once also.

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« Reply #22 on: July 31, 2003, 04:51:32 PM »

I'm not sure that I do, hypo. The fact is (I say fact because I believe what I've read in the Fathers) Christian families didn't always baptize their children. In his Oration on baptism (Oration 39, 40, or 41, I forget which off the top of my head) Gregory the Theologian even had to combat the idea that you couldn't have sex after baptism!! It is totally anachronistic to sit here as arm chair/internet theologians and say "oh it was so clear, I can't be wrong, look at these patristic quotes I can show you". Smiley

Thomas, perhaps the confusion is in whether it was a requirement or not. Many people use scriptural texts, for example to back up their claims that the Church believed in infant baptism early. This is not necessarily wrong. However, just because the Church did baptize infants, that doesn't mean that everyone, everywhere, and in every circumstance did so. You could just as easily find texts in the early Church about martyrdom, and claim that all Christians who were persecuted and tried all willingly went to be martyred, and construct a whole paper out of such a belief. As the saints who fled (such as Athanasius) show, however, martyrdom was an option, not the requirement. Likewise, frequent (daily) communion was an option, but not the requirement. Priestly celibacy was an option, but not a requirement. There are lots of examples of flexibility having to do with sacramental things. Thomas, whenver you hear things such as "for 1,500 years all Christians did  this, but then those other people..." ...beware. It might be true, but far too often people who have read very little of history use such absolute-sounding arguments to support their weak and crumbling assertions. Again, sometimes it's true, but beware. And always triple-check anything you hear online. Especially when you hear it from people like me who post on fora.

I think it's time for me (as well) to take a break. Some of these claims are making my head hurt, though they help me to understand why my spiritual father is so wary of online fora and lists! Wink
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« Reply #23 on: July 31, 2003, 05:14:33 PM »

I guess my point is, if no one can conclusively demonstrate what the correct manner of baptism is from history, why not stick with using the "old Scripture plus Holy Spirit" (plus a healthy dose of Tradition with a big "T") to guide my beliefs?  It seems that many people WITHIN the "one, apostolic church" couldn't even agree who could be baptized or what was it's exact sigificance.  Is it that big of a stretch to conclude that one is justified in staying in whatever denomination he's already in as these denominations merely reflect the wide variety of baptismal beliefs present in the one "undivided" church?  Why shouldn't I remain a Baptist, or at least join the Church of Christ?  :-

Later...
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« Reply #24 on: July 31, 2003, 05:39:40 PM »

Quote
Is it that big of a stretch to conclude that one is justified in staying in whatever denomination he's already in as these denominations merely reflect the wide variety of baptismal beliefs present in the one "undivided" church?  Why shouldn't I remain a Baptist, or at least join the Church of Christ?

But I have a suspicion that Baptists, with their Believers Baptism, are separated far from the East when it comes to what Baptism means.  So it is not just the timing of the event, but what it is, and Who is intimately involved in the rite, that separates us from Baptist and many other Protestants(as you hinted at).  And that still leaves the other Mysteries untouched that should be considered, Communion,  Confession, Unction, Ordination ...
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« Reply #25 on: July 31, 2003, 05:44:52 PM »

Quote
Why shouldn't I remain a Baptist, or at least join the Church of Christ?

Because they aren't the real body of Christ, the real Church of Christ. I know that probably sounds arrogant, but that's the Orthodox position. If and when you believe that, then you will have no choice but to convert to Orthodoxy. As long as you see Orthodoxy as one option among any (perhaps better than all, perhaps better than some, perhaps no different), you probably won't convert. The one thing that helped me when I was leaving Wesleyanism was the question "I know God founded a Church or started a body (whatever term you want to use)... where is it?" Is the Baptist and Church of Christ that Church? Does that Church still exist? Perhaps there was confusion in the early Church, or perhaps you mistake a plethora of choices and think it is confusion, I'm not sure. Either way, if you can admit that it was the Church--for good or ill--then where is that Church today?
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« Reply #26 on: July 31, 2003, 05:59:27 PM »

OK, I suspose I have to weigh in here.

I will not claim to be an expert on the church fathers by any means. But one thing that is being seen here is a constant battle against scrupulosity. All these people waiting to be baptized on their deathbeds, the "no sex" business, and a host of other issues are people making up rules out of scrupulosity. That's why the church fathers have to keep referring to them-- they may have been common practices, but they were bad common practices. And all of them, it seems to me, occurred against a background in a belief in baptismal regeneration.

The one thing I'm pretty sure you won't find in the church fathers is anyone saying that infants can't be baptized. And I'm sure you won't see arguments for rebaptism either. The various arguments from silence and from scrupulous practices just aren't strong. Even the argument that infant baptisms weren't done at first isn't very strong; people didn't express an explicit doctrine of the trinity for a long time either.
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« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2003, 09:37:12 PM »

Today a Christian couple could chose not to have their baby baptised until later, if for example they were honest with themselves that they weren't gonig to make the commitment to raise their child in the Church, and thier preist woudl probably tell them it's wrong to withhold it from the child, but they could do.  The fact that in the Early Church some people didn't get their kids Baptised doesn't indicate that it wasn't the practice of the Church, just that people did that.  Just like a priest would correct people today, we have examples of Fathers writting to correct the wrong idea that we shouldn't baptize babies, which arouse not out of impiety, but as Keble said, from being scrupulous.  If anyone has a quote from a Father saying that it's proper to delay Baptism, that'd be a different story, but if we're just talking about what people did as evidenced by Father correcting them, it doesn't really mean anything since in every period there've been a large number of people doing things contrary to the teaching of the Church, and the Church working to correct them.

Doubting Thomas, even if you aren't sure if the Baptism of infants is proper or not, that isn't as important an issue as what Baptism is... if you find that Baptism is a Sacrament, then you would need a minister of the Sacraments, a priest in Apostolic Succession in order to receive this Sacrament and the others.  So whether the Holy Spirit works through the priest to regenerate the person being Baptised and bring them into the Church or not is a much bigger question than should this be done to infants.
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« Reply #28 on: August 01, 2003, 06:16:31 PM »

DT -

Remember there will always be differences between what the faith is and what some Christians do.

I don't think there is any confusion among Orthodox Christians about what baptism is, what it affects, and who is a fitting subject for it.

I recently saw on tv an old lady in a backwoods Bulgarian church beating herself on the forehead with a large icon. The news commentator said that it was some sort of act of penance.

Does that mean it is Orthodox dogma for babushki to pummel themselves with sacred images?

Don't think so.

Just because some folks had weird ideas about when to get baptized or whether or not they should have their children baptized does not mean that all that time the Church had no idea of the true doctrine of baptism.
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« Reply #29 on: August 02, 2003, 05:34:11 PM »


Doubting Thomas,


I couldn't really find what I was looking for but I did find this link:


http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7067.asp

Its one of the first articles I read on Orthodox baptism...its pretty good, but it doesn't have an exhuastive line of quotes from early Fathers. (it mentions briefly the topic paradosis brought up and gives a good, but brief answer to ti as well)

I see Jonathan is Coptic Orthodox so I don't think I'll be deemed as a heretic for saying this.

But may I suggest Thomas that you try and find articles written from the Coptic Church or the Syrian Church. (The Syrian Church even has marital ties with the Antiochians) They seem to be less "contemplative" and less philisophical and much more practical on describing things than many Eastern Orthodox do.

Dont get me wrong, I was Chrismated in the Greek Church, and have come to appreciate much of the philisophical line of thinking rather quickly, but I still cannot accept large doses of it at one time :=)

And while I do understand, with what Paradosis is saying, too me, its just all too "Greek" and too philisophical for me! Wink

I think what Paradosis is saying is that from early on, even the first Century, there were many competing gnostic groups and false churches that proclaimed this or that belief, that the True Church had to fight off. Baptizing infants was one them...but to my limited knowledge the first person to challenge infant baptism didn't come along until the very early 3rd century...(maybe late 2nd...) I think it was Turtellian (sp?) when he for a time went to one of the gnostic groups.

To my knowledge before this time no one every challeneged it...

And if Baptism is the New Covenant comparison to circumcision, then infants had to have always been baptized. If not then I may have a made a  huge mistake in coming into a religion that developed new beliefs over the centuries...or didn't understand what the Apostles "really" taught until 100's of years after their deaths. this of course, (at least I dont think) is what anyone is advocating...just that I may make it sound simplier than things really were. But again, this is the "Greek" thinking that I was refering to...

The Copts and Syrians describe things way more practically. (which probably the reason for the confusion in 451 to begin with)

Anyway I hope this helps..and doesn't offend anyone. Though I probably have...LOL!


In Christ, Chuck




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« Reply #30 on: August 04, 2003, 03:54:29 AM »

Something else that I just remembered and wonder why no one else thought of it. It wasn't enough to be born a Jew to be Jewish, you HAD to be circumcised and it HAD to happen eight days after being born. I can't imagine the church thinking any differently about baptising infants. Certainly for Jews who became Christians, I suspect that baptism simply replaced circumcision.

John.
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« Reply #31 on: August 04, 2003, 09:38:59 PM »

Something else that I just remembered and wonder why no one else thought of it. It wasn't enough to be born a Jew to be Jewish, you HAD to be circumcised and it HAD to happen eight days after being born. I can't imagine the church thinking any differently about baptising infants. Certainly for Jews who became Christians, I suspect that baptism simply replaced circumcision.

John.

Exactly right, John.

Since Jews were so accustomed to thinking of infants as fit subjects for membership in the covenant community, one would think that such a big change - limiting membership to the rationally consenting - would have merited some sort of remark or command from Christ or the Apostles; yet no such restriction is mentioned in Holy Writ or the Apostolic Tradition. Nowhere do we find a command NOT to baptize infants, or the severely retarded, or anyone else incapable of giving their assent to the Gospel.

Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.
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« Reply #32 on: August 05, 2003, 08:27:30 AM »

A brief statement on "Baptism and early Christianity" would be as follows (imho)...

i) in principle, and in practice, infant Baptism always existed in the Church.

ii) during the pre-Nicean period, and to an extent even well beyond, penances were extremely severe, and many grave sins carried prohibition from the sacraments for years, or in some cases, until one was on their deathbed.

iii)  When the Church became a "legal" entity, it could be argued that the quality of converts in many cases declined.  This is not to say they were all insincere, simply that it's much easier to enter a religion in which one is not basically signing a potential death sentence (as was the case of most pre-Nicean Christians, depending on which wave of persecution they were living through.)  Simply put, when they're feeding believers to lions and crucifying them publically, there's little room for mediocrity - it's an all or nothing proposition (as it should be.)  However, humanly speaking, peace can have the sad consequence of inviting mediocrity.

iv)  Given the strict penances which were handed out for sins, it is understandable how people aware of their weaknesses, or wavering in their level of committment, would get wary of being baptized until the last moment.  I'm not defending the reasoning behind such a decision, just saying it is "understandable."

v)  Precisely for the above reason, many people delayed their Baptism (even pious Christian parents would delay their child's Baptisms.)  It took a great deal of preaching from many holy men to shake people of this practice.  More leniency in the administration of penances probably helped reverse this practice (of delaying Baptism.)

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« Reply #33 on: August 05, 2003, 08:44:45 AM »

Seraphim,

That seems to be a good historical perspective.
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« Reply #34 on: August 05, 2003, 09:56:43 AM »

Greetings Seraphim,

thank you for your perspective on this as it has helped clear up any loose ends I had dangling in my mind. Not that it was ever really an issue for me.

I would appreciate your thoughts on another matter. It occured to me that one of the reasons the apostles were commanded to first take the Gospel to the Jews was the necessity to have an unbroken liturgical tradition. After all, the Jews knew how to worship God. God had pretty much described everything to them down to the last detail, whereas the Gentiles had no such tradition apart from their pagan worship. So it makes sense to me that God would first provide a foundation based on the existing Jewish traditions that Gentile believers could then be brought into, rather than the apostles having to start from scratch like so many "bible based" churches are today.

Am I way off base or is there some truth to this?

John the unwashed.
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« Reply #35 on: August 16, 2003, 02:19:54 AM »

I would like to reply to the first posting without (mea culpa!) having read the replies that have followed.

There is an energy-ontology paradigm; and there is a juidical paradigm.

In the latter, Baptism is an ordinance (to be obeyed).  Sin is a breach of a command; matter doesn't count because it's not spiritual.  Grace is a juridical judgment that a sinner is virtually righteous.  This is a juridical Gnosticism.  Sin is either inherited "by natural generation" or "imputed" to all newborns (though Deut. 24:16 and other passages tell us that we are guilty only of our OWN sins.  (This makes God the Author of sin.)  (Ps. 50:5 speaks of the author's mother's sins, but doesn't say that that makes him sinful.)

There is the Orthodox paradigm in which Grace is uncreated Energy--God's Life--which the baptized ontologically share as members of Christ.  Sin is (as Federica Matthewes-Green puts it in her article "Infection or Infraction?") an (ontological) pollution.  Salvation is receiving back (in Baptism, the resurrection of the soul) the Assimliation to God (Gen. 1:26) lost by the first humans--an energy word in Greek indicating that it energizes the dynameis or capacities of logos "reason" and freechoice of the Icon (Image) of God to act is ways pleasing to God.  Its loss is inherited by newborns, as is satan-imposed death.

Our paradigms impose meanings on the words of the Bible--and exclude other senses.  Your choice, Doubting Thom, is to find the paradigm that existed in the Greek-speaking world of the first century . . . and then go with it.  Paul uses energy terms 26 times; James, once.  

If you get a translation that is true to the Greek paradigm of the Apostles (e.g THE ORTHODOX NEW TESTAMENT in 2 vols by the sisters of the Holy Apostles Monastery), you will see what the Bible means--not what Latin and Protestant mis-trsnslations say.  

As long as you are in the paradigm you more or less describe, you will not understand the thinking of a writer in Greek in the first two centuries of the Christian Era.
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« Reply #36 on: August 16, 2003, 10:04:21 AM »

.

Our paradigms impose meanings on the words of the Bible--and exclude other senses.  Your choice, Doubting Thom, is to find the paradigm that existed in the Greek-speaking world of the first century . . . and then go with it.  Paul uses energy terms 26 times; James, once.  


I have to admit, Afanasiy, that even before I started seriously considering Orthodoxy, I had pretty much rejected the Augustinian version of "original sin".  I have found that my view on free will and inherited "sin" matches that of the early Fathers as opposed that of Calvinists.  Thanks for the reply. Smiley
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« Reply #37 on: August 16, 2003, 03:00:52 PM »

Dear in CHrist Doubting Thomas,

    If you wish to read about paradigms or the heresy of inherited guilt, go to
http://www.orlapubs.com/index.html
and
http://www.orlapubs.com/TOC.html

Afan. B.
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« Reply #38 on: August 16, 2003, 03:25:52 PM »

While the dynamis (potential) of a valid Baptism is not repeated, the last part of Baptism (the Chrismation) can be repeated to energize the potential, e.g., of a lapsed Orthodox Baptism when the penitent repents are returns to the fold.  The energization of Chrismation makes a merely valid ceremony teleion (fulfilled) and aftentikon (real).   How this applies to a Latin Baptism is for the hierarchs to decide.  But a Baptist Baptism is avowedly juridical (an "ordinance" to be obeyed) and of course makes no claim to have the dynamis of an Orthodox Mystery.  So the Orthodox have no problem with agreeing to that.

Afanasiy B.
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