Monday, September 14, 2009

Response to M~C~3~3 regarding FBC March 29, 2009 Baptism Comments

Thank you M~C~3~3 for your comments on my blog posting.  I am very impressed with Pastor Carlo's call to evangelism (his words remind me very much of those spoken by John Paul the Great and our current pope, Benedict XVI), and I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.  I only wish more Catholics would heed their Church's call to evangelize, and I hope one day to be united as Christian brothers so that we can focus our evangelization efforts toward common doctrinal and moral goals.  After all, isn't it odd that Christians find themselves in need of evangelizing other Christians?  Christ's high priestly prayer in John 17 implies that if we are united, we will present a stronger Christian message to the world.

My response to your comments will have two parts.  In the first part, I'll respond in line to your comments.  My main goal here will be to help you understand that the Church doesn't teach what you seem to think it teaches.  And this, my friend, is cause to rejoice.  Certainly, there are true differences between Christian denominations and the Catholic Church, but I see no reason to allow false differences--differences that simply do not correspond to the reality of what the Catholic Church teaches--to provide cause for more division.  Just like you would not want me pulling people from the Baptist church into the Catholic Church by teaching them that Baptists believe Jesus was only a prophet and not really God incarnate, I would hope that members of Fairwinds Baptist would not try to pull Catholics out of the Catholic Church by misrepresenting the Catholic faith to her members.  Sadly, having listened to around a hundred Fairwinds sermons over the internet, I can attest to the fact that the Catholic faith has been misrepresented on many occasions, this past Sunday being the most recent.

I do believe that each of us must be committed to knowing and understanding each others' faiths as best as we can, and to the extent that I ever misrepresent the faith of any non-Catholic, I humbly ask for both forgiveness and correction.  I would also invite you to form your understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches by taking some time to read her official teachings (found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) and books written by Catholic authors, especially those of which joined the Catholic Church after being Protestant.  If you do this, you will realize that you have been misinformed about the teachings of the Catholic Church.  In fact, one reason that so many Protestant pastors have joined the Catholic Church in the last decade is because they realize that the church they were "protesting" was a straw man--not the real Catholic Church.  In other words, I would join you in protesting any church that taught that water alone saved us, but such a church, to my knowledge, simply does not exist.  And for this, we can rejoice.

Hopefully, my response below will clear up similar confusions.  The entire point of the response is to lead toward greater unity between us as fellow Christians by wiping away sources of false division.  Let us pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit that we may find Christ, who is Truth himself. 

Sir, as I agree that his baptisms are short, and not as meaningful as they must be,
Not to worry...Pastor Carlo certainly treats the ritual with respect.  Understandably, people will take different approaches to the ritual depending on what they believe occurs during it.  The question, of course, is: what is baptism? 
I do not agree that we are all saved by waters.
I agree with you.  In fact, I'd say that no one is saved by waters.  If we were, I would have been saved the first time I took a bath.
Don't take what He says out of context. I am a Baptist Christian. And I mean not to argue, but to help you understand. We’re not saved by waters, but by the grace of God.
I agree that we are not saved by waters (see above) and I agree that we are saved 100% by God's grace.  Why do I believe these things?  Because the Catholic Church teaches them to me through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (which could be thought of as the authoritative, historical interpretation of Sacred Scripture passed down from the apostles, to whom the full deposit of faith was given.)
Note well: when the Catholic Church teaches that baptism saves us (as our first pope did in 1 Peter 3:21), it is not saying that water saves us.  It is, however, saying that the Spirit that hovers over the waters--and that Spirit is God Himself--saves us.  Thus, to say that Baptism saves us is to say that God saves us.  Notice that Baptism "works" because the "waters of baptism" are no ordinary waters.  Rather, it is the Holy Spirit that gives life--and it is the Holy Spirit that hovers over the waters that makes baptism efficacious.  It just so happens that Jesus taught that we would be saved when we were born [again] of water and spirit (John 3:5)--water AND spirit, united from the beginning (literally, in Genesis 1) of the first creation AND the new creations that we become when we are saved.  The Baptist position assumes that the spirit does NOT hover over the water, and thus baptism imparts no grace.  Thus, Baptist theology separates two things that we see intimately bound throughout all of Scripture.  Of course, grace only comes from God, and it is God who uses baptism as the instrument to give us the grace of justification for the first time.  Thus, Baptism does not contradict the idea that we are saved 100% by God's grace.  Baptism is the very action of God on our souls.  Baptism is not a human work; it is God's work.

There is a huge difference between waters saving us and God saving us.

Remember, baptism=water and Spirit.  Most Baptist preachers repeatedly leave out the Spirit part when they talk about baptism, so of course they say that Baptism does not save.  Water alone doesn't save anyone.  Baptism saves only because it has God in it.  The Sacraments are literally full of God.  Just like Jesus spit in a man's eyes to heal him, He uses matter imbued with Himself (His Holy Spirit) to sanctify our souls.  When it comes to salvation, I could care less about water (though a shower a day is a good thing), but if you gave me a chance to take a bath in the Holy Spirit that would cleanse my soul from any stain of original sin, no army could hold me back.  That is why Catholics renew their baptismal vows every time they enter the church by blessing themselves with holy water.  We remind ourselves that we have been buried and raised with Christ in Baptism, and we recommit our lives to Christ and His Holy Cross every time we sign our bodies with this same cross.  (Of course, I am a sinner, like all my Catholic brothers and sisters, and I constantly need to convert my mind and heart closer to the Lord.  Please don't be scandalized if you meet Catholics who don't live up to the grandeur of their faith.)
God may use waters, by all means, but if you want to quote scripture, Romans 10:13 states that whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Also in Romans, Chapter 6 verse 23, It says "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." And finally Romans 5:9, "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
I love each of those verses, but (and I know this will be difficult to understand at first) none of them contradict the Catholic position on Baptism.  In Baptism, we call on the name of the Lord.  In Baptism, we receive the gift of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ.  In Baptism, we are justified by His blood. 
Very often in Protestant theology, a wedge is driven between grace and the sacraments.  This creates an either/or mentality, such that we can EITHER be saved by "calling on the name of the Lord" OR by the sacraments, EITHER by "Jesus's blood" OR by the sacraments.
As a Catholic, however, I believe that Jesus blood IS IN THE SACRAMENTS, especially the gift of the Eucharist, which we believe IS the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Himself!  Catholics read the Bible wearing "both/and" glasses, not "either/or" glasses.  Thus, we create a theology that accounts for EVERYTHING the Bible has to say about salvation, not just a few selected verses that this or that person picks out. 
Now sir, please, tell me what part of those verses says saved by waters?
That's easy: none of them do.  Now, can I ask you why I can only form my view of Baptism by reading those verses and not some other ones such as Romans 6:1-22, Titus 3:5, John 1:29-34, Col. 2:11-12, and many others?

If I read correctly, the gift of God if eternal life through Jesus Christ.
You do read correctly, and the Catholic Church teaches this very fact.  To verify this, simply read the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC from here on].  (Please see the link On Grace, Justification, and Merit down the right column of this page.)
A gift is not a requirement to be baptized, a gift is something given for free. 
Baptism is not a work that humans do to get the gift.  Baptism IS the gift.  Baptism is given by Jesus for free.  Baptism is Jesus's work on our souls.  Most Baptists I know say that Jesus works on the soul when a person first accepts Him as Lord and Savior, and I would agree that a person can't even proclaim that apart from God's grace.  Yet, the Bible also teaches us that we must be "born of water and spirit" (John 3:5), which, when read in context of all of John chapters 1-4, refers to baptism.  (That's why so many Protestants who also go by the "Bible alone" believe in baptismal regeneration.)

Though none of us deserve it, we still are given the gift. But the difference is who does and does not accept it. And as Romans 5:9 says also, we are saved from God's wrath (which will be His final judgment sending those who are not saved by Christ to hell) by him, Jesus, God, Christ. I did not see it saying, you are saved from wrath by waters.
Once again, I agree that we are not saved from wrath by waters.  Jesus saves us from the wrath of sin (including original sin, which is referred to as "condemnation for all" by St. Paul in Romans 5) by giving us the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5).  For two thousand years, Christians have understood this phrase to refer to Baptism.  These include Christians whose teachers were the very apostles themselves!  (Implied in your comments is that I should follow the novel interpretations of someone reading the Bible almost two thousand years after it was written instead of those interpretations that were received and passed on by the students of the very people who wrote the Bible.  More on this later.)
If you’re looking for salvation in waters, then I suggest finding a new religion.
I wouldn't know where to begin, since I know of no religion that teaches we are saved by water (apart from the Holy Spirit hovering over it).  Happily, I'm not looking for salvation in waters.
On top of all of this, you’ve taken the verse 1 Peter 3:21 out of context entirely.
Hmm...I've read the context of this verse many times.  But I'm very interested to know your thoughts on the matter.  I'm curious how the context can turn the clear expression that "baptism now saves you" to mean "baptism does not save you" or "baptism symbolizes salvation that has already occurred."
You cannot take one verse out of the Bible and decide that it is correct in itself.
As a Catholic, I believe the Bible is inerrant and God-breathed.  Thus, every verse of the Bible is correct both in itself and in its context.  However, these verses have to be (properly) interpreted for their (true) meaning to leave the page and enter our minds.  One of the beautiful things about Catholic theology is that it allows us to understand all the verses of the Bible.   The Catholic Church teaches that baptism now saves us, and the Bible teaches that baptism now saves us.  I don't see the contradiction.  I DO see a contradiction, however, between Catholic teaching and the Baptist interpretation of the Bible.
That verse comes from a chapter of thoughts as I am sure you know. So why not read verses 19, 20, and 21. “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (continues in next comment)
The thing I love about the context of 1 Peter 3:21 is that it strengthens, not weakens, the Catholic understanding of v. 21 itself.  Look, we have an Old Testament "type" or "pre-figurement" of baptism.  We have waters that wash away sin, and we people saved through (or "by") the waters in a boat (which represents the Christian Church), after which a dove (which represents the Holy Spirit) lands on those who have been saved.  Once again, we find water and Spirit put together in the context of salvation, and we also find that God swears an oath, making a covenant with Noah.  Do you know what the Latin word for swearing an oath is?  Sacramentum.  In the sacrament of Baptism, God swears to each of us an oath just like he did to Noah, though the occasion of this oath is even more powerful.  God recreates our souls, making us a new creation!  And this results not from the water washing off outer filth, but because the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters enters our soul and becomes the appeal of a good conscience before God.

So, the context of verses 19-21 support the Catholic interpretation.  We have water and Spirit, the water of the flood washing away sin, and people being saved through water and receiving the dove of peace.  In the New Covenant, we are spiritually saved through baptism, during which the spirit washes away interior sin and we receive the dove of the Holy Spirit.  
Can people reject this interpretation?  Yes.  But in doing so, they are rejecting the very interpretation passed down from the beginning of Christianity.  But you don't have to take my word for it.  Simply read the volumes of writing produced by the students of the apostles.  You'll quickly get a strong sense for how the earliest Christians believed.  When you read them, ask yourself if they sound more like Baptists or like Catholics.  I think you may be surprised at the answer.  If you click the "New Advent" link on the right side of this page, and then click the "Fathers" tab at the top right of that website, you will have the equivalent of 38 volumes of writings from the early church.  These writings are not substitutes for Scripture, but they do tell you how the first Christians understood Scripture.  To read the early church fathers is another way in which Catholics read the Bible "in context."  We read the Bible in its historical context.
Now, there is a study and idea that during the 3 days that Christ was dead, he was in hell preaching to the people who died during the Genesis flood.
May I ask whose study?  While I'm not rejecting any study out of hand (St. Paul commands us to "test everything, holding on to what is good"), I do wonder if this study is authoritative.  Or, is it some person's non-binding, fallible interpretation?  Since you are borrowing quite heavily from Pastor Carlo's recent Sunday morning sermon, you might ask him what study he was referring to, if it is the same one to which you refer.  I would recommend testing the author to see if what he preaches is constant with the historical Christian interpretation of the Bible passed down from the apostles.

Thus being the “spirits in prison” from verse 19. And as we read on, we see in verse 20, that the longsuffering of the Lord ran out for those disobedient in the Genesis Flood. The long suffering of God was about 120 years long for them I believe, during which Noah was building an ark. While building this ark he was preaching to the people, pleading with them to trust God and join him on the ark, but they did not. And as the flood came, they asked to join him, and they could not. [*] If you think about this, Jesus preached unto the people. He showed them his way, God’s way, and many refused and still refuse today. But on judgment day, they will plead that they want to join him in heaven, like the people wanted to join Noah on the ark, but they cannot.
Most of what you say above is correct, insofar as you summarize what Peter wrote.  But notice what happens at the asterisk: your summary ends and your interpretation begins.  It is precisely at this point where you begin to diverge from the connection that Peter is making between the great flood and Baptism.  
While it is true that many people refuse God when they hear His Word during life and are cast to hell when they die, Peter isn't using the story leading up to Noah (and family/animals) getting on the boat as an allegory for the particular judgment that we will each receive when we die.  I would not (nor would the Catholic Church) deny that this could not be an allegorical application of the text.  (Update 09/15/09: Sorry, I meant to say that I would not deny that this passage COULD be an allegorical application of these verses.)

But, the primary connection made in the text itself is between the FLOOD and BAPTISM!  The fact is, people were once saved during the flood.  Next, Peter says that Baptism, which corresponds to the flood, now saves us.  But NOT by physically washing away sin but rather by spiritually washing it away.  Yet, we humans are not embodied souls.  We have soul and flesh--spirit and matter--and Jesus is constantly joining these two elements together throughout the gospels for the salvation of souls.  That is why Christians for two thousand years have thought of Baptism in spiritual terms, even though it also involves matter.  It is Christ who is performing a circumcision of the heart made without hands.  It is God's work, not ours.  It is His grace and only His grace that saves.
Not unless they are saved by the grace of God. It says in verse 21 “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Now you cannot pick one part of this verse and preach it, that’s the clearest form of wrong.
My was not my intention.  
It says baptism doth save us...
So we agree?
, but it also says- (Not putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is what Catholics say happens in Baptism.  We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and a good conscience toward God in Baptism, which saves us.  I don't see how the clear message of the first part of 1 Peter 3:21 is abnegated, abrogated, or contradicted by the second part.  (I say clear because I assume that you and I would both agree on what each of the individual words mean: "Baptism," "now," "saves," and "us.") In this past Sunday's sermon, Pastor Carlo, when encountering this verse, laughingly asked if one part of the Bible can contradict another.  Sometimes we laugh when we are uncomfortable.  The question I would ask is: can any part of the Bible contradict Baptist theology?  Does Pastor Carlo claim to be an infallible interpreter of 1 Peter 3:21?

My dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to read the Bible through the lens of the historical teachings of Christianity.  I also invite you to understand what the Catholic Church has consistently taught for two thousand years regarding baptism. 

The only reason I can think of that anyone would try to deny the first part of 1 Peter 3:21 is if they dogmatically assume that God can not or would not use matter to convey grace.  The wedge that is constantly driven at Fairwinds Baptist between the matter of the sacraments and grace makes it almost impossible for people to acknowledge the clear meaning of 1 Peter 3:21.  

And 1 Peter 3:21 isn't the only verse that supports baptismal regeneration!  There are many others.  Click here and here and here to read tracts on Baptism and and on what the successors and students of the apostles--those who learned the Christian faith from the very authors of Scripture--had to say about it.  Click here if you would like to read quotes from Protestant scholars (including some Baptists) who actually agree with the Catholic position on Baptism.

Baptism is what we do when were saved. That comes after salvation sir.
Sorry, but I don't think your exegesis of 1 Peter 3:19-21 leads to this conclusion.  
Notice that the primary assertion has to do with a temporal ordering of events: salvation first, then baptism.
But is that what we see in Peter's analogy with Noah.  When was Noah saved?  I suppose one could argue that he was saved when he listened to the Lord and went to Lowes to buy the wood for the ark.  But when does *Peter* say he was saved?  Through the waters themselves.  And it is while he is in the water--before he makes it to land (=heaven) on the other side--that he receives the dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  So, the temporal order pertaining to Noah was that he was saved through the waters.  Nothing in 1 Peter 3 indicates that Noah was saved before the flood, and then the flood was somehow a symbol of his salvation.  
Similarly, Baptism saves us now.  Just like the flood was the moment of salvation for Noah, baptism is the moment of salvation for us.

We may come to hear the Lord calling us, and we need to respond to his voice, but it is the Lord's action on our soul that saves us...not our initial turning toward him, even though that turning (that "conversion") is a critical part of the process.  I am so thankful that people come to know about the Lord through Christian witnesses such as yourself, but it is the Lord who saves, and the Biblical evidence points to Baptism as the time point when this act of regeneration--this act of making a new creation more spectacular than the first one--occurs. 

 Once we are saved, we are baptized, symbolizing the cleaning of our souls, showing that we are changing our lives, becoming a new creature. We aren’t saved by waters, but by Christ. (Continues in next comment)
I agree that the matter of Baptism (the water) symbolizes the interior change.  The difference between the Catholic and Baptist positions is that I believe that the interior change occurs during Baptism, whereas most Baptists believe it occurs when someone reads a tract or accepts an alter call, etc.  We both agree that it is Jesus who is making the change in the person's soul through the power of the Holy Spirit and 100% by God's grace.  (Your last sentence is Catholic through and through.)  The idea with Baptism is that the sacrament is filled with God; God's Holy Spirit--the third person of the Most Blessed Trinity--hovers over the waters of the baptismal font.  Just stop and imagine for a minute: God HIMSELF hovering over the waters waiting for us to encounter him and be spiritually regenerated.  How AWESOME is that!  

(I just finished lunch, so I'll post what I've written for now and continue commenting later when I have the time.  Work and two small children keep me busy, so "later" might mean more than a few days.  I will include a couple brief insertion-responses, however.)

The waters may be what He uses to cleanse us daily, but Christ is who and what saves us. “By the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I’m sure you interpretation may seem correct, but if you want to know what God has in store for us in His word, you must read all of it, not just bits and pieces to make your ideas correct. You being Catholic and me being Baptist, I doubt we will agree. I am accountable for myself and myself alone at the right hand of God, as you are for yourself. But this is what I needed to clarify. Jesus is what saved me, not waters. And on another note, if you truly believe that we in fairwinds do not quote the verse 1 Peter 3:21, then you have not done enough research.

I didn't say that Fairwinds does not quote 1 Peter 3:21.  I did say that in my experience of Fairwinds (which includes listening to almost every sermon for the last year, visits to two services, and careful study of all the tracts on display and on the website), I have not heard or seen 1 Peter 3:21 mentioned in relation to baptism.

Just this morning we used it in the sermon. There is a difference between posting a response to a sermon, and bashing a church, it’s pastor, and its beliefs.

Please don't take my efforts as bashing.  I'm simply heeding the same call to evangelize that Pastor Carlo is discussing in his current messages.  I write out of love for the members of Fairwinds Baptist, people who I know (first hand) love the Lord and people with whom I hope one day to worship with in spirit and truth.  But sadly, we as Christians are divided, and so I feel the need to reach out and discuss differences so as to overcome them.  An important first step in this process is to clear away false sources of division.

Luckily as Christians, we know that because Christ was first persecuted, we will be also.

Would you say that I should feel persecuted when I hear discussion at FBC about evangelizing Catholics?  (I don't feel that way, but I'm wondering why the strong reaction to efforts which are mirrored by those of FBC members.)

And By the way sir, Not saved by faith? I’m sorry, but if you can read, Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states “ 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

While I understand that people sometimes use the expression "saved by faith," Protestant and Catholic theologians agree that, technically speaking, we are saved by grace alone.  Nothing except grace can save us.  Grace is 100% a free gift.  We can't somehow earn our salvation by having faith.  Our faith is a weak and imperfect thing, certainly not meritorious of eternal life.

That being said, note that Eph. 2:8 actually uses the technical language of theologians:  We are saved BY grace THROUGH faith.  As I wrote elsewhere, faith is like turning on the spigot.  Grace is like the water that comes out and saves our souls.  Faith is necessary, but, technically speaking, it is not what saves us.  I think we are in agreement here.

Contradict that, and your just proving you can comprehend the word of God. Without faith, one can’t believe in God. You can’t touch God with your hand

I see what you are saying, and I agree.  For the record, though, Catholics touch God with their hands every time they meet Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist.

, you can’t prove Him. You must believe, you must have faith. Yes, we are saved by confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, because that a decision you must make yourself, you parents can’t get you saved because they decide to have you baptized, are you thinking properly? (continues in next comment)
You are saved when you have faith in God, when you know that He is the Beginning, and He is the End, He is all. You are saved when you confess He is God. As I read on through your post, I lose more and more respect for you sir. We can lose our salvation, are you sure?

Yes, I'm sure, because the Bible teaches that it is possible.  See this tract that I made, which contains dozens upon dozens of verses that you can look up.

I’m pretty sure that Christ died once on the cross for our sins correct? He died for those people then, and the people of future generations. Yet with your wacked philosophy your telling me that if I am saved, and turn from God, I mus regain salvation. I must attain and retain my salvation with Good works? Well since you love to quote scripture, I will once again quote Ephesians 2:8-9- “ 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.” In case you didn’t read it correctly, verse 9 says, NOT BY WORKS. Sir, I started reading this post on accident looking for the new church times, and then as a result of an accident, I have found a reason to state my faith. God put this on your heart, so that my response would be on mine. I cannot agree with your reasoning, and I do not apologize for that. The Lord will hold you and I accountable one day for what we do. What you believe is what you believe. I cannot change that, but sir, I recommend thinking twice before bashing religions, churches, and pastors, for God will have His way. Whether it is through this response, or through something else, He will. One last verse to wrap your mind around, John 3:16. Enjoy!(END)

Thank you once again for your comments.  May the peace of Christ be with you!  -RR

1 comment:

M~C~3~3 said...

Thank you very much. I have yet to get your name, and I apologize for that. I don't have much time to speak at the moment, i dont have a job and two kids, but I have things to do. I look forward to your next response. I truly hope you did not take my response as rude. I am sorry if I came off that way. And a part of your response that stood out to me was about "you bashing our church" which you say you are not, and "FBC bashing the catholic religion." As I am learning more and more each day and trying to grow in Christ each day, i'm obviously trying to learn great ways to reach out to people. Of other religions, just completely lost, everyone. And a major thing I have learned, is to not offend them. Sir, if I have offended you I apologize, but I feel that if I stand up for My God, then some may be offended, yet it was not my intention at all. I will continue to comment more as I read your next response. May God bless, sir.