Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Response to Tyra on FBC March 29, 2009 Baptism Comments

Thank you, Tyra, for your comment, and welcome to my blog.  I encourage you to spend some more time reading it so that you can understand the Catholic position a bit better.  Also, if ever my words misrepresent what you believe, please let me know immediately.  Complete Christian unity, which the Bible commands, will never happen if people hold false prejudices against one another.  The famous Englishman and Catholic-convert G.K. Chesterton once wrote that "In the things of conviction there is only one other thing besides a dogma, and that is a prejudice."

There is a very strong--and false--prejudice that is arising in the responses to my post regarding baptism, and that is that I have suggested that we are saved by water.

I understand why you think that I am saying that, but I simply do not believe it.  Baptism is not mere, ordinary water.  Baptism is WATER + SPIRIT.  Water by itself=no salvation.  Waters that are filled with the Holy Spirit=salvation.  Can the Holy Spirit save someone without relying on water?  Of course.  But the Bible offers much evidence that points to baptismal regeneration and baptism as the rite of initiation into mystical body of Christ, the Church.

If I knew of a church that taught that waters alone could save us, you would find my blog filled with many strong arguments about how that can not be true.  But I know of no such Church.  When the Catholic Church proclaims, using the very words of Scripture, that "baptism now saves us" (1 Peter 3:21), she is not proclaiming that water saves us.  She is saying, taking the plain words of Jesus, that we are "born [again] of water AND spirit." (John 3:5).  All through the Bible we find water and spirit put together.  We find them bound in Genesis at the first creation.  We find them bound during the great flood (the very image Peter uses in 1 Peter 3:21 to describe Baptism!).  We find them when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (water and wind).  We find them bound when Jesus is baptized, which becomes the very context in the gospel of John when Jesus said we must be born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Ezekiel (36:25-26) prophesied that God would send "clean water" that would cleanse us from "all uncleanliness."  And Jesus himself promised he would give living water, an image which is connected in other verses with the Holy Spirit (John 4:10).

Many Baptists, however, try to drive a wedge between the water of Baptism and the Holy Spirit of Baptism, when in reality, it is the Holy Spirit present over the waters that saves and regenerates the soul in Baptism.  The waters of Baptism are literally full of God.  That's why the Bible refers to baptism as the "washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).  Once again, we see the outer sign (water) being used to point to the inner reality that is taking place.  In this sense, Catholics and Baptist agree: the water is a sign.  Catholics simply teach that the outward sign points to an inner reality: the symbolic outer washing, burial, and resurrection of baptism point to the very work Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is doing on the soul of the person being baptized at that very moment.

Please don't take my word for it!  Do some research into church history and see what the first Christians whose teachers were the very apostles themselves had to say about Baptism.  Imagine if you could go to a Bible study guided by a student one of the New Testament authors.  Wouldn't that help you understand how to interpret the verses I cited above?

If you do this research, you will discover that the earliest Christians believed in baptismal regeneration.  None of them put the wedge between the water and the spirit that you seem to assume in your comment.  (Notice: you not once mention the word "spirit."  You keep focusing on the "water," even though none of my own blog posts say that water saves us.)

That being said, I'll go ahead and respond in line with your comments, which I've put in blue:

Sir, he is right you can get saved by water,
I'll assume you mean "can not" get saved by water.  I agree with that people can not get saved by water.
only baptised and what your sayin is not true.
I do make many mistakes, and what I am saying could be incorrect or false.  But I will not understand how it is false unless you actually 1) engage my reasoning, 2) show me where I do not understand the counter-arguments, and 3) show me how the terms, premises, or logic that I use to draw my conclusions are erroneous.  (Of course, my conclusions are really not my conclusions but rather the historical understanding of bapitsm that was handed down from the apostles and their successors.  The idea that baptism does not regenerate is a later invention--not part of the original deposit of faith.  See Jude v. 3.) 
you are only saved by Jesus Christ are savior.
Anyone who has taught you the the Catholic Church teaches otherwise is simply but profoundly mistaken.  Ask them to show you what official church document teaches otherwise, and you will come away empty-handed.  The Catholic Church teaches that we are ONLY saved by grace and that grace is absolutely, 100% a FREE GIFT.  I know it is hard to understand how this official, two-thousand-year-old teaching of the Catholic Church fits with the idea of sacraments, though I hope you can begin to understand how when I tell you that the Catholic Church believes the sacraments are filled with God.  It isn't Jesus OR the sacraments.  There is not either/or.  There is no wedge.  The sacraments are powerful means by which Jesus gives us the free gift of His grace.  The sacraments are incredible gifts of His love and mercy.  The sacraments are Jesus's works on us, not our works.
not water, it might cleens you but not save you.
I completely agree with you.
so please re think what you say and write it correctly
Can you suggest a revision?  I'm not sure what to change, since I completely agree with you.  Please show me where I suggest that water alone can save us.
I feel very badly that someone has taught you falsely about what the ancient Church believes (I say ancient, since the Catholic Church is the only church that can trace herself back to Jesus, who founded her.).  But with joy I share with you the fullness of the Gospel message once left with the saints.  But again, please don't take my word for it!  Rather, read the early church fathers on your own and see what they have to say about baptism.  Here is a link. You might be surprised to know that many Baptist pastors and Bible-teachers have converted to the Catholic Church in the last decade after learning that almost everything they had been taught about the Catholic Church was false...and that the truth of the Catholic faith made the Bible come alive.

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