Church Fathers & Baptism

Discussion in 'Sacraments, Sacred Rites, and Holy Orders' started by Toma, Jun 6, 2012.

  1. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Dearly beloved in Christ,

    What do you think of baptism and regeneration of the human soul? Perhaps it may seem a pedantic question, or removed from the practicalities of being an Anglican Christian, but there are deep implications in it:

    1. If we are regenerated (changed from the children of wrath into the sons of justice) by our faith only, then baptism is a symbol of that and nothing more. Water, in the non-sacramental, symbolic meaning of 1., does nothing to our soul, except that it is a sort of public sign or seal of personal Christian faith.

    2. If we are regenerated by the mystical sacrament of consecrated water only, then the faith of the individual may itself be of no consequence to the inward cleansing. Holy water, in sacramental, super-symbolic meaning of 2., works ex opere operato, by the work worked, confering spiritual regeneration of the soul just by pronouncing the words "N., I baptise thee in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost." and pouring the water.

    The first possibility makes baptism a ceremony of profession, and places deep emphasis on internal, personal, profound conversion of life and morals before sacraments. From this point of view, legalism is de-emphasised.
    The second possibility makes baptism a necessary component, or even the highest movement of a soul in the beginnings of faith. It places a deep emphasis on the outward, ecclesiastical, communal, and sacramental nature of baptism. From this point of view, interior conversion is de-emphasised.

    ~

    Speaking in terms of what you wish to do and what you actually do, Ambrose bishop of Milan (339-397) has this fascinating passage in his Exposition on the Holy Gospel according to Luke: Book 1, section 9, after speaking of the way the apostles and disciples of Christ lived, and how we often live.

    Cyril bishop of Jerusalem (313-386) is even clearer in the prologue to his Catechetical Lectures to newly baptised and those about to be baptised (catechumens):

    So far I am just learning the Fathers, but it seems to me that they were neither evangelical personal-conversion-ists, nor catholic ex-opere-operato sacramentalists. They were classical, "high and dry" anglicans of the laudian type, who emphasised interior faith which is completed by the mysterious beauty of the sacrament of baptism, forgiving sins and placing one inside Christ - but only on condition that deep personal conversion precedes baptism and proceeds after baptism.

    This synergy is seen in John 3:5, I think: "Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter unto the kingdom of God". It is not one nor the other, but both.

    What sweet teachers we have in the Fathers, who so loved the Scripture! They were all Anglicans!

    Opinions? :)
     
  2. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Remembrance,
    The belief in Baptismal regeneration has a long Tradition within Christianity, beginning in the New Testament. I would start with Holy Scripture and then move to the Church Fathers.

    Even John, whose voice as one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Would Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity accomplish less?

    Mark 1 (ESV):
    3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    'Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,'"
    4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

    Remember God said the uncircumcised and the unclean will no more come into Jerusalem.

    Isaiah 52:
    1 Awake, awake,
    put on your strength, O Zion;
    put on your beautiful garments,
    O Jerusalem, the holy city;
    for there shall no more come into you
    the uncircumcised and the unclean.
    2 Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
    be seated, O Jerusalem;
    loose the bonds from your neck,
    O captive daughter of Zion.


    Holy Scripture tells us that Baptism is the Circumcision made without hands. Baptism brings us into the New Covenant through Christ, just as circumcision brought God's people into the Old Covenant. We, Gentiles, who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ; for he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

    Ephesians 2:
    11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

    Colossians tell us very clearly that Baptism is the Circumcision made without hands. By putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, we are buried with him in baptism, in which we are also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    Colossians 2:
    8See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    Acts gives a very direct call to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. So, we know that Baptism is God's choice for imparting Grace, as is the case with all the Sacraments. Our sins are forgiven through the Sacrament of Baptism. Sacraments are often misunderstood as a human work; when it is God who imparts the Grace and does the work in us through the Sacraments---through the means of His choosing.

    Acts 2 (ESV):
    38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    This is a link to the Liturgy of Holy Baptism in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: http://www.bcponline.org/.

    I'm really tired, so may need to discuss more tomorrow. Of course we must have faith. However, the Scriptures do not say we are saved by faith alone. This is the link to biblegateway.com (you're probably familiar with it): http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/. Do a search for the phrase "faith alone."

    Hope this helps,
    Anna
     
  3. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Anna, the issue is justification, not salvation! To advocate the idea that we're saved by faith alone would be horrid. Just had to quickly add that... will read your scripture references now... :)
     
  4. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Remembrance,

    Justification is part of salvation. :)

    I wasn't sure where you stood on the faith alone issue. That's why I commented on that; and many who believe that Baptism is not regenerative, believe in salvation through faith alone. So, I'm sorry about that comment. It was not meant to offend. (I think I've debated my Southern Baptist brethren too many times on other forums.)

    The issues of faith, justification, and Baptismal Regeneration really cannot be separated.

    Here's a link to The Evangelical Doctrine of Baptism, Churchman 112/1 1998, John Stott: http://www.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_112_1_Stott.pdf.

    John Stott, ordained by the Church of England in 1945, was Rector Emeritus of All Souls’ Langham Place, London, and Chaplain to the Queen. He passed away in 2011 at age of 90, after 60 years of service in All Souls Church in London.

    Stott gives an Evangelical Anglican view of Baptism, with references to The 39 Articles. There is great merit and inspiration in his writing. (Even this Anglo Catholic must admit this. :p)

    Stott's writing on Baptism might be a good place to start in understanding the Anglican view of Baptism and The 39 Articles.

    Stott: "My task then is first to seek to establish the biblical doctrine of baptism, and secondly, to
    show that the teaching of The Book of Common Prayer and the Articles can and should be
    interpreted in a way that is fully consistent with the biblical doctrine." http://www.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_112_1_Stott.pdf.

    Then I would proceed with the Church Fathers.

    Hope this helps,
    Anna
     
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  5. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Oh wow, thanks for the patience and in-depth help, Anna! :)

    Coincidentally (providentially) I started to listen to dear Mr. Stott's sermons a few weeks ago, all which have been saved over the years and kept on the media archives of All Souls Church. Either way, please don't peg "where I stand" yet, as you can see I'm "in-between", spiritually-speaking. After more than a year of believing that the baptismal event effects spiritual change of itself without the absolute need of faith from the one being baptised, this Anglican view is so different and new!
     
  6. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Remembrance, I just edited my last post.

    O.K. No "pegging." :p

    As I said in my edited post, I think I've debated my Southern Baptist brethren too many times on other forums. So, maybe there was some unintentional "transference" going on in my post to you. lol. Many apologies!

    The Evangelical Doctrine of Baptism, Churchman 112/1 1998, John Stott, should clear that up for you.


    As an Anglo Catholic, I can't say that I agree with every word Stott has written or said, or even every word of this particular document. However, I think Stott's Evangelical Doctrine of Baptism has a great deal of merit. The piece is not very long. It's certainly worth the read. I'd be interested in your view of the article as a whole--and the view of Remembrance, after he reads the document.

    Peace,
    Anna
     
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  7. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Dear Anna, this is already fascinating from the get-go:

    "because of the precept of Christ and the practice of the apostles, it is the plain duty of every professing Christian to ask for baptism for himself and his children; and of the ordained minister to press upon his congregation this obligation and privilege."

    I tend to be hasty and ask questions before reading everything, but this is fascinating: if faith is necessary part of regeneration to make baptism efficacious, why do evangelicals allow infant baptism? Such a pre-toddler human being cannot even begin to believe, let alone understand.

    Just committing some pennies to the thought box... reading now... (thanks a lot for this)
     
  8. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    One important aspect of infant baptism is this: it shows us as we really are before God. We are wholly in need of grace. Adults and infants both rely fully on him, and we (regardless of age) rely on him even more than infants rely on us. The baptism of a child is an incredible image in that regard. God acts first. He comes to us and instills the gift of faith within us. Faith precedes understanding. It is seeking understanding; we do not begin from a place of understanding to seek faith. Presumably, Evangelicals would share this understanding? I'll let them speak for themselves, but I would assume that this is a shared perspective across Anglicanism.
     
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  9. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Keep reading. Stott will answer your question. :)
     
  10. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Adam,
    Well said. I don't think any Anglican would disagree with you.

    As said earlier in the thread, Stott's title Evangelical Doctrine of Baptism is somewhat misleading. You really have to read the document to understand his point of view.

    As I said before, I don't agree with all his writings, but there is merit in them; and his service to the Church of England spans 60 years.

    However, as you and I are aware (sometimes painfully aware :p ); throughout our history, that "Anglican pendulum" swings back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism, to varying degrees.

    Peace,
    Anna
     
  11. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    Fantastic thoroughly reformed article there! Thanks for posting this :)
     
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  12. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    I know this is going slightly off topic, but

    Why can't infants believe?

    If faith is a gift of God, then surely God can bestow it on whoever He so chooses. And if a child is unable to believe what about adults with mental disabilities? It raises a lot of questions, which might be worthwhile discussing on another thread

    I find Luke 1:39-44 very persuasive that infants can indeed have faith as John in the womb leapt for joy when Mary arrived
     
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  13. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Yes, and it was posted by an Anglo Catholic (me :D). I do consider all sides, when asked for information on Anglicanism--though it may not seem so in some of my discussions on other threads.
    Anna
     
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  14. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    In Evangelical Doctrine of Baptism, Stott does deal with that in his own way---leaning heavily in the Reformed direction without dismissing the belief in Baptismal Regeneration or Infant Baptism.

    You know, Scottish Knight (our token Baptist turned token Presbyterian :p); it just occurred to me in the last few days that I, as a female, am seriously outnumbered by males in current discussions. What happened to all the Anglican women? I'm starting to feel like the token female. lol.

    Anna
     
  15. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    lol, very true, I was actually thinking a couple days ago how Katie hasn't been on for a while, well we could start a thread "anglican women needed! Join here!"? :p
     
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  16. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    I just thought maybe it would be interesting to mention, that a melkite friend of mine was taught a view of baptism at church that is almost identical to the classic reformed view esoused by Stott (melkites are eastern catholics whose theology is byzantine) Since they are heavily influenced by the early church fathers and she is from a country where protestantism is almost non existant I thought it was worth mentioning
     
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  17. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    SK,
    Thanks. That is worth mentioning and checking out.

    You are quickly becoming my favorite token Presbyterian. :p

    Anna
     
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