The Catholic Church: A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends (3b)

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church

 A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends

(Part 3b)

 

  • What are the most important things
    that a Catholic needs to know?
  • What truths will a Catholic priest never tell you?
  • What are the amazing origins of the Catholic Church and Catholic doctrines?
  1. Infant Baptism

The majority of churches in the world that claim to be Christian baptize infants or little babies.[1]  This would include the Orthodox Churches, the various Eastern Churches, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church, and many others.  The Roman Catholic Church is the largest baby baptizing church in the world.[2]

The Catholic Church insists that infants should be baptized.  “From the earliest times, the Church, to which the mission of preaching the Gospel and of baptizing was entrusted, has baptized not only adults but children as well.  Our Lord said: ‘Unless a man is reborn in water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’  The Church has always understood these words to mean that children should not be deprived of baptism, because they are baptized in the faith of the Church, a faith proclaimed for them by their parents and godparents, who represent both the local Church and the whole society of saints and believers.”[3]

The Catholic Church

Amazingly, one Catholic source states, “Some Protestant groups deny baptism to infants, limiting it only to those who can make a personal commitment ‘to be born again.’  Yet not a single such group can come up with any scriptural text for justification of its position.  The Catholic Church has never denied infant baptism because it looks upon children as also being born of fallen human nature, tainted by original sin, and of need of new birth that will free them from the darkness of sin and give new life of grace as children of God.”[4]  Incredibly, this source claims that no group that believes in believer’s baptism “can come up with any scriptural text for justification of its position.”  Isn’t the reverse actually true?  Is there one single verse of Scripture that would justify—in an unambiguous way—the baptism of babies?  Further, where is the passage of Scripture that would prove that little infants need baptism to “free them from the darkness of sin and give new life of grace”?  How can such sweeping and unfounded statements be used to justify such an infant ceremony?[5]

The Catholic parent is severely warned not to neglect the baptism of their newborn child: “Children should be baptized as soon as possible after birth. . . . Catholic parents who put off for a long time, or entirely neglect, the Baptism of their children, commit a moral sin.”[6]  Remember, an unforgiven moral sin will send one to hell.  This is indeed motivation for the Catholic parents to “baptize” their newborn as soon as possible.

One Catholic source explains the history of infant baptism: “Up to the middle of the 5th century most baptism candidates were adults.  After long and prayerful preparations—‘Catechumenate’ periods—candidates were immersed in water, confirmed by the local bishop, and then received Eucharist—all in one ceremony (usually celebrated at the annual Easter Vigil).  From the end of the 5th century until now, the church community has stressed the need for infant baptism and, for various reasons, has often delayed confirmation until preteen or teenage years.”[7]

It is true that infant baptism was introduced into the apostate church not long after the apostolic period.  “The earliest explicit reference to infant baptism occurs ca. 200 in Tertullian, On Baptism 18, a passage that opposes what appears to be a relatively new practice.  A few years later, Origen claimed infant baptism as a tradition from the apostles, and the ceremony of baptism in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus makes provision for children.  It and later baptismal liturgies, however, describe procedures that presuppose believers’ baptism as the norm.  Cyprian defended the validity of infant baptism.”[8]  “The principle impetus for the rise and spread of infant baptism may have been the desire that the child not depart life without the safeguard of baptism.”[9]

The baby must be baptized regardless of the fact that he or she cannot have personal faith.  This is no obstacle to the Catholic practice, for “in the case of infants, it is the Church that ‘supplies’ the faith and it is the faith community that nurtures and nourishes that faith as the young child grows into maturity.”[10]  This proxy faith is thought to make baptism conform to the many scriptures that enjoin faith and repentance at the point of baptism.

Although many Protestant Churches that have their origin in the Catholic Church (e.g., Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Reformed [Calvinists], and Methodist) likewise practice infant baptism, this rite is absent from the pages of the New Testament.  Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children and those like children (Matthew 19:14).  Further, in the Bible, faith, repentance, and commitment of life are always prerequisites of baptism.  Jesus declared, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).  Notice that He did not say, “He who is baptized (as a baby) and later believes (when matured) shall be saved.”  Nor did Jesus say, “He who is baptized as a baby will be saved and later is obligated to believe.  Jesus said what He said for a reason—to show the meaning of baptism as an expression of saving faith and repentance.  He placed faith before baptism!

This is the consistent teaching in Scripture.  Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38), then “those who had received the word were baptized” (v. 41).  Both receiving the preached word and repenting of sin preceded baptism.  In Samaria, those who believed the preaching of Philip “were being baptized, men and women alike” (8:12; cf. vv. 35-39).  The jailer and his household were baptized, but only after they believed in Christ and God (16:31-34).  The account of Corinth shows this order: “Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized” (18:8).  First, they heard the word preached, then they believed that word, and only then were they baptized.

Baptism is like a burial with Christ in Colossians 2:12, and in this text we explicitly read that these converts were buried with Christ in baptism and “were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God.”  Those who were baptized were ones who had the capacity to have saving faith!  Galatians 3:26-27 likewise says that we are sons of God “through faith in Christ Jesus” and we enter Jesus through baptism: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  All of this shows that baptism is intended only for those of sufficient maturity to have committed personal sin, to truly repent of those sins, to confess Jesus as Lord, and to be baptized into Jesus Christ and His death (Romans 6:3-5; 10:9-10).

We see also that baptism was the response of the personal faith of the one baptized—not the presumed faith of the parents, the so-called “godparents,” the local Catholic Church, or the worldwide Catholic Church.  A proxy faith was unknown in primitive Christianity!  We should notice that personal faith was needed for a true baptism to be a valid New Testament baptism.  In contrast, the Catholic Church sees it differently.  “In the case of infants, it is the Church that ‘supplies’ the faith and it is the faith community that nurtures and nourishes that faith as the young child grows into maturity.”[11]  In the primitive preaching of the gospel, the baptized person was the one who exercised personal faith and repentance and without this, the baptism would not be true baptism.

If one must repent of his sins before baptism (Acts 2:38-39), and if he must have a genuine faith in Christ Jesus and His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection before baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:35-39; 18:8; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13), and if he must commit himself to becoming a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), we can see that this act requires some maturity and it necessarily disallows an infant rite called baptism.

As is often the case, one false teaching or practice leads to another one.  In the case of infant baptism, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes that baptism, per se, is incomplete.  It needs another “sacrament” to complete what was missing earlier.  This sacrament is confirmation.  One Catholic source explains:

If baptism starts new life in the Church, confirmation is its strengthening.  Confirmation is a sacrament of the New Law wherein the recipient receives the Holy Spirit through the anointing with the oil of chrism by the bishop (or his delegate) in the form of a cross on the forehead, the imposition of hands (matter) while saying the words (form), ‘Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”[12]

We might wonder how such a practice can be justified in light of the teaching of Scripture regarding baptism, but an attempt is made by Catholic apologists by referring to Christ’s promise to the apostles that they were to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).  But this was fulfilled in their case on the day of Pentecost—without oil or the imposition of hands.  Another passage cited is Acts 8:14-17 where Luke records Peter and John’s visit to Samaria and the laying on of their hands so that the baptized Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit (v. 17).  However, these were people who had believed and had been baptized (v. 12)—not infants at all.  Finally, they cite the reference to the “laying on of hands” at Hebrews 6:2 which was part of the “elementary teaching about the Christ” (v. 1).  This is hardly a reference to the Catholic sacrament of confirmation.[13]

In reality, Peter declared, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; cf. 5:32).  The Holy Spirit was given to these people on Pentecost immediately—and not weeks, months, or years later.  They were required to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, something that babies cannot do.  The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to one who believes or places his faith in Christ Jesus and is born again of the Spirit (cf. John 3:3-7; Ephesians 1:13-14; Galatians 3:2, 5, 14).  We can see that confirmation is an unscriptural practice that was deemed necessary to complete another unscriptural practice—infant baptism.

  1. Baptismal Regeneration

The Catholic Church

The “baptism” of infants is related to an associated doctrine, that of baptismal regeneration.  Catholics teach that by the act of baptism itself, the child is reborn (regenerated), saved, forgiven of inherited Adamic sin, and enters the Church and the Kingdom of God.  There are elements of truth in this, but not in the manner taught in Catholic theology.  The Catholic Catechism explains their rationale:

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. . . . The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.[14]

Catholic parents are virtually coerced into allowing the priest or bishop to “baptize” their newborn baby; otherwise, they are told that they would “deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God.”  Further, they would never want to postpone the “baptism” of their baby since only through that child being “born of water and the Spirit” in baptism can he or she enter the kingdom of God!  “Baptism takes away original sin; and also actual sin, and all the punishment due to them. . . . Baptism is necessary for the salvation of all men because Christ has said: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’”[15]  Since baptism is thought to remit original sin that Catholicism believes attaches to the newborn baby, we can see how important it is that the parent baptize his child immediately.

By saying that in baptism the infant is “born again,” they deny regeneration by faith.  Their reference to John 3:5 (born of water and the Spirit) is indeed true, but how is this carried out?  John explains: “As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).  This shows that the new birth (of water and the Spirit) is for those who “believe in His name,” and this requires some maturity.  The person who is born again is the person who places his personal faith in Christ Jesus, as the crucified and risen Savior. This necessarily excluded the newborn baby who is incapable of saving faith.

Probably more than any other professing “Christian” Church, the Roman Church stresses the objective operation of God in the act of baptism.[16]  “This sacrament pardons all sins, rescues recipients from the power of darkness, and joins them to Christ’s suffering, death, and Resurrection. . . . They become new creations through water and the Holy Spirit and so are then called sons and daughters of God.”[17]  “Through baptism we are freed of all sin and reborn as a son or daughter of God; also through baptism we are incorporated into the Church of Christ and made sharers in its mission. . . . It has been defined by the Church that in baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and personal sin, as well as any punishment due as reparation.”[18]

Catholic theologians believe in opus Operatum, or ex opre operato, a Latin term meaning that the benefit of a sacrament is conferred “by virtue of the work wrought.”  This means that “the grace is in the sacrament which conveys it to the passive recipient without the necessity of faith and repentance.”[19] Bellarmine said that the sacrament is administered ipus operatum, so that “it confers grace by virtue of the sacramental act itself.”[20]   The Catholic Council of Trent in the sixteenth century called it “the laver of regeneration.”[21]  In short, “Catholics believe that through baptism all sin, original and actual, is wiped away.”[22]

This shows how Catholics can think that baptism is effective in the case of a little child who knows nothing about what is happening to him or her.  The act is effective ex opre operato, by virtue of the work wrought, entirely independent of faith, repentance, or commitment of life.  Sadly, this is more magical than anything else.  It is far from the teaching of Christ and the apostles of the first century, as reflected in the apostolic writings of the New Testament. It is true that Christian baptism is related to the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), the washing away of sins (22:16), salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), death and resurrection with Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Col. 2:12), the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13?), a spiritual circumcision (Col. 2:11-12), the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39), and putting on Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).  But we must note that the New Testament doesn’t in any way subscribe to the ritualistic “baptismal regeneration” view that sees all of this automatically conferred to the person separate and apart from a personal heart-response of faith, repentance, and commitment of life.[23]

We must not overlook the necessary but shocking implication of this truth.  If indeed most Catholics (80%? 90%? 99%?), are only “baptized” as babies and if this “baptism” is no baptism at all, then the vast majority of Catholics have not been baptized!  Further, if regeneration, salvation, forgiveness, and incorporation into the kingdom of God is dependent on infant baptism (or any baptism), then these spiritual blessings do not apply to nearly all Catholics since their infant “baptism” was invalid and counterfeit!  Further yet, if their infant baptism was invalid and if they are not truly “born of water and the Spirit,” they cannot enter “the kingdom of God” (John 3:5)!  Beyond this, if the “church” or the “body of Christ” is entered through baptism,[24] and if nearly all Catholics have clearly not been Scripturally baptized (Mark 16:16), this would mean that Catholics are not really in the “body of Christ”—the very “church” that they claim to belong to!  Consequently, we have hundreds of millions of Catholics who belong to the Roman Catholic Church but do not belong to the body of Christ (that is only entered through repentant faith expressed in adult baptism)!  Can we see the serious and eternal implications of their doctrine of baby baptism!

  1. Substitutions for Baptism

The Catholic Church

The prevailing practice of the Roman Catholic Church is pouring water on the newborn infant.  One Catholic source states, “I would give Baptism by pouring ordinary water on the forehead of the person to be baptized, saying while pouring it, ‘I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’”[25]  Another source says that pouring has been traditional but immersion is now permitted: “The person to be baptized bends or is held over it while water is poured over the head, or is immersed, since the Order of Baptism promulgated after Vatican II permits immersion.  This was the custom of the early Church, so new fonts are often built to facilitate the practice.”[26]  Catholic Canon law states that “baptism may be conferred either by immersion or by pouring.”[27]

Even though pouring has been the traditional form that Catholics call baptism, at least since the middle ages, one source freely admits that this is not what the Greek Bible says: “Baptism takes its name from the Greek baptizein, meaning ‘to wash, dip, or immerse.’”[28]  Another Catholic authority likewise admits, “The English term ‘baptize’ is derived from a Greek verb that means ‘dipping in water.’”[29] The Modern Catholic Dictionary, by John Harden, says this of the real origin of baptism: “Etym. Latin baptisma; from Greek baptisma, a dipping.”  Frequently Catholic sources acknowledge that the Greek term for baptism means immersion or dipping, yet they say that the so-called “form” or “mode” is of no importance.[30]  However, we would pose this question: If Jesus said “immerse” and “immersion,” does it matter that we immerse?  Or is it acceptable that we pour a small amount of water on the head of the child?  Changing baptism (immersion) to pouring would actually be a change of action rather than a change of form or mode.

Very early in the history of Christendom, pouring was introduced as a substitute for immersion. “One of the earliest noncanonical documents, Didache 7, permits, in the absence of sufficient water for an immersion, pouring water three times on the head.  Another occasion for an alternative to immersion was the baptism of a person confined to a sickbed.  Cyprian, in about AD 250, defended this practice against reservations about its efficacy.”[31] Eventually, pouring became more common even in occasions where sickness was not involved.  Whereas the Eastern Orthodox Church has continued to immerse babies through the centuries, the Roman Church eventually adopted pouring as their common practice.  In 1311, the Catholic Council of Ravenna stated that baptism could be administered by either pouring or immersion, without distinction.  In time pouring became the established action.

Many Protestants followed the prevailing Catholic practice of pouring in the sixteenth century, including the Lutherans, the Reformed, and the Anabaptists.  Soon the Anglicans also abandoned the dipping of babies and used pouring.  The Methodists, in the eighteenth century, who came from the Anglicans, continued the practice of pouring (or sprinkling).  Most say that it just doesn’t matter—as long as literal water is employed.  Catholicism says that baptism “is validly conferred only by washing with true water together with the form of words.”[32] The New Testament, however, doesn’t allow for a change in the act or action of baptism.  The term baptism itself is from the Greek baptisma, and consists “of the processes of immersion, submersion, and emergence.”[33]  The term baptize means “dip, immerse, mid. dip oneself, wash.”[34] [35]

John’s baptism required that people come to the body of water, the Jordan River, where “they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5).  It required that one go into the water, then come up “from” the water and “out of the water” (v. 16; Mark 1:10).  Baptism required “much water”—and not just a small amount for pouring (see John 3:23).  Christian baptism also required “coming” to the water (Acts 8:36), going “down into the water” where the baptism (immersion) took place (v. 38), then they “came up out of the water” (v. 39).  Paul even says that in baptism, one dies to sin, is “buried” with Christ in baptism, and then rises to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).  While the meaning of baptism is all-important, neither should we overlook the proper act or action in baptism.  Of what benefit is it to have the proper meaning with a counterfeit action?

  1. The Rosary

The Catholic Church

If you are a devoted, traditional Catholic, you probably have one or more Rosaries.  You use this to direct your prayers to Mary, your “Mother,” and God, the “Father.”  For non-Catholics, the Rosary may be identified as a string of prayer beads.  It is “a popular devotion among Catholics, including meditation on the main mysteries of salvation as well as the recitation of certain vocal prayers.  The mysteries are divided into three groups of five. . . . Meditation on each mystery is accompanied by the votal praying of one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and one Glory to the Father.  To help in praying the rosary, a string of beads . . . is usually used.  The Church strongly recommends the praying of the rosary, especially the family rosary.”[36]  When the rosary beads are blessed, they are supposed to be “enriched with many indulgencies for reciting the prescribed prayers.”[37] As we mentioned before, an indulgence is a means by which one may lessen his stay in the prison-house of Purgatory, thus there is much incentive for the Catholic to use the rosary regularly.

Although it may not be recognized by devoted Catholics, the recitation of rote “prayers” to God and Mary is clearly condemned by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  He said, “When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7).  The Catholic may reply that using the rosary definitely involves repetitious prayers but those are not “meaningless,” as Jesus condemned.  But for one to pray dozens and hundreds of times, using the same words, again and again a day, through day after day, is surely repetitious—and when done so often, it is also “meaningless.”  An interesting side note is that five times as many prayers are offered to Mary as compared to God!

We’ve already discussed the wrongfulness of prayer to Mary. The use of the Rosary necessarily includes praying to Mary and assuming that she both hears the prayer and will answer the prayer.  Just as the Oriental custom of hanging prayer slips on trees and assuming that these are prayers, likewise the Rosary user assumes that his devotion is pleasing to God.  This is far from the truth.

  1. The Scapular

Although many faithful Catholics do not wear the scapular, there are some very devoted members who use this sacramental every day.  It was more popular in the days before Vatican II.[38]  The scapular is “an outer garment worn by members of some religious orders, consisting of a shoulder-wide strip of cloth reaching almost to the floor front and back and symbolizing the yoke of Christ; also an adaptation of this (two small pieces of cloth connected by strings) worn around the neck by persons who do not belong to the religious order.”[39]  A smaller version of this is popular among the laity.  It consists of “two small pieces of cloth, about two and a half by two inches, connected by two long cords and worn over the head.”[40]  The common “brown scapular” is associated with the Carmelite Order, but there are a total of 18 different scapulars, of different colors, associated with various orders.  The Church accepts the wearing of the scapular as a sacramental—a sign “by which spiritual effects especially are signified and are obtained by the intercession of the Church.”[41]

What authority does a Catholic have to wear such a piece of cloth and where did Christ or His apostles ever command or approve such an object?  This is just another church tradition that has superstitious connotations.  Though our Lord never commanded the use of this object, Catholicism says that it is desirable, according to the dictates of the magisterium.  Since the whole prayer system of Catholicism has been shown to be false and since no one can really effectively have God “bless” such a scapular, we can see the worthlessness of this piece of cloth.

Please check all of the articles in this series on the Catholic Church:

Part 1a

Part 1b

Part 1c

Part 2a

Part 2b

Part 2c

Part 3a

Part 3b

Part 3c

Part 4a

Part 4b

Part 4c

 

 

[1] See our Infant Baptism: What Does the Bible Say?

[2] We use “baptize” in this section in an accommodating way, since the act that Catholics call “baptism” really is not a Biblical baptism, for the reasons outlined above.

[3] Essential, p. 139.

[4] Albert J. Nevins, Catholicism The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 93.

[5] See our booklet, Infant Baptism: What does the Bible Say?

[6] The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Revised, p. 154.

[7] Ekstrom, The New Concise Catholic Dictionary, p. 29.

[8] Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, p. 133.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 138.

[11] Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 136.

[12] Albert J. Nevins, Catholicism The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 95.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250.

[15] The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Revised, pp. 152-153.

[16] We would include the Orthodox Churches as well.

[17] Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 137. Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 114.

[18] Albert J. Nevins, Catholicism The Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 92-93.

[19] Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 255.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., p. 56.

[22] Chacon and Burnham, Beginning Apologetics I, p. 35.  “Baptismal regeneration” is “the belief that water baptism effects the saving work of the Holy Spirit in washing away original sin.  In Roman Catholic baptism (usually of infants) is understood to confer grace upon the individual, whether or not faith is present” (Stanley Grenz, et. al, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms).

[23] See our booklet, Infant Baptism and Baptismal Regeneration: What Does the Bible Say?  Note also the larger book, Baby Baptism and Baptismal Regeneration: What Does the Bible Say?

[24] “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

[25] The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Revised, p. 153.

[26] Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 114.

[27] Essential, p. 138.

[28] Albert J. Nevins, Catholicism The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 92.

[29] The New Concise Catholic Dictionary, p. 29.

[30] “Baptism may be conferred either by immersion or by pouring” (Essential, p. 138).

[31] Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, p. 132.

[32] Essential, p. 138.

[33] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[34] Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.  Baptismos may be defined as “an act of dipping or immersion”; and baptisma may be defined as “immersion; baptism, ordinance of baptism” (Mounce and Mounce, Greek and English Interlinear).

[35] See also the thorough study of the Greek term baptizein (Thomas Jefferson Conant, The Meaning and Use of Baptizein: Philologically and Historically Investigated, for the American Bible Union (obtainable from the website, www.forgottenbooks.org).

[36] Essential, p. 237.

[37] Daughters of St. Paul, Basic Catechism.

[38] Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 1166.

[39] Essential, p. 240.

[40] Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 868.

[41] Essential, p. 238.

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