Monday, December 24, 2007

Field on RCC Baptism

I found this short note by David Field on the validity of Roman Catholic baptism interesting (link). I suspect that he is omitting from the Reformed camp the "Reformed Baptists" who would presumably have rejected most RCC baptisms as invalid. If I'm wrong about that, I'd be delighted to see the evidence of an early "Reformed Baptist" that accepted RCC baptism as valid.



Albert said...

Thanks for bringing up this issue. I was baptized a Roman Catholic. But many years after my parents left the RCC for contemporary evangelicalism (NOTE: contemporary not historic), I was baptized by immersion on the belief that I was already regenerated. If my RC baptism was valid, then the other baptism I had (which was by immersion) was no longer needed.

Moreover, if RC baptism is invalid, then Luther, Calvin, et. al weren't validly baptized.

I think Reformed Baptists would never accept RC baptism as valid for three reasons. (1) It was given to an unbelieving infant, (2) it was not by immersion, and (3) it was administered by no less than a minister of the "Anti-Christ" (i.e. the Pope).

I think James White shares this view. Here's what I found in his blog:

Albert said...


Sorry for another comment. I can't help myself.

Speaking of the RCC, another person has crossed the Tiber recently.

He is a very prominent person from the country where the original Presbyterians came from. Here's the news:

Turretinfan said...

As a minor quibble, Presbyterianism did not really come from England - a country that is largely Anglican. In Great Britain, the Scots are more famous for their presbyterianism.

I think that most modern Reformed Baptists would share the reasons you expressed, at least the first two.

I do wonder how a modern Reformed Baptist group would handle an Orthodox baptism of a proselyte (i.e. not of an infant). Presumably they would question the credibility of the original profession of faith, and consequently attack the validity of the baptism on that ground.


Albert said...

Thanks. I thought he was a Scot and not English because he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.

GeneMBridges said...

Most of us reject (3) above as irrelevant insofar as we reject administrator baptism. That's a Landmark Baptist idea. We'll accept any baptism that is professor baptism, as general rule.

That is, there are some who have denied that baptisms performed by Presbyterian elders are valid. (As I've pointed out to many of my Baptist brothers, Presbyterians DO practice professor baptism, for example, on the mission field. I sometimes wonder if my brothers have read a Presbyterian theology book. For example, Charles Hodge talks about this). This gets us back to administrator baptism. However, I think most of agree with John L. Dagg on that issue. Dagg seems to accept it. However, he leaves it to each individual church to decide. No church can impose its view on another. It is not possible to throw that question solely to the local church. It is also one for the individual. If s/he does not wish to be rebaptized after having been credobaptized, then the local church should not impose that upon them. However, I would not advise a person to join that church, as that still gets us back to administrator baptism, and that opens up lots of other issues. In case you can't tell, I don't have any love for Landmarkism.

As to (1) in Albert's list that depends on the situation. For example, if a person comes to my church to join and they were baptized on the mission field in a place where there was no option for immersion, and they were baptized by affusion, I would accept them. There are also other circumstances, and we don't generally affirm Baptists who do not baptize by immersion only as no true Baptist (there are a few out there who do that). We affirm that if we must sacrifice one or the other (Mode or Meaning), then mode is the one to be sacrificed.

As to Orthodox baptism itself, then we would question that on the basis of a credible profession of faith, this is correct. However, that determination would be up to the elders of a local church and made, not on the basis of the administrator, rather it would be made on the basis of what that person affirmed upon their conversion. That varies on a case by case basis, just as our evaluation of the profession of faith of a Roman Catholic varies. We'd accord more latitude to the person in the pew, so to speak, than the priest or one of their lay apologists. In short, we'd follow the same rule that we would follow with respect to that determination that most other Protestants would follow.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Albert,

It seems you are more familar with the former prime minister than I am.


Turretinfan said...

Brother Gene,

I don't mean to turn this into a baptism debate thread, but I'm curious:

In reformed baptist circles, if one later confesses to having been a hypocrite (the profession was a lie, though it was believed by the elders) at the time a first credo-baptism was performed (assuming that it was otherwise valid), would that baptism be considered invalid?


Albert said...


That's a good question. Before Gene answers, I'd like to ask: Would the baptism in your example be recognized as a valid one by Reformed paedobaptists? Thanks.

Turretinfan said...


In general, yes. That is to say, an otherwise valid baptism is not rendered otherwise invalid because the person professing faith is lying.


GeneMBridges said...

Yes, it would. However, this is more likely to occur in the semi-Arminian circles than it is in Particular Baptist circles. In fact, it's becoming rather common. That's a whole issue unto itself. Most RB/Sovereign Grace churches don't have that problem. The problem that you'll sometimes find that is more bothersome in our churches are some who will occasionally want to be rebaptized because they have changed their theology from semi-Arminian to Calvinist. I know of nobody who would do that except some Landmarkists, because that is tacit hyper-Calvinism.

In the older Particular Baptist tradition, it was not uncommon for people to put off baptism until fairly late, around 18 years of age or so.

There is some discussion between us relative to the time a person should be baptized. Some want to place it quickly after a public profession of faith, following, they say, Scriptural example.

To anticipate their own reply:

1. That conflates an example with a command. The Bible is silent about when to baptize a person upon profession of faith.

2. In the First Century, the profession of faith and baptism were closely conjoined for a reason.

3. The accent on baptism is relative to John the Baptist's baptism. It's purpose, according to the Bible, was "to reveal the Christ." It was prospective. In the church age, baptism is retrospective, it is a profession of our identification with Christ. Baptism stands out as a rite of testimony, at first, against the Jews (a fact most everybody overlooks) who, in John's gospel, refused baptism. To be baptized in identification with Christ was to publicly identify with Christ and separate from Judaism itself. Ergo, the accent in baptism was the public profession - thus the reason they were so closely conjoined.

4. In Samaria, note they were baptized first but then we have our first false professor, Simon Magus. So, if we follow example, and not all examples are there to follow I might add - some are there to warn us - then if we follow the "baptize quickly" example, we're running an increased chance of baptizing false professors. IMO,that's one reason that story is in the text.

5. And we see the subapostolic church separating baptism from a profession of faith for that very reason. That was a big reason for the catechumenate.

6. Most early Baptists therefore would wait a significant amount of time to baptize a person making a profession of faith. Mark Dever has a list of those ages for several of our key historical figures. I think the youngest in that list is around 14. I'll be summarizing that in an article at T-blog in the near future. I tend to agree with Dever.

7. Another issue that has recently arisen in SBC circles relative to baptism is administrator baptism, held by Landmarkist and their sympathizers in the Convention. This is a real cancer. In Landmarkism, the only baptism that is valid is by a valid administrator. It works just like Catholicism and their valid holy orders. What this means can vary, depending on how deeply they want to take it:

1. Old Landmarks believe the only valid local church is one established by another Baptist church. Thus, even if a Baptist church springs up by common consent, say of Congregationalists (like Adonirum Judson), they would say those persons must first be baptized by another Baptist person, usually an elder, from a local church. This sets up a chain that, logically, if one link is broken, invalidates every baptism after the break in the chain. This is the most fundamental error in Landmarkism.

There are still people in KY who go to SBTS library looking for baptismal records to trace their baptism. (Yes, this is ecclesiolatry - which is why I call it a cancer). I have a friend who used to work there who has told me he has had to turn men away. They just didn't understand why SBTS wouldn't archive all the churches' baptism records going all the way back. It gets really weird up there.

2. In the SBC at the Int. Mission Board, the new baptism policy, about which I wrote a booklet for the SBC two years ago (obviously in opposition), says that a person who was baptized in a church that does not affirm the security of the believer must be rebaptized in a church that does.

There are multiple problems with this that I won't list here in detail. However, I will say that if carried to its logical end, it leads directly to hyper-Calvinism, for only on the basis of at least 4 of the doctrines of grace can you logically hold to eternal security, and yes, there are Landmarkist Hyper-Calvinists out there. I used one of their sources for my booklet to demonstrate this.

If you want to read the booklet, email me, and I'll send you a copy in a Word document.

Albert said...


I think Reformed Baptists view the validity of baptism like most of evangelicalism today. It is for believers only. As such, baptism has no value for unbelievers.

Do not be shocked, but I was baptized THRICE. I already mentioned that my first baptism was a Roman Catholic baptism. I was baptized the second time in a youth camp. (Most evangelicals deem this as a necessity since they believe that RC baptism is invalid.) The pastors there baptized me not knowing that I wasn't a true Christian yet. My third baptism was after I was already a Christian. So in most of evangelicalism today, re-baptism has taken the place and role of the Lord's Supper. If you "feel" that you are not yet saved (i.e. you don't have assurance of salvation), then you have to undergo a re-baptism since baptism is for believers only. The previous baptism you had was invalid because you were still an unbeliever. And so goes the argument.

[NOTE: This isn't my idea. I got this from Prof. Scott Clark's article:]