Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Scandal of Baptism

My Protestant interlocutor asks, referring to Baptism ...

This view just seems SO similar to the old circumcision. I know it is an old view, but the old Church leaders thought so many different things, not all true. 
Why do you think those being circumcised were rebuked so passionately? Severed from Christ? What does it mean? Clearly he wasn't just upset about them obeying a law that didn't apply. There was something about they way they viewed it that was apparently anti-grace. Or is this different because of its nature? Are you saying that Christ himself is doing the baptism? It is not an act that comes from us, but an act of Christ? Surely it must be. How else could it be safe? Grace alone. Paul must have meant something in Galatians when he spoke of Faith. Something that was quite different from the way the Galatians viewed law.

And I reply ...

The value of Baptism is all over the New Testament ...
It is like circumcision only in as much as one is not circumcised outwardly, but inwardly (see Col. 2:11).  And where on earth did Christ criticize either circumcision or those who were circumcized?  That is utterly anti-scriptural.  Christ himself WAS circumcized.  (Luke 2:21)  Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  (Mat. 5:17)
And yes, the value of the Baptism does not come from man, but from God. 
We do not think of it as a magic formula, but the fact is that God uses material things to convey spiritual power.  That's been the case since the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. 
Now, of course, we can all become like the Galatians or the Pharisees and think that once we receive the grace, it's all over.  Protestants can make that mistake too and think, "Well, now that I've got faith, it's a done deal".  But it's not an automatic outward process; it comes from God, but it is completed by our cooperation with God. 

PAUL: Faith works through love (Gal. 5:6). 

JAMES: Faith without works is dead.  (James 2:26). 

In neither case are we saved by our own efforts or by some magic pill, but by the grace of God, which God allows us to bring to fruition and fullness after He's given it to us. 
Catholics can make the mistake of thinking that the sacraments work on their own, the way the Jews thought that circumcision made them children of Abraham and the process ended there - but God can raise children of Abraham from stones (Luke 3:8) - the point of the gift from God that makes us either children of Abraham (by means of circumcision) or brothers of Christ (by means of Baptism) is for us to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8 again, Christ's own words).  In that passage, Jesus says, in effect, "Don't boast about something God gave you without your deserving it or earning it; instead now that you've got the gift, show forth the glory of the gift by living in a way that shows the transformation of your heart - for that transformation is the point of the gift."


Today the second reading at Mass was from Romans 4:13 and following ...

It was not through the lawthat the promise was made to Abraham and his descendantsthat he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith. 

Faith or Baptism are not ends in themselves, but are to be the groundwork for righteousness - a righteousness that leads to everlasting life (see Rom. 6:22).


Benjamin. said...

Galatians 5:2-5


Kevin O'Brien said...

Benjamin, Galatians 5:2-5 is about circumcision, and about how the old law has been fulfilled and surpassed by Christ. In what way does this apply to Baptism?

But if you're going to throw around Bible verses, try these - Rom. 6:4, Eph. 4:5, Col. 2:12, Heb. 6:2, and especially 1 Pet. 3:21, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us" - all Scrpiptural supports for the necessity and effectiveness of Baptism.

Benjamin. said...

Doesn't the Church recognize the possibility that people appearing to follow other religions could be following Christ and be saved?
What if they did not desire baptism?

Anonymous said...

You make some excellent points. It certainly does seem that faith in Christ is not necessary for salvation as the RCC seems to teach. This is not what Scripture teaches though.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Ben, in seeking the good, the beautiful and the true, those who are not Baptised are desiring God (who is all three). The Church is very clear on this. "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation." - Catechism of the Catholic Church para. 848 (quoting "Lumen Gentium")

Anonymous, I find it hard to take your comment seriously. If there is anything that Scripture is clear about it's the necessity of faith as the sine-qua-non of salvation.

If this is how Protestants understand Scripture - the same Protestants who knock Catholics for being "unscriptural" - this is a joke.

Anonymous said...

How can a man who is dead in sin (Eph 2:1-3) seek God with a sincere heart? How can a man who hates the light (John 3:20) seek after God?

Kevin O'Brien said...

How can a man who refuses to be fair to the Catholic Church truly be open to Christ?

'The theology behind Trent's "prevenient or predisposing grace" is the Catholic Church's conviction that "actual justification in adults takes its origin from a predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ ...with no existing merits on their side" (ibid). Thus, those who had turned from God by sins are disposed by God's grace to turn back and become justified by freely assenting to that grace.'

That's from http://fathernormsnotebook.blogspot.com/2011/12/prevenient-grace.html

Kevin O'Brien said...

Anonymous commenters, sign your posts.

I strongly suspect the last two "anonymouses" are the same person.

He argues first 1) all can be saved since faith in Christ is not necessary; then 2) no one can be saved unless already saved by Christ.

Welcome to arguing on the internet.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Here's how arguing on the internet goes.
A: The sky is blue.
B: How dare you! Prove it.
A: Look at the sky. What color do you see?
B: White.
A: Those are clouds.
B: Got ya!
A: No, you don't "got me". You're looking at the wrong thing. Let's try this. What color is that shirt you're wearing?
B: Blue.
A: Look at the sky. That open part next to the clouds. Is not that the same color as your shirt?
B: Are you saying the sky comes from Wal-Mart just like my shirt? You are an idiot!

Anonymous said...

Amen Kevin. You can have a blog and make it seem like u know what your talking about. Go figure.

Kevin O'Brien said...

That made no sense. Except it proved my point. Anonymous commenters, sign your posts with a name, even a "handle", or I'll start deleting them.

Michael said...

Why does anonymous refuse to justify his claims such as...

- "faith in Christ is not necessary for salvation as the RCC seems to teach"

...and on top of that not have the cohones to reveal EVEN a fake name?

Don't be so cowardly.

Joey Higgins said...

Amen Kevin. You can have a blog and make it seem like u know what your talking about. Go figure.

I think part of the reason I stopped calling people stupid is that I couldn't stop making simple grammar errors when doing it (or maybe it was just icing on the proverbial cake). Just a suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Circumcision was a *sign* of God's covenant with Israel. Thus it is the Protestants, who maintain a purely symbolic view of baptism, who fail to comprehend the mystery of the New Covenant, wherein we deal with divine realities, not empty signs. If baptism is just a symbol of God's covenant, then it is merely a less painful form of circumcision. But we are enlivened with supernatural grace by water and the Spirit in baptism -- as indeed we are -- then we have something altogether novel.