BAPTISM—Q&A

1. A Brief Challenge on the Meaning of Baptism

2. Baptism and the Good Thief

3. Infant Baptism and Justification

4. Intense Dialogue with a Former Catholic on Infant Baptism

5. John the Baptist's Baptism and Other Matters

6. More on Infant Baptism

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1. A Brief Challenge on the Meaning of Baptism

Lisa: John, to us the Scriptures clearly teach that: (a) Baptism is a complex doctrine because the term is used for Jewish ceremonial washings; (b) John's baptism which was strictly for Jews under the Law Covenant; (c) Christian water baptism which is purely symbolic; (d) True Christian baptism which has nothing to do with water; (e) Historic events (the flood and the passing through the Red Sea) which typify other things. Infant baptism is not Scripturally justifiable. True Christian baptism is an immersion into the Will of God and into a life of sacrifice with Christ.

J. Salza: Lisa, Scripture refutes all your contentions.

1. Scripture does not say "baptism is a complex doctrine." In fact, baptism is one of the most basic doctrines of Christianity. Nor do the Scriptures say that baptism is a term used for Jewish ceremonial washings.

2. Christian water baptism is not "purely symbolic." Peter refutes this by saying that "baptism saves you." (1 Peter 3:21). Paul also refers to baptism as the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5). Scripture never uses "regeneration" as symbolism. It refers to an actual, fundamental change in the person. Thus, not only does Scripture not say baptism is just symbolic, it actually says that baptism saves us, which is the most important reality that exists.

3. The flood, etc. are prototypes of baptism, so I agree with you. But the flood, the parting of the Red Sea and so forth were not just symbols. They were miraculous events that actually saved people. That is why Peter likens baptism to Noah's ark in the Old Testament. Both the people in the OT and the NT were saved through water (1 Peter 3:21). So your comments prove too much for you.

4. You say "infant baptism is not Scripturally justifiable" but you offer no Scriptural evidence for your contentions. This demonstrates that you have a bias, and have not really thought through what you are saying. In fact, Scripture refutes you once again. Peter says that the promise of baptism is "for you and your children" (Acts 2:38). The Greek word for "children" (teknon) is the same word used in Acts 21:21 to describe eight day old infants. So Scripture teaches that the promise of baptism is for infants. Why wouldn't it be? Eight day old infants were made members of the Old Covenant through circumcision. St. Paul calls baptism the "new circumcision" (Col. 2:11-12). This means babies qualify in the NT just as they did in the OT. God does not exclude infants from His New Covenant; otherwise, the New Covenant wouldn't be better than the Old one.

5. Tell me where Scripture teaches that "true Christian baptism is an immersion into the Will of God and into a life of sacrifice with Christ." Please give me chapter and verse. I hope you can see that you are operating from your own personal biases. The Catholic faith is the most Scriptural faith because the Catholic Church gave us the Scriptures. Grace be with you.

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2. Baptism and the Good Thief

Patron: Hi, I'm a catholic who has a question. We believe that good works + faith = salvation right? Well how can the man who was crucified with Jesus go to heaven if the man did no good works? and Jesus he would go to heaven? Thanks.

J. Salza: Hello. First, the good thief did do good works as he hung on the cross. He rebuked the bad thief. He expressed sorrow for his sins. He also expressed a desire to be with Jesus in His kingdom. So the good thief had a conversion of heart, and persevered in faith and good works to the end of his life, and Christ rewarded him with eternal salvation. Second, the Church has taught for 2,000 years that there are three ways to be baptized: by water, by desire and by blood. In this case, the good thief had a baptism of desire (by expressing his desire to be with Christ, even though it was presumably too late for a water baptism; this is also the reason why we can believe infants who die before baptism can go to heaven, based on the parents desire to baptize them, but for some intervening cause that prevented it). Martyrs who were not baptized in water and the Spirit, but martyred for Christ, are baptized by blood (i.e., the Holy Innocents). So water baptism is a normative, but not an absolute necessity for salvation. I hope that helps.

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3. Infant Baptism and Justification

Michael: Are we justified initially by the faith that precedes baptism or by baptism itself? (initial justification?) For an adult, is the adult justified by the faith he professes prior to baptism or the baptism itself? For an infant, is the infant justified by the faith of the Church or by the baptism?

J. Salza: Michael, there is no such thing as "initial justification" in Catholic theology. You are either justified or you are not. For the infant, he or she is justified at the moment of baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 6:11, Titus 3:5, Heb. 10:22). At the moment of baptism, by God's grace, faith, hope and love are infused into the soul (see Rom. 5:1-5 and the Council of Trent's declaration on Justification). For an adult, he is also first justified through baptism. The faith and works he does prior to baptism disposes him to justification, but he is not yet justified until baptism. That is why Paul says in his letter to Titus that we were not justified by the righteous deeds we have done, but by the washing of regeneration which is a reference to baptism (Titus 3:3-5). However, after baptism, we are further justified by faith and works (see James 2:24). I hope this clears things up.

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4. Intense Dialogue with a Former Catholic on Infant Baptism

Michael: Hi, on your site I find something troubling. You write:

"Matt. 9:2; Mark 2:3-5 - the faith of those who brought in the paralytic cured the paralytic's sins. This is an example of the forgiveness of sins based on another's faith, just like infant baptism. The infant child is forgiven of sin based on the parents' faith.

Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 6-10 - the servant is healed based upon the centurion's faith. This is another example of healing based on another's faith. 

Mark 9:22-25 - Jesus exercises the child's unclean spirit based on the father's faith. This healing is again based on another's faith. 

Exodus 12:24-28 - the Passover was based on the parent's faith. If they did not kill and eat the lamb, their first-born child died.

Joshua 5:2-7 - God punished Israel because the people had not circumcised their children. This was based on the parent's faith. The parents play a critical role in their child's salvation."

However, Colassians 2:12 states: Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. This verse explicitly says that we are baptized based on OUR OWN faith and not that of anyone else. Please provide a counter-argument. Thank You.

J. Salza: Michael, you inserted Col. 2:12 in the section on Infant Baptism, presumably to prove that one needs to profess "faith" before baptism (if not, please correct me).  The links on Infant Baptism, including those below, demonstrate that this is not the case.

Col. 2:12 refers to the baptism of those at Colossae who already believed in Christ, and then were baptized.  For adults, belief in Christ is necessary before baptism.  That is why the Church has a program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) to prepare adults for baptism prior to the baptism taking place.  That is the baptism Paul is talking about.  But for babies, they are brought to eternal life by water and the Spirit based on their parent's faith, not on their own faith (which is not possible as an infant). I hope that helps.

Michael: But why the double standard? This is what I don't understand? If an infant doesn't need to have faith, why should an adult?  What’s good for one is good for the other.  Faith is only a prerequisite for Baptism if you are an adult?? Is there any scriptural evidence of this? Did the Apostolic Fathers say this explicitly?? I think the verse is clear in saying that we are baptized according to our own faith.  Does scripture ever indicate being baptized based somebody else's faith? Please clear this up for me. Thanks.

J. Salza: Michael, there is no double standard.  The most desired way for someone to become God's son or daughter in baptism is immediately after birth.  That is why baptizing babies is the normative way.  If you study my link  http://scripturecatholic.com/baptism.html#baptism-III on infant baptism, there is abundant evidence that babies were baptized. Obviously, the babies that were baptized in the Scriptures couldn't profess a faith.  So this destroys the notion that you are only baptized by professing a faith in Christ.  The babies couldn't profess faith and were still baptized.

But what about someone who learns of Christ as an adult?  They obviously cannot be baptized as a baby, so they are baptized as an adult.  In the baby's case, the child is brought to the water's of baptism based on the parent's faith and desire for baptism.  The parent's do have to profess their faith in baptism and the desire for their child to receive it.  In the adult's case, the adult is brought to baptism by his own faith (because he, unlike the child has the capacity to profess it himself).  This, again, is not a double standard.  We are talking about two different situations - both of which hopefully result in baptism. 

Michael: Thank you for the response. I'm sorry, but I'm still having trouble in agreeing with this statement "In the baby's case, the child is brought to the water's of baptism based on the parent's faith and desire for baptism." The reason is because of Colassians 2:12.  You said that this verse is only addressing adults. Is there any evidence of this? Can you indicate in scripture where grace is given to one based on the faith of another?? Thank You.

J. Salza: Yes, please go to my link on infant baptism at www.scripturecatholic.com.  The Bible is replete with verses about infant baptism and bringing others to faith based upon the faith of another. I also spend a good amount of time on this subject in my book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith (pp. 71-75).

Before you continue, let me ask you this.  Under the Old Covenant, God allowed eight-day old babies to be apart of His covenant kingdom, when they were circumcised. As you learn on my link, Saint Paul says that baptism is the new circumcision. Col. 2:11-12.  In other words, it is for babies as well as adults.  Do you think that God would make the New Covenant narrower than the Old Covenant?  To the contrary, the New Covenant is the international family of God, babies, adults, and everyone in between.  It builds upon the Old Covenant to include everyone (including the babies that were also included in the Old Covenant).

Look at Acts 2:39.  Peter says that baptism is for children as well as adults. The Greek word used for children is "teknon."  This is the same word used to describe eight-day old infants in Acts 21:21.  This is devastating to your position that one has to be a "believer" to be baptized.  Here, Peter says that baptism is for babies. Hence, your position is simply not Scriptural.  Again, please look at my link on infant baptism to see the fallacy in a "believers baptism," a concept that has no Scriptural foundation, and was never taught by the 2,000 year-old Church Christ founded. 

You asked about baptism based on another's faith.  Paul baptized Lydia's household based on Lydia's faith. Acts. 16:15.  In Matt. 9:2 and Mark 2:3-5, the cure of the paralytic was based on another's faith. In Matt. 8:5-13 and Luke 6:10, the cure of the servant is based on the centurion's faith.  In Mark 9:22-25, Jesus exercises the demon based on the father's faith. In Exodus 12:24-28, the sparing or slaying of the first-born son was based on the parent's faith. In Joshua 5:2-7, the punishment of Israel, because they had not circumcised their children, was based on the parent's faith.  I think you see the point.  God often brings people to faith based on the faith of another.  This is why you cannot defend the erroneous position of a "believer's baptism."  It is simply not Scriptural, and has never been taught by the 2,000 year-old Catholic Church. I will be happy to address any additional questions you have on this.

Michael: Thank you for your response.  I have some more questions if you don't mind. Is it wrong to believe that babies automatically have the kingdom of heaven?  If so, what happens to unbaptized babies?  Please provide biblical support with your answer.

J. Salza: It is not wrong to believe that babies have the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus says the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.  The Church commends to the mercy of God babies who have not been baptized.  The Church does not have a definitive teaching on what happens, and nor do the Scriptures.  Hence, we pray for these little souls and trust that the Lord in His mercy will take them to Himself.

Michael: Second, in Acts 2:39, Peter says that baptism is for those present and their offspring.  It says nothing about their children.

J. Salza: It sure does. Peter says the promise "is made to you and to your children” (Acts. 2:39). You did not address the fact that children here, in the Greek, is "teknon" which means infants, as the same word is used to describe eight-day old infants in Acts 21:21.  Peter thus says that the promise is for infants.  You need to address this head-on before we go any further.  If you cannot, your argument for the exclusivity of a believer's baptism collapses.

Michael: No, it is simply saying that you can get baptized and the generation after you and so on. 

J. Salza: Michael, show me where that Scripture verse says "and the generation after you and so on."  It doesn’t say that at all. This is an example of eisegesis (you are reading your own presuppositions into the text that aren't really there). It may certainly mean that baptism is for generations that follow. But this would not exclude women, children and infants not currently present at Peter’s sermon, but who “were far off” (meaning, they were in their homes). In go through the meaning of the Greek phrase verbatim in my book.

Michael: It does restrict baptism to adults, however, when he says "repent and be baptized".  How can young children not at age of reason repent?! 

J. Salza: The verse does not restrict baptism to adults because Peter says the promise is to infants as well.  But you don't care to address this because it is devastating to your position.  Just because Peter says "repent," does not restrict baptism to adults. I have already covered this in previous emails, but you have failed to address it - the most desirable way to come to the waters of baptism is as an infant (in which case its based on the parent's faith); if you learn of Christ later, you come based on your own faith.  Nothing in Scripture ever excludes infants from the promises of Christ.

Michael: Peter clearly makes repent and belief a mandatory prerequisite for baptism.  He didn't even say "Repent and be baptized, except for the little ones who can be baptized without repenting."  If it is so important that we baptize children, then why not extra-emphasis on this in scripture? 

J. Salza: Once again, Peter says the promise is to your infants, so please address that first.  If you decide to actually study my link on infant baptism, you will see the emphasis on including all people in baptism.  This is emphasized when the sacred writers refer to "households" being baptized.  Household (in Greek, "oikos," includes children).  The Scriptures are replete with verses where "oikos" includes children and babies.  Again, see my link on infant baptism.  Please address why households (oikos) are baptized in the book of Acts, but why, in your opinion, that excludes infants. In fact, show me any verse in Scripture where it says that babies are excluded from baptism.

Michael: Those verse you site about being baptized based on another’s faith are not even about baptism. They are taken out of context. 

J. Salza: Have you not read my previous email?  Look once again at Acts 16:15.  Lydia's household (again, in the Greek, "oikos," which includes children) was baptized based on Lydia's faith.  This is a clear, Scriptural example of baptism of children based on the faith of the parent.  Please address this verse as well. 

Now, let me ask you two questions.  First, all your questions presuppose that something must be in the Bible in order for it to be true (sola Scriptura).  That is a fallacy.  But since you espouse this position, please give me a verse which expressly excludes infants from baptism.  You won't find one.  And you still have to deal with "tek-non" and "oikos," or you have nothing left to argue.

Second, tell me why Jesus would exclude babies from the Kingdom of Heaven under the New Covenant, when babies were included in the Kingdom of Heaven under the Old Covenant through circumcision?  Help me understand this.  Why is the New Covenant, in your mind, narrower than the Old?

Michael: I will take a look into the "tek-non" issue.  As for where in scripture it says that we are too obey only scripture, take a look at 1 Corinthians 4:6, where is specifically says "Do not go beyond what it written".  This one place I have scene Catholics fail to make their teachings in accordance with scripture.  This verse explicit on commanding on not to look beyond the written Word of God for guidance and authority.

J. Salza: Take a look at the "oikos" issue as well.  Also, If you have done any scholarship on 1 Cor. 4:6, you would know that most biblical exegetes, Catholic and Protestant alike, have not formed any definitive conclusions on what this means.  The majority opinion is that Paul is teaching a proverb here, instructing the faithful not to be arrogant.  But assuming Paul's verse should be taken literally, to what is Paul referring?  What is the "written" that he is referring to?  To the Decalogue? To the Talmud? To the Old Testament Scriptures?  What?  This verse proves too much for you because, when Paul wrote this, there was not even a New Testament canon established.  So Paul can't be referring to the NT. 

Hence, the verse does nothing for your position, and must be weighed against the many other verses in which Paul expressly teaches that we must follow Scripture AND TRADITION (the oral and written word) cf. 2 Thess. 2:15.  If the Bible is the sole inerrant rule of faith, how come the Bible doesn't say that anywhere?  Study history, and you come to know that the Bible came from the Catholic Church, the Church didn't come from the Bible.  That is why Paul calls the Church "the pinnacle and foundation of the truth." 1 Tim. 3:15. 

Michael: Regarding your second question, babies are not excluded.  They don't require baptism because they are pure at soul. They have not commited sins.  Baptism serves no purpose for them.  Baptism is only to be used when fall by our own sins. 

J. Salza: Once again, your position is absolutely “unbiblical.”  To the contrary, God has revealed that babies have original sin on their souls.  See, for example, Psalm 51:5 - we are conceived in the iniquity of sin.  Take a look at Job 14:1-4 - man that is born of woman is full of trouble and unclean. Baptism is required for all human beings because of our sinful human nature.  If you attempt to argue that babies don't have original sin, you are going against 2,000 years of Christian teaching!  Even your Protestant Bible churches teach that babies are born with original sin.  Original sin is a most basic doctrine of the Christian faith! We inherited this sin from Adam and Eve. If we are not born with original sin, at what point do we need a Redeemer?  This argument is so far off from even fringe Protestantism that it warrants no further discussion.

Michael: With my understanding of the scriptures, babies unconditionally saved, with yours, unbaptized babies still have the chance of going to hell (an idea which sounds rather satanic to me). 

J. Salza: Okay, so tell me in the Scriptures where it says that "babies are unconditionally saved."  There isn’t any such teaching anywhere, because Christendom has never taught it. The fact is, we don’t know exactly what happens to unbaptized babies who die, although we have a hope for their salvation because God is merciful, and because of Trent’s dogmatic teaching on “baptism of desire.”

Michael:  Your belief gives babies a 50% chance of salvation, while mine gives them 100% chance! I leave to you to decide which option is more to a babies advantage.  Also, the analogy you make is out of context.  But even if baptism were analogous to circumcision, that doesn't mean that since babies were circumcised, they can to be baptized.  The old testament has different circumstances than the new one does. 

J. Salza: It is not my analogy, my friend, but Saint Paul's analogy, as I clearly set forth in my last email.  I really wish to continue the dialogue, but you are so far off with your exegesis of Scripture, not to mention your complete departure with Christian teaching concerning our sinful and wounded nature from conception, that, you really need to do your homework before we continue this discussion. I suggest you acquire reputable Biblical commentaries, and would suggest a thorough study of the early Church fathers (please go to my site on the links section, and click on the Church Fathers).  You soon find that they were all Catholic.  Grace be with you.

Michael: Every time I ask my Protestant friends what is their support for the idea that Babies don’t need to be baptized to enter the kingdom of God, they always point to the verse in Matthew, I believe, that talks about Jesus inviting the children and saying that the kingdom belongs to such as these.  They interpret this as showing that the innocent behavior of children allows to enter the kingdom automatically.  They believe what prevents us from entering Heaven is our own personally sins.  So, when we are cleaned from original sin, what exactly is changed?  If we still have the ability to choose to live a life of sin, what exactly was changed? this is what I’m having trouble understand.

J. Salza:  Michael, I hope the following helps:

1.  The verse in Matthew says nothing about baptism.  It only says children belong in the kingdom. Does that mean that adults don't belong?  No, it doesn't.  Also, it does NOT say that the children are IN the kingdom (it only says that they BELONG).  The fact that Jesus said "belong" and not "in" tells us that they need to do something before they get in.  This "something" is baptism.  

2.  If anything, the verse proves that the gift of baptism (the free, unmerited, divine gift of grace from God) should go to children as well as adults.  It doesn't prove their case, and it doesn't disprove ours.  So, even though I believe the verse shows that children are still outside the kingdom, let's nevertheless assume we are back to even.

3.  Acts 2:39 - Peter says the promise of baptism belongs to children (in Greek, "tek-non"), and Acts 21:21 proves that "tek-non" includes infants because eight-day old children who were being prepared for circumcision are described as "tek-non."  This is the analysis I have provided you from the beginning.  Peter thus says the promise belongs to infants. Have your Protestant friends dig into this and see where they come out.  Notice that Peter also uses the word "belong" just as Jesus uses "belong" in regard to children.  Peter is referring to people who were NOT YET BAPTIZED (that is why he used "belong").  Similarly, Jesus' use of "belong" in regard to children also suggests that the children are NOT YET SOMETHING (not yet in the kingdom; this is why they need baptism).

4. Acts 16:15 - Lydia and her household (in Greek, "oikos") was baptized. "Oikos" never excludes children in the Scriptures.  I can provide many verses where "oikos" is used in the Bible and it never excludes infants.  "Oikos" is always understood to include a whole family unit.  This means babies too.  Have your Protestant Bible friends to also dig into this.

We need not go any further with them if they fail to address the "tek-non" and "oikos" issues.  These biblical truths destroy their argument.

5.  Your friends tell you that "our personal sins" are what keeps us from heaven.  Where does the Bible say "only our personal sins" keep us out of heaven?  Sin is sin, and this includes original sin as well as other sins.  Ask them where it says only personal sins after the age of reason keep us out of heaven.  There isn't any such verse. You will quickly find with the Protestants that they use Scriptures verses to prove something that really isn't there.  Here is a perfect example.

6.  The problem with our discussion is that we have a totally different understanding of baptism than they do.  They believe baptism is only symbolic.  They just think it is a meaningless ritual.  Catholics believe that baptism is salvific (effecting salvation), not just symbolic (it is one of the seven sacraments Jesus Christ instituted).  When we are baptized, the original sin in our souls is removed, and the soul is filled with God's sanctifying grace.  God literally dwells in our souls, and we become adopted sons and daughters of God through Christ.  That is the 2,000 year-old Catholic position.  We believe baptism saves us because 1 Peter 3:21 says so.  We believe baptism regenerates our souls because Titus 3:5-7 says so. Protestants don't believe baptism saves us or regenerates us. The Catholic position is on solid, Scriptural footing, unlike the nonsense they are preaching.  They cannot prove anything they claim with Scripture.

Just because we have the ability to sin after baptism (when we are the age of reason) does not disprove that baptism takes away original sin.  We have free will because God made us that way.   When we become justified before God, this does not mean that we can't fall away and sin.  Look at King David.  He was justified before God as a man after God's own heart.  Yet he sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and fell away.  He asked for forgiveness and was re-justified.

When we receive the Eucharist (Christ's flesh and blood), we can still sin afterward.  This does not mean that the Eucharist is not the flesh and blood of Christ.  Just because God gives us His free, unmerited gift of grace (even in a sacrament), and we sin afterward, does not mean that God didn't give us His grace. It means that we chose to reject the grace we had received and instead chose sin. 

Michael: Hi, happy Easter.  I’m still having problem with Matthew 19:13-15. The verse specifically says "the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  When I say that you belong to an organization, it implies that you are a member of that organization.  Therefore, to say that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to children, implies that they are members of the kingdom.  And if they are members, what purpose does Baptism serve them, since baptism is required to enter the kingdom.  It would seem a logical conclusion that only those who are not members of an organization would need to undergo a process of entrance into that organization.  Those who are already members of the organization don’t need to undergo a process which is for entering.  So, little children, being members of the Kingdom, dont need to undergo Baptism.  Please let me know what I'm just not getting. Thanks.

J. Salza: Happy Easter!  Remember, Saint Peter said that Scripture is not a matter of personal interpretation. That means it is a matter of public interpretation, and that has been given to the Church.  I have no problem discussing certain verses because it can be helpful, but you have to read the bible in the context of the whole picture.  You can't pick and choose verses to form universal conclusions.  I have given you a myriad of biblical verses that prove baptism is salvific, and was conferred upon babies in the early Church.  Remember the "oikos" and "teknon" arguments.  Unless you can rebut those, infant baptism wins.  We need not look any further.

In regard to below, Jesus is not even talking about baptism, so the Scripture is not relevant to our discussion.  If you wish, you can interpret it as children already belong. BUT, you can also interpret it as they don't already belong.  Therefore, you cannot form an absolute conclusion that children are already in the kingdom when an equally plausible interpretation says that they are not already in the kingdom.  You see?  That is how you exegete Scripture. 

Jesus said children belong, but Peter says that adults and children belong as well, and in Peter's case, "belong" meant they weren't yet baptized.  So I have a Scripture verse in Acts 2:38-39 which teaches us that "belong" means "not yet in."  But you don't have a verse that teaches "belong" means "in."  And even if you could find one, it still wouldn't prove a thing about baptism.

Now, Acts 21:21 proves that “teknon” means eight-day old infants, and Peter uses “teknon” to describe those to whom the promise of baptism belongs. Case closed. 

Grace be with you.

P.S.  Your Protestants friends, in addition to not addressing “teknon” and” oikos,” have not explained to me why God would make the New Covenant (which is for Jews, and Gentiles, and everyone) narrower than the Old Covenant.  Would you please address this also in your next email? 

Michael: I think I should confess that I was baptized a Catholic and as of late I have come to question my faith.  I would like to hold on to it, but I have non-denominational friends who say that the Catholic Church teachings are false and anti-biblical and they wish to teach the true meaning of the Bible.  I have been playing devils advocate with you, because I would like to see how well other Catholics can defend their faith when posed with great challenges.  I live on a university campus, so there isn't any Priest around that I can go for help. I go around asking questions to people on the web, hoping for some clarity.  These non-denominational Christians are very well versed in the scriptures. Oddly enough, most of them are former Catholics, which makes it seem like they primarily go after Catholics to evangelize.  I have been struggling to reconcile the Church's doctrines with scripture.  For ex. you pointed Job and Psalms to defend the doctrine of original sin, their response to that is that those are poetic books and can't be taken to be literally.  I still find it difficult to believe that people can be baptized based on the faith of another, and I still haven't been able be convinced that baptism by immersion is not the only valid way to administer baptism.  They do make me think sometime; maybe the Catholic Church may be a false institution, maybe it is founded upon man-made traditions.  They argue well with scripture and are very persuasive.  But I've decided not to leave my Catholic faith until I gained more clarity, and if so I did, perhaps I would stay if I felt it was for the glory of God.  In the end, that is what it is all about, glorifying God.  If you have any advice, I would deeply appreciate it. Thank you for the answers you've already provided.

J. Salza: Dear Michael. Thank you for sharing with me.  I will be there to answer any questions you may have.  There are many things we can talk about, and if you would like me to call you, I would be happy to do that. Please send me your phone number and we can talk.

I deal with Protestant "Bible" Christians all the time.  Let me give you a few things to think about.

1.  Protestants believe that the Bible is the sole infallible authority for God's word.  That belief presupposes everything that they wish to argue.  But here is a stumbling block for them.  They believe that all of God's revelation is found in the Bible, and that nothing outside of the Bible is necessary for our salvation. This is the erroneous doctrine of "sola Scriptura."  What destroys their sola Scriptura position is the "canon of Scripture."  The canon of Scripture is the list of all the books that are in the Bible.  But God did not give us an inspired table of contents to figure this out.  And yet knowing what books belong in the Bible and what books do not is necessary for our salvation, because adhering to uninspired books could lead us to err.  Here is their dilemma: knowing what books belong in the Bible and what books do not is a revelation given to us by God, but is comes to us from outside the Bible. This revelation was given to Christ's Catholic Church (the Church compiled the Bible at the end of the fourth century).  This utterly destroys their sola Scriptura position, because it proves God gave us a revelation outside of the Bible.  And if He gave the Catholic Church this revelation, how come He can't give her other revelations.

2.  Matt. 16:18-19 - Jesus built His Church upon the rock of Saint Peter, and gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  These "keys" were given to Peter to signify the authority he had over the "ecclesia" (Church) and were used to facilitate dynastic succession of Christ's representative on earth.  See Isaiah 22:19-22.  Jesus gave us a visible, hierarchical, authoritative Church which leads us into all truth.  Jesus did not ascend into heaven and say, "hey guys, in 400 years, the Bible will be compiled, and that will be your guide."  First, what happened between 33 A.D. and 397 A.D. when there was no Bible?  The CHURCH is what preserved Christianity.  That is why Paul calls her the pinnacle and foundation of the truth. 1 Tim. 3:15.  The 30,000 different Protestant denominations prove that their religion does not work.  God does not desire all these denominations.  That is why He gave us ONE Church.  History proves this out.  The Catholic Church is universally united in doctrine and tradition, because she is preserved by God from teaching error.  Their Protestant denominations (all of which were formed very recently) make each person their own pope.  This is ridiculous, and their errors demonstrate that sola Scriptura is an erroneous teaching. God is not the author of this Protestant confusion.

3.  John 6:35-70 - Jesus gives us His flesh and blood in the Eucharist.   This is the New Covenant.  This is the source and summit of the Christian faith.  This is everything.  If you truly want a relationship with Jesus, you must eat His flesh and drink His blood as He commanded us.  And you can only find this in the Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ, in union with Peter.  This is the summit of our Christian life on earth.  This is what it is all about.  The Scriptural evidence for the teaching of the Eucharist is incredible (see my link).  I suggest you plunge yourself into learning more about the Eucharist, because evidently your formation (like mine) was not sufficient.  I researched all of this for years.  When I look at what the early Church fathers taught regarding the Eucharist, and every other Catholic teaching, I realized that they were all Catholic! And they taught this stuff in the first, second, third and fourth centuries.  When was your friends Bible Church formed?

You will never be satisfied with any other church than the Catholic Church. I truly mean this, and I trust that sufficient self-study will convince you of this.  I will address any claim they make for you and refute it, if it is contrary to the 2,000 year old teachings of Christ's Church.  So far, I have not heard any rebuttals on the "tek-non" or "oikos" arguments I posed. That is because there aren't any.  These facts destroy their erroneous beliefs about baptism.  You need to press them on these issues.  Force them to respond to my arguments.  They want to say that Job and the Psalms are only symbolic.  How do they know?  What authority do they have to say that?  None, because their positions are novel. 

Trust me on this point:  You will never find anyone in the early Church (and I can't think even of anyone in modern Protestant circles) who teach that babies souls are pure.  This is laughable.  It is absolutely devoid of any type of scholarship.  Again, make them address why Peter says the promise of baptism is for infants "teknon" and that whole housholds ("oikos") were baptized.  They can't win here, nor anywhere where Catholic teaching is contradicted. Hopefully, you and I can reveal their errors to them and bring them back to the Church of Christ Jesus.  This will take more than email exchanges. It will take prayer.

Grace be with you.

John Salza

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5. John the Baptist's Baptism and Other Matters

Kevin: I came across your site while searching on baptism.  I've studied, and now I am asking about what I've studied to different folks of different faiths the question that follows. It is interesting that so many churches say that it (baptism) is or isn't required for salvation, or that it is required for either church membership, to identify with Christ, or as some other sign or commitment. I have been studying prayerfully, this subject for the better part of the past year because it was preached as a requirement for salvation in a church we were attending.  We had never attended/joined a church before that church just under 2 years ago, but we've since left that church because of the "leaven" in it's doctrine.  We study daily individually and as a family, and attend a small home bible study group in our area.

Is it just me, or does the Bible tell us that John's baptism of water was a preparing designed to fulfill the law, and that it was completed and fulfilled as well as the law - by Jesus?  That our walk with Jesus does not start after we are "saved" by - or after being saved we are immersed in a pool of water, but with an offering of thanksgiving and a new lifestyle of charity (love) and a willingness to share the Gospel with others.

Some have told me that it is to identify with his death, burial and resurrection, but doesn't Paul explain our identification with  that in that we die to our self - we repent and the old sinful man dies and is put away or buried and we walk in the hope of resurrection, walking anew in Christ and He in us?  So then, isn't baptism, like the law, something that was fulfilled by Christ - the only one who was and is worthy - and not tied to nor required for either salvation or righteousness or obedience? 

Thanks for your prayerful feedback.

J. Salza: Thanks for the email. The 2,000 year-old teaching of the Catholic Church is that baptism washes away the original sin we inherited from Adam and Eve.  Thus, baptism is not just symbolic - it is salvific. 

John's baptism of Jesus was just a ritual washing.  It was not the Christian sacrament of baptism that we have - in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It did not confer grace or the Holy Spirit.  Paul says so as you point out.  John's baptism of Jesus was to reveal to humanity that Jesus came to fulfill the law, through the new and eternal covenant. Hence, at John's ritual washing of Jesus, the Father reveals the Son and the Holy Spirit descends upon the Son, who is the true "Lamb of God' who takes away the sins of the world.

I also liken Jesus’ baptism to a royal anointing of the Son of David. Jesus, the Son of David, was anointed by the Levite John the Baptist, to reveal His glory to Israel, just as Solomon, the Son of David, was anointed by the Levite Zadok in 1 Kings 1:39. The study of typology in Scripture is fascinating.

It gives me pause to say that baptism was “fulfilled by Christ” per se, because baptism never existed before Christ (only a foreshadowing of it). We can say that baptism fulfilled the promises that God made to Abraham and his descendants, that they would all be blessed in Christ. This blessing was foreshadowed by the covenant act of circumcision, and baptism is the new circumcision (Col. 2:11-12). So, again, there is typology at work here.

We must say that baptism is a sacrament that was instituted by Christ to forgive people their sins and incorporate them into His body in His New Covenant.  Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commands His apostles to "baptize all people in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19-20).  He would not have command this if He already fulfilled it.  Jesus also taught that "He who believes AND is baptized will be saved."  (Mark 16:16). Jesus doesn't just say he who believes will be saved.  He requires baptism as well. 

Jesus also taught that we must be born of water and Spirit in reference to baptism, or we cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3-5).   Peter says that "baptism is what now saves us." (1 Peter 3:21). So the Protestant denominations that teach that we gain salvation by "accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior" are not teaching the fullness of truth. These teachings are not biblical. Yes, we must accept Jesus as our Savior, but we must also be baptized as Jesus Himself commanded.

We also see in the early Church in the book of Acts many examples of the importance of baptism.  For example, Peter commands the Jews to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to be saved (not just to become part of the Church's membership roll). (Acts 2:38).  Also, Paul, even though he was directly chosen by Christ and immediately converted to Christianity, still had to be baptized to be forgiven his sin. (Acts 9:18) This is a powerful text which demonstrates the salvific efficacy of water baptism, even for those who decide to give their lives to Christ. 

See also Acts 22:16 - Ananias tells Paul, "arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins," even though Paul was converted directly by Jesus Christ. This proves that Paul's acceptance of Jesus as personal Lord and Savior was not enough to be forgiven of his sin and saved. The sacrament of baptism is required.  The Protestant churches cannot reconcile these passages with their erroneous understanding of baptism as merely a symbolic ritual

Read also Acts 8:12-13; 36; 10:47.  If belief is all one needs to be saved, we should ask the question why everyone is instantly baptized after learning of Jesus. See also Acts 16:15; 31-33; 18:8; 19:2,5.  These texts present more examples of people learning of Jesus, and then immediately being baptized. If accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior is all one needs to do to be saved, then why does everyone in the early Church immediately seek baptism?  This is because baptism is necessary for salvation.  This has been the teaching of the Catholic Church for 2,000 years. 

Kevin, you sound like you are in an exciting time in your life - investigating the truths of Christianity, and searching for the fullness of truth.  This you will only find in the Holy Catholic Church.  If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.

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6. More on Infant Baptism

Patron: I CONTINUE TO DEBATE WITH MY WIFE BAPTISM. SHE IS CHRISTIAN AND I AM CATHOLIC. SHE ASKS WHY CATHOLICS BAPTISE AT SUCH AN EARLY AGE AS YOUNG AS BABIES. THEY CANNOT ASK REPENTANCE OF THEIR SINS AT THAT EARLY AGE. AT HER CHURCH THEY TAKE THIS PROCESS ONCE THEY ARE AT A MORE ADVANCED AGE. SHE ALWAYS SAYS JESUS WAS BAPTISED WHEN HE WAS AN OLDER PERSON. PLEASE ADVISE AND WERE CAN I FIND ANSWERS IN THE BIBLE OR ELSEWHERE. THANKS

J. Salza: Please see my link on baptism for your answers http://scripturecatholic.com/baptism.html

The Church baptizes babies because baptism is the new circumcision of the New Covenant (Col. 2:11-12), just as the circumcision of eight-day old babies was the sign of the Old Covenant (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3).  In Acts 2:39, Peter says baptism is for children as well as adults.  The word used for children ("teknon") means infants, which is proved by Acts 21:21 in reference to eight-day old infants. We see in Acts 10:47-48; 16:15,33 and 1 Cor. 1:16 that entire households were baptized.  Household ("oikos") included infants and children.  There is nothing in the Bible about a "believer's baptism."  It would have been unthinkable from a Jewish perspective to exclude children from God's covenant kingdom.  See also in Matt. 9:2, Mark 2:3-5, Matt. 8:5-13, Luke 6:10, Mark 9:22-25 where people are healed based on another person's faith (just as babies are washed away of sin based on their parents' faith). 

ANOTHER DIALOGUE ON INFANT BAPTISM

Ray: I have asked some pretty straight-forward questions that you have not answered. So I will ask them again without expounding further: Where does it say in the Bible that a person must orally recite their sins or has recited their sins to anyone, Jesus, John the Baptist, an Apostle etc? And, Show me one instance in the Bible where 1. An infant, or even a child, is baptized. 2. Someone who does not believe in Jesus is baptized.

I think I have kept it simple enough.
In Christ Jesus,
Ray

J. Salza: 1. Your questions presuppose that in order for something to be true, it must be found in Scripture. But you haven't proven that presupposition. That is because the Bible does not teach it. Nevertheless, I will answer below using the Scriptures.

2.  After Christ rose from the dead, He gave His apostles the authority to forgive and retain sins. See John 20:21-23. Jesus told His apostles "As the Father sent me, so I send you." Jesus was giving them notice that they would be doing what Jesus did during His earthly ministry. Just as Christ forgave sins, so would the apostles. Remember, every time Jesus forgave sins, He said He did it as the "son of Man." Whenever Jesus said "son of man," He was emphasizing His humanity. Whenever He said "Son of God," He was emphasizing His divinity. This is why it says in Matthew 9:8 that God had given such authority "to men." That is about as clear as it can get.

The way Jesus conferred this authority upon the apostles requires penitents to confess their sins to them, since Jesus did not give them the power to read minds; and even if He did, the penitent would still demonstrate the desire to be forgiven by orally confessing their sins to the priests. When you study history, you learn that the Church actually required penitents to confess their sins orally before the congregation to be forgiven. The early Church fathers said that the power of the keys which Jesus gave to Peter including "binding and loosing "sins. Notice also that Jesus gives the apostles the authority to "retain" sin. That means that the apostles have the authority to judge the sincerity of the penitent, and can bind the penitent to works of penance and reparation before "loosing" the sins.

3. In Acts 2:38-39, Peter says that the promise of baptism is "for you and your children, and those far off." The Greek word for "children" is teknon. This is the exact same word used in Acts 21:21 to describe eight-day old infants. Thus, Peter says that baptism is for infants as well as adults. In fact, those "far off" would have included moms and their children who would have been at home. Also, in Acts 16:15, it says Lydia and "her household" were baptized. The word for "household" is oikos which would include infants and children. See also 1 Cor 1:16, Acts 16:33, 10:47-48 - other examples were "oikos" is used.

Remember that the Old Covenant included infants. They would become members
of God's family at eight days old when they were circumcised. Paul calls baptism the new circumcision in Col. 2:11-12, so Paul understands baptism to include infants in the New Covenant, just as God included them in the Old Covenant. If God would have excluded infants in His New Covenant, the Jews would have thought the New Covenant was worse.

The other thing Scripture teaches us is that God effects spiritual cures based on the faith of parents and others. Jesus cured the paralytic based on the faith of those who brought him to Him. Jesus cured the centurion's servant based on the centurion's faith. In the OT, God spared or slain the first born of the family based on whether the parents obeyed His commandment to fulfill the Passover requirements. There are many biblical precedents for receiving spiritual gifts based on the faith of others. The other problem you have is that no where in Scripture does it say that infants are NOT to be baptized. If you are honest with yourself, you will see the truth in the 2,000 year old Catholic position.

4.  You also want me to show you someone who does not believe in Jesus is baptized. First, based on the foregoing, the Bible teaches that infants are included in the New Covenant by the grace of baptism. But to answer the question, look at Jesus' statement in Mark 16:16 where He says "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned." The second clause of this statement demonstrates precisely what you are attempting to deny, namely, that one can be baptized but not be a believer. Jesus' statement also proves the Catholic position that baptism is necessary for salvation, and that "faith alone" is not enough.

I think I have kept it simple enough. Grace be with you.

John Salza

Patron: As you say Peter was speaking to the parents of the infants. All the commands in the new testament from Christ about Repent, confess, and be baptized where given to people who knew they where living in sin. So in short, in all the commandments Christ gave us about baptism no reference is give for us to baptize infants. So you take it upon your own authority to baptize infants not Christ's authority. I'm sorry, We don't see this together.

J. Salza: Peter was speaking to the parents of the infants. He was telling the parents to repent, for the promise of baptism was for them and their children (Greek, teknon). The parents are called to make an act of faith on behalf of their infants because their infants cannot. But this should pose no problem for you, Jeff, since the Scriptures are full of examples of Jesus effecting healing based on the faith of others.

For example, Jesus healed the paralytic based on the faith of those who brought him. Jesus heals the faith of the centurion's servant based on the faith of the centurion. Jesus exercises the child's unclean spirit based on the father's faith. In the Old Testament, God spared the first-born son based on the parent's faith.

Now, let me ask you a question: If God is willing to effect physical and spiritual cures for children based on the faith of their parents, how much more will he bring children into the New Covenant of grace based on the faith of their parents?

Patron: John, PETTER 3:21 I'm sorry but there is nothing about baptism of infant in this scripture. Did you say? "the church has always required those of the age of reason to repent and be baptized" in obedience to Peters command. Yes you did. Did you say the age of reason? Yes you did. John please listen to one of Christ's commands about children.

Jesus said, Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14 The little children are owners of the kingdom of heaven. (according to Christ). I hope this commandment of Christ lets you see the truth. John, It's late and I need to close this topic.

J. Salza: Several things.

First, you never addressed the fact that Christ forgave people based upon the faith of others. As applied here, the parents confess the faith on behalf of the child, and the child receives baptism which "saves him" (1 Peter 3:21). There is no Scripture that says infants should not be baptized.

Second, the Church has always required those of the age of reason to repent prior to baptism, in obedience to Peter's command. However, God wants infants to be part of the New Covenant, just like He wanted infants to be apart of the Old Covenant. This is why we see in the book of Acts where entire households were baptized. Again, show me a Scripture which says infants should not be baptized?

Third, and this should be most disturbing to you, ALL of the early Church Fathers believed in infant baptism. These are the same men who received their instruction from the apostles or their successors. Here are some examples:

And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family." Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition, 21 (c. A.D. 215).

"[T]herefore children are also baptized." Origen, Homily on Luke, XIV (A.D. 233).

"For this reason, moreover, the Church received from the apostles the tradition of baptizing infants too." Origen, Homily on Romans, V:9 (A.D. 244).

"Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous." Origen, Homily on Leviticus, 8:3 (post A.D. 244).

"But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day...And therefore, dearest brother, this was our opinion in council, that by us no one ought to be hindered from baptism...we think is to be even more observed in respect of infants and newly-born persons." Cyprian, To Fidus, Epistle 58(64):2, 6 (A.D. 251).

"It shows no crease when infants put it on [the baptismal garment], it is not too scanty for young men, it fits women without alteration." Optatus of Mileve, Against Parmenium, 5:10(A.D. 365).

"Have you an infant child? Do not let sin get any opportunity, but let him be sanctified from his childhood; from his very tenderest age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Fearest thou the Seal on account of the weakness of nature?" Gregory Nazianzen, Oration on Holy Baptism, 40:17 (A.D. 381).

"Be it so, some will say, in the case of those who ask for Baptism; what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too? Certainly, if any danger presses. For it is better that they should be unconsciously sanctified than that they should depart unsealed and uninitiated." Gregory Nazianzen, Oration on Holy Baptism, 40:28 (A.D. 381).

"'Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.' No one is expected: not the infant, not the one prevented by necessity." Ambrose, Abraham, 2,11:79 (A.D. 387).

“We do baptize infants, although they are not guilty of any sins." John Chrysostom, Ad Neophytos (A.D. 388).

This is just a small sampling from the first 350 years of the Church. Do you know better than the early Church Fathers?

The problem with your position is that you don't understand the nature of baptism - that it provides a supernatural means of grace which cleanses the soul of original sin and brings about our justification before God. That is why it can and must be given to infants as well as adults, just as the apostles and Fathers teach.

Patron: John, there is nothing in 1 Peter 3:21 about baptizing infants, and Jesus says that children already own the kingdom of God. You are mistaken.

J. Salza: Why didn't you respond to the many patristic quotes I sent you regarding infant baptism? The early Church Fathers all believed in infant baptism. This has been the practice of the Church since the very beginning. Even Martin Luther believed in infant baptism! Denying baptism to infants is a very recent phenomenon. Please address the early Church Fathers if you want to continue this dialogue.

Before I go, a couple more things. 1 Peter 3:21 says that baptism "saves" us. That means baptism isn't just a symbolic act. It saves us because it imparts sanctifying grace to the soul. Just as the eight people on the ark were literally saved through water, those who are baptized are literally saved through water. The only difference is that the OT was about the earthly life, and the NT is about the spiritual life.

Matthew 19:14 does not say that children are the "owners" of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says only that the kingdom "belongs" to them. That is, the kingdom is their inheritance. But they don't enter into the kingdom unless they are first born of water and the spirit (John 3:5). Thus, Matthew 19:14 actually helps me, not you. Jesus says that unless one is born again of water and the spirit, he CANNOT enter into the kingdom of heaven. Because John 3:5 is about baptism (which EVERY early Church Father taught), baptism is necessary for salvation. That means that it is for infants as well as adults, because both are in need of salvation.

God bless.

John Salza

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