Francis Turretin & Roman Catholic Baptism

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Francis Turretin lived from 1623 to 1687 (approximately a century after the Council of Trent). He was a Reformed theologian of Italian descent. He wrote a great work called, "Institutes of Elenctic Theology". From this work, here is Turretin´s treatment of the question of Roman Baptism:

Fifteenth Question: Is baptism administered by heretics lawful?

We distinguish.

I. The question was long ago agitated in the time of Cyprian and Stephen, Bishop of Rome, with great spirit; some contending that baptism administered by a heretical minister was lawful and valid, others however denying it and maintaining that all such should be rebaptized. For Cyprian and his fellow African bishops decreed that baptism administered by heretics and schismatics was not true baptism and that on this account they should be rebaptized who approached the Catholic faith; as is evident from the various epistles of Cyprian to Januarius (Letter 72, "œTo Januarius" [ANF 5:375-77 ]), to Quintus (Letter 70, "œTo Quintus" [ANF 5:377-78]), to Stephen (Letter 71, "œTo Stephen" [ANF 5:378-79]), to Jubaianus* (Letter 72, "œTo Jubaianus" [ANF 5:379-86]) and others, and from the Acts of the Council of Carthage ("œSeventh Council of Carthage" [ANF 5:565-72]) over which Cyprian presided, Still they so affirmed these things as not to conduct themselves say in the opening of the Council, ibid., p. 565). In this respect, they differed much from the Donatists, who derived this error from them. They defended it with great zeal, deserting the communion of believers of those who disagreed with them. Hence the error merged into heresy and from a discord arose a schism, concerning which Augustine is to be consulted in his books, On Baptism, Against the Donatists (NPNF1, 4:411-514) and De Haeresibus 69 (PL 42.43- 44).

II. Stephen, the Roman bishop, in accordance with the ancient custom of the Catholic church, affirmed that those baptized by heretics should be received without a new baptism; as appears from the epistolary discussion of Stephen and Cyprian, where he gives his opinion, the sum of which is: "œIf anyone comes to us from any heresy, nothing new should be done, except what is customary, that the hand be placed upon him for repentance." In the following century in the First Nicene Council, this question was decided when it was said of those who style themselves Cathari: "œIf at any time they come to the Catholic church, it pleased the holy and great Council that receiving the imposition of hands, they should thus continue among the clergy" (hoste cheirothetemenous autous menein houtos en to klero, Canon 8, Council of Nicea, cf. tanner, 1:9). Hence it is evident that this great synod esteemed valid not only the baptism, but also the clerical ordination received under the ministry of heretics. Still the Paulianists or Samosatians, are excepted by Canon 19, whom the synod determined should "œbe baptized over again" (anabaptizesthai ex apantos, Tanner, 1:15) because they did not acknowledge the Trinity. Hence it is evident that Cyprian and Stephen erred through an excess of counterpoise (ametrian tes antholkes): the former when he held that those baptized by any heretics should be rebaptized, the latter when he thought that no one of them ought to be rebaptized, but that all should be received without a new baptism. Both ran into extremes. But here the mean is the safest, regard being held to the distinction between heretics.

III. Here therefore we think the question can be solved by distinguishing between heretics. For there are some who corrupt the substance of baptism and omit or change the form of institution; such as were the ancient Arians, who denied a Trinity of persons in unity of essence, and the modern Socinians. Others, while they retain substantials and defend the true doctrine of the holy Trinity contained in the formula of baptism, "œerr on the other heads of doctrine"; as the ancient Novatians and Donatists, and the modern Romanists and Arminians. As to the former, we judge that baptism administered by them is null, and so they are not properly to be rebaptized, but baptized, who have been baptized by such heretics, because they evidently corrupt the essential form of baptism, to which the invocation of the Trinity belongs. For this reason, the baptism of the Arians, who baptized "œin the Father, the only true God, in Jesus Christ, the Savior and a creature, and in the Holy Spirit, the servant of both" (according to the testimony of Jerome, Dialogue Against the Luciferians 9 [NPNF2, 6:324;PL 23.172] and Athanasius, "œContra Arianos, Oratio tertia," Opera omnia [1627], 1:430-31). Still a distinction must be made here again. For either the minister alone was infected with that heresy or the whole church with him. If the latter, we deny it to be a true baptism. If the former (to wit, if the church thinks rightly, notwithstanding the error of the pastor, if he is a secret heretic), provided the formula of Christ be retained, we believe the baptism to be valid and that it is not necessary to rebaptize those who have been once baptized. The sacrament is the property of the church, which is administered in her name and in her faith. On this account, the hidden error of the minister detracts nothing from the integrity of the baptism, provided the essentials are observed and nothing is changed in the word or element. Hence it is evident what reply should be made to the question which can be put, whether the baptism administered in an orthodox church by a minister imbued with Antitrinitarian or Jewish
errors (but not detected) is valid. Undoubtedly, the public faith of the church is here to be considered, into which he (who is baptized) is introduced and the promises made to him by Christ. Since these do not depend upon the minister, he (however deeply tainted with secret
heresy) cannot render them useless and void.

IV. However, if heretics retain the fundamentals of baptism (which constitute its essence) and do not change or corrupt its form, we hold that baptism administered by such is valid, although they may err on various articles of faith, and their baptism may be mixed up with various extraneous rites in accidentals.

V. The reasons are: (1) the essentials remain there as much as to form as to matter (to wit, the word with the element and the formula prescribed by Christ"”that it be administered in the name of the Trinity). (2) Neither the prophets, nor Christ, nor the apostles ever reprehended circumcision as void which had been performed in the Jewish church by idolatrous and heretical priests, such as the Pharisees were. (3) The example of Zipporah teaches that an invalid circumcision as to men is valid with God. (4) We do not read of any who were baptized by heretics having been rebaptized by the apostles.

VI. Although heretics are not true members of the invisible church, that does not hinder them from administering true baptism provided they retain its essentials; for they accommodate the tongue and hand only inthis act to God. It is God who baptized and who is efficacious through
the minister; as God through a corrupt ministry can gather a church from adults, so through baptism administered by heretics from infants. For although they do not belong to the orthodox church, still they can belong to the external but impure church. In them, the infidelity of men does not make void the faith of God, because baptism is not of men, but of God, which he wishes sometimes to be conserved in an impure church; as we find that God still preserved a remnant under Ahab in the time of Elijah (1 K. 19:18), however much the church had been corrupted in other ways.

VII. Now if it is asked whether it is lawful in any case to seek or to receive baptism of this kind, the reply should be made with a distinction. From heretics of the first order, who tear away the foundations of Christianity and of baptism, it should be sought in no case because there can be no true baptism among them. But as to others who retain the essence of baptism, but err in other things fatally (whether as to doctrine or as to worship), although we think their baptism ought not to be repeated, still we do not judge that it can be sought or received without guilt. The reception of such baptism shows our communion with them and participation in their errors, from which the Scriptures command us to flee. Also we are a stumbling block to the weaker brethren contrary to the precept of the apostle. What has been said in general of the baptism of heretics ought to be applied in particular to the baptism of the Romanists. Although we think it ought to be retained in those who come from them to us because the essentials of baptism remain with them; still we deny that it can rightly be sought or received from them, as will be proved more fully when we come to that subject.

Thus are the words of Francis Turretin on this subject. He lived a century after the Council of Trent. He clearly rejected Rome's doctrine. Nevertheless, he clearly accepted Rome's baptism.

[Edited on 9-15-2005 by biblelighthouse]
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