Liberal Baptism

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
For those who believe RC baptism to be valid: I originally planned to put this in 'Paedo-baptism Answers' but I realize that there may a few credobaptists here who are not entirely dismissive of non-immersion baptism. Machen in Christianity and Liberalism put forth that the Roman Catholicism is in some sense, or in time past, a Christian church, but that liberal churches are part of another religion. If we take RC baptisms as valid due to their Trinitarian nature, what are we to think of baptisms from liberal churches? If a man came to you from a highly liberal UMC, would you accept his baptism if it was Trinitarian?

I had a friend once tell me that not only would he not consider RC baptism valid, but any church that is apostate in any way, such as liberal Methodists. That seems arbitrary and senseless to me though. A liberal UMC was at some point not liberal. Does that mean we only accept baptisms from churches who currently have correct doctrine? Obviously this is not the position of everyone who does not view RC baptism as valid, but perhaps it is consistent. If one denies RC baptism, should they not deny baptisms from all apostate or not fully faithful churches, Protestant or otherwise? [the questions in this second paragraph are rhetorical, but if one desires to engage them I will not refuse to reply]
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.—Shorter Catechism, 91.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Freshman
WCF Chapter 25 Para 5 reads "5. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will."

I think this is a good question you are asking. Take a look at WCF Ch. 25 Para 5 above (for Baptists reading look at 1689 Ch. 26 Para 3). I think we would all agree with our confessions on this point. But what does this reality look like in practice and what are the implications? At what point does a church degenerate to the point of becoming a synagogue of Satan?...and if no longer a visible church of Christ how could the sacraments administered be considered valid?

What criteria would one use to determine whether a self-proclaimed church is in fact not one? This is where things seem to get subjective real quickly and inconsistencies enter into our thinking. I could be wrong, but I believe the Q&A of the Westminster Shorter Catechism #91 assumes the sacraments are administered in a true church and that the validity doesn't hinge on the faithfulness of the individual administering it (i.e. contra the donatists).

I do think if one considers baptisms in the RCC to be valid they will need to believe the same for those baptized in an Eastern Orthodox (EO) communion. If the RCC and EO baptisms are considered valid then I can't imagine one would flinch at all at the flood of heterodoxy that is found in the liberal paganizing denominations today.

I think part of the difficulty is reckoning with churches that had a good heritage and over a long period of time drifted (or degenerated) from the truth. Generally speaking we tend to treat the RCC, EO, and liberal denominations differently than say the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, or any other cult. Why is that? In part I think it's because we can more easily draw a line of separation between that which once was a true church from those that never were, but at some point in my mind they are no different at all. The road traveled may differ, but the destination (i.e. endstate) is the same.

Just my morning musings is all...I look forward to learning what others think about this.
 
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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you both for replying. I would counter you Mr. McDonald on the point that "...if one considers baptisms in the RCC to be valid they will need to believe the same for those baptized in an Eastern Orthodox (EO) communion. If the RCC and EO baptisms are considered valid then I can't imagine one would flinch at all at the flood of heterodoxy that is found in the liberal paganizing denominations today. " Do you mean to say those that accept RCC baptism do not care about liberalizing or that one would also accept the baptism from a now liberal church?

I agree with you over the point of a church that once was a much truer church. JWs and LDS do not believe in the Trinity at all, and thus are baptizing in the name of a different god. To understand what I think of EO baptism I would want to understand their view of the Godhead. I am glad you thought it was an interesting thought. I would the thread would be dead in the water.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Freshman
Do you mean to say those that accept RCC baptism do not care about liberalizing or that one would also accept the baptism from a now liberal church?
My point, which may have lacked clarity, is if one believes RCC baptism is valid due to the trinitarian formula they use one will logically believe the baptisms in liberal denominations are also valid due to the same reasoning. If the RCC isn't considered a synagogue of satan after apostatizing centuries ago then neither are the liberal denominations that are in the midst of apostatizing today. To me this would be consistent thinking on the matter.

However, at some point every tree needs a pruning...this is the tricky part of thinking through the issue. How does the true church do that today?....or does it at all? If there comes a point when a church is so degenerate that it is no longer even Christian by any meaningful biblical definition what should be done? That's a tough one.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
I believe I am leaning toward to the position of the Reformers that a synagogue of Satan can still perform valid baptism, and that would include in my estimation Roman Catholics and Liberals. Obviously, this stems from a fundamental difference of our views of baptism, which was not my goal to discuss with this thread. My point is that I agree, I do think it is consistent to accept baptisms from a once sound church now liberal if one accepts them from the Roman communion.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
One of the things that helps in discussions like this is to consider the following question:

What makes baptism to be baptism?

Every one of us would all agree that baptism is baptism when water is used in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

But is there anything else about baptism that makes it baptism, or that lacking, makes a (seeming) baptism to be non-baptism?

Some would say that it's not just the use of water, but the amount of water. (Some say sprinkling is never baptism, but only immersion.)
Some would say that a profession of faith is necessary from the one being baptized (<--- all baptists for example).
Some would say that the person baptizing must be in some way qualified. (The ancient church only addressed the question of whether the MORALS of the one baptizing were relevant. I don't think Cyprian or Augustine would have ever agreed that sprinkling or dunking done by a Priestess of Diana could count as a Christian baptism).

Work out in your mind what things must be for baptism to be baptism and you've pretty much solved this issue.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
A lot of the "liberal" denominations are broad tent and there are conservatives hanging on. Even the UCC, considered one of the most liberal denominations in the country, has the fairly Evangelical group of Hungarian Reformed churches, Calvin Synod, within it: http://calvinsynod.org/ The UMC you mentioned too, has a huge range. Plenty of Evangelicals in the denomination still.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Depends on how liberal (and that is echoed in the WCF's "so degenerated as to become," which is degreed language).

Some liberal Protestantism verges on withcraft with its Sophia/goddess worship, so their baptisms probably don't count. But if you are part of a decent Methodist or even TEC church, then probably.
 

EcclesiaDiscens.

Puritan Board Freshman
A lot of the "liberal" denominations are broad tent and there are conservatives hanging on. Even the UCC, considered one of the most liberal denominations in the country, has the fairly Evangelical group of Hungarian Reformed churches, Calvin Synod, within it: http://calvinsynod.org/ The UMC you mentioned too, has a huge range. Plenty of Evangelicals in the denomination still.
I mean if they blatantly edit the Baptism ceremony to be something like, “In the name of the Goddess, the afterglow, and whatever else” then yeah I would say it has degenerated. But if it’s still in the formula of scripture I’d say it’s still valid.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
Depends on how liberal (and that is echoed in the WCF's "so degenerated as to become," which is degreed language).

Some liberal Protestantism verges on withcraft with its Sophia/goddess worship, so their baptisms probably don't count. But if you are part of a decent Methodist or even TEC church, then probably.
I know you have studied Eastern Orthodoxy. Is their view of the Trinity orthodox?
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
WCF Chapter 25 Para 5 reads "5. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will."

I think this is a good question you are asking. Take a look at WCF Ch. 25 Para 5 above (for Baptists reading look at 1689 Ch. 26 Para 3). I think we would all agree with our confessions on this point. But what does this reality look like in practice and what are the implications? At what point does a church degenerate to the point of becoming a synagogue of Satan?...and if no longer a visible church of Christ how could the sacraments administered be considered valid?

What criteria would one use to determine whether a self-proclaimed church is in fact not one? This is where things seem to get subjective real quickly and inconsistencies enter into our thinking. I could be wrong, but I believe the Q&A of the Westminster Shorter Catechism #91 assumes the sacraments are administered in a true church and that the validity doesn't hinge on the faithfulness of the individual administering it (i.e. contra the donatists).

I do think if one considers baptisms in the RCC to be valid they will need to believe the same for those baptized in an Eastern Orthodox (EO) communion. If the RCC and EO baptisms are considered valid then I can't imagine one would flinch at all at the flood of heterodoxy that is found in the liberal paganizing denominations today.

I think part of the difficulty is reckoning with churches that had a good heritage and over a long period of time drifted (or degenerated) from the truth. Generally speaking we tend to treat the RCC, EO, and liberal denominations differently than say the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, or any other cult. Why is that? In part I think it's because we can more easily draw a line of separation between that which once was a true church from those that never were, but at some point in my mind they are no different at all. The road traveled may differ, but the destination (i.e. endstate) is the same.

Just my morning musings is all...I look forward to learning what others think about this.
The Baptism is valid if it is done with water, using the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," with Trinitarian intent.
Thus Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox baptisms are valid. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox clerics would affirm the orthodox doctrine of the incarnation and of the Trinity.
By the same token, how can we say that there is Trinitarian intent when the baptism is performed in a liberal United Church of Christ congregation by an unbelieving minister? Should we continue to treat baptisms performed by heterodox clerics in liberal denominations differently from baptisms performed by a pastor of a cult?
 

smalltown_puritan

Puritan Board Freshman
I believe I am leaning toward to the position of the Reformers that a synagogue of Satan can still perform valid baptism, and that would include in my estimation Roman Catholics and Liberals. Obviously, this stems from a fundamental difference of our views of baptism, which was not my goal to discuss with this thread. My point is that I agree, I do think it is consistent to accept baptisms from a once sound church now liberal if one accepts them from the Roman communion.
A helpful pamphlet for me on this particular issue was John Knox's Answers to Some Questions Concerning Baptism. Knox is by no means light on the RCC, but does come to the conclusion that their baptism is valid.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
Mr. Yuetter I deleted my initial response to you because I misunderstood your post, and ended up contradicted my own position. I agree with you. A church that does not believe in the Trinity would be baptizing in the name of a different God. Let me ask you this though, if a liberal, unbelieving UMC or UCC minister baptized someone, and their official confession was Trinitarian, would you accept that? That seems to be the same condition as an RC priest.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
I am asking questions to which I am not satisfied that I have solid Biblical answers for. I am not trying to stake out a position.
Mr. Yuetter I deleted my initial response to you because I misunderstood your post, and ended up contradicted my own position. I agree with you. A church that does not believe in the Trinity would be baptizing in the name of a different God. Let me ask you this though, if a liberal, unbelieving UMC or UCC minister baptized someone, and their official confession was Trinitarian, would you accept that? That seems to be the same condition as an RC priest.

In 1981 Rev. Mansfield Kaseman, a United Church of Christ cleric received a call to a congregation in the mainstream Presbyterian Church. He expressly denied the Divinity of Christ during his examination before the Presbytery. He said, when asked if Jesus was God, "No, God is God." In a follow up question Kaseman said "Saying Jesus is one with God is a better way of saying it...But I, too, am one with God."
Regardless of what words were used, can we say that there was Trinitarian intent, when Rev. Mansfield Kaseman baptized an infant?
Shouldn't we instead say that he was a cultist? But, on the other hand, if we say that, are we calling everyone in fellowship with him in that Presbytery a cultist?
 

RWD

Puritan Board Sophomore
The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.—Shorter Catechism, 91.
WSC 91 does not address the query. The question pertains to what constitutes a true church and do apostate churches retain the sacrament of baptism.
 

Brett

Puritan Board Freshman
I personally went through this dilemma. I was baptized as an infant in the mainline Episcopal Church by a woman priestess. Very shortly afterwards my parents stopped attending that church or any church, and I was raised outside of the Church. I did not become a Christian or attend a church until I was an adult. While I was meeting my pastor for membership-inquriy. I asked him if he thought I should be baptized 'again.' Suffice to say I did not feel like I was a "covenant child" but more like any other proseltye.

My pastor, with care, argued for the case that my baptism was sufficient, on the basis of WSC 91/ WLC 161 and the rejection of Donatism. My baptism (so long as I was washed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) wasn't dependent on my parents fulfilling their vows, nor on the doctrines of the Episcopal Church. In the same way, a Jew in the old-covenant born into one of Israel's many eras of unfaithfulness was still born into Israel, and certainly wouldn't have to be "re-circumsized" once he turned back to the Lord. Just as Israel was prone to unfaithfulness, so are we and especially the broader Church. Nevertheless, the broader Church is still The Church who Jesus instituted the sacraments to.
 
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yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
WSC 91 does not address the query. The question pertains to what constitutes a true church and do apostate churches retain the sacrament of baptism.
The question is, are liberal churches cults, or are they churches that have fallen into greivious error?
 

RWD

Puritan Board Sophomore
The question is, are liberal churches cults, or are they churches that have fallen into greivious error?
Nope. Cults formally tamper with the Trinity. Liberal churches formally affirm the Trinitarian creeds.
 
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