Thursday, January 17, 2008

What Do Anglicans Really Believe About Baptism?

The preceding two items are undoubtedly amongst the most blatantly heterodox presentations regarding the Sacrament of Holy Baptism your blogger has ever encountered from individuals who claim to defend and transmit Anglican teaching, at least presentations made in the 21st century. They are more reminiscent of the Calvinist-Puritan rhetorical opposition to authentic catholic Anglicanism presented in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Both of these items are brought to you through the offices of the Stand Firm website. The discussion on the weblog thread concerning Baptism is truly remarkable, and for an Anglican Catholic committed to the teaching of the BCP and the Great Tradition, very depressing.

In this particular sermon, the preacher forcefully denies the necessity of Baptism for salvation and the grace of baptismal regeneration - and in so doing he denies the explicit doctrine of Holy Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer. Here we have in both of the above-linked items a simply perfect example of that sadly all-too-common neo-evangelical rejection of the Anglican and Catholic Faith.

I find it particularly disturbing that the sermon was preached on the day in the modern calendar assigned as the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. It appears we are back to 1850 and the Gorham Judgement all over again; or perhaps back to 1873 and Cheney's break with the Anglican Communion over Baptism. The Catholic Movement has a very long way to go and much more work to do if ever we are to convince our well-meaning but mistaken brethren of their own rightful heritage and faith.

Below in summary form is the actual teaching of Anglicanism on the Sacrament of Faith, the Sacrament of the New Birth, Holy Baptism: our supernatural regeneration in Christ and the formal cause of our justification in the Lord Jesus:

The Creed of Nicea-Constantinople AD 381:

‘Ομολογώ εν βάπτισμα είς άφεσιν αμαρτιών.
Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.

Some Points in the Teaching of the Church of England, by John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury, Approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1900

With regard particularly to Baptism, the Church of England teaches as follows:--

As regards Baptism, it teaches that Baptism must always be administered with water in the name of the blessed Trinity, according to our Lord's command (St. Matt, xxviii. 19). It recommends Baptism by immersion, but permits Baptism by affusion; it provides for Baptism by a priest (subject, in the case of adults, to the direction of the bishop), or in the priest's absence by a deacon; but it does not invalidate Baptism by a layman, if it be properly performed. It teaches that the Baptism of young children is to be retained as most agreeable with the institution of Christ. It orders that such children should be brought to the font by three sponsors, two of the same sex as the child and one of the other sex.

As regards the effect of Baptism, it teaches that it is a death to sin and a new birth unto righteousness, and comprehends gifts that by nature we cannot have. In it we are regenerated and made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. Baptism cannot be repeated. Its proper complement is Confirmation, which is administered among us only to those who have arrived at years of discretion. All who bring children to Baptism are directed to see that they are afterwards brought to Confirmation.

From the American Book of Common Prayer Baptismal Office:

DEARLY beloved, forasmuch as our Saviour Christ saith, None can enter into the Kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s holy Church, and be made a living member of the same.

ALMIGHTY and immortal God, the aid of all who need, the helper of all who flee to thee for succour, the life of those who believe, and the resurrection of the dead; We call upon thee for this Child, that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration. Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, arid ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. So give now unto us who ask; let us ‘who seek, find; open the gate unto us who knock; that this Child may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen.

Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation; sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful children; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and evermore. Amen.

SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits; and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.

WE yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Child with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the American Prayer Book Offices of Instruction:

HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?

Answer. Christ hath ordained two Sacraments only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Question. What is the outward and visible sign or form in Baptism?

Answer. The outward and visible sign or form in Baptism is Water; wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism?

Answer. The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness; whereby we are made the children of grace.

From the American Prayer Book Church Catechism:

Question. How many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?

Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Question. What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?

Answer. Water; wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace?

Answer. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.

From the XXXIX Articles of Religion:

XXV. Of the Sacraments.

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

XVII. Of Baptism.

Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God. The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.


Matt H. said...

Would it be heterorthodox for an Anglican to divorce St. Augustine’s understanding of Original Sin from baptismal regeneration? I believe the Eastern Church has rejected Original Sin. They believe (as I understand it) that mankind suffers the penalty of death due to Adam’s sin, but each individual is not guilty of the sin of Adam. I think Romans 5 leans towards the Eastern understanding, but it wouldn’t rule out St. Augustine’s either. It seems the doctrine of Original Sin goes further than is necessary and also complicates later doctrine such as the Immaculate Conception. Original Sin also forces us to believe that unbaptized children will be damned, a point that I’m not comfortable with, but one that I haven’t rejected either. I know there are certain Psalms that seem to indicate some sort of sinfulness before or after birth, but 1 John 3:4 seems to define sin in a way that a newborn would be incapable of and most interesting in Deut 1:39 God will allow the children into the promised land due to their age. So I guess I’m sitting on the fence with Original Sin, but I certainly am not with baptismal regeneration, which is a tenet of the Faith once given.

An Anglican Cleric said...

Here is my posting to Stand Firm on this issue:

"This essay demonstrates one of the problems with those now leaving ECUSA or coming into Anglicanism and seeing that this is the time to rewrite the theology of the Church Catholic: The desire to deconstruct the Book of Common Prayer, to build theology again from the ground up, ignoring that classical Anglicanism has no faith of its own, that it accepts the teachings of the undivided Church, that the liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Articles are authoritative teachings.

Anglicans practice infant Baptism. Read the 1662 Prayer Book and the Articles--don’t rewrite them and/or reject them. If this is the road that the neo-Anglicans are to follow, it is no better than ECUSA. Some years ago I saw an AMiA parish web site that posted the 39 Articles and yet also stated that it did not practice infant Baptism as anything more than a “dedication ceremony.” The contradiction did not appear to be obvious to them."

Also, Bishop Cheney accepted the doctrine of baptismal regeneration as it is stated in the Articles and by Browne's Exposition on the Articles. The only sense in which it was rejected was by equating the term "regeneration" with "fullness of religious life. . .incipient holiness, ardent desires after God, and elevated affections." Many during that time insisted that this was indeed what the term meant, so he felt that he could not, in good conscience, continue to employ the term. Was he wrong in his actions, cutting up the service, leaving out the word?--arguably so, but arguably correct in his theology, which is now largely admitted.

Cheney did not break with the Episcopal Church "on Baptism," but on an erroneous interpretation of what "regeneration" meant. The Articles explain clearly what it meant, but others wished to equate it with the full change of religious life mentioned above. Both sides were incorrect in their use of the terminology, wanting to make it mean "born again" in a modern evangelical sense. In this case the typical mantra that "Cheney rejected baptismal regeneration" is historically and theologically inaccurate. He rejected a word, but not the doctrine as held in the Articles. The Reformed Episcopal Church (and the Free Church of England) always continued the practice of infant Baptism. The FCofE service of Baptism is identical to that of the 1662 BCP, as is their Article on Baptism. The early "Cheneyesque" REC service substituted the language of the Articles into the service in place of the word "regeneration" (but retained the Sign of the Cross). Since the early 1990s the 1662 Baptismal service has been reinstated in the American REC Prayer Book; in the English REC/FCofE BCP it never left.

Bishop Sutton's text on the matter explains the situation most fully and accurately.


Anonymous said...

AC+ and CHJ+

Thank you for these excellent remarks.


Brother Paul said...

Mark 16:16 says He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. Infants are not capable of "believing", and so are considered innocent in the eyes of God. They would not be held accountable until they had reached the age of accountability. Baptism is immersion, because in Acts 8 it says that Philip went down into the water, and then came out. Luke 3:3 says that baptism was for the remission of sins, so if it was before the Cross why wouldn't it be after the Cross too? Please look at Can you afford to be wrong???