Baptism


1. Why do Catholics believe Baptism saves you?

Because Baptism is part of becoming a Christian, and that saves you. Hence the Bible says, "Baptism saves you." (1 Pet. 3:21) The fact that Baptism is part of becoming a Christian is clear from many things in the Bible: first, the Great Commission, which in Matthew and Mark both say that new Christians must be baptized (Matt. 28:19, Mark 16:16). Mark 16:16 even says, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned." Because believing is a necessary part of it, and being baptized is a necessary part of it. Neglecting either leaves salvation incomplete. Another way that Baptism is part of becoming a Christian is shown in the fact that whenever people in the New Testament began to believe, they were immediately baptized whenever possible. No one was left without Baptism except the thief on the cross, who died before he could receive it.

2. In the Bible, Jesus saves you by faith -- not baptism.

In the Bible, He saves you by both, because the two are not incompatible. Baptism presupposes faith; faith leads to baptism and salvation. That's the Biblical model. When there are two things involved, both can be said to be part of it. So faith saves, indeed, because it is one of the necessary things. But so does Baptism, because Jesus commanded that too. That's why they are usually put together: "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2:38) "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mark 16:16) "Behold, here is water; what prevents me from being baptized?" "If you believe with all your heart, you may." (Acts 8:36-37) Baptism and salvation are put together with faith because all three go together in the Biblical model. And that is the Catholic teaching.

3. Paul said "I was not sent to baptize." (1 Cor. 1:17)

Yes, because his mission was to instruct people in the faith, and only then could they be received into the Church through Baptism. Baptism presupposes faith, and it was Paul's mission to instruct people in that faith by preaching the message of the Gospel. That is why he says, "I was not sent to baptize, but to preach." But that doesn't mean the people he spoke to weren't baptized. The usual procedure, at least today, is for the Catechist (the instructor in the faith) not to be the person who baptizes, which is usually the parish priest. It's not outlandish to think that something similar was done back then, with Paul being a visiting missionary who instructed people in Christianity, and then the local minister receiving them into the Church and baptizing them. Paul preached, another baptized. But both were part of becoming a Christian according to his teaching.

4. In Acts, people were saved before they were baptized. Therefore, Baptism doesn't save.

They *believed* before they were baptized, and so they had that part of salvation, but that doesn't mean baptism isn't a part of it too. Salvation involves both faith and baptism, and so when people begin to believe, salvation is already present to them, and when they are baptized, that seals it. Some people in the Bible believed and then immediately received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is true, and that's because God wanted to show that they could be accepted into the Church through Baptism just like everyone else. (See Acts 10:44-48.) But that is not against Catholic doctrine, because we believe faith imparts the gift of salvation together with Baptism, and so in this case faith just showed that happening while their Baptism was still being planned. The men were then immediately baptized to complete their initiation into Christianity, and so that was a part of their salvation as well.

5. Why do Catholics baptize babies?

Because baptism is how God wants people to come to Him, and He wants babies to come to Him. Catholics believe that God wants all men to come to Him, and babies are a special part of that. We believe He takes every care to make sure they have the opportunity to enter a relationship with Him early on. And parents, because their children and their upbringing in the faith is their responsibility, have a special part to play in that: baptizing babies expresses God's desire that babies be in a relationship with Him.

6. Where in the Bible does it say to baptize babies?

In several places, mostly in the Book of Acts. For example, in Acts 2:38-39 Peter spoke to a crowd of people and said "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, to all whom the Lord God will call." The Holy Spirit through baptism was promised to them and their children, not to the adults only. In many places in Acts people were baptized with their whole households -- everyone being baptized. And the probability is that many of these households had children in them. (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33)

7. Only believers are to be baptized. Babies can't accept Jesus, so they can't be baptized.

Well in saying that I think you're only looking at part of the picture. Only believers are to be baptized *among adults.* That I can agree with. But there are passages of Scripture that indicate that babies are to be baptized too, and we have to take those into account. What that means is that Baptism is more than just a token of belief. Baptism is part of becoming a member of the Church, and if we want our children to be members of the Church, that's the only doorway that we have for bringing them in.

8. Baptizing babies forces them into a faith they haven't accepted.

Well that shouldn't be a problem assuming they are raised to believe in that faith. In that case Baptism is just the first step. Unless you want to say that raising them in Christianity is bad, but that would be false because being educated in the faith of Christ is the most important thing for a child, bar none. The idea that education in a particular faith (Christianity) is against a child's freedom is exactly opposite the truth: Christianity provides a freedom-oriented context for a child's character to develop in a good way. And so to put them into that is just part of bringing them up as free individuals, with God-centered values at the heart.

9. Why do Catholics baptize people by pouring water on them?

Because that particular form of Baptism is an ancient part of Christianity, so much so that history and authentic piety together have demonstrated its goodness and holiness. And within that tradition is the Biblical record, from which we can make two points about baptism by pouring: first, that there is much in the Bible to support it, and second, that there is nothing in the Bible against it. And let me give examples of the Biblical support: in Scripture, when large crowds were baptized such as in Acts 2:41, archeology has shown us that there was not enough water in that area to baptize by any other method than pouring. Dunking wouldn't work, because the only source of water was a small well near where St. Peter was preaching. And here's another thing: when St. Paul baptized his jailer in prison (Acts 16:33), it wasn't (of course) like there was a river running through the jailhouse. He could only have used a cup of water or some such thing, which indicates that he baptized by pouring. What this tells us is that baptism by pouring goes as far back as Christianity itself, and is sanctified by that record.

10. The word "Baptism" means "dunking," therefore dunking is the only valid method.

The word Baptism means other things than just dunking. It is used in passages like the following, which show that it only means water has to be touching the person involved: "The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash [baptizo] before dinner." Luke 11:38. "And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing [baptizo] of cups and pots and copper vessels and couches." Mark 7:4. For all these reasons, we know that Baptism by pouring is sufficient, because that puts flowing water on the person baptized and satisfies the definition of baptizo.