Friday, March 18, 2005

Baptism Now and Again

Lots of talk lately about baptism of converts...on my mind personally because, happily, we'll be receiving nine catechumen this Sunday, some by baptism/chrismation, others by chrismation's a controversial subject , the two main schools of thought concerning which are highlighted very nicely in this post at The Perennial Rambler.

My own personal thought on the subject (which is worth just about what I'm charging you for it) is fairly simple, and, as I see it, reflects the traditional leniency of much of the Church throughout history and is often nowadays called the "Russian" practice:
  • Baptized by triple immersion or pouring in the name of the Holy Trinity and chrismated (Eastern Catholic, Non-Chalcedonian)=received by confession and communion
  • Baptized by triple immersion or pouring in the name of the Holy Trinity (Roman Catholic, Certain Protestant groups)=received by chrismation
  • Never baptized, or Baptized by single immersion and/or by some other name other than "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc., Certain Protestant groups and severely heretical sects)=received by baptism and chrismation
This view is both stricter than what you'll find in many SCOBA jurisdictions and more lenient than what you'll find in many "Synods in Resistance," and may get me into some trouble (it already has, spiritually, as by my own criteria I should have been baptized but was not and have had to deal with my somewhat hard feelings and regret regarding this)...I'm actually gonna ask for an audience with Archbishop DMITRI about this, as wheels are (slowly) turning to have a group of us at St. Barbara's tonsured as readers...a step I am reluctant to take because of my views on this.

What do y'all think (about any or all of this)?


basil said...

Your inclusion of baptism "by single immersion" actually includes more backgrounds than you realize, I think. Your views line up with Vladyka's pretty clearly, except for that.

David Bryan said...


Thanks for posting. It's interesting to me that groups who used to baptize by immersion "in olden days" (Lutherans, Methodists, Creedal Protestants in general) no longer do--they sprinkle now--whereas groups such as the A of G, which externally bear no resemblance to any creedal church, baptize by triple immersion. I know the Southern Baptists, as a rule, do single immersion, while certain independant Baptist groups do triple.

The "except for that" which you note is why I may be meeting with him on Saturday. To accept a form of baptism which was so roundly condemned in the past (in both the East and the West), as well as recently by the OCA itself by certain bishops.

From the article linked above:

#1) Those converting from Judaism, paganism, and Islam, as well as those who distort or do not accept the dogma of the Holy Trinity, or where the baptism is performed by a single immersion, by means of baptism.

#2) Those whose baptism was valid but who either do not have sacrament of chrismation or who lack a hierarchy with apostolic succession (or if it is questionable), by means of chrismation. This group includes Lutherans, Calvinists and Episcopalians (Anglicans).

#3) Those whose hierarchy has apostolic succession and whose baptism and chrismation (or confirmation) was performed in their church, by means of repentance and repudiation of heresy, following instruction in Orthodoxy. This group includes persons of the Roman Catholic and Armenian confessions. If it happens that they were not chrismated or confirmed in their churches or if there is any question about this, they are anointed with the Holy Chrism.

Thanks again for commenting.

The Rambler said...

Probably one of the better (if brief) treatments I've found on this topic (grace of heterodox sacraments), was written by Fr.Michael Pomazansky, called Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (which you can read online here - thank God, since it appears this excellent work is now out of print). He was an old school ROCOR Priest - very "pre-revolutionary" Russian in his views - so he couldn't be accused of any unbecoming influences. Actually it's a very good book in general - a good advanced catechism, though hardly above the reading level of the average layman.

As for your own "issue", I'm not sure what I could say either way. I know that this was a controversy before, when the practice of baptizing via single immersion became common in some parts of western Europe, in particular medieval Spain. It caused a lot of controversy shortly after the schism, as Orthodox first began to argue about the methods Latins were using to baptize their own in that period.

I wish I had something substantial to offer you here. I think you're doing the right thing by approaching your Bishop about this.

The Rambler said...

oops...just saw a typo in my previous comment. I didn't want to give the impression that the entirity of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology was about the issue of heterodox sacraments: this is only something briefly touched upon in said work. :) Still, it's a solid book in and of itself - too bad that it doesn't seem to be in print any longer (I got my copy from St.Herman of Alaska Press, but they no longer seem to print it. :(

Terry Finley said...

I am presently studying Orthodox Christianity. Neat blog. Thanks.

I invite you to come study baptism and the Holy Spirit with me.

Terry Finley

David Bryan said...

link didn't work, though I found through your profile that your (brand-new?) blog has TWO hyphens in it, not just one.

Thanks for stopping by, though.

The Rambler said...

Some more thoughts...I'll probably end up writing another entry on my own blog about this, but I figured I may as well air this out here before I go to sleep (night shift 'n all).

It goes without saying God can do whatever He pleases, and there is no limiting this, either in this world "here and now" or at the final judgement (or some time in between.) However "in principle" (and this is pretty clear from what I've been reading lately - whether it be someone as "eastern" as St.Basil, or someone as "western" as Pope St.Leo), there is no mysteriological grace outside of the Church. One can debate whether or not such and such "Orthodox" group is part of the Church or "canonical", but really such hitches don't undermine the dogma in question ("no salvation outside of the Church" - though I think it's obvious Orthodoxy understands that a little different than medieval Latins or fundamentalist Protestants do.)

With that said "Orthodoxy is the Church". It's not "part" of the Church, or "one of the lungs". While some enthusiastic ecumenists often speak of Baptism as the "foundation" of their ecclessiology, this is actually very mistaken. Baptism is from what I've read, rather something the Church does to bring people into Her. It's the Church which has salvation, and which "dispenses" it so to speak, to those who will receive it.

It is in that spirit, that the Church as "legislator" so to speak, can "bend" somewhat, even on critical matters. This is "economia", a word which denotes the management of household affairs (as in "home economics"). Thus, if it's perceived as advantageous, the Church has that right to bestow the grace of Baptism by overlooking the un-canonical nature of the "baptism" someone received at the hands of a heterodox minister, and giving it at the time of Chrismation (or even more radically, in the case of those received say, from the Uniates, by repentence and Communion.)

What's key though, is that this doesn't signify some unqualified endorsement of what the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, etc. "do". At most, we can "hope for the best" for such persons should they leave this life in those communions and not joined to the Church. However, there would be nothing incorrect about a person concluding (on the basis of their heterodox beliefs and their enduring separation from the Church) or at least working under the assumption that such groups do not in fact have actual "sacraments", but only the form thereof. Such a person would not be arrogant or presumptuous, though it's my observation that our Orthodox role models in tradition genuinely don't "gloat" over how "graceless" this or that heresy is; it's a sore point if anything, not something to rejoice over.

David Bryan said...

I feel exactly as you do. I'm (hopefully!) going to meet w/Vladyka next Thursday, 4/14 about this.