Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Facebook Debate About Baptism

On a fundamentalist's facebook page he states:

"In Acts 10:43-47, we see regeneration occurs with faith and is followed by water baptism. Water baptism, a physical act can not produce a spiritual change."(my emphasis)

My response:
The way I see it, that statement is not consistent with the scriptures that have been presented. Can you please show me a scripture that says that baptism is only symbolic?
Jesus and his apostles baptized with water for the forgiveness of sins.
First Peter 3:21 says that baptism doth save you.

With that physical act it is accompanied by a spiritual act, the cleansing of the conscience, the regeneration of the soul. The merits of Jesus death for our salvation is applied to us through the waters of baptism. If this were not so, why was it commanded?
The earliest Christians were actually all Jews so they understood the concept of God's grace working through material things. For instance, circumcision in the old Testament was performed to bring the person into the covenant with the God of Israel. In the New Testament Baptism becomes the new circumcision! We see that later in Acts when the apostles agree in Jerusalem that the new believers don't have to be circumcised anymore. Because the New Covenant through his blood on the cross supercedes the old. But God still uses the stuff of earth to work his miraculous grace in us.
All the early Christians believed this. There was no controversy about it. Jesus words about being born in water and the spirit were interpreted by those closest to Him to mean "baptism in water."
Why wouldn't scripture say, "just believe in Jesus."  Why was repentance always tied to the physical act of baptism?  If it was only meant to be symbolic, why didn't Jesus tell John the Baptist: "Hey Cousin, listen everyone is watching us here in the river and I don't want to give the wrong idea, so can we just skip the baptism ritual, since it's only symbolic?" I don't want these disciples of yours to get the wrong idea."
(Of course Jesus didn't need to be baptized, we can both agree on that) but none the less,  He indeed did it and one of the last things He told His disciples was to go throughout the world baptizing

Jesus used physical/ material things to confer his grace.
He used mud and spittle to heal, and James instructed the Church to use oil and the prayer of faith for healing. So grace has always been conferred/transmitted via physical things based on scripture and all of recorded Christendom before the 1500's.

If baptism is symbolic and has no inward effect, than why did Jesus and the apostles and all the Christians after Him believe that it DID SAVE THEM?

There is no historical evidence from 70 AD to 1500's that ever states baptism is symbolic. Only after the reformation, after Calvin and Luther were gone, did it become understood as only symbolic.

If you and others can present writings from before the reformation, and preferably closer to the time of Jesus that states emphatically that baptism is symbolic, I would be more inclined to agree or at least say that this was debateable and a point that was always not clear.
Thanks for listening.


OpenID lovebeingcatholic said...

I would qualify your request for quotes from early Christians to require a belief in a purely symbolic meaning of baptism. I find that many times the ECF's talk about symbolism of sacraments in one place and about effectual grace from the same sacraments in a different place. Any quote to support the modern evangelical view must insist on a symbolic, and ONLY a symbolic, understanding of the sacraments.

Also, I would point out that while Luther and Calvin didn't understand sacraments exactly the same way the Catholic Church always has, they did teach some sort of "You MUST be baptized to be saved."

January 16, 2011 4:51 PM  
OpenID lovebeingcatholic said...

Great post, BTW!

January 16, 2011 4:51 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Yes, you are right, I realize over time especially, Luther, that his view of sacraments did drift from the truly Catholic understanding. Yet he really "anathematized" the anabaptists for not believeing in regenerrational baptism(he actually called for them to be drowned in one letter) and Zwingli's followers for being symbolists only when it came to
the Lord's table.
I like to use quotes from them to show just how far modern day evangelicalism has drifted from the Church's teachings.

January 16, 2011 6:05 PM  
Blogger Magister Christianus said...

Tiber, I cannot tell you in a comment box just how relevant your post is. Check out the last two posts on my blog, the second of which references your post. Truly, God is stirring up this issue in the cyber world. My blog is
In short, I have been dealing with this just this weekend at our church where I had to lead the 4th grade boys in a discussion of baptism in light of a lesson with which I disagreed.

January 17, 2011 7:55 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I am glad my blog could be of assistance!
God bless you

January 19, 2011 6:57 PM  

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