Conditional Baptism

If you are not a reader of Darryl Hart’s blog, you owe it to yourself to read his series on David I. Kertzer’s book The Kidnaping of Edgardo Mortara, which treats the tragic case of the Roman Catholic church forcibly adopting a six-year-old Jewish boy because, as a baby near death, a household servant had secretly had him baptized. This particular case highlighted, and probably put one of the final nails in the coffin of, Rome’s crumbling hold of political power in the mid 1800s.

In yesterday’s final post in the series, DGH links to an RC discussion of children baptized against their parents’ will, which explains a thing called “conditional baptism”, which put me in mind of the Hoagies & Stogies we had a few years back on The Validity of Roman Catholic Baptism (see here for audio, and the following two posts for discussion). I embolden some parts that I found relevant:

One of the reasons the Church ordinarily restricts the administration of baptism to priests and deacons (while allowing for laity and others to do so when someone is at the point of death and a priest or deacon is unavailable) is to prevent precisely the kind of confusion your mother-in-law has created by taking it upon herself to baptize her granddaughter without the parents’ permission.

1. There is such a thing as conditional baptism, but it is a baptism given when the validity of the original baptism is in question or when there is doubt as to whether a baptism occurred. In this case, the baptism your mother-in-law performed — assuming she did it correctly — would be the original baptism. Should her granddaughter’s parents choose to return to their Catholic faith and raise their daughter as a Catholic, a priest or deacon would perform a conditional baptism both to make sure it is done correctly and to start a sacramental record.

2. Since her granddaughter presumably was not at the point of death when your mother-in-law baptized her, the baptism she performed is presumably valid but illicit. That means that your mother-in-law should go to confession to confess having performed an illicit baptism.

3. I can only recommend that your mother-in-law admit to the child’s parents what she has done. They need to know so that they will know that the child needs conditional baptism, not unconditional baptism, should they decide to raise her Catholic or should the child eventually decide to become Catholic herself. Even were the child baptized when she was in extremis, the parents would still need to know about the baptism once it was clear she would survive. The only difference is that your mother-in-law should apologize for an illicit baptism. If the child was baptized while in extremis, an apology is not necessary. If such an admission is not made, and the parents or the child decide eventually for baptism, then the child may receive an unconditional baptism — which would be objective sacrilege since baptism cannot be unconditionally repeated.

In the H&S (and in the broader RC baptism debate) there is much use of the phrase “valid but irregular” to describe the prevailing Reformed view of RC baptisms, which seems largely the same as the phrase here “valid but illicit”. I wonder if the Reformed could make space in their sacramental theology for something like a “conditional baptism” to cover questionable cases.

Maybe the difference comes down to this. In a sacerdotalist, superstitious, ex opere system like Rome’s, there is need for “just in case” baptism. But in a Reformed system that understands the distinction between signs and things signified, and in which “grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto [baptism], as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it”, in a questionable case we’d rather not risk the “objective sacrelige” of repeating “unconditional baptism”.

Also, this would explain why the RC system “allow[s] for laity and others to do so” “in extremis“, while for the Reformed, “neither [sacrament] may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained.”

H&S: Images II

What can I say? It was an epic night. Unfortunately the recording is a little plagued with wind, but if you listen close, I think all but a few phrases can be heard clearly.

Here are the .mp3s:

Note also related H&S on Images, Communion, and Baptism.

Make space on your calendar also for Dr. Bombaro’s upcoming lecture on Sanctification at Reformation Lutheran in El Cajon: 846 S. Johnson, Sat Nov 3 at 7pm.

And of course, don’t forget our good friends at Hess Brewing. Watch their calendar for events at the tasting room in Miramar for now, but also keep an eye out for the grand opening of the new facility, currently under construction on Grim Ave in North Park!

H&S: Rapture

OK gents, a big crowd of 70 men showed up on Saturday night to hear about the Rapture. New pastor Ben Rochester, and our guest Peter J Vik (adjunct prof. Greek, Bible at SDCC) had a very stimulating discussion.

I apologize for the quality of the audio; I think the wind coming off the canyon was messing up the mics on my recorder. But I think if you listen close, you can still hear everything.

Three announcements:

Mark your calendar for Sat 8/25, the expected date of the next topic, Images in Christ in Worship. Watch the H&S homepage (or your email) for further details.

If you are looking for a Reformed church, be sure to visit Pilgrim Presbyterian, and receive God’s word from pastor Ben Rochester.

And if you are looking for BEER, be sure to visit the tasting room at Hess Brewing. In addition to regular tasting room hours, this Friday (15th) is FAC #13, with special musical guest, Blues master Robin Henkel.

H&S: Paedocommunion

All right, Hoagers & Stogers, the Paedocommunion debate is now in the can. I’ve got a lot of requests already for the audio, and I appreciate that there’s a lot of interest in this topic, and I also appreciate all the hard work our speakers Glen Gundert and Josh Brisby put into their presentations.

So here are the links to the audio:

Note that with our special afternoon time slot, we were feeling especially loose with the timing of each speakers’ sections; I hope you enjoy all the extra discussion that resulted! (And I apologize for all the chatter between segments; I had an audio editing failure, and decided to just post these as-is rather than spend time trying again)

Mark your calendars now for the next H&S; Sat Apr 14, we are very privileged to host prominent Reformed author T. David Gordon, who will be speaking to us about his book Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. (Also, if you’re interested, you can hear him on Friday night Apr 13, at this venue.)

And as always, please help our gratitude to Hess Brewing for continuing to provide excellent beer. As I always say, you can’t spell H&S without Hess! (Or is it the other way around, I forget…) In addition to regular tasting room hours (watch and their Facebook page), the next F.A.C. is Feb 17.

What’s The Word?

Glad you asked! The Word is a fantastic biblical graphic-design project by this dude Jim LePage, who has apparently been channeling Donald Knuth for almost two years! Why did he do it?

In the past, I’ve tried an approach like, “starting today, I’m going to read my Bible for 20 minutes every day.” While I may stick with it for a week or a month (sometimes even longer), inevitably I stop because I have no self-discipline for that sort of thing. I knew I didn’t want to try that approach again so I tried to come up with a new strategy that would work for me.

I began by thinking of things that I really like and want to do. One thing that kept coming up was design. So I decided to try and combine my love of design with my desire to read the Bible more. The result is a series called Word.

Basically, Word is a series where I create original designs for each book of the Bible. Before each design, I spend time researching the book, finding out the themes, historical context, weirdest stories, etc. I also scan through parts of the book looking for a passage or story that could translate into a cool design. Each design isn’t meant to completely represent the book, rather it is merely based on a passage from the book.

There are too many great designs in the project to try to link to here, but to inspire you to hop on over and check them all out for yourself, I’ll choose a few of the most “three-sixteeny”, i.e. those that most highlight words. Enjoy!

Another good way to browse them all is in his online shop, from which you can order prints. (And then you can hop over to his tumblr, Gettin’ Biblical [HT Pooka], where he shares great Christian graphic design from all sorts of books and such.)


All right, another H&S in the bank. Gary Pavlovich acquitted himself admirably, demonstrating an extraordinary amount of research for a layman, and Mark Strauss was again gracious to give of his time for H&S.

A little H&S-related news:

  • Mark your calendars now for H&S: Paedocommunion, Jan 28 2012.
  • Also, take a moment to browse the nifty new calendar of upcoming events (or just check Facebook) for our good friends at Hess Brewing. San Diego Beer Week is coming up, and Hess is involved with a number of great events around town, not to mention regular happenings at the tasting room, like F.A.C., Tri Tip Thursdays, and regular tasting room hours.

And here are your .mp3s. The format is a little different this time, with introductory material from both speakers as well as myself, which I broke out into a separate .mp3.


For further reading, here are some recommended resources from Gary Pavlovich.

And here are some resources recommended by Mark Strauss.

Hodge on “The Validity of Romish Baptism”

As continuing education after the H&S on R. C. Baptism, I’ve been reading Hodge’s “On the Validity of Romish Baptism.” Hodge’s argument is hugely important in this debate, because after a vote of 169-8 (6 abstaining) against R.C. Baptism, Hodge’s arguments reversed the tide. His writing on this topic can be found in this Google Book, starting on page 191. As I read along, I find a whole bunch of bad arguments (note that I went into the debate convinced (and came out more convinced) that Catholics should be rebaptized).

Early on, Hodge recounts some history (p. 193).

When the controversy first arose in the Church about the baptism of heretics there were two extreme opinions Cyprian and those African bishops who were under his influence took the ground that the baptism of all those who separated from the outward communion of the Catholic Church whether for heresy or schism was null and void In this view the bishops of Asia Minor generally coincided a fact easily accounted for as all the heretics with whom they were in conflict denied the very essentials of the gospel.

Indeed, that is the easy case, but what we have to deal with is the case in which the trinity is upheld, but the gospel is denied. The eventual resolution of this controversy landed on rebaptism only in the event of problems with the Trinigy. But I echo Roger Wagner’s point, why do we draw the line at the Trinity, and not where Paul draws lines, at the Gospel?

A little later, Hodge references Calvin, who said:

[Baptism] is a sacred and immutable testimony of the grace of God, though it were administered by the devil, though all who may partake of it were ungodly and polluted as to their own persons. Baptism ever retains its own character, and is never contaminated by the vices of men.

Hodge concurs (p. 204):

The illustration used by Calvin derived from the fact that those circumcised by apostate priests under the old dispensation were never recircumcised or treated as not having received that rite by the inspired prophets.

But even though the Reformed often find analogy with circumcision to be helpful, this time it doesn’t work. On the one hand, the prophets do not recircumcise those who were circumcised by heretical ministers of a valid church. On the other hand, we also do not rebaptize those who were baptized by heretical ministers of a valid church. What we’re talking about here is “ministers” of a non-church. What happened when Israel ceased to be a church? Jewish circumcision became completely invalid — half the new testament is about that! Same thing; when Rome unchurched itself at Trent, its baptisms became invalid. (And BTW, how do you recircumcise somebody?)
Here’s another argument by Hodge (p. 207):

if we deny to any body of men [i.e. Rome] the character of a Church on account of its creed we thereby assert that no man holding that creed can be saved.

This is an interesting thought, but I think it fails, because we are (confessionally) not insisting that a valid baptism is required for salvation — or even that no Catholic can be saved. Rome is not a church, although there are undoubtedly elect within it. I would even say that Mormonism is not a church, and that there is every reason to think there at least some true believers in the Mormon “church”, those who read the Bible enough to understand they are sinners and trust in Christ for salvation. I.e. exactly the same as Rome: you can be saved in a Mormon “church”, if you avoid the erroneous official doctrines of the institutional leadership.
In addressing the question of the “churchness” of Rome, Hodge sets a very low bar (p. 208):

Any body of men therefore that retains the doctrine of the incarnation or that Jesus is the Son of God that sets him forth as the object of religious worship and confidence retains the vital principle of Christianity. Nothing can prevent the saving power of that truth when it is really embraced.

Really? The Incarnation is all that’s needed for salvation? And based on this (bad?) foundation, Hodge continues:

One of the speakers [of the General Assembly of 1845] did indeed say that, although there were true believers in the Church of Rome, they were not members of the visible Church; which is a contradiction in terms since the visible Church consists of all who profess the true religion or saving doctrine. The mere fact of their having faith and avowing it in their conversation and deportment makes them members of the visible Church in the true scriptural and Presbyterian though not in the Puseyite sense of the term.

So one truly saved person makes whatever religious organization he is in part of the visible Church? That can’t be right. Nobody can be saved outside of the visible church? WCF 25.2 continues beyond what Hodge quoted: “The visible Church…consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion;…out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” There still remains the extraordinary possibility of salvation, i.e. in Rome, outside the visible church. The Protestant/Reformed formal principle (sola scriptura) is that the Word forms the Church, not the other way around. So if somebody is saved in the catholic church, it is not because of the church (and does not make Rome part of the visible church), but he is saved despite Rome, and because of the Word. He must have read the Bible on his own, which the Holy Spirit used as a means of grace.
Finally Hodge makes a good point (p. 210):

We rejoice therefore that the Assembly freely admits in their Minute that there are true believers in the Church of Rome. Indeed we are not sure that truth would not demand the admission that there were more of evangelical doctrine and of true religion in that Church than were to be found in the Church of England or in some of the Protestant Churches of the continent of Europe notwithstanding their orthodox creeds during their long declension in the last century.

 Recall above Roger Wagner’s objection that the Gospel should be the dividing line, not merely the Trinity. But if the Trinity is not sufficient for a valid baptism, it is at least necessary. So what do we do with liberal churches that reject the virgin birth, the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, and replace the Gospel of substitutionary atonement with the social gospel? If, as Machen so famously argued, Liberalism is a different religion than Christianity, then why do we accept their baptisms? Logically, if we reject the Catholic Church, then we must reject the PCUSA. So by the contrapositive, if we accept the PCUSA we must accept the Catholic Church.
But this is merely a pragmatic, not a theological argument, which is in a sense to beg the question and concede that we shouldn’t rebaptize Catholics because there’s just too many of them (including Luther and Calvin).