Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baptist Successionism Part 2: 30-500

In this post I will continue to examine the claims made in The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll. If you have not done so, I recommend reading my previous post before reading this one. The first lecture in The Trail of Blood covers the time period of 30-500AD and makes several errors both in its understanding of ecclesiology and the sacraments but I won't go into those here. Instead I will just focus on the historical claims that are made. Carroll says:

Another vital change which seems from history to have had its beginning before the close of the second century was on the great doctrine of Salvation itself. The Jews as well as the Pagans, had for many generations, been trained to lay great stress on Ceremonials. They had come to look upon types as anti-types, shadows as real substances, and ceremonials as real saving agencies. How easy to come thus to look upon baptism. They reasoned thus: The Bible has much to say concerning baptism. Much stress is laid upon the ordinance and one's duty concerning it. Surely it must have something to do with one's salvation. So that it was in this period that the idea of "Baptismal Regeneration" began to get a fixed hold in some of the churches. (Shackelford, page 57; Camp p. 47; Benedict, p. 286; Mosheim, vol. 1, p. 134; Christian, p. 28.)
The only non-Baptist historian here is Mosheim. Mosheim does speak of various rites and ceremonies being added during the second century but he doesn't say anything about a change of belief that resulted in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. The fact is that the Scriptures speak of baptism in salvific terms by saying "baptism now saves us" and baptism is "for the forgiveness of sins." And when we look at what the earliest church fathers say about baptism there are none who describe it as just a symbolic act and plenty that describe it as regeneration. The Epistle of Barnabas which was written in 130 says:

"This means that we go down into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our hearts, fear and hope in Jesus and in the Spirit.”
The Shepherd of Hermas written around 140 AD says:

"I have heard, sir," said I, "from some teachers, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins." He said to me, "You have heard rightly, for so it is." (The Shepherd 4:3:1-2)

They had need [the Shepherd said] to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. For, [he said,] before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead [in sin], and come out of it alive. (ibid 9:16:2-4)
Justin Martry writing between 148-155 said:

Whoever is convinced and believes that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to live accordingly, is instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing with water. For Christ said, "Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." ...The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles. (The First Apology 61)

I could provide more quotes but I think this is sufficient. Baptismal regeneration was a teaching held by the early church. The innovation comes in the later denial of baptismal regeneration by some. After the statement about the meaning of baptism, Carroll goes on to talk about the subjects and mode of baptism:

The next serious error to begin creeping in, and which seems from some historians (not all) to have begun in this same century and which may be said to have been an inevitable consequence of the "baptismal regeneration" idea, was a change in the subjects of baptism. Since baptism has been declared to be an agency or means to salvation by some erring churches, then the sooner baptism takes place the better. Hence arose "infant baptism." Prior to this "believers" and "believers" only, were regarded as proper subjects for baptism. "Sprinkling" and "pouring" are not now referred to. These came in much later. For several centuries, infants, like others, were immersed. The Greek Catholics (a very large branch of the Catholic church) up to this day, have never changed the original form of baptism. They practice infant baptism but have never done otherwise than immerse the children. (Note--Some of the church historians put the beginning of infant baptism within this century, but I shall quote a short paragraph from Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches.)

"During the first three centuries, congregations all over the East subsisted in separate independent bodies, unsupported by government and consequently without any secular power over one another. All this time they were baptized churches, and though all the fathers of the first four ages, down to Jerome (A.D. 370), were of Greece, Syria and Africa, and though they give great numbers of histories of the baptism of adults, yet there is not one of the baptism of a child till the year 370." (Compendium of Baptist History, Shackelford, p. 43; Vedder, p. 50; Christian, p, 31; Orchard, p. 50, etc.)

So Carroll's claim is that there is no record of children being baptized prior to 370 and that departure from immersion as a mode of baptism came later. Between 189-190 Irenaeus, a disciple of John, wrote:

"He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Against Heresies 2:22:4).

"‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]" (Fragment 34).
The first quote makes it clear that Irenaeus believed that Jesus regenerated infants. The second quote makes it clear that Irenaeus believed that regeneration took place through baptism. In 248 Origen wrote:

"Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3).

"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9).
Cyprian of Carthage wrote in 253:

"As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born" (Letters 64:2).
All these quotes are from before 370, so we know that Carroll's statement is false. The Cyprian quote also shows us what the first known controversy was in regards to infant baptism. Fidus was arguing that baptism should be delayed until the baby is eight days old. Cyprian says that baptism should not be withheld from someone simply because they have not reached the age of eight days old. There's no evidence in any of these quotes that anyone was arguing that babies should not be baptized at all.

According to Carroll the use of any mode other than immersion for baptism came much later than 370 AD but this isn't true either. The Didache dates back to the time of the Apostles. It was written sometime between the years 50 and 120. Some believe it was written in the year 150 but this is still much earlier than 370. Some ancient churches regarded it as part of the New Testament canon. It provides a helpful look into the practices of the early church. According to the Didache:

After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Before baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days (7:1)

Depending upon the amount of water available, immersion was used but pouring was used when there wasn't enough water. For the early Christians the water the Word were what was necessary for a valid baptism. In 215 Hippolytus wrote:

Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16).

In 254 Cyprian wrote:

In the saving sacraments, when necessity compels and when God bestows his pardon, divine benefits are bestowed fully upon believers, nor ought anyone be disturbed because the sick are poured upon or sprinkled when they receive the Lord's grace" (Letter to a Certain Magnus 69(76):12)
Carroll goes on to say:

These two errors (baptismal regeneration and infant baptism) have, according to the testimony of well-established history, caused the shedding of more Christian blood, as the centuries have gone by, than all other errors combined, or than possibly have all wars, not connected with persecution, if you will leave out the recent "World War." Over 50,000,000 Christians died martyr deaths, mainly because of their rejection of these two errors during the period of the "dark ages" alone--about twelve or thirteen centuries...To effectually bring about and consummate this unholy union, a council was called. In A. D. 313, a call was made for a coming together of the Christian churches or their representatives . Many but not all came. The alliance was consummated. A Hierarchy was formed. In the organization of the Hierarchy, Christ was dethroned as head of the churches and Emperor Constantine enthroned (only temporarily, however) as head of the church...Let it be definitely remembered that when Constantine made his call for the council, there were very many of the Christians (Baptists) and of the churches, which declined to respond. They wanted no marriage with the state, and no centralized religious government, and no higher ecclesiastical government of any kind, than the individual church. These Christians (Baptists) nor the churches ever at that time or later, entered the hierarchy of the Catholic denomination.

But there is no evidence of any of this. Carroll provides no citations to prove that 50,000,000 Christians were martyred because they rejected infant baptism and baptismal regeneration. The Council that Carroll refers to is the Council of Rome in 313. Constantine legalized Christianity and became a leader in the church but was not the head of the church. These "Baptists" that Carroll refers to are the Donatists.

There is no evidence that the Donatists denied baptismal regeneration or denied infant baptism and no evidence that they separated themselves from people who did. The Donatists were in full communion with the rest of the Church. There was no "Catholic" denomination at that time as Carroll refers to it. This is a much later development. At that time there was simply the Christian Church. You can read a good article on the Donatists here. During the persecutions of Christians under Diocletian there were some Christians who renounced the faith. When persecution ended many of them wanted to return to back to the church. The Donatists did not believe they should be allowed to return into full communion and denied the validity of the sacraments that were administered by priests who renounced the faith during the persecution. According to Carroll one of the marks of the true New Testament church is that they do not use carnal weapons to promote their beliefs. But this cannot be said of the Donatists. Donatists were killed by the Christian church but when Donatists gained political power, Donatists killed Christians. Carroll writes:

The course followed by the loyal churches soon, of course, incurred the hot displeasure of the state religionists, many, if not most of whom, were not genuine Christians. The name "Christian," however, was from now on denied those loyal churches who refused to accept these new errors. They were robbed of that, and called by many other names, sometimes by one and sometimes by another, "Montanist, "Tertullianists," "Novationists," "Paterines," etc., and some at least because of their practice of rebaptizing those who were baptized in infancy, were referred to an "Ana -Baptists."
The Montanists and Tertullianists did not reject the validity of infant baptism or baptismal regeneration. They believed that baptism should be delayed because they believed that all sins were washed away at the time of baptism that were committed until that time. The Montanists had a strong emphasis on the continuation of prophecy, ascetic lifestyle, and believed that the New Jerusalem was in west-central Phrygia. The Novatians did not reject infant baptism or baptismal regeneration. They believed that those who renounced their faith during the persecution of Emperor Decius should not be admitted back into the church. The Paterines (or Pataria) lived in the 11th Century and were opposed to both clerical marriage and concubinage. Some claim that they were opposed to all marriage, thought women should be allowed to teach in the church, and regarded matter as evil. But they were a group within the Christian church and there is no record of them denying infant baptism or baptismal regeneration. If they truly regarded matter as evil it's possible that they regarded baptism as completely unnecessary but that doesn't seem likely. The Trail of Blood Chart places the Paterines/Paterins/Pataria around the year 300 but I don't see any evidence of this.

To Be Continued...

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