Monday, May 11, 2015

To Re-Baptize or not to Re-Baptize:

My article for this week's newspapers answers a question about re-baptizing:

Q:  I recently began attending church for the first time in my adult life.  If my parents had me baptized as a baby in a different kind of church, should I be baptized again in my new church?

In most situations, the answer would be a clear “no,” regardless of whether the original Baptism occurred as an adult, a child, or an infant. 

A small number of situations could exist where a Baptism would need to be performed, but the only cause for this would be if the first Baptism was invalid for one of two reasons:  The first cause that would render the original Baptism invalid would be if it was performed in the context of a non-Trinitarian religion, such as Mormonism, a Oneness church, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

The Second circumstance that would cause a Baptism to be invalid is if it were performed using a different formula than the Trinitarian form given in Scripture:  “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  If it was performed under any other formula, such as “in the name of Jesus,” or used alternate titles for God, such as “parent, child, and comforter,” or “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier,” then it would be cause to question its validity and responsible spiritual care would dictate that the person be Baptized. 

In cases where the original baptismal ceremony was determined to be invalid, the church administering Baptism to the individual would not consider it a re-Baptism, but rather as the first Baptism, because an invalid Baptism would be understood as being no Baptism at all. 

Often people ask if they need to be re-baptized when joining a new denomination of Christianity, and this is typically not necessary.  All of the Trinitarian denominations which baptize babies recognize each other’s Baptisms as valid Baptisms, and would not see a need to repeat the ceremony, even for adult converts who were Baptized elsewhere as infants. 

The only case in which church leaders might require a Baptism be performed would be if the newly-adopted church practices adult-only Baptism.  This requirement would be made because such churches understand Baptism to be a work that people do in order to show their devotion to God, which requires conscious knowledge and articulation of belief.  As merely an outward acknowledgement of faith by the believer, they do not understand it to deliver grace, forgiveness, or faith from God to the person being baptized. 

On the other hand, a church that sees Baptism as a gift that God gives to a person in order to deliver forgiveness, grace, and salvation, would see it unnecessary to repeat or replace the original Baptism.  This is because the Baptism is understood to be God’s gift to deliver faith in Jesus and the benefits of His sacrifice on the cross to individuals, and therefore not dependent on the ability of the person being Baptized. 

Instead, even if the person doing the Baptism or the church in which it was performed were not in full agreement, or even did not properly understand Baptism, God’s work is not hindered.  Since it relies on God’s faithfulness and not on man’s performance, and God’s work is always complete and effective, and they would acknowledge all Baptisms performed by the correct formula in connection with a Trinitarian church.  They would then instruct the new member in the teachings of their church as drawn from Scripture, and welcome them into membership through Confirmation or another similar ceremony. 

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