Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #134

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

For all of you in the Atlanta area, I will be speaking at the “Defending Our Catholic Faith” seminar at St. Catherine of Siena parish, in Kennesaw, Ga., on Saturday, February 27, from 9:30 AM until 2:00 PM. Free Admission. For more details, check out this website: www.scsnewsletter.com/apologetics.html


Okay, this issue will be a couple more Q&A’s. I’ll probably stick with the Q&A format for one or two more issues after this one as well. The reason for that is because, as of January 1 of this year, in addition to be the Director of Evangelization and Stewardship for my diocese, I am now also the Director of Vocations. So, I’ve been a little bit busy integrating all the responsibilities of that job into what I have already been doing. Once I get myself up to speed in the Vocations Office, I should be back with my regular newsletters – more chapters of my book; and more back and forth with Protestant folks. So, please bear with me for a few more weeks.


Q:    I was taught from other Christian churches that baptism must be by immersion, but the Catholics sprinkle. I see nowhere in the Bible (that I can find) where it specifically states there is a certain way to be baptized, just that is says  by water . Can you tell me if there is any material on the matter or is that an "open to interpretation" thing?

A:    In the Didache, which is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, non-scriptural Christian writings, it says this about Baptism: "The procedure for baptizing is as follows: after repeating all that has been said, immerse in running water ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’.  If no running water is available, immerse in ordinary water…If neither is practicable, then pour water three times on the head ’In the name of the Father…"

Again, this is not Scripture, but this is a window into the practices of the early Christians who learned directly from the Apostles and those appointed by the Apostles to leadership roles within the Church. They were baptizing folks by immersion and by pouring, or sprinkling.

Ezekiel 36:25-27,  I will SPRINKLE clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you…and I will put My Spirit within you…"  What do you think is being talked about here? Water…a new spirit…cleansed of your uncleannesses? Baptism…by sprinkling.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say one has to be immersed in order to be officially baptized.  People will point to Jesus’ baptism accounts which say that He “came up out of the water,” and use that to claim He was immersed.  However, if you read all four of the accounts of Jesus’ baptism side-by-side, you can make a very strong case that when it says, Jesus “came up out of the water,"  it does not mean He came up from under the water (immersion), but rather that it means He came up out of the river onto the bank. If you had a child swimming in a pool and you called to them and they “came up out of the water,” what would that mean? That your child was underwater but is now above water, or that he had come out of the pool altogether? It would be the latter.

Finally, in 1 Cor 15:29, Paul notes that there were folks baptizing on behalf of the dead. And, he doesn’t specifically repudiate the practice. So, the Scripture tells us that there were Christians baptizing folks on behalf of the dead and nowhere does the Scripture say this should not happen.  Paul himself offers no criticism of the practice. Why then does anyone believe that baptizing on behalf of the dead is not an acceptable Christian practice? Why? Because of the authority of the Church to decide such matters. Just as the Church can say that baptism on behalf of the dead is not acceptable, in spite of it clearly being practiced by some Christians in Scripture, so the Church can decide on the method of baptism. It has Christ’s own authority to bind and loose on earth. And, what it binds and looses on earth, is bound and loosed in Heaven.

By the way, one can always elect to be fully immersed when baptized into the Catholic Church, and I know of folks who have done so. In other words, immersion is not a practice that is forbidden by the Church, it is just one that is not used as often as pouring.   


Q:    Jesus said: “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit’ (John 3:3-5).  I have seen a good number of non-Christians living a righteous life. Will they not enter the Kingdom of God?  

A:    The Church teaches, as God clearly states in John 3, that Baptism is necessary for salvation.  The Church also believes that God wants all men to be saved, and therefore gives all men the opportunity for salvation.  The  ordinary  means of salvation is through the Sacraments (beginning with Baptism) given to us by God through His Church.  But, the Church holds out the possibility that there is some "extraordinary" means of salvation known only unto God, by which those who are not physically baptized may still receive the grace of salvation through Christ Jesus.

As St. Paul says in Rom 2, when speaking about those who have not the law, "…their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."  Their ignorance may excuse them or it may accuse them.  

The Church teaches that non-Christians who are invincibly ignorant of the truths about Jesus Christ and His Church, "may" be saved.  In other words, it is possible for them to be saved, if they are indeed righteous, if they have never been told about Jesus, and had no way of finding out about Him and thereby believing in Him.  If, however, they have been exposed to Christ, and know something of the claims of Christianity, yet have either rejected those claims or not investigated those claims (willful ignorance), then they may indeed have a difficult time come Judgment Day.

This is why it is so incumbent upon us, as Catholics, to do all in our power to bring Christ to the world, to bring Truth to the world.  The best chance any person has to be with God in Heaven for all of eternity is to be a Catholic who is devout, regularly receives the Sacraments, and does all in their power to be holy.  It is difficult enough to be holy with all the graces available to us as Catholics, how much more difficult for those who do not have Baptism, who do not regularly go to Confession, and who do not regularly receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist   Therefore, we cannot simply sit back and say, "Well, these are good people, surely God will take them to Heaven even though they are not Christian."  That is gambling with someone’s soul based on a personal opinion, or on a "feeling."

By our Baptism we are all called to evangelize.  If it’s not something we are comfortable doing, then we need to pray to God to give us the strength and the wisdom to get out there and do it anyway.  The lives of souls are at stake.

No one can say whether or not someone will end up in Hell, that is a judgment reserved for God alone.  However, one can indeed say that getting to Heaven is not an easy thing and that we need all the graces possible in order to persevere in holiness to the end, and that the greatest graces available to us are found in and through the Sacraments.  Therefore, one can conclude that those outside of the Sacraments have the odds stacked against them.

In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great week!

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Apologetics for the Masses