We now continue with our quotations from the Radio Replies of the Fathers Rumble and Carty, Volume II, 716-721, 732-735.
720. Is not the application of water merely symbolic, testifying an inward regeneration?
No. The sacramental external rite does not merely testify to an inward regeneration. It causes that regeneration. The Sacraments, as instituted by Christ and deriving all their power from Christ, are the very actions of Christ. He uses the Sacraments as instruments in the effecting of His work of grace, just as He used His humanity on earth as a medium of His power. We know that a woman touched but the hem of Christ’s garments, and was healed. And Jesus felt virtue go out from Him. That was but an image of the conferring of grace by visible and tangible Sacraments instituted by Christ, of which baptism is one. (In this answer these Fathers deny that the water in Baptism is merely symbolic. Here they tell us that the sacramental external rite causes this regeneration—H.V.)
721. Is not the inward regeneration the result of believing and receiving the Gospel?
Yes, in the inclusive sense as implying the fulfillment of all the conditions laid down in the Gospel; including, therefore, the reception of baptism. (Here we are told that inner regeneration is the result of believing and receiving the gospel. This is pure Arminianism and Pelagianism. This must mean that believing precedes regeneration and that the sinner can and must believe in order to be regenerated. The question may arise: “But how can an infant fulfill these necessary conditions unto his salvation?” To this question we have an answer in subsequent answers which we will quote.)
732. Can infants fulfill the conditions of baptism?
Yes, at least passively, insofar as they are quite capable of receiving baptism. Actively, they can fulfill the promises made in their name at baptism, when they come to the age of personal responsibility.
733. I argued with a friend that infants should be baptized because original sin must be destroyed in order to enter the life of grace. Was I right?
You correctly interpreted the mind of Christ. The significance of the Christian religion is much more profound than many non-Catholics think. For most Protestants baptism is merely an external act associating the subject with their Church, and implying a profession of the Christian faith (one may well wonder, in this connection, whether the Roman Catholic laity understand fully the profound significance of the sacrament of baptism as set forth in the Roman Catholic presentation of this sacrament.—H.V.) They do not think of it as actually giving a new principle of life interiorly and within the soul of the recipient. Yet that is the Catholic idea, and the real doctrine of Christ, and it is essential. Christ was God who descended to our level, shared our human nature, and did so in order to lift us to His level, give us a share in the Divine Nature, and render a heavenly destiny possible to us. As He too, our life, He gives His life. He gives His by our baptismal regeneration. It means a new and spiritual vital principle within us which our natural birth could not give us. And children who have had no more than their merely natural birth are without it. They could never, therefore, experience the happiness of heaven should they die in their unbaptized state. Astronomers say that human beings as at present constituted could not possibly live on the planet Mars. They would have to be given altogether new capabilities adapted to Martian conditions before they could do so. Much more will man’s soul have to be reconstituted in order to live the life of God in conditions which are infinitely above natural capabilities. The additional and new principle of life given by baptismal rebirth means just such a regeneration or reconstitution of the soul. (In this answer these Fathers say that the Roman Catholic conception of the sacrament of baptism is much more profound than the Protestant conception of the same. It is true that they say thatmost Protestants think that this sacrament is merely an external act associating the subject with their Church. And in this they are undoubtedly correct. But they are not correct when they imply that this is the true Protestant conception of Baptism. We surely believe that to live the life of God we must be reconstituted. We surely believe that one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and of God. We surely believe that all men are born dead in sins and in trespasses and that we, without regenerating grace, cannot see the Kingdom of God, which, incidentally, is quite contrary to this “profound” conception of Rome. But we do not believe that this regeneration must be associated with the water of Baptism. So, we are not nearly as superficial in our conception of these vital truths as Rome would have us believe in this answer.—H.V.)
734. But infants are quite unaware of this.
They are just as unaware of their acquisition of a merely natural life principle. But that does not prevent them getting it.
735. How, then, can they accept the Christian Faith? That requires belief, and they are incapable of believing.
The belief of the parents is sufficient here just as it is sufficient for so much in the natural life. The parents believe on their child’s behalf that food is necessary, and give it food. They believe that instruction is necessary, and give it. They believe that sound morals are necessary, and teach the good principles they know. They don’t wait for the child to make up its own mind on all these things. Later the child will know and accept for itself the wisdom of these things. In the same way, parents who know that Christ is the way, the truth and the life, choose Christ on their child’s behalf. They set their child, who is a continuation of their own life, and in whom they live over again, upon the right way; they teach their child the truth of Christ; and at the earliest possible moment secure the implantation of the life of Christ in the child’s soul by baptism. Later on, the child gladly accepts and ratifies this gift of itself to Christ as it grows into an understanding of its faith and begins to live consciously according to its precepts. And it is a real tragedy that, owing to mistaken notions, the Baptists and others allow so many little children to die without baptismal regeneration, lacking the life Christ alone can give, and which no earthly birth can confer, with the result that such children are forever incapable of attaining the supernatural destiny reserved for those to whom a share in the divine nature has been communicated by water and the Holy Ghost. Professing Christian parents who neglect to have their children baptized do an injury both to Christ and to the children they deprive of the life He desires to give them.
In connection with this answer the undersigned would make the following observation. Rome’s reference here to food and instruction certainly does not hold. Rome declares that just as parents supply their infants with food and also furnish their children with instruction, without waiting for them to make up their own minds on these things, so the Church accepts the faith of the parents in behalf of their children. Whether food will benefit a child or not does not depend upon that child. This is also true, in a certain sense, as far as the instructing of children is concerned, although it is true, of course, that a child will later react toward this instruction, and that his reaction toward this instruction depends upon the inner condition or status of his heart and soul, which, we know, is sovereignly determined by the living God. But the theory that regeneration is preceded by faith and is a result of it, certainly does not hold in Rome’s presentation that the parent may act in behalf of the child. For, such a child is actually regenerated at baptism, without any choice of its own, and, once regenerated, such a child cannot possibly be lost. And this must mean that such a child’s salvation does not depend in any sense of the word upon an action of its will or choice. To say, therefore, that a parent can act in behalf of the salvation of its child is surely wholly untenable.
What, then, is the Roman Catholic conception of the sacrament of baptism? In the first place, Rome rejects the idea that the baptism of John the Baptist is essentially the same as Christian baptism. Rome declares accursed everyone who declares that the baptism of John had the same force as the baptism of Christ. Secondly, Rome maintains the absolute necessity of the sacrament of baptism unto salvation. Without baptism nobody can be saved. As we are born of our earthly parents, we cannot possibly enter into the life of God. This can occur only through regeneration. And this regeneration occurs at baptism. It is true that Rome, in this connection, speaks of the baptism of desire, so that the desire on the part of a repentant sinner would imply his desire to do the will of God, and this desire would imply the desire of Baptism inasmuch as such baptism is the will of God. God, then, would accept such desire as equivalent to baptism. And Rome also makes an exception in the case of martyrs. A martyr is credited with the baptism of blood. But, except for these cases, the sacrament of baptism is absolutely necessary unto salvation. Infants, according to Rome, who have not been baptized, cannot possibly be saved. They cannot enter into everlasting and heavenly bliss. It is true that they do not enter into everlasting punishment, because, according to Rome, it would be unjust if a child innocent of any personal sin had to suffer the miseries of hell. Such a child enters into a Limbo of unbaptized children. This Limbo is an intermediate state of purely natural happiness. And in that state unbaptized children receive all the happiness proportionate to their natural capacity. Rome considers the sacrament of baptism as absolutely necessary. In fact, the sacrament of baptism is so wholly necessary that the baptism of an infant need not be administered by anyone in office. If need be, anyone may administer the sacrament to an infant. The important question is not who administers it, but simply that it be administered.
Thirdly, Rome maintains the baptism of children, of infants. With this, of course, we do not disagree. Rome’s reference to those Scriptures that speak of entire houses, being baptized, and also that it is extremely unlikely that all those who were baptized upon the day of Pentecost should have been baptized by immersion, we find to be completely in harmony with the Word of God.
Fourthly, Rome considers baptism as the instrument of regeneration and also that this sacrament washes away our original guilt and all sins committed prior to baptism. But, to this we hope to call attention in our following article.