We now continue with our quotations from the Radio Replies of the Fathers Rumble and Carty, Volume I, questions 500-812.
808. Why does not the Catholic Church baptize by immersion?
Such a method of Baptism, though valid, is not necessary. From the very beginning Baptism was administered both by immersion and by infusion or pouring water upon the forehead.
809. By relinquishing immersion you lost the significance of the original rite.
Immersion was never thought necessary in the Christian Church. After St. Peter’s first sermon three thousand people were baptized, and it is most unlikely that it could have been by immersion, above all in the light of recent research into the water supply available in Jerusalem itself at that time. The Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve, written about the year 90, says, “Thus baptize . . . If you have not fresh water baptize in other water. If you cannot do it in cold, use warm. If you have neither; pour out on the head water three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Either form then is valid: If immersion were necessary, what would you do with bed-ridden invalids and the dying? Nor is the significance lost by pouring. The true significance is that grace washes the soul as water washes the body. The true sign of washing is retained by any true ablutions. Washing does not always imply the taking of a plunge bath. Burial with Christ is signified by washing away the death of sin and the resurrection to the new life of grace. In any case Christ left the practical application of such matters to His Church, saying, “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in Heaven.” Matt. 18:18. And He promised to be with His Church, preserving her from any misuse of this power. (With this we have no disagreement. We, too, believe that we do not lose the significance of Baptism by relinquishing the practice of immersion. And it is also true, in itself, that the significance of the sacrament is that grace washes the soul, if only we bear in mind, as we shall presently see, that the water in this sacrament cleanses the soul symbolically.—H.V.)
810. The Didache proves nothing.
It is evidence of the instructions circulated amongst Christians whilst St. John the Apostle was still living. 811. Scripture nowhere says that infants were baptized. It nowhere says that they were not, and implicitly demands that they should be.
811. Do we not read only of adult baptisms in the New Testament?
It nowhere says that they were not, and implicitly demands that they should be.
812. Do we not ready only of adult baptisms in the New Testament?
No. We read of some adult baptisms, but they were not administered precisely because the subjects were adults, but because they happened to be converted as adults. Acts XV commemorates the reception of two complete households into the Church by St. Paul, and we are not told that the adults only in those households were received. Christ told the Apostles to teach and baptize all nations, and the term all nations certainly includes men, women, and children. Again St. Paul tells us that Baptism is the Circumcision of Christians, and we know that Circumcision was administered to children.Col. 2, 11. Or is the New Law to be less perfect than the Old, containing no purifying rite for infants? Your ideas are opposed to the whole tenor of Christianity. Christ is the second Adam. If the children of Adam are born subject to original sin and its penalties, so they can be born again of Christ into the life of grace. Or is Adam to be able to ruin all, yet Christ be unable to save any except adults? “What is of the flesh is flesh; what is of the spirit is spirit.” Children by virtue of their natural birth are of the flesh, and Our Lord insists that unless one is born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Do not be misled by the English translation, “Unless a man be born again.” The original Greek does not use the word man in this, text. It says, “Unless anyone be born again,” and a child is someone.
Of interest are also quotations from Volume II of these Radio Replies, inasmuch as these answers set forth in greater detail the Roman Catholic view of the sacrament of baptism. We now quote from Volume II, 716-721, 732-735
716. Why do you say that when we are baptized we are born again?
Because Christ came to redeem us from the death of sin, and to give us a new life of grace derived from Him. So He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; and again, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” As surely as the branches derive their life from the vine, we must derive our life from Christ. Now every life supposes a birth, and as no human being gets the life of grace given by Christ merely by being born of his earthly parents, a new birth is required. And it is by the rebirth of Baptism that we secure the supernatural life of’ grace which is derived from Christ and incorporates us with Him.”
717. We Protestants are taught that when Christ said, “Ye must be born again,” He meant a change of heart.
That would be a most inadequate explanation. For a change of heart means conversion from unbelief to belief in Christ, and from morally evil ways to morally good conduct. It therefore means repentance. Now our Lord did insist on repentance or a change of heart in all who sought baptism, but He did not identify it with baptism. He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Mark 16:16. When speaking of the rite of baptism itself, He said, “Unless one is born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” John 3:3. You will notice here that, whilst conversion or change of heart is an interior change in our own dispositions, the new principle of life comes from forces outside us. It is something put into us, and signified by an external rite. The good preparatory dispositions are from us; but the new life is not from us, but from God. The washing with baptismal water signifies the cleansing of the soul from the disease of sin belonging to children of a guilty race; and the Spirit of the Living God is mentioned as infusing into our souls a principle of new life altogether which is rightly said to regenerate us, and give us a new birth to a spiritual life of grace far beyond and above the merely natural life secured by natural birth. (In connection with this answer we offer the following comments. When the Protestant view declares that “to be born again,” a change of heart is meant, it refers to regeneration. This “change of heart” does not merely refer to repentance, as this Romish answer states. And, having stated that this “change of heart” merely refers to repentance, the Fathers Rumble and Carty are able to state that this “change of heart,” repentance, is not to be identified with baptism, inasmuch as “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved:” Hence, “believing precedes baptism, and is not to be identified with it.” Then, the Romish view, quoting John 3:5, assumes that this water in John 3:5 refers to the water of the sacrament of baptism. And this is not necessarily true. The apostle’s reference to “water and the Holy Ghost” simply emphasizes that this operation, of the Holy Spirit is of a cleansing nature, although there is a reference here to the symbolical significance of the sacrament. And then these exponents of the Romish view state that, whilst conversion or a change of heart is an interior change in our own dispositions, the new principle of life comes from forces outside us. And the good preparatory dispositions are from us, but the new life is not from us, but from God. And in these words the Fathers Rumble and Carty set forth the pelagianism of Roman Catholicism, that we can desire this new life. Incidentally, when this answer quotes Mark 16:16, why do they not refer this text to the baptism of adults who believe, as they did in a previous answer? And that we can desire regeneration is certainly contrary to all the teachings of Holy Writ.—H.V.)
718. What did Christ mean by “being born again?”
The life He gives us is quite distinct from the life we secured at birth, and is derived from another source. Our very nature is changed and lifted to a higher plane, a plane therefore called supernatural. The starting point for Christians is the fact that the Eternal Son of God became man. But He descends to our level and shared our human nature by His human birth that He might lift us to His level and enable us to share His nature by a supernatural birth. In Him, God is given to us that we may become one with God. And as surely as His human life enabled the Son of God to live and experience our life in this world, so by our rebirth into the Christ-life we are to live and experience the life of God through grace in this world and through glory in heaven. It is obvious that such an experience is proper to God and not to man, just as an intellectual life in this world is proper to man and not to a tree. A tree would have to be elevated far above its natural life to be able to converse with man and share in man’s activities. The human level would be supernatural in comparison with the level of mere vegetation. Far more is the God-level supernatural in comparison with man’s level. For us to live the life of God, to know as He knows, love as He loves, and be happy with His happiness, we certainly will need a new principle of life, and new powers which are beyond those got by natural birth. And Christ communicates that new life to us by a baptismal rebirth which enables us to share in the Divine Nature, and gives a thought, love, action, and destiny in common with God. And we receive the principle of that life by the Sacrament of Baptism in which we are born again of water and the Holy Ghost. That life is in us by grace as the life of the oak tree is in the acorn; and it is that life of grace which will attain its full development and perfection in the glorious life of eternal association with God in heaven itself under conditions infinitely above the natural conditions of life in this world. That is what Christ meant when He said, “Ye must be born again.” (We have no comment to offer on this answer, except to remark that this “being born again” is effected, according to Rome, through the sacrament of baptism. But more of this presently.—H.V.)
719. Would not the general tenor of Paul’s teaching suggest that the Gospel of Christ was the power of God unto salvation, to all them that believe?
Yes. But the word “believe” there is not to be taken in the restrictive sense of a theoretical faith in Christ, but in the universal and practical sense of one accepting the full religion of Christ, which includes the necessity of receiving that Sacrament of Baptism instituted by Christ. Nowhere did St. Paul ever suggest a dispensation from the necessity of baptism. (Since where in Scripture is this “believing unto salvation” merely a believing in the sense that one accepts in the universal and practical sense the full religion of Christ? Faith, in Scripture, is the Divine power operating in the elect sinner whereby he is united with Christ. By grace are we saved and this through faith; and this faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. To believe certainly means more than the mere acceptance of the Romish religion. And it is surely true that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to all them that believe.