Saturday, March 03, 2007

Necessity of Baptism for Salvation vs. Baptism of Desire?

By Dave Armstrong (3-3-07) 

A certain Protestant objection is made that Catholics make baptism necessary for salvation, so that if someone doesn't receive baptism they are necessarily damned, and that this is the Council of Trent's teaching (Canons on the Sacrament of Baptism). The Catholic replies that baptism is the normative means of regeneration; however, in extraordinary cases, baptism of desire may suffice, and a person could be saved. St. Thomas Aquinas talks about this at great length.

A Protestant might ask what the difference is between baptism of desire and trusting Christ alone for salvation. The answer is "not much." For example, a man could know he is about to be killed, acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Redeemer in that moment and die a saved man. Only God knows all the factors involved. But it is altogether possible.

The key word above is "could." That doesn't mean that it is the normative process if one has time to be obedient to biblical commands, etc. (which include being baptized for the forgiveness of sins and regeneration). The anathemas of Trent regarding denial of baptism as a necessity for regeneration and salvation presuppose that one is able to be baptized.

In some situations (such as the hypothetical above of the man about to be killed) that is not possible. The Catholic Church does not teach that he would be damned simply because he didn't have time for someone to spit on him in the name of the Trinity (i.e., to produce "water" immediately in an emergency situation) and baptize him. Let's not get ridiculous . . .

But if a Catholic points out that the Church allows for baptism of desire in this case and others, then some will accuse the Catholic of denying the authority of Trent, or say that it is an individualized reading of that council, that can be dismissed! This is sheer nonsense, because in the canons concerning "On the Sacraments in General", right before the canons on baptism, from Session VII, we find Canon IV:
If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.
This is baptism of desire, explicitly sanctioned by Trent. Case closed . . .

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...


Is water baptism essential for the forgiveness of sins? Is it possible to be a Christian before or apart from baptism? Is there salvation without baptism? Is water baptism valid, even though the person baptized intellectually rejects the Biblical purpose of baptism?

Is baptism necessary so that your sins may be forgiven? According to the inspired apostle Peter, the answer is yes (Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.") The question is, would the three thousand who responded to Peter's message have been added to the church had they made this statement, "Peter, we have already said the sinner's prayer, our sins have already been forgiven, but we will be baptized as an example of our faith"? IS THAT A VALID BAPTISM?

Is it likely that one may become a Christian before or apart from water baptism? The apostle Paul stated that we are baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27 For all of you were who baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.) What if the Galatians responded as such, "Paul, our relatives were all good Christians, and they were not immersed in water; you cannot tell us that being baptized into Christ is the only way to become a Christian. Yes, we were all baptized, but it certainly had no bearing as to us putting on Christ? WOULD THAT BE A VALID BAPTISM?

Does it matter what you think about baptism?

Is there salvation apart from baptism? Jesus said, no (Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.) What do you imagine would have been the reaction of Jesus, had the eleven replied in the following manner, "We were saved the minute we believed in you, Jesus, but water baptism has no part in salvation, however, we will preach baptism as an act of obedience"? Would an "obedience only" baptism, BE A VALID BAPTISM?

Is immersion for the wrong reason a valid baptism? Most Christians would agree that water baptism is essential for the remission of sin, however, some would be willing to accept believers who were immersed, unscripturally, as brothers in Christ; yet few would seriously consider those who would deny faith, confession and repentance as being essential for salvation, as being in a saved state.

If we can safely say, that we were baptized, but it had nothing to do with our salvation, then, why can we not assert that we repented, but that it had no bearing on receiving remission of sin? Can we not also say, that believing in Jesus is apart from salvation because we were saved by grace alone? Would it be possible to proclaim that we confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, and believed God resurrected Jesus from the grave, but it had absolutely nothing to do with our salvation?

If we have to be intellectually correct concerning faith, confession and repentance for the the remission of sin, then does it not logically follow that men should be re-immersed (actually baptized for the first time) in situations where persons were baptized for the wrong reason?

We must either be saved according to God's word or free to choose our own terms for pardon. Which will it be?


(All Scripture quote from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

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