Are Protestant Baptisms Valid?

Mar 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

In answer to this question we must say “It depends.”

Some folks think that Catholic acceptance of any Protestant Baptism at all is a Vatican II novelty. This is not the case. Here is what the Catechism of the Council of Trent says:

Those who may administer Baptism in case of necessity, but without its solemn ceremonies, hold the last place; and in this class are included all, even the laity, men and women, to whatever sect they may belong. This office extends in case of necessity, even to Jews, infidels and heretics, provided, however, they intend to do what the Catholic Church does in that act of her ministry. These things were established by many decrees of the ancient Fathers and Councils; and the holy Council of Trent denounces anathema against those who dare to say, that Baptism, even when administered by heretics, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true Baptism. [source; emphasis added]


River baptism, Pibel, Nebraska, 1913.
Photographer unknown
International Center of Photography

Some might object that Protestant intentions in baptism are not Catholic ones, but that is not how the Church sees things. As Pope Leo XIII said in 1896:

The Church does not judge about the mind and intention, in so far as it is something by its nature internal; but in so far as it is manifested externally she is bound to judge concerning it. A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do (intendisse) what the Church does. On this principle rests the doctrine that a Sacrament is truly conferred by the ministry of one who is a heretic or unbaptized, provided the Catholic rite be employed. [Apostolicae Curae 33; emphasis added]

The Church does not judge the mind, just because no man can know another’s heart. So instead it is actions that are considered, and if the actions in a Baptism include the correct matter and form, then the presumption is that the Baptism is valid. So the next and obvious question is: what is the matter and form of Baptism? The Catechism of the Council of Trent informs us:

Now since we said above, when treating of the Sacraments in general, that every Sacrament consists of matter and form, it is therefore necessary that pastors point out what constitutes each of these in Baptism. The matter, then, or element of this Sacrament, is any sort of natural water, which is simply and without qualification commonly called water, be it sea water, river water, water from a pond, well or fountain.

Pastors, therefore, should teach, in clear, unambiguous language, intelligible to every capacity, that the true and essential form of Baptism is: I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. For so it was delivered by our Lord and Saviour when, as we read in St. Matthew He gave to His Apostles the command: Going,… teach ye all nations: baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [source]

So we see that if Protestants baptize with water using the correct words (“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”), the baptism is considered to be valid, and this is no “novelty” of Vatican II. It’s reasonable to be uncertain in specific cases, until we know whether the correct form of words was used or not. But for the vast majority of Protestants, this is just not an issue. Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans all use the correct formula.

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  1. I was baptized in a Baptist church where they said “I baptize you my brother in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” I only know this because I have the video.

    My name wasn’t mentioned in the formula. I don’t think this invalidates a baptism but I wanted to be sure, does it?

  2. and what about the “my brother” part he added, is that okay?

  3. Fred,

    Thanks for posting this. In this case, the intention to do what the Church does is simply the intention to baptize. A wrong theology as regards the efficacy of baptism, even a wrong theology propounded in the immediate context of administering the sacrament, does not constitute an intention not to baptize; therefore, such faulty teaching does not render the baptism invalid.

    Consider the Holy See’s response to the following questions concerning the Methodist baptisms in Oceania (1872):

    1. Whether baptism administered by those heretics [Methodists] is doubtful on account of defect of intention to do what Christ willed, if an express declaration was made by the minister before he baptised that baptism had no effect on the soul?

    2. Whether baptism so conferred is doubtful if the aforesaid declaration was not expressly made immediately before the conferring of baptism, but had often been asserted by the minister, and the same doctrine was openly preached in that sect?

    Reply to the first question: in the negative, because despite the error about the effects of baptism, the intention of doing what the Church does is not excluded.

    The second question: provided for in the answer to the first.

    (Acta Sanctae Sedis, Vol. XXV, p. 246.)

    Andrew

  4. Hello Michael,

    You asked (in #1 & #2):

    My name wasn’t mentioned in the formula. I don’t think this invalidates a baptism but I wanted to be sure, does it?

    and what about the “my brother” part he added, is that okay?

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent goes on to say this about the words used in Baptism:

    the Greek Church, adopting a different manner of expressing the form, and being of opinion that it is unnecessary to make mention of the minister, omits the pronoun altogether. The form universally used in the Greek Church is: Let this servant of Christ be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It appears, however, from the decision and definition of the Council of Florence, that those who use this form administer the Sacraments validly, because the words sufficiently express what is essential to the validity of Baptism, that is, the ablution which then takes place.

    This being the case, it’s clear that some variation in the words used does not invalidate a baptism. So in answer to your questions: the use of the recipient’s name is not mentioned in the prescribed formula (“I baptize thee…”), so your name need not have been mentioned. With respect to “my brother” being added: I don’t think this is a substantive variation that would invalidate a baptism, particularly in comparison to the Greek form (which the Catechism expressly approved). Based upon what you have said, there does not seem to be an issue. If you are still concerned, though, I would recommend asking your priest or bishop about it.

    I hope that this helps.

    Peace,

    Fred

  5. Michael (#1)

    My name wasn’t mentioned in the formula.

    It would seem – I am no expert! – that intention is fundamental. Thus so long as it was clear whom the person doing the baptising intended to baptise, it would be valid.

    On the other hand, it was recently declared that some priest in Australia was baptising in the Name of the “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” or some such words. The Church has, I think, said that these baptisms are not valid (although I suppose the person being baptised, if he or she died, might be considered to have received baptism of desire, if the baptism was undergone in good faith). I suppose the primary point here is that it could not be clear that the priest intended what the Church intends.

    Does someone with more knowledge here have some information?

    jj

  6. I have been a lurker on this website for a while and this is now my first post. In other words, I am not so experienced in interacting with others via a blog comment box, so I hope I am following good etiquette. I am also not a theologian nor a historian nor an apologist nor have any formal seminary training, so I hope you will be patient with me. Now for my question: I have read that the Catholic church considers the validity of Mormon baptism to be doubtful even though it seems that Mormons also baptize with the proper matter and a Trinitarian form. According to what I can find online via a google search and what I can understand from these documents, the reason the Catholic church gives for doubting the validity of Mormon baptism is that Mormons have such a different concept of the trinity that they cannot be considered to have the intention to do what the church does when they baptize a person. My question is then how can such a determination of invalid intent be made? What kinds of external evidence are needed to cause the Catholic church to question the validity of intent even if the matter and form seem to be correct? I am thinking that the answer to these questions is also relevant to the question of whether Anglican orders are valid. That is, I’ve really been trying to understand the Catholic arguments given for supposing that the Anglican 0rders suffer from a defect of intent, and while thinking about this issue I’ve often thought about whether protestants have valid intent with regards to baptism. Thus anything you can do to flush out the difference between valid and invalid intent, and what would cause the Catholic church to doubt valid intent, would be helpful. Thanks!

  7. JJ,

    I am no expert, and don’t know exactly what further information you are looking for, but I do know that in the case of the priest in Australia it was a defect in *form* that was the problem. Defective form renders the sacrament invalid, regardless of the priest’s intent.

    Andrew

  8. @Andrew:

    I am no expert, and don’t know exactly what further information you are looking for, but I do know that in the case of the priest in Australia it was a defect in *form* that was the problem. Defective form renders the sacrament invalid, regardless of the priest’s intent.

    The only ‘information’ I wondered about was related to this business of ‘form.’ As Fred said, ‘…some variation in the words used does not invalidate a baptism.” Yet – obviously! – that priest’s ‘variation’ did – and was more than ‘some’ variation. I was just speculating about the possiblity that the variation, if sufficient to raise doubts about the intention of the person performing the baptism, would invalidate it – precisely because it called the intention into question.

    From the little that I know about why the Church considers Anglican orders to be invalid, my understanding is that it is because the ordination ceremony does not say they are to be offering sacrifices.

    The new translation of the Mass has the priest saying ‘chalice’ instead of ‘cup’ – and, indeed, the words are in English rather than Latin.

    So it is clear that the ‘form’ of Sacraments is not some idea of magic formulation – so that the actual sounds or something similar is what is involved. I am (or, rather, used to be, before I got full-time into computing) a lecturer in linguistics. It is notorious that until the mid-18th Century, the Rig-Veda was not written down – and when William Jones (I think it was) got someone to dictate some of it to him so he could write it down, the Hindu authorities were horrified. The reason was because their actual sound was holy. Indeed, a fellow linguistic graduate student, whose native language was Kannada – not related to Sanskrit – told me that he had in fact been trained in the Vedas, had learned to chant them – accurately or he got thrashed :-) – but until he got older and started to get interested in language, he had no idea of their meaning.

    I think sometimes – at least to non-Catholics (and perhaps at times to some Catholics!), the form of the Sacraments can appear a bit like that.

    Or, indeed, the form of the King James Bible to a certain fundamentalist Protestant mentality.

    All I meant :-)

    jj

  9. JJ,

    Wrong form invalidates a sacrament independently of intent. As Fred indicated earlier, there is some acceptable variation of the correct form, but this does not extend to the names of the Persons. The form of the sacrament of Baptism is the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The reason that this is the required English translation is that these are the semantic equivalents in our language to the words given by Christ, in Aramaic (most likely), and subsequently recorded in Greek, etc. Christ gave us this form, and though by his supernatural power it is of the essence of the sacrament of regeneration, there is no magic involved.

    The Catholic Church has judged Anglican orders to be invalid because of a defect of *form* in the 1552 Ordinal, specifically in the form used for ordaining a bishop. Certainly in that case the defect of form was due to a change in the Ordinal which was in some way related to the fundamental change in the understanding of the nature of the ordained Christian ministry that took place in England during the Reformation, which new doctrine undoubtedly influenced the form of the Anglican Ordinal (along with the rest of the liturgy). So form is related to intention, though it is not reducible to intention.

    One can read Apostolicae Curae to get a sense of the Church’s estimation of the relation between form and intent (as discerned by professed doctrine) in that case. Also, see Bryan’s comment for some elucidation on that subject. The validity of the sacrament of baptism is ascertained primarily with reference to the form and matter employed. Correct intent is essential, but this is itself primarily indicated by the form and matter employed, particularly in the case of baptism. It might very well be more difficult to judge of validity with respect to other sacraments, even very difficult in special cases, but such hard to judge cases should not be taken as paradigmatic, and in any event judgment is reserved for a higher court than private speculation.

    Andrew

  10. Jeremy,

    Thanks for the comment and for reading our blog.

    Regarding the Catholic Church’s judgment that Mormon baptisms are invalid because of their rejection of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, you asked:

    My question is then how can such a determination of invalid intent be made? What kinds of external evidence are needed to cause the Catholic church to question the validity of intent even if the matter and form seem to be correct?

    As I indicated in my response to JJ, the form of the sacrament involves more than the shape and sound of the words, but also semantics, or meaning. The Church has determined that the Mormons do not mean the same thing as the Catholic Church by the words “Father, Son, Holy Spirit.” The external evidence in this case is the professed faith of the Mormon church. The distinction between this and the professed faith of Protestant groups is that the Catholic Church recognizes many, perhaps most, of those groups as professing Trinitarian faith.

    Baptism is the sacrament of faith, i.e., faith in the Holy Trinity as revealed in Christ, and it is in the “name” (not in a purely nominal sense, but in a deeper, biblical sense of the word) of the Persons of the Trinity that we are baptized. Thus, Trinitarian orthodoxy enters into the equation in a way that orthodoxy on the effects of baptism does not; i.e., valid baptism must be Trinitarian (in more than a nominal sense), but it need not be accompanied by profession of, or belief in, baptismal regeneration. I cannot go into more detail just now, given time constraints and present level of understanding (I will look into the matter though).

    Regarding Anglican orders, see my comment to JJ, and the link to Bryan’s comment on that topic.

    Andrew

  11. Andrew –

    Thank you for the response. I will try to get the html formatting correct. You said

    The Church has determined that the Mormons do not mean the same thing as the Catholic Church by the words “Father, Son, Holy Spirit.” The external evidence in this case is the professed faith of the Mormon church. The distinction between this and the professed faith of Protestant groups is that the Catholic Church recognizes many, perhaps most, of those groups as professing Trinitarian faith.

    I understand you to be saying that since the form of baptism includes the words “Father, Son, Holy Spirit”, and since form is more than words and sounds, then in order for the sacrament to be valid the one who is doing the baptizing must not mean something essential different than what the Catholic church means by “Father, Son, Holy Spirit”, as determined by external evidence such as the official statement of beliefs of a particular body. (Is this correct? If not, then disregard the rest of this paragraph.) But if this is true, then couldn’t it be argued that since the form of baptism also includes the words “I baptize you…”, and since form is more than words and sounds, that a protestant who differs essentially from Catholics on the meaning of the word “baptize” would perform an invalid baptism even if they use the Catholic form? If my reasoning is sound, then the position of the Catholic church would seem to be that while Protestants differ on the effects of baptism, these differences are not significant enough to cause Protestants to mean something essentially different by the word “baptize” than the Catholic church. Does that make sense? I don’t ask this to just be nit-picky but to help me grasp the Catholic position.

    Regarding the link to Bryan’s comment, he seems to only address the claim that the Anglican ordinal had an invalid form. I think I understand the Catholic position regarding their belief in a defect of form, but the Catholic church also claims there was a defect of intent which is related to the defect of form but also different from the defect of form. When I’ve tried to understand this second claim, it has not been clear to me what this defect of intent actually is. Does the Anglican ordinal have a defect of intent because of theological differences on the effects of ordination, as determined by external statements of belief by the Anglican reformers? If yes, then wouldn’t this contradict recognizing Protestant baptism as valid? Thus it would seem that the Catholic claim that the Anglican ordinal suffers from a defect of intent must be something other than theological differences on the effects of ordination. But what? I am not asking for a full account of the Catholic position regarding Anglican orders since that was not the topic for this thread, but rather I am interested in understanding the Catholic answers to the questions “what is intent?” and “what makes intent invalid?” Protestant baptism, Mormon baptism, and Anglican orders are examples that I think about when I try to grasp the Catholic answers to those questions.

    -Jeremy

  12. Thanks, Andrew, for both #9 and #10. What you are saying seems to me what I am thinking as well. A change of the words such as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” can no longer be presumed to mean what the Church means. The right words by themselves – as in Mormon baptism – need not mean what they appear to mean, either.

    jj

  13. Jeremy,

    I’ll first respond to your last paragraph. As indicated towards the end of comment #9, it cannot be assumed that the relation between proper matter, form, and intent is completely identical across the seven sacraments, nor that it is the same in different cases pertaining to a single sacrament. We can find authoritative teaching about the sacraments in general, but we have also to understand the Church’s teaching on the sacraments individually, so better to evaluate the question of validity, and how intent enters into the question, on a case by case basis. I don’t think that it is helpful to jump back and forth between sacraments and cases, at least, not without first taking the time to get our bearings in each particular.

    If you think that taking the time to get our bearings in the particular case of the Catholic Church’s assessment of Anglican orders would advance the topic being discussed here (Baptism), then perhaps you could point out the portions of Apostolicae Curae that you believe to be particularly relevant, either as generally shedding light upon the relation of the criteria of form, matter, and intent to one another with respect to validity, or as indicating an inconsistency in the Catholic position at some point in the same regard, or in some other way bringing the discussion here into better focus. Short of that, I am not going to try to answer the questions that you posed regarding AC, though others are certainly free to do so.

    You asked:

    But if this is true, then couldn’t it be argued that since the form of baptism also includes the words “I baptize you…”, and since form is more than words and sounds, that a protestant who differs essentially from Catholics on the meaning of the word “baptize” would perform an invalid baptism even if they use the Catholic form?

    It seems to me that there are at least two pertinent differences between the first part of the form of baptism (“I baptize you…”) and the second part (“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”):

    (1) The first part of the form specifically denotes an action, and what the speaker means by that phrase can by judged by what action he performs. Not so with the second part of the form. Thus it could be that the Church’s judgments regarding the Methodist baptisms in Oceania (see comment #3) and Mormon baptisms are consistent, as pertaining to different parts of the form of baptism, which parts are different in kind.

    (2) My tentative opinion is that heretical views regarding the effects of baptism do not pertain to the form of baptism in an integral way because the form does not include reference to the effects of baptism. On the other hand, heretical views regarding the Persons of the Trinity do pertain to the form of baptism in an integral way, because the form does include reference to the Persons of the Trinity. Thus the Mormon heresy regarding the Trinity precludes validity, while Protestant heresies regarding the effects of baptism do not.

    (Regarding the relation of the effects of the sacrament of baptism to what the visible minister of baptism intends to do, consider further that the form does not say, “I regenerate you,” or “I give you grace,” because that is not what the visible minister does. God alone does that by means of the sacrament. The visible minister does what he says he does, namely, “I baptize you…”, and that is all that he should intend to do. It seems to me that this helps explain why heretical opinions of the minister, concerning the effects of baptism, do not preclude valid conferral of the sacrament.)

    In any event, being a Catholic I accept the Church’s judgment, as such, on these matters. If my understanding of the reasons for her judgments needs to be supplemented (as is no doubt the case) and / or corrected (which could be the case), I happily submit to further instruction. But I first want to reiterate the main point, which is that the Catholic Church accepts the validity of Protestant baptisms, even in cases where Protestant communities, including the ministers and recipients of baptism, explicitly reject the Catholic understanding of the effects of this sacrament.

    Andrew

  14. It’s true that very often Protestant baptisms are valid. However, for a complete picture you should note that there have historically been abuses among Protestant denominations which call into question baptismal validity. Davis in his manual, Moral and Pastoral Theology (6th ed., 1949, p. 43), discusses not uncommon cases where some Protestants baptized large numbers of children collectively with a brush, perhaps not unlike the way a Catholic priest might sprinkle the congregation with holy water. Such baptisms are doubtfully valid since there is no certainty a child was touched with water, and even if there were cases where the child was touched, the water did not always touch multiple parts of the body. A single drop of water does not constitute an ablution and so is not properly considered a “baptism.” So we Catholics should be careful not to say generally “All Protestant baptisms are valid,” but should take each case individually and ensure that the essential conditions for baptisms have been met.

  15. Ashton,

    I appreciate your concern for completeness and carefulness. No one is saying generally that all Protestant baptisms [regardless of form, matter, and intent] are valid. The point is that Protestants validly baptize, when they baptize with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, intending to do what the Church does; i.e., to baptize. Certainly the Church should consider “each case individually and ensure that the essential conditions for baptisms have been met,” administering conditional baptism in doubtful cases. But consideration of the dignity and integrity of the sacrament demands that such administration not be done willy-nilly, and we should take care to uphold the Church’s affirmation that “The daily Christian life of these [Protestant] brethren is nourished by their faith in Christ and strengthened by the grace of Baptism and by hearing the word of God” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 23).

    [Catholic Answers provides some helpful information on the topic, citing relevant portions of the Code of Canon Law.]

    Andrew

  16. Ashton,

    I agree with what Andrew just said: nobody here would say that all Protestant baptisms are valid, full stop. If one is coming into the Church, one of the questions that the Priest will ask is about Baptism, if they have been baptized, what was the matter and form used etc… In fact, all of us at CTC fully recognize that these matters must be addressed on a pastoral level by those duly appointed by the Church to handle such matters.

  17. What about baptizing “in the name of Jesus”? Since the apostles themselves sometimes used this formula, how can it be invalid?

  18. Hello John,

    What passages do you have in mind when you say that the apostles used that formula?

    Fred

  19. Hello, Fred-

    Thanks for your admirably quick response! The passages are Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, and Acts 19:5.

  20. Hi John,

    Thanks for your admirably quick response!

    I’m afraid that I am unlikely to be able to keep up this pace, so enjoy it while you can. :-)

    There’s no reason to think that St Peter was enunciating a liturgical principle when he used that phrase in either Acts 2 or 10, particularly since the Lord had already given a liturgical command concerning the baptismal formula in Matthew 28. It is reasonable to think that something else may have been on his mind, as is easier to see from Acts 19:

    Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus and found certain disciples. And he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost. And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John’s baptism. Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance saying: That they should believe in him, who was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus. Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus [Acts 19:1b-5].

    The Ephesians had never heard of the Holy Spirit. This would be impossible for anyone who had been baptized with the correct formula, which is what prompted St Paul’s question about their baptism. They had only known John the Baptist’s baptism. So we see that the Acts 19:1-5 actually requires that the correct form for Baptism is the Trinitarian one, and consequently we must understand verse 5 as referring to Trinitarian baptism in contrast to the baptism of John the Baptist (which would not have been in the name of Jesus).

    Considering that John’s baptism was widely known, it’s not unreasonable to think that Peter’s reference in Acts 2 and 10 was intended only to distinguish Christian Baptism from John’s. He wasn’t contradicting what Jesus taught him.

    Fred

  21. Fred, I agree with some of what you say. But your penultimate paragraph does seem circular to me. Its last sentence (“So we see…”) _assumes_ that baptism in the name of Jesus doesn’t confer the Holy Spirit. To me, the passage itself seems to indicate otherwise. At any rate, that’s the point at issue, isn’t it?

  22. John, you said (#21):

    Fred, I agree with some of what you say. But your penultimate paragraph does seem circular to me. Its last sentence (“So we see…”) _assumes_ that baptism in the name of Jesus doesn’t confer the Holy Spirit. To me, the passage itself seems to indicate otherwise.

    The sentence you mention doesn’t assume anything more than what is pretty clear from Acts 19. The Ephesians had never heard of the Holy Spirit (verse 2). But if they had received Trinitarian Baptism then obviously they would have heard of the Holy Spirit. Therefore they had not received Trinitarian Baptism. This is confirmed by the fact that in verse 3 St Paul asks them about their Baptism, since he recognizes that their ignorance of the Holy Spirit would be impossible if they had received proper Baptism.

    It seems to me that it is unreasonable to suppose that—having identified a flaw in their baptism by virtue of the fact that it was not performed according to the Trinitarian form—St Paul would immediately proceed to baptize them without using that form.

    Furthermore, inasmuch as we are obliged to interpret Scripture according to the living tradition of the Church (CCC §113), and since the Church has taught the necessity of the Trinitarian form from the very beginning (with records of it as far back as 100 AD), we may be sure that St Paul was not contradicting the Church’s teaching.

    Lastly, if you were correct, the implication is that the Church is wrong about the necessity of Trinitarian Baptism. This is impossible, but if per impossibile it were the case then there would likewise be no reason to think that you were correct either; we would be left with ecclesial deism.

    I hope this helps.

    Peace,

    Fred

  23. St. Thomas addresses this question in the Summa Theologica, IIIa,Q 66, A 6. In short, he interprets Baptism in the name of Jesus (only) as a special dispensation given to the early Church. Thus, when St. Thomas claims that Baptism in the name of Jesus (only) is invalid, he presupposes (based upon the judgment of the Church) that the special dispensation was no longer in effect, and that it is now necessary (for validity) to baptize using the form that our Lord specifically told the Apostles to use (“baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”).

    Other interpreters (unfortunately I can’t name a source off the top of my head) have held that the references in Acts to Baptism in the name of Jesus do not denote the form that the Apostles used in those instances, but rather are intended to underscore the fact that Baptism (as practiced by the Church) involves an intimate association with Jesus. In other words, the phrase “baptized in the name of Jesus” points out the specifically Christological dimension of the sacrament, but was not the actual formula that was used in the administration of the sacrament. The Apostles, on this reading, always used the Trinitarian form given to them by Christ himself.

    Andrew

  24. Andrew, Fred, & John H.,

    I think St Basil would count as one of the other interpreters you have in mind, Andrew. In his treatise On the Holy Spirit, he writes:

    Let no one be misled by the fact of the apostle’s frequently omitting the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit when making mention of baptism, or on this account imagine that the invocation of the names is not observed. “As many of you,” he says, “as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ;” and again, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death.” For the naming of Christ is the confession of the whole, showing forth as it does the God who gave, the Son who received, and the Spirit who is, the unction. So we have learned from Peter, in the Acts, of “Jesus of Nazareth whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 10:38); and in Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” (Isaiah 60:1); and the Psalmist, “Therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.”

    De Spiritu Sancto 12.28
    Source: newadvent.org

    The idea is that the Church’s faith in Jesus is quite inseparable from her faith in the Trinity, for her identification of Jesus as the “Christ” implies the Father who anointed Him and the Spirit who is the Unction of His anointing. (The same goes for His identification as “Lord” — see, e.g., Acts 2.36.) So, while St Basil is talking specifically about St Paul in the passage quoted above, the instances in Acts of St Luke economically referring only to Baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” — or “of the Lord Jesus” — are to be interpreted as implicitly Trinitarian and therefore in no way at loggerheads with the explicit dominical command regarding the form of Baptism in Matthew 28.

    Without prejudice to the Angelic Doctor, whose opinion on this is certainly plausible, I lean toward St Basil on this question.

    best,
    John

  25. Andrew, Fred and John-
    Being an Episcopalian with distinctly Evangelical leanings, I’m no match for you guys when it comes to patristics! But I can make a few relevant points which, at the very least, sum up my position accurately.

    1.>if [the Ephesians whom Paul baptized in Acts 19] had received Trinitarian Baptism then obviously they would have heard of the Holy Spirit.

    Yes, of course.

    2. >It seems to me that it is unreasonable to suppose that—having identified a flaw in their baptism by virtue of the fact that it was not performed according to the Trinitarian form—St Paul would immediately proceed to baptize them without using that form.

    Fred, this is what looks to me like an unwarranted inference. The essential “flaw” which the passage records is that these particular “disciples” were still -at this point- only disciples of John the Baptist; they had yet to put their faith in Jesus (see verse 4). The fact that even after their baptism “in the name of Jesus” (whatever that may mean), they still didn’t received the Holy Ghost until Paul laid his hands on them (verse 6) indicates a flexibility and freedom regarding both the operations of the Holy Ghost and apostolic practice.
    I do see baptism using the Trinitarian formula as a desirable norm, simply because it’s recognized as valid by all branches of the Church (Oneness Pentecostals excepted). What I don’t see is that Matthew 28:19 absolutely requires that the words “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” be enunciated as opposed to the simple word “Jesus” in order for the baptism to be valid. That is, if the latter formula was used in a context of Trinitarian faith. (This represents, among other things, the Lutheran position.)

    3. Finally, I’d have to reject the notion of ecclesial deism simply because I don’t consider the insistence on the use of the Trinitarian formula to be heretical. I just see it as being a narrower position than that which is warranted by Scripture.

    Thanks, guys, for listening to your Episcopal brother in the faith.

  26. Hello John,

    You wrote (#25):

    Fred, this is what looks to me like an unwarranted inference.

    I’m not sure what the unwarranted inference is that you say I’ve made. The inference I intended to make is this: if the Trinitarian formula was not reckoned as the standard, St Paul would not have asked the follow-up question that he did (“Then how were you baptized?”, verse 3) because the baptismal formula would have implied nothing about whether they had heard of the Holy Spirit. And precisely because there was a standard, he would have adhered to it.

    What I don’t see is that Matthew 28:19 absolutely requires that the words “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” be enunciated as opposed to the simple word “Jesus” in order for the baptism to be valid.

    You’ve reminded me of a question I ask in another post:

    If I believe ‘X’ about doctrine ‘A’ (which cannot be a matter of indifference) and the Church (however you define it — I don’t think it matters at this point) teaches ‘Y’ about it such that X and Y are mutually exclusive, who is right? This one question demanded that I address the presuppositional question (“Do I really have standing to judge for myself what Scripture’s truth is?”), the historical question (“Is it really credible to think that the Church ‘‘blew it’ by the start of the second century?”), and obviously the authority questions…

    If I say that I am right, I have to ask how it is possible that the Church could be wrong. If the Church could be wrong, then we are left with ecclesial deism: I am forced to conclude that God does not preserve the Church (however it is defined) from error. But if that is the case there is likewise no reason to suppose that I have been preserved from error. Consequently there is no principled reason to suppose that I am right rather than the Church. But if this is the case, then there seems to be no way that I can know what God has revealed, and Protestantism’s claims about how we know revealed truth do not work. Consequently they are false.

    That is the upshot of setting up one’s own views against those of the Church: we are left with no principled basis for identifying revealed truth.

    John, you also wrote:

    Finally, I’d have to reject the notion of ecclesial deism simply because I don’t consider the insistence on the use of the Trinitarian formula to be heretical. I just see it as being a narrower position than that which is warranted by Scripture.

    But others (including the Catholic Church) don’t see it that way, and it is no less an error to require what is optional than to deny what is required. So if the Church requires what is not mandatory, then it makes demands of us that are not authorized by God, and this would mean that God has not preserved the Church from error—which is specifically what ecclesial deism entails.

    Peace,

    Fred

  27. Fred, you make some strong points. I’ll do my best to take them one at a time.
    First, here’s a quote from the source which you cite on ecclesial deism:

    >Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy.

    As I mentioned, I don’t consider the insistence on the use of the Trinitarian formula to be heretical; I only see it as a narrower position than that which is warranted by Scripture. Error, yes; heresy, no.

    > If the Church could be wrong, then we are left with ecclesial deism: I am forced to conclude that God does not preserve the Church (however it is defined) from error.

    Ah, but your parenthetical phrase covers a multitude of sins (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
    For example: Is the Bishop of Rome a)the Vicar of Christ on earth, or b)simply the first among equals? According to Roman Catholicism the answer is _a_; according to the Eastern Orthodox bodies it’s _b_. And of course both can’t be right. So it looks like it really does matter how one defines the Church.

    >if the Trinitarian formula was not reckoned as the standard, St Paul would not have asked the follow-up question that he did (“Then how were you baptized?”, verse 3) because the baptismal formula would have implied nothing about whether they had heard of the Holy Spirit.

    I see a non sequitur here. Baptism in the name of Jesus -if (as I mentioned) done in a context of Trinitarian faith- also would have implied belief in both the Father and the Holy Spirit, just as baptism using the Trinitarian formula would have. Again, as I read Acts 19, the main point which emerges is not that the baptism of these “disciples” is invalid, but (and I think Catholics and Protestants would agree here), that they were not yet believers in Jesus Christ (verse 4). That’s the “flaw” in the situation.
    Another reason for my seeming obstinacy[!] is that the “in” of “in the name of” (Matthew 28) uses the Greek word eis -best translated as “‘into’ [the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost]”. It really doesn’t sound like Jesus is here enunciating a verbal formula which must be followed if the person is to receive salvation. Rather, His emphasis is on the _significance_ of what is done: that is, to receive Christian baptism -no matter which specific formula is enunciated- is to be incorporated into the name of the Divine Trinity.
    Finally, the disagreement between St.Basil and St. Thomas Aquinas -qualified though it is- on this point seems to be at least a prima facie indication that Biblical and apostolic practice itself allowed for some variation.

    Peace,
    John

  28. Hello, Fred (and any others who might be listening)-

    It looks like you’d prefer that we wrap up our exchange on baptism -which is fine. I thought I’d just make two more points.
    First, I’ve done a bit of additional research on “eis” in the Trinitarian baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19. It really is an abstract Greek word. Though it’s not wrong to translate it as “in”, it could just as well be translated as “into”, “with reference to”, “with a view to”, “in connection with”, etc. (you get the idea). And in view of a) Paul’s repeated emphasis on faith (without an accompanying mention of baptism) as resulting in justification, and b)John’s numerous citations of Jesus saying that “belief” saves, (confers eternal life, etc.), the strict Roman Catholic position seems untenable to me. That is, I can’t harmonize the teaching that the verbal enunciation of the Trinitarian formula is indispensable to salvation with the overall tenor of the New Testament.
    Second, and by way of confession, the fact that St. Basil taught the exclusive use of the Trinitarian formula as a strict condition for baptism, is admittedly embarrassing to my my position, since he was writing way back in the fourth century. I think the key factor here is that although we Anglicans emphasize authority of tradition, for us it is nevertheless a _persuasive_ authority, as opposed to the _compelling_ authority of Scripture.
    At any rate, Peace.
    Your Anglican brother in the faith of Jesus Christ,
    John Harutunian

  29. John,

    It gets far “worse” for you than St Basil in the fourth century. Among those who oppose your personal interpretation of scripture on this question, you’ll have to include the Didache (late first or early second century), St Justin Martyr (d. 165), St Irenaeus (d. c. 200) — frankly, the entire tradition. You are preferring your impression of the “overall tenor of the New Testament” to the full weight of the tradition.

    Incidentally, when St Basil writes the treatise I cited earlier, he’s not arguing for the Trinitarian formula; he’s arguing from its universal acceptance as normative against those who denied the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. In that same treatise, he argues that his opponents err in arguing only from scripture, without submitting their reading to the living tradition of the Church, and in so doing they fundamentally distort the Gospel (see De Spiritu Sancto 27.66).

    Finally, insistence on the Trinitarian formula is not only the “strict Roman Catholic position.” It is also the position of the Orthodox and, I believe, a great many Protestants.

    best,
    John

  30. John H,

    I recommend you read this article on the Church fathers and regenerative baptism: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/the-church-fathers-on-baptismal-regeneration/

  31. John Harutunian

    It has been said that almost anything can be proven from Scripture and I have no doubt that it would be possible. However if there is a disagreement in the traditions of baptism as seen in Church Tradition as apposed to possible formulas that *might* be found in Scripture , I would think that the Church Traditions would be the correct way to go. Especially if the Church Tradition stretches back to the early days of Christianity. If there is a difference, and there appears to be. Isn’t it possible that it is the interpretation of the Scriptures that may be at fault?

    Blessings
    NHU

  32. First, thanks to all for your responses.
    Ryan, the whole topic of baptismal regeneration is something which I’d like to reserve for another exchange. Partially because the concept is understood in more than one way (is the “regeneration” spoken of a presumptive and formal regeneration, or a substantial and real one?). But mainly because I think things are complicated enough in the exchange already!

    Nelson, and John S. -I’ll take Nelson’s points in order.
    Your opening paragraph raises two questions. First, it sounds like you consider Scripture and Tradition to be _equally_ authoritative. I, on the other hand simply can’t see Tradition (as such) as part of the Word of God. As I mentioned earlier: according to the tradition of Roman Catholicism the Pope is the head of the Universal Church, the Vicar of Christ on earth; whereas according to the Eastern Orthodox churches he is simply the first among equals. (This, together with the filioque, underlies the Great Schism of the 11th century.) In addition I’d mentioned the concept of transubstantiation: according to Roman Catholicism it is a dogma, whereas according to the Eastern churches it’s only one of several ways of understanding the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist -and is no more or less valid than the others. In both of these cases in point, it’s obvious that both “traditions” can’t be right.
    All of which is not to deny the authority of Tradition. It’s just to explain why I see it only as a _persuasive_ authority, while Scripture alone is a _compelling_ authority.
    To continue with your opening paragraph: I can’t read Greek, but I do own a [presumably accurate] translation of the Didache by Maxwell Staniforth (pub. Penguin). The passage which you refer to opens:

    >The procedure for baptizing is as follows. After rehearsing all the preliminaries, immerse in running water ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’.

    I note two points. First, the author indicates immersion as the preferred mode, though he does also allow for sprinkling. Which of course contradicts ordinary Catholic practice, which involves pouring. More important, the passage simply includes a _reference to_ the Trinity. There is no indication that the words in quotes (and even the quotes are presumably editorial) constitute an indispensable verbal formula which must be articulated for the baptism to be valid. In other words, the whole Didache passages leaves us exactly where we were with Matthew 28:19.
    You may well ask: And precisely where is that? An Old Testament reference may be a helpful starting point. 1 Samuel 25:5-9 records, “David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, ‘Go up to Carmel, go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. And thus you shall say to him who lives in prosperity, ‘Peace be to you, peace to your house, and peace to all that you have!…’ So when David’s young men came they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and waited.” These ten young men need not have spoken (in unison!) the words “We greet you in the name of David” in order to fulfill their errand. “In the name of David” only means that they needed to inform Nabal that they were sent by David, and were acting in his authority.
    In light of that, compare the Trinitarian reference in Matthew 28:19 with the apostolic baptisms recorded in Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5 -all of which record baptism as being done either “in the name of the Lord Jesus” or simply “in the name of the Lord”. The _apparent_ discrepancy is best resolved by the conclusion that none of these represented a verbal formula which absolutely must be spoken at every baptism; the expressions are best understood as “in reference to”, “in connection with” or perhaps “under the authority of”. Note also that in 1 Corinthians 1:15 Paul informs schismatics in the Corinthian church that he didn’t baptize in his own name. It seems unlikely that anyone would have accused Paul of saying “I baptize you in the name of Paul” when he baptized new converts. His point was that he didn’t baptize _with reference to_ his own authority, but rather to that of Christ.
    Regarding your second paragraph, if Basil is not arguing _for_ the Trinitarian formula but _from_ its universal acceptance as normative against those who denied the full divinity of the Holy Spirit -then I’m with him! As I mentioned earlier, since the Trinitarian formula is universally accepted, I would argue for it as a desirable -but not absolutely necessary- norm.
    Regarding your last paragraph: you may be right about the Eastern Orthodox churches. But I don’t think you’re right about Protestants. The reason is that Luther -whose doctrine of baptism was more sacramental than that of any other reformer- allowed for the use of the formula “I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus”. If you check out the baptismal doctrine of Missouri Synod Lutherans today (the branch of Lutherans who adhere most strictly to Luther’s teaching) you’ll see this reflected in their own practice: they use the formula of Matthew 28:19, but also teach that baptizing “in the name of Jesus” is valid -if done in a context of Trinitarian faith.
    Two more points and I’m done. First, if you examine Acts 8:14-17, you’ll see that baptism does not, in and of itself, confer the gift of the Holy Spirit (no matter what formula is used!). The Christians in Samaria, though baptized, still hadn’t received the Holy Spirit; they did so only when Peter and John came from Jerusalem and laid hands upon them.
    And finally, John S., I certainly see that the Biblical writers may have used the term “God” as a form of shorthand for the Trinity. I can’t see that they ever would have used the term “Jesus” in that way. This would imply Patripassianism -the belief that God the Father died on the cross. Which of course is recognized -by Catholics and Protestants alike- as a heresy.

    Peace,
    -John Harutunian

  33. John re #32

    “All of which is not to deny the authority of Tradition. It’s just to explain why I see it only as a _persuasive_ authority, while Scripture alone is a _compelling_ authority.”

    Coming from evangelicalism I too believe that Scripture is a compelling authority, properly understood. Given the wide variety of understandings expressed in my city’s Yellow Pages under Church, the “properly understood” part is vital.

    I am no longer an evangelical. I am a Roman Catholic. It was when I was looking over the Church’s shoulder that I found scripture properly understood and found it compelling. I no longer had to deny Jesus’ own words. I merely had to agree with them.

    Cordially,

    dt

  34. Dear John,

    Thanks for your comments. I had a lot of trouble following your comment since it was unformatted. Tips on formatting can be found here.

    I’m well aware of the points of agreement and disagreement between Catholics and Orthodox. And while I find your summary of them to be misleading in some important respects, I don’t think it’s relevant to the topic of this thread.

    As to Tradition, yes, we see it as equally authoritative with Sacred Scripture, for these are two modes of transmission of the one Word of God, revealed fully in Jesus Christ (see Dei Verbum 7-10).

    You wrote:

    All of which is not to deny the authority of Tradition.

    And yet, that’s precisely what you’ve done in this case. You’ll listen to tradition as a sort of adviser, but you retain final interpretive authority as to what the inspired text actually means.

    As to the Didache, you claimed that it “contradicts ordinary Catholic practice, which involves pouring.” Staniforth’s translation here is incorrect, and, in point of fact, the prescription here for cases in which no running water is available describes the Catholic practice to a tee: “Pour [ἔκχεον does not mean “sprinkle”] water on the head three times, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (7.3). The “three times” [τρὶς] suggests pretty strongly that each infusion corresponds to one of the Divine Persons. There is every sign here that we should see quotation marks around the Trinitarian formula. This is exactly how Catholics baptize when we do not immerse (which is also practiced where possible and appropriate).

    In fact, as I’ve said before, all the evidence we have suggests that the entire early Church, as well as the entire medieval Church (East and West), saw the Matt 28 formula as necessary. (And yes, they knew the possible range of meaning for εἰς.) On the other hand, even contemporary commentators will tell you that the references in Acts to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ are not to be understood formulaically—i.e., we should not read quotation marks around “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

    I don’t know that the 1 Sam 25 reference has any particular relevance here. The LXX has ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου, so it’s not even a parallel formula. You are of course correct that “in the name of” does not necessarily indicate a formula. If we read scripture unmoored from tradition, then I’d agree that your interpretation was plausible. But we do read scripture in and with the tradition, which has consistently taken the Matt 28 formula as the necessary one to do what the Church does in holy Baptism.

    As to Acts 8.14-17, I think you’re being a little hasty in your conclusion that it shows that Baptism does not confer the Spirit at all. Acts 2.38 certainly implies that it does, and Paul’s question in Acts 19.3 doesn’t make any sense if they’re unrelated. The traditional way of reading the Acts 8 question is that the reception of the Spirit referred to here is the one received by the laying on of hands in confirmation.

    Lastly, as to Patripassianism, certainly we deny that as well. But I think the explanation from St Basil that I offered above sufficiently avoids that pitfall. When we read “in the name of Jesus Christ” in Acts without quotation marks, we can see it in the looser sense you’ve wanted to suggest for Matt 28.

    Ultimately, John, this will have to remain an “open question” for you as long as you retain ultimate interpretive authority over the text. Neither position can be “proved” from the text alone. This is one of the reasons we were never meant to be in that positions as individual believers, but to submit ourselves in humility to God’s gracious gifts of the Tradition and the living magisterium.

    best,
    John

  35. John H.

    So what your telling me then is that Church Tradition ( capital “T”) is probably authoritative but on any number of beliefs it can be different therefore probably incorrect and that your interpretation of Scripture is the final authority and is always correct. But why would you presume your interpretation of Scripture would be the correct one? It seems to me that the Didache is quite clear on how you baptise and what formula to use..

    Now about baptism, baptize this way: after first uttering all of these things, baptize “into the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy Spirit” in running water. But if you do not have running water, baptize in other water. Now if you are not able to do so in cold water, do it in warm water. Now if you don’t have either, pour water three times on the head, “into the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the holy Spirit.” Now before the ritual cleansing, the baptizer and the one being baptized should fast, and any others who are able. Now you will give word for the one who is being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand. ( Didache)

    The normal way it is done in the Catholic Church is to pour on the water. However immersion or pouring would be equally effective.

    The fact that you do not consider Sacred Tradition to be as authoritative as the word of God does not make it any less so. We were not discussing how authoritative Tradition was but only the fact that the “Tradition” shows the early Churches baptismal formula. I believe that the Didache speaks for itself.

    Blessings
    NHU

  36. Nelson-
    No. I wouldn’t say that any number of beliefs can be different. There’s no room for dispute on the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, the Atonement, tbe bodily resurrection, and others. There is room for dispute on, say predestination, baptism and the details of the Second Advent. The first category is limited to doctrines believed by virtually all Christians everywhere at all times in history. If I may quote from a non-Catholic source to make my point clear, they’re what may be called (as C.S. Lewis used the term).
    More to the point, in the reference to the Trinity the word “name” is not capitalized, and the Greek preposition eis is translated the way I had earlier suggested , as _into_. I think we’d all agree that baptizing someone _into the name of_ is a more abstract concept than baptizing someone _in the name of_. It’s the latter which would be more likely to suggest the use of a concrete spoken formula.

    John S. -First, sorry about the lack of formatting. I’ve tried following the tips you referred me to, but as you can see[!], I found them a bit unclear.
    No, I wouldn’t say that I listen to tradition as one would listen to a mere adviser. If I were in a courtroom, I would regard the judge as much more than an adviser -but I would not look upon him as infallible. In the same way, I regard tradition as a _persuasive_ authority, but Scripture alone as a _compelling_ authority since it is infallible. It looks like the only category of authority which you would acknowledge would be the latter kind.
    The reason I think my comments on Eastern Orthodoxy are relevant is because your position, as I understand it, is that Christian Tradition speaks with one voice. To which I respond with points such as, 1.)Either the Pope is or is not the legitimate supreme head entire of the entire Christian Church, and 2.)Either the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, or He proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The Roman Catholic Church on the one hand and the Eastern Orthodox Churches on the other hold (as you doubtless know) different positions on both of these issues. Which is why I can’t agree that Tradition speaks with one voice. Unless you’re saying that only _Roman Catholic_ tradition speaks with one voice.
    To look at it from a different perspective, you would presumably claim that the “Catholic” in “Roman Catholic” means “universal. Whereas I would claim that it only refers to [much of] the Church in the Western Hemisphere, the other churches being mostly Eastern Orthodox. And if one is willing to listen to those churches and judge whose position is more consistent with Scripture, I don’t see why one can’t enlarge the circle to include Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed churches.
    Regarding the Didache’s instructions for baptism, it looks like the main issue is isn’t one of translation. Either there’s a textual variant, or it looks like you’ve omitted some crucial sentences. According to Staniforth’s version, the preferred mode is immersion. The anonymous author then goes on to say that if this isn’t possible, then sprinkling (or perhaps, as you suggest, pouring [this is where the translation question comes in]
    is also admissible. My point is that, at least as far as I know, immersion isn’t the usual Roman Catholic practice.
    Finally,regarding St. Basil’s explanation, I don’t see how simply naming Christ shows forth the whole Trinity (any more than would simply naming the Holy Spirit).
    Thanks for continuing the dialogue. As you suggest, it may indeed soon be time to wrap it up.

    Meanwhile-
    Peace,
    John Harutunian

  37. Nelson, sorry about my unintentional cliff-hanger at the end of my first paragraph. As I mentioned to John S., I’m having trouble understanding the formatting tips (the _sandbox_ business didn’t help me at all). After the concluding phrase (_as C.S. Lewis used the term_), I wrote, in quotes, Mere Christianity.
    These exchanges get complicated enough without computers making them even worse.

    -John

  38. Dear John,

    First, the Didache. I didn’t claim to be reproducing the entire relevant chapter (7), which does obviously prefer immersion in running water, but only the line with the controverted word (7.3). And yes, Maxwell Staniforth’s translation here is wrong. Feel free to check any Greek lexicon, Koine or Classical, for ἐκχέω. It doesn’t mean “sprinkle”; it means “pour out.” The translations of the ANF, Kirsopp Lake, Cyril Richardson, Michael Holmes, and Bart Ehrman all have “pour.” There is no textual variant. I don’t know why Staniforth fumbled on this. I have his Penguin volume, too, but I don’t use it much.

    So the Didache gives this order of preference for the mode of application of water:

    1. Immersion in running water
    2. Immersion in cold, standing water
    3. Immersion in warm, standing water
    4. Infusion

    The current Code of Canon Law substantially agrees: “Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion or by pouring” (CIC 854).

    If your point is merely about what usually happens in Catholic Churches, then, yeah, the Didache would consider it less than ideal. But certainly valid. The two criteria of validity—the matter being a washing with water, and the form being the Trinitarian formula—are both clearly present in the Didache, and, unlike with the mode of the washing, the Didache evinces no flexibility on them. You’ll find the same attitude if you look at, say, St Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of this issue twelve centuries later, found at ST III, q. 66, aa. 7-8. While it may be lamentable that the Catholic Church does not employ immersion more often (most parishes don’t have full-sized fonts that would permit this, so it’s kind of hard luck for pastors who might wish to immerse adults), there’s certainly nothing here that presents a serious contradiction with the positive prescriptions of the Didache.

    As for St Basil, my point was this: just as you have proposed that the formula of Matt 28 be understood loosely as “with reference to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” while allowing the “into the name of Jesus Christ” in Acts potentially to function as an actual formula, so St Basil, with much of the Tradition, recognizes Matt 28 to be a formula in the strict sense (for this was how, de facto, all orthodox Christians had baptized from the time of the Apostles, as witnessed by the Didache) while the formulation of Acts is to be taken in the looser sense. And that looser sense still implies the Trinitarian character of the faith and sacramental body into which believers are baptized. Jesus is “Christ” (“Anointed”) because he has been anointed by the Father with the chrism of the Holy Spirit. The Fathers saw this as precisely what was made manifest at the Baptism of the Lord. Similarly, as I argued before, the phrase “the Lord Jesus” had similar implications, particularly in view of how St Peter explicates it in Acts 2.33-36.

    There is, as Andrew pointed out above, another traditionally acceptable way of understanding the Acts formula, which is that it was a temporary dispensation granted to the Apostles for a particular purpose. We would not be hard-pressed to find other such situations in Acts (I’m thinking of Acts 15.20, 28-29; I’ve sometimes wondered, incidentally, where Protestants find biblical sanction for eating their steak rare…I can’t find any). This was the position, for example, of St Thomas Aquinas. I prefer St Basil’s solution (which seems also to be that of many modern commentators, who do not regard the words in Acts as communicating an actual ritual formula), but St Thomas’s is certainly an admissible opinion.

    Regarding Tradition, the only truly relevant point to this thread is that the entire Church of the first millennium insisted on the necessity of the Trinitarian formula for a Baptism to be valid. All Christians, even after the East-West schism, continued in this insistence throughout the Middle Ages, apparently until Luther. Catholics and Orthodox retain this insistence. According to that paragon of reliability, Wikipedia, so do Anglicans and most Protestants. So cavils over the existence of other claimants to Tradition (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox) remains totally immaterial to the issue at stake in this thread.

    No, it is not the case that I only recognize infallible authority as authoritative. With the Catholic Church, I recognize a wide range in the levels of authority exercised by the Church under varying conditions. The scriptures are unique in being, not only inerrant, but inspired, the positively willed words of God. Nothing in the Tradition is inspired, though under certain conditions (ecumenical councils, ex cathedra papal definitions on faith and morals, unanimity of universal ordinary magisterium) the Church can speak infallibly, producing inerrant and irreformable statements. But I do not recognize as a true authority one that can be brushed aside as blithely as you have brushed aside the Church’s longstanding and consistent stance on the form of Baptism, on the basis of what you consider the “overall tenor of the New Testament” and your personal exegesis of some knotty passages in Acts.

    Also, as a point of fact, it is demonstrably not the case that the Catholic Church is “only refers to [much of] the Church in the Western Hemisphere.” Part of the issue is that you need to be precise about how you’re using “Roman” Catholic, lest you exclude Eastern Catholics. (Several of the regular contributors to this site are Eastern Catholics.) “Roman Catholic” may be used to refer to all members of the universal (“catholic”) Church in communion with the bishop of Rome, in which case the designation would indeed include the whole Catholic Church. Or, more narrowly, “Roman Catholic” may refer to those Catholics who belong to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. But even under this narrower definition, you’d have to include many millions of Roman Rite Catholics in Africa and Asia.

    In any case, the Catholic Church acknowledges a sort of gradation at work here. With those particular Churches that have retained apostolic succession and thus a full set of valid sacraments (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East), and yet have not maintained full communion with the bishop of Rome, nonetheless in the Catholic Church’s judgment the communion that Catholics share with them “is so profound ‘that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 838, quoting a discourse of Pope Paul VI).

    I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but, all diversions about the Didache and the post-Ephesine, post-Chalcedonian, and post-Florentine ecumenical situations aside, the relevant point remains that you have opposed and continue to oppose your interpretation of scripture to the unanimous witness of the first 1500 years of Christian Tradition, which, whatever else may be said of it, does speak with one voice on the necessity of the Trinitarian formula.

    best,
    John

  39. Hi John H.

    On your # 36 all of the beliefs you have listed were settled in the Church many, many centuries ago. Baptism was one of the first to be settled back in the 1st century. As you stated C.S.Lewis mentions all of this in Mere Christianity.

    Of course there were beliefs that were challenged by some throughout the centuries and were ruled on by the Church as heresies. In the 16th century with the advent of the Reformation all hell broke loose and not one of the beliefs of Christianity have gone unscathed as you can witness by the profusion of contrasting beliefs in today`s Protestantism.

    You dispute the formula for baptism. Why should your claim be considered different from others? Why would you think the Body of Christ should be torn asunder by every whim of fancy? The Church has ruled on it’s beliefs and they have never changed. Jesus sent the Spirit of Truth to the Church to teach all of the truth and She has taught the truth. But there are still those who would dispute the Church’s right to teach as She was taught. If you dispute the Church who will you turn to to hear the truth? Yes you have the Bible, but it is that which gives witness to the Church. If you cannot believe in the Church then how can any of Her beliefs be considered truth? Then all of the beliefs settled throughout the centuries are no longer valid and there is no truth. If that be the case then “ MERE CHRISTIANITY” is none existent.

    Blessings NHU

  40. Hello, Nelson,

    I can’t resist pointing out that the author who, as you say, mentions what are the settled beliefs of the Church -C.S. Lewis- was not a Roman Catholic; he was an Anglican (like myself). Hence he was a product of Reformation Christianity. Yet not one basic Christian belief emerged “scathed” in his perspective; he faithfully retained all of them.
    John S., it does look indeed like my invocation of Tradition and what it means has taken us outside the thread. So: thank you for your erudite comments. Things should probably be wrapped up at this point (though naturally, I’ll be happy to read any further observations which you may have).

    Peace,
    Your Anglican brother in Christ,
    -John Harutunian

  41. Dear John,

    Thanks for the dialogue. I hope you’ll continue to search deeply in Scripture and Church history.

    One more comment, about something you said to Nelson in #36: “There’s no room for dispute on the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, the Atonement, tbe bodily resurrection, and others.” You went on to say that you know this to be the case because they are “doctrines believed by virtually all Christians everywhere at all times in history.”

    But of course that isn’t true. Every single one of those doctrines has been contested, both as to their truth and as to their meaning, both in antiquity and today, by folks who quite sincerely identify as genuine Christians. The fact that you are able to make this list and claim that these are dogmas on which there is “no room for dispute” demonstrates your reliance on the Church’s magisterial authority to help you define what counts as an orthodox reading of Scripture. (Obviously, that’s happening at at least one level of remove — more proximately, it’s through your denominational affiliation, your upbringing, etc.) If that magisterial authority never exceeds the level of “persuasive,” then what shall we say to Oneness Pentecostals, whose interpretation of scripture leads them to deny the doctrine of the Trinity? Or to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who read the Bible and come away with a quasi-Arian Christology? Or to those who insist that the Virgin Birth is a “theological” statement, not a “gynecological” one (something I was told by an Anglican priest)? Or, again, to those who believe the body of the “Jesus of history” is in a mass grave somewhere in Palestine, while the “Christ of faith” lives resurrected in the hearts of his disciples?

    I guess you could question (1) their sincerity, (2) their intelligence, or (3) their knowledge of Scripture. But I’ve known plenty of people who are sincere, intelligent, and well-versed in the Bible who hold to pretty much all the heresies I’ve listed just now.

    I’m feeling slightly hypocritical since I’ve strayed from the thread, but let me redeem myself a little by bringing it back to the point: the matter and form of Baptism have been determined by precisely the same magisterial authority that has determined the non-negotiability of the dogmas you listed. If that authority is only “persuasive” and cannot even in principle be “compelling” for you on the question of the form of Baptism, then what recourse do you have with those who do not find it “persuasive” vis-a-vis their own interpretation of Scripture on the Trinity or the Incarnation?

    I know you meant to wrap things up, so if you don’t want to respond, I won’t be offended :-)

    all the best,
    John

  42. Hi John H.

    Yes I know C.S. Lewis was Anglican and he wrote great works. I did not say that every belief was scathed by every Protestant, but that since Protestantism in general every belief has fallen to different interpretations. I am sure that you personally believe many of the Church’s doctrine but baptism is apparently not one of them. I am not picking on you or even on Protestants, only stating a fact that since the Reformation all doctrine and belief have come under he gun so to speak. I can not think of one single doctrine of the Church that some Protestant church has not changed to suite themselves in the past 500 years. Even the canon of the Bible is now coming under further investigation by some churches. So if it gets changed by some protestant organization down the line, where does that leave your authority? I am not saying that it will change but if they are considering it the possibility exists.

    Peace to you brother and thank you for a great conversational debate.

    Blessings
    NHU

  43. Hello, John S. and Nelson-

    You both make some good points. When I wrote (in #36) that the basic doctrines listed were believed by virtually all Christians everywhere at all times in history, I was paraphrasing the stated purpose of [Anglican] C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity -“to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times (p.6).” Though Lewis of course wasn’t a church historian, I would assume that, being a brilliant Christian medievalist, his knowledge both of church history and of theology was reasonably good. Further, as you may know, before having the manuscript published, he submitted the section entitled “What Christians Believe” to four clergy -one Anglican, one Methodist, one Presbyterian and one Roman Catholic. There was slight difference in response, but it was limited to the following:

    “The Methodist thought I had not said enough about Faith, and the Roman Catholic thought I had gone rather too far about the comparative unimportance of theories in explanation of the Atonement. Otherwise all five of us were agreed (p.8).”

    At the same time, I can see that I need to explain what I mean when I say that the truth of a particular doctrine is beyond dispute.
    I’m starting out by positing a shared assumption: that the Bible is essentially reliable. (For the purpose of my argument, it doesn’t need to be considered strictly infallible, though I myself do hold that view.) Starting with that assumption, let me make the case for two of the doctrines in my list.
    First, the Virgin Birth. Matthew’s account makes it clear that when Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he wanted to “put her away” privately in order to spare her public shame. Then of course he was assured by an angel that her pregnancy was miraculous.
    Second, Christ’s bodily resurrection. Luke’s gospel tells us that the post-resurrection Jesus invited the disciples to touch His body, and ate broiled fish; John recounts His similar invitation to Thomas, and in Acts 10 Peter assures the Caesareans that he and others ate and drank with Him.
    In light of the above, I don’t see how someone who was sincere, intelligent, well-versed in the Bible -_and_ who believed in the Bible’s essential reliability- could deny the truth of these beliefs. Of course, you may then ask, “Who determines what books constitute the Bible?” A good question. But surely its primary relevance to the issue at hand involves the canonicity/noncanonicity of the Apocrypha -which doesn’t seem to affect these two doctrines.
    Here’s another way of seeing the issue. Presumably, the following represents your position: “The authority of the Roman Catholic Church -the belief that She is the one, true Church founded by Jesus Christ, even in the face of the Orthodox churches’ claims to the contrary- is self-evident. [I realize that, as you say, the Orthodox churches are in communion with Rome. But of course it remains true that the Roman Catholic Church and, say, the Greek Orthodox Church are not the same ecclesiastical body.] On the other hand, the veracity of core beliefs common to -and distinctive of- Evangelicalism, such as a regard for the Bible as the ultimate authority- is not self-evident.” I’d say that in both cases, the claim being made has an a priori plausibility. But I don’t see that one is more self-evident than the other.
    And with regard to unanimity of belief in the Catholic Church, I’m not sure how much credence I can give to this. Here in the Boston area, many since, intelligent and Biblical knowledgeable Catholics are strong believers in the ordination of women to the priesthood. Also, some years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Peter Kreeft, one of the leading Catholic apologists in America, give a talk at my home church in Boston (it’s Congregational). One of the issues he discussed was justification -whether it is by faith alone or faith and works. Kreeft said, verbatim, that on that particular issue, Luther was right and the Council of Trent was wrong.
    To get back on the thread, here’s a consideration which might bring our respective positions a bit closer together. Are you saying that someone baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” nevertheless remains unregenerate -and that as a final and dogmatic judgement? Or are you simply saying that the Roman Catholic Church does not _teach_ that someone so baptized is regenerate -that God has not revealed this to Her?

    Blessings,
    -John Harutunian

  44. Dear John H (#43): You wrote:

    And with regard to unanimity of belief in the Catholic Church, I’m not sure how much credence I can give to this. Here in the Boston area, many since, intelligent and Biblical knowledgeable Catholics are strong believers in the ordination of women to the priesthood.

    It appears you are conflating “unanimity of belief” with “authoritative Magisterial teaching.” Individual Catholics can and do reject some Magisterial teachings. The teaching of the Magisterium does not compel belief, but it does provide an objective measure of the orthodoxy of any individual Catholic’s beliefs. And we can say that in the case of ordination of women, these “intelligent and Biblically knowledgeable Catholics” hold a view that is not orthodox. Period.

    You wrote:

    Also, some years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Peter Kreeft, one of the leading Catholic apologists in America, give a talk at my home church in Boston (it’s Congregational). One of the issues he discussed was justification -whether it is by faith alone or faith and works. Kreeft said, verbatim, that on that particular issue, Luther was right and the Council of Trent was wrong.

    I would be astonished if he said this. This would mean Kreeft either does not understand the teaching of Trent or that he is himself teaching heresy – both are exceedingly unlikely. And, given the intricacies of the subject, I must leave open the possibility that you misunderstood him. Here’s what he says in his book Catholic Christianity:

    Luther thought forgiveness was only external and legal (“forensic”). Catholic theology teaches that it actually changes our souls.” – Catholic Christianity p.126

    That certainly sounds like Trent, not Wittenburg.

    However, in the very unlikely event that he did say this, my comments above would apply. Such a statement is objectively in error in the realm of Catholic teaching, and we know this thanks to the Magisterium’s Spirit-protected preservation of the Deposit of Faith since Apostolic times.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank La Rocca

  45. Hi John H.

    I read your posting and I agree with all you say about C. S. Lewis. I disagree with your statement that The RCC and The EO church are in communion with the Pope. The EO are in schism from RCC ( although I’m sure they would argue it’s the other way around.) The Eastern Catholic Church is in communion with the Pope. We both agree that the Bible is the written word of God. And as such is infallible. That is not the problem. The problem is that the Scriptures require interpretation. They don’t really interpret themselves. So we are left with churches interpreting the Scriptures to their own purposes. This is what gives rise to all the different denominations. This is also why *all* of the beliefs of the Church have been altered from their settled position. It’s a fact that I don’t think anyone can deny. There are a lot of churches out there and most are separated on grounds of different interpretations of Scripture. Some of them are very radical interpretations.

    I bow to Bro. Frank for the answer to most of your other posting. One thing I will say, you asked the question would someone be regenerate if baptized in the name of Jesus and would the Church recognise such a baptism Or would the Church consider it as God’s decision. The Church would recognise the baptism if it was done following the Church’s formula and if it was done for the right purpose as defined by the Church. Any other formula would not be recognised by the Church. That does not mean however that such a person would not in fact be properly baptized according to God. God is not held to the formula of the Church. He dispenses His grace to whom He wills. The Church is in place to be the normal channel of His graces. If the person being baptized truly wanted to be a member of Christ’s body it is possible that they would receive the baptism of desire. Only God can be the judge in such a case. If they then came into the Catholic Church they would be baptized conditionally. That is to say if the first baptism was not proper then the second would be proper. If the first was done properly then the second would have no affect.

    The Church is required to teach what was handed down from the Apostles. She can only do this and leave the rest up to God.

    Blessings
    NHU

  46. Dear John,

    You wrote:

    Presumably, the following represents your position: “The authority of the Roman Catholic Church -the belief that She is the one, true Church founded by Jesus Christ, even in the face of the Orthodox churches’ claims to the contrary- is self-evident.

    Really? No. No, certainly not. I don’t know anyone who believes the authority of the Roman Catholic Church is “self-evident.” There are motives of credibility aplenty for her authority—from reason, from scripture, from history, etc.—but no, they are not self-evident.

    You digressed:

    [I realize that, as you say, the Orthodox churches are in communion with Rome. But of course it remains true that the Roman Catholic Church and, say, the Greek Orthodox Church are not the same ecclesiastical body.]

    Also not quite right. There are a number of particular churches—the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East—who are not in communion with Rome (the Greek Orthodox Church is one of the Eastern Orthodox churches). There are other particular churches who do not belong to the Roman Rite (and so do not tend to call themselves “Roman” Catholics) but who are in communion with Rome, and so in that sense are included in the broad definition of “Roman Catholic Church.”

    If you are genuinely interested in finding educated, sincere, Bible-loving folks who deny the doctrines that you see so clearly in scripture (and make no mistake, I agree with you about the doctrines), it’s really not hard to do. A different set of hermeneutical lenses, and you’re off to the races.

    For the rest, I would simply note that the Catholic Church is not a doctrinal democracy. The de facto existence of dissenters is immaterial to the legitimacy of the Church’s claim to the authority to discern orthodoxy from heresy.

    best,
    John

  47. Frank, thanks for joining us. Yes, I was indeed confusing the concept of authoritative Magisterial teaching with that of unanimity of belief. But regarding Peter Kreeft’s assertion, I must stand my ground. As the Anglican-in-Residence in my home [Congregational] church, I eagerly attended Kreeft’s presentation. (It was actually held in the church itself, though they would not let him preach from the pulpit.) I listened with minute attention; my memory on this is crystal clear; and, like you, I was astonished at what he said. I came away wondering how he could hold to justification by faith alone and remain a Roman Catholic. I also agree that the excerpt you cited from his “Catholic Christianity” sounds like Trent, not Wittenberg. But: I don’t see that it precludes the concept of justification by faith alone. (I would also agree that the Holy Spirit has preserved the Deposit Faith since Apostolic times; more on this below.)
    Nelson, thanks for your contribution. I recognize your reference to the concept of baptism of desire as representing orthodox Roman Catholic teaching. (Augustine taught it in his earlier works, though he later seems to have repudiated it; more important, Thomas Aquinas explicitly taught it.)
    John S.(as well as Nelson) -thanks for straightening me out with regard to which churches are and are not in communion with the Pope. But surely you’d concur that my basic point at that juncture of the argument was right: the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church aren’t the same ecclesiastical body. Thanks also for correcting my sloppy use of the term “self-evident”. But I would stand by this revised version of my claim: the authority of the Roman Catholic Church does not have more inherent plausibility than does the veracity of core beliefs common to, and distinctive of, Evangelicals.
    I’d also find it hard to imagine that people who view Scripture as inerrant, as the Word of God whose authority is absolute, would nevertheless deny the doctrines of the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection. Maybe there are some such “believers”. If you feel like submitting a few names, please do.
    To put my position in ecclesiastical/historical terms: Both the Roman Catholic church on the one hand and the major Eastern Orthodox bodies on the other claim to be the authoritative guardians of the Faith of the Church as it was held throughout the first millenium, when the Church was undivided. And I don’t see that the claim of one is any more plausible than the claim of the other. So I’ve “cut the Gordian knot” by becoming an Evangelical Anglican!
    Finally, to revert back to the Blessed (in my opinion!) C.S. Lewis. I’d just point out that his “Mere Christianity” is a classic in the most literal sense: it has won world-wide acceptance not only from Evangelical Protestants but from Roman Catholics as well. In the light of that, would you perhaps concur with the following: It does at least _look_ like there is indeed a deposit of faith which has been effectively guarded by the Holy Spirit; it has just been guarded in a manner which transcends any one geographic seat of authority (be it Rome, Canterbury, or anywhere else).

    Peace,
    John Harutunian

  48. John H. (re:#47),

    In this autobiographical essay, Peter Kreeft writes about happily discovering the true teaching of the Council of Trent on grace, as a Calvinist Protestant, when he was in college in the early 1960s: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/hauled-aboard.htm He also explains where Luther was right on justification and where he was wrong. A careful reading of this essay will show that Kreeft does *not* hold to a justification by faith which is *truly* alone but rather, to a justification by faith that is formed by love, resulting in obedience to God (i.e. good works)– which is the teaching of the Council of Trent and which continues to be the teaching of the Catholic Church today.

    Dr. Kreeft is quite charitable to Luther’s understanding of justification, in my view, but as charitable as Kreeft is, ultimately, and rightly, he rejects Luther’s concept of the perfect imputed righteousness of the Christian– because God does not merely forensically “declare” believers to be holy. He *makes* us holy, as we cooperate with His grace (which takes no glory at all away from Him, as our free cooperation with His grace is, itself, a free gift to us from Him).

  49. John, a slight correction to my above comment: actually, Kreeft’s discovery of the Council of Trent on Trent came just a bit earlier than I had understood– in the late 1950s. By the early ’60s, he had already joined the Catholic Church. Either way, from the essay to which I linked, his embracing of Trent (and therefore, the Church) on justification came long before he gave the presentation that you witnessed in person. Moreover, given the quote on justification which Frank provided from Kreeft’s relatively recent “Catholic Christianity,” I don’t think that it’s very likely that he had a change of heart on Trent between his college days and when you heard him speak– only to then “re-embrace” Trent while writing “Catholic Christianity!” ;-)

  50. The Council of Trent on *grace*, that is, in my first sentence in #49… Okay, I’ll stop now while I’m ahead, hehe!

  51. Dear John,

    The fact that C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity has found and continues to find such wide acceptance among Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants is in no way a demonstration that “there is indeed a deposit of faith which has been effectively guarded by the Holy Spirit; it has just been guarded in a manner which transcends any one geographic seat of authority.” It simply means that when they went into schism from the Catholic Church, Anglicans and Protestants did not immediately throw every major doctrine overboard. I rejoice in that fact. But it doesn’t mean that the list of shared doctrines is ipso facto the full roster of Christian essentials. It just means that there exists a least common denominator. In any event, Lewis himself regarded “mere Christianity” as descriptive, not prescriptive, as he makes clear in the “hall” metaphor in the Preface—a metaphor, by the way, to whose implications I do not subscribe, except perhaps in the most provisional, self-erasing terms imaginable.

    Unless I simply overlooked it in an earlier comment, your stipulation of belief in biblical inerrancy for putative believers who deny the Virgin Birth and the Bodily Resurrection is new, and rather changes the face of our debate, for biblical inerrancy and (a much stickier issue) the precise meaning of “inerrancy,” are not things we know from the text of the Bible itself, but from the witness of the Church (obviously, this is especially the case for the New Testament, which didn’t take its final shape until the fourth century). It’s fine, I guess, for you to make that stipulation, but be aware that it’s an arbitrary one, and one that makes little sense to me if you deem it logically (as opposed to chronologically/biographically, which it often is) prior to belief in Jesus’ mission, the Resurrection, or the Church.

    But, if you want an example, let’s take Marcus Borg (an Anglican).

    In re the birth stories in the Gospels, Borg writes, “To hear the birth stories again in a state of postcritical naiveté is to be able to hear their rich symbolic affirmations without needing to believe them as historical reports” (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & the Heart of Contemporary Faith, p. 24).

    He’s still saying the Gospel accounts are true, he just thinks that we’re making a mistake in identifying their genre if we interpret them as strictly historical. Similarly, when he discusses the Resurrection, he leaves pretty unclear what exactly happened to the body of Jesus of Nazareth, but he makes it quite clear that it doesn’t really matter for Christian faith (see, e.g., Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship, pp. 184-85). In response to your observation that Jesus ate fish with the disciples, I would venture to guess that he’d simply say that this demonstrates that there is some continuity between the pre- and post-Easter Jesus, such that the new mode of Christ’s existence experienced by the disciples is meaningfully “human” (he’s not a “ghost”), but that hardly amounts to any physical identity. I mean, the resurrected Jesus is walking through locked doors and making himself unrecognizable to his friends (Mary Magdalene, the disciples on the road to Emmaus), and so forth.

    And yet, as uncomfortable as I’m sure you find Borg’s take on the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, there can be no doubt that Borg is sincere. He’s just further down the “mere Christianity” road than you are. You’ve pared down what counts as essential Christian belief to what you can observe as being shared by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. Borg does you one better: “Believing in Jesus does not mean believing doctrines about him. Rather, it means to give one’s heart, one’s self at its deepest level, to the post-Easter Jesus who is the living Lord, the side of God turned toward us, the face of God, the Lord who is also the Spirit” (p. 137).

    And who are you to stop him? He still reads, cherishes, and believes Scripture, just not “as historical reports.” And he is still very clearly—and, in a way, admirably—committed to following the Jesus he believes in.

    By the way, I too (tried to) “cut the Gordian knot” by being Anglican. Didn’t work. I agree with you that discerning between the claims of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches is the most difficult, but throwing up your hands and falling back on Protestantism (even the self-acclaimed via media of Anglicanism) only makes matters much, much worse.

    If you’re interested in why I became Catholic instead of Orthodox, perhaps we could correspond privately, since that would be even further beyond the scope of this thread than we already are.

    best,
    John

  52. John,

    I just realized that I neglected one component of your last comment. You said that “the authority of the Roman Catholic Church does not have more inherent plausibility than does the veracity of core beliefs common to, and distinctive of, Evangelicals.”

    As you’re using the term, what does it mean for something to be “inherently plausible”? Do you just mean prima facie plausible (e.g.: “I went to the store today” may or may not be true, but, in the absence of any other information, it’s prima facie plausible)? Or do you mean intrinsically compelling, or something like that (e.g.: 5×7=35 is not “self-evident” like the law of non-contradiction, but once its terms are understood, it is compelling in itself)? Or do you mean something else?

    best,
    John

  53. John,

    I too liked (and still do) CS Lewis but found that he hated ecclesiology. So he took a stance that he perceived to put him in the middle of the ecclesiastical standings and stayed there. He wasn’t anti-Church ala evangelicalism, and he was unwilling to commit outside of the Church of Ireland, which is that country’s version of Anglicianism.

    If you continue reading Lewis, (referencing God on the Dock), he railed against priestesses and other current positions and practices of Anglicanism in the west. He would have been forced to make a choice between his then understanding of Anglicanism and what we now see in that body.

    What I found later was that many of his close friends ditched Anglicanism for Catholicity. Lewis was almost Catholic in his practice but held back. His friends, comparing their move to what they learned from Lewis,makes for fascinating reading.

    Historically it reads similar to the Tractarian movement under John Henry Newman, but Newman, unlike Lewis, did not hold back.

    Cordially,
    dt

  54. Hi John Harutunian,

    Apparently many years ago Peter Kreeft approved of Luther’s doctrine of sola fide. However, Scott Hahn contacted him about that issue and after having discussed it with Hahn Kreeft fully retracted his previous position. In one of his audio sets formerly available from St. Joseph Communications. entitled The Catholic Gospel, Hahn read a letter. from Kreeft in which Kreeft retracted his former views and apologized for them. A google search showed that the name of this audio set has been changed to It’s the Gospel Truth! The Church’s Teaching on Salvation and Christ’s Redemption, Vol. 1. however I didn’t see it in their current catalogue.

  55. FWIW, Christopher Derrick wrote an excellent book about Lewis called C.S.Lewis and the Church of Rome. His basic take is that Lewis’s inherited anti-Catholicism from his Belfast childhood made the thought impossible for him to embrace.

    jj

  56. Craig, you’re right about Peter Kreeft. I heard him back around 1985; obviously he has since retracted the sola fide view.

    John Thayer Jensen, I’m somewhat familiar with Derrick’s book -familiar enough to know that you’ve summarized its basic take accurately. But there’s good evidence against that take in a letter Lewis wrote to Arthur Greeves, a close friend from his childhood years in Belfast, back in 1920. At the time, Lewis was reading a novel, “Lavengro: The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest” by George Borrow. And concerning it he writes (among other things), “I still dislike the anti-Catholic propaganda…”

    Donald, you write that if Lewis were alive today,

    >He would have been forced to make a choice between his then understanding of Anglicanism and what we now see in that body.

    But of course he would have had several other options: formally aligning himself with Anglo-Catholicism, or with one of the Continuing Anglican bodies (increasingly numerous and vital here in the U.S., and, I’d presume, in England), or, of course Orthodoxy.

    >. Lewis was almost Catholic in his practice but held back..

    Yes, as an Anglican Lewis was “almost Catholic” in his practice. Did he sympathize with distinctively Roman Catholic doctrine? Here’s an except from a letter he wrote to one H. Lyman Stebbens on May 8, 1945:

    “What is most certain is the vast mass of doctrine which I find agreed on by Scripture, the Fathers, the Middle Ages, modern R.C.’s, modern Protestants. That is true ‘catholic’ doctrine. Mere ‘modernism’ I reject at once.
    [paragraph] The Roman Church where it differs from this universal tradition and specially from apostolic Xtianity I reject. Thus their theology about the B.V. M. I reject because it seems utterly foreign to the New Testament: where indeed the words ‘Blessed is the womb that bore thee’ receive a rejoinder pointing in exactly the opposite direction. Their papalism seems equally foreign to the attitude of St Paul towards St Peter in the Epistles. The doctrine of Transubstantiation insists in defining in a way which the N.T. seems to me not to countenance. In a word, the whole set-up of modern Romanism seems to me to be as much a provincial of local _variation_ from the central, ancient tradition as any particular Protestant sect is. I must therefore reject their _claim_: tho’ this does not mean rejecting particular things they say.”

    John S., I’m evidently confused in the ecclesiology department (which, admittedly, is nothing new). In #51 (near the beginning) you say that Protestants and Anglicans have gone into schism from the Roman Catholic Church. But I though it was the major Eastern Orthodox bodies which were in “schism”; I believe the Magisterium regards Protestants (including Anglicans) as heretics. If that is true, I can’t quite understand the “wide acceptance” which “Mere Christianity” has received among Catholics; this especially in view of its Book II which is a presumably complete (though basic) exposition of “What Christians Believe”. You say that you rejoice in the fact that Anglicans and Protestants haven’t thrown every major doctrine overboard.
    But why rejoice? If the doctrines taught in “Mere Christianity” don’t constitute the central core of the faith, but are only a partial listing and explication of a larger number of doctrines -all of which must be believed for salvation- how spiritually beneficial can the book be? Wouldn’t it have been better to have written a volume serving as a formal apology for the authority of the Roman Catholic Church -and let parish priests, or parish evangelists, take things from there?
    The above probably sounds pretty outlandish to you. But at the very least, would you consider this analogy? The Roman Catholic Church practices emergency baptisms. As you doubtless know, this rite consists of baptism stripped down to its bare essentials -only that which is strictly necessary for salvation is observed. In an analogous way, could you see “Mere Christianity” (specifically its “What Christians Believe” chapter) as a kind of “emergency” manual for Instruction in the Christian Faith -with things stripped down to their bare essentials? This is what I call the basic Spirit-preserved deposit of faith.

    I think you make a pretty good case with Marcus Borg. I’m not certain what to think about him. I’ll start with your helpful distinction in #52. By “inherently plausible” I do indeed mean “prima facie plausible” (i.e., in the absence of any other information). At the same time, when you say that there can be no doubt that Borg is sincere (#51, towards the end), I must object. Partially because of an element of Calvinism in my perspective (for our purposes I could just as well call it Augustinianism[!]), partially because of the insights I’ve gotten from Lewis (in “The Great Divorce” see his chapter on the Episcopal Ghost, whose apostasy gained him fame, sales for his books, and a bishopric), and partially because I don’t think there’s always a sharp distinction between sincere/not sincere. In any case, I note St. Luke’s explicit historical groundings for his Incarnation narrative (“a decree went out from Caesar Augustus”, “This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria” , etc., etc.), and his explicit detail that the resurrected Jesus ate the piece of broiled fish which His disciples gave Him -and surely one needs to be more than “meaningfully human” to eat; one must actually have a body (like all human beings, [and for that matter, animals] have). Further, regarding the post-Resurrection appearances, I also note N.T, Wright’s insight: that in Biblical and Hebrew thought, heaven is not a long “distance” removed from earth; and for the disciples, Jesus after His resurrection was very much at home both “in heaven” -where they couldn’t see Him- and “on earth” -where they could. In light of all this, I’d have to say that insofar as I can understand it, Borg’s more-or-less non-historical concept of these events is not reasonable. (It goes without saying that I can’t see that I’d need a single, external and formal authority to inform me as to what is reasonable.)

    (Regarding my use of “inerrant”, you actually did use the word in #38, though in passing [in the paragraph beginning “No, it is not the case…”]. I’d also point out that the use of the term inerrant isn’t an “Evangelical eccentricity” as the late John Stott put it [among others, E.B. Pusey stressed Biblical inerrancy]. You’re right, of course, to point out that its precise _meaning_ is a sticky issue. [For whatever you may feel it’s worth, I’d suggest a perusal of B.B. Warfield’s “The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible”. Warfield points out numerous passages in which a canonical writer will precede a quotation of an earlier book with the words “God said” or “The Holy Spirit said” -and a check of the earlier passage shows that it’s not God speaking at all, but an [inspired] human being. If one accepts the basic reliability of the Bible, this certainly would seem to show that it witnesses to itself as being without error.] But I’d be surprised if Borg used the term in any sense.)

    To conclude by combining the Borg issue with the Eastern Orthodoxy issue: I think that the rightness of my view of Biblical teaching on the two doctrines mentioned above is at least _as_ obvious as the rightness of your position on “the history of the True Church” as opposed to the position of, say, Timothy Ware. I’d have to say, more so.

    Thanks for reading through this lengthy epistle!

    Peace,
    -John Harutunian

  57. John, since I haven’t read your reasons for becoming Catholic rather than Orthodox, I really should amend my conclusion to read, “I would _presume_ that the rightness of my view of Biblical…” To put it more humbly: I really am a better interpreter of Scripture than I would be a judge of the relative merits of two competing church histories!

    Thanks.

  58. Dear John,

    Schism and heresy are not mutually exclusive. The presence of heresy in Protestant and Anglican doctrine does not preclude their being schismatic. The Catholic Church views the particular Orthodox Churches not in communion with the bishop of Rome as being in schism.

    None of that makes the acceptance of Mere Christianity surprising. The Church rejoices when the truth is told, no matter who’s telling it. The doctrines outlined in that book do “constitute the central core of the faith,” or at least a hefty part of it, though I do not believe them to be exhaustive of essential Christian teaching. I don’t think Mere Christianity is an “emergency manual” for anything. I think it’s an eloquently argued, if imperfect and in some respects incomplete, attempt to open minds to the reasonableness of Christian faith. No more, no less. I neither deplore it as useless nor exalt it as semi-canonical. I hope the Spirit continues to use the elements of truth communicated in it to make more people receptive to the Gospel. There are lots of works of Catholic apologetics that I like, too. I highly recommend Ronald Knox’s very readable and readily available The Belief of Catholics (1927). You’ll recognize in it much of the apologetic common coin that Lewis would later utilize himself.

    Regarding Borg…look, I’m not interested in investing a bunch of time and energy defending the sincerity of a guy who denies the literal truth of doctrines that I agree with you in seeing as central to orthodox Christian faith. I can’t read his heart, and neither can you, invidious comparisons to CS Lewis characters notwithstanding. Charity believes all things, and my reading of Borg gives me no reason to doubt his sincerity, however wrong I think he is. But, be that as it may, the historical paper trail is there: sola scriptura leads to the Marcus Borgs of the world. Louis Bouyer has a nice discussion of this in The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, pp. 208-11 (another work I highly recommend). I’m glad that you aren’t willing to follow Borg all the way. But that’s because you premise inerrancy, which can only be a result, recognized or not, of the Church’s authoritative witness.

    No, you are quite right that you don’t “need a single, external and formal authority to inform [you] as to what is reasonable.” But you do need an authority to tell you what’s revealed. Otherwise you’re reducing Christian faith to a series of propositions arbitrarily arranged as to their importance (you’ve demonstrated this above when you presumed to be able to list what counts as essential and what’s adiaphora), each of which can be assigned some degree of “reasonableness.” In other words, it’s a series of opinions and cannot even in principle attain to the certainty of divine faith.

    I did use the word “inerrant” in #38, but not only was it in passing, it was in a completely different context (explaining the relationship between Scripture and Tradition). I certainly do not claim that it is an “Evangelical eccentricity.” And, no, Borg would not use the term at all. But, on your own terms, what of it? Why should he bend to Tradition on the status of the biblical text if he thinks the Tradition got that wrong? (By the way, Warfield’s argument is too cute by half. “Basic reliability” is far too squishy a term to catch any modernist on such a technicality. Warfield will convince the already convinced. [Rest assured: that includes myself.] But that’s not an excuse for bad apologetics.)

    I appreciate your humility, and I agree that the fact that there is a collection of first-century Greek documents (that’s really all we can call them without appealing to Tradition) that talk about the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth (well, two of them do, anyway) and about his bodily resurrection is more easily ascertained than the identity of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. But I still don’t see how the difficulty of adjudicating between Catholicism and Orthodoxy actually speaks in favor of Protestantism.

    Lastly, if you want to return to the relative prima facie plausibility of the Church’s authority and of Evangelical doctrines, you’re going to have to be clearer about what you’re driving at. Neither of them strikes me as prima facie plausible, for at the center of both sets of claims is the fundamental claim that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became incarnate—a statement that involves two mysteries that no created intellect can fully comprehend, much less find prima facie plausible. Or are you once again tacitly premising scriptural inerrancy? I.e., granted the authority of the Bible, which is more plausible?

    We really can’t keep up all these side-trails. So I’m going to return to the point once more with something I said in an earlier comment:

    [T]he matter and form of Baptism have been determined by precisely the same magisterial authority that has determined the non-negotiability of the dogmas you listed. If that authority is only “persuasive” and cannot even in principle be “compelling” for you on the question of the form of Baptism, then what recourse do you have with those who do not find it “persuasive” vis-a-vis their own interpretation of Scripture on the Trinity or the Incarnation?

    best,
    John

  59. re #56, John, thank you.

    Yes, as an Anglican Lewis was “almost Catholic” in his practice. Did he sympathize with distinctively Roman Catholic doctrine? Here’s an except from a letter he wrote to one H. Lyman Stebbens on May 8, 1945:…

    He died in 1963. What occurred between 1945 and 1963 that would have affected him?

    In 1948 he wrote Priestesses in the Church. It was a reply to A Petition to the Lambeth Conference, written by Lady Marjorie Nunburnholme and published in Time and Tide, volume XXIX, No 28, p 720. He was not in favor of priestesses but he was responding to a particular situation.

    There is a great deal more that he wrote, responding to various considerations between 1945 and 1963. He did die as an Anglican. The difficulty is that many of his closest friends could not reside in that body, but rather became Catholic. They all recognized him for his insights and it was his insights that drove them to pursue the course that they did.

    He might have ended up in an orthodox Anglican communion, certainly orthodox in relation to the positions he accepted.

    However, I think in a way he undid himself. He was an infantry officer in the British Army in World War 1, and I believe he was wounded in battle. As a Christian, he decided to defend a broad front. However as an infantry officer he would have been assigned a sector and would have been expected to defend that sector. Others would be expected to defend other sectors. He bit off something he personally could not chew. It speaks well for his willingness but not so much for his discernment.

    Then he took a position considered at that time to be the bridge between Catholicism and Protestantism, which was probably the emotional and experiential place he found easiest to occupy given his childhood. He defended contrary positions with great intellect and skill, but per your missive, did not always believe what he was defending. Mere Christianity depended on his decision and an act of charity towards those with whom he disagreed.

    Great generosity of heart is important, but so is truth. The truth is that Lewis led people to a place where he himself never was able to arrive. It seems like Moses looking at the Promised Land but not permitted to go there himself. Given his baptism, that is too bad.

  60. Agreed: we can’t keep up the side-trails without straying from the thread. I _would_ say that whether or not the side trails have a strong bearing on the discussion -that ultimately depends on one’s position re: Roman Catholic authority. So there’s a circular element here. But I do realize that those who run the blog expect us to stick closer to the thread.

    I also think that both of us would agree that it’s about time to wrap things up. (I realize that I’ve said that earlier.) I’ll investigate the Bouyer and Knox books; I can’t promise a cover-to-cover read, but I’ll definitely take a close look at their arguments for Catholic authority. And why don’t you send me your reasons for choosing Catholicism over Orthodoxy? It seems like it would be OK if you were just to post a concise summary of these on the blog. But if you’d prefer to go into more detail, do email me at johnharutu@verizon.net. I’ll then compare your arguments with those of Timothy Ware. It might be best if we let things go at that point; barring a change of mind (or what you would probably regard as a Spirit-led change of heart!) on my part.
    Meanwhile, John, thank you for both your erudition and your patience. (I wish that combination were more common in all branches of the Church today!)

    Peace,
    -John Harutunian

  61. Dear John,

    Thanks for your kind words and your conversation.

    I’m not sure that I see the circularity that you allege is involved in my argument, since the necessity of the Trinitarian form for valid Baptism—the original bone of contention—is something agreed upon by all Christians for the first 1500 years and is still held by Catholics and Orthodox, as well as by many Protestants. So my argument doesn’t ask you to assume anything unique about the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    You’re the first Anglican I’ve known of to deny the formula’s necessity. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral insists upon it. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer provides instructions for conditional Baptism “[i]f there is reasonable doubt that a person has been baptized with water, ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’
    (which are the essential parts of Baptism)” (emphasis added). This is also reflected in the 1979 BCP’s Catechism. Nearly identical instructions for conditional Baptism are found in the 1928 Prayer Book, along with the statement that water and the Trinitarian form “are essential parts of Baptism.”

    So my point here is that, while claiming that Tradition remains an authority in some meaningful sense, you nonetheless prefer your own personal interpretation of Scripture to (1) the unanimous tradition of the first 1500 years, (2) the continued witness of the vast majority of Christians, and (3) the official teaching of your own ecclesial community. This is me-and-my-Bible Christianity.

    Since the necessity of the formula is something positively taught, and not simply implied, by all the groups I’ve just mentioned, your denial of it is not merely a preference for a lectio latior of the tradition, but an outright rejection of it.

    The basics of why Catholicism over Orthodoxy include the following (if I thought long enough, there are probably more, and some of these overlap):
    1 – the office of Peter
    2 – Church-state relations
    3 – variety of spirituality
    4 – potential for ecumenicity
    5 – ability to exercise authority
    6 – history of 11th-15th centuries

    If you’d like more detail, I can send you an email.

    best,
    John

  62. Dear John,

    You write,

    >the necessity of the Trinitarian form for valid Baptism—the original bone of contention—is something agreed upon by all Christians for the first 1500 years

    Perhaps I’m taking you too literally, but I’m going to continue the exchange for a bit because I’ve discovered that this isn’t quite true. According to The Original Catholic Encyclopedia,

    “There has been a theological controversy over the question as to whether baptism in the name of Christ only was ever held valid. Certain texts in the New Testament have given rise to this difficulty. Thus St. Paul (Acts, xix) commands some disciples at Ephesus to be baptized in Christ’s name: “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In Acts, x, we read that St. Peter ordered others to be baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Those who were converted by Philip (Acts, viii) “were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”, and above all we have the explicit command of the Prince of the Apostles: “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins” (Acts, ii). Owing to these texts some theologians have held that the Apostles baptized in the name of Christ only. St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and Albertus Magnus are invoked as authorities for this opinion, they declaring that the Apostles so acted by special dispensation. Other writers, as Peter Lombard and Hugh of St. Victor, hold also that such baptism would be valid, but say nothing of a dispensation for the Apostles.” [note the last phrase]

    As you probably know, Hugh of St. Victor was an influential 12th-century theologian. And, more significantly, the 12th-century bishop Peter Lombard’s “Four Books of Sentences”became a standard textbook of theology at medieval universities.

    Regarding your listing of reasons to choose Catholicism over Orthodoxy, since I’ll be comparing your perspective with that of Timothy (Father Kallistos) Ware in his classic 300-page study of “The Orthodox Church”, it would seem only fair if you were to give me a more detailed explanation, sending it to my email address.

    I’ve ordered both the Bouyer and the Knox books. I’m particularly looking forward to reading the Knox: all ecclesiastical issues aside, it will be exciting to read a book to which C.S. Lewis was indebted when he wrote his classic apologetic.

    Peace,
    -John

  63. Dear John,

    Thanks for the info from the Catholic Encyclopedia. You’re right, saying “all Christians” was too strong. But I am going to stick by “all authoritative teaching.” I’m not terribly surprised that certain theologians held the opinion that such a baptism could be valid. I do think that, while interesting, the opinions of two non-canonized theologians is pretty thin material to go on. As you know, being influential doesn’t make you authoritative. The three Doctors of the Church cited (St Albert the Great, St Thomas Aquinas, and St Bonaventure) all held that it was a special dispensation and no more (that’s the position that both Andrew and I have discussed above, in ##23, 24, and 38).

    It would be more compelling if you could produce instances in which the validity of such baptisms were a concrete issue, and not just a question of scholastic speculation, which was sometimes proverbially cheap. There were plenty of such controversies, regarding either poorly educated priests who bungled the pronunciation of the baptismal form because they didn’t know enough Latin or the slightly different form used by the East. (The West uses, “I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; the East uses, “The servant of God N. is baptized in the Name of…”) In all such cases that I’m aware of the criteria were (1) proper matter is washing in water and (2) Trinitarian form.

    As to the Catholicism-Orthodoxy question, I don’t know how much time I can promise to sink into this, but expect an email soon-ish. By the way, Kallistos Ware is a metropolitan bishop, not just a priest. I respect him a great deal.

    best,
    John

  64. Donald,

    >[Lewis] defended contrary positions with great intellect and skill, but per your missive, did not always believe what he was defending.

    I’m lost here; I don’t know which statement in which of my missives you’re referring to. More important, can you given me an example of Lewis not believing what he defended? Thanks.

    John,
    While I can’t give you specific instances of baptisms using the “in Jesus’ name” formula from the middle ages, I would question your categorizing of Hugh of St. Victor’s and Peter Lombard’s affirmation of the formula’s validity as “scholastic speculation.” The classic example of scholastic speculation (at least for us protestants) is the question of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. There may well be some stereotyping here; but it seems unlikely that figures such as Hugh of St. Victor and Peter Lombard would engage in foolish speculations whose result (according to Catholic teaching) could be the damnation of souls.
    In any case, the Catholic Encyclopedia ranks Hugh as “a scholastic theologian of the first order”, and commends his “unimpeachable orthodoxy”. Specifically, it refers to,

    >”De Sacramentis Christianæ Fidei” (c. 1134), his masterpiece and most extensive work, a dogmatic synthesis similar to, but more perfect than the “Introductio ad Theologiam” of Abelard (c. 1118),

    It also notes,

    >Hugh’s sacramental teaching is of great importance in that he begins the final stage in the formulation of the definition of a sacrament; synthesizing the scattered teaching of St. Augustine, he set aside the Isidorian definition and gave a truer and more comprehensive one, which, when perfected by the author of the “Summa Sententiarum”, was adopted in the schools.

    For whatever you may feel it’s worth, the Wikipedia article on Peter Lombard says,

    >Peter Lombard wrote commentaries on the Psalms and the Pauline epistles; however, his most famous work by far was Libri Quatuor Sententiarum, or the Four Books of Sentences, which became the standard textbook of theology at the medieval universities.[15] From the 1220s until the 16th century, no work of Christian literature, except for the Bible itself, was commented upon more frequently.

    Perhaps more reliably, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes,

    >The works of Peter Lombard include: (1) “Commentaries on the Psalms and St. Paul” which have come down to us in quite a number of manuscripts. They are chiefly a compilation of patristic and medieval exegesis, after the manner of the professors of the age and of the old “Catenae”; (2) “Sermons”, which are also found in quite a number of manuscripts; they are rather dry, often allegorical, and always very methodical in their divisions; several of them are printed among the works of Hildebert du Mans and others; extracts of others have been published by Protois (cf. infra); (3) The “Sentences” (“Quatuor libri Sententiarum”). It is this theological work above all that made the name of Peter Lombard famous, and gives him a special place in the history of theology in the Middle Ages. Henceforth he is called the “Magister Sententiarum”, or simply the “Magister”.

    I do realize that all of this falls short of a papal pronouncement. On the other hand, it seems pretty “authoritative” to me.

    Peace,
    -John

  65. John, I neglected to include the following excerpt on Peter Lombard from _Britannica Online. Perhaps we should regard its reliability as around halfway between the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia!

    >Although he wrote sermons, letters, and commentaries on Holy Scripture, Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences (1148–51) established his reputation and subsequent fame, earning him the title of magister sententiarum (“master of the sentences”). The Sentences, a collection of teachings of the Church Fathers and opinions of medieval masters arranged as a systematic treatise, marked the culmination of a long tradition of theological pedagogy, and until the 16th century it was the official textbook in the universities. Hundreds of scholars wrote commentaries on it, including the celebrated philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas.

    >Book I of the Sentences discusses God, the Trinity, divine guidance, evil, predestination; Book II, angels, demons, the Fall of man, grace, sin; Book III, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the redemption of sins, virtues, the Ten Commandments; Book IV, the sacraments and the four last things—death, judgment, hell, and heaven. While Lombard showed originality in choosing and arranging his texts, in utilizing different currents of thought, and in avoiding extremes, of special importance to medieval theologians was his clarification of the theology of the sacraments. He asserted that there are seven sacraments and that a sacrament is not merely a “visible sign of invisible grace” (after Augustine of Hippo) but also the “cause of the grace it signifies.”

    -John

  66. John, my apologies for this bits-and-pieces blog: I just found some more pertinent info about Peter Lombard from [what is apparently] another version of Britannica Online. Its last sentence would seem especially relevant.

    >Peter Lombard, master at the cathedral school of Notre Dame and archbishop of Paris, was author of the Four Books of Sentences. This seminal work treats God the Holy Trinity; creation, humankind, and sin; the Incarnation of the Word and the redemption of humanity; faith, hope, love, and the other virtues; the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, unction of the sick and dying, ordination, marriage); and the last things (death, judgment, heaven, and hell). The Scriptures and the Fathers—notably Augustine, who is quoted more than 1,000 times—are its principal sources. Peter is not as rigorous as his own teacher, Peter Abelard, in discerning the apparent contradictions in his authorities, for which a dialectical resolution is to be sought (Sic et non; “Yes and No”). Lombard’s “opinions” tend to harmonize with the chosen “sentences” of the Fathers. The Sentences, whose orthodoxy was established by the Lateran council of 1215, became the standard theological textbook in the medieval West and the subject of many commentaries; it thus helped to shape a nuanced consensus there too, from which disputes and disputations were not absent.

    -John

  67. re #64

    John

    >[Lewis] defended contrary positions with great intellect and skill, but per your missive, did not always believe what he was defending.

    I’m lost here; I don’t know which statement in which of my missives you’re referring to. More important, can you given me an example of Lewis not believing what he defended? Thanks.

    When Lewis noted that any door is preferable to standing in the hall, he was defending positions he himself was in opposition to. Your letter noted his opposition to Mary and to recognizing communion as a sacrificial meal. He is at that point straddling the fence, okaying entry into a body with which he has major differences on major issues. He won’t go in but he won’t oppose others from going in.

    That appears to me to be Lewis defending what he himself did not believe in.

    Cordially,

    dt

  68. Dear John,

    Yes, all that info about the Lombard and Hugh is quite correct. But it only “seems authoritative” to you because you’re not distinguishing between theological opinion (even weighty opinion) and magisterial teaching.

    The Sententia served as a textbook for theology, not as a Catechism might (which delivers authoritative teachings), but as a collection of loci for disputation. The title itself is a clue in this regard: sententia does not mean “sentences,” which is a calque, much less does it mean magisterial teaching; sententia means “views” or “opinions” or “judgments.” The Lombard’s comprehensiveness and division of the subject matter made the text very useful for teaching scholastic theology. The rough equivalent of a dissertation in the high middle ages was a commentary on the Sententia.

    What does seem to be the case is that in the thirteenth century, while the necessity of the universal and immemorial practice was upheld, there was indeed still room for theological speculation. I believe this remained the case until the 15th century. You can see how this is getting worked out in St Thomas’s treatment, which deserves careful reading. Note how the objections move through Scripture (obj. 1), the Fathers (obj. 2), and the decretals (obj. 3)—St Thomas is taking these, by the way, straight from the relevant passages in the Lombard’s Sententia (bk. 4, d. 3). In Thomas’s Scriptum super Sententiis (his commentary on the Sentences), he already interprets the Acts “formula” as a temporal dispensation (Scriptum, bk. 4, d.3, q. 1, a. 2, qc. 2, ad 3). (As I’ve said before, I myself don’t actually think that’s right. I think the Acts description distinguishes Christian baptism from other baptisms [John’s, Jewish, mystery cults], and does not constitute a formula with quotation marks. But maybe St Thomas was right.)

    The fact, by the way, that Lateran IV upheld the basic orthodoxy of the Lombard by no means amounts to subscription to all of his opinions. You’ll note that Canon 1 of that same Council refers to “the sacrament of baptism, which by the invocation of each Person of the Trinity, namely of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is effected in water, duly conferred on children and adults in the form prescribed by the Church.”

    Turning to Hugh of St Victor, when he holds out the possibility of valid baptism in the name of Christ only, he is entertaining the possibility of someone baptizing “through ignorance without consciousness of error, not keeping the form of these words [the Trinitarian formula], yet with full [Trinitarian] faith” (de sacramentis 2.6.2). Hugh does insist that if one knows the Church’s consistent practice in this regard, he must use the Trinitarian formula, which manifests the unity of faith and sacrament: “For faith is within and lies hidden until it begins to be named and to be celebrated so as to be known. For thus, indeed, we baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, when we baptize in the confession of the faith of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (ibid.). The congruence of the Christian faith and the form of Christian baptism is the paramount issue for Hugh. Thus, he defends the possibility of that condition being met in certain circumstances without explicit pronunciation of all three Persons of the Trinity, following the same logic that many of the Fathers used (see my comments on St Basil above). Hugh writes, “If you should say ‘Christ,’ you have designated God the Father by whom the Son was anointed and the Son himself who was anointed and the Holy Spirit with whom He was anointed. For it is written: ‘This Jesus of Nazareth whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost,’ (Cf. Acts 10, 38)” (ibid.). He gives somewhat more strained explanations of how one might be implying the whole Trinity by mentioning only the Father or the Holy Spirit. But all this is predicated upon the Trinitarian faith actually being held, which Hugh has stipulated as a condition in his speculative treatment, but which certainly cannot be presumed on the part of those who baptize in the name of Jesus Christ (e.g., Oneness Pentecostals).

    best,
    John

  69. John H,

    For a scholarly look at the Sentences commentarial tradition, I highly recommend my former professor’s work:

    The Story of a Great Medieval Book: Peter Lombard’s “Sentences,” Rethinking the Middle Ages. By Dr. Philipp W. Rosemann. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

    It is both technical and readable.

  70. Dear John,

    First, I want to thank you for impelling me to research the history of the form of baptism more deeply. I am compelled to admit that there is a complexity there that I wasn’t fully aware of before. So, by way of conclusion, I’ve gone ahead and collected what I take to be the key data points and then engaged in some analysis below. Here I’ve simply gone through Denzinger, which means this collection is limited to papal and synodal/conciliar decrees. A list of relevant citations from all the Church Fathers would be far more extensive.

    (1) According to a letter from Firmilian to Cyprian in 256, Pope St Stephen said that “the name of Christ conduces greatly to faith and to the sanctification of baptism, so that whoever has been baptized anywhere in the name of Christ, at once obtains the grace of Christ.”
    (2) The First Council of Arles (314) cites Trinitarian formula as a criterion for validity.
    (3) Ditto for Pope St Innocent I in 414, explaining why Paulianists converting to Catholicism were to be baptized but Novatianists were not.
    (4) Around 560, Pope Pelagius I denies the validity of baptism “in the name of Christ alone” – this is what St Thomas cites in the sed contra of his article on the form of baptism.
    (5) In 601, Pope St Gregory the Great clearly asserts necessity of Trinitarian form.
    (6) In 726, Pope St Gregory II cites Trinitarian form as a criterion of validity.
    (7) Ditto for Pope St Gregory III in 739.
    (8) In 748, Pope St Zachary, confirming the findings of a local synod, insists on the Trinitarian formula.
    (9) In 866, in the same document, Pope St Nicholas I seems first to insist solely on the Trinitarian formula, then to allow for the single invocation of Christ.
    (10) Lateran IV (1215) asserts the Trinitarian formula as the correct form.
    (11) Pope Eugene IV’s 1439 Bull Exultate Deo gives the Trinitarian formula as the proper form of baptism, explicitly allowing for Eastern variations, then says that “if the act which is performed through the minister himself, is expressed with the invocation of the Holy Trinity, the sacrament is effected.”
    (12) The Council of Trent, Canon 4 on Baptism, anathematizes anyone who denies the validity of baptism conferred by heretics if it’s in water, with the Trinitarian formula, and with the intention to do what the Church does (i.e., confer Christian baptism). (By the way, pace Dix, I can’t find anything in this Canon that can’t already be inferred from earlier decrees.)

    Putting all this together with the scriptural evidence, it seems to me that the Church has indeed always held to the necessity of the Trinitarian formula. Each of the apparent anomalies is pretty easily explicable when considered in light of the rest of the data.

    (1) The relevant citations in Acts suggest that we’re not dealing with a formula, but with a shorthand to distinguish what baptism is being conferred (Christian, as opposed to Jewish, John’s, or a mystery cult’s). However, I admit the possibility that this was a formula used by special temporal dispensation, as per the opinion of St Albert the Great, St Thomas Aquinas, and St Bonaventure.

    (2) Close examination of the two letters pertinent to Pope St Stephen’s position shows quite clearly what’s going on. Pope St Stephen used “baptism in the name of Christ” to designate Christian baptism, not as an alternative to the Trinitarian formula (see Firmilian to Cyprian, Letter 75.9 [cf. 75.18; this is letter 74 in the ANF collection]). St Cyprian, who clearly and repeatedly insisted on the Trinitarian formula, in the heat of controversy (which was really over whether heretics could ever confer valid baptism), mistakenly took Pope St Stephen’s words in the latter sense, as a denial of the Trinitarian formula (see Cyprian to Jubaianus, Letter 73 [72 in the ANF collection]).

    (3) St Ambrose’s comment pertains to the faith of the baptizand, not the ritual form of baptism. There are two key strands of evidence for this. First, St Ambrose’s On the Holy Spirit, where the passage in question occurs, is based on the treatise of the same name by St Basil of Caesarea, and that passage seems to be an extension of St Basil’s argument that I cited way back when in comment #24, in which the equivalence between “in the name of Jesus Christ (/the Lord Jesus)” and the invocation of Trinity refers to an equivalence of faith intended to be expressed, not to an equality of ritual validity. Furthermore, in that text, St Basil’s argument for the full divinity of the Holy Spirit is largely predicated upon the baptismal formula. Such heavy leaning of the formula would not make sense of St Basil thought it was optional, or that Christian baptism could validly be conferred without it. The second strand of evidence is from the Ambrosian mystagogies de sacramentis and de mysteriis. Both are attributed to St Ambrose, though I believe de sacramentis is thought more likely to be authentic, with de mysteriis being derivative from that work. Both texts speak solely and seamlessly of the Trinitarian form as the proper one for baptism, without any hint of an alternative.

    (4) The apparent discrepancy in the 866 decree from Pope St Nicholas is also taken the same way as Ambrose’s comment, which Nicholas cites in the line in question.

    (5) Peter Lombard’s treatment is aimed at harmonization, and while he succeeds at showing that the Acts verses, even taken as a formula, do not necessarily contradict the dominical instruction, he fails by not taking the mass of traditional precedent into account. St Thomas corrects that in the sed contra of the relevant article in the Summa.

    (6) Hugh of St Victor is speculating on the possibility of the validity of an unintentionally deficient formula if the faith intended to be expressed by that formula is Trinitarian. While this is never borne out in magisterial decisions, it conforms with the spirit of the 746 ruling of Pope St Zachary I that butchering the pronunciation of the form (apparently uneducated priests were known to say things like “Baptizo te in nomine Patria, et Filia, et Spiritus Sancti,” which is nonsense) does not invalidate the baptism if the intention was to invoke the Trinity.

    In conclusion, Catholic tradition seems quite clear to me on this matter. I am certain that the Orthodox (both Eastern and Oriental) likewise deem the formula as strictly necessary for valid baptism. Similarly, as I mentioned above, the Anglican communion, insofar as it understands itself as bound by the Book of Common Prayer, also considers the Trinitarian formula to be an “essential part” of baptism.

    I’m pretty sure anything else I would have to say at this point has already been said. But I’ll be happy, as always, to hear your thoughts.

    best,
    John

  71. Donald,

    I’d agree with what you say about Lewis defending something he didn’t believe in _if_ -he believed that it was better to remain “in the hall” than to become a Catholic. But of course he didn’t. He writes “The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.” (Mere Christianity, p. 12) The fact that he sent the original manuscript of “What Christians Believe” for feedback to a Roman Catholic (as well as to an Anglican, a Presbyterian and a Methodist) shows that he felt himself to be in agreement with Rome about the basic fundamentals of the faith. The letter which I quoted from in #56, does show him to be in disagreement with certain Roman Catholic teachings. But I would guess that, had the circumstances arisen, he would have written a similar letter showing him to be in disagreement with certain Baptist teachings (such as their rejection of infant baptism, and their relatively infrequent observance of Communion). But he would certainly agree with Baptists on what he regarded as the essentials of the Christian faith. Ditto for Roman Catholics.

    John, you noted,

    >Hugh of St Victor is speculating on the possibility of the validity of an unintentionally deficient formula if the faith intended to be expressed by that formula is Trinitarian.

    Compare this with what I wrote in #25:

    >What I don’t see is that Matthew 28:19 absolutely requires that the words “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” be enunciated as opposed to the simple word “Jesus” in order for the baptism to be valid. That is, if the latter formula was used in a context of Trinitarian faith. (This represents, among other things, the Lutheran position.)
    It looks like the difference is that what Hugh regarded as a possibility I’m advancing as a certainty. In any case, I think a critical question is: If someone intends to join the Catholic Church, having been baptized with the “name of Jesus” formula, would he then receive ordinary baptism or conditional baptism?
    Also,

    >The fact, by the way, that Lateran IV upheld the basic orthodoxy of the Lombard by no means amounts to subscription to all of his opinions.

    In principle, certainly yes. But: If Lombard permitted what the council regarded as a defective baptism, then he would be allowing for situations in which someone who was, say, undergoing Confirmation instruction, was never regenerated in the first place. Or, to put it in more Evangelical terminology, he was never “really saved” since his baptism was defective. Surely this would necessitate a major “red warning light” on the part of the Council?

    Peace,
    -John

  72. John,

    Correct. You’re holding as a certainty, based on your own interpretation of the Bible, what some medieval theologians entertained as a possible opinion, possibly without sufficient knowledge of previous magisterial teaching on the issue.

    Someone who had been baptized with the “name of Jesus” formula would receive absolute baptism, not conditional baptism. The magisterium has clearly taught on this in such a way as to rule out the opinions of the Lombard and Hugh of St Victor on this point.

    Lateran IV did not take it upon itself to render a decision on the orthodoxy of the Sententia as a whole, but to respond to a particular controversy, namely, that Joachim of Fiore condemned the Lombard’s Trinitarian doctrine as expressed in the Sententia as heretical. Lateran IV cleared the Lombard of those charges. The Council did not address the orthodoxy of every opinion of the Lombard. But do note that, entirely aside from the portion of the Council that mentions the Lombard, Lateran IV explicitly specifies the Trinitarian formula.

    best,
    John

  73. Also, John, I want to address your concern lest there be some priest who, charged with the instruction of a heretic converting to Catholicism, read the Lombard and concluded that his pupil’s baptism “in the name of Christ” at the hands of some sect was valid, then went ahead and confirmed him, etc., etc., etc.

    Not to worry. Theology isn’t about creating technicalities that God is out to catch you on. If some such situation did occur, it’s probably safe to presume (though of course only God can judge this) that the person in question will not be held responsible for the mistake. He would almost certainly have a baptism of desire. The Church doesn’t teach that people go to hell for clerical errors that they had nothing to do with. But that’s not an excuse not to correct the errors that can be corrected.

    best,
    John

  74. Dear John,

    I’ve poked around a little more, and I’ve found this claim on a few (unofficial) documents for RCIA instructors: “An affirmative decision has been granted in one case involving ‘Baptism’ in the Apostolic Church. The minister baptized according to the form found in the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles, and not St. Matthew. The form used was: ‘We baptize you into the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive a gift of the Holy Ghost.’ No Trinitarian form was used.” Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any citation as to who made that decision and when. Either way, it seems to be quite limited to that one case, because in other lists for use in RCIA, it is simply noted that the Apostolic Church does not confer valid baptisms. At the very least, then, they would be considered doubtful.

    best,
    John

  75. Dear John,

    Yes, I found that same document; according to what showed up on my computer, it reflects the stance of a Catholic church in Santa Fe.
    I think this wraps up the online aspect of our exchange. I will say that, given your view on the nature of ecclesiastical authority, you’ve made a good case. (Hope you don’t see this as “damning with faint praise”!)
    To conclude on a positive -though completely unrelated note- I must confess that after Lewis, my all-time favorite writer is G.K. Chesterton. I’m sure you’ve read _Orthodoxy_ (chapter 2, “The Maniac” features not only Chesterton’s scintillating writing style but penetrating psychological insights as well); and you doubtless know _The Everlasting Man_ (its central chapter,”The Strangest Story in the World”, though formally speaking a historical account, is in substance some of the most powerful devotional writing I’ve ever experienced). Among his 50 Father Brown stories, the most extraordinary of the many I’ve read is “The Dagger with Wings”-it features precisely the combination of the macabre and the supernatural which its title suggests.
    Check out the last, when you get a well-deserved break from your studies!

    Peace,
    -John

  76. Fred,
    Hello former Reformed church-mate! I keep having a nagging uneasiness about my baptism. I just can’t shake it.
    Matter? Check.
    Form? Check.
    Intent? Aye yay yay. No way.
    I was baptized on a boat launch by a Pentecostal (AG) minister. So no issues with the matter or form. I even remember him using the Trinitarian formula (I was 15), and I know his intent as to the Trinity with that formula was orthodox. But I know for a fact that his intent was specifically NOT to do anything by the baptism. He firmly said as much before and after the baptism loudly and clearly, multiple times, that his intent was NOT to do what the Catholic Church does by baptizing me. Yes, in a rigid way you could say his intent was to baptize, but that intent alone (merely “to baptize”) isn’t the “intent” spoken of in Trent. Trent speaks of baptism “with the intention of doing what the Church doth”, not “intention of doing” in the sense of merely intending to baptize. It speaks of baptism with a certain intent…, not mere intent to baptize. And that intent, in my case, cannot be given the benefit of the doubt. I am in no doubt that the intent was specifically to not do what the Catholic Church does.

    Cannon 4 of Trent session 7 says:

    CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema.

    The catholic dictionary is even more forceful, although it is obviously not a binding document.

    “The Church teaches very unequivocally that for the valid conferring of the sacraments, the minister must have the intention of doing at least what the Church does. This is laid down with great emphasis by the Council of Trent (sess. VII). The opinion once defended by such theologians as Catharinus and Salmeron that there need only be the intention to perform deliberately the external rite proper to each sacrament, and that, as long as this was true, the interior dissent of the minister from the mind of the Church would not invalidate the sacrament, no longer finds adherents. The common doctrine now is that a real internal intention to act as a minister of Christ, or to do what Christ instituted the sacraments to effect, in other words, to truly baptize, absolve, etc., is required. This intention need not necessarily be of the sort called actual. That would often be practically impossible. It is enough that it be virtual. Neither habitual nor interpretative intention in the minister will suffice for the validity of the sacrament. The truth is that here and now, when the sacrament is being conferred, neither of these intentions exists, and they can therefore exercise no determining influence upon what is done. To administer the sacraments with a conditional intention, which makes their effect contingent upon a future event, is to confer them invalidly. This holds good for all the sacraments except matrimony, which, being a contract, is susceptible of such a limitation. “

    Of the 4 types of intention mentioned in the encyclopedia (actual, virtual, habitual, and interpretative) I know for a fact that the man who baptized me had none of those intents, not even interpretative (unless he was openly lying about his intent, which there is no reason to think that).

    So, to sum up my two points, it seems that “intent” in Trent is not referring to the doing, or form and matter of baptism, but the intent of what is occurring in the baptism. And second, if I know for a fact that intent was not there in my own baptism, how can my baptism be valid? If “the Church teaches very unequivocally that for the valid conferring of the sacraments, the minister must have the intention of doing at least what the Church does”… and I know for a solid fact that the minister of my baptism specifically repudiated not just “at least”, but everything the Catholic Church does in baptism, what then? This keeps nagging at me.
    Thanks to anyone who cares to shed light here. And take your time, I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I can wait for good answers if need be. I am just glad to have a Church that is able to give answers. Thank God.

    -David Meyer

  77. Dear David,

    This keeps nagging at me.

    Brother, I suggest that you ask your priest or bishop so that you may be at peace. Pope Leo’s statement (quoted in the post) affirms a presumption of validity, but of course in individual circumstances a presumption may prove to be incorrect. Rather than being in doubt about it, let the Church decide.

    Peace,

    Fred

  78. David Meyer (#76)

    I may say that I have occasional similar nagging worries. My own baptism – I was an adult (aged 27) was Lutheran, and I recall that being the beginning of my becoming very unsacramental, for the baptismal ceremony clearly prayed something about “may God, Who has begotten you of water and the Spirit…” I was a brand-new, and very uneducated, Christian at the time. Shortly after this I became a Baptist, and then over the next three years Reformed.

    But I think of my own children’s baptisms. They are Reformed, and do not contain any reference to regeneration – and I know full well that the ministers who performed them did not believe in baptismal regeneration. In fact, one baptism – that of our younger daughter (we have four childre) was done by me, using the Reformed liturgy and with instructions from our elders.

    So I have wondered at times about these. I have wondered, also, about my own marriage. I was married, at age not-quite-20, with no slightest conception of religion, of what marriage was, etc. My wife left me six years later. Shortly thereafter I became a Christian. In late 1994, I knew that I must become a Catholic – but what about my marriage?

    The tribunal judged my first marriage invalid – lack of due discretion. I was not, in fact, a baptised person when we were married, though my first wife probably was. Had it been me who left, this would, I believe, have meant she could have remarried in the Church (though she was no Catholic); in my case there had to be other grounds.

    So … occasionally I have spells of wondering about this sort of thing. Fred Noltie advised going to your priest or bishop, and that, no doubt, is a good idea. Nonetheless, no Catholic believes that this or that priest or bishop has the charism of infallibility. I can imagine one wondering if one’s priest or bishop was not himself inclined to latitudinarian ideas.

    At bottom I have said that I will trust God. If the children’s baptisms were not valid, yet it seems clear to me that there is no fundamental reason to doubt it. Perhaps they have received baptism of desire. One of my children is not, to be sure, living a very Christian life – the one I baptised, in fact! – yet she is deeply unhappy about that and cannot keep herself from wanting to get back with God. Analogous comments could apply, I think, regarding my marriage. My wife (not my first wife, obviously :-)) and I are now both Catholics – and I cannot begin to say just what a wonderful thing it has been for us to be Catholics. It has genuinely saved our marriage.

    Do the best you can – but I would discourage worrying and fretting – and I will pray for you.

    jj

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