Baptism and the like

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. - Matthew 28: 19

I was standing in the kitchen earlier today, washing the dishes, and I got to thinking about Sacramental validity.

More seriously, I was thinking about my own Baptism.

I know that when (and I am now at the point where I think I can say when rather than if) the time comes, I shall have to be baptised, and I know that this will not be considered by the Church to be sub conditione.

I actually do not struggle too much with this, as I was "baptised" by a priest who, 21 years on, is still remembered in the parish for his innovative services and departure from authorised liturgy. I have no way of knowing that I was indeed baptised 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'.

My own Baptism got me to thinking a little more about the issue of Orthodox acceptance/non-acceptance of heterodox baptisms. I do not know what the official line is, although I know that different jurisdictions deal with different situations differently, some extending economy in some situations, and others baptising anything that draws breath and resembles a human being. ROCOR falls within the latter category, and this is the jurisdiction with which I have become involved. The following is where my own study has led me. I do not put this forward as Christian Truth, but just as the result of my musings.

The Roman Catholic Church and Church of England accept the filioque. This means that the very nature of the persons of the Trinity and their relationship to each other in these groups, is actually different from the Orthodox understanding of the same. In the Orthodox understanding, the first Person of the Trinity is generative: in the RC/CE underatanding, He shares this generative nature with the second Person. It therefore follows that in the Orthodox understanding, the second Person of the Trinity is not generative in the same way that the Father is: the opposite is true in the RC/CE understanding. Finally, the Orthodox understand the third Person to be in procession from the first Person alone, through the second Person: the RC/CE position is that the third Person is in procession from both the first and second Persons.

It is, therefore, arguable that, Creator-Redeemer-Sanctifier quasi-baptisms aside, even if an Anglican priest baptises 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit', in my understanding, he is not referring to the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit that the Orthodox understand Christ to have commanded us to baptise in the name of. The identity of each of the Persons and his relationship to the others - the very identity of God - is distorted. Even if the priest baptises with the intention required by RCs, "to do as the Church does in Baptism, (whatever that may be)", his understanding of what is the Church is not the same as the Orthodox understanding of the same. If Orthdoxy holds that right Faith must be present in order for the Sacraments/Mysteries to be effectual, then does the deficient understanding of the nature of the Holy Trinity render RC and Anglican baptisms ineffectual where otherwise they would be?

Just some thoughts.

8 responses:

Mark said...

Wouldn't the baptism be only ineffctive where the persons understood the distortion of the filioque, were enforcing it deliberately, and making a specific effort to preserve that difference between Orthodoxy and the rest?

I know precisely what you're getting at... but it's like what you once said to me before, you pray that God, who is described as magnanimous and gracious, will be giving anyway.

Michael said...

That's it.

As I understand it, we have guaranteed channels of God's grace through the Sacraments, provided that we approach him in right Faith, with openness of heart, through the channels that He has provided to us through his Church, for that is his promise to us. 'Behold I stand at the door and knock' - we open the door to allow him in.

Outside of that right Faith, outside of the channels that He has provided, there is no guarantee. God may still bestow his grace, for that is his prerogative, but we cannot know, for there has been a departure from the Faith. Whether this was deliberate or inadvertent is irrelevant - there has been a departure from the Christian Faith.

I have never said that God will be giving anyway - (if so, what would be the point of following his will?). What I have said is that I pray that God, in his infinite mercy, will bestow his grace. I am fully aware that he may not. I may consider it unfair if He does not extend that grace to somebody who does not know that he has departed from the Faith, but who am I to impose my ideas of fairness and justice on God?

As I have said, these are my thoughts, and not necessarily those of the Church. I am hoping that somebody will be along shortly to add to clarify.

Mark said...

You summed up what I was trying to say!

Blame the slightly non-restorative powers of sleep.

Barnabas said...

Baptism - is as I see it a gift from God to a sinful world to redeem it from itself.

I rejoice when a person comes for baptism but do wonder when a couple bring their child what are they doing it for, is it they acknowledge God as there Lord or is it just because it's the right thing to do?

On the other hand I do feel that by a couple coming for baptism is good as it suggests a seed of faith growing which the church needs to tend to and help grow.

I guess in the end we just need to seek God's will on the matter he knows the heart of the person.

BJA said...

I think that your Filioque arguments are a bit extreme. The Orthodox have never held that Western Christians believe in a different God or a different Trinity.

However, the fact that your C of E priest was "progressive" and may not have used a Trinitarian formula means that your Bishop and your Priest will most likely want you to be baptized.

Mark said...

Benjamin, you said what I wanted to say -- don't hate me, Michael. I can see the basis of the argument and Michael's true concern, but yes, I cannot see that it affects to such an extreme one's relationship with the divine, to the point where you could say it's a fundamentally different Trinity with an invalidatory power over baptisms?

Anonymous said...

This is one of the practices that annoys me the most about the Orthodox. (Actually, "annoy" is not strong enough.) The Roman Catholics will recognize the baptism of, say, a Southern Baptist, who was baptized as an adult despite having a Christian faith since before he could read, and who was baptized by a pastor whose ordination they do not recognize, and with the understanding that baptism is only symbolic and does not actually "do" anything at all, but is only a sign, and that person's baptism is recognized as being part of the "one baptism" and he will not need to be even conditionally baptized in order to become RC. It seems to me that the theological differences between Southern Baptists and the Roman Catholic Church are very very great indeed, but the RCC is able to recognize that their baptism is indeed Christian. I find it extremely offensive that the Orthodox will not do likewise.

Michael said...

To any new readers of this blog, the content of this post was highly speculative on my part and was not grounded in much sound Trinitarian theology. My understanding has since been deepened.

However, I still affirm strtongly the Orthodox position on the matter, which I explained in more detail in response top a comment on the post about the Western Rite which may be found in the May 2006 archive.

Many thanks.

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