Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Presbyterians Do Not Believe that Baptism Regenerates Souls or Remits Sins

Ethan and the PreacherFrom time to time I run into Christians who believe that people must be baptized in order to be saved. We call this “baptismal regeneration,” because they believe that the act of baptizing in some way changes the heart. This position is fairly widespread outside of Baptistic and Reformed circles. The Roman Catholic Church believes that when infants are baptized, their original sin is washed away. Among other protestant denominations, the Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Christian Church, and Lutherans affirm some form of baptismal regeneration.

Occasionally I run into confused people even in Presbyterian churches. They have often come to Presbyterianism from more baptistic denominations in which it is not unusual to view infant baptism with suspicion, and where they may mistakenly come to believe that we teach some type of baptismal regeneration.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why Presbyterians Only Baptize Once

baptismThis topic comes up in response to questions I have received from church members while studying the Westminster of Confession of Faith together on Wednesday nights. The Confession states, “The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person” (XXVIII:7). The Presbyterian Church in America requires its ordained teaching elders to subscribe to this statement from the Confession. This means that PCA teaching elders cannot rebaptize anyone who has already received a valid baptism during their lifetime. A valid baptism is defined as an ordained minister applying water to someone in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Church has been baptizing infants since its earliest days. Following the Reformation, a group of Christians began teaching that infant baptism was not biblical and that Christians should only be baptized after they made a profession of faith in Christ. These people were called “Anabaptists” (“ana” means “again” in Greek) because they believed in rebaptizing or “baptizing again” those who had already been baptized as infants. Although these Anabaptists are not the same as today’s Baptists, Baptists do believe something similar: that infant baptism is not valid, and that anyone who has been baptized as an infant must be rebaptized after their conversion and before they can join a Baptist church. Today, most people who rebaptize attend baptistic churches. However, some in Presbyterian churches also believe that rebaptism is appropriate or even necessary. Why is this so?

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