Saturday, August 14, 2010

An Essay Defending Baptismal Regeneration

          Baptismal regeneration is the doctrine that one is born again (re-generated – generated again) at baptism.  To modern evangelicals who link being born again with making a decision to accept Christ, this teaching probably seems obviously wrong and even downright bizarre.  But in this essay, I will argue that this is in fact the biblical teaching.  In my experience, many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, misunderstand the Catholic teaching of baptismal regeneration or are unaware of the best arguments in defense of the doctrine.  This essay explains the arguments that convinced me about the truth of baptismal regeneration and clarifies Catholic teaching on the subject.  It will look at many Old Testament events, such as the flood in Genesis and the crossing of the Red Sea, which point to the efficacy of baptism.  It will also analyze many key New Testament passages and review what the early Christians believed about what baptism does for us.

Catholic Teaching on Baptism

What baptism accomplishes

          At baptism our old self dies and we are reborn as sons and daughters of God.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, God purifies us and reconciles us to Him.  We become members of the Church, the body of Christ, and all our past sins are forgiven – they die with our old self.  We become co-heirs with Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, and receive initial salvation (in Catholic theology, one can lose salvation).

How it happens
          A person is baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism works through the very action being performed.  Christ is the author of the sacrament and the person receives its benefits through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The righteousness of the person performing the baptism is irrelevant to the efficacy of the sacrament because the sacrament is wrought by the power of God, not man.  Baptism leaves a one-time, permanent spiritual mark on the one baptized and for this reason cannot be repeated.

What are sacraments?

          Sacraments are outward signs that signify an inward grace that they bestow, instituted by Christ for our sanctification.  Baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, matrimony, and holy orders are the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Why do we need the outward signs?  Why doesn't God just give us grace without the ceremonies?
          First, the Catholic Church teaches that God can and does give grace outside of the sacraments, but the sacraments are a particularly effective and unique way that God gives us grace that is vital to our spiritual life.  When a Catholic refers to the sacramental principle, he's referring to God's power being mediated through a physical action or object, just as the seven sacraments mediate God's grace.  This principle is found throughout scripture.  For example, The Israelites were healed when they looked upon the brazen serpent (Num 21:9), Moses raising his hands parted the Red Sea (Ex 14:21) and later gave Joshua's army a victory (Ex 17:11), Elijah's mantle was used to part the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8), contact with Elisha's bones brought a man back to life (2 Kings 13:21), Jesus healed the man born blind using mud and spittle (Jn 9), the hemorrhaging woman was healed when she touched Jesus' cloak (Lk 8:43-48), many were healed or cleansed from evil spirits when they touched handkerchiefs which Paul had touched (Acts 19:12), and anointing with oil by the presbyters was said to heal people and grant forgiveness of sins (Jas 5:15).
          God chooses to use physical signs to mediate his power as a way of teaching us something.  For instance, the bronze serpent foreshadows the saving power of Christ who heals us from spiritual death.  The miracles worked through Moses' hands and Paul's handkerchiefs show that God approves of these men and has specially selected them to do His work.  We aren't purely spiritual creatures so God deals with us in a way we can understand, showing us through physical signs what He is doing.  The sacramental principle reminds us that the Creator of the world and our Redeemer are the same God. 
          In the same way, water is an excellent symbol for what happens at baptism.  Water has the power to nurture life, the power to drown and destroy, and the power to cleanse.  This is apt because in baptism we are cleansed of our sins and die and rise with Christ.  Also, Jesus promised his disciples that he would make them “fishers of men” (Mk 1:17).  Considering this, the image of a baptizer pulling a person out of the water serves as an illustration of our being pulled out of the chaotic waters of the world and into the Church, just as a fisherman might heave a fish onto the deck of his boat.  Ultimately, baptism is just another instance, albeit an important one, of God using physical signs to mediate His power.

If Christ saves us, how can you say baptism saves us?
          Baptism is the means by which Christ saves us from our sins.  It's how the merits of Christ's death and resurrection are applied to us.  Baptismal regeneration shouldn't be seen as being in opposition to salvation through faith.  Catholics believe that it is actually through baptism that one receives the supernatural gift of saving faith from God, although before baptism a person certainly may have, through God's prompting, a certain natural type of faith. 
          St. Ambrose, a fourth century bishop, wrote about the relationship between the cross and the Sacrament of Baptism:
That water does not cleanse without the Spirit is shown by the witness of John and by the very form of the administration of the sacrament. … Therefore read that the three witnesses in baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, are one  [1 Jn 5:8], for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ?” (On the Mysteries ch. 4)

          It shouldn't come as a surprise that God entrusts the sacraments to the Church.  The Church is called the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:7), so one might expect the Church to carry on Christ's mission in the world.  Christ told the Apostles that “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” (Jn 20:21)  The Apostles lived this out by evangelizing, healing, and driving out demons just as Jesus did.  In this essay, I hope to show that Jesus not only entrusted the leaders of the Church with the ability to teach, heal, and drive out demons, but also with the Sacrament of Baptism, in which sins are washed away. 

Baptism Foretold in the Old Testament

          Most Christians are aware that baptism as we know it wasn't instituted until the New Testament, yet many are unaware that it was foretold throughout the Old Testament in many surprising places.  In the upcoming section we'll see how many Old Testament events foreshadow different aspects of baptism.  We'll discuss how certain events foreshadow baptism's healing, salvific, creative, and destructive elements. 

Biblical typology

          The concept of typology is crucial in understanding how baptism is foreshadowed in the Old Testament.  A type refers to a real Old Testament person, place, event, or thing that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament.  In a novel, an author may leave clues to foreshadow a main plot point in his fictional novel.  In typology, God, the author of the world, uses real historical people and events to foreshadow something greater.  The typological sense of scripture isn't meant to replace the literal sense of scripture; rather, it's a way of reading scripture that adds to the literal meaning of the passage. 
          Some types are spelled out explicitly in scripture.  Other types, even though they aren't endorsed by any of the New Testament writers, correspond so closely and in such a unique way to their New Testament counterpart that we can be pretty confident that God intended them to be signs for us.  Christ, far more than anyone or anything else, is prefigured all throughout the Old Testament.  A common example is the Passover lamb.  At the first Passover, the Hebrews were commanded by God to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and spread its blood over their doorposts.  In doing so, they would be passed over by the angel of death and their firstborn child would be spared.  This foreshadows the salvation from eternal death that Christ, our “unblemished lamb” would win for us by His sacrifice.  Christ's blood poured out for us on the wood of the cross was foreshadowed by the paschal lamb's blood on the wooden doorposts.  This type is recognized by John the Baptist (John 1:29) and most especially in the book of Revelation.  Another example of typology is Joseph the patriarch who is a type of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus.  They both share the same name, they're both described as “righteous” and “just”, they both receive revelations in dreams, they both find themselves exiled to Egypt, and both prepare the way for a greater event, the exodus led by Moses, and the redemption accomplished by Christ.  Baptism, as we'll see, is also foreshadowed by many Old Testament types. (S. Hahn 22-24)

Becoming a new creation in water and spirit – a recurring Old Testament theme

          In John 3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  Here Jesus reveals that we aren't naturally born into the family of God.  Instead, we have to be reborn into His family so that we can become inheritors as sons and daughters of the kingdom of heaven.  The Church teaches that everybody, even babies who have never committed personal sin, must be born again.  The reason this is, according to the Church, is because we are born deprived of God's sanctifying grace and are thus estranged from God.  This deprivation of saving grace, called original sin, resulted from Adam's original disobedience to God and is passed down to all subsequent generations. 
          But how does this new birth happen, according to Jesus' instruction in this passage?  Catholics have always interpreted Jesus' statement as referring to baptism.  Catholics see water and the Holy Spirit as the two components in baptism – the water is the sign and the Holy Spirit is doing the work.  It's reasonable to believe that Jesus was talking about baptism because baptism was the “backdrop” of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.  The conversation occurred not long after Jesus was baptized and in the next chapter of the gospel of John, the disciples are baptized.
          Old Testament baptismal typology also hints to what Jesus was referring.  Jesus wasn't just speaking in a vacuum when talking to Nicodemus, but was referring to a well established Old Testament pattern.  In the Old Testament, God often brought about new creation through water and the Spirit, typifying how we are created anew through water and the Holy Spirit in baptism.  The following are examples of what I'm referring to, along with New Testament verses that continue the theme:

*  The first creation came from the earth which was covered with water and the Spirit hovered above (Gen 1:1-2).
*  When God created man, water welled up from the ground and God breathed the breath of life (the Spirit) into his nostrils (Gen 2:6-7).  See John 20:22 where Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit to his disciples in the same way.  
*  A new humanity was started with Noah through water and Spirit. The ark went through the water and a dove (representing the Spirit) hovered overhead with an olive branch (Gen 6).  The Holy Spirit later revealed Himself in the form of a dove at the baptism of Christ (Mt 3:16)
*  The nation of Israel was created through the water of the Red Sea (baptism) with the cloud and fire of the Holy Spirit overhead (Ex 14).  The Holy Spirit later revealed Himself in the form of tongues of fire at Pentecost (Acts 2:3)
*  Ezekiel described what the New Covenant would look like and he said we will be sprinkled with clean water and his Spirit would be placed in us.  He said that we would be made clean, which is what baptism does for us. (Ez 36:25).
*  Moving into the New Testament, Jesus, right before saying you must be born of “water and the Spirit” had just gone down into the water of the Jordan and the Spirit came down and landed on Him.  Here water and the Spirit are tied to baptism (Mt 3:16; Jn 1:29).
*  Jesus taught Nicodemus that he must be born again, or from above, which is accomplished through “water and the spirit
*  Peter stood up at Pentecost and said,  “Repent, and be baptized (water) every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
*  Paul, in his letter to Titus, linked the “the washing of regeneration” (water) with “renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-7).   (S.Ray CC blog)

Peter and Noah
          Again, these events are types of baptism because they foreshadow our becoming a new creation through the water and spirit of baptism.  However, that isn't the only aspect of baptism that is foreshadowed in the Old Testament.  Recall that in baptism, we aren't only made a new creation, we're also saved from slavery to sin and the final death that was due to us as fallen children of Adam.  Our old self along with our old sins are utterly destroyed.
          Noah, foreshadowing this, was saved from an evil humanity through the waters of the flood.  The whole world was cleansed of evil just as Christians are saved from the evils of sin in the waters of baptism.  This is what Peter refers to in 1 Peter 3:18-22:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” (emphasis mine here and throughout the essay)
          In the Greek, the phrase “corresponds to this” means “typify” or “make a type” (Hahn 23).  Peter is making the connection that just as Noah and his family were saved from the sinful world through water, baptism saves us from our sins.  Note that he says that baptism now saves you.  Peter is not saying that baptism is a mere symbol.  He is very clear that the whole reason that the flood in Genesis is a type of baptism is because Noah and his family were saved through water.  If we aren't saved at baptism, then we aren't saved through water and the flood wouldn't be a type of baptism.  The comparison would be pointless. 
          The phrase “not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” has received various interpretations.  One thing that is useful to point out is that Peter uses a grammatical construct commonly used in the New Testament.  This “not-but” construct is often used not to negate the first item, but to prioritize it under the second item.   For example, when Peter tells Ananias, “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4), Ananias had in fact lied to men, but most importantly he lied to God.  Similarly, baptism really does remove a little dirt from the body, but Peter is saying that the important thing is that it appeals to God to clear our conscience by saving us.  Peter then goes on to say that baptism works through the power of the resurrection of Jesus, which is what the Church teaches.  If Peter had meant to clarify that baptism was an outward symbol only, he would have emphasized the fact that it is a ceremony that only gets you wet and is nothing apart from what it symbolizes.  However, Peter does the exact opposite.  He de-emphasizes the physical cleaning aspect of baptism so he can tell his audience about the things that they can't see for themselves, namely the spiritual cleaning that God grants us in the sacrament. 

Paul and Moses
Egyptians in the Red Sea
The Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea

          Just as Noah escaped from an evil world through the waters of the flood, the Hebrews, through the waters of the Red Sea and the power of the Spirit, escaped from the slavery of the idolatrous Egyptians.  The waters of the Red Sea crushed the Egyptians, just as our sins are crushed in the waters of baptism.
          This is just one aspect of the typology of the flight from Egypt.  To get the big picture, the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, saved through water (but before they could be freed, an unblemished lamb had to be sacrificed) and wandered in the desert while eating the spiritual food which was the manna from heaven.  They were free, but still encumbered by temptations and ailments.  Only after a lifetime of wandering did some make it to the Promised Land.
          This corresponds to the Christian life.  We are saved through the waters of baptism.  However, before that could happen, Jesus, our Passover lamb, had to be sacrificed.  The Israelites' trek through the desert symbolized the life of every Christian wandering through the desert of this life.  Jesus identified Himself as the manna in the desert in John 6.  Finally, the Promised Land is a symbol of heaven.  Just as Moses led his people out of slavery through the waters of the Red Sea, so too does Jesus, the “New Moses” lead us out of slavery through the waters of baptism. Read 1 Corinthians 10 to see where St. Paul refers to this Old Testament type and warns us about what it means in our lives. 
I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.  Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness...  Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.  Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  (1 Cor 10:1-5, 11-12)

Other Baptismal Types

          Jesus identified Jonah as being a type of Himself in Matthew 12:40, saying, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  In the book of Jonah, Jonah cried out from the “belly of Sheol” (Jonah 2:2).  Sheol is the abode of the dead, so Jonah was either literally dead or strongly associating his time in the fish with that of death.  Either way, Jonah's time in the belly of the fish is an apt symbol of Jesus' time in the tomb. 
Jonah escapes from the whale
Jonah Released onto Land

          Jonah's life parallels the life of Jesus in other ways.  They both find themselves sleeping on boats during a dangerous storm and being awakened so that they can intercede to stop the storm (Jonah 1:6 and Mk 4:38).  Jonah offered to give up his life for those aboard the boat by suggesting that they throw him in the sea.  Many of the early Church fathers saw the figure of boats in scripture, both here and in other places, as a type of the Church.  This is apt, because just as Jonah would have given up his life for those in the boat, Jesus gave His life for the Church.  In Mark's gospel, Jesus calmed the storm by simply rebuking it.  It was not yet time to give His life, but He symbolically demonstrated that He had the power to save the Church from the powers of death (this event also fulfills Psalms 107:28-29 and 89:8-9, where the Lord is said to have the power to calm the raging sea).

          The story of Jonah also symbolizes Christian baptism. Just as Jonah went into the water and died and was resurrected when he was vomited up onto the land, so too we die in the waters of baptism and are raised to new life.  Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters at the creation of the world, at the flood of Noah, at Christ's baptism, and at our baptism, so too did the wind (which symbolizes the Spirit) blow over the waters before Jonah was thrown overboard (Jonah 1:4).  Ultimately, Jonah not only symbolized the death and resurrection of Christ, but also our baptism, where we become participants in Christ's death and resurrection.

Elijah crossing the Jordan  
Elijah taken to heaven
Elijah Taken to Heaven

          In the book of 2 Kings, Elijah the prophet was taken up into heaven.  First, Elijah parted the Jordan River and crossed over by striking it with his mantle and invoking the name of the Lord (2 Kings 2:8).  He was then taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11).  He entered heaven through water, in passing through the Jordan River, and the Holy Spirit, represented by the chariots of fire and the whirlwind.  This illustrates that we only enter the kingdom of heaven through the water and spirit of baptism (John 3:5).  (Summa terita pars, q 39)

Naaman's washing

          In 2 Kings 5, the prophet Elisha told Naaman, the army commander of the King of Aram, that if he washed himself in the Jordan seven times, that he would be cleansed of his leprosy.  Once Naaman did this, he was healed.  St. Irenaeus, a bishop who lived in the second century, recognized this event as a foreshadowing of baptism.
‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’  [2 Kings. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication for us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [Jn. 3:5] (Fragment 34 [190 AD]).
          St. Irenaeus recognized that the healing of Naaman from his physical ailment by his dip in the Jordan foreshadowed our being cleansed of our spiritual ailments in the waters of baptism.  It's notable that Elisha, the man who told Naaman to wash in the Jordan, foreshadowed Christ.  Elisha was a prophet as was Jesus.  He brought a boy back to life and miraculously fed a multitude of people with loaves of bread (2 Kings 4), just as Jesus did.   Just as Naaman is baptized at the command of Elisha, we are baptized at Jesus' command (Matt 28:19).  It's also interesting to note that under the Mosaic law, leprosy was closely associated with sin (see Num 12), creating a greater correspondence between his being cleansed from leprosy and our being cleansed from sin at baptism.

Baptism, the new Circumcision

          In Hebrews 10:1 we read that the law with its sacrifices and ceremonial prescriptions only foreshadowed the greater things to come in Christ Jesus.  The animal sacrifices didn't take away sin, but instead foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ which would take away sin.  Likewise, circumcision did not have the power that baptism has because baptism works by the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.  Circumcision, on the other hand, was a seal of the the Hebrews' faith in God and an anticipation of Christ's saving action.  In Romans 4, Paul argued that Abraham was credited with righteousness through faith before being circumcised.  This is a response to the Jews at the time who believed that salvation could be earned by God through doing works of the law – making God a debtor to a man who successfully “jumps through the hoops” of law, even though their hearts were far from Him.  Paul is also pointing out that God's mercy and forgiveness applied to the uncircumcised Gentiles who believe in Him, as well as the faithful Jews.

In the following passage, Paul wrote about the meaning of circumcision, and linked it to baptism:
...and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.  In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  (Col 2:10-14)
          In referencing circumcision, Paul spoke of the “putting off of the body of flesh”.  Here Paul referred to the removal of the foreskin when the male Israelite was circumcised.  He is comparing that to this “circumcision made without hands”.  In this circumcision, it's not physical flesh that is removed, but “the flesh” of our hearts.  “The flesh” is a term Paul uses often.  It's a phrase that refers to the state of a person when he is sinful, enslaved to carnal desires, and in opposition to God.  Paul is saying that circumcision was a sign.  In the Old Covenant, God commanded actual physical flesh to be removed in circumcision.  This signifies God's saving action when “The flesh”, with all its sin and filth and slavery to carnal desire is removed.  This “spiritual circumcision” was spoken of in Deuteronomy 30:6:  “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. ”
          But how does this spiritual circumcision take place for us today?  Paul is saying that it happens at baptism.  At baptism we are "buried with Him" and our old body of “the flesh” dies with Christ.  Likewise, in baptism we are also raised with Him.   Baptism also mirrors circumcision in that Jews entered the covenant family of God through circumcision and we, as Christians, enter the Church, which is the family of God, through baptism.

St. Cyprian, a third century bishop, makes the same connection:
For this reason we think that no one should be hindered from obtaining the grace under the law that was already ordained, and that spiritual circumcision ought not be hindered... and nobody is hindered from baptism and grace- how much more should we not hinder an infant, who being lately born, has not sinned, except in being born after the flesh in the nature of Adam. (Epistle to Fidus, on the Baptism of Infants)
          In baptism, we find the fulfillment of circumcision.  But baptism isn't to be understood in the same way as Jews sometimes misunderstood circumcision.  Baptism isn't a box to be checked off, which once you complete the list you're saved and God “owes you” salvation.  On the contrary, it's how God forgives us, buries our old sinful selves and puts us into a right relationship with Him.  When we're baptized, God makes us adopted members of His family through Christ.  He no longer sees us as strangers or employees, whose works are viewed according to law and for whom imperfection is not tolerated.  He now views us as his children and nurtures us and forgives us for our sins when we ask Him, as any loving Father would do.

Ceremonial Purity and The Tevilah
          In Mosiac law, there were many things which would render somebody ceremonially unclean.  For instance, if one touched a corpse, ate unclean foods, or suffered from leprosy he would be considered “defiled” and be ceremonially unclean.  If he was unclean, he was not allowed to worship in the temple where the very presence of God dwelt, and he wasn't allowed to eat the Passover.  In cases such as persistent leprosy, the person was put out of the camp until he was healed and received ritual purity once more (Num 5:2-4).  The practice of ceremonial purity, like many Old Testament practices, was used by God to teach the Israelites about sin.  Leprosy, for instance, illustrated for the Israelites what sin “looks like”.  It is ugly, it affects your whole being and it can be contagious and debilitating.  Human corpses and animal carcasses lack life and are rotting, diseased, smelly, ugly things and touching them made you ceremonially unclean.  Likewise, sin is ugly and in committing sin, we're allowing our very souls to be polluted by its ugliness.  By forbidding ritually unclean people from worshiping in the temple, God shows us another consequence of sin, namely, it causes separation from God. 
          These served as excellent illustrations of sin.  However, by the New Testament era, people had begun to confuse the physical sign of sin with sin itself.  Instead of recognizing these laws
as illustrating sin, many Jews started to believe that things which made you unclean, such as leprosy, was sin or was caused by sin.  For example, Jesus' disciples asked him: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jn 9:2).  Jesus not only corrected this mistake, but removed the old dietary and ceremonial laws so we would no longer have to follow them:
He said to them, "Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) "But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile. (Mk 7:18-23)
          The tevilah were ceremonial washings prescribed by Moses and were an integral part of the old ceremonial laws.  They would take place in a Mikveh, a ceremonial pool of extreme importance to Jewish religious practice.  Like the word “baptism”, “tevilah” literally means “to wash” or “to immerse”.   There were many kinds of tevilah.  There was a morning wash, a hand washing before and after eating, a post bathroom wash, a priestly washing.  The tevilah were also prescribed to converts and were used in purification rights, bringing those who were unclean back to ceremonial purity (T. Marshall).
          So how does the tevilah foreshadow baptism?  The tevilah washing was a remedy for ceremonial uncleanness, whereas the Christian baptism is the remedy for sin, which is true defilement. The tevilah merely removed the symbol of sin and allowed the Israelite to commune with God in the earthly temple.  Baptism removes actual sin making us truly clean and removes the separation that exists between us and God, who dwells in the heavenly temple in the New Jerusalem.
          Also, the Talmud, an important text in Judaism, describes the significance of the tevilah for converts.  After their immersion in the Mikveh, the convert is said to be like a newborn baby and a Jew in every way (Yevamot 47b).  Christian baptism, corresponding to this, transforms the recipient into a spiritual baby, newly reborn into the family of God, and he becomes a Christian.

John the Baptist
          John the Baptist was the son of a Levitical priest (Lk 1:5) and since the priesthood was transferred from father to son, John would have been a priest, as well.  The baptism of John was a sort of tevilah which was meant to lead people to repentance and prepare the way of the Lord, but did not have power to forgive sins.  It was unique to John and served as a sort of pivot between the Old and New Testaments.  St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “The baptism of John was not a sacrament properly so called [per se, but a kind of sacramental, preparatory to the baptism of Christ.  Consequently, in a way, it belonged to the law of Christ, but not to the law of Moses.”(Summa tertia q. 38)   St. Thomas noted that John's baptism didn't confer grace because “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17) and not through John the Baptist.  In Acts 19:1-7, we find that John's baptism was different than the baptism of Jesus and that those who had only received John's baptism had to be rebaptized into the baptism of Jesus.  In the passage, Paul said that "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus."  In Acts 18:25, it's written that Apollos “knew only the baptism of John”, insinuating that John's baptism was inferior to the baptism of Christ.

The baptism of Jesus
          Jesus had no need to repent or to wash away sins, so why was he baptized?  John the Baptist showed his confusion when he asked, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Mt 3:14)  Jesus answered him “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  This is a somewhat vague response, but many have labored to understand what he meant, as well to provide reasons for his baptism.  Here are some observations and theories relating to the baptism of Jesus:
 *  Jesus was baptized to fulfill the prophecy that “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
*  David and the kings after him were anointed by Levitical priests with oil.  When King David was anointed, “the Spirit of the LORD came mightily” upon him (1 Sam 16:13 ).  Jesus, the fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom, likewise received a sort of anointment by a Levitical priest (John the Baptist) when He was baptized.  The Holy Spirit came upon Him, just as the Spirit came upon David. 
*  The Catechism states that Jesus' baptism was the inauguration and acceptance of his mission as the suffering servant.  He “fulfilled all righteousness” by being obedient to God and allowing Himself to be counted with those who have sinned, even though He knew no sin.  His baptism also anticipates his death and resurrection (536 and 537).
 *  Many fathers, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Ambrose believed that Jesus was baptized not to be cleansed, but to cleanse the waters, to sanctify them through His perfect divinity, and make them suitable for the Sacrament of Baptism.  St. Ambrose also suggests that Jesus was baptized as an example for us.  He wrote, "this is justice, to do first thyself that which thou wishest another to do, and so encourage others by thy example."
*  St. Hilary of Poiters saw Jesus' baptism as an illustration of what happens to us at our baptism.  He wrote, “Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God” (In Matth. 2, 5: PL 9, 927).
*  Jesus' baptism fulfills the typology of the crossing of the Jordan.  Just as Joshua (whose name is another form of the name “Jesus” and is a type of Jesus) led the Hebrews across the Jordan into the Promised Land (Josh 3), so too Jesus leads us through the waters of baptism into heaven. 
 *  Jesus' baptism also provides a contrast between Himself and the nation of Israel, showing that He succeeded where the Israelites had failed.  There are surprising similarities between Jesus and the nation of Israel.  In Exodus 4:22, we read that God identified the nation of Israel as His firstborn son.  Israel, after being “baptized into Moses” in the Red Sea, wandered for 40 years in the desert, grumbled about food (Ex 16:2), “put the LORD to a test” by demanding water (Ex 17:2), and worshiped the golden calf.  Jesus, God's true firstborn Son, reversed the disobedience of the Israelites.  After His baptism, He went into the desert for 40 days, refused to turn the stones into bread, refused to put the Lord to a test by throwing Himself off of the temple, and refused to worship Satan.  (Mt 4:1-10)
*  St. Augustine saw a connection between the crossing of the Jordan in the book of Joshua and Jesus' baptism.  He wrote in a sermon for the Epiphany, “As of yore the waters of the Jordan were held back, so now, when Christ was baptized, the torrent of sin was held back.”  Augustine saw the Jordan River as a symbol of sin, which blocks us from heaven, just as the river blocked the Hebrews from the promised land.  Just as the Ark of the Covenant, when it entered into the Jordan, blocked the water so the Hebrews could pass, so Jesus, when he entered into the Jordan, stopped the flow of sin by instituting the Sacrament of Baptism, allowing us to enter the kingdom of heaven.  The book of Joshua records an interesting detail regarding St. Augustine's observation: “No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan, which overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest,  than the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance indeed, from Adam, a city in the direction of Zarethan” (Josh 3: 14-15)  Just as the Jordan flowed from a city called Adam, so too, the “torrent of sin” flows from Adam down to all of us who share his fallen human nature, blocking our entrance into heaven.   

A New Testament baptismal type – the healing of the man born blind
          I mentioned earlier that God mediates His power through physical actions as a way of conveying truth to us.  The manner in which Christ healed the man born blind teaches us powerful truths about who Jesus is and what He does for us.  It also reveals the efficacy of the Sacrament of Baptism. 
As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing... Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. (Jn 9:6-7, 14)
          In the first chapter of the book of Genesis, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day (the Sabbath).  In the account of the creation of man in Genesis 2, God formed man out of clay and breathed the spirit of life into him.  In John 9, Jesus healed the man born blind using clay on the Sabbath.  What Jesus revealed to the alert reader is that just as God created mankind, so Jesus came to repair and remold His broken creation, as a potter might remold one of his broken vessels.  The blind man represents all of mankind, who, before being recreated by God, are broken and spiritually blind.   That Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath is also no coincidence.  Formerly God rested on the Sabbath; but God, in the second person of the Holy Trinity, left His rest and became man, so he could repair and recreate his creation.  Earlier in His ministry, when accused of working on the Sabbath, Jesus alluded to this point when he said: "My Father is working still, and I am working." (Jn 5:17).  
          That the man wasn't healed until he bathed in the pool signifies that God remolds us and heals our spiritual blindness in the waters of baptism.  St. Augustine, like many of the early Christians, recognized the connection between this story and baptism:

But it was the evangelist’s concern to call our attention to the name of this pool; and he adds, “Which is interpreted, Sent.” You understand now who it is that was sent; for had He not been sent, none of us would have been set free from iniquity. Accordingly he washed his eyes in that pool which is interpreted, Sent—he was baptized in Christ.  (Homilies on the Gospel of John ch 9:1)

          He also interpreted the fact that the man was blind from birth as referring to our state of being born into original sin (being born in a state of guilt and separation from God):
And we also in times past were by nature the children of wrath [Eph 2:3], even as others.”  If “children of wrath,” then children of vengeance, children of punishment, children of hell. For how is it “by nature,” save that through the first man sinning moral evil rooted itself in us as a nature? If evil has so taken root within us, every man is born mentally blind. For if he sees, he has no need of a guide. If he does need one to guide and enlighten him, then is he blind from his birth.” (Ibid ch 9:1)
Signs are meant to point to something greater.
          Signs, by their nature, are meant to point to something greater than themselves.  They're also meant to point to realities, not more signs.  Likewise, the fact that God “took the effort” (as a manner of speaking) to foreshadow something in the Old Testament is an indication that it is very important.  Authors don't foreshadow minor plot points in their novel.
          For example, on a trip to Sacramento, when you see a sign that says “Sacramento 20 miles”, you expect Sacramento to be significantly greater than the sign that points to it, and you expect to get to the actual city in 20 miles, not another sign.  Likewise, the men who foreshadow Christ in the Old Testament, as illustrious as they are, are far less than Christ.  David, a powerful King though he was, doesn't begin to approach the majesty of Christ.  Abraham's willingness to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice, while a heroic act of obedience, doesn't begin to match the saving power and greatness of Our Father in heaven offering His Son for the sins of mankind.  We've looked at many baptismal types.  Many of them were great events in Old Testament history, such as the flood of Noah, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the powerful miracle of Naaman's healing.  It would be extremely anticlimactic if these great events pointed forward to a baptism that was merely symbolic and didn't actually do anything.  It would make the “shadow” greater than the reality and these signs would ultimately point to just another sign, which isn't their function (see Heb 10:1). 

St. Gregory the Great makes this same point:
Whosoever says, then, that sins are not entirely put away in baptism, let him say that the Egyptians did not really die in the Red Sea. But, if he acknowledges that the Egyptians really died, he must needs acknowledge that sins die entirely in baptism, since surely the truth avails more in our absolution than the shadow of the truth. (Book 11, Epistle 45)
Baptism in the New Testament

Peter baptizes Cornelius
Peter Baptizing the Centurion Cornelius

          St. Augustine once said “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New”.  With this in mind, we'd expect what was hidden in symbol and shadow regarding baptism in the Old Testament to be plainly revealed in the New Testament.  This is in fact the case.   Listed below is the New Testament teaching on baptism, which describe different aspects of what baptism does (omitting John 3, 1 Peter 3:20-22, Col 2:9-15, and 1 Cor 10, which are covered elsewhere). 

Mark 16:15-16
“And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” 

Notice that Jesus does not say “Whoever believes and is saved will be baptized”.

Acts 2:38
 “ And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit...”

Here forgiveness of sins is tied with repentance and baptism.  

Acts 8:35-38
 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus.  And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?"  And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.”

          It's sometimes stated that baptism is merely a public declaration of faith in Christ, but here the eunuch is baptized immediately without gathering any crowd to witness his declaration.  Also, his exuberance for baptism seems extreme for it to be only a symbol of what he had already obtained.

Acts 22:14-16
“ And he said, `The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now why do you wait?  Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'

          Baptism is described as “washing away sins”.  If sins are forgiven before one is baptized, it's hard to explain why he linked baptizing with washing away sins.  He does not say to “recall the time when your sins were forgiven”.  If Ananias (the one speaking here) held to the evangelical view of baptism, he would absolutely not have told Paul to be baptized.  Why?  Because in saying "wash away your sins", he implied that Paul's sins hadn't yet been forgiven.  If they had already been forgiven, there would have been nothing to wash away.  This means Paul hadn't yet been saved.  Since Paul had yet to be saved, Ananias wouldn't have told him to be baptized since baptism is (in the evangelical view) a memorial or public declaration of a person's salvation which has already occurred.  He wouldn't tell Paul to memorialize something that hadn't yet happened.
          It is sometimes claimed that Paul had been born again into the family of God before baptism because Ananias called him "brother" before he was baptized (Acts 22:13).  However, the term "brother" was used very generically among Jews of the time.  For example, St. Stephen addressed those who were about to kill him as "brothers" (Acts 7:2).

Romans 6:3-5
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?   We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

          Here baptism is described as the means by which we are united with the death and resurrection of Christ.  This passage is reminiscent of 1 Peter 3: 20-22, where Peter wrote that baptism saves us “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

Galatians 3:26-29
“ for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”

          Paul says that we were “baptized into Christ”.  This is an especially important teaching in light of what Paul says elsewhere:  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.” (Eph 1:7-8) and “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ” (Rom 8:1).  In Christ we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins, and it is through baptism that we enter into Christ.

Titus 3:4-7
“ but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”

          Regeneration (being born again) is described as a washing.  This closely parallels Jesus telling Nicodemus that one is born again in water and spirit.

Hebrews 10:21-22
“ ...and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

          The author of Hebrews links the sprinkling clean of the heart from an evil conscience with the washing of the body with pure water.  It echoes 1 Peter 3 which states that baptism is “an appeal to God for a clear conscience”.  It also hearkens back to the baptismal prophecy already discussed briefly above in Ezekiel 36:25-26 “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  In Ezekiel, like Hebrews, the inner change is linked with outward washing. 

Summary of New Testament baptismal passages
          There are many places in the New Testament where baptism is described as causing regeneration, the forgiveness of sins, the reception of the Holy Spirit, and the participation in the death and resurrection of Christ.  These statements occur throughout the New Testament and in most instances are clear and explicit; one need not look past the literal meaning of the words to find baptismal regeneration espoused.  What is notable is the number of writers who write as though baptism is something more than just a symbol.  John in his Gospel (recording the words of Jesus), Mark in his gospel (also recording the words of Jesus), Luke in Acts (recording the words of Peter and Ananias), Paul in his epistles, and Peter in his epistle all use language that suggest that baptism actually does something.  Not once do any of the writers or speakers clarify that they meant baptism to be only symbolic.  They never modify any of their sayings with: “but not through baptism does this happen, for it is only a symbol” or “not actually does baptism do this, for it's only a public proclamation of making a decision to accept Christ”.  The fact of the matter is baptismal regeneration is taught explicitly throughout the New Testament.  Although many different writers, each with their own unique writing style, perspective, and purpose, deal with the topic, they all speak as if baptism actually does something and not once do they ever say that baptism is a symbol.

Is water baptism just a symbol of a spiritual baptism that actually saves us?
          Some believe that when the New Testament writers talk about baptism saving us or forgiving us our sins, they are referring to a purely spiritual baptism, which is invisible and actually the cause of these things.  For them water baptism just symbolizes a spiritual baptism but doesn't do anything in and of itself. 
          Before explaining why this view cannot be correct, it's important to point out that water baptism is spiritual baptism in that it works through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We do receive the Holy Spirit at baptism (Acts 2:38).  There's no reason that we have to divorce the spiritual from the physical sign.
          The first problem with saying that water baptism is just a symbol of the spiritual baptism we undergo is that it doesn't make sense in light of the Old Testament typology we've discussed.  In the Old Testament baptismal types, salvation, healing, destruction of evil, and the forming of new creations all occurred through water.  For instance, the Hebrews were saved in the waters of the Red Sea through the power of the Spirit.  They weren't saved by the power of the Spirit first and then commanded to take a ceremonial washing in the sea after.  When Naaman dipped himself in the Jordan, it wasn't just a ceremonial act commemorating the healing he'd already received, but was actually the means of his being healed.  Recalling the quote from St. Gregory, to deny that sins are forgiven at water baptism is to deny that the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. 
          In the New Testament, the word baptism is used in several different senses.  For example, Jesus' sufferings were described as a “baptism”.  However when the word is used without modifiers or any clarifying context, it's always understood to mean water baptism.  In Acts 2 and Acts 22 we learn that baptism washes away sins.  In Acts 8:34-40, it's confirmed without a doubt that baptism meant water baptism.  When Jesus commanded the Apostles to baptize (Mt 28:19), it's clear that He meant water baptism.  When Jesus was baptized, it was a water baptism.   When the disciples were baptized in John 4, it's clear that water baptism is meant.  1 Peter 3 is crystal clear that it is water baptism that saves us.  Again, he says that the flood is a symbol of baptism because Noah and his family were saved through water.  If we are saved in baptism that is only spiritual, we aren't saved through water and the flood in Noah's time wouldn't correspond to baptism, contradicting St. Peter's claim.  The New Testament writers simply never state that water baptism symbolizes a spiritual baptism.  It's hard to believe that the New Testament writers wouldn't alert the readers that they are alternatively using the word baptism to mean two different things. 

Pentecost -- the Baptism of Holy Spirit and Fire
          John the Baptist spoke of a baptism of “holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11).  This shouldn't be considered a “replacement” of baptism or the “true baptism which water baptism just symbolizes”, for the reasons already stated.  In fact, it can be clearly shown that John the Baptist was referring to Pentecost.  In Acts 1:4, an instruction of Jesus' is recalled: “he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, 'you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' "  Jesus told the Apostles not to leave Jerusalem until receiving the Holy Spirit, which he explicitly linked with the prophecy of John the Baptist concerning being baptized with the “holy Spirit and fire”.  In the very next chapter, on the Feast of Pentecost, they were immersed with the Spirit and tongues of fire, fulfilling what was said by both Jesus and John.
          In Acts 10:45-46, we see what is often referred to as the Pentecost of the Gentiles, “And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God....”  Here the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues just as the Jews had earlier.  The Pentecost of the Gentiles also mirrored the original Pentecost in that they were both accompanied by Peter proclaiming the gospel to those present.   (Acts 2:14-37 and Acts 10:34-43).  A chapter later, Peter, recalling what had happened to the Gentiles, compared it to both Pentecost and Jesus' prediction that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.  And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, `John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' ” (Acts 11:15-16).  This event heralded a new age.  At the Tower of Babel the languages were confused and mankind scattered.  At the events of Pentecost men from around the world once again understood each other, even though they spoke different languages, symbolizing a new unity and  the worldwide scope of the Church.  Later when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, it became clear that Gentile and Jew would be united in one Church, both recipients of the same Spirit.  
          The Catholic Church teaches that we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism.  The Church also teaches that we receive the Holy Spirit again in what eventually became known as the Sacrament of Confirmation, which the Church teaches “completes” baptism (Catechism 1304).  Whereas baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of our Lord, confirmation is a sort of personal Pentecost: “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the Sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost ” (ibid 1302).  In the sacrament, we receive, among other things, “special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.” (ibid 1303).  This mirrors the first Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit enabled the Apostles to speak of the “mighty acts of God” (Acts 2:11) and emboldened them to spread the gospel throughout the earth. 
          The sacrament is affected by the anointing of oil and laying on of hands.  Likewise in scripture, those who had been baptized received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands:  “...who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit;  for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”(Acts 8:15-17).  We see the same thing in Acts 19:1-6; when the Apostles laid their hands on the disciples, the disciples received the Holy Spirit.  In this instance, they spoke in tongues, linking their experience with that of those present at Pentecost.  In Hebrews 6:1-2, the writer lists “instruction about ablutions [other Bible translations render this as “baptism”], the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” as being “basic teaching” concerning Christ.

Common Questions about Baptism

How can fallen man choose to be baptized?  Isn't he enslaved and unable to make such a decision?  Wouldn't he need to be regenerated before he can choose to be baptized? 
          The Catholic Church agrees that fallen man unaided by grace cannot chose to come to God and be baptized.  However, the Church believes that God gives grace to all people called actual grace (grace which aids us to act – hence actual grace).  So even before we are regenerated, we receive His grace which draws us to Him and allows us to freely choose Him.  This actual grace that comes before we are regenerated for the purpose of leading us to conversion is also called prevenient grace. 

Should we be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in the name of Jesus only?
          This question arises because there seems to be two different ways of baptizing described in scripture -- in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19), and in the name of Jesus only (Acts 8:15-17).  The Church has always baptized strictly in the Trinitarian formula because Jesus' command in Matt 28:19 is the formal teaching on how baptism is to be done.  In Acts 8, the phrase “baptized in the name of the Jesus” was meant to distinguish the baptism of Jesus from John's baptism, not to give a strict account of how baptisms were actually performed.  In other places in the book of Acts, instruction is given to baptize "in the name of the Lord" or in the name of the "Lord Jesus".  That these verses vary so much from each other shows that Luke wasn't attempting to give a baptismal formula.  The Church views baptisms in the name of Jesus only as invalid. 

What about the good thief?
          Jesus told the thief being crucified next to Him that “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:43).  He is held up as a man who was allowed to go to heaven without being baptized.  The Church, following many of the early Church fathers, believes in a “baptism of desire” where a person who desires to be baptized, but isn't able to be baptized in water, is counted by God as being baptized and can go to heaven when he dies.  Also, although we are bound by the sacraments, God isn't bound by them and can chose to save those whom He wants to save.  “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Rom 9:15)

Was Cornelius regenerated before he was baptized?
          The question arises because Cornelius and the Gentiles with him received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues before being baptized at the “Pentecost of the Gentiles” which has already been discussed (Acts 10).  There are a few points to be made regarding this question.  First, just because the Holy Spirit comes upon a person, doesn’t necessarily mean that person has been regenerated or will enter the kingdom of heaven.  In John 11:49-51, Caiaphas, the high priest and one of the men most responsible for the murder of Jesus, gives genuine prophecy regarding Jesus.  In Matt 7:22-23, many who prophesied and drove out demons in the name of Christ were declared by Jesus to be evildoers and ultimately lost.  Prophecy and driving out demons come through the Holy Spirit, just like speaking in tongues (1 Cor 12).  Also, the text never explicitly says that they were born again at the point that they received the Holy Spirit. 
          For these reasons I believe that these Gentiles were born again in the same way that we all are, in the waters of baptism.  There is an added complexity in the case of Cornelius in that before he even met Peter, he was described as a devout, God fearing man (Acts 10:2).  St. Thomas explains this in terms of baptism of desire, which we briefly discussed above: receives the forgiveness of sins before Baptism in so far as he has Baptism of desire, explicitly or implicitly; and yet when he actually receives Baptism, he receives a fuller remission, as to the remission of the entire punishment. So also before Baptism Cornelius and others like him receive grace and virtues through their faith in Christ and their desire for Baptism, implicit or explicit: but afterwards when baptized, they receive a yet greater fulness of grace and virtues... (Summa Tertia Pars q. 39)
How were the Old Testament peoples saved?
           Since Christ had not yet died for our sins nor had the Sacrament of Baptism been instituted, the Old Testament peoples were saved by faith in God in anticipation of the future saving act of Jesus.  In the New Testament, Christ instituted the visible sign of baptism to enact our salvation.  Through baptism, the sacrament of faith, we are incorporated into Christ, participating in His death and resurrection.

Isn't baptism a work and aren't we saved by faith alone?
          As a Catholic, I don't hold to faith alone theology, but since it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the role of works in justification, I'd like to show that baptism isn't a work that we do, it's something that God does for us.  An example of what I'm talking about is a sick man who visits a doctor.  Even though the man had to go through the motions of going to the doctor, it is still plain that the doctor was the one who healed him.  The man didn't heal himself.  In scripture, those who had faith in Jesus put that faith in action by going to Him either for healing themselves or for somebody they loved.  In the healing of the man born blind (Jn 9:1), the woman with an issue of blood, (Mt 9:20), and especially in the healing of the paralytic, who was dropped through the ceiling so he could see Jesus (Lk 5:18), we see that they acted on their faith by going to see Him.  Jesus didn't rebuke these people for doing the work of coming to see Him, but rather granted them healing and in the case of the paralytic, forgave his sins, too.  He recognized their actions as an affirmation of their faith. It wasn't something in competition with their faith or some way of earning healing or eternal salvation, but a humble appeal for help.  The same is true with baptism.  Christ is present through the sacrament and grants us spiritual healing.

In his work On the Gospel of John, St. Augustine makes the point that it is Christ who works in baptism:
It may perhaps surprise you why it is said, that “Jesus baptized more than John;” and after this was said, it is subjoined, “although Jesus baptized not, but His disciples.” What then? Was the statement made false, and then corrected by this addition? Or, are both true, viz. that Jesus both did and also did not baptize? He did in fact baptize, because it was He that cleansed; and He did not baptize, because it was not He that touched. (Tracate 15)

Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation and faith alone theology came to the same conclusion.  In his Large Catechism he writes:

[I] affirm that baptism is no human trifle, but that it was established by God Himself. Moreover, He earnestly and solemnly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved. No one is to think that it is an optional matter like putting on a red coat. It is of greatest importance that we hold baptism in high esteem as something splendid and glorious. The reason why we are striving and battling so strenuously for this view of baptism is that the world nowadays is full of sects that loudly proclaim that baptism is merely an external form and that external forms are useless.... Although baptism is indeed performed by human hands, yet it is truly God’s own action. (Part Second, Article III, Part 4)

Luther writes in his commentary on Galatians concerning the Anabaptists who viewed only believer's baptism as valid and rebaptized those who were baptized as infants:
For thus do the Anabaptists teach, that baptism is nothing except the person do believe. Out of this principle must needs follow, that all the works of God be nothing if the man be nothing. But baptism is the work of God, and yet an evil man maketh it not to be the work of God. . . . Who seeth not here, in the Anabaptists, men not possessed with devils, but even devils themselves possessed with worse devils?
(pg xx1)

          Ultimately, Catholics can affirm what Paul says in Titus 3, "he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy".  Without the mercy of God and adoption into his family, no amount of good works would ever have saved us.  We'd always come up far short of perfection.  However, at baptism, even though we provide the outward sign, it is God who applies His mercy in the "washing of regeneration".  What we receive in baptism is a gift that we could never possibly merit. 

Didn't Paul say that he wasn't sent to baptize?   Does that mean that baptism isn't important?
In 1 Cor 1:11-17 he writes:
For it has been reported to me by Chlo'e's people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren.  What I mean is that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apol'los," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ."  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Ga'ius; lest any one should say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Steph'anas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.)  For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

          The point of the passage is that Paul is tired of the Church being split by people who seek to make sects out of the Church by professing to belong to Paul, or Peter, or Apollos, or some other person.  They didn't seem to recognize the fact that these men were ministers and servants of Christ, not leaders of their own religion.  Paul is thankful that he hadn't baptized many of these people because he didn't want them to be able to erroneously claim that they were “baptized into Paul” or "baptized in the name of Paul", thus fueling the fire for more division.  Paul was a highly esteemed figure in the early church and his baptizing people apparently tempted Christians to boastfully proclaim that they belonged to him, and look down on those who had been baptized by somebody less well known.  Paul wasn't trying to say that baptism isn't important.  After all, whether it is symbolic or not, it's still a command of God and thus important.  What Paul was saying is that it wasn't important if they were baptized by him specifically.

It's commonly asserted that the “water” Jesus referred to when speaking to Nicodemus (Jn 3:5) could refer to the waters of physical birth and “spirit” refer to a spiritual baptism apart from actual water baptism.  Is this a possible interpretation?

          It's unlikely for a few reasons.  First, it would be odd for Jesus to tell a grown man that he needs to be physically born to be saved.  Everybody has already been born, so it's superfluous for Jesus to identify that as a requirement for being saved.  Secondly, “being born of water” wasn't an expression that Jews used to describe birth or amniotic fluid.  Finally, in the Greek the phrase literally reads "born of water and Spirit," indicating that there is only one birth being referred to.  If Jesus had meant to refer to two different births, He would have said “born of water and of the Spirit”.
          Another fairly common interpretation of this verse is that "water" is being used here as a symbol for the Holy Spirit.  However, if that were the case, the verse would read "unless one is born of Spirit and the Spirit", which would be redundant. 

Why isn't baptism mentioned in many passages that discuss salvation such as Acts 3:19-21, John 3:16, Acts 16:30-31, and Romans 10:9-10?
          In these passages, forgiveness of sins and salvation are tied with faith, turning to God, and repentance, without baptism being mentioned.  It's important to note that scripture passages are not meant to be taken in isolation, but in view of the whole body of scripture.  In light of this, baptism shouldn't be considered at odds with faith.  When we believe in Christ and turn to Him, we don't just believe in Him, but in everything that He has to say.  This includes being baptized.  This view harmonizes scripture with itself, upholding the scriptural teaching of both baptism and faith.  What many have done is pitted the two against each other, using one of Christ's teachings to obliterate another. 

If a person was baptized as an infant, but doesn't come to believe in God as an adult, was he really born again when he was baptized? 

          It's fairly common for those who are baptized as infants to never enter into a mature relationship with God when they get older.  Likewise, adult converts to Christianity sometimes drift away from God, returning to their old way of life.  Some Christians would say that this is evidence that they were not actually born again when they were baptized.  They'd say that if one is born again as an adopted child of God, that falling away from God is impossible. 
          Catholics agree that once one becomes a child of God, he remains one for the rest of his life.  Nothing a person does can undo his divine adoption.  However, the Church teaches that it is possible for a Christian to forsake God, becoming a wayward, disinherited child.  Even though God delivers us and gives us grace when we are baptized and every day afterward, He doesn't force us to choose Him.  Again, recalling 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warns us about the Hebrews who were “baptized into Moses” but were later disobedient and didn't make it to their inheritance, the Promised Land.  Paul warns us about them because Christians, too, can apostatize, just as the Hebrews did when they worshiped the golden calf.  However, as we learn in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), God is our loving Father who will happily welcome us with open arms as soon as we repent and come back home. 
          Ultimately, we can choose to not allow God to change us even after we are born again at baptism.  Those who fall away from the faith after they are baptized shouldn't be viewed as proof that baptism “doesn't work”, rather, they are proof that God loves His children enough to allow them to make their own decision of whether or not they want to love and serve Him. 

If I'm born again why do I still feel the desire to sin?
          Regeneration is such a great event in our lives.  We're freed from sin and get to start a new life in Christ.  So it seems odd that we still feel the desire to sin and sometimes have great difficulty stopping ourselves from breaking God's law.  We sometimes find ourselves like the Hebrews in the desert, wishing to go back into the slavery of Egypt.  If we were born again into Christ, why aren't we able to easily control ourselves and why aren't our desires made perfectly holy?
         Certainly God can heal our disordered desires completely in some situations, but all Christians who have felt the pang of temptation can attest that sometimes we desire things that aren't good for us.  To get the Catholic explanation of why this is, we have to go back to our first parents.  Catholic teaching states that Adam and Eve, before they sinned, had special gifts from God that they subsequently lost for themselves and the rest of mankind when they sinned.  First, as briefly mentioned already, they had sanctifying grace, a supernatural gift from God which made them holy, spiritually alive, and friends of God.  They had another gift as well, the ability to keep their lower desires and appetites perfectly subjected to their reason.  This gift did not just "go along" with having sanctifying grace; it was an entirely separate gift.  Likewise, it's not an ability that Adam and Eve had by nature, but was a preternatural (above what is merely natural) gift of God.  We see this gift in effect when they viewed each other without clothes.  Being male and female, they could appreciate each other's beauty without objectifying one another, using each other for their own satisfaction, or wanting one another more than God.  This is to say, they viewed each other without lusting.  However, after they sinned, they lost the gift of God that allowed them to perfectly control their desires.  Realizing this, they immediately sought to cover themselves.  The Church calls this darkening of the intellect which makes it difficult to control our desires concupiscence.  It should be noted that concupiscence isn't sin.  Concupiscence may cause temptation to sin, however, sin only occurs when we make an active choice to choose something that we know is against God's will.  
          When we are regenerated at baptism, we receive the most important gift that Adam lost, the sanctifying grace that reconciles us with God.  However, there are a few gifts we don't get back.  Our bodies still get old and decrepit and eventually die, unlike the immortality that Adam would have enjoyed.  Likewise, we don't receive the remedy for concupiscence.  We're still stuck with disordered desires.  The good news is that God gives us help in the form of superabundant grace to overcome our disordered desires so that we aren't at their mercy.  He gives us the power to overcome the temptations they provide.
          Why does God do it this way instead of just removing the concupiscence itself?  There may be many reasons, but some in the early Church have speculated that God does this so we have a chance of earning higher honor and glory when we enter heaven.  For example, God allowed the Canaanites to remain in the Promised Land when he could have easily drove them out Himself.  However, in letting the Israelites fight them, he allowed them to prove their bravery, their tenacity, and most of all, their faithfulness to God even in tough times.  Looking at it another way, good parents wont swoop in and save their children every time a problem arises.  Instead, they'll empower their children with the means of solving their own problems.  God, our Father, allows us to wrestle with our own concupiscence so that we can grow as mature and faithful sons and daughters. 

Infant Baptism

Moses taken from the Nile
Moses Rescued from the Nile
          Whether or not infants are to be baptized is never spelled out in black and white in scripture, but Catholics baptize infants for the following reasons:
*  I've argued that Jesus was referring to baptism when he told Nicodemus “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  If baptism is normatively necessary to enter the kingdom of God, then it follows that Jesus, who said “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 19:14), would want infants to be baptized.  It's important to note that the Church doesn't profess to know the fate of unbaptized babies.  We entrust them to the mercy of God and hope that God has a way of salvation for them (Catechism 1261).  Naturally, Catholics view baptizing infants as important to remove all doubt regarding their salvation.
*  In Judaism, adult converts were required to have faith in the God of Israel before being circumcised to become a Jew.  Babies, however, were circumcised on the eighth day, despite the fact that they were unable to make a personal act of faith.  If baptism corresponds to circumcision, it makes sense that its practice would parallel that of circumcision.  Also, since baptism is the means by which we enter the Church, which is the family of God, Jesus wouldn't want the children excluded by withholding baptism from them.  Faith is often listed as a criterion to be baptized in the New Testament simply because the persons being taught in those instances were adults.
*  Calvin, in his Institutes, makes the following point, "Nor is there anything plausible in the objection, that we no where read of even one infant having been baptized by the hands of the apostles... If such kinds of argument were good, it would be necessary, in like manner, to interdict women from the Lord's Supper, since we do not read that they were ever admitted to it in the days of the apostles." (IV.16.8)  The point he makes is that just because infants are never explicitly said to have been baptized in scripture, doesn't mean that it it isn't appropriate for them.
*  Whole households were said to be baptized in the New Testament without any indication that small children and babies were excluded (Acts 16:15) (Acts 16:33) (1 Cor. 1:16). 
*  We've already shown that the crossing of the Red Sea was a type of baptism.  In the crossing, not only adults, but people of all ages were “baptized into Moses”.
*  In the book of Exodus, the baby Moses was floated on the Nile river so that he wouldn't be discovered and killed.  This is a foreshadowing of infant baptism where the young child was saved through water.  By his mother's faithful action, the baby Moses went into the water a slave (The Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians), and came out free, just as we are saved from spiritual death and slavery from sin in baptism.
*  Jesus healed the centurion's servant because of the faith of the centurion (Lk 7:2-10) and brought a girl back to life because her father asked Jesus to help her (Mt 9:18-26).  These two instances aren't proofs of infant baptism, but they are examples of the same principle, namely that Jesus will heal people because of the faith of others.  With infant baptism, the parents ask Jesus to heal their child, who is unable to speak for himself, and bring him to spiritual life.
*  The Catechism says the following of infant baptism: “The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism” (Catechism 1250).  The saving of an infant who is completely incapable of doing anything is the clearest demonstration that initial salvation is completely unmerited.  

Should Baptism be by Immersion Only?
          Like the issue of infant baptism, the method of baptism, whether it should be done by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling, isn't explicitly mentioned in the Bible.  However, the Church teaches that baptism by immersion, pouring, and sprinkling are all valid means of baptizing for the following reasons:
*  The word “baptism” isn't exclusively used to mean immersion, as some people assert.  In Luke 11:38, the Pharisee was astonished that Jesus did not wash before dinner.  The word used here for "wash" is “baptizo”, showing that the word can refer to ritual washing, not just immersing.
*  In the baptismal prophecy in Ezekiel 36: 25-26, it states, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 
*  It follows that if infants are to be baptized, immersion wouldn't be the only valid method as it would be dangerous.  Likewise, if baptism is the way that we are regenerated, it makes sense that our loving Father in heaven would make it possible to do for all people – even desert dwellers who have very little water and might be unable to practice baptism by immersion.
*  Although immersion best symbolizes our death and resurrection with Christ, pouring best symbolizes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto us and both methods symbolize our being cleansed from sin.  Neither method's symbolism is necessarily superior to the other.
The Didache, a work written during the New Testament era or shortly after, states the following about the method of baptism:
Concerning baptism, baptize in this manner: Having said all these things beforehand, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living water [that is, in running water, as in a river]. If there is no living water, baptize in other water; and, if you are not able to use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water three times upon the head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
          Even though this is from a non-inspired work, it gives us an invaluable look at the baptismal practices of Christians who lived during the time of the Apostles or shortly after they died.

The Early Church Fathers

          Even opponents of baptismal regeneration usually agree that the Early Church Fathers, from the very beginning, were unanimous in their belief that regeneration occurs at baptism.  For example, Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss reformer who opposed baptismal regeneration wrote, “In this matter of baptism – if I may be pardoned for saying it – I can only conclude that all the doctors have been in error from the time of the Apostles.” (Of Baptism)
          Why do the Early Church Fathers matter?  It is true that the Early Church Fathers and early non-canonical writers were not infallible.  However, it's quite difficult to believe that the earliest Christian leaders, who were taught by the Apostles and their successors completely misunderstood this vital teaching of the gospel.  It's hard to imagine how they would go completely wrong from the very beginning, particularly considering these were the same men who compiled the New Testament canon and protected the orthodox view on important doctrines such as the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the validity of the Old Testament from countless heresies.  In reading them one finds that they zealously preserved the teachings that were handed down to them from the Apostles and furiously condemned innovation.  Many of these men gave their lives rather than turn from God.  It's hard to imagine that they not only got the meaning of baptism wrong, but were all in complete agreement on this error, without a single one of them holding the modern Protestant view.  It wasn't just a view held in a small locality, but was held all over the known world: in Gaul (St. Irenaeus), in Palestine (St. Justin Martyr), in North Africa (Tertullian), in Rome (St. Hippolytus) and in Antioch (St. Theophilus).  That baptism is only a symbol is an especially difficult view to espouse considering Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18) and that the Holy Spirit would be sent, “... And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive...”(Jn 14:16-17)  In light of this, it's hard to imagine that God would let His entire Church hold this error (an error that some Protestants claim sends one to hell) for over a millennium.

Below, I've listed a sample of early Christian writings on baptism:

The Letter of Barnabas:
"Regarding [baptism], we have the evidence of Scripture that Israel would refuse to accept the washing which confers the remission of sins and would set up a substitution of their own instead.  Observe there how he describes both the water and the cross in the same figure. His meaning is, ‘Blessed are those who go down into the water with their hopes set on the cross.’ Here he is saying that after we have stepped down into the water, burdened with sin and defilement, we come up out of it bearing fruit, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls." (Letter of Barnabas 11:1 [70-130 AD])

St. Ignatius of Antioch
"Let none of you turn deserter. Let your baptism be your armor; your faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your panoply." ("Letter to Polycarp" [A.D. 110])

The Shepherd of Hermas 
"I have heard, sir," said I, "from some teachers, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins." He said to me, "You have heard rightly, for so it is." (The Shepherd 4:3:1-2  [ca. AD 140])

St. Justin Martyr:
“...Then they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: in the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing with water. For Christ said, ‘Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [Jn 3:3]... The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles... and in order to obtain in the water the remission of past sins...” (First Apology [148-155 AD])

St. Theophilus of Antioch:
“Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration [Titus 3:5] – all who proceed to the truth are born again and receive a blessing from God.” (To Autolycus [ca. 181 AD])

“[N]o one can attain salvation without baptism, especially in view of the declaration of the Lord, who says, ‘Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life’.” [Jn. 3:5] (Baptism [203 AD])

St. Hippolytus of Rome:
“[Following baptism] The bishop will then lay his hand upon them [during the Sacrament of Confirmation], invoking, saying, 'Lord God, you who have made these worthy of the removal of sins through the bath of regeneration, make them worthy to be filled with your Holy Spirit'.” (The Apostolic Tradition [ca. 215 AD])

The Nicene Creed
“ we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” [325 AD and 381 AD]

St. Augustine:
"But the Sacrament of Baptism is undoubtedly the sacrament of regeneration:...'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God' Even an infant, therefore, must be imbued with the sacrament of regeneration, lest without it his would be an unhappy exit out of this life; and this baptism is not administered except for the remission of sins...” (On Forgiveness of Sin and Baptism, 43:27)

"Moreover, from the time when He said, 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven;' and again, 'He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it; ' no one becomes a member of Christ except it be either by baptism in Christ, or death for Christ." (On the Soul and its Origin, 1:10:9)

"There are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptism, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance; yet God does not forgive sins except to the baptized." (Sermons to Catechumens, on the Creed 7:15 [A.D. 395])

          Just as a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart, I hoped to show the strength of the position of baptismal regeneration by calling on the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the early Church Fathers.  I wanted to demonstrate that the New Testament teaching on baptism didn't arise out of nowhere, but was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament.  Likewise, the opinion of early Christians on the subject wasn't an innovation, but was simply an echoing of the teachings that the Apostles handed down to them, as recorded in the scriptures. 

Browse by Section:

Catholic Teaching on Baptism
Baptism Foretold in the Old Testament
Baptism in the New Testament
Common Questions about Baptism
Infant Baptism
Mode of Baptism
The Early Church Fathers
Works Cited

Armstrong, Dave internet blog article “Luther's Disgust over Rampant Sectarianism”.

Bachicha, Marty.  “Our Lady's Warrior's” internet page.  Article entitled “The Baptism of Baby Moses: An Old Testament Type               of Infant Baptism”.

Cross, Bryan.  “Called to Communion” internet website.  “The Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration”.

Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Vatican City: 1993

“Catholic Answers” internet page.

Hahn, Scott. Hail Holy Queen.  New York:  Doubleday, 2001

MacDonald, David.  "Are Catholics Born Again?"  Internet Page.

Marshall, Taylor.  “Canterbury Tales” internet podcast entitled “Jewish Tevilah, Christian Baptism”.

McFadden, Jeff.  “Answers to Common Arguments Against Baptism”.

Pope John Paul II.  “The Pentecost of the Gentiles” General Audience, Dec 6, 1989.

Ray, Stephen K, “Catholic Convert” internet blog article on baptism.

Smith, Denny.  "Was Cornelius Saved Before Baptism?"  Internet page. 

St Paul Center for Biblical theology.  Internet Page.

“The Sign Of Jonah And The Fast Of Nineveh”.  Internet page.

Further Reading on Baptism
St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica sections on baptism:

For a more in-depth look on the early Church father's view of baptism, read this Called to Communion article here:  The Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration

Further Catholic Reading
          If you're interested in learning more about Catholicism, I'd recommend popular Catholic theologians and apologists such as Scott Hahn (The Lamb's Supper, Hail Holy Queen, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Swear to God), James Akin (The Salvation Controversy), Mark Shea (By What Authority?, This is My Body) and Robert Sungenis (Not by Faith Alone, Not by Bread Alone, Not by Scripture Alone).  These types of books are a good place to start.  They go more in depth than internet articles typically do, and explain Catholic teaching in an understandable, engaging, and compelling way. 

          Just a note, I have no current plans to add to this blog, I'm just using Blogger as a medium to post this article.  You may use this essay for absolutely anything that you need it for (so long as you aren't just using it to make money).  Feel free to link to and reproduce this essay in part or in full on other websites. 

          This essay was written by Matt Fanning.  If you'd like to leave me a comment, you may email me at bornagainatbaptism*at*gmail-dot-com.  (Replace the *at* with an @ and the -dot- with a period ".")