Monday, September 15, 2014

Tertullian and the 'baptism of blood'

Earlier today, I noticed that Mr. Kauffman has published a 5th installment in his ongoing series, "THAT HE MIGHT PURIFY THE WATER" (link). In the combox of that thread, Mr. Kauffman denies that one the two baptisms (i.e. baptism of blood) mentioned in chapter 16 of De Baptismo has martyrdom in mind. Mr. Kauffman wrote:

When Tertullian says, “called by water, chosen by blood. … in order that they who believed in His blood might be bathed with the water” there simply is no justification for interpreting this to be a reference to a martyr’s death. The baptism of blood is clearly “belief in his blood,” and this stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that has not been received.

Dr. Everett Ferguson understands chapter 16 differently than Mr. Kauffman; note the following:

An important modification to the normal necessity of water baptism applied to the times of persecution. Using Christ's comparison of his death with baptism (Luke 12:50), Tertullian says, "We have a second washing (lavacrum), it too a single one, that of blood" (Baptism 16.1). Appealing to 1 John 5:6 and the water and the blood that came from Jesus' side (John 19:34), he adds: "[The Lord] sent forth these two baptism from out of the would of his pierced side," one a washing in water and the other in blood. Blood shed in martyrdom "makes actual a washing which has not been received, and gives back again one that has been lost" by postbaptismal sin (16.1-2). (Baptism In The Early Church, p. 349)

Dr. Ferguson provides a footnote to this section (#46), wherein he writes:

46. Modesty 12 also describes martyrdom as "another baptism" to which Jesus referred in Luke 12:50, and interprets the water and the blood from Jesus' side as the materials of the two baptisms. Scorpiace 12.10 says, "Baptism washes away filth, but martyrdom makes stains truly white." (Ibid.)

Tertullian, in his Apology, penned the now famous phrase, "the blood of the Christians is seed" (chapter 50, English trans. by Thelwall, in ANF 3.55).

And just a bit later he states:

...who, after inquiry, does not embrace our doctrines ? and when he has embraced them, desires not to suffer that he may become partaker of the fulness of God's grace, that he may obtain from God complete forgiveness, by giving in exchange his blood For that secures the remission of all offences. (Ibid.) the baptism of blood, is NOT "a reference to a martyr’s death" ???  I think I will side with the esteemed patristic scholar, Dr. Ferguson, on this, rather than Mr. Kauffman's highly questionable interpretation.

Grace and peace,


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Baptismal regeneration and the early Church Fathers: Tertullian

In this ongoing series on baptismal regeneration and the early Church Fathers (using Mr. Kauffman's attempted rebuttals of Dr. Cross as an introduction of sorts), I am jumping from Justin Martyr to Tertullian (I will examine a few of the CFs between these two in upcoming posts), for the following reason: of all the early CFs who explore the issue of baptism in any depth, Tertullian is the only one who, on the surface, appears to create some difficulties for those who maintain that baptismal regeneration was a consensus teaching among the early Church Fathers.

Mr. Kauffman begins his rebuttal of Dr. Cross's assessment of Tertullian (link), with the following:

The citations that Called to Communion uses from Tertullian’s On Baptism here are too numerous to include, though we encourage our readers to examine them all. Better yet, to read Tertullian’s entire treatise, On Baptism. We have included only one citation, above, so our readers can at least get a taste of Tertullian’s writing, and Called to Communion‘s evidence from him.

On Baptism was written in response to the “viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, [which] has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism” (Tertullian, On Baptism, chapter 1). Tertullian spends 20 chapters defending the merits of baptism, its divine origin, the significance of the water, the power to sanctify, remit sins, grant life and secure eternal salvation. Here Called to Communion seems to have read Tertullian for what he plainly says as he implores Christians, with soaring rhetoric and impassioned reasoning, not to dispense with a command of Christ by stumbling into the Cainite heresy.

So far, so good. Mr. Kauffman has done a pretty good job of summarizing the content of Tertullian's treatise, De Baptismo (though he did leave out two important aspects of "the merits of baptism" included by Tertullian: rebirth, and the necessity of baptism for salvation).

[NOTE: For online texts and resources concerning Tertullian, I highly recommend THIS WEBSITE.]

He then writes:

But Tertullian says more than this, and we find that he knew very well that the power of regeneration emanates from the Cross, and that baptism, the baptism of the Cross, “stands in lieu of the fontal bathing”:

“These two baptisms He sent out from the wound in His pierced side, in order that they who believed in His blood might be bathed with the water; they who had been bathed in the water might likewise drink the blood. This is the baptism which both stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that has not been received, and restores it when lost.” (Tertullian, On Baptism, Chapter 16)

Even here in On Baptism, Tertullian is tipping his hand, and showing that his own soaring rhetoric is hyperbolic, and he hints at his conviction (which he elsewhere states explicitly) that the water of the baptismal font is merely a signification of the actual baptism that takes place in the heart.

Rather than, "tipping his hand, and showing that his own soaring rhetoric is hyperbolic", Tertullian is here mentioning (without an in depth analysis) the Catholic concept of 'baptism of blood'; note the following:

Baptism of blood is the martyrdom of an unbaptized person that, because of the patient acceptance of a violent death or an attack leading to death, constitutes the confessing of the Christian faith or the practice of Christian virtue. Christ himself contended that martyrdom, like perfect love, contains justifying power (e.g. Mt 10:32, 10:39; Jn 12:25). Fathers of the Church, namely Tertullian and St. Cyprian, regarded martyrdom as a legitimate substitute for sacramental baptism. (Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, 1997, p. 47.)

Mr. Kauffman sure seems to be either ignorant of the fact that Catholic dogma does not limit the means of salvation to sacramental baptism only, or he is purposefully being deceptive here. In fact, all of his arguments against Tertullian affirming baptismal regeneration proceed under the assumption that Catholicism teaches sacramental baptism is the only means by which one can be saved. Mr. Kauffman's remaining arguments are quite easily deflected if one keeps in mind that 'baptism of blood' and 'baptism of desire' are viable options for salvation within Catholic thought.

So, the question that needs to asked is not whether Tertullian believed that salvation can take place apart from sacramental baptism, but rather, whether or not Tertullian's teaching on sacramental baptism is best described as baptismal regeneration. An objective reading of Tertullian's take sacramental baptism clearly reveals that his view falls under the rubric of baptismal regeneration. Since even Mr. Kauffman himself affirms that Tertullian in his De Baptismo, "spends 20 chapters defending the merits of baptism, its divine origin, the significance of the water, the power to sanctify, remit sins, grant life and secure eternal salvation", to which one should add rebirth and the necessity of baptism for salvation, the affirmation that Tertullian taught the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is the only accurate conclusion that one can maintain.

The patristic scholar, Dr. Everett Ferguson, confirms this conclusion; note the following:

Tertullian summarizes the doctrine of baptism in listing the items that he found inexplicable if one accepted Marcion's teachings: remission of sins, deliverance from death, regeneration (regeneratio), and bestowal of the Holy Spirit (Against Marcion 1.28.2-3)...

Tertullian most often expresses the significance of baptism in terms of forgiveness or cleansing from sins...

Tertullian further associated baptism with regeneration and new birth...

These benefits attributed to baptism underscores its necessity. Tertullian declares that "it is prescribed that without baptism no person can obtain salvation" (Baptism 12.1.) This standing rule derives from the Lord's pronouncement in John 3:5, "Except one be borm of water he cannot have life." Shortly thereafter Tertullian quotes both Matthew 28:19 and John 3:5 (this time more fully and more accurately) in support of the necessity of baptism. (Baptism in the Early Church, 2009, pp. 346, 347, 349.)

Contra Mr. Kauffman's view that Tertullian did not teach baptismal regerneration, we see just the opposite. So far in our examination of Mr. Kauffman's rebuttals, we find that he is zero for two. In the next installment of this series, we will look at Irenaeus (the Lord willing).

Grace and peace,


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baptismal regeneration and the early Church Fathers: introduction and Justin Martyr

While watching the US Open over the weekend, I 'multi-tasked', looking in on some websites that I have not visited for awhile. A thread at Beggars All posted August 25th, 2014 by Ken Temple concerning baptismal regeneration (LINK) caught my eye. Ken linked to a couple of posts (there are now four) published on the blog, Out of His Mouth, which is owned and operated, "by a former Roman Catholic, Timothy F. Kauffman, with a passion for wielding the sword of truth in defense of the faith, and refuting the errors in which he himself was once enslaved."  Mr. Kauffman is now a conservative Calvinist, and is, "currently a member at Southwood Presbyterian Church (PCA)."

Mr. Kauffman's four-part series, "THAT HE MIGHT PURIFY THE WATER" (first; second; third; fourth), is an attempt to rebut a thread published by the Catholic apologist Dr. Bryan Cross (link), which took the position that the early Church Fathers believed in baptismal regeneration. Mr. Kauffman writes under the presuppositions that, "Roman Catholicism was formed out of a great apostasy that took place in the late 4th century", and, "Roman Catholicism constituted the falling away that Paul prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2:3."

His position that "a great apostasy that took place in the late 4th century" seems to be unique within the Reformed tradition (at least I have not seen it before, though there may be a few others who embrace it), and I suspect that it is this premise which drives his attempt to "prove" that the pre-late 4th century Church Fathers did not teach baptismal regeneration. Clearly, Mr. Kauffman approaches the early Church Fathers with an anti-Catholic bias.

Before I begin my critical examination of Mr. Kauffman's interpretations of a number of early Church Fathers on baptism, I would first like to establish what baptismal regeneration means. Note the following:

baptismal regeneration The belief that salvation is conferred through baptism (see John 3:5 Titus 3:5). This view has been prominent in Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. (Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, 1996, p. 26.)

Baptismal Regeneration. Twice in the NT a connection is made between water, or washing in water, and regeneration. In John 3:3 we are told that a man must be born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. And in Titus 3:5 we read that we are saved "by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." In view of these passages, of the inter-relationship of baptism with Christ's resurrection, and of the fact that it is the sacrament of initiation, it is inevitable that there should be some equation between baptism and regeneration. This equation is most strongly made in the phrase "baptismal regeneration." (G.W. Bromiley, in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 1984, p. 119.)

The Catholic understanding of baptism is that it includes regeneration (i.e. born again/rebirth). The following selections from two respected Catholic sources should be sufficient to confirm this:

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word." (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, 1997, p. 312.)

Baptism is, therefore, the sacrament by which we are born again of water and the Holy Ghost, that is, by which we receive in a new and spiritual life, the dignity of adoption as sons of God and heirs of God's kingdom. (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907, Vol. 2, p. 259.)

[It is important to keep in mind that those who embrace baptismal regeneration (in one form or another—e.g. Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox churches, Lutherans, many Anglicans, and some Reformed folk), adamantly maintain that it is means of grace (e.g. Augustine and Martin Luther—see THIS THREAD), and not a 'work', sometimes referring to baptism as "baptismal grace".]

Time to move onto Mr. Kauffman's musings; in his first post, he examines Ignatius, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepard of Hermas and Justin Martyr. The first three only briefly mention/allude to baptism, so I am going to focus on Justin Martyr.

After quoting from Dr. Cross's section on Justin Martyr, Mr. Kauffman writes:

We marvel that Called to Communion offers this as evidence for Baptismal Regeneration. Justin Martyr sees the baptism as a public “dedication” made by those who already “had been made new through Christ.” Again, the rebirth—i.e., “had been made new”—was “through Christ,” and the water baptism was a “dedication” that followed the renewal. That Justin Martyr is not speaking of regeneration by the act of baptism, but rather that those who are regenerated are baptized, is plainly evident in his closing sentence:

“And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 61)

This is one the most skewed, twisted, error-ridden, misreading of a Church Father I have yet to encounter. Mr. Kaufffman places "illumination" (Gr. phōtismos) BEFORE baptism; Justin does the exact opposite, equating "illumination" with "this washing" (i.e. baptism - see also 1 Apology 65.1). The one who is "illumined", "is washed" (Gr. louetai ), present tense, not "will be washed", future tense. Mr. Kauffman also places "the rebirth" before baptism; but Justin equates "the rebirth" (and "remission of sins") with "the washing" (i.e. baptism): "eis anagennēsin loutron" (1 Apology 66.1 - Migne PG, Tomus 6, p. 428).

My read of Justin is exactly the same as the one foremost authorities on NT and early patristic baptism, Dr. Everett Ferguson, who wrote:

Justin identifies the conversion baptism as the time when one is made new (61.1). His preferred way of describing this experience of newness is shown by the repeated use of the words "regeneration" (rebirth) and "be regenerated" (born again). He draws the comparison of this new generation with physical generation inasmuch as both involve moisture (water of baptism and the moist seed of sexual union) is evident from Justin, Hermas and others that John 3:3-5 reflected language in widespread use in the early decades of the church as referring to baptism. (Baptism In The Early Church, pp. 240, 241.)

Dr. Ferguson then goes on to demonstrate that "illumination" was "a technical term for baptism" in Justin's thought (p. 241). He ends his treatment on Justin with: "Baptism meant especially a forgiveness of sins, a regeneration, and an enlightenment." (Page 244.)

Shall end here for now, noting that I am not aware of ANY patristic scholar who has interpreted Justin's take on baptism as Mr. Kauffman has, suggesting to me that his polemical reading is seriously flawed. In my next thread (the Lord willing), I will examine Tertullian's view on baptism.

Grace and peace,


P.S. I will resume my musings on Mormonism after some reflections on baptismal regeneration in the early Church Fathers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Is Mormonism Christian ?

Is Mormonism Christian ? Putting aside for now the premise that those who attempt to answer this question should first define how they understand what the term Christian means and whether or not they believe that the term Christian demands more than one meaning, it has been my experience (via articles, books, message boards and personal conversations) that many who have answered this question have done so with little clarification and consistency. For instance, the majority of Evangelicals who have answered this question have done so with a resounding NO, maintaining that the term Christian has only one meaning: someone who has been "born again"; and for one to be "born again" one must accept "the Gospel" and "the doctrine of the Trinity" as understood within the confines of conservative Evangelicalism—i.e. "the Gospel" = justification by faith alone (in Christ's atoning sacrifice and bodily resurrection), through imputation alone (imputation of 'Christ's righteousness' to the believer forensically speaking); "the doctrine of the Trinity" = one 'being' who is God existing in three 'persons'. Since Mormonism rejects "the Gospel" and "the doctrine of the Trinity", those who believe in Mormonism cannot be "born again"; as such, Mormonism cannot be "Christian".

Now, this view is problematic for some important reasons: first, the Evangelical understanding "the Gospel" was non-existent until the 16th century, meaning that if the Evangelical presuppositions are correct, there were virtually no Christians, to our knowledge, between 100 A.D. and 1517 A.D.; second, faithful members of the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Mennonite churches are not Christian, because they reject the conservative Evangelical understanding of "the Gospel"; third, some modern Evangelical scholars have raised serious doubts about the "justification by faith alone, through imputation alone" construct; and fourth, the accepted Evangelical understanding of "the doctrine of the Trinity" did not exist until Augustine of Hippo formulated it in the late 4th century/early 5th century, and a large number of Evangelical scholars are now calling into question this so-called "Latin/Western" development.

Having called into question the validity of the underlying presuppositions of the conservative, Evangelical worldview, which have precipitated a negative answer to the question at hand, I shall now turn to the Catholic paradigm. Back on June 5, 2001 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled that baptisms performed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not valid (see THIS THREAD for germane information on this topic).

In the document, "The Question of the Validity of Baptism Conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", Fr. Ladaria wrote:

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has given a negative response to a "Dubium"regarding the validity of Baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,more commonly known as the Mormons. Given that this decision changes the past practice of not questioning the validity of such Baptism, it seems appropriate to explain the reasons that have led to this decision and to the resulting change of practice.

Note that, "this decision changes the past practice of not questioning the validity of such Baptism", which means that prior to June 5, 2001, LDS baptisms were valid in the eyes of the RCC.

With this in mind, the four articles which were published in the respected Catholic journal First Things, that dealt with the subject of Mormonism and Christianity, should give one cause for reflection (first; second; third; fourth).

The first article, "Is Mormonism Christian ?", by Richard John Neuhaus, was published in March 2000, which means that LDS baptisms at that time were considered valid by the Catholic Church, but Neuhaus answers the question with an emphatic NO. Note the following:

...Mormonism is inexplicable apart from Christianity and the peculiar permutations of Protestant Christianity in nineteenth-century America. It may in this sense be viewed as a Christian derivative. It might be called a Christian heresy, except heresy is typically a deviation within the story of the Great Tradition that Mormonism rejects tout court. Or Mormonism may be viewed as a Christian apostasy.

The second, is a dialogue between Bruce D. Porter, who "is a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and Gerald R. McDermott, who "is Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College", and was published in October 2008.  McDermott, ends his contribution with:

In sum, then, Mormon beliefs diverge widely from historic Christian orthodoxy. The Book of Mormon, which is Mormonism’s principal source for its claim to new revelation and a new prophet, lacks credibility. And the Jesus proclaimed by Joseph Smith and his followers is different in significant ways from the Jesus of the New Testament: Smith’s Jesus is a God distinct from God the Father; he was once merely a man and not God; he is of the same species as human beings; and his being and acts are limited by coeternal matter and laws.

The intent of this essay is not to say that individual Mormons will be barred from sitting with Abraham and the saints at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We are saved by a merciful Trinity, not by our theology. But the distinguished scholar of Mormonism Jan Shipps was only partly right when she wrote that Mormonism is a departure from the existing Christian tradition as much as early Christianity was a departure from Judaism. For if Christianity is a shoot grafted onto the olive tree of Judaism, Mormonism as it stands cannot be successfully grafted onto either.

The third, "Mormonism Obsessed With Christ", by Stephen H. Webb, was published in February 2012, well after the Catholic Church's negative decision concerning the validity of LDS baptisms; and yet, the stance taken by Webb is less hostile than that of Neuhaus.

And the fourth, "Mormons and Christianity: Asking the Right Questions", by Howard P. Kainz, is interesting; note the following:

Evidently, the more we know about Mormonism, the more we can see that we have been asking the wrong question . From the Mormon point of view, the question to be asked is not, “Are Mormons Christian?” but, in view of the alleged apostasy in early Christianity after the death of the Apostles, a more appropriate question would be: “Are any non-Mormons Christian?”

Posing this question changes the criteria by which we can evaluate Mormon claims, and helps put some of the more exaggerated fears of orthodox Christians into perspective. Yes, Catholics and Protestants are viewed by Mormons as practicing an incomplete Christianity (at best). This offers justification, for instance, for the Mormon practice of “baptizing the dead,” in order to bring them into communion with Jesus Christ and the Latter-day Saints. But this paradigm also means that Christians need not fear that a Mormon in the White House would not align himself with Christianity; the only reasonable fear would be that a biased Mormon occupant would look down on them as less than Christian. But fortunately Mormons, in spite of their desire to convert the world, are not noted for extreme intolerance or for an inability to work with other persuasions for the common good.
(Bold emphasis in the original.)

It seems to me that 'the Catholic answer' to the question is a bit difficult discern; perhaps it would be better to say that there are 'Catholic answers' to the question. The change in the Catholic assessment of LDS baptism back in 2001 is certainly an important one for the Catholic who attempts to address the question, and yet, one should keep in mind that the 2001 decision is not an infallible/irreformable one. This, to which we can add that the document written by Fr. Ladaria is not completely accurate, raises some concerns for me.

So, what should be the answer ? IMO, the answer is a complex one and cannot be answered without a significant number of qualifications. For those who have already formulated a response, I would like to suggest that you take serious look at the Christianity of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, as represented by the writings Church Fathers of that period, and then consistently apply the presuppositions you used to evaluate Mormonism, asking the same question of them—I think you will find that your presuppositions are a 'doubled-edged sword'—your answer should be same for both. I am sure that this view will be unsettling to many, but I cannot help but maintain that I am being consistent with my evaluation.

Looking forward to a spirited and respectful discussion...

Grace and peace,