Thursday, August 20, 2009


So, I begin to suspect that part of the problem between Catholicism and Orthodoxy on original sin involves baptism. Bear with me, because this is a thought I just had, so it may or may not be coherent to people who are not me at this stage. :)

I've heard baptism described (in Catholicism for Dummies) as a vaccination - but I don't know that that analogy really works. When you get vaccinated, you don't get the disease that you're vaccinated against. Yes, the Flu Shot seems to wreck my issues with this, until you recall that they're about a billion strains of flu, and the Flu Shot only vaccinates against the ones that are felt to be the most prevalent that year. Think more like polio, etc. People don't get those anymore, in places where we vaccinate for them.

So, baptism as vaccination, if we carried that analogy, once baptised, people wouldn't 'get' sin. Clearly, that's not what happens. Though I suppose, now that I've typed it out, the Flu Shot analogy *does* work a little better - baptism only vaccinates against a particular 'strain' of sin - original sin. *However*, as I have been assured by other Catholics, and the Catechism, the Catholic Church teaches that we don't actually inherit the original sin. (I have a bit of news for them, in that apparently most people -including many Catholics- think that the Catholic Church *does* teach that...) In that case, the vaccination analogy *still* doesn't work, because you're vaccinating for a disease that doesn't exist anymore - it's impossible to catch it.

And it's also not like some giant 'reset' button, because if we don't inherit original sin it doesn't wash it away, and it certainly doesn't undo the inherited consequences of original sin... so what, exactly, does baptism do?

I still think baptism makes the most sense as 'circumcision of the soul' - the sign of the new covenant, bringing us in. Baby Jews are circumcised, and also adult converts (which, ouch, you know?) and, in the case of the babies, there's not this 'believe first' element, or they'd wait until the children were older to do it. Instead, they're circumcised, which brings them into the covenant, and then expected to live by it their entire life. They're brought up observing the Law. So, you know, that makes sense to me.


  1. Neat analogies. I've not really heard anything much like this before. Seems I learn from you nearly every day!

    I do *not* think baptism keeps me from sinning. Um, I am proof of that. :)

    The Judaism point (last paragraph) was really interesting, and makes infant baptism perhaps a bit more "aha, I see" to me. I never really got it before as my church/denomination does believer's baptism instead.

    Thanks for this!

  2. I do my best. :)

    See, *no one* thinks baptism keeps them from sinning. It's just silly...

    Infant baptism makes the most sense when placed in that context (at least to me), though, of course, if we're speaking of adult converts, faith would come first, because otherwise, why get baptised?

    Though, of course, I do have an issue with the 'age of reason' that I see many denominations setting for kids to believe and get baptised. It seems to be at about seven, which, at seven? I didn't know anything, I believed whatever I was told in regards to religion (and many other things). At seven, I wanted to be a boy! I didn't know anything at that age! So I don't see how children can be reasonable expected to make decisions about their faith at that age. *shrug*

    If you don't mind me asking, what is your denomination? If you've mentioned it before, I don't recall, sorry. :)

  3. Agreed with what you said about infant baptism making the most sense when placed in that context. When I read what you wrote in the post about Judaism and the infant circumcision, I was like "ohhhh, that makes a bit more sense." I think I previously thought (perhaps erroneously) of people who relied on their being sprinkled as infants as assurance that they would go to heaven. This is why I have rejected infant baptism in the past, however, your post helped me understand it better.

    As I said my church practices believer's baptism and I've never seen a lot of pressure to get saved and be baptized by age seven though some young children do. My nephew is 7 and he decided he wanted to be baptized this year, but he understood what it meant and HE is the one who asked to be baptized. (His dad who is 26 also was baptized.) For us, baptism does not save us, but it is only an outward sign, a symbol that we have decided to follow Christ. It's our identifying with Him - in death to self (e.g. "crucified with Christ"), burial (down into the water) and resurrection (up out of the water). Yeah, I grew up Baptist, but don't hate me for that. :-D :-D :-D

  4. Susanne,

    I knew you were agreeing with me, I was agreeing with you agreeing with me. ;) And restating why I think it makes more sense.

    People who rely on the fact that they were baptised, through immersion or otherwise, at any age, to get into heaven are missing a *huge* point.

    Sorry, I think you misunderstood a little. I don't mean that people pressure children to be baptised by age seven, but that I thought seven was around the age where most placed the 'age of accountability' or 'age of reason', when children were old enough (at the minimum) to make the choice. I don't doubt that there are some who are knowledgeable and do believe at that age, I just know that I was certainly not one of them. :)

    Baptism is an 'outward sign of an inner change', especially when performed on an adult convert.

    I have been taught, and believe, that people who aren't baptised (by water) can, in fact, be saved. I think, for instance, of someone who comes to Christ on their deathbed - there may not be time or opportunity for them to be baptised, but they *desire* it, and so are 'covered' under a 'baptism of desire'.

    Though I do have to admit I'm a little wiggy on the subject of baptism on occasion. My parents' old church used our (house) pool for baptisms a few times, and it drove me nuts! Thou shalt not baptise where I swim! :) Of course, I know that there is nothing, actually, preventing a pool/ocean/etc baptism from being valid, provided that it follows proper form, but it's just a pet peeve.

    Heh. I promise not to hold it against you, as long as you can ignore my occasional 'Baptists drive me nuts' rants. ;) I do my utmost to judge on individual basis. :)

  5. LOL @ us agreeing with each other agreeing with each other. :-P

    Right...baptism does not save whether you are infant or child or adult baptized. And I don't think baptism is necessary to be saved just as the example you gave of deathbed conversions. Think of the thief on the cross who was not baptized by water, yet Christ said he would that day be with Him in paradise.

    I understand what you mean about the age 7 thing....thanks for the clarification!

    LOL @ your thing against baptisms in your pool. I know some believers around the world are baptized in rivers and oceans. I never had a problem with it. Many of them don't have "proper" churches and meet where ever they can. Plus Jesus was baptized in a river so *shrug*. But I see what you mean about not being baptized where you swim - especially your pool! :-)

    Most Baptist churches have a baptismal pool in their churches. If you look on my blog when Michael got baptized you can see a picture of one at his church. It was back in June, I think.

    Well, I have rants against Baptists at times, too. Don't worry. There are good and bad in every bunch. Some more than others. :-)


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