Baptismal Membership

There is an opinion among, at least some, Orthodox scholars at present that the limits of the Church can be defined in terms of baptism. Within this limit it is proposed that some division can exist, such as between Roman Catholic and Orthodox, and that we can still speak of the divided parties as Church. Thus, because most Christian groups/denominations/churches perform baptism they are all in some manner in the Church as distinct from non-baptised who are outside the Church. In practice this is the reasoning supporting marriage between those who are baptised even if they are of different creed and one of the partners would nevertheless be excluded from the eucharist of the other’s church.

It is agreed that baptism is the means of entry into the Church and that the members of the Church are identified as those that have been baptised, which permits them to gather with the other members in the eucharist. However, is the act of wetting someone with water while saying a particular formula in itself what baptism is? Is the Church defined as those people who have had undergone such an act? If so then once one has undergone that act then can they cease to be members of the Church regardless of faith and morals and choice?

The Church is the body of Christ, with Christ as the head. It is not merely the collection of those having participated in a particular form of ritual or believing a particular doctrine, although these may be marks of those in the Church, that is the Church is not a collection of those having certain marks and in particular of having one mark isolated from the others, which is the implication of the opinion stated initially. Rather the Church is those who form the body of Christ, that is those who are united with Christ, who is a living person. Those united to Christ come into the life of the Trinity as sons of God having the Spirit rest upon them that is they become deified.

Baptism brings us to membership of the Church because of a number of features in baptism. Considering baptism in water. Firstly, the water must be sanctified, it is not merely any water but that upon which hovers the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the triple immersing and coming out of the water unites us with Christ and the Son of God through his death and resurrection and three day burial thus identifying us as sons of God. Thirdly, the triple immersing into the three distinct names of the Trinity each invoked with an immersion, Father, Son and Holy Spirit brings us into the life of the Trinity. This is baptism in water but this in itself is insufficient because we must be born of water and Spirit, so one also requires the anointing of Chrism blessed by a bishop to symbolise the baptism of the Spirit and thus that the Spirit rests upon the baptised and confirms that he is both a son of God and has come into the life of the Trinity with God as his Father. The correct expression of faith is also another requirement of baptism that the person believes into the name of Christ; that they freely and willingly accept Christ and participation in the life of the Trinity. And another requirement is that of the baptiser, a bishop or presbyter, because is God who gives new birth to the baptised not man thus the bishop/presbyter manifests the Father in terms of the baptism so that the baptised in generated as son by the Father and the procession of the Spirit who rests on the baptised as a son of God. The whole Trinity in various symbols is manifest in the baptism. The bishop/presbyter are also the focal points of union with Christ, that is the baptism is the means for a person to enter a relation with Christ who is present in the bishop/presbyter and also that it is Christ who sanctifies the waters for baptism. It is this relationship that identifies one as a member of the Church, and this relationship can only be established through baptism. Thus, when one speaks of membership in the Church via baptism it means not only the application of water with a formula but a relationship with a hierarchy that confers the baptism as a gift to bring the baptised into relation with the hierarchy, through whom Christ is present and so the baptised enters relationship with Christ and into the life of the Trinity. Also, if Chrism is not that from the bishop then there is no baptism in Spirit and so the person who has been immersed in water with the appropriate formula is not born again of water and Spirit and so not yet a member of the Church.

If Christ is not present in the baptiser then the baptism is not of God and it is not one that brings the baptised into a relationship with Christ nor into the life of the Trinity, so the baptism is of no effect and does not permit entry into the Church. Baptismal membership is dependant on who baptises and not only the other symbols of baptism.

So, baptism as a means of showing the limits of the Church cannot be separated from showing the limits of the Church in terms of the hierarchy, which also defines legitimate eucharistic gatherings. This later limit is based on a mutual sharing of one faith/tradition, tracing ordination to the Apostles, and mutual recognition. It is quite wrong to speak of some form of Church membership by baptism that includes those of separated hierarchies, particularly where this is due to difference in faith/tradition. One separating from the hierarchy appointed by Christ and the Apostles is no longer united with Christ and so no longer with the Church, even if they were properly baptised. That is why marriage is only to be between people of the same faith, and whether one has a form of baptism within a group of differing faith is irrelevant to this issue, the canonical test is orthodoxy not baptism. The form of baptism conducted outside the union of faith only has relevance to the economy of receiving converts.

58 Responses to Baptismal Membership

  1. Irenaeus,

    I don’t see that the distinction between allowed and lawful that I put forward as contradictory. Perhaps this may be how we are interpreting the terms. As I see it, it is never lawful for a layman to baptise per se but that in necessity when no priest is available then a layman is free and obliged to baptise someone about to die. The Fathers are not free to give a layman the right to baptise as a right. This is to prevent arguments that laymen have some intrinsic ability or authority to baptise as laymen. Thus, apart from necessity they are unable to baptise even if they do the full rite.

    Nevertheless, since Tertullian, with Jerome, suggests otherwise and considers that a layman, but not woman, have a right to baptise as a layman but do not if a priest is present so as not to usurp priestly status, then I am not prepared to press the issue. I believe from reading him that Tertullian suggests the layman’s right to baptise to ensure that the layman is obliged to baptise in necessity rather than refrain from it due to lack of being a priest. I think that the canons of St. Nicephorus the Confessor provide a sufficient approach without bestowing a right or authority that seems to run contrary to St Basil who puts forward “they became laymen, and had no authority either to baptize or to ordain anyone” and that “regarded as baptized by laymen, and that when they came to join the Church they should have to be repurified by the true baptism” and also to a number of other Fathers/ ancient writings.

  2. Irenaeus,

    Sacramental confirmation/chrismation.

  3. Hello Fr Patrick,

    I agree, that sacraments are not given or taken, but recieved. An important distinction for todays ears. I am a little confused by your statement that says something could be allowed, yet be unlawful. I don’t see this as possible, because it is a contradiction in terms. If a competent authority says something is allowed in extraordinary circumstances. It thereby becomes lawful within that framework. Christ speaking of David was demonstrating that He(Christ) was the competent authority from which the Law flows. David was not given permission or license to eat, only the freedom to eat… A priest did not have the authority to give him license to eat even if he asked for it.

  4. Hi Nathaniel,

    Please forgive me, but when you say confirmed, do you mean recogized legally by the authority of the Church? Or are you saying sacramentally confirmed by Chrismation… as is done in the baptismal rite of the Orthodox?

  5. Irenaeus,

    It is also a truth that a presbyter receives the priesthood from a bishop but that he does not give it, so just because a layman has received baptism does not mean that he by right can give it. On the other hand, St Jerome’s maxim does imply that in necessity the justification to allow a layman to baptise is tied in with having received his own baptism. Also, it was allowed for King David to eat of the showbread in his necessity for food even though it was not lawful. Similarly with baptism it is not lawful for a layman to baptise but in necessity it is allowed. It being allowed in necessity does not run contrary to the post because the layman is still a member of the Church and even in some respects a member of the hierarchy, in the order of laymen and Christ is present in the baptiser. Also, the layman does not confer the baptism of the Spirit but only that of water. The later reception by a priest is still required should the baptised survive as Nathaniel points out.

  6. Irenaeus,

    Absolutely. However, such baptism needs also to be confirmed by the Church. Such has always been the case even in Tertullian’s day.

  7. “In case of necessity, we know that it is also allowable for a layman [to baptize]; for as a person receives, so may he give,”
    -St. Jerome

    I know that Tertullian echos this same truth.

    Although this would be an extraordinary thing for a laymen to baptize, it is lawful according to tradition, in contrary to what is stated in this post.

  8. FrPatrick, thanks for your response.

    However, you have merely restated your opinion. I’ve already addressed all these issues. If you would like to make an argument, please do so.

    And don’t forget that, no matter what your assertion to the contrary, Augustine’s On Baptism dedicates 6 out of 7 of its books to proving Augustine consistent with Cyprian and Carthage. One proof-text which states that he believes Cyprian made a mistake is hardly a serious accusation against 6 whole books to the contrary.

    Whatever your scholarly methodology, you don’t get to just assert a claim contrary to the thesis of a work using one isolated passage. Such is not a responsible reading.

  9. Nathaniel,

    Thank you for the discussion and putting forward the position of St Augustine. My apologies for the frustration caused by my not having perviously studied him to the depth to which you have done so.

    However, having read most of the the first and second books of St Augustine on baptisms and the letters to which you referred, I am still not convinced by your arguments on the matter. For instance, St Augustine is clear that St Cyprian is in error in baptising anew those baptised outside the Church (Book 1:18(28)), which means that he does not accept St Cyprian’s position as as legitimate as his own and that he does see some form of taboo in regard to re-baptising one who had received a valid form. He also considers the baptism rite as holy where-ever it is performed, even in heresy, (Book 1:12(19)), which matches with the Roman reason for not repeating it, which obviously St Cyprian did not accept and of which St Basil, perhaps surprisingly, fails to make any mention, so it would seem that St Augustine’s position, if it was a traditional understanding preceding him, was unknown, or at least not well known, in Cappadocia in the time of St Basil. Also, Apostolic Canon 47 calls that baptism done by the impious, that is those claiming to be able to baptise who are not true priests of the Church, a pollution which does not seem consistent with the form being holy even if performed outside the Church, that is not by true priests. That St Basil’s and St Cyprian’s position could be read as you suggest, as open to an Arian reading, does not make St Augustine’s position relatively better because his position, as you have pointed out, has also been read in the wrong way. St Basil does provide some concrete guidelines to bishops and this is also the purpose of his canon/letter, and whether these guidelines are better or worse than those of St Augustine, is something that we cannot argue unless we have tested the guidelines while serving as bishops. The personal story that you mentioned is not due to St Basil’s canon but other issues that even St Augustine’s approach may not deal with, since these matters are usually in regard to the validity of the baptism being accepted.

    Also, having read much of St Augustine’s critique of the Donatist position, I know that my position is not that of the Donatists and that the proposed model that I have made does not necessarily lead to the Donatist position, even though it seems to be open to such a reading. The charge of Arian mediation is something that I take seriously but on reflection I do not believe that I am advancing such a position either, rather if one can read 1 Tim 2:5 in a manner that is not Arian, such as does St John Chrysostom, then my position is also non-Arian.

  10. ioannis says:

    Nathaniel McCallum,

    I think that Father Patrick is correct when he says that “a baptism is effective because the baptiser has the Holy Spirit” for the simple reason that nobody becomes a priest unless he has the Holy Spirit and he is made a priest by the Him. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20.28). And even if a priest has become a sinner that doesn’t mean that he does not have the Holy Spirit.

    In the passage you quoted, St Augustine does not deal with the question whether a baptizer needs to have the Holy Spirit or not but he refutes the idea that the baptizer becomes the head of those baptized by him. It is an answer to Petilian’s statement that “He who receives faith from the faithless receives not faith, but guilt, because everything consists of an origin and root; and if it have not something for a head, it is nothing”. And Augustine ‘s response is that it is not the baptiser the head but Christ.

  11. Thomas,

    When I say in accordance to Tradition, this incorporates the diversity of practice while providing a guard that this diversity does not lead to difference and separation. There is a core standard and allowable variation. I am not saying that there is only one practice in all details. Both Greeks and Slavs could very well be acting according to Tradition in the variation, although some do have a problem with the other’s practice.

    If a valid priest was to take you to the pub and give you a beer and say this is the body of Christ and a peanut and say this is the blood of Christ and that you have now had the eucharist, would this be a valid rite? If you admit that there is at least one thing required for a valid rite other than the priest then a valid priest can perform an invalid rite if he fails to do this thing. He is free in his actions so there is always a possibility of not doing it.

    Consider this canon:
    If any Bishop or Presbyter baptize anyone not into the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Lord’s ordinance, but into three beginningless beings or into three sons or into three comforters, let him be deposed.

    The canon says that a priest is to be deposed because he baptises into three sons not because he disobeys the bishop. If he baptises into three sons in obedience to the bishop then this will not help him, he should still be defrocked because he has baptised into three sons. If the bishop is to be deposed for this then his commanding it is of no avail to the priest. Obedience to the bishop does not excuse failure to obey the canons any more than obedience to a military leader excuses atrocities. We obey Christ not the bishop in himself. Obedience to the bishop is obedience to Christ as long as the bishop commands in accord with Christ that is according to the will of Christ, which is manifest in the canons/Scriptures. The bishop has some freedom to act apart from a canon should necessity require it, just as Christ did so in terms of the Law, but this should not be to the overturning of the canon, else one overturns the will of God.

  12. Thomas says:

    Nathaniel, is hypostasoi really the plural of hypostasis? (I thought the plural hypostases.)

  13. Thomas says:

    A quibble in turn with

    I think it should be stated that rigourism has never been the focus of the Church in the reception of converts (or in applying the canons).

    St Basil is making a focus that the Canons are to be applied rigorously: “For we are not obliged to return thanks to them, but to serve the Canons with exactitude.” So, at least in terms of the canons I think that your statement is false; it also runs contrary to the first Canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. I understand that the Fathers have always focused on rigour while at the same time always acted economically.

    Perhaps, Father Patrick, we are not in disagreement here. My statement was a reference to pastoral practises or what you refer to as acting ‘economically’, not more theoretical discussions. It is my understanding that pastoral actions are focused on what is best for aiding a person’s spiritual growth and effecting theosis, not following the canons as if they were hard and fast laws. As far as I know, no Orthodox Christian refers to ‘canon law’, but simply ‘canons’, from the Greek κανών which means ‘standard’ or ‘measure’ or ‘ruler’.

    ———-

    I find more troubling:

    I know of quite a number of cases of persons being baptised some time after being initially received and the baptism has had a noticeable transforming effect on them and they have glowed spiritually. This would hardly be likely if this was contrary to the will of God. What was missing in the conversion was made up in performing the rite properly. This does not mean that the local church is without grace only that without the proper rite the local priest/bishop was unable to confer that grace on the convert. The scandal rather lies in any who receive converts not in accordance to the Tradition of the Church and then try to say that they have been properly received.

    for the reasons I’ve already given.

    Moreover, the Church has not had a single, let alone immutable, manner of receiving converts. Thus, I do not think one can speak of receiving converts ‘not in accordance to the Tradition of the Church’ as if there were but one traditional means of doing so. At present, the usual means of receiving a convert from Papal Christianity amongst the Greeks is baptism whilst amongst the Slavs it is by confession and Chrismation — and it has been that way for the past few hundred years (as I understand it). Further, I am unaware of any assertions from those who receive converts by one method that those who do so differently are departing from Holy Tradition.

    ———-

    I am nonplussed by this:

    A valid priest by performing an invalid rite does not immediately defrock himself, he remains a valid priest and the presence of Christ. The rite though fails to be effective and so the priest should be defrocked by the bishop(s) for harming the soul of those to whom he was ministering, although there is room for repentance and continuing in ministry.

    How does a ‘valid priest’ perform ‘an invalid rite’? I hope I am misunderstanding/misreading you here, but it seems to leave open to doubt the ‘validity’ of any and all Mysteries performed by any and all clergy!

    In the case of receiving a convert, as long as a presbyter acts in accordance with the directives of his bishop, I do not understand why/how a situation might exist where the ritual ‘fails to be effective and so the priest should be defrocked by the bishop(s)’. (Of course, if a presbyter acted contrary to the directives of his bishop, he would be subject to discipline for disobedience.) Could you explain what you meant by this?

  14. Thomas says:

    Does a bishop have the authority to receive an unbaptized cradle Hindu by confession of faith only? If no, then “anything and everything which may have been lacking … is supplied and made whole by whatever means the convert is received” is not really true. It is only true when such a person has a, wait…for…it, valid baptism. Thus, I think you are implicitly espousing Augustine’s position. And if so implicitly, why not explicitly?

    Nathaniel, it seems to me a bishop does not ‘have the authority to receive an unbaptised cradle Hindu by confession of faith only’ because (1) it is contrary to Holy Tradition and (2) in the words of Khomiakov, ‘every Christian community … has a full right to change its forms and ceremonies … so long as it does not cause offense to the other communities’ — and such an action would, I think, be a cause of offense.

    I do not ‘explicitly’ espouse Augustine’s position because, firstly, I have not read the primary (or even secondary) sources which would make me sufficiently informed to understand his position; and secondly, because I am leery of Augustine. (Perhaps the mixed and ambivalent Orthodox attitude towards Augustine of Hippo might be a future topic of discussion on this blog — I’m definitely between the two extremes.) Perhaps the area where Augustine’s writings are most problematic — after those on the Holy Trinity — is ‘original sin’ which, it seems to me, would have a direct bearing on his views of baptism. (I am aware that Augustinism teaches that baptism removes ‘original sin’.)

  15. Correction: The above post is supposed to read “If the word is ‘kai’ it implies no such thing.’ I don’t actually have the text in Greek in front of me, but I’d imagine it is a simple ‘and’. However I cannot imagine any conjunction which can accomplish what you’re suggesting…

  16. FrPatrick,

    I have the utmost respect for you, and not merely because of your office. You often have a clarity and forthrightness that others lack.

    But I frankly don’t know how to continue this conversation. You have at every turn assumed St Augustine to represent “strange doctrine” (or at least have a “flawed model”) while admitting you have not read him on this topic and all the while attacking a caricature of him. This is utterly lacking in Christian charity and, when directed toward a saint of the Church, is in my mind a grave offence. I’m happy to admit Augustine wrong at points (as regards the last two books of De Trinitate, St Augustine’s haste resulted in a crucial error that has not been undone 1,500 years later). But the fact that you keep returning to your prejudice while admitting your lack of familiarity with the topic all the while toeing the Donatist line is quite frustrating. Rather than continuing this discussion with me, why not attempt to set your prejudice aside and read the primary texts directly? Start by assuming that St Augustine does have something to contribute and find out what it is. And if you find nothing, at least we will have details to discuss rather than me constantly rebutting you with “Augustine doesn’t say that.”

    Yes, in general you can consider Arians to be Trinitarian heretics. But as applies to the issue of baptismal validity, the question is whether or not the persons (personas/hypostasoi) are effaced, rendering the baptismal formula meaningless. The Arians believed that you had to be baptized into Christ because Christ was the (created) mediator between God and man. As such, the baptismal intent of the Arians and Orthodox were the same: baptism into Christ. Of course Athanasius demonstrates that there can be no mediator except God as man. Which is why…

    … your baptismal model, which is the same as the Donatist model, is an Arian notion of baptism. You said: “Next, a baptism is effective because the baptiser has the Holy Spirit…” This is *entirely* the Donatist line. A baptism is not effective because the baptizer has the Holy Spirit. This would be no different than being baptized into a created Christ who is possessed by the Holy Spirit (again, precisely the Arian notion). Refuting this notion, Augustine says: “Wherefore, whether a man receive the sacrament of baptism from a faithful or a faithless minister, his whole hope is in Christ, that he fall not under the condemnation that ‘cursed is he that placeth his hope in man.’ Otherwise, if each man is born again in spiritual grace of the same sort as he by whom he is baptized, and if when he who baptizes him is manifestly a good man, then he himself gives faith, he is himself the origin and root and head of him who is being born; whilst, when the baptizer is faithless without its being known, then the baptized person receives faith from Christ, then he derives his origin from Christ, then he is rooted in Christ, then he boasts in Christ as his head,—in that case all who are baptized should wish that they might have faithless baptizers, and be ignorant of their faithlessness: for however good their baptizers might have been, Christ is certainly beyond comparison better still; and He will then be the head of the baptized, if the faithlessness of the baptizer shall escape detection.” And before you reply to this, please read the whole of St Augustine’s “Answer to the Letters of Petilian, the Donatist” from where this comes. There can be no Orthodox understanding of baptism which, rejecting St Athanasius, does not admit that baptism is efficacious ONLY by union with Christ the God-man and not by union to a particular minister. As again Augustine says: “But unless we admit [that the root and head of baptism is Christ], either the Apostle Paul was the head and origin of those whom he had planted, or Apollos the root of those whom he had watered, rather than He who had given them faith in believing; whereas the same Paul says, ‘I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase: so then neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.'”

    Again you continue your defense: “To suggest that St Augustine improved on misunderstandings of St Cyprian and St Basil is problematic considering that the canons of the latter are both accepted ecumenically as inspired by the Holy Spirit, this cannot be said of St Augustine’s distinction.” This is non sequitur. First, you fail to mention the canons in question, thus you have made no argument, only assertion. Second, I have read the canons I suspect you refer to and nothing in them refutes anything St Augustine has said. As such, St Augustine stands on his own merit. Is he correct or not? Third, just because a saint is given the conciliar nod in one area does not mean he is authoritative in another area. This is an association fallacy. Forth, there is serious academic doubt as to whether or not Basil or Cyprian had any hand in the canons in question. So even if your association fallacy held true, the association may not even apply to Basil or Cyprian directly.

    Further, you state: “The Fathers at Trullo had the opportunity of using St Augustine’s terminology when readdressing the issue of (re)baptism but they did not do so rather maintaining the canons and interpretations of Sts Cyprian and Basil.” Even if you leave my “speculations” about 95 Trullo aside, the pure fact remains that the ONLY concern of the addition in 95 Trullo is the confession of heresy, NOT baptism. As such, St Augustine’s terminology would not be useful to this council. Not to mention the anti-latin leanings of Trullo… You suggest: “The Greek wording connecting the addition to Canon 7 is literally translated ‘and also…’ which implies that that proceeding action is to apply to those heresies following.” This is incorrect. The word is ‘kai’ and it implies no such thing. There is nothing in the canon as it appears in 95 Trullo that suggests anything other than that in addition to the requirements laid out by the old canon, heretics must also confess there heresy. Full stop. Nothing about baptism transfers to the last paragraph. Further, this interpretation is proved by the fact that Nestorians and Monophysites have historically been received without baptism for at least a time in every apostolic patriarchate and this is still common practice today.

    In this one sentence, you both admit and deny Augustine’s worth: “I don’t think that the validity/profitable distinction adds anything to St Basil’s comment: ‘For the older authorities had judged that baptism acceptable which disregarded no point of the faith.'” While you may here admit your inability to see Augustine’s clarification of that position, you also admit using St Basil that the old practice is to accept baptisms which are in nowise defective. This is precisely Augustine’s position: Augustine holds the ancient practice AND Cyprian’s and Basil’s theology of the Church. This is why Augustine is a clarification of both Cyprian and Basil. But you still seem to like Basil’s approach. You say: “[Basil’s] approach deals adequately with all the issues that St Augustine addressed with the notion of validity.” This it not true for two reasons, Basil’s approach:
    1. is open to the Arian reading of baptism you are proffering; the same reading that the Donatists insist upon.
    2. does not provide any concrete guidelines to bishops to make this interpretation; this is an explicit goal of Augustine’s work and valid/profitable form the groundwork of these guidelines.

    The main thrust of your objection seems to appear here: “Where I believe that St Basil’s scheme is better than that of St Augustine, is that St Basil’s allows for legitimate variation in practice, which is what we see from that of St Cyprian to that in Rome. St Augustine’s scheme tends to be fixed in that if it is valid then it must be accepted and if it is invalid then it cannot be accepted even if the baptismal rite is the same but the baptiser is invalid. This exactness of practice is not what St Basil is describing, rather he says: ‘it is necessary to follow the custom obtaining in each particular country because of their treating baptism differently.'” But, yet again, you deal in caricature. St Augustine, to my knowledge, says no such thing. The taboo of repeating valid baptisms only appears, again to my knowledge, as the *result* of Augustine’s clear definitions and the other criteria which emerges from the Donatist controversy (there are other players involved besides St Augustine, including numerous other saints before and after Augustine). And really this should be obvious. Once clear criteria are defined which cover the majority of cases it *should* be taboo to repeat valid baptisms as such is ripe for abuse and scandal. Has not our lack of clarity on this topic within Orthodoxy lead to abuse and scandal of rebaptisms, even prompting some to leave the faith in dismay? I personally know someone who, having been received by Chrismation was later told by a priest that he was excommunicated for entering the church improperly through no fault of his own. Can you still honestly say that Augustine’s criteria are not an improvement on Basil’s maxim? Nevertheless, I would sincerely doubt that Augustine would suggest anything other than that the diocesan bishop is the arbiter in these matters and that, excepting hierarchical appeal, his interpretation is final.

    In short, I view your responses as roughly:
    1. A prejudice against St Augustine.
    2. Lack of familiarity with St Augustine.
    3. Lack of familiarity with the Donatist controversy.
    4. Preference for things Greek over things Latin (Trullo vs Arles).

    The bottom line is that you have adopted the Donatist interpretation of Cyprian without honestly considering competing interpretations. That you seek to defend your position when questioned without reading the history of the objecting points is evidence to me that your only interest is sustaining your novelty. I am surprised because this is not what I have come to expect from your typically lucid and charitable writing, which I value highly.

    In any case, I make it a rule to bow out of conversations after the 3rd time I have to say “No, ‘primary source X’ doesn’t say that” since I generally find such conversations unprofitable (but valid? ;)). I’ve already gone over this limit before even writing this post. My parting words are: read St Augustine without assuming he is Simon Magus in disguise. Even if you find you disagree with everything he writes, at least you know the details for the next conversation and you will avoid frustrating your interlocutors.

  17. Irenaeus,

    Baptism in blood, yes; baptism of desire, not officially, some Fathers suggest it and others deny it; conditional baptism, not officially, where there is sufficient doubt regarding a baptism it is done as normal as if it had not been done without any conditional phrasing, although I suspect some accept or practice it.

  18. Do the Orthodox have the concepts of Baptism of Desire, Baptism of Blood, and Conditional Baptism?

  19. Nathaniel,

    Arians deny that the Son, and the Spirit, are co-eternal God thus they deny the eternal existence of the Trinity as Trinity, a non-Trinitarian God is prior to the Trinity in time. On this ground they are Trinitarian heretics because they teach falsely in regard to the eternal Trinity. I did a brief survey on the web and there are some who state that Arians are not strictly Trinitarian heretics and others who do state that they are. It depends on the perspective from which they are dealing with the issue.

    To suggest that St Augustine improved on misunderstandings of St Cyprian and St Basil is problematic considering that the canons of the latter are both accepted ecumenically as inspired by the Holy Spirit, this cannot be said of St Augustine’s distinction. The Fathers at Trullo had the opportunity of using St Augustine’s terminology when readdressing the issue of (re)baptism but they did not do so rather maintaining the canons and interpretations of Sts Cyprian and Basil. This should make one think twice before suggesting the St Augustine is improving the terminology or that there is any deficiency or contradiction in the terminology of Sts Cyprian and Basil.

    I don’t think that the validity/profitable distinction adds anything to St Basil’s comment: “For the older authorities had judged that baptism acceptable which disregarded no point of the faith.” Since he is speaking of the rite of baptism not disregarding any point of faith then this seems to point to the ritual form of baptism rather than the baptiser’s faith, although the two, as you mentioned, are normally closely linked. So, what St Basil seems to be saying is that the rite exercised in accordance to that of the Church is acceptable (i.e. does not require (re)baptism.), although not necessarily obligatorily so. This approach deals adequately with all the issues that St Augustine addressed with the notion of validity. Next, a baptism is effective because the baptiser has the Holy Spirit, which means that he is in the Church because “those who seceded from the Church had not the grace of the Holy Spirit upon them” which matches the notion of profitability. Where I believe that St Basil’s scheme is better than that of St Augustine, is that St Basil’s allows for legitimate variation in practice, which is what we see from that of St Cyprian to that in Rome. St Augustine’s scheme tends to be fixed in that if it is valid then it must be accepted and if it is invalid then it cannot be accepted even if the baptismal rite is the same but the baptiser is invalid. This exactness of practice is not what St Basil is describing, rather he says: “it is necessary to follow the custom obtaining in each particular country because of their treating baptism differently.”

    The next important aspect of St Basil’s canon is the use of economy in determining matters, which is not a fixed rule but variable to the needs. Thus, in one place one decision to accept may be made and in the second another without any contradiction. This is finally how to recoil both St Cyprian and those who accept baptisms without (re)baptising. St Cyprian is correct in strict theory and that any baptism conducted outside the Church in schism or heresy is of no effect and that on entry to the Church the candidate should be baptised. This is important because it means that baptising converts is not wrong of itself for schismatics as well as heretics. On the other hand, economy allows the acceptance without (re)baptising in certain cases where it benefits the salvation of souls and this is true particularly in schisms where it is nearly always the best approach to reception, although (re)baptising is allowable if the bishop wishes to apply this. And while (re)baptising heretics should be the norm; there may be occasions to wavier that as in the case of the Arians, perhaps because they didn’t change the baptism rite, rather maintaining it strictly. The categories of strictness and economy account for both St Cyprian’s (re)baptising and the other ancient practice of not always doing so without fixing any rule on economy and so allowing for various regional practices, which the Lord permitted to accommodate pastoral needs. The theory always remains, though, that there is no baptism outside the Church, as defined on the hierarchy, and the baptismal rite in itself given by any outside the Church does not obligate reception without (re)baptism rather by default they should be received by baptism. The reception of some groups, by strictness or economy, was fixed ecumenically, that is to be followed by all, to perhaps avoid potential confusion and perhaps to prevent disputes that were getting out of hand. Following the categories mentioned here, there is no need for carefully constructed schemes of heretical types, although this may well have been part of the reason for the decision, in terms of universally defined practice, regarding certain groups. Finally, all this is consistent with the focus being on the hierarchy in term of effective baptisms, and St Augustine’s distinctions are consistent with this also, although, in my view, they tend to give meaning to the rite itself independent to the rites relation to the hierarchy of the Church, which has been taken to its conclusion in present Roman Catholic teaching, albeit undoubtedly contrary to St Augustine’s meaning.

    Regarding Canon 95, you effectively read it exactly the same way as Balsamon, and there is really no dispute about the final application. I think that your classifications etc are rather speculative, and although perhaps true, unnecessary and potentially leading to other problems. Personally my speculative view is that the three initial heresies tagged onto the end of the repeated Canon 7 are there because they are mentioned in the Canon of St Basil yet without St Basil formally mentioning the action to be carried out in regards to them, although the implication is for baptising them and so the Fathers at Trullo added them to Canon 7 to clarify that matter that they need to be baptised. The Greek wording connecting the addition to Canon 7 is literally translated “and also… ” which implies that that proceeding action is to apply to those heresies following, the reading of Balsamon and yourself. In terms of the material about renunciations and Nestorians etc, the reading is harder to determine and the practice of only receiving them without even Chrism seems to be attested by other historical evidence, to which you refer, but this seems contrary to the rule of St Basil of receiving all external baptisms with Chrism, hence I am reluctant to immediately read it as acceptance without Chrismation. I prefer to see it as an extension of what is required in the renunciations made by all heretics coming into the Church so that it includes heresies and heretical leaders post Second Constantinople. The last phrase of partaking communion I read as one that completes the whole process of reception that is to partake of the communion after baptism and anointing etc and completes Canon 7 as well as the addition. The reasons for this reading is canonical consistency, Greek wording, and it ties in with the trend of the Fathers of Trullo to tidy up and to read as consistent previous canon law.

  20. David,

    In the case of your children, the application of water that they received is well within that accepted in cases of economy and so of no hindrance to an effective baptism. The modification of the strict rite was a case of necessity due to the disposition/age of the children and the priest performed the rite as completely as possible to conform to three immersions. Pouring water over the one being baptised, particularly the head, is a well accepted and very ancient alternative within Tradition to full immersion if full immersion is not practical. Problems start with using sprinkling, rather than pouring, because sprinkling is disconnected from immersion and the image of burial/resurrection and with using only one immersion, which neither shows the image of three day burial nor the image of three distinct persons in one God. Also, there is a problem when the strict form is not maintained without reason, this goes to disobedience and that we are baptising as we will rather than as God wills thus separating our action from that of God, who is the one giving new birth not us.

  21. BTW, to apply legal terms to Augustine is reading later theology into the text. I am not aware that he ever uses a legal metaphor.

    Augustine’s criteria begins to make more sense when you read it as a criteria to define when baptism MUST occur. For instance, non-triune formula. When you read him this way, you immediately see his congruence with the Apostolic canons. He is not trying to establish a metaphysical system at all, this is a later reading. He is simply providing a theological tool to explain ancient custom. That Cyprian may disagree with his conclusion is only the result of his lacking the valid/profitable distinction. Thus Augustine is a synthesis of Cyprian and the ancient custom.

  22. First, Arians are not Trinitarian heretics since they neither deny nor conflate the persons. They are Christological heretics since they deny the participation of the second person in the divinity of the first person. In fact, the Arians maintained the old baptismal formula: “In the name of the Father, in the Son and through the Holy Spirit.”

    Second, the problem with Balsamon’s approach is that it considers the canon as entirely composed at Trullo, which we know to be false. As such, the appearance of the first 80% of the canon in 95 Trullo is a quote, a footnote if you will, of the earlier canon from 1st Constantinople. The addition found in 95 Trullo clearly divides the heretics into two groups. The first group contains the heresies found primarily in Galatia and which are received by baptism. The second group refers to those heresies received by confession of faith. The antiochians still received the monophysites and nestorians by confession of faith only (without chrismation!) according to their ancient custom. The concern of the addition in 95 Trullo is not to add additional baptismal requirements, but to insist that heretics recant their heresies.

    Third, I find it funny that you defend your position using the Cathari who, schismatics or heretics:
    1. Are received by chrismation
    2. Are proto-Donatists

    Forth, let’s deal again with Augustine’s terminology. Augustine is concerned to establish a theological criterion by which a schismatic sacramental act can be infused with grace by union to the Church. He points out rightly that reception by chrismation is the old practice and that Cyprian (and by proxy, Basil) are denying the ancient practice because they lack a criteria to determine which acts can be filled with grace. By analogy, grace is water and “valid” is a bowl. An invalid sacrament is a colander, a bowl with holes which cannot hold the water of grace.

    Thus, you should think of Augustine’s terminology as answering the question “which baptisms are bowls and which are colanders?” Augustine is keen, due his pastoral sensibilities, not to require more than is necessary for converts (only that which is sick needs to be healed). Thus, if a convert is coming from a schism in which the general ethos of the Catholic Church is kept in tact and they differ only in ancillary issues, than the baptism is “whole” enough to hold the water of grace by union with the Catholic Church. Think ROCOR/Moscow: there was little to no ethos differences. However, if the schism is rapidly departing from the tradition of the Church (say by denying the reality of episcopal succession and baptismal regeneration), than the baptism received is really not the same baptism: it cannot hold the water of grace.

    All of this boils down to his maxim: only what is sick needs to be healed. If the only dividing issue is the color of the carpet, than the baptism doesn’t need to be repeated.

    I am not aware Augustine ever uses intention as a criteria. However, the heresy criteria only matters insofar as the heresy rejects or conflates the persons of the trinity, rendering the triune formula meaningless. In most of these cases, the heretics rejected the triune formula altogether.

  23. David Lindblom says:

    Fr. Patrick, you said:

    “Firstly, I do not reject the fact that God may be able to save in exceptional circumstances those who would otherwise appear to outside the rules. However, I would not presume this…”

    Hmm, the presume aspect has traction in me. I will have to think on this a bit more.

    A question for you then, my 3 kids were baptized int the Church. They were 4,2 and later an infant. The older 2 were afraid to allow their heads to be immersed despite our previous efforts to prepare them for this. So having them go into the water up to their armpits he then poured water over their heads 3 times. With infants our priest doesn’t like to submerge their heads under the water so he baptized the little one the same way as the older 2. Seeing as how this was not a full immersion would you think that these baptisms are also of no affect?

  24. Nathaniel,

    Ok, St Augustine denies grace outside the Church. This means that the validity of the mysteries in schism is not due to any grace. Thus, that leaves it as matter of form in the model of Orthodox theology that I have learnt. If this is so the question arises is why does intention or heresy matter. The form is not dependant on the mental state of the baptiser only on the actions. When St Cyprian says that a priest can baptise this means that he has the grace to do so. When St Augustine says this in schism then he cannot be talking about grace then what is he saying. Is he reducing validity to legality? But what does that matter? Surely the issue is whether the priest has the Holy Spirit and if so then he has grace to baptise and if not then he does not have such grace; he is then no different from a layman, as St Basil says. So, please explain this statement: “that baptism must also be acknowledged which was administered by one who by his secession had not lost the sacrament of conferring baptism” From my understanding the sacrament of conferring baptism is the grace of the Holy Spirit so to say that it exists outside the Church means that grace exists outside the Church and that the baptism is effective. That is why the confusion of mechanical grace. Why does a valid form require a valid baptiser merely as form and not grace? So then, does baptism consist of the form of water, grace and the legal ordination of the baptiser? St Cyprian and St Basil see ordination as a spiritual state with a particular gift of the Spirit and once the Spirit departs the ordination is of no value although his ordination is not forgotten. St Augustine seems to give this memory legal status which means that his baptisms outside the Church are legal and those of others are not. I don’t see this reasoning expressed in the Canons else they would say we accept baptisms of those baptised by a priest who can trace ordination to the Church but not by those who cannot do so, which the Canons do not say. It can work to explain many of the choices for accepting certain baptisms and not others but this has a problem with the choice of accepting a baptism moving from being freely exercised economy for particular needs to one that is bound to legal rules of validity. Am I getting close to St Augustine? If not then keep explaining please.

  25. Nathaniel,

    Arians are Trinitarian heretics yet they are received without baptism, which is a problem with your scheme.

    I follow Balsamon in that the extra heretics mentioned at the end of Canon 95 are required to be baptised as well as anathematising their heresy and all the other heresies are their hierarchs.

    Cathari following St Basil are considered schismatics rather than heretics, so Canon 95 could be said to apply to schismatics other than heretics.

    I don’t see that there is any problem requiring St Augustine’s solution to reconcile St Cyprian and other ancient practice nor that St Basil was lacking sufficient explanatory models to deal with the situation. I think that any conflict occurs between St Cyprian and St Basil because St Augustine is working from a theological model that is not consistent with them and this model is what causes problems elsewhere in his theology. I am very wary of relying on St Augustine’s approach, even if it seems a good model for this issue. There are much wider implications and unless you are willing to accept all of his model and its implications in other areas of theology then one must take care of taking part in isolation from the rest. It is not just about a distinction that he makes but about all the reasoning that goes behind it.

    Thomas,
    A quibble in turn with

    “I think it should be stated that rigourism has never been the focus of the Church in the reception of converts (or in applying the canons).”

    St Basil is making a focus that the Canons are to be applied rigorously: “For we are not obliged to return thanks to them, but to serve the Canons with exactitude.” So, at least in terms of the canons I think that your statement is false; it also runs contrary to the first Canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. I understand that the Fathers have always focused on rigour while at the same time always acted economically.

    I know of quite a number of cases of persons being baptised some time after being initially received and the baptism has had a noticeable transforming effect on them and they have glowed spiritually. This would hardly be likely if this was contrary to the will of God. What was missing in the conversion was made up in performing the rite properly. This does not mean that the local church is without grace only that without the proper rite the local priest/bishop was unable to confer that grace on the convert. The scandal rather lies in any who receive converts not in accordance to the Tradition of the Church and then try to say that they have been properly received.

    A valid priest by performing an invalid rite does not immediately defrock himself, he remains a valid priest and the presence of Christ. The rite though fails to be effective and so the priest should be defrocked by the bishop(s) for harming the soul of those to whom he was ministering, although there is room for repentance and continuing in ministry.

    We are not to judge priests or bishops in terms of deposing them because only bishops can do this. However, this does not mean that we cannot recognise their mistakes and report them to the bishop or if needed avoid receiving from them, but again to do this without clear justification is schismatic. As Orthodox we do not close our eyes to sin and incorrect practice, we are responsible if we blindly follow a priest or bishop or bishops who fall into heresy but neither do we act apart from our hierarchy nor should we pry into their hidden personal sins but we are not to turn a blind eye to those sins that are public and manifest to all.

    Also, sins can affect the performance of rites, else the prayers that God does withhold His Spirit due to the sins of the offerers would be meaningless. The performance of the rites is not purely mechanical but conducted by humble prayer. God is free to accept or refuse the gift; He is not a machine who automatically acts if we give the right instructions. Nevertheless, we can accept the offerings of those who have repented even from serious sins, such as the those who had even denied Christ, and minor sins are not to be of concern and, apart from exceptional cases, we should accept a priest or bishop until he is deposed or suspended. In countering the mistake of the Donatists we should not go to another extreme.

  26. David,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Firstly, I do not reject the fact that God may be able to save in exceptional circumstances those who would otherwise appear to outside the rules. However, I would not presume this and I understand that form etc matters. The actions of others do matter, Adam’s sin has affected all of us. One always hopes that God will save those who have done all in their power to go to the right place but we must take care in so saying that we don’t deny what is needed for salvation.

    We are beings in community the sins of one affect the other, we are not isolated individuals. If the sins of one could not affect another then we would not truly be able to come into holistic communion with God with each other and maintain our freedom and live in synergy with God. If we don’t participate with Christ and each other through physical symbols then we would not be able to save the whole man of body and soul. We need to unite in physical ways as well as spiritual. Yet, physical means form and actions which can be neglected so there is risk here but without it we could not be fully united. If this were not so then Christ would not have required the symbols of the mysteries but saved us by faith alone.

  27. FrPatrick, its not a direct accusation of mechanistic grace but an indirect one of grace at all. The Donatists ask if they are “sons of God” for instance (On Baptism 1.13-14). Or if they have remission of sins (On Baptism 1.15-20). The reasons that the Donatists are asking this is they are trying to find out if Augustine is suggesting that grace works outside the Church. Augustine’s answer is no. If he answers no to that question, than clearly the accusation of mechanistic grace working outside the Church is also a negative.

  28. Nathaniel,

    Please provide St Augustine’s refutation of the Donatist argument about being mechanical. That they came up with the same accusation means that this is a take on St Augustine that is suggested by his writings and so my impression is not “patently false” but is false due to nuances that I have not yet read. Please provide the refuting argument or reference it for me. I have not had time to read through all of his material so I am putting forward impressions at this stage. From what I have read of St Augustine so far, it does not seem consistent with the model from which the other Fathers are working nor consistent of models for the eucharist etc but I will give him more time.

  29. David Lindblom says:

    Fr. Patrick,
    Before reply I want to make it clear that I’m not opposed to receiving converts by baptism. Nor am I saying that baptism is not necessary for salvation in all normative situations. I would gladly do it as would my wife, heck I’d shovel snow in our parking lot in a bathing suit if required. It is the idea that one coming to Christ and His Church in good conscience ready to do whatever is necessary is damned based on what another does or does not do.

    You said:
    “Christ said that unless one is born of water and the spirit then one will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

    and
    “If a person without any form of baptism is not allowed to enter the Kingdom of heaven consistent with the teaching of Christ then is Christ a fundamentalist pharisee?”

    One thing I have noticed w/ people or groups who are fundamentalist (again..no insult or disrespect intended here) is that they are only fundamentalist in one or two areas. Like the KJV Only folks, Old Calenderists who separate themselves from the Church, those who say one must speak in tongues or one is does not have the Holy Spirit. All hammer on a couple of verses in a very literal way. In this situations it is primarily the John passage you quote. You use it as if there were no other teaching on this. Is Christ a fundamentalist? Of course not, being God and all, but if someone were to lay that charge against Him it would not stick. Why? Because He accepted the thief on the cross w/ only a profession of faith. What of the martyrs who were not able to be baptized? There is the baptism by blood thing but still it wasn’t in water. They still do not measure up to your standard yet God accepts them.

    Jesus made other such statements where He gave no “out”. Like:
    Call no man Father…period.
    Cut off any body part that causes you to sin…period.
    Hate your father and mother or you cannot follow Me…period.

    Why do you not hold these verses in the same rigorist way you do the one statement on baptism?

    And speaking of Canons I found this on another site dealing w/ this issue:

    “In the very next canon of the Apostolic Council – XLVII: Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again (i.e. re-baptize {emphasis mine}) one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false.” Which can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/3ovknqg.

    It is my understanding that Canons are not ironfisted rules but strong guides to be applied pastorally. Perhaps I am wrong.

    Again, I have to reiterate, the thinking that a person who comes to Christ and His Church w/ faith and repentance, walking away from all that he knew as a Protestant Christain and willing to do whatever…is damned because his priest said that his Trinitarian baptism w/ one immersion is accepted when it is not according to you. The priest is speaking on the authority of his bishop who is speaking for his Metropolitan who is speaking for the Patriarch. You still say this person is damed?? Is this not a sin for the priest and the others if what you say is true? Why would God damn a willing person for the error of another? Doesn’t this, in principle, violate the Old Testament statements by God who said the child will not suffer for the sins of their parents or anyone else. I’m sorry Father, but that is not the God of the Bible as I see it and I do not think I’m alone in that thinking. Where is the God of compassion and mercy who desires all people to be saved? Baptism into the Church is certainly the norm. But as can be seen both in the Bible and in history God does make allowances for the special cases because He does know the heart and is indeed not willing that any should perish.

  30. I should say that I agree with your project to utterly raze the notion that baptism outside the Church somehow grants one membership to the Church. This issue you rightly understand as foolish and having no basis in the Scriptures or our Sacred Tradition. This idea only exists in Orthodoxy due to the influence of protestants who, converting to the Catholic faith, have not taken part in the ancient custom of refuting former heresies including the notion of a “noetic, invisible Church,” independent from the Church which Christ has founded at Pentecost. This error is thus precisely our own fault for not maintaining the ancient and venerable repudiation custom.

  31. I’m glad we agree that the Roman view, either ancient or contemporary is only tangentially related to Augustine’s view. Such is paramount for any proper interpretation of Augustine.

    Augustine only calls Cyprian in error as regards his conclusion, and even in this Augustine assumes that this conclusion was necessary for the local management of Carthage at that time. Further, he excuses Cyprian’s errant conclusion on the basis that:
    1. Cyprian lived before the council which resolved these issues (likely Arles in 314AD)
    2. Cyprian did not break communion with those who did not practice his same policy (as would later the Donatists)

    One further thing worth noting is that Augustine demonstrates by Cyprian’s own hand that not rebaptizing is in fact the older custom (On Baptism 2.9).

    However, I have made the argument that Augustine’s view is a clarification of Cyprian’s. How then do I mean this if it is apparent that their conclusions differ?

    I mean this in the sense that all of Cyprian’s presuppositions are also held by Augustine and that Augustine’s view represents a clarification of these presuppositions while maintaining the older practice. Take for instance Cyprian’s insistence that schismatic churches have no authority to baptize. Cyprian concludes from this that any baptisms they attempt are therefore no baptism at all. However, Augustine *agrees* that these churches have no authority, and yet the baptism is yet a valid baptism, though unprofitable, by virtue of the authority of the schismatics’ emulation of the Catholic Church. Thus Cyprian’s mistake is only to be found in his lack of a distinction between valid and profitable. Because Cyprian fails to make this distinction he is forced, in order to maintain the integrity of the Church, to rule against ancient custom. Yet Augustine, in possessing this distinction, is able to maintain both Cyprian’s *correct* assessment of the schismatic churches and the ancient custom (which was vindicated at Arles).

    Thus, Augustine clarifies Cyprian in the same way that Nicea clarifies Origen’s “two Gods” rhetoric (or Irenaeus’ “the son is God” formula, or Paul’s “firstborn of all creation” language) by maintaining a distinction between hypostasis and ousia. Basil makes the same mistake as Cyprian: he rules ancient custom invalid due to him lacking a key terminological distinction in his theology. However, this does not make him wrong per se any more than Origen was wrong about “two Gods,” just lacking a key distinction.

    You have asserted that Augustine and Basil come to different conclusions as represented in this quote from Basil: ”yet after breaking away they became laymen, and had no authority either to baptize or to ordain anyone, nor could they impart the grace of the Spirit to others.” On the surface this may appear true, but, again, Augustine admits plainly this fact: “And so there is one Church which alone is called Catholic; and whenever it has anything of its own in these communions of different bodies which are separate from itself, it is most certainly in virtue of this which is its own in each of them that it, not they, has the power of generation.”

    Again, the apparent conflict only arises because Basil lacks the clear distinction between valid and profitable. Because of this, Augustine’s statements about the proper priestly authority in schism, which relates only to validity (not efficacy/profitability) is not directly comparable to Basil’s. You are comparing Apples to Pears: they are similar, but not the same.

    As I have stated numerous times, those who peddle a direct conflict between Cyprian/Basil and Augustine only do so by reading Cyprian’s/Basil’s terminology onto Augustine’s “validity.” If we did this with Origen’s “two Gods” language, or Paul’s “firstborn of all creation” formula, we would be forced to reject Nicea (as well as the ancient custom of insisting on “one God”). This methodology makes no sense since Augustine is clearly providing a distinction not found directly (it is there indirectly) in Cyprian/Basil. Just as in Nicea, Augustine’s terminology is provided precisely to preserve the correct teaching in spite of the fact that contemporary theological language appears to rule out ancient custom.

    The end result of all this is that you clearly misunderstand Augustine and your project to root baptism in heirarchy is the result of your inability to understand the importance of Augustine’s distinction between valid and profitable. You said: “St Augustine’s model suggests that God works outside the relationship to the hierarchy and that ordination is a mechanistic grace that continues regardless of spiritual relationship.” This statement is patently false and is a classic Donatist argument that Augustine refutes on multiple occasions. Augustine believes no such thing. What you are missing is that your insistence that the believer enters the church “through a priest” is, in fact, an Arian reading of soteriology: that union with YHWH is accomplished through a created mediator. Augustine has imbued Athanasius in a way you have yet missed. This is precisely why I have insisted that not only are you bordering on Donatism, but that this opinion is clearly rejected by the Orthodox Church (even if contemporary Orthodox have forgotten this fact).

    Of course, sadly, you are aided in this mistake by the legion of Roman Christians who understand Augustine in ways he never intended. Their concept of independently working grace, which you are endeavoring to refute, is refuted by Augustine himself on the same grounds as the Donatists: it is a union with something other than Christ. Augustine believes no such thing. Neither do I.

    In short, you and I and Basil and Augustine all agree: grace does not work independently from the Church. Baptism outside the church is in no way efficacious. What Augustine provides, and what you have not yet seen, is the key distinction which allows us to maintain apostolic practice in the reception of schismatics and certain heretics; a distinction which is upheld ecumenically at both Constantinople and Trullo and is used in *all* modern schismatic rapproachments (see my comments about ROCOR/Moscow, etc above). I guarantee that if the Old Calendarists decided one day to return to the Church, they would not be baptized or re-ordained but received only by confession of faith. Ask yourself, why is this? On what basis is this possible?

    Augustine’s categories on baptism are used implicitly everywhere in Orthodoxy and we only refuse to use them explicitly because Augustine has become unpopular in certain circles among those who wish to use him as a heresiarch in polemics against Rome and “the West.” Such attempts have largely misunderstood Augustine and attributed heresy to him that is not his. This is a great tragedy and a sin against a great man of God.

  32. Nathaniel,

    It is the theological model behind the position of St Augustine that is interesting in terms of this post particularly in terms of his understanding of the priesthood. This is something that I would like to continue discussing.

    In terms of the Roman view, I was referring to the Roman view pre-Schism that of Pope Stephen and Pope St Leo the Great and not that of the present time. This view is that the correct form of baptism once done cannot be repeated. This is similar to St Augustine saying that the baptism of schismatics is valid and not to be repeated but differs in that the Roman view does not repeat the baptism of heretics either and St Augustine does require this. The Roman view at this time did not see there being any effect of a baptism outside the Church, it was merely an empty form, but nevertheless, the form could not be repeated; St Leo is clear on this. St Cyprian and St Basil hold that the form can and should be repeated regardless of whether it was performed by schismatics or by heretics. However, St Basil does acknowledge that it was also an ancient understanding to consider schismatics as still in the Church and so their baptisms as being permitted which is close to the view of St Augustine. St Augustine also says that St Cyprian was in error and so he could hardly be in full agreement with him. (Baptism vs Donatists 1.18)

    St Basil seems to move to the position of St Cyprian, who does not seem to make the distinction between schism and heresy:

    because the beginning, true enough, of the separation resulted through a schism, but those who seceded from the Church had not the grace of the Holy Spirit upon them; for the impartation thereof ceased with the interruption of the service. For although the ones who were the first to depart had been ordained by the Fathers and with the imposition of their hands they had obtained the gracious gift of the Spirit, yet after breaking away they became laymen, and had no authority either to baptize or to ordain anyone, nor could they impart the grace of the Spirit to others, after they themselves had forfeited it. Wherefore they bade that those baptized by them should be regarded as baptized by laymen, and that when they came to join the Church they should have to be repurified by the true baptism as prescribed by the Church.

    This quote also shows the difference of St Basil/St Cyprian and St Augustine. For St Augustine a validly ordained priest maintains his priesthood outside the church and is thus able to baptise:

    “If, therefore, the baptism be acknowledged which he could not lose who severed himself from the unity of the Church, that baptism must also be acknowledged which was administered by one who by his secession had not lost the sacrament of conferring baptism.”

    For St Basil this is not the case and a priest separating from the Church is unable to baptise or do any such function:

    ” yet after breaking away they became laymen, and had no authority either to baptize or to ordain anyone, nor could they impart the grace of the Spirit to others”

    This is quite a different way of understanding the mystery of ordination. “Authority” here is not only mere permission but also points to incapacity.

    What I am proposing as an understanding of the mystery is that union with Christ is manifest as union with the hierarchy through whom Christ is mystically present. Separating from the hierarchy is separating from Christ. (The relationship is not an exact equivalence and the relationship with Christ and with the hierarchy can be distinguished.) A layman separates from Christ should he separate from his priest. A priest who separates himself from his bishop is no longer able to baptise because he has separated from Christ and so can no-longer be said to manifest the presence of Christ and hence the baptism is not one effected by God through the priest. The mystery of the priesthood is that God manifests and operates through the priesthood and not externally from it. St Augustine’s model suggests that God works outside the relationship to the hierarchy and that ordination is a mechanistic grace that continues regardless of spiritual relationship. Also it suggests that the Holy Spirit works through forms as if the form in itself causes the Holy Spirit’s presence. Unity seems to derive from a similarity of attributes rather than a union of persons. Whereas I am proposing that the mysteries function in a relationship of persons whose relationship is manifest through various symbols and orders. Thus, one enters the Church through a relationship with a priest who gives birth to the neophyte through the symbol and rite of baptism and continues to feed and unite the person through the symbol and rite of the eucharist as well as teaching/preaching. The priest in turn is united to Christ in his relation with the bishop through the symbol and rite of ordination and the priest’s service is united with the bishop through the consecrated altar and blessed chrism as well as consent of the bishop. Bishops are united with each other the symbol of ordination, recognition of the primate and gathering in synods and primates are united similarly about patriarchs who recognise each other sharing one Faith and Tradition, which points to relationship with and manifestation of Christ and who He is in truth and life. All these relationships manifest union with Christ. Once a hierarchal relationship is broken then there is a separation from Christ of the one who breaks the relationship for wrong motives. However, since the relationship is with Christ and not merely with man, then a schism is not necessarily a break of either of the parties from Christ since it could have been caused by a misunderstanding etc so a schism between equal ranks as of relationships between disciples is generally also less immediately damaging than a schism from a higher rank which is more directly a breach of the Christ/disciple relationship hence out of the Church. This fits well with the categories given by St Basil and variation in reconciliation. And a schism from a higher rank is only such if that higher rank is in Christ and so for example if a bishop is publicly proclaiming a previously recognised heresy, he is no longer manifesting Christ in truth and hence separating from him is not separation from Christ.

  33. Thomas,

    Does a bishop have the authority to receive an unbaptized cradle Hindu by confession of faith only? If no, then “anything and everything which may have been lacking … is supplied and made whole by whatever means the convert is received” is not really true. It is only true when such a person has a, wait…for…it, valid baptism. Thus, I think you are implicitly espousing Augustine’s position. And if so implicitly, why not explicitly?

  34. Thomas says:

    My apologies for my delayed response to Father Patrick’s request for clarification.

    If Christ is not present in the baptiser then the baptism is not of God and it is not one that brings the baptised into a relationship with Christ nor into the life of the Trinity, so the baptism is of no effect and does not permit entry into the Church.

    The reason I said this could be read in a Donatistic manner is that it brings into question the spiritual status of the baptiser.

    If, for instance, an Orthodox presbyter were to become lukewarm and fall into atheism (may it not be!) yet continue to carry out hieratic duties, it could be argued that Christ were no longer present in the baptiser and therefore, according to the quoted passage, any baptism he performed would not be ‘of God’ and would neither bring ‘the baptised into a relationship with Christ nor into the life of the Trinity’.

    Such an argument is, as I understand it, the position of the Donatists who taught the worthiness of the presbyter was a requirement for a Mystery to be effectual. Specifically, the Donatists insisted that those who wavered during persecution of Christians, even by handing over Holy Scripture as a token of repudiation of the Christian faith (earning the label traditores — traitors), were incapable of conferring effectual Mysteries, even after repentance.

    It seems Nathaniel McCallum ‘grepped’ 🙂 and grasped this in a similar manner as did I.

    In response to Nathaniel, I see Father Patrick has clarified his statement by saying that in the scenario I describe above, Christ would still be present in the baptiser by means of his ordination and ‘his recognised status as a priest’ apart from any ‘personal sins of the priest’. I think this is helpful. (As I wrote in my initial comment, I was sure Father Patrick did not intend his statement in a Donastistic manner!)

    ———-

    Perhaps a small quibble with Nathaniel’s statement that ‘the so-called Cyprianic position has never existed in history’:

    The ‘so-called Cyprianic position’ has never been the practise of the universal Church at any time, but it certainly existed in the Church of Carthage during the time of Saint Cyprian. According to my understanding, it is the position at present on Mount Athos and I think there has been a tendency towards that position in other areas as well.

    That there has been variations in the reception of converts through the centuries (as described in the essays by Father George Dragas which I provided in my initial comment and Archimandrite Ambrosius provided by Ad Orientem in his initial comment) is something I think does bear on the subject of ‘Baptismal Membership’. I know Father Patrick ‘would prefer that this discussion … not focus on reception of converts … but on the theological implications of the opinion that the Church is defined by baptism’, but I’m not certain the two can really be separated.

    ———-

    In the situation described by David Lindblom, I think it should be stated that rigourism has never been the focus of the Church in the reception of converts (or in applying the canons). As I understand it, the overriding concern has always been and is pastoral: effecting spiritual growth and aiding persons towards theosis. Thus, in receiving converts, the Church has consistently recognised that anything and everything which may have been lacking (in a baptismal rite a convert underwent prior to conversion and reception into the Church) is supplied and made whole by whatever means the convert is received — even if the reception is regarded by some as irregular. And, of course, the newly Orthodox Christian, by participation in the life of the Church and the recption of her Mysteries, is thereby provided all possible means of spiritual growth.

    I know of cases where an Orthodox Christian who had been receiving the Mysteries found an Orthodox presbyter and was ‘baptised’. This ought to be regarded as scandalous by all Orthodox Chrisitans inasmuch as it is a de facto denial of the ‘validity’ of the Mysteries previously received and is tantamount to claiming the local church where the Orthodox Christian had been receiving the Mysteries has fallen away from the Church and is without grace.

    For this reason, I find this statement troubling and — dare I say — suggestive of Donatism:

    Just because a local bishop or region of bishops has not yet been separated from the Church does not mean that all that they do is legitimate and correct.

    If ‘a local bishop or region of bishops has not yet been separated from the Church’, is this not an admission they remain united to and are part of the Church? Would it not be the case then, in the earlier words of Father Patrick, that Christ would be ‘mystically present, via ordination, in the … priest/bishop who is serving with the consent of and in unity with an orthodox bishop(s)’ and that converts received by the same are truly united to the Body of Christ, the Church?

    Are we to judge bishops (who have ‘not yet been separated from the Church’)? Are we to judge whether their actions are ‘legitimate’ or ‘correct’? To do so strikes me as a Protestant mindset which ought to be anathema to all Orthodox Christians.

  35. I grouped together Anglican and Roman baptisms in the last post. However, while both are unclear I think that the Roman baptisms are abundantly more certain than the Anglican ones due to problems with episcopal succession in the Anglican communion. I mean only that they are unclear in the sense that the Orthodox Catholic Church has no clear rule either direction. IMHO, I do not think we can accept Anglican baptisms without accepting their claim to episcopal succession, something I am very leery to do given the clear historical defects of form in their episcopal ordinations, not to mention their priestly ordinations.

  36. Fr Patrick,

    The last canon you posted (95 Trullo / 7 or 5 of Constantinople) is an interesting canon. As it first appears (Constantinople) it reads as follows:

    “Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors] and anathematize every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God. Thereupon, they are first sealed or anointed with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears; and when we seal them, we say, The Seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and [the partisans of] all other heresies— for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:— all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them.”

    The phrase “all other heresies” refers particularly to the Galatians, who were Marcionites and Gnostics; both of whom possessed a Trinitarian heresy, clearly putting them in the camp of the Sabellians (requiring baptism).

    It is only in Trullo that the following addition is made at the end:

    “And the Manichæans, and Valentinians and Marcionites and all of similar heresies must give certificates and anathematize each his own heresy, and also Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, and the other chiefs of such heresies, and those who think with them, and all the aforesaid heresies; and so they become partakers of the holy Communion.”

    This addition is odd for three reasons. First, the “Manichæans, and Valentinians and Marcionites” are clearly covered by the “Galatians” reference above. Second, there was a variety of practice, even in Constantinople, in receiving the Nestorians and Monophysites, but the most common was by profession of faith only. Third, this addition is clearly grouped into those heresies requiring baptism (Manichæans, Valentinians and Marcionites) and those not requiring baptism (Nestorians and Monophysites). I think we can only deduce that this addition was added only to make it clear that whatever the mode of reception, those coming from heretical sects MUST explicitly reject their heresy.

    Thus, the principle laid out by this canon, as it appears on Trullo, is:
    1. All heretics, whether received by baptism or confession/chrismation, must explicitly reject their heresies. Sadly, this requirement is commonly skipped in our modern practice and should be revived.
    2. Heretics that do not possess a trinitarian heresy are to be received by confession/chrismation unless there is a defect of form, in which case they are to be received by baptism.
    3. Trinitarian heretics are to be received by baptism.

    The canon says nothing about schismatics who possess no heresy, but I think it safe to assume that at most they would be received by confession/chrismation and at the least by simply re-establishing communion.

    Thus, when you step back and take a look at this canon, we note something striking: it is precisely the same formula applied by St Augustine! This formula can be summarized by his statement: “For in all points in which they think with us, they also are in communion with us, and only are severed from us in those points in which they dissent from us.” That is, we establish as the corrective requirements for communion only those things which actually need to be healed and not those things which need no correction. Thus, if there is no defect in either the form of the baptism or the trinity of persons which establishes the form or in the ordination of the presbyter performing the ritual, than baptism is “valid” and may be made “profitable” simply by union with the Orthodox Catholic Church.

    I have yet to see any passage in any Father or any canon which disagrees with St Augustine. And in fact, all modern schisms which have been healed have followed St Augustine’s guidelines to the letter. Take for instance the ROCOR/Moscow rapproachment, or any of the numerous schisms in Ukraine that were resolved. None of them required rebaptism or even chrismation, but merely the re-establishment of communion. Probably the best ancient example of this is the so-called “Hippolytan” schism (most likely healed by Hippolytus) which was also healed merely by re-establishment of communion.

    And while this principle may seem “wide” it is quite clear that all protestant baptisms maintain a defect of form and minister and that Roman/Anglican baptisms are definitely unclear. Thus in practice, Augustine’s rule is quite narrow while at the same time bearing the full charitable vision of the Church.

  37. David,

    Christ said that unless one is born of water and the spirit then one will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. If a bishop was to tell someone that they are a member of the Church without applying water and without giving the Spirit then would Christ allow that person to enter the Kingdom of heaven? If so then Christ has contradicted Himself; one wouldn’t need to be born of water and spirit but be accepted by a bishop or rather, following the logic that you presented, only be of good intention in the heart because salvation cannot depend on the actions/decision of another. Because we don’t baptise ourselves and baptism requires some material form then we are dependant for our salvation on the decision/action of another and this is part of the synergy of our salvation. If a person without any form of baptism is not allowed to enter the Kingdom of heaven consistent with the teaching of Christ then is Christ a fundamentalist pharisee? Once we admit that some form of baptism is required then the issue that this form must take a particular form or at least have particular features is consistent with requiring the form and that without these features the form is not that one which is required. The holy canons set out what these features are.

    If you are willing to anything necessary including travel then there are other canonical bishops and priests who will baptise you. Just because a local bishop or region of bishops has not yet been separated from the Church does not mean that all that they do is legitimate and correct. The problems of western practice occurred up to centuries before the Schism and eventually after failing to repent and increasing scandal and disputes they had to be separated.

    Here are some Canons that provided the reason for my comments and position.
    St Basil the Great:
    For persons have not been baptized who have been baptized in names that have not been handed down to by the traditional teaching’, so that if this fact has escaped the notice of great Dionysius, it is nevertheless incumbent upon us to guard against imitating the mistake. For the absurdity is self-evident and perspicuous to all who have any share at all of ability to reason even in a small way.

    Canon 47 of the Apostolic Canons:
    If a Bishop or Presbyter baptise anew anyone that has had a true baptism, of fail to baptise anyone that has been polluted by the impious, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is mocking the Cross and death of the Lord and failing to distinguish priests from pseudopriests.

    Canon 49 of the Apostolic Canons:
    If any Bishop or Presbyter baptize anyone not into the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Lord’s ordinance, but into three beginningless beings or into three sons or into three comforters, let him be deposed.

    Canon 50 of the Apostolic Canons:
    If any Bishop or Presbyter does not perform three immersions in making one baptism, but a single immersion, that given into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord did not say, “Baptize ye into my death,” but, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

    Canon 95 of Trullo or Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council
    As for Eunomians, however, who baptize with a single immersion, and Montanists… ; and all other heresies… as for all of them who wish to join Orthodoxy, we accept them as Greeks. Accordingly… we baptize them.

    Note: Montanists did not use the correct names so this section is likely to be focusing on those with incorrect form and formula and then there is a catch all clause for all heresies not specifically named in the canon.

    It is plain that a bishop is to obey these three canons not to decide for himself whether to follow them or not, else it would be meaningless to threaten to depose him for not obeying them. If the bishop is to be deposed for not obeying a canon then it implies that there will be a negative effect of not obeying it. St Basil makes it clear that the wrong names do matter and that one is not baptised in this case, as per disobeying Canon 49, and if this is so then also the triple immersions do matter per Canon 50.

  38. And again: “And if it is mere madness to assert this, then let them confess that a man can be baptized with the true baptism of Christ, and that yet his heart, persisting in malice or sacrilege [that is, schism], may not allow remission of sins to be given; and so let them understand that men may be baptized in communions severed from the Church, in which Christ’s baptism is given and received in the said celebration of the sacrament, but that it will only then be of avail for the remission of sins, when the recipient, being reconciled to the unity of the Church, is purged from the sacrilege of deceit, by which his sins were retained, and their remission prevented.”

    Valid but not profitable.

  39. Also, read On Baptism 1.13-14 for the ontological basis of union to Christ in schism. This later forms the basis for Augustine’s agreement with Cyprian. The key distintion is that so long as the form is mirrored than the generation of baptism is from the Catholic Church, not from any such authority in schism. The relevant passage is most importantly: “And so there is one Church which alone is called Catholic; and whenever it has anything of its own in these communions of different bodies which are separate from itself, it is most certainly in virtue of this which is its own in each of them that it, not they, has the power of generation.”

    The point is that the schism has no authority to baptise, but the form may be valid (yet ineffectual). Any such authority comes from the Catholic Church by virtue of the schismatic Church’s imitation. As soon as the schism begins deviating from the Church’s practice, even the validity is lost.

    I thus see Augustine’s position as clarifying Cyprian’s, not contradicting it.

  40. First, the reading that I have proposed is NOT the Roman view, which also holds such sacraments to be effectual/profitable. It is this key distinction that makes Augustine synonymous with the other fathers. Augustine specifically argues that his view is the same as Cyprian’s. If you wish to disagree with him please demonstrate it rather than merely assert it. On that point, you will need to demonstrate your claims for Basil and the councils. Ive already listed one council which agrees with Augustine. Please list those canons which disagree.

    Second, I’d like to suggest that you have missed several key subtleties of the donatist controversies. First, what started out as personal sin rapidly become a dispute about the status of sacraments in schism. Second, the donatists also practiced reception by Chrismation when convenient. Thus the so-called pure Cyprianic position has never existed in history, even among the donatists. Third, what makes a non-Catholic baptism valid is the normal form by the normal minister. A Catholic baptism however may be irregular and yet still profitable. Hence lay baptisms among the Orthodox are considered valid and profitable.

    Again, please note that I fully agree with your conclusion: baptism alone is not sufficient for membership. I just think your argument needs to be nuanced by St Augustine. I also think you need to avoid the anachronism of reading modern Roman theories into Augustine.

  41. Nathaniel,

    Thanks for the comment and for elaborating further regarding the Donatist position. The information about St Augustine is helpful and it generally supports the argument of the post, although the position of validity that you mention reflects the Roman view for not repeating a valid form which was not supported by the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils and is not fully consistent with St Cyprian nor St Basil. Also inconsistent is St Augustine’s teaching that a priest retains his ability to baptise in schism.

    Regarding the Donatist claim, I do not think that what I have written is Donatist because I am not negating that union is with Christ, who is mystically present, via ordination, in the baptising priest/bishop who is serving with the consent of and in unity with an orthodox bishop(s). I am not making any claims about the personal sins of the priest in this situation but only his recognised status as a priest. Nor I am saying that baptism unites one with the priest in himself as its end. The point is if Christ is not present in the baptiser then one cannot be united directly with Him through the ministrations of the baptiser.

  42. Ad Orientem says:

    On the question presented in the original post, whether baptism by itself admits one to the Church, the answer is plainly No. As previously noted the consistent teaching of the Fathers and the canons make it clear that one must hold to the Orthodox faith AND be in communion with an Orthodox bishop to be in the Church.

  43. Ad Orientem says:

    Joel Acua,
    In answer to your question regarding the “validity” of baptisms performed by female clergy or ministers of sects that “ordain” women, the Church has made no definitive statement. Thus you are going to get a diversity of opinion on the matter. With that said and the further caveat that I am not a priest or bishop, my own opinion is that such baptisms should be treated as highly suspect. But then again I agree with the previous comment that most Protestant baptisms should be regarded as gravely defective absent evidence of an Orthodox understanding and intent in the ceremony.

    Were I a bishop Episcopalians coming into the Church would have to be baptized unless theirs predated the lunacy of the last 35 years or so.

  44. David Lindblom says:

    Monk Patrick, you said:
    “…the bishops are accountable for such exercise and if it is contrary to the limits of Tradition then they will be judged by God for failing to save the souls of those under them.”

    This, to me, is along the same lines as a posting you made about unbaptized infants can not enter God’s glory. So similarly I cannot believe that a person in truth and good conscience coming to the Church and is willing to do whatever is necessary to gain entrance remains damned as the direct result of the lack of proper baptism based on the decision of the bishop. My wife and I were believers and baptized in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit albeit w/ a single dunk. We were told that we could be received by Chrismation. Yet you say that we are still unsaved because of the decision of the bishop and not because of any “indolence” on our part?? Not trying to be insulting in any way but this, once again, smacks of pharisee like fundamentalism. Look at Christ’s attitude on encountering people who came to Him for healing, He forgave them despite their not asking for forgiveness but only healing. I would suggest that this is the disposition of God. I find it very hard to believe that people who have come to His Church seeking the true faith, willing to do whatever is necessary for entry and yet God will turn them away on Judgment Day for the decision of a bishop whom they are to obey.

  45. Or this one:

    “yet because they do all these things apart from the Church … they cannot attain to eternal salvation, even with all those good things which profit them not.” – On Baptism 1.12

  46. St Augustine on those who think that because they have a valid baptism outside the Church that they are therefore united fully to Christ:

    “And let them not think that they are sound because we admit that they have something sound in them [baptism]; nor let them think, on the other hand, that what is sound must needs be healed [re-baptism], because we show that in some parts there is a wound. So that in the soundness of the sacrament, because they are not against us, they are for us; but in the wound of schism, because they gather not with Christ, they scatter abroad. Let them not be exalted by what they have. Why do they pass the eyes of pride over those parts only which are sound? Let them condescend also to look humbly on their wound, and give heed not only to what they have, but also to what is wanting in them.” – On Baptism 1.11

  47. Joel, what do you mean by valid?

  48. Joel Acua says:

    Forgive me… If my question is out of the topic but I would like to know if the baptism performed by a priest/tess or by certain christian denomination that allow women in the priesthood is valid and same with traditional christians who recognized the validity of the baptism of other christian in communion or in concordat or acknowldged the validity of baptism of those religous groups that have women priest… please advise.

    Thank you!

  49. The notion that those who are baptized in schism or heresy are somehow “in” the Church is absurd and explicitly rejected by every Church Father, including St Augustine. However, this:

    “If Christ is not present in the baptiser then the baptism is not of God and it is not one that brings the baptised into a relationship with Christ nor into the life of the Trinity, so the baptism is of no effect and does not permit entry into the Church.”

    … is precisely the donatist position. Please read St Augustine’s anti-donatist treatises. Augustine’s position is that, following Athanasius, we can only be saved by union with Christ not by union with a mediator. And thus, baptism has as its primary actor Christ. Impediment in the priest performing the baptism has no impact on the validity of the act.

    Note that Augustine makes a distinction between “valid” (should not be repeated when joining the Orthodox Catholic Church) and “profitable” (actually causing salvation). Augustine clearly teaches that among schismatic groups baptisms are valid but unprofitable: “But as, by reconciliation to unity, that begins to be profitably possessed which was possessed to no profit in exclusion from unity, so, by the same reconciliation, that begins to be profitable which without it was given to no profit.”

    Further, if the group is not merely a schism but a heresy, and particularly if that heresy is trinitarian or sacramental, than the baptism is not even valid. Following St Augustine’s formula, all protestant baptisms are invalid since:
    1. they do not maintain the office of the episcopacy, rendering their presbyterian ordinations invalid thus their baptisms invalid
    2. many of them deny the salvific efficacy of baptismal regeneration
    3. many of them baptize by sprinkling as a distinct theological emphasis; some even go as far as to deny pouring and immersion.

    Roman baptisms (and ordinations) may be valid, but not profitable, since they lack union to the Catholic (Orthodox) Church. I tend to think Roman confirmation invalid since it is typically done after first communion, breaking the integral connection of chrismation with baptism and the first eucharist.

    It is also important to note that Augustine believes his view is in full accord with Cyprian (see the first chapter of On Baptism). Thus those wish to argue Augustine’s view as contrary to Cyprian’s have the burden of proof. I have never seen such a work; most Orthodox critics of St Augustine’s view of baptism have never read it and are merely critiquing a modern view which claims to be Augustinian. Further, Augustine’s view seems to me the best summary of Canon 5 of 1st Constantinople and as such has conciliar support.

  50. Anti-Gnostic,

    That Christ blessed the waters does not mean that they are already blessed in terms of each baptism event. Every ancient baptism rite, that I have read, and the rite used by Orthodox churches have a blessing of the waters just before the baptism. So, one cannot argue that Christ’s sanctification of the waters has meant that the waters are sufficiently blessed for baptismal needs else there would be no need to bless the water each baptismal event. Even if baptising in the sea/lake, the water is blessed each baptismal event and not once even though it is the same body of water. Also, St Cyprian of Carthage did not know of any such reasoning because not being able to bless the waters was a reason in itself for discarding baptisms performed outside the Church, that is by those who are not recognised priests in the Church. Note: St Cyprian is defining the boundaries of the Church in terms of the united priesthood. Anyway, whether the waters were blessed was not a recorded issue for the Fathers in terms of acceptance of the form of water without reapplying it by economy, only in terms of the effect of the baptism at the time it was initially performed.

    Canadian,
    The ecumenical and patristic canons are clear that there is no baptism outside the Church, that baptism must be of three immersions into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that the form of baptism if given outside the Church can be repeated by the Church in receiving a convert, and that by default all heretics/schismatics who have not had a baptism by a priest in the Church must be baptised. Where things get tricky is the application of economy that the Fathers allow. The economy in the ecumenical councils was applied to groups that do not exist now, which leaves only the default position in terms of ecumenical canon law. However, each region has the freedom to exercise economy in terms of various new heresies if needed and this variation can change depending on circumstances, so it is quite legitimate for the churches in Russia to do one thing and the churches in Greece to do another and for the churches to practice one economy for a time and then another economy later. While each region is permitted to exercise economy and this should be normally be followed, the bishops are accountable for such exercise and if it is contrary to the limits of Tradition then they will be judged by God for failing to save the souls of those under them. I believe taking a queue from St Basil and other Canons that for a baptism to be accepted by economy without (re)baptising, it must be the same form as the canonical Orthodox baptism, if not then it cannot be accepted, such as single immersion baptism, and because the forms of baptism found in the west in non-Orthodox groups are no longer the same as the orthodox rite then there is a legitimate problem with using economy for these baptisms.

    Here is a quote from St Basil the Great:
    I deem, therefore, that since there is nothing definitely prescribed as regards them, it was fitting that we should set their baptism aside, and if any of them appears to have left them, he shall be baptized upon joining the Church. If, however, this is to become an obstacle in the general economy (of the Church), we must again adopt the custom and follow the Fathers who economically regulated the affairs of our Church. For I am inclined to suspect that we may by the severity of the proposition actually prevent men from being saved because of their being too indolent in regard to baptism. But if they keep our baptism, let this not deter us. For we are not obliged to return thanks to them, but to serve the Canons with exactitude. But let it be formally stated with every reason that those who join on top of their baptism must at all events be anointed by the faithful, that is to say, and thus be admitted to the Mysteries.

  51. Pete says:

    I think he’s refering to the similarity of saying that if you received for the last ten years under a “canonical” bishop that has actually fallen into heresy or even secretly does not beleive, &c., then the Eucharist you prepared for as best you could and took is thus does not bring one into true Communion with neighbor or God, and is actually “of no effect”. Nevertheless, I think what you are getting at is not *what God actually thinks and does concerning REAL mysteries in all of Christendom* (who can know, right?), but how can we as the Church “militant” on earth, the Orthodox, set up bouundaries between what we know to be true and right, and what we leave to God’s mercy and justice, &c.

    Anyway, thank you for the outstanding essay, Father. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  52. All,

    Thanks for the comments. I would prefer that this discussion does not focus on reception of converts, which is not the purpose of the post but on the theological implications of the opinion that the Church is defined by baptism and that this is different from defining it by hierarchy or eucharistic gatherings. The main emphasis that I am trying to bring out is the importance of the hierarchy in the mystery and that one cannot consider the mystery apart from the hierarchy. All this has other wider implications for ecclesiology and the eucharist and is something that seems not to be sufficiently addressed by recent theologians yet it is the central reason for rejecting baptism of heretics and schismatics used by St Cyprian of Carthage, whose teaching has bee accepted by the Fathers as presenting the Holy Tradition of the Church as a Sacred Canon.

    Thomas,
    Please explain how the part quoted can be read in a Donastistic manner. I may have inadvertently headed in that direction, but I can’t immediately see the reason for your saying that it can be read that way.

  53. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for the link Ad Orientem. Fr. Ambrosius certainly takes a very different point of view from Fr. Patrick.

  54. Ad Orientem says:

    I would also refer the reader to the excellent essay by Fr. Ambrosius (Pagodin) on the reception of converts into the Church which can be found here.

    http://tinyurl.com/4ofvr.

  55. Thomas says:

    If Christ is not present in the baptiser then the baptism is not of God and it is not one that brings the baptised into a relationship with Christ nor into the life of the Trinity, so the baptism is of no effect and does not permit entry into the Church.

    Father Patrick, I’m sure you didn’t intend this in a Donastistic manner, but I could see someone reading it that way.

    Papal Christianity teaches (for some incomprehensible reason) that a person who isn’t even a Christian can ‘validly’ baptise a person! The only requirements, according to Papal Christianity, for a ‘valid’ baptism is the use of water, the correct formula (words), and a ‘correct intention’. And, of course, they don’t normally immerse (thereby removing the possibility of rising from the water).

    But the Church can, by the use of economy, supply and repair any and all that may have been lacking in a previous ‘baptism’ — without accepting that rituals outside the Church are true Mysteries.

    On the topic of various ways of receiving converts into the Church, there is an essay by Father George Dragas at
    http://jbburnett.com/resources/dragas_baptism.pdf

  56. The Anti-Gnostic says:

    At least, that’s my understanding of the ekonomia. Someone please correct this if it’s wrong.

  57. The Anti-Gnostic says:

    Canadian:

    The short answer is that Christ blessed the waters of the earth with His own participation in the baptismal rite. So when a Protestant pastor uses water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the rite has already been performed. All that is left in order to receive you in the Church is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is administered through chrismation by an Orthodox priest. If your priest is comfortable with only administering the Chrism, then you should accept his decision; you will still be a full member in Christ’s Church.

  58. Canadian says:

    I am a catechumen and my Bishop does not request my re-baptism but only chrismation. I would be willing to receive trine immersion if my two previous baptisms are not valid (sprinkling at about 9 in United Church of Canada then immersion at about 18 as a Baptist)
    There seems to be some disagreement in Orthodoxy about this.

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