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What is baptism, and why do we do it? What does it mean? Is there a right time or a right way to do it?

Do I need to get baptized again?

Postby Glib » Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:40 pm

I was raised Catholic, so I was baptized when I was a little kid. Since then, I have gotten away from the church, but I am quickly finding a home with Christianity. Do I need to be baptized again? I just don't understand how that works.
Glib
 

Re: Do I need to get baptized again?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:52 pm

First of all, just a small correction. Catholics *are* Christians; Catholicism is Christianity. I'm sure you meant that you were raised Catholic and are finding a home in Protestantism.

"Do you need to be baptized again?" Let me try to explain it this way. For Catholics (and some Protestants), baptism is a sacrament (there are other sacraments as well, such as the Eucharist, or communion). That means, simply put, that it actually DOES something. In Catholic theology, they baptize babies so that if the child should die before he or she reaches the age of accountability, they will go to heaven because beings baptized makes them, well, "saved", until they're old enough to decide for themselves.

For a bunch of Protestants, baptism is an ordinance, meaning, very simplistically, that we are asked to do it, but it's just a symbol of something else, and doesn't really DO anything. It's just a symbol.

If you're in an evangelical Protestant church, they would believe that baptism is just a symbol—that it doesn't DO anything. For evangelicals, baptism is a symbol of your union with Christ, not a mechanism that gets you to heaven. We believe that because that's what the Bible teaches. It's hard to explain it briefly, because I'm bound to leave out some important stuff, but our belief is that Judaism (Old Testament) is notorious unsacramental. No holy "things" possessed any supernatural power. It wasn't, "Here, touch this holy pot and you'll be healed!" or "If you touch this thing while you pray, you'll get what you pray for." Things are just "things," and God is the one who is holy. It has always been based on the relationship, not on some ritual anybody does. Even when Judaism lost its temple and land, it just kept rolling along without skipping a beat. And Christianity is even less sacramental, if that's even possible. In early Christianity there were no priests, no temples, no sacrifices—nothin'. Sacraments constitute about as "religious" a technique as can ever be devised; and original Christianity was "religionless," and therefore without sacraments, if you understand what I mean. It was all about Jesus, not about religious rituals (Gal. 4.9-11). And sacraments (baptism for salvation, as the Catholics practice) are distinctly religious rituals.

Whenever someone says that a person can do something (sacramental) that obligates God to perform a desired action in response, there is "religion". But Biblical Christianity is all about the sovereignty of God and living by the Spirit, and it's not "religion" at all in that sense.

Catholics (and some Protestants) believe that as long as a baby is baptized, it will go to heaven if it dies, and if it's not baptized, then it won't. For the other bunch of Protestants, though, we believe that salvation comes through grace by faith alone. So we only baptize people who can make a decision on their own.

Should you get baptized again? I would say "Sure. Why not?" There's no rule that you can only do it once. I've known evangelicals who got baptized again, sort of like when married people renew their vows. Some people get baptized again because, they said, "I understand more now, and I want to renew my commitment." That's great, but it's not necessary. It's not stupid or forbidden either. If your understanding of God and commitment to him are different now than they used to be, there's no harm in "renewing your vows" to God in baptism.

That's really brief, but I hope it helps. If it doesn't, write back, ask questions, and I'll answer more.
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Re: Do I need to get baptized again?

Postby Glib » Tue Dec 15, 2015 2:00 pm

Nice explanation. I think I understand now. Thanks for taking the time to type that out!
Glib
 

Re: Do I need to get baptized again?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Dec 15, 2015 2:00 pm

You're very welcome.
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Re: Do I need to get baptized again?

Postby Jiffy » Sun Dec 20, 2015 2:33 pm

I really like what you said, but I completely disagree with your comments on Judaism. There were plenty of "holy things". Take the arc for example, which would literally kill people who touched it. Certainly only God is holy, in one sense. But the Jews didn't just do stuff merely to be symbolic. The Law was more than that.

And Judaism absolutely did not just pick up and keep going after the temple was destroyed. The religion had to be entirely redefined. It was quite an ordeal. Without the temple their whole religion becomes impossible to live out. The Law is impossible to fulfill. This is where the Mishnah and other ideas come from. Judaism today is a very different thing.
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Re: Do I need to get baptized again?

Postby jimwalton » Sat Jan 16, 2016 3:18 am

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them. It sounds like we are closer in thought than I have made clear, so let me try again. You're right that there were plenty of things in Judaism that were holy. Leviticus is all about sacred times, sacred space, and sacred people. Yes, the Ark was holy, but it didn't have any *sacramental* power. At one point in time (1 Samuel 4) it was taken into battle with the thought that the sacramental power of the Ark would bring victory. It didn't, because the Ark doesn't have any sacramental power. It's an acacia wood chest covered with gold. God was what was holy, and the Ark was holy as dedicated to symbolize his presence, but it had no power in and of itself.

In 1 Samuel 5, the Philistines put the captured ark in their temple, representing that their god was more powerful than G-d. In the morning they came to discovered their idol on its face with hands and head broken off, a clear indication that G-d was not defeated, inferior, or subordinate. Again, the power was not in the Ark, but in the G-d whom the ark represented.

I agree with you that the Jews didn't just do stuff merely to be symbolic. My point was that they knew that the power was not in the tablets, in Moses' rod, in the Ark, in the blood, or in the temple, but in G-d himself. All of these things were holy, but holy unto the Lord.

I also agree with you that there was a radical transition after the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the priesthood, but it's true that Judaism continued on without a formal priesthood and without a temple and without the sacrifices. In any other religion, the religion cannot continue on without those things; Judaism could, and that's what I was saying. That Judaism can be Judaism without priests, temple, and sacrifices says that those elements are not sacramental within themselves, but pictures of higher realities (as in Ex. 25.9, 40; 27.8). Without the Temple, Judaism is not impossible to live out. The temple was gone from 586 BC to the time of Jesus, and then gone again in 70 AD and is still gone. And yet 2000 years of Jews live out their Judaism. I agree it's a different thing, but it's still there, showing that while those things are desirable, they are not immanently necessary.


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