Sunday, July 17, 2011

Adventist Baptism

Interesting. The Greek Orthodox apparently do not recognize Adventist baptisms.

21 comments:

The Lady Dragon said...

When I became a Catholic, Fr. Tom baptized me conditionally because he was not confident that the SDA baptism was valid. COnsidering the denomination's historic ambivalence regarding the Trinity, that makes perfect sense to me.

Bill Cork said...

That was 100+ years ago. Adventist statements of belief in this century have been unequivocal.

"Fr. Tom" was misinformed about Catholic teaching though. See this from the Archdiocese of Newark: http://www.rcan.org/images//worship/07BCNCC.pdf

There are some odd associations in their list. But we are in good company with the Anabaptists (Mennonites, etc.).

But we don't accept Orthodox baptisms as valid, unless they are done of individuals over the age of accountability, by immersion. So I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

The Lady Dragon said...

Bill:

I do not want to veer too drasatically from subject of this thread (recognition of SDA baptism). Howwever, I must say that the SDA understanding of the Trinity as it was explained to me (30 1/2 years an SDA with a minor (54 hours) in religion from an SDA university) is very different from the Catholic understanding of the Trinity and is far closer to Tri-theistic than Triune.

Bill Cork said...

You don't get that from the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs.

But there are theologians, like Fernando Canale, who do sound like Tritheists because of their rejection of the eternal generation of the Son. They think that necessarily leads to Subordinationism, and they want to maintain the equality of the members of the Trinity.

Bill Cork said...

While at the same time, I should add, I've heard Catholic and mainline Protestant theologians who preach modalism in the name of "inclusive language"--rejecting the names of "Father," "Son," and "Spirit," in favor of the activities of "Creator," "Redeemer," and "Sanctifier." Evidence, I think, that basic Trinitarianism is misunderstood by lots of folks these days.

Hugo Mendez said...

Yea, it is a pity that is increasingly seen these days. Worse that Canale's views were included in the SDA Commentary Series. (In my own experience, at least one professor I knew at Southern was strongly against the eternal generation of the Son.)

I once talked to a Catholic seminarian who wondered if Adventist baptisms should be conditional should this became any more widespread. (Our conversation was on currents like this one among evangelicals as a whole). First, I don't think there would be any way of deciding such a question unless the denomination as a whole embraced it officially (which it won't). Secondly, I'm not sure this would affect the validity of Adventist baptism in Catholic eyes, but I have never looked into this question. Bill, do you have any thoughts from your background in Catholic theology and practice? Do you know of any group that has been excluded on similar grounds?

As for the point of the post... When I entered the Catholic Church, I entered with two other Adventists, all of whom were received by confirmation alone. Brandon was received into full communion the same way. My situation was different. I had already been baptized as a Catholic (9 mos. old?) before my parents had become Protestant (when I was 2), so my later baptism in the Adventist church was not relevant.

As for the Orthodox, I am sure whatever the practice it is in the Greek church, it is not universal, and we will quickly find an exception elsewhere.

Bill Cork said...

Your point about diversity of Orthodox points of view is well taken.

On your question of whether I know of any group excluded on such grounds ... not like this. Only ones I know of excluded by Catholics are those with truly heterodox views, like the JWs and the Mormons.

Basic for Catholic sacramentology is that water be used in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (thus Cardinal Law made the Paulists redo a number of baptisms in the 80s or early 90s done in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier). Intentionality is a concern--in this case, I think it would be simply, does the group intended to be following Christ's command? Catholics do ask whether there is a Trinitarian belief--hence the exclusion of the Mormons.

Teresa Beem said...

Arthur and i were baptized conditionally also because the bishop didn't think our SDA baptism was valid either!

Bill Cork said...

Sounds like a lot of variety from bishop to bishop. Not surprising, since Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI approved of Roger Mahony and Fabian Bruskewitz as bishops. :-)

The Lady Dragon said...

That isn't really a fair assessment of the subject. Roger Mahoney was made a bishop three years before Blessed John Paul the Great became pope, so you can't really blame John Paul for Mahoney.

Fabian Bruskewitz was consecrated bishop on May 13, 1992. John Paul had been pope for 14 years.

The first few years of his pontificate, John Paul made what some might consider questionable choices in the area of bishops and cardinals. For the majority of his pontificate, however, he made bishops and cardinals all more conservative than himself.

The reason that the Bishops are uncertain about SDA baptism is that although the SDAs use the proper liturgical formula, what they mean by that formula is entirely unclear.

When a Catholic says "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" he means Three Divine Persons of One Substance. SDAs do not believe that the Three Divine Persons are of One Substance.

IF they are not of One Substance then they are not One God. It is not enough to use the correct formula if it does not mean the same thing. If it does not mean the same thing, it is not a valid baptism.

justanotherperson said...

Well, considering the fact that Adventists are trinitarians in name only, this makes perfect sense.

And to Mr. Cork,

The Adventist fundamental belief on the "trinity" doesn't say that there is "one God, the Father Almighty", and that the Son and Holy Spirit derive their being and divine nature from Him, like the historic Christian Creed says; but that there is "one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons." (SDA Belief #2). Therefore, their "one God" is a group of three eternal beings known as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" who are not one in substance, i.e. divine nature. Truly, for the Adventists, the Son and Holy Spirit are just as much autotheos as the Father is. This is tritheism.

In contrast to this, the "one God" of the Christians and the Church is the Father Almighty, a person. The word "trinity" is used to denote the fact that there are three total in divinity, the Son and Spirit being homoousios (one substance) with the Father. But it was never to be used to denote the "one God". The "one God" is always the Father, as the Creed states, from whom the divine nature flows to the Son and Holy Spirit. There are certainly three of divinity, but there is only one Source or Fountainhead of divinity, and that Source is the "one God", the Father.

This, the Adventists have failed to understand, and thus have failed to express with their "fundamental" belief that they require baptismal candidates to believe. Hence the hesitation of some in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox communions to simply confirm/chrismate former Adventists.

Bill Cork said...

Lady Dragon: "SDAs do not believe that the Three Divine Persons are of One Substance."

And how do you get this from the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs? At both AUC and Loma Linda I was taught Nicene Trinitarianism. My professors used books by folks like Walter Kasper and Robert Jenson.

JustAnotherPerson quotes SDA #2,
"there is 'one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons," and concludes, "Therefore, their 'one God' is a group of three eternal beings known as 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit' who are not one in substance, i.e. divine nature," and argues that this is Tritheism.

Well, I have a problem with your "therefore." I don't see how that necessarily follows. The statement doesn't use the classical language (unfortunately, I think), but it does not therefore exclude the classical language.

Then he adds, "The 'one God' is always the Father, as the Creed states, from whom the divine nature flows to the Son and Holy Spirit."

Whoa. Now you're arguing for subordinationism. The Trinity assumes a unity of substance, a unity of divine nature, hence there is One God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the Athanasian Creed says, "The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, but there are not therefore three Gods, but one God."

While arguing against alleged Tritheism, you are subordinating the Son and the Spirit to the Father in what could be construed as Arianism, despite your appeal to "homoousios."

"We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple." Lateran IV (cited in CCC 202)

justanotherperson said...

"Well, I have a problem with your "therefore." I don't see how that necessarily follows. The statement doesn't use the classical language (unfortunately, I think), but it does not therefore exclude the classical language."-Bill Cork

If the statement doesn't use the classical language, then it excludes it. Why don't you ask the Adventist denomination whether they believe the Son originates from the Father? Their answer should clear up your apparent confusion on what they really believe.

"Whoa. Now you're arguing for subordinationism."-Bill Cork

Hardly. I am merely pointing out the monarchy of the Father as the Creed expressly declares: "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible". Roman Catholicism agrees with this monarchy, since they subscribe to the Creed. If you don't believe me, then ask a Catholic. Here's one:

"Jesus frequently calls God "Father" in the Scriptures, and this usage tells us that God is a loving God active within His creation. God the Father is the first person (Greek hypostasis, "individual reality"), or distinction, within the Godhead. The Father is the "origin" or "source" of the Trinity. As such, God the Father is often called "God Unbegotten" in early Christian thought."-David Bennett (www.ancient-future.net/nicene.html).

"While arguing against alleged Tritheism, you are subordinating the Son and the Spirit to the Father in what could be construed as Arianism, despite your appeal to "homoousios."-Bill Cork

If you're going to argue with my position, at least address it with understanding. Nothing I said is contrary to classical trinitarian thought. I stated that the one God is the Father Almighty. This is substantiated by the Creed. I stated that the Son and Spirit both have their origin and divinity from the Father. This is also substantiated by the Creed. So where was I amiss? Short answer, I wasn't. It is your understanding of the trinity that is in error. You view the "one God" as a group of three eternal beings, like the Adventists. This is in direct contradiction to the first words of the Creed. Do you also believe the Son and Spirit to be autotheos? Now that would be interesting.

"We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple." Lateran IV (cited in CCC 202)"-Bill Cork

Now compare with this one:

"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ...
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life..." Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed

See the difference between your quote which expresses your view, and the classical trinitarian belief as expressed by the Creed? Who is the "one God" of the Creed? Who does it say it is?

The Lady Dragon said...

Homoousios makes subordinism impossible. If the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of the same substance one cannot be sorbordinate to the others.

If SDAs believe the Three Divine Persons are one in substance, then the Fundamental Beliefs should state this instead of leaving it as an open question.

In my young adulthood, the denomination taught not "One Substance", but "One in purpose, mind, and character." And trust me that wasn't a hundred years ago.

The Lady Dragon said...

By the way, Bill, can you prove homoousios from the Bible Alone? I'm guessing not.

Bill Cork said...

"The Father and I are one." The folks who coined the term were using philosophical terminology to speak Biblical truth. They made up this neologism because of Arius' use of another neologism, homoiousios. The Cappadocians and Athanasians did not by use of new terminology mean to teach anything new doctrinally.

The Lady Dragon said...

"I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 does not prove or even suggest homoousios, any more than Gen. 2:24 does.

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."


A man and his wife may be one flesh, but they are still two entities. "I and the Father are one." can mean many things. One what? One in substance? One in purpose? One in character?

Homoousios cannot be proven Biblically, which is why the SDA pioneers were semi-arians at best.

Charissa said...

When I grew up as an Adventist (and I am only 24 years old), I was taught in academy and at SAU that the trinity was made up of three separate entities who were all somehow God. In fact, it was described to me as a stool... How there were 3 separate legs, but together they make one stool. In the same way, I was told there are 3 separate versions of God that together make up the trinity. I was never told that they were of the same substance or that their substance flowed from the Father and I think you would be hard pressed to find very many SDA's who would agree with that position. Honestly, I didn't even know that such an idea even existed until just now when I read this.

Stephen Korsman said...

So if one bishop decides to baptise conditionally those originally baptised as Adventists (or whatever), and another bishop accepts the baptism as valid and doesn't baptise at all, then we may be sitting with thousands of unbaptised Catholics who will never know they are not baptised. Unless a local bishop is infallible on matters of valid baptisms.

If God provides what is lacking in such cases, then the real situation is that all that is necessary for a Catholic to be have been validly baptised in a previous denomination is not the correct matter and form and intent, and not even the opinion of the bishop (or priest), but rather the belief that the baptism was real.

So it comes down to baptism of desire, with a case of matter and form being impossible because they are incorrectly assumed to exist, and so only intent is needed.

The Lady Dragon said...

Stephen
I think your concern is unfounded, because it goes back to what the CCC says. If a Zoroastrian for example, finds a person dying by the road and using water makes the gestures and says the words that a Christian would use with the intention of doing what the Church does in baptism, then the individual is validly baptized. Therefore, even though the SDA understanding of the Trinity is faulty, because they use water and the name of the Triune God, with the intention of doing what the Church does even though they do not recognize the Church, it should be a valid baptism.

It is probably for that reason that the Bishops generally accept SDA baptisms. Those who do not accept them, do so from an over abundance of caution (which is never a bad thing) and only baptize "conditionally".

Stephen Korsman said...

In all likelihood, yes, Adventist baptisms are valid. Most of them. But if there is any reason for doubt, whatever the original baptising denomination, and different bishops react differently, there must be mistakes going either way. Just as some bishops/priests may err on the side of caution and baptise conditionally those who are validly baptised, the opposite error must have occurred.

If there were a blood test to determine valid baptism, and we took a big enough sample of the population, I bet we'd find a few.

Having seen the type of priest we had at the cathedral in Umtata, South Africa, I do not doubt there are Catholic priests who baptise, as this one said Mass, in the name of God the Mother and Father of us all, and all sorts of other strange things. Yet these would go down as Catholic baptisms and never be queried. I don't know of a documented case of such a thing, but it's not beyond the realm of probability, imho.

If we have Catholic bishops involved in ordinations of women, who knows what else they let happen. One nun we had at our church when I was growing up, Patricia Fresen (google her if u like, and she has her own Wikipedia page) has been ordained and then consecrated as a bishop by Catholic bishops in Germany. Which bishops were involved is not known to Rome, so they continue their other antics without visible excommunication.

The only way to know a baptism was valid is to have seen it happen yourself. And since I don't supervise all baptisms personally, I can't help but doubt.