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Baptism for the Dead in the Early Church

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by dan, Jul 13, 2005.

  1. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    What do the early Church fathers have to say about those that died without accepting Christ's gospel through baptism?
     
  2. Scott1

    Scott1 Well-Known Member

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    For the most part, I believe that most ECF's would view anyone who died without baptism as damned to hell..... but many early Christians believed in the normative necessity of water baptism, while also acknowledging the legitimacy of baptism by desire or blood.

    We don't baptize the dead.... I don't believe that was ever a practice of the Catholic Church.
     
  3. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    Says Clement of Alexandria:

    It is not right to condemn some without trial, and only give credit for righteousness to others who lived after the coming of the Lord.
    For, he observes:

    Certainly one righteous man is not different from another as far as righteousness goes? For God is not the God of the Jew alone but of all men? Those who live righteously before the law are to be counted as faithful and reckoned among the just? God is good and Christ is mighty to save, according to principles of justice and equality, those who turn to him, whether here or in the next world.
    Peter, in the straightforward and convincing Clementine account, has only contempt for Simon Magus' doctrine of limited salvation:

    He saves adulterers and murderers if they know him; but good and sober and merciful people who don't happen to know him, simply because they have received no information concerning him, he does not save! A great and good god, forsooth, whom you proclaim, not only saving the wicked but showing no mercy to the good!
    Wrote Irenaeus in the second century:

    Christ did not come for the sole benefit of those who believed in him at the time of Tiberius Caesar, nor has the Father a plan for those only who happen to be living today; but it is for all the human family (propter omnes omnino homines) who from the beginning by righteousness pleased God and feared him in their generations, and dealt justly and religiously with their neighbors, and yearned to see Christ and hear his voice.

    One of the first questions that Clement, the ardent investigator, puts to Peter is, "shall those be wholly deprived of the kingdom of heaven who died before Christ's coming?" To this the apostle gives a most significant answer: he assures Clement that the people in question are not damned and never will be, and explains that provision has been made for their salvation.

    These are some of the things I've found, but I'm looking for more info on this "provision" Peter mentions. These quotes are mainly about those who died before Christ came, but it's a segue into baptism for the dead.
     
  4. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I'd have to disagree with Scott that most early Church Fathers thought all unbaptised people would go to hell. There's a strong current in the Patristic consensus that says those who never knew Christ would be judged on their works in accord with that knowledge of God they have in their own nature, being made in His image. There's also the fact that we've always considerde that it is possible to be saved by baptism by intent. In other words, the intention to be baptised is sufficient if baptism is impossible. This explains why there are so many unbaptised martyred saints, and is also relevant with respect to the salvation of the good thief. I would agree with him, however, on the fact that baptism for the dead was never a practice of the early Church. To the best of my knowledge it wasn't practiced by anyone prior to the LDS and it certainly wasn't and still is not practiced by any of the 'Apostolic' churches - RC, Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox. That would mean that in all likelihood the practice was not known at least until the Reformation.

    James
     
  5. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    Which, of course why we call a priest or a vicar when a newly born child looks as if he isn't going to 'make it' - in order that he may be baptized in life.:)
     
  6. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

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    I Corinthians 15:29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
    "Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die." 33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame. NIV

    An interesting passage though a bit cryptic. Obviously the church in question was going off on tangents, but the author niether commends or condemns the practice.
     
  7. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I don't see it. 'Baptised for the dead' sounds more like our practice of being baptised in the name of a saint to me than it does like baptising the dead. I can't be certain I'm reading this right, mind you - you're right that it's less than clear.

    James
     
  8. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

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    It refers to a believer being baptized for someone else who is dead. The LDS church does this a lot.

    Too many times when people don't understand the scripture, they FORCE the meaning, which invariably distorts it. Many things written in scripture need the historical construct in order to fully appreciate what they are really referring to. When we lack that construct, we would be safe to shrug our shoulders and say "I just don't get it" and stick with the things we DO get. :D
     
  9. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I thought that's more or less what I did. One thing I do know, though, is that it clearly wasn't a common practice in the early Church (as I've never seen it referred to by a single Church Father) and even if it was practiced by some people in some places (and I couldn't blame or condemn them for this - it just seems like a natural outcome of feeling anxiety for the salvation of your non-Christian ancestors) it clearly died out pretty early on. It seems, in any case, like the sort of thing you might find in a new religion where most are converts but not so much later when almost everyone was born into the faith. I have to say, though, that from my perspective it seems to rely on a faulty understanding of God's mercy and seems almost superstitious, given that we do not believe, and have never done so, that people who never knew the Gospel are damned.

    James
     
  10. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

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    Sort of how many of us feel about infant baptism as well! :D
     
  11. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I understand your point, but I think that you can only hold to that by having a minimalist view of the purpose of baptism. As you know, we don't think it is solely for the forgiveness of sins and we don't believe that unbaptised infants will be damned, so I fail to see how this implies a faulty understanding of God's mercy or superstition, we just believe there's a lot more to baptism than you do and that infants therefore benefit from it as well. I don't expect you to agree with me, of course.

    James
     
  12. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

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    I actually think you have this backwards. You have baptism and then confirmation as your conversion process. Your baptism does not involve the decision of the infant nor does it require any repentance. Scriptural baptism includes BOTH... there is FAR MORE TO IT than just dunking someone in the water who has no understanding of what is happening. Before one becomes a Christian (is baptised) they need to count the cost of their discipleship, repent of their sins and believe with their hearts that Jesus is Lord. Until these are accomplished, nothing happens spiritually.
     
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  13. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    Sorry, but you are misinformed. We do not have confirmation like the RCs and some Protestants do at all. We have Chrismation, which is somewhat analogous, but it is always received directly after baptism. Until we reach an understanding for ourselves the decision to be in the Church is made by our parents and godparents - not by us. This is how such things work in the real world too. The insistence on an 'age of reason' is a late (post-Schism) development in the western Church.

    For us an infant is baptised, then immediately annointed (Chrismated), tonsured and given the Eucharist. Were we to follow either your beliefs or the RCC's beliefs then all of these could not be carried out for infants and the children would not be able to partake of the Eucharist. If you don't partake of the Eucharist you are literally out of communion with the Church, therefore you are not a member of the Church at all. Baptism means far more for us than your simplistic washing away of sins as I tried to explain to you before. We simply do not believe that you must have reached some nebulous 'age of reason' before you are baptised. Maybe this is because our whole view of salvation is different to many westerners. For us baptism is the very beginning of the race (which we can later choose to run or drop behind) it is not something that marks us out as having reached the finish line.

    James
     
  14. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

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    I see that you don't understand Scriptual Baptism then. It IS far more than a "simplistic washing away of sins".

    "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live! Yet not I, but Christ who liveth in me! And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by grace by the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me!"

    Just as Jesus was not crucified as an infant, we are not destined to be crucified except as reasoning adults. Any other use of baptism is a form of legalism and going back to the "law". Only when a man's heart is PART of the salvation process can he truly be a "new creation". Until a person has been seperated from God by their sin do they need to be ressurected from a dead life.

    Jesus said "Unless you become as a child..." Why? Because children are not seperated from God! A man on the shore is not in need of saving. It is only when he has gone over his head and has NO WAY to return to shore that he is in peril.

    You say "simplistic" as if to offend me or to put me in my place. I would suggest that you leave out the snipes and open your heart to what I am saying. Thank you for telling me about your beliefs. I have never been inside an Orthodox church and have no clue how different you are from the RCC. That being said, like "Confirmation" I do not see the scriptural precedent for "Charismation" and especially as it applies to infants. Perhaps you can stop sniping and give us a scriptural reference? You were quick to slap me down over the difference, and then you say they are "analogous"??? I don't get that.
     
  15. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    NetDoc,

    I think you have taken my posts in a way other than I intended. I was not attempting to snipe at you at all, merely to point out that our understanding of baptism is very much more than a simple washing away of sin. Sorry if any of my words upset you as that wasn't the intent.

    There is a scriptural precedent for Chrismation - it's the laying on of hands. As to why we now anoint with oil rather than simply laying on hands, this is due to us being Christians and Christ meaning annointed. Having said that, it's a bit difficult for me to discuss our beliefs with you if you insist on Scripture to back up everything. You know full well that we are not sola scripturalists and that I find that position problematic to say the least.

    Show me an unambiguous Scriptural reason for 1) holding to the canon of Scripture you do and 2) believing that all the teachings of the early Church are contained in that Scripture and I will concede you have a point. If you can't do this (and nobody has yet done so to my knowledge) then we'll just have to agree to disagree as I will not reduce everything down to Scripture alone as you seem to wish me to do.

    James
     
  16. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

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    Here is the solution: Don't try and hold me to your canon, and I won't hold you to scripture. :D When I tell you WHAT I believe don't view it as an ATTACK on you or your religion. I can only tell you WHAT and WHY I believe. I promise that I WON'T force my beliefs on you.

    II Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. NIV

    I don't see that I need anything else if scripture will "thouroughly" equip me. But you are free to follow your own path.
     
  17. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    NetDoc,

    At last we can agree, if only to disagree. The way you saw your posts with respect to mine is exactly how I saw mine with respect to yours, though reversed. I was trying to explain our beliefs, not convince you of them.

    The only small point I would like to mention is that the 2 Timothy quote doesn't really answer my question given that the Scripture referred to is Old Testament, most of the New being unwritten at the time. Having said that I'm not really asking that you provide something more appropriate.

    James
     
  18. Scuba Pete

    Scuba Pete Le plongeur avec attitude...

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    Actually,

    Scripture is scripture... there is one passage that refers to "what is written" as being Scripture (II Corinthians or II Peter I believe).
     
  19. chuck010342

    chuck010342 Active Member

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    hello Dan, you might find some answers here http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/



    Justin Martyr, Irenaeus

    Chapter XI.—Baptism and the cross prefigured in the Old Testament.

    Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the
    water [of baptism] and the cross. Concerning the water, indeed, it is
    written, in reference to the Israelites, that they should not receive that
    baptism which leads to the remission of sins, but should procure [1591]
    another for themselves. The prophet therefore declares, “Be astonished, O
    heaven, and let the earth tremble [1592] at this, because this people hath
    committed two great evils: they have forsaken Me, a living fountain, and
    have hewn out for themselves broken cisterns. [1593] Is my holy hill Zion a
    desolate rock? For ye shall be as the fledglings of a bird, which fly away
    when the nest is removed.â€? [1594] And again saith the prophet, “I will go
    before thee and make level the mountains, and will break the brazen gates,
    and bruise in pieces the iron bars; and I will give thee the secret, [1595]
    hidden, invisible treasures, that they may know that I am the Lord God.�
    [1596] And “He shall dwell in a lofty cave of the strong rock.â€? [1597]
    Furthermore, what saith He in reference to the Son? “His water is sure;
     
  20. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    If I wanted to prove a point to a group of people I wouldn't use a wicked practice to do it. Paul here uses the practice to support doctrine. I would call that a commendation.
     
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